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Lamar Jackson, Ravens Edge Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers on Justin Tucker's FG

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2019

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball during the first half against the San Francisco 49ers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens staked their claim as the best team in football on Sunday.   

On a rainy day in Baltimore, the Ravens pulled off a 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers in a matchup between two of the hottest teams in the NFL. It was another statement win for Lamar Jackson, who did just enough to outplay San Francisco's elite defense in a game that very well could be a Super Bowl preview.

Justin Tucker's 49-yard field goal as time expired capped off a 12-play, 34-yard drive that killed off six minutes and 28 seconds.  

With the victory, Baltimore moved to 10-2 on the season, while San Francisco fell to 10-2 as well. The Niners are looking to hold off the New Orleans Saints (10-2) and Seattle Seahawks (9-2) for the top seed in the NFC playoffs, while the Ravens are trying to catch the New England Patriots (10-1) for the top seed in the AFC. 

              

Notable Performances

Lamar Jackson, Ravens: 14-of-23 for 101 yards and a touchdown; 16 rushes for 101 yards and a score

Jimmy Garoppolo, Niners: 15-of-21 for 165 yards and a touchdown

Mark Ingram II, Ravens: 15 rushes for 59 yards

Raheem Mostert, Niners: 19 carries for 146 yards and a score; two catches for eight yards

Mark Andrews, Ravens: Three receptions for 50 yards and a score

Deebo Samuel, Niners: Two receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown

DeForest Buckner, Niners: Six tackles, one sack

Chuck Clark, Ravens: Seven tackles, one sack

Fred Warner: 11 tackles

             

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens Are the Best Team in Football

Five of Baltimore's last six wins have come against the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams and now the 49ers. Four of those teams are on pace to reach the postseason. The fifth, the Rams, played in the Super Bowl last season.

The Ravens are on fire.

And it all comes down to their quarterback, Jackson, who is running away from the pack in the MVP race right now. Even against San Francisco's vaunted defense, Jackson was able to keep Baltimore's offense moving, carving the Niners to shreds with his running ability and a few big-time throws.

Baltimore Ravens @Ravens

.@Lj_era8 to @Mandrews_81 for the score ❗️❗️ #ProBowlVote https://t.co/DbxIaeS5fS

Jamison Hensley @jamisonhensley

Lamar Jackson's 20-yard TD set a new franchise mark for most TDs scored by the team in a single season with 48. It broke the previous mark set in 2009. And it's Dec. 1.

How are you supposed to defend this?

Baltimore Ravens @Ravens

. @Lj_era8 doing @Lj_era8 things 🤣🤣 #ProBowlVote https://t.co/0It0bYRIEK

Give Baltimore's defense credit too. In their eight-game winning streak, the Ravens have given up 20 or more points just twice. And while the Niners hurt them with some big plays on Sunday, Baltimore's defense has been generally playing at a high level. 

San Francisco 49ers @49ers

"THAT'S MINE!" -@19problemz #SFvsBAL https://t.co/EpBEzJcZhr

San Francisco 49ers @49ers

GOT HEEEEM! @RMos_8Ball answers with the 40-yard TD. #ProBowlVote 🌊 https://t.co/5Sq5OEJv56

Make no mistake, beating the Niners on Sunday was yet another statement win. The Ravens are now 6-1 against teams that came into Sunday with winning records. This isn't a team beating up on poor competition. The Ravens have proven, time and time again, that they are the class of the NFL to this point in the season.  

                    

Dual-Threat QBs Remain Niners' Kryptonite

A lot of teams are going to struggle against Jackson. He's the MVP front-runner for a reason, killing teams with his arm and legs. He's a brutal matchup because his running ability makes any short-yardage or red-zone situations easier. 

But a trend is starting to emerge—dual-threat quarterbacks are having success against San Francisco's elite defense. 

In four of the 49ers' last five games, they've faced dual-threat quarterbacks and lost twice. Jackson carved them up on the ground, though Baltimore didn't have a ton of success beyond that.

Still, Jackson running the zone read was highly successful against the Niners.

Marcus Thompson @ThompsonScribe

How does EVERY 49ers buy the handoff. I get the lineman. What are the backers and DBs doing?

NFL Philosophy @NFLosophy

The 49ers have made the choice to attack the RB on zone read and let Lamar run it. I’m not sure that’s the right strategy... But they’ve clearly settled on that tactic.

Eric Ting @_ericting

The 49ers defense looks like it's stuck in the 2011-2012 era of not knowing how to defend zone read running plays

And Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray have also had success against San Francisco:

  • In a 49ers 28-25 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9, Murray finished 17-of-24 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed five times for 34 yards.
  • In a 49ers 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10, Wilson finished 24-of-34 for 232 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed six times for 53 yards. 
  • In a 49ers 36-26 win over the Cardinals in Week 11, Murray finished 24-of-33 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran eight times for 67 yards and a score.

Those stats may not jump off the page, but consider that the Niners have given up 20 or more points just five times this season—and only once to a non-running threat at QB (Mason Rudolph). Also consider that next week's opponents, the New Orleans Saints, can trot out packages for Taysom Hill. 

Jeff Duncan @JeffDuncan_

Gotta feeling Taysom Hill is going to be seeing some heavy action next week vs. the 49ers after watching their 'D look completely befuddled by Lamar Jackson and the read-option rushing attack.

The Niners are still among the NFL's elite. Their defense will give most opponents major issues. Most people would point to the offense being the bigger concern come the postseason. Garoppolo has to prove he can win big games down the stretch for this team against elite competition. 

But the expectation is that the defense will carry this team. And if there has been one weakness for that defense, it's dual-threat quarterbacks. 

                                                                

What's Next?

The 49ers face another major test next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, when they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. The Ravens have another tough matchup themselves, facing the Buffalo Bills on the road at the same time.