The Ravens’ stint as the greatest show on turf was a short one.
A week after scoring on each of their first four possessions and Lamar Jackson throwing four touchdown passes and running for another against the Detroit Lions, Baltimore’s offense hit a drought against the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Still, it did just enough, finding the end zone four times, and then doing what it does best: relying on its defense.
The Ravens (6-2) stopped Arizona on fourth down twice, intercepted Josh Dobbs twice, and held the quarterback to 208 yards passing en route to a rocky 31-24 win over the Cardinals (1-7). The victory keeps Baltimore atop the AFC North on a day the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers lost and the Cincinnati Bengals won to each move to 4-3.
Leading the way defensively for Baltimore was tackle Michael Pierce, who bullied his way through the Cardinals’ line, racking up four tackles, including one for a loss, knocking down a fourth-and-1 pass and forcing a fumble on a strip sack.
Geno Stone also had his NFL-leading fifth interception of the season, picking off Dobbs on the Cardinals’ 24-yard line late in the third quarter. Stone’s NFL-leading five interceptions tie him with Hall of Famer Ed Reed (2007) for the most by a Ravens player in the team’s first eight games of a season in team history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But it was the play of Pierce that helped set the tone for the NFL’s best defense.
The Ravens came into Sunday having given up a league-low 13.9 points per game and having allowed the second-fewest yards per game. Yet, the Cardinals still at times managed to move the ball — until they couldn’t.
After Dobbs scored on a 1-yard sneak to cap a 12-play, 75-yard drive on the opening series of the game — one that was aided by a Kyle Hamilton illegal contact penalty that negated a Justin Madubuike sack on third down and a 23-yard Marlon Humphrey pass interference penalty — Baltimore, and Pierce, bore down.
On the Cardinals’ second possession and facing a fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 44, Pierce knocked down a pass intended for former Raven Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. On their next drive and facing another fourth-and-1, this time from the Ravens’ 36, the 6-foot, 355-pound seventh-year veteran stuffed Emari Demercado on a handoff up the middle.
Dobbs was 8 of 12 for 55 yards in the first half.
The Cardinals finished with 310 total yards; the Ravens had 268.
Still, it was enough.
On the Ravens’ first possession, they also drove 75 yards for a touchdown — and likewise got help with wide receiver Odell Beckham drawing a pass interference penalty for a 19-yard gain down to the Cardinals’ 8. Two plays later, Jackson, who was 6 of 7 for 64 yards on the series, hit tight end Mark Andrews for a 5-yard touchdown pass over the middle in the back of the end zone. It was his 40th career score, moving him to within one of Todd Heap’s franchise record for a tight end.
The Ravens then took advantage of a Brandon Stephens second-quarter interception (his second of the year) at the Cardinals’ 47 with just under two minutes left and drove 43 yards in six plays with Gus Edwards plowing in from a yard out.
Edwards (19 carries, 80 yards) then found the end zone again on a 7-yard scamper following Stone’s interception, and Justin Tucker later added a 48-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Dobbs finally found the end zone through the air, connecting with tight end Trey McBride from 17 yards out midway through the fourth, then added a 2-point conversion run.
But Edwards put the game out of reach with his third touchdown of the game — another 1-yard run — with 2:51 to go.
Dobbs connected with Brown for a 1-yard score with 1:14 remaining but the 2-point try failed. Matt Prater’s successful onside kick gave Arizona another shot down 10, and Prater connected on a 47-yard field goal with 26 seconds left but the Cardinals failed to recover another onside kick, with Nelson Agholor cradling it and the Ravens running out the clock.
This story will be updated.
Seahawks at Ravens
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens by 4 1/2