Ravens outclass 49ers in battle of NFL’s best teams; 5 interceptions, Jackson key victory

The Ravens were determined to show the rest of the nation that they were the best team in the NFL heading into their Christmas night matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.

Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton felt disrespected for being underdogs.

“I feel like we are the best team in the league, and we have an opportunity in front of the country to show it,” he said.  

Indeed, the Ravens did put on a show.

Hamilton set the tone with a pair of first-half interceptions — the Ravens would finish with five — and Baltimore left no doubt about which team is the class of the NFL.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson and the rest of the offense took advantage of those five turnovers, scoring on seven straight drives en route to a decisive 33-19 victory.

“I think our guys work hard. Our guys work hard, and they compete hard, and everybody wants to be respected. But there’s one way to be respected and that’s to go out there and earn that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “As an athlete and as a football player especially, it needs to be done on the field in the game. I’m proud of our guys for the way they did that tonight.” 

The Ravens improved to 12-3 and can clinch the No.1 seed in the AFC playoffs with a victory over the Miami Dolphins, who travel to M&T Bank Stadium next week for another huge game on New Year’s Eve.

Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) dives in for the touchdown against San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw (57) during the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium. By Neville E. Guard-USA Today Sports

It was not all good news for the Ravens. Hamilton had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a left knee injury. He was able to remain on the sideline.

Jackson completed 23 of 35 pass attempts for 252 yards with two touchdowns.

He also ran for 45 yards on seven carries and extended plays with his elusiveness.

Jackson improved to 20-1 against the NFC teams.

“I just want to win, and that’s what happened tonight,” Jackson said. “On Christmas, that was my gift. They asked me in an interview a couple weeks ago, ‘What would I want for Christmas?’ My wish got granted. We just need to keep going, keep staying locked in and keep staying focused, because we know what it was in 2019 when we were playing against [teams] like this [and] winning regular-season games.

“When the time came, we didn’t finish the season. We’re just going to keep taking it a day at a time, a practice at a time and a game at a time. That’s all I’m focused on right now.” 

Jackson and Gus Edwards hooked up for a 39-yard catch and run on their first possession of the second half. Jackson then threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor for a 23-12 lead.

An interception by linebacker Patrick Queen set up the Ravens’ second touchdown in 18 seconds when Jackson threw a 9-yard pass to Zay Flowers.

Baltimore continued to dominate and put together a 95-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock, capped by a 24-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was 18 of 32 for 255 yards with a career-high four interceptions, three of which came in the first half. He was also sacked twice and had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a stinger.

“We understood that there would be opportunities to make on the ball,” Queen said. “We had a good understanding of what they do on offense, and we just knew if we could stop the run that we could get our hands on the ball. I like to say, ‘Stop the run; have fun,’ so that’s definitely what we did.” 

Sam Darnold entered and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Bell that pulled the 49ers to within two scores.

The Ravens closed out the game on an interception by Marcus Williams.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles with the football against San Francisco 49ers safety Ji’Ayir Brown (27) during the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium. By Neville E. Guard-USA Today Sports.

San Francisco outgained Baltimore, 429-343. 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey finished with 103 on 14 carries with a touchdown.

Ravens defensive end Jadeveon Clowney finished with two of the team’s four sacks.

“We were the underdogs knowing what we’ve been through, 11-3,” Clowney said. “It felt good to be the underdogs for the first time in a long time. I think that put a little chip on our shoulders. We were coming in here to do our job and play hard and physical and play together, and we did that today.” 

The 49ers took a 2-0 lead when Jackson was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone that resulted in a safety after he collided with an official, who had fallen on the play.

San Francisco then took advantage on the ensuing possession and Jake Moody converted a 45-yard field goal for a 5-0 lead. The Ravens had sacked Purdy on a fourth-and-1 but cornerback Ronald Darby was penalized for holding.

The Ravens pulled to within 5-3 on a 28-yard field goal by Tucker with 1:04 left.

Baltimore’s defense came up with another big play after cornerback Brandon Stephens jumped and deflected a pass into the hands of fellow defensive back Marlon Humphrey. This time, the Ravens took advantage of the short field and led 10-5 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Gus Edwards with 9:35 left in the second quarter.

Hamilton produced the Ravens’ third interception of the half off of another deflection. The play was especially impressive because running back Christian McCaffrey was penalized for a chop-block on Hamilton, who got to his feet and still made the interception.

That resulted in another 41-yard field goal by Tucker for a 13-5 lead.

McCaffrey took control on the ensuing drive and had a 39-yard run and then another 9-yard scoring scamper to pull San Francisco to within 13-12 with 3:23 left in the half.

A dazzling 31-yard run by Jackson set up a 28-yard kick by Tucker to give the Ravens a 16-12 lead at the break.

The Ravens were outgained, 231-176, in the first half.

Jackson attempted 27 passes over the first two quarters, the third-most in a first half in his career.

“[Lamar Jackson] can do everything,” Flowers said. “You [saw] it tonight. He ran it; he threw it; he led the team. That’s the MVP. You lead your team, you have the best record in the NFL, and he just comes out and continues to come out and do what he [does] game in and game out even though people [say], ‘He can’t do this. He can’t do that,’ and he comes out and proves them wrong every time.” 

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