Ravens' stunning, dominant win over 49ers puts the rest of the NFL on notice

At some point this season, it was decided that the San Francisco 49ers were the best team in the NFL. It wasn't questioned that often either, and for good reason. The 49ers were blowing out good opponents.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens kept winning without many people paying much mind to them.

Everything needs to be reexamined after Monday night. In one of the most anticipated matchups of the NFL season, the Ravens crushed the 49ers 33-19. The Ravens improved to an NFL-best 12-3. The 49ers are 11-4 and their undisputed standing as the NFL's best team is gone. Baltimore should have that title now.

The 49ers suffered other losses. Standout left tackle Trent Williams had a groin injury. Quarterback Brock Purdy left the game late with a shoulder stinger, and Sam Darnold came in. That ended Purdy's nightmare four-interception outing.

It was a horrible night for the 49ers and their facade of dominance. San Francisco hasn't been blown out like that in a long time. Baltimore changed what everyone should think about this NFL season going forward.

Ravens impressive in win

The ripple effects from Monday night are plentiful.

The Ravens took over as the frontrunner to win the Super Bowl. Lamar Jackson should be the new MVP favorite. NFC contenders like the Lions, Cowboys and Eagles perked up, seeing the 49ers look very beatable. All of them noticed Purdy's struggles. On the other side, AFC teams might be more worried about having to go to Baltimore in January.

Early on it seemed like the Ravens would be overmatched against the 49ers, just like the Cowboys, Eagles, Jaguars and others have been this season. A weird safety, when Jackson tripped over a prone official, gave the 49ers the first points of the game. They led 5-0 late in the first quarter. Jackson and the Ravens were out of sorts. The 49ers have made plenty of opponents look skittish.

Then early in the second quarter, Brandon Stephens went up high to bat a pass from Purdy at the line of scrimmage and it was picked off by Marlon Humphrey. That was Purdy's second interception of the game and that was when the game's momentum started to change. The Ravens took over from there.

The Ravens took a 16-12 lead into halftime, then outscored San Francisco 17-0 in the third quarter. Jackson made the plays that make him a special quarterback. Purdy looked nothing like the player who led the NFL in passer rating coming in.

The 49ers are a good team and if the two franchises meet again in Las Vegas in February, San Francisco has the ability to take the rematch. But Monday night's result should change everything we think about the NFL season going forward. That's how dominant the Ravens were.

Ravens have NFL's best record

Suddenly, we should view the Ravens' season in a new light. Everyone knew they were good. Nobody seemed to know they were this good.

Baltimore has led every game this season at the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter. Had they not lost late in three of those games, maybe we'd be talking about the Ravens being a potentially historic team. Their defense, run by coordinator Mike Macdonald, is masterful at devising a great pass rush without a great pass rusher on the roster. The offense lost players like Mark Andrews, J.K. Dobbins and Keaton Mitchell to injuries and it doesn't matter because Jackson is one of the best players in the world. The Ravens are very fortunate nobody made an effort to snatch him away when he was on the non-exclusive franchise tag.

The longer Monday night's game went on, the better the Ravens looked. The defense was relentless against Purdy and other than McCaffrey, all of the other 49ers' star players were shut down until the game was well out of hand.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
Lamar Jackson will likely become the new frontrunner for the league's MVP race heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

The 49ers supposedly had an unstoppable offense due to their many elite options, and Baltimore managed to take most of them out of the game. San Francisco's defense had no answers for Jackson, who was white hot in the second half. He makes a handful of plays every game that make all the difference in a league that has very small margins between its teams.

The Ravens haven't officially clinched the AFC North or the No. 1 seed in the conference yet, but they're in great position to do both. The Ravens should find themselves with the top seed and be two home games away from a Super Bowl.

For weeks we've said it was hard to imagine anyone beating the 49ers in that scenario. Maybe everyone was talking up the wrong team this whole time.