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Ravens list Z. Smith as questionable, rule out Dumervil again

Posted on 16 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Having already ruled out Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil for the second straight week, the Ravens could be without another outside linebacker in Cleveland on Sunday.

After missing his third straight practice with an ankle injury, Za’Darius Smith was listed as questionable to play in Week 2. Despite not starting in the opener against Buffalo, the 2015 fourth-round pick played 36 snaps in the Week 1 win, the most of any active outside linebacker.

Smith was not listed on the injury report last week after missing the final two preseason games with an ankle sprain. It remains unclear whether he aggravated the previous injury or hurt the opposite ankle against the Bills.

“I really don’t know,” head coach John Harbaugh said early Friday afternoon. “I don’t remember. The injury report will be out later.”

Dumervil hasn’t practiced since suffering a setback in his return from offseason foot surgery last month. The 32-year-old said Thursday that he’s improving and getting closer to a return, but he still offered no timetable for when he might be ready to play.

With Dumervil out and Smith in danger of missing Sunday’s game, the Ravens may need to lean more heavily on rookie linebackers Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa. Judon saw only 13 defensive snaps against Buffalo while Correa, the team’s second-round pick, only played on special teams in the season opener.

“They’ve both done a tremendous job and have demonstrated that they can play in this league,” Harbaugh said. “That’s an ongoing process, and whatever opportunities they get, we’ll be expecting them to make the most of it. We’re going out there as a team to go win the football game.”

The Ravens also listed wide receiver Breshad Perriman (calf), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (thigh), cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle), and guard John Urschel (shoulder) as questionable. All four were full participants in practice on Thursday and Friday, leading you to believe they should all be healthy enough to play against the Browns.

Perriman missed Wednesday’s practice, but he returned the following day and told reporters that he was feeling good and expecting to play in Week 2.

As expected, rookie running back Kenneth Dixon was ruled out as he continues to recover from a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee sustained in the third preseason game on Aug. 27. At the time of the injury, he was expected to miss roughly four weeks of action.

Meanwhile, the Browns did not have a single player absent from practice on Thursday or Friday and didn’t list anyone on their final game status injury report. Defensive backs Marcus Burley (groin) and Derrick Kindred (ankle) were limited in practices early in the week, but the NFL eliminated the “probable” label on the injury report, likely explaining why they weren’t listed in the game status report.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Hussey.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast in Cleveland is calling for a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, temperatures reaching the mid-70s, and winds up to 10 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report for Sunday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (calf), CB Jerraud Powers (ankle), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), G John Urschel (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
No one listed

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Dumervil’s absence putting early strain on Ravens pass rush

Posted on 15 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One of the stories leading into the 2016 season was the Ravens’ need to find young pass rushers to complement two perennial Pro Bowl selections on the wrong side of 30.

Early expectations have understandably been tempered for 33-year-old linebacker Terrell Suggs as he returns from last season’s Achilles tendon injury, but Baltimore was never expecting to be without fellow outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who is in line to miss his second straight game on Sunday in Cleveland. The 32-year-old underwent foot surgery in the offseason and hit the practice field on Aug. 22 before suffering a setback only a few days later.

His absence is putting early strain on a pass rush trying to improve from last year when the Ravens accumulated 37 sacks, 12 fewer than their 2014 total. It remains unclear when Dumervil will make his season debut as he continues to strengthen the foot and work out at the team’s training facility.

“I feel like I’m getting close, but I don’t know what close means yet,” Dumervil said Thursday. “We’re working hard, working with the guys here. I’m really getting better, so looking forward to really soon.”

Entering Week 2, the absence of Dumervil has been compounded by the uncertain status of Za’Darius Smith, who has been absent from practices this week with a lingering ankle injury sustained in late August. The second-year linebacker played in Week 1 without making a major impact, registering one tackle in 36 snaps.

Despite a matchup in the opener in which the Ravens did not want to flush mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the pocket, defensive coordinator Dean Pees did use the blitz to disrupt at critical points. Baltimore registered two sacks and six quarterback hits while holding the Bills to 160 total yards in the 13-7 win.

“We didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag with our game plan,” said Suggs, who will now face nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas in Week 2. “We didn’t want him to change the game with explosive plays, and he still got out a couple times. He got away from us, he broke out of some sacks, and he was still able to make some plays. You had to be disciplined in your rush.”

Taking over for the injured Robert Griffin III, Browns quarterback Josh McCown is the more traditional pocket passer, and the Ravens will not want him to get comfortable in the pocket to repeat anything resembling his recent performances against them.

With Smith in the mix on Sunday, the Ravens were already using rookie fifth-round pick Matt Judon as part of the rotation. Rookie second-rounder Kamalei Correa could now be in line to receive some snaps on defense after seeing special-teams action only against Buffalo.

Pees wasn’t overwhelmed by the performance of the pass rush when he didn’t send extra blitzers, but there isn’t much experience on which to rely beyond Suggs and veteran Albert McClellan, who is much more of a run-stopping linebacker.

“We can do better. We’re OK,” said Pees about the Week 1 pass rush. “We have to get a lot better with just a straight four-man rush. We don’t want to rely every time that we can only get pressure when we [use the] extended pressure package. We just have to keep working on it. I’m happy with where they are — especially the young guys — but we just have to keep building on it and getting better.”

Of course, Suggs returning to his pre-injury form would go a long way in helping the cause, but the Ravens must exercise caution with a player in his 14th season and coming off his second Achilles injury in a four-year period.

Pees will largely lean on the six-time Pro Bowl selection and 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year to determine his workload on a week-by-week basis.

“He’s always going to put the team first,” Pees said. “This guy has a Hall of Fame career and could sit there and say, ‘I want it to be about me,’ and he’s not. He and I talked and said, ‘Here’s probably about how many reps we have to get.’ I said, ‘Look, there are going to be certain situations where I have to have you and I can’t have you tired.’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ That’s just the ultimate pro right there.”

After spending all of last season leaning heavily on Dumervil, the Ravens can’t wait to have their veteran pass rushers back on the field together for the first time since 2014 when they combined for an imposing 29 sacks.

Pees will try to find a silver lining in giving early opportunities to young pass rushers in hopes of speeding up their development, but the man who piled up 32 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons with Baltimore is itching to return.

And the Ravens need him sooner rather than later.

“You definitely want to go out and contribute the best you can,” Dumervil said. “In due time — when the time is right — I’ll be ready. I’m definitely learning more patience. The good thing is it’s coming, so it’s exciting.”

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Mosley, Perriman return to Ravens practice after one-day absence

Posted on 15 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After missing Wednesday’s practice with a calf injury, Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman returned to the field a day later as fans breathed a sigh of relief.

The 2015 first-round pick did not appear to be working at full speed during the portion of practice open to reporters, but he was listed as a full participant on Thursday’s injury report. Though unwilling to discuss specifics related to the injury, he said after practice that he felt good and expected to play in Sunday’s game against Cleveland.

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (thigh) also returned to practice as a full participant after a one-day absence. The 2014 Pro Bowl selection downplayed the significance of the ailment on Wednesday.

Linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and Za’Darius Smith (ankle) and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) remained sidelined with their respective ailments. Though he hasn’t been officially ruled out yet, Dumervil is not expected to play in Week 2 as he continues to work his way back to full strength after suffering a setback in his return from offseason foot surgery.

Smith’s status is also a concern after he had previously dealt with an ankle injury over the final two weeks of the preseason. Should he not be able to play, the Ravens would be light at the outside linebacker position behind starters Terrell Suggs and Albert McClellan.

Rookie Matt Judon would once again be in the mix as a situational pass rusher, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees would likely need to turn to at least one more option such as veteran Chris Carter or rookie Kamalei Correa. Those two were core special-teams players against Buffalo, but neither played a defensive snap in the 13-7 win.

Suggs and five-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda received the day off from practice on Thursday, which happened to be the latter’s 32nd birthday.

Center Jeremy Zuttah was back at practice on Thursday after receiving the previous day off.

Meanwhile, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas returned to practice after receiving the previous day off.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (calf), CB Jerraud Powers (ankle) OL John Urschel (shoulder), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)

CLEVELAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Marcus Burley (groin), DB Derrick Kindred (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G John Greco (back), WR Terrelle Pryor (shoulder), OT Joe Thomas (non-injury)

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Perriman sidelined from Ravens practice with calf injury

Posted on 14 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman made his long-awaited NFL debut on Sunday, but the 2015 first-round pick was one of six players missing from Wednesday’s practice.

The 23-year-old was listed with a calf issue on the first injury report of the week after head coach John Harbaugh declined to comment on his absence. The injury is considered minor, according to an ESPN report.

Perriman played 21 snaps and made a 35-yard reception in the 13-7 win over Buffalo and appeared to be fine in the post-game locker room, but his absence reignites the questions about his ability to stay on the field. After missing his entire rookie season with a right knee injury, the second-year wideout missed most of summer training camp with a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee sustained in June and only returned to play in the preseason finale.

Other players sidelined as the Ravens continued preparations for this weekend’s trip to Cleveland included linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot), C.J. Mosley (thigh), and Za’Darius Smith (ankle), center Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee). Considering how much time he missed throughout the summer after undergoing offseason foot surgery, Dumervil appears to be in real jeopardy of missing his second straight game to start the regular season.

Smith missed the final two weeks of the preseason with an ankle injury, but it remains unclear whether he suffered a setback. He was not listed on the injury report last week and played 36 snaps against Buffalo.

Mosley downplayed the significance of his thigh injury and isn’t considered a question mark for Sunday’s game.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Mosley said. “I just have to make sure I don’t go out there and make anything worse. I’ll be out there [Thursday].”

Third-year offensive lineman John Urschel was a full participant on Wednesday after being inactive for the season opener. He practiced fully all last week after missing a large portion of the preseason with a shoulder injury.

Veteran cornerback Jerraud Powers made his return to practice on a limited basis after missing the opening game. He had been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury on Aug. 20.

Meanwhile, the Browns only had one player missing from their Wednesday workout as nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas was given the day off.

Below is the full Wednesday injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (calf), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jerraud Powers (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL John Urschel (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Joe Thomas (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Marcus Burley (groin), DB Derrick Kindred (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G John Greco (back), WR Terrelle Pryor (shoulder)

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Ravens unveil all-purple “Color Rush” uniforms for Nov. 10

Posted on 13 September 2016 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com)

After much speculation over the last several months, the Ravens have finally revealed their “Color Rush” uniforms to be worn for their nationally-televised home game against Cleveland on Nov. 10.

For the first time in franchise history, Baltimore will wear purple pants to go along with revamped purple jerseys for their Thursday night meeting with the Browns. The jerseys will feature gold numbers instead of the white one used for their regular home jerseys. The purple pants will feature a gold stripe on the sides.

The NFL began the “Color Rush” monochromatic initiative for select Thursday night games last season and has now expanded it to include all 32 teams for the 2016 season. It had even been rumored in the offseason that the Ravens would wear a uniform with a Maryland flag theme.

The Browns will wear all white for the Week 10 matchup at M&T Bank Stadium. Pittsburgh will wear an all-black uniform against the Ravens on Christmas Day.

The all-purple uniforms have already been met with mixed reviews, but they have to be better than the mustard-colored pants they introduced last December, right?

Right?

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Ravens shift focus to McCown for Sunday’s game in Cleveland

Posted on 12 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After besting Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor in Week 1, the Ravens figured to play another mobile quarterback in their second game of the season.

Instead, they’ll face a journeyman who’s had their number in recent seasons.

With Cleveland placing starter Robert Griffin III on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, Josh McCown will make the start in the Browns’ home opener on Sunday. Head coach John Harbaugh is well aware of the 37-year-old’s ability as he threw for 457 yards and two touchdowns in a surprising 33-30 win in Baltimore last season.

“I remember this guy just having no conscience and just throwing the ball in there and completing passes against us,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of respect for him. We know what kind of a player he is. We know how good he is, and he’s super good against us. We know we have our hands full. It will be all hands on deck to get ready for the offense led by Josh McCown.”

It’s fair to wonder if the Ravens would have preferred to face Griffin, whose once-promising career has been derailed by injuries and inconsistent play since his Pro Bowl rookie season in 2012. The Baltimore defense did an exceptional job keeping Taylor in the pocket and taking away the deep ball, a strategy that likely would have been employed against a healthy Griffin.

Though spending much of his career as a backup, McCown is a more traditional pocket passer who has hurt the Ravens with his arm over the last few years. Dating back to the 2013 season, he is 2-1 against Baltimore with 885 passing yards, four touchdown passes, and no interceptions.

Harbaugh knows it will also be a challenge facing new Browns head coach Hue Jackson, a one-time Ravens assistant who had much success as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons. Of course, he’s not working with the same talent level in Cleveland as he did with the Bengals.

“Hue Jackson is a ringmaster, so to speak,” Harbaugh said. “He gets in formations, he’s still at it [and] is very creative. He finds ways to attack your defense at your weakest spots. He’s going to formation you. He’s going to motion you. He’s going to run various kinds of routes, various kinds of runs. He’s going to put tackles out, tackles over, tackles in. Everybody is going to be in different spots, and you’re just going to have to find a way to defend all of their play-makers at all times.”

After holding the Bills to seven points and 160 total yards on Sunday, the Ravens hope the defensive improvement accompanies them on the road as they seek a 2-0 start for the first time since the 2009 season. Meanwhile, the rebuilding Browns are trying to regroup after a 29-10 loss to Philadelphia.

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Five questions about the Ravens’ 2016 schedule

Posted on 15 April 2016 by Luke Jones

The 2016 schedule is officially set for the Ravens and below are five questions to ponder:

1. What will the Ravens’ record be at the bye?

I’ll abstain from predicting Baltimore’s record when the draft hasn’t even taken place yet, but it is interesting to note that six of the Ravens’ first seven games will come against non-playoff teams from a year ago. However, this is a bit deceiving as the New York Jets finished with a 10-6 record in 2015 and the Oakland Raiders may have the best young roster in the league after adding even more talent this offseason.

Still, I’m not sure I’ll like the Ravens’ chances of getting to the playoffs if they’re anything less than 5-2 by the time they hit their Week 8 bye, especially when they play road games at New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in a four-week span to close the regular season.

2. Has a team ever played back-to-back road games at the same venue?

We’ve seen Week 17 opponents meet in the first round of the playoffs in the same stadium, but I’m curious to know how many times a team has played road games against the New York Giants and the New York Jets in consecutive weeks. At least the Ravens should be very familiar with MetLife Stadium by around 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 23.

No, I’m not interested enough to do the research to find out if and when it’s happened before, but I’d gladly thank you if you are willing to do the work.

3. What will the “Color Rush” uniforms look like for the Ravens-Browns game on Nov. 10?

The Color Rush uniforms we began seeing for Thursday games last year will return, so it will be interesting to see what that might look like for the Ravens. Truthfully, the all-black uniforms are no longer special at this point, so what about purple jerseys and purple pants for that nationally-televised game?

Let’s hope the mustard-colored pants from last year never see the light of day again.

Would Cleveland wear orange jerseys and orange pants to go with orange helmets or would the Browns sport an all-brown getup? Remembering how ugly their new uniforms looked last year, do we really want to know?

4. How do we feel about the Ravens playing in the afternoon on Christmas Day?

It’s probably just me being a whiny sportswriter — to be clear, I do love my job — but do we need multiple NFL games on Christmas? It was one thing for the Ravens to play on Christmas night 11 years ago, but an afternoon game is intrusive for many people wanting to celebrate the holiday with their families — in Pittsburgh or Baltimore.

Do you really want Aunt Edna bugging you about when you’re ever going to get married or have kids while you’re trying to watch Joe Flacco drive the Ravens the length of the field in the fourth quarter?

For Ravens fans unhappy about only having two prime-time games in 2016, this one practically counts as a third since it will be a nationally-televised game on NFL Network.

5. Why are the Ravens finishing the regular season in Cincinnati again?

Many are complaining about the Ravens now having 10 of their last 11 Monday night games on the road when they travel to New England on Dec. 12, but going to Paul Brown Stadium to conclude the regular season for the fifth time in six years is ridiculous.

Imagine the uproar if the Ravens had to go to Heinz Field for Week 17 every year. How irritated would Pittsburgh be to go to Baltimore or Cincinnati to conclude the season on an annual basis?

The Bengals’ losing past still resonates with many, but they’ve beaten the Ravens five straight times and are the only team in the AFC North to have made the playoffs in each of the last five years. The Monday night thing is quirky, but at least Baltimore has had plenty of prime-time home games over that time.

The Ravens shouldn’t have to go to Cincinnati for the final week every year.

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Major trade at top of draft only helps Ravens at No. 6

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Luke Jones

A colossal shakeup at the top of the 2016 draft should improve the Ravens’ chances of landing an elite player with the sixth overall pick.

Thursday morning brought news of the Tennessee Titans trading the first overall pick to Los Angeles, who gave up a king’s ransom to move up from 15th overall. The Rams didn’t make such a blockbuster trade not to take a quarterback — whether it’s Jared Goff of Cal or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz — so the trickle-down effect will only help the rest of the teams in the top 10.

Do the Cleveland Browns take a quarterback second overall as many believe they will? If so, the Ravens would be guaranteed to have their choice of at least two of the following players at No. 6: Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, Ohio State edge defender Joey Bosa, Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.

Of course, the Browns taking a quarterback isn’t a guarantee and they are reportedly willing to trade the pick, but the Ravens didn’t want to be in a position where all five aforementioned names were off the board when they were on the clock. Now, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens brass can rest easier knowing at least one of those top prospects will still be available when they are slotted to make their earliest selection since the 2000 draft.

All it took was another quarterback-needy team jumping into the fray.

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Youth comes up big for Ravens in thrilling victory

Posted on 01 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Monday will go down as one of the most thrilling finishes in the 20-year history of the Ravens as well as in the annals of Monday Night Football.

But as Crash Davis from “Bull Durham” would remind you, “The moment’s over.”

If you’re trying to focus on the long haul, what can the 4-7 Ravens really take away from Monday’s win that worsened their 2016 draft position?

Though all players and coaches continue to fight admirably with all 11 of Baltimore’s games being decided by a single possession in 2015, the performances of five players under the age of 25 might bring the most hope from Monday’s win as it relates to the Ravens’ goal of returning to a championship level.

Below is a look at each in no particular order of significance:

WR/RS Kaelin Clay
Age: 23
Impact: Prior to Monday, the rookie from Utah was best known for a major gaffe against Oregon last season, but the sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced his presence with authority by returning the Browns’ first punt of the game 82 yards for a first-quarter touchdown. Even better was the fact that Clay returned three other punts and two kickoffs without putting the ball on the ground, a factor that’s been a concern for Baltimore returners this season. Clay played only one offensive snap, so it remains to be seen what he can offer as a receiver, but his big return energized the Ravens early.

DE Brent Urban
Age: 24
Impact: After missing the first 26 regular-season games of his NFL career due to injuries, the 6-foot-7 Urban made a major impact in blocking Travis Coons’ 51-yard field goal attempt, which allowed safety Will Hill to return the ball 64 yards for the game-winning touchdown with no time remaining. The 2014 fourth-round pick also made two tackles in his 11 defensive snaps and offered a glimpse of why the Ravens elected to use their designation to return on him after he tore his biceps early in training camp. He will be one of the most intriguing young players to watch over the final five weeks of the season.

RB Terrance West
Age: 24
Impact: We all know the local kid’s story and the baggage he already carries in only his second NFL season, but the 225-pound back showed good vision against his old team, rushing for 37 yards on seven carries in his Ravens debut. With Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro both out for the season, West will have every opportunity to make an impact for an offense lacking established weapons. It will be up to him to show the maturity and work ethic that will warrant more carries in the coming weeks, but the former Towson star made valuable contributions for his hometown team in Week 12.

DT Timmy Jernigan
Age: 23
Impact: After beginning the season in John Harbaugh’s doghouse due to a foolish roughing the passer penalty in Oakland, the 2014 second-round pick has quietly picked up his play over the last seven games, registering three sacks and eight quarterback hits. In 42 defensive snaps against Cleveland, Jernigan finished with three tackles, a half-sack, and three quarterback hits to wreak havoc in the pocket along with veterans Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty. Jernigan’s sack total doesn’t stand out, but he ranks second behind Dumervil with 10 quarterback hits and has been the Ravens’ best interior rusher.

RB Buck Allen
Age: 24
Impact: It helped facing the league’s 32nd-ranked run defense, but the 2015 fourth-round pick continued to impress in his first start, carrying 12 times for 55 yards and catching four passes for 29 yards that included a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It remains to be seen whether the 220-pound Allen can consistently thrive running between the tackles, but his receiving ability out of the backfield is as dynamic as anyone the Ravens have used since Ray Rice at his best. After facing questions at running back for a few years now, the Ravens would love to see Allen show No. 1 back production.

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Even in rough season, Ravens remind us how fun sports can be

Posted on 01 December 2015 by Luke Jones

It was nice to forget about the Ravens’ big picture for one night in a thrilling 33-27 win over Cleveland.

No, I don’t think Brent Urban’s blocked field goal and Will Hill’s 64-yard return for the game-winning touchdown as time expired will sabotage Baltimore’s 2016 draft position. It was always going to difficult to secure the first overall pick when every game the Ravens play is decided by one possession, leaving too many chances for some breaks to go their way like they did on Monday.

In the same light, the exhilarating victory shouldn’t be viewed as “redemption” or a catalyst that will allow the Ravens to climb back into a mediocre AFC wild-card race. After all, the only thing the Ravens really proved on Monday is that they were better than the perennial doormat of the AFC North.

But that chaotic final play reminded us just how much fun sports can be. Nothing more, nothing less.

It hasn’t exactly been the greatest few months in local sports with the Orioles failing to return to the playoffs, Maryland football being dreadful, and the Ravens in the midst of the most disappointing season in franchise history. It’s easy to become jaded watching a team that’s already out of the race and looking toward next season, especially after losing your franchise quarterback to a season-ending knee injury last week.

In fact, I counted myself among those seeing no benefit to the Ravens winning any games down the stretch as they’d only be worsening their position in a draft in which general manager Ozzie Newsome needs to come away with high-impact talent. But a funny thing happened as I watched the injury-ravaged Ravens take on the hapless Browns in one of the worst matchups of the season.

I enjoyed myself.

Make no mistake, Baltimore and Cleveland did not play a great game, but it was entertaining with big plays, backbreaking mistakes, questionable coaching decisions, and one of the craziest finishes in the long history of Monday Night Football. And as the teams exchanged multiple possessions in the final two minutes and Matt Schaub threw his second interception of the night to set the Browns up in Baltimore territory, I still pondered the most absurd way in which the game could end and decided on the following:

Of course, it was nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek prediction — I’ve been awful in forecasting Ravens games this season — but I couldn’t believe my eyes just a couple minutes later as Urban blocked Travis Coons’ 51-yard attempt and Hill scooped up the football to streak down the sideline for the score.

It was one of those moments that reminds fans — and even cranky reporters — why we watch sports in the first place. Of course, Baltimore’s joy was Cleveland’s agony as the Browns picked the worst time to, well, “Brown” away a game.

You couldn’t help but feel good for Hill, who had blown the deep middle coverage on Travis Benjamin’s game-tying touchdown catch with 1:47 remaining in the game. I felt even better for Urban, a 2014 fourth-round defensive end who was playing in his first NFL game after seeing his entire rookie year and most of his second season lost due to injuries.

Two players the Ravens hope will factor into their future making the game-winning play on Monday night.

It will be fine going back to feeling conflicted about the remaining five games of the season as the Ravens travel to Miami to take on the 4-7 Dolphins on Sunday. I can understand a fan never wanting to root against his or her team, no matter what it means for draft implications. At the same time, the Ravens only stand to benefit in the long run by losing more than winning the rest of the way.

But I hope we all could enjoy what transpired on the final play of Monday night’s game.

The wild win doesn’t make up for a losing season and doesn’t mean the Ravens will fail to come away with excellent players in next year’s draft. It’s also not a sign of an upcoming miraculous run to the postseason.

It was just a really fun moment that we hope to witness from time to time as sports fans.

One in which silly imagination suddenly sprung into fun reality for a team experiencing far too much of the cruel kind this season.

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