Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 31 December 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Win and they’re in.

The task is that clear for the Ravens, who would clinch the AFC’s No. 5 seed and play at Kansas City in the wild-card round next weekend with a win over Cincinnati. However, an upset defeat would leave Baltimore to hope for a loss by either Buffalo or Tennessee to secure a postseason bid.

The Ravens will have to do it without one of their starting wide receivers as Jeremy Maclin is out for the second straight week with a left knee injury. Second-year wideout Chris Moore is expected to start in his place with Michael Campanaro and the recently-promoted Quincy Adeboyejo also in the mix.

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is a healthy scratch for the fourth time in seven games since the bye as the Ravens elected to go with an undrafted rookie in Adeboyejo over their 2015 first-round pick on Sunday.

As expected, veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace (knee) is active and will start despite being limited in practice with a knee issue early in the week. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (back), right tackle Austin Howard (knee), and fullback Patrick Ricard (neck) are also active after being designated as questionable on the final injury report.

Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste is active and will make his Ravens debut in a special-teams role. Rookie third-round defensive end Chris Wormley is also active for just the second time since the bye week.

Running back Terrance West is again a healthy scratch after not playing in Week 16, the first time he’d been active on game day since Week 5.

The Ravens will be playing a disappointing Cincinnati team that won’t be at full strength on defense as standout linebacker Vontaze Burfict (shoulder) was downgraded to out on Saturday. However, cornerback William Jackson (knee) and running back Joe Mixon (ankle) are active after being listed as questionable for Week 17.

The Bengals are very likely playing their final game with head coach Marvin Lewis, who is expected to part ways with the organization after 15 years at the helm in Cincinnati. Of course, Lewis served as Ravens defensive coordinator from 1996-2001.

Sunday’s referee is Ron Torbert.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 20s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and only a small chance of precipitation. Showing off his Minnesota roots, tight end Maxx Williams spent part of the pre-game warmup without a shirt.

The Ravens are wearing their purple  jerseys with white pants while Cincinnati dons white tops with black pants for its season finale.

Sunday marks the 44th all-time meeting between these AFC North rivals with the Ravens enjoying the slight 22-21 advantage. Despite a 20-0 shutout victory at Paul Brown Stadium to open the season, Baltimore has lost six of the last eight to the Bengals and is just 9-10 against them in the John Harbaugh era.

The Ravens are aiming for their 14th win in their last 15 home finales with the only blemish coming against New England in Week 16 of the 2013 campaign.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Jeremy Maclin
WR Breshad Perriman
RB Terrance West
LB Tim Williams
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
OL Maurquice Shakir
DE Bronson Kaufusi

CINCINNATI
WR Cody Core
DB KeiVarae Russell
RB Jarveon Williams
LB Vontaze Burfict
DL Josh Tupou
OL Cedric Ogbuehi
OL Justin Murray

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 30 December 2017 by Luke Jones

One more win.

That’s what the Ravens need to secure their first trip to the playoffs since 2014. Of course, a loss by either Buffalo or Tennessee would also send Baltimore to the postseason, but relying on the out-of-town scoreboard for help is an unsettling proposition in Week 17.

The Ravens will be facing a disappointing Cincinnati team playing out the string and quite possibly preparing to bid farewell to longtime head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals secured a 26-17 win over playoff-hopeful Detroit last week, but they’d lost their previous two games by a combined 53 points, which isn’t exactly indicative of a team playing all that hard for its coach down the stretch.

Still, Cincinnati has given the Ravens as many problems as anyone over the last few years, winning six of the last eight meetings with two of those coming at M&T Bank Stadium. And after being embarrassed in a 20-0 shutout by Baltimore to open the 2017 season, the Bengals would like nothing more than to wreck an AFC North rival’s postseason hopes.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series by a 22-21 margin and own a 14-7 advantage in Baltimore. However, 10th-year head coach John Harbaugh is just 9-10 against the Bengals, who will miss the postseason for the second straight year.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Terrell Suggs will record 1 1/2 sacks against an overwhelmed Cincinnati offensive line. The Bengals will be without left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and are likely to again move left guard Clint Boling outside, which will spell trouble. Suggs was quiet against Indianapolis last week, but he was just named team MVP for the first time in his outstanding career and can taste a trip to the postseason. These are the types of games in which Suggs rises up to make a big play such as a strip-sack or batted pass, especially when playing at home. The 35-year-old had two sacks in the Week 1 meeting with the Bengals.

2. Cincinnati’s A.J. Green will catch his first touchdown since Week 13. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has occasionally used rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey to match up over the last two weeks, and I’d expect that trend to continue going up against Green, who is the biggest threat to the Ravens winning this game. Humphrey has played very well since his rough outing against Detroit in Week 13, so the stakes of this contest shouldn’t be too big for him. Like T.Y. Hilton last week, Green will make plays, but the Baltimore secondary will prevent him from being a game-wrecker.

3. Mike Wallace and Nick Boyle will make touchdown receptions for Baltimore. Since the bye, Wallace is averaging 73.5 receiving yards per game, which translates to 1,176 yards over a full season and is quite a contrast from earlier in the year. The uncertain status of Bengals cornerback William Jackson could lead to a big day for Wallace. Cincinnati ranks 31st against tight ends in Football Outsiders’ rankings, which is good news for Benjamin Watson and Boyle. The Bengals’ run defense is poor, but a big key to Baltimore’s offensive surge has been more aggressive passing on first down.

4. The Ravens defense will not duplicate its Week 1 output, but four sacks and two takeaways will do the trick. The Bengals were a mess at the beginning of the season and fired their offense coordinator after Week 2, but things haven’t gotten all that much better since. Andy Dalton isn’t going to throw four interceptions again, but the Cincinnati quarterback will be under some duress and repeatedly check down to running back Giovani Bernard. Unlike the Colts, the Bengals haven’t taken very good care of the ball this year and will make a mistake or two to stall promising drives.

5. Justin Tucker’s late field goal will allow the Ravens to exhale in a 23-13 win over the Bengals. Last week should have provided a good lesson as a three-win Indianapolis team gave the Ravens everything they could handle in a must-win situation. The Bengals’ recent success against Harbaugh’s team should provide more than enough motivation to not take them lightly, but that doesn’t mean it will be a cakewalk as Ravens fans will be biting their nails in the second half. Tucker hasn’t had the chance to make many big fourth-quarter kicks this season, but he’ll convert a long one with a few minutes left to make it a two-possession game and send the Ravens back to the playoffs.

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Were PSLs really an ‘investment’ all those years ago? Ravens fans will soon find out

Posted on 27 December 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

Part 3: The Ghost of Baltimore Football Future

As Baltimore Ravens president Dick Cass recently pointed out in a letter to the club’s Personal Seat License holders and top financial supporters, the spaciousness of the team’s home games this season can certainly be traced back to a warm afternoon a continent away in London, England when a dozen players took The Wembley Knee during the National Anthem.

Or, on “foreign soil,” as so many patriots have stated on the internet. It’s unclear how many PSL owners are purposely keeping those seats empty as a boycott and how many just can’t resell or even give away the tickets for free as a gift.

The new “cool debate” during the holidays has been the loyal Ravens fans excited about a playoff berth and still going to the games fighting with the ones who used to go to the games about how any real, true-blooded American could possibly support the National Football League and these disrespectful black players who hate our military and The President.

That’s where we are in this debate entering 2018.

But you want me to “stick to sports,” right?

Let’s be clear about how the upper deck got empty and how the fan base got uppity: if Donald J. Trump didn’t go on the attack with NFL players and call them “sons of bitches,” The Wembley Knee wouldn’t exist nor would The Knee of 180 players of color that around the sport that day in September 2017.

No sane person should argue this point.

But, no matter the reason, rationale, politics, philosophy, patriotism or the color of your skin or theirs, the result has been quite eye-opening for anyone who has witnessed a home game for the Baltimore Ravens since The Wembley Knee and subsequent drubbing at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars in London back on September 24th.

Time will tell what the impact of The Wembley Knee will be in the coming years to season tickets and PSLs and their street value.

Time will also tell what real damage there will be to the franchise and how it rebounds from this political crisis that Steve Bisciotti never could’ve

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Flacco’s play on rise as Ravens grind closer to playoff spot

Posted on 24 December 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens were hardly impressive in their 23-16 win over Indianapolis.

Playing a three-win team in rainy and windy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium wasn’t exactly a recipe to earn style points on Saturday anyway, and there was much to pick apart from the performance.

The defense continued its up-and-down play since the season-ending injury suffered by Jimmy Smith in Week 13, missing too many tackles and failing to consistently pressure Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett behind a decimated offensive line. The running game wasn’t much of a factor and averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the fourth quarter before three kneel-downs to seal the win. Even the normally-superb special teams had a punt blocked late in the fourth quarter that could have cost the Ravens the game.

“We made a number of mistakes, starting with me,” said head coach John Harbaugh, citing his decision to decline a holding penalty before Indianapolis converted a fourth down in the final quarter. “Things that gave them a chance, especially in the fourth quarter. There are things that we have to get better at and work on.”

The Ravens will need a more complete performance next week to beat Cincinnati, an AFC North rival who’s winding down a disappointing season but has given them as much trouble as any team over the last few years. It only gets tougher after that if Baltimore does advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

But the most encouraging trend of the last month continued Saturday as Joe Flacco turned in his fourth consecutive good performance. It’s no secret that the 10th-year quarterback is in the midst of one of the most trying seasons of his career, but he looks healthier and his play down the stretch has reflected that.

Despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions, Flacco completed 76.3 percent of his passes against the Colts and threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. It was the fourth straight game in which Flacco has thrown for at least that many yards after doing so only once in the first 11 contests of 2017. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception over those four weeks, raising his season passer rating from 74.2 to 81.4. He’s making plays while protecting the football, the opposite of what we saw for much of the season.

It wasn’t perfect on Saturday as he lamented his bad misfire to tight end Nick Boyle near the goal line in the second quarter as well as the offense scoring just two touchdowns despite five 10-play drives of 50 or more yards. But this is the Flacco more closely resembling the quarterback who helped guide the Ravens to six playoff appearances in his first seven seasons.

“I just feel, as an offense, we’re starting to hit our stride,” said Flacco, who’s showing better mobility than we saw in the first half of the season after his summer back injury. “I’m playing more consistent. The receivers are getting open quick. The line’s playing really well together. The backs are running the ball really hard, and it’s good to come out of these games and have some things that we left out there but still a lot of things that we did well.”

Most impressive about Flacco’s rise has been him doing it with a less-than-ideal supporting cast. The Ravens are currently playing with one established NFL wide receiver in Mike Wallace, who recorded his fourth straight game with at least 60 receiving yards. Flacco’s scores went to two players — Michael Campanaro and Maxx Williams — who hadn’t caught touchdown passes in over two years.

The offensive line has improved since the bye week, but its season-long trials are hardly a secret.

And while Marty Mornhinweg deserves credit for his improved unit now scoring 23 or more points in six consecutive games, the offensive coordinator still makes some calls — particularly inside the red zone — that make you scratch your head.

Through all of this, Flacco has rebounded from his own struggles and is making it work.

Saturday’s clunky overall performance won’t raise anyone’s confidence level about the Ravens making a deep run in January, but they got the job done in the end and are now one victory away from the opportunity to roll the dice. And with Flacco now playing his best football of the season and owning a stellar track record in January, the Ravens will take their chances having won five of their last six.

“One good game, and we’re in,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs, referencing next week’s tilt with the Bengals. “If we win, we’re in. Everybody knows that second season, we become a different team — a special team.

“‘January Joe’ — we’re all looking forward to seeing him. Absolutely.”

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Ravens-Colts: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 23 December 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens hope to have a happy Christmas and take another step toward securing a trip to the postseason by defeating the team that once called Baltimore home many years ago.

Indianapolis comes to town playing out the string to the tune of a five-game losing streak while John Harbaugh’s team is looking to secure its fifth victory in six games and clinch its first winning season in three years on Saturday. A win over the Colts would move the Ravens into a wild-card spot while waiting to see how Tennessee and Buffalo fare on Sunday.

As expected, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (knee) is inactive after missing practices all week and being designated as doubtful on the final injury report. Second-year wideout Chris Moore is expected to start in Maclin’s place opposite veteran Mike Wallace.

Running back Terrance West is active for the first time since Week 5 as the Ravens are likely to lean more heavily on the running game with wet field conditions. Starter Alex Collins was not on this week’s injury report, but he was clearly banged up in last week’s win at Cleveland, making West’s activation even more logical.

Rookie third-round picks Tim Williams and Chris Wormley are once again healthy scratches.

Indianapolis will be without starting wide receiver Donte Moncrief (ankle), starting right tackle Denzelle Good (knee), and starting cornerback — and former Raven — Rashaan Melvin (hand) after all three were ruled out on Thursday. The Colts also placed center Ryan Kelly and linebacker Jon Bostic on injured reserve earlier this week, further depleting their active roster.

Saturday’s referee is Tony Corrente.

According to Weather.com, the kickoff forecast in Baltimore calls for rain showers and temperatures around 60 degrees with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and the precipitation expected to taper off as the evening progresses. Tarps covered the grass field at M&T Bank Stadium until roughly three hours before kickoff.

In a surprise move, the Ravens are wearing their alternate black jerseys with white pants for their nationally-televised Saturday game. The NFL typically allows teams to wear an alternate or throwback uniform only twice per season — not counting the “Color Rush” initiative for Thursday night games — but this will be the third time we’ve seen the popular alternate jerseys in 2017. Indianapolis is wearing white jerseys with white pants.

Saturday marks the first meeting between these teams since 2014 when the Colts won 20-13 in Indianapolis. The last game in Baltimore came in the 2012 postseason with the Ravens prevailing in a 24-9 final. The Colts lead the all-time regular-season series by an 8-3 margin.

Below are Saturday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Jeremy Maclin
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
LB Tim Williams
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
OL Maurquice Shakir
DE Bronson Kaufusi
DE Chris Wormley

INDIANAPOLIS
WR Donte Moncrief
CB Rashaan Melvin
TE Jason Vander Laan
RT Denzelle Good
OL Mark Glowinski
DT Caraun Reid
S Clayton Geathers

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Maclin listed as doubtful to play against Indianapolis

Posted on 21 December 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are expected to be without one of their starting receivers against Indianapolis on Saturday as Jeremy Maclin has been designated as doubtful to play.

The veteran missed practices all week after suffering a left knee injury in the first quarter of last Sunday’s win at Cleveland. Maclin underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam earlier this week, but there have been few details about the injury or his progress beyond head coach John Harbaugh saying Monday that he hadn’t sustained a season-ending injury.

“I think he’s doing OK. I don’t know,” said Harbaugh hours before the final injury report was released. “We’ll just have to talk to him and talk to [head athletic trainer Mark Smith]. That’s kind of day to day at this point in time right up until the game, really. It could be even a game-time decision.

“I’ll know more probably by the end of this afternoon through his rehab today — whether he’s been able to run and things like that.”

Harbaugh left open the possibility of the Ravens promoting a wide receiver from the practice squad with rookie Quincy Adeboyejo being the most logical candidate. Baltimore would need to make a roster decision by 4 p.m. on Friday, however.

Defensive end Carl Davis (shoulder), cornerback Maurice Canady (knee), and defensive back Anthony Levine (thigh) are all listed as questionable, but each practiced all week on at least a limited basis, leaving little doubt about their availability against the Colts. Davis and Canady were upgraded to full participation for Friday’s practice while Levine remained limited.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is officially listed as questionable for Week 16 after missing Friday’s practice with an illness, a day after outside linebacker Matthew Judon was limited due to being under the weather. The 2016 first-round pick’s status is not expected to be in any jeopardy, however.

Harbaugh said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was also sick Friday, but he was still on the practice field. The head coach was asked if the quirky assistant would be listed as a limited participant on the injury report.

“He is normally limited in different ways,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughter from reporters. “I’ll mention that to Ronnie though. Marty sucked it up and got out there.”

The Colts officially ruled out four players for Saturday’s game, a list that includes starting wide receiver Donte Moncrief (ankle), starting right tackle Denzelle Good (knee), and former Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hand).

According to Weather.com, the Saturday forecast calls for light rain and temperatures in the high 50s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and a 70-percent chance of precipitation.

On Friday, tight end Benjamin Watson was named the Ravens’ recipient of the 2017 Ed Block Courage Award. The 37-year-old leads the team with 49 receptions and is third in receiving yards after missing the entire 2016 season with a torn Achilles tendon sustained in the preseason.

“It’s one of the top awards in the National Football League,” Harbaugh said. “Overcoming adversity, dealing with the injury part of it and those kinds of things. He’s obviously done a tremendous job with the Achilles [recovery]. The way he’s playing right now, I think it speaks volumes. The fact that your peers — the players — vote for that award is quite a telling thing. Congratulations to Ben on that.”

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: WR Jeremy Maclin (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Maurice Canady (knee), DT Carl Davis (shoulder), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), OT Ronnie Stanley (illness)

INDIANAPOLIS
OUT: RT Denzelle Good (knee), CB Rashaan Melvin (hand), WR Donte Moncrief (ankle), TE Jason Vander Laan (concussion), TE Brandon Williams (concussion)

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Before The Knee in Wembley and SOBs of Donald Trump there was left hook of Ray Rice

Posted on 21 December 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

PART 2: The Ghost of Baltimore Football Present

The fact that the Baltimore Ravens have lost some fans this year is indisputable.

It’s also a fact that after 22 years of consistent sellouts and mostly competitive football – unprecedented in the modern post-expansion NFL world – the Ravens have certainly been the best thing about Baltimore to come along during my adulthood.

By any measurement of its 32 teams and their successes on and off the field, any student of the National Football League considers the Baltimore Ravens a “model” franchise.

And I make no excuses or hide from this transparent fact – other than my parents, son and wife (and her miracle donor) to coming along in my 49 years on earth, the Baltimore Ravens have been the best thing to ever happen to my life. Professionally. Socially. Spiritually. Whatever I’ve ever been able to do, see, accomplish, contribute, build or have the ability to make a small positive difference in the world of local sports and media and charity has come because that purple football team came to Baltimore.

I have respected that opportunity and have worked tirelessly to make it a big part of my life and business and legacy.

So, I have no shame in admitting that Art Modell changed my life when that team miraculously landed here in October 1995. Everything good that has happened during my journey on life’s highway since that fateful day can be pinned back to Baltimore having an NFL team. The gratitude I have for having the privilege to be a vested fan with a voice and a major investment in a local AM radio station, thriving web and social media outlet and the ability to feed my family moving forward relies on local sports thriving and blossoming in my hometown. I own a sports media company here. My business partner is the former head coach of the only first Super Bowl title there will ever be in Baltimore on behalf of the Living Classrooms Foundation. I own a company in Towson, Maryland. I live in downtown Baltimore.

I pay taxes here.

I care a lot.

The Baltimore Ravens have been much more than a football team for many people here since their arrival and their incredible arc of success on the field and in the community.

The Ravens have consistently been the one common ground – a centerpiece for everyone with pride in our community to rally around and support unilaterally in a world that seems in a constant attempt to divide us.

On its best day and at its actualized pinnacle, sports universally brings people together and can be a shining example for society in regard to fairness, hard work, sacrifice, competition, strategy and perseverance. We’ve all heard and used those axioms and realize that sports teaches teamwork and teamwork builds strong

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Maclin’s status unclear as Ravens prepare for Indianapolis

Posted on 18 December 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says wide receiver Jeremy Maclin’s left knee injury is “nothing serious” that would sideline him for the rest of the season.

When the veteran will return is another story, however, as Harbaugh was noncommittal about the Week 16 availability of both Maclin and defensive end Carl Davis, who also left Sunday’s game in Cleveland with a leg injury. They each underwent magnetic resonance imaging exams on Monday.

The 10th-year coach seemed to imply that Maclin and Davis would be unlikely to play against Indianapolis without ruling out either player for Saturday’s game.

“It kind of depends on how they come along the next couple of days and how they progress,” Harbaugh said. “Anywhere from maybe more likely that it wouldn’t be this week and maybe the week after, but you never know. It could be this week with both those guys or either one of those guys. We’ll just see how they progress.

“They wouldn’t have to practice to play in the game at this stage, but they’ll go to work and they’ll do everything they can to be ready for Sunday, I’m sure.”

Maclin injured his left knee on the opening drive of Sunday’s game after making a 22-yard catch and being hit hard by Browns rookie safety Jabrill Peppers. He briefly returned for two snaps late in the first quarter, but he was officially ruled out to begin the second half.

Davis left the game in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury and didn’t return.

It’s been a disappointing season for Maclin, who signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Ravens in mid-June to be the replacement for the retired Steve Smith. He missed two games with a shoulder injury in October and has dealt with other nagging injuries while making only 40 receptions for 440 yards and three touchdowns in 12 contests.

Since making eight catches for 98 yards — both season highs — against Tennessee on Nov. 5, the 29-year-old has just 13 receptions for 130 yards on 30 targets in five games. He and quarterback Joe Flacco haven’t appeared to be on the same page in recent weeks, something that would have been more understandable in the first half of the season after Flacco missed all of training camp with a back issue.

“That’s a little bit cyclic sometimes,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg last week about Maclin’s recent struggles. “There’s never really one thing; it’s usually a combination of things. When you’re in that spot, get the hard work in, make sure you get prepared, let’s make sure we have great focus, and then good things tend to end up happening through all of that. It’s not uncommon to see something like that.”

Davis has made eight starts in 13 games this season and eventually stabilized the 5-technique defensive end spot after the season-ending foot injury suffered by Brent Urban in Week 3. The 2015 third-round pick’s potential absence could spell some trouble as the Ravens haven’t shown much confidence in young defensive ends Chris Wormley and Bronson Kaufusi this season.

Harbaugh was also asked whether running back Alex Collins made it through Sunday’s game OK after he appeared to be laboring on a few occasions and received only four touches in the second half.

“Mhhmm,” said the coach, nodding his head and elaborating no further.

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Ravens use effective road formula to stay in playoff position

Posted on 17 December 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens beating 0-14 Cleveland was never going to bring any earth-shattering developments beyond the possibility of a serious injury to a key player.

Only an unthinkable loss jeopardizing their playoff chances would have spawned a major headline.

The Browns again showed Sunday why they’re the worst team in the NFL, but Baltimore did what was necessary to remain in the driver’s seat for an AFC wild-card spot with two games remaining. In the 27-10 victory, the Ravens forced four turnovers, played superb special teams, and turned in another solid offensive performance to continue that encouraging late-season trend.

Despite some angst from fans reluctant to embrace a team with just one win against opponents currently holding a winning record, Baltimore didn’t come close to becoming the first team to lose to the hapless Browns, after all. And two home wins against opponents with a combined 8-20 record will result in the first trip to the playoffs since 2014.

Rebounding from last week’s awful performance in Pittsburgh, the Ravens defense intercepted two passes and forced and recovered two fumbles to take the NFL lead from Jacksonville with 33 total takeaways. Questions understandably will persist about this unit’s performance against better offenses and better quarterbacks, but forcing turnovers on the road will be a key part of the formula for any potential run in January. Baltimore had a whopping 15 takeaways in its four road wins this season.

Nearly as important as those turnovers was the offense’s ability to protect the football on the road yet again. The Ravens committed no turnovers Sunday and had no more than one in six of their eight away games this season. Baltimore also has just one giveaway over the current three-game offensive surge.

It’s no secret that Joe Flacco and the passing game have been more aggressive — and productive — in recent weeks, but that change in mindset does little good if accompanied by carelessness with the football. Flacco threw for a season-high 288 yards against the Browns and has now been intercepted only once over the last four games.

An offense scoring points is paramount, but taking care of the ball gives you a chance, especially when lacking an abundance of playmakers.

Sunday also offered a reminder of how brilliant punter Sam Koch has been this season — and for a long time — as he dropped three punts inside the 5-yard line and two on back-to-back drives in the third quarter. That field position led to Za’Darius Smith’s strip-sack of DeShone Kizer and Brandon Williams’ recovery for a touchdown that gave the Ravens a 24-10 lead that wouldn’t be challenged again.

Punting is an underappreciated skill because of its direct association with offensive failure, but Koch has been an incredible asset for a team that’s so frequently depended on field position and the success of its defense this season. The 12th-year veteran may never be viewed as the biggest reason for any single victory, but the cumulative value he brings over the course of 16 games shouldn’t be dismissed.

The victory over the Browns netted the Ravens a 4-4 road record for the season, and that’s nothing to take for granted if you’ve been paying attention the last few years. John Harbaugh’s best teams were never particularly great away from M&T Bank Stadium, but a .500 away mark has often served as a benchmark for a postseason berth.

Bad road losses have contributed to the Ravens missing the playoffs in recent years, but they’ve managed to avoid those this year. In 2013, upset defeats at Buffalo and Cleveland contributed to a 2-6 road record and an 8-8 finish. Last year, it was an ugly loss to an eventual 5-11 New York Jets team in October that contributed to the Ravens having no margin for error while facing a brutal December schedule.

Say what you want about a team lacking a signature win against a projected playoff team, but the Ravens have only one bad loss — the Week 6 tilt against Chicago — on their résumé. Since mid-October, they’ve beaten the teams they were supposed to beat.

And that’s all they have to do at home these final two weeks, thanks to another clean road performance on Sunday.

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 17 December 2017 by Luke Jones

It was 10 years ago Saturday that the Ravens lost to an 0-13 team, an embarrassing defeat that led to the dismissal of longtime head coach Brian Billick a few weeks later.

Baltimore hopes history will not repeat against the winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but the difference this time around is John Harbaugh’s team having much more to play for than that 2007 team that was in the midst of a nine-game winning streak and merely playing out the string. These Ravens are almost guaranteed a trip to the playoffs if they win their final three games against teams with a combined 8-32 record entering the weekend, so there should be no excuse for a letdown.

As expected, wide receiver Mike Wallace (ankle) is active and will start despite missing two days of practice this week. Wallace turned his right ankle in the first quarter of last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh, but he was able to return for the next series and played the rest of the game.

Third-year wide receiver Breshad Perriman is also active for just the second time in five games since the bye week. With both Wallace and Chris Moore (hip) less than 100 percent, the 2015 first-round pick will likely serve as an insurance policy more than anything else on Sunday.

Rookie outside linebacker Tim Williams is a healthy scratch after being active for the last four games. The third-round pick from Alabama struggled last week and was put on skates as Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell scored his 11-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is active and returns to the defensive rotation after sitting out last week’s game with a shoulder injury.

Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor will play after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. The starting defensive back missed practices all week with a foot injury, but he is expected to start opposite Jason McCourty.

Sunday’s referee is Clete Blakeman.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Cleveland calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the high 30s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and only a 20 percent chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with black pants while the Browns don white tops with white pants for their final home game of the 2017 season.

Sunday marks the 38th all-time meeting between these AFC North teams with Baltimore enjoying an incredible 28-9 advantage dating back to 1999. The Ravens are 17-2 against Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era, but the last four games at FirstEnergy Stadium have resulted in one-score finals.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
RB Terrance West
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
LB Tim Williams
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
OL Maurquice Shakir
DE Bronson Kaufusi
DE Chris Wormley

CLEVELAND
QB Cody Kessler
CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
S Justin Currie
OL Marcus Martin
OL Geoff Gray
WR Matt Hazel
TE Matt Lengel

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