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Ravens regular-season moment No. 2: “We know what kind of quarterback we have”

Posted on 26 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 3 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The Ravens had clobbered Pittsburgh in the 2011 opener in Baltimore.

But that didn’t matter now as they traveled to Heinz Field to take on a Steelers team that had won four straight entering November. A loss would drop the Ravens to third place behind both Pittsburgh and surprising Cincinnati in the AFC North, making their Week 9 clash on Sunday Night Football a crucial one.

Doubts about quarterback Joe Flacco persisted despite his comeback win in Pittsburgh the previous year as the Ravens had lost their home rematch in December — costing themselves the AFC North and a first-round bye in the process — and had blown a 14-point halftime lead in the their 2010 divisional-round defeat to the Steelers. Flacco was far from the only reason the Ravens lost those games, but he hadn’t played particularly well in some key moments as questions continued about his ability to lead his team to a championship. A stretch of lackluster performances in October hadn’t helped perceptions either.

The game started with a bang as Ray Rice took an inside hand-off, cut left, and galloped 76 yards for an apparent touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, reminiscent of the way the Ravens had begun the Week 1 blowout win. However, rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith was flagged for holding, negating the score and setting the tone for what would be a defensive battle for much of the night. The teams combined for five field goals in the first half with Billy Cundiff’s 51-yarder sending the Ravens to the locker room with a 9-6 lead at intermission.

The Steelers drove to the Baltimore red zone on the first drive of the second half before 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs intercepted Ben Roethlisberger’s pass in the short flat. With that turnover, the Ravens methodically moved down the field and took advantage of a 23-yard pass interference penalty as Rice’s 4-yard touchdown run increased the lead to 16-6 with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter.

The Steelers weren’t going away, however, as Roethlisberger bounced back from his mistake to lead an 11-play, 80-yard drive resulting in a 1-yard touchdown run for Rashard Mendenhall to make it 16-13 early in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens then marched to the Pittsburgh 36 before an all-too-familiar feeling of dread returned. On third-and-8, Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison sacked Flacco, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Steelers. Moving to the Baltimore 25 on five plays, Roethlisberger scrambled right on third-and-5 and found Mike Wallace in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:59 to play.

On the ensuing possession, three straight Flacco incompletions resulted in a punt that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown returned to his own 46. The Ravens were in serious trouble as Pittsburgh had the ball, good field position, and a 20-16 lead with 4:30 remaining.

After converting a big third down, the Steelers moved into field-goal range before making a costly error. On fourth-and-5 from the 29, indecisiveness struck the Pittsburgh sideline as Roethlisberger initially lobbied to go for the first down and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was late sending kicker Shaun Suisham onto the field, resulting in a delay of game. With Suisham kicking into the tricky open end of Heinz Field, a 47-yard attempt would have been far from a sure thing, but the penalty instead prompted a Jeremy Kapinos punt that pinned the Ravens back at their own 8-yard line.

Ninety-two yards were needed with just 2:24 and one timeout remaining, a far more difficult position than the previous fall when Flacco had found T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the game-winner in Pittsburgh.

A 21-yard completion over the middle to Anquan Boldin got the Ravens out of the shadow of their own end zone at the two-minute warning. A 13-yard sideline strike to seldom-used undrafted rookie LaQuan Williams moved them to their own 42. A few plays later, Baltimore faced a fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 49 when Flacco again found Boldin over the middle for 10 yards to extend the game.

But that’s when the drive began going sideways. On second-and-8 from the 37, Flacco escaped pressure, climbed the pocket, and threw deep to a wide-open Smith, who dropped the ball in the end zone. Boldin would catch the third-down pass to move the chains on the next snap, but the veteran receiver then dropped a perfect throw over the middle that would have moved the Ravens inside the 10.

As Cris Collinsworth remarked on the NBC broadcast, “Joe Flacco is doing a great job on this drive, and his receivers are completely letting him down.”

Facing third-and-10 from the 26, Flacco and the Ravens still had a timeout, but only 16 seconds remained. Undeterred by Smith’s drop moments earlier, Flacco threw deep to the sideline as the second-round rookie gave a veteran-like nudge to Steelers cornerback William Gay and caught the redemptive touchdown with eight seconds to go.

There was instant silence in Pittsburgh. In a throwback rivalry in which the most defining moments had always gone the other way, the Ravens finally enjoyed theirs in the national spotlight.

The 23-20 win proved to be the difference in the Ravens winning their first division title in five years and clinching a first-round bye. But it meant more than that for Flacco, who had orchestrated the most brilliant drive of his career. The touchdown pass in Pittsburgh the previous year had flashed his late-game ability, but leading a 92-yard march in a Sunday night road game against his biggest adversary was special, especially considering the aforementioned drops and the celebrated Ravens defense had given up 14 points in the final quarter.

No, Flacco wasn’t Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Peyton Manning and never would be, but he had touched greatness when it mattered most. And while the misfortunes of Cundiff and Lee Evans 2 1/2 months later in New England meant the Ravens would wait another year to finally taste Super Bowl glory, that 2011 win in Pittsburgh eliminated any doubt that such a postseason run was possible, whether Flacco’s critics wanted to admit it or not.

“Maybe people will stop putting him down now. We know what kind of quarterback we have,” Boldin said after the season-sweeping win over the Steelers. “There was no panic with our offense, and I think you saw that. A lot of it starts with our quarterback. He was real poised.”

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 5: “Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle”

Posted on 19 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 6 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The 2012 Ravens were a tough team to figure out.

Long before they’d win Super Bowl XLVII or go through a brutal December, there were fair questions about a group that had won two games by over 30 points, lost one by 30 points, and barely squeaked by some of the worst teams in the league over the first three months of the season. The Ravens were certainly good, but were they as great as an 8-2 start often suggests?

For much of their Week 12 clash with San Diego, the answer appeared to be no. The Ravens offense sleepwalked through the first half at Qualcomm Stadium, managing no points and just 90 total yards as the Chargers led 10-0 at intermission.

A 54-yard completion from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith on the opening drive of the second half set up a Justin Tucker field goal, but the offense again went quiet until midway through the fourth quarter. Doing the heavy lifting throughout the day to keep the score close, the Baltimore defense surrendered a long drive resulting in a field goal to give San Diego a 13-3 lead with 7:51 remaining in regulation.

The time was now for Flacco and the offense to come alive if the Ravens wanted to win their fourth straight game. The fifth-year quarterback did exactly that, going 7-for-8 for 86 yards on a drive ending with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dennis Pitta to shrink the deficit to 13-10 with 4:19 to go.

Inspired by the reappearance of the offense, the Ravens defense forced a quick three-and-out and Pro Bowl return specialist Jacoby Jones returned the punt 23 yards to the Baltimore 40. After picking up one first down, however, the ensuing drive quickly began unraveling.

A rare Marshal Yanda holding penalty pushed the Ravens back into their own territory. And following back-to-back incompletions, Flacco was sacked and stripped by Chargers outside linebacker Antwan Barnes on third-and-20, setting up what seemed to be an impossible situation entering the two-minute warning.

What could the Ravens do on fourth-and-29 from their own 37-yard line? Take a deep shot to Smith or Jones in hopes of at least drawing a pass interference flag? Throw a strike down the seam to Anquan Boldin and see if the tough-as-nails receiver breaks a tackle or two?

With time to throw and looking downfield, Flacco checked down with a short pass to the right flat just beyond the line of scrimmage.

Really?

You’ve got to be kidding.

Seriously?

“It was really kind of a Hail Mary situation,” Flacco said after the game. “We were running down the field and I was hoping because they were playing so soft, sometimes you can kind of get in behind one of those guys and catch them flat-footed and maybe find a soft spot and rip a ball real quick into somebody. I didn’t really see anything like that. I didn’t want to just throw a Hail Mary.

“I wanted to give somebody a chance.”

Ray Rice, the three-time Pro Bowl running back who often carried the Ravens offense in those years, got that opportunity.

With an effort one could hardly believe, Rice eluded a few tacklers, cut all the way across the field to the left, and got a crushing Boldin block on Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle before lunging for the first down. A replay review moved back the initial spot of the miraculous play, but a measurement still gave the Ravens a first down, keeping the drive alive.

A 38-yard Tucker field goal moments later tied the game and the Ravens won with another Tucker 38-yarder late in overtime, but all that transpired the rest of the way couldn’t come close to matching Rice’s extraordinary effort. What we didn’t know was how critical the victory would be at a time when many were pondering the 9-2 Ravens chasing a first-round bye and home-field advantage.

The win over the Chargers would be the Ravens’ last for a month as they’d lose their next three games and fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would be replaced by Jim Caldwell. It’s impossible to know how losing to San Diego might have impacted the remaining five games on the schedule — the Ravens rested multiple starters in their Week 17 loss at Cincinnati, for example — but finishing 10-6 compared to 9-7 was the difference between winning the AFC North and being the No. 6 seed.

The significance in the big picture only added to the mystique and real-time insanity of “Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle” as the fifth-year running back nicknamed the play.

“It was just total will,” Rice said after the 16-13 overtime win. “Once I made the first guy miss when I cut back across the grain, I actually saw the defense had to flip their hip and I kept eyeing the first down. I looked and said, ‘Should I keep running to the sideline or should I just keep trying to get up field?’ And that’s what I did. I just kept getting upfield.”

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 6: “Would it be us if we didn’t end it that way?”

Posted on 18 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 7 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The Ravens defense was determined not to let it happen again.

On Christmas Day in 2016, a last-second touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown had given Pittsburgh a 31-27 win that eliminated Baltimore from postseason contention in Week 16.

On New Year’s Eve the following year, Andy Dalton’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-12 had stunned the Ravens, who entered the season finale with a projected 97-percent chance of making the playoffs. The heartbreaking collapse resulted in the Ravens missing the postseason for the third straight year, the first time that had happened since their first four years in Baltimore.

A defense that had been among the NFL’s best statistically the previous two years had come up small at the most critical times, but the 2018 Ravens were riding momentum entering Week 17 after winning five of six games since the bye week to take the AFC North lead. Rookie Lamar Jackson taking over for the injured Joe Flacco at quarterback had provided the spark for a team in transition, but the league’s top-ranked defense had played at a championship level down the stretch, most recently holding the explosive Los Angeles Chargers to 10 points in one of the Ravens’ biggest road victories in years.

All that was needed for John Harbaugh’s team to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 was a win over Cleveland, who had played well down the stretch with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield at the helm. After what had happened against the Bengals at home the previous year, no one in Baltimore had any reason to be overlooking the Browns, who had also won five of their last six games.

That warning appeared overblown early as the run-heavy Ravens jumped to a 20-7 lead and were on the verge of blowing the game wide open late in the first half. However, on third-and-goal from the Cleveland 1, Jackson tried to hurdle the pile and extend the ball toward the goal line, but it was knocked loose before breaking the plane and recovered by Cleveland.

The game was much different in the second half as the Browns held the Ravens to just two field goals while Mayfield rebounded from a poor first half to throw two touchdown passes. His short scoring throw to Antonio Callaway cut the Baltimore lead to 26-24 with 3:24 remaining. And when the Ravens offense answered with a three-and-out, the gut-wrenching memories of the previous two years consumed a sold-out M&T Bank Stadium crowd.

The feeling of dread grew as completions of 19 and 16 yards — each confirmed by replay reviews — gave the Browns a first-and-10 at the Baltimore 39 with 1:20 remaining. Kicker Greg Joseph had missed a 46-yard attempt in the same direction to conclude the first half, so Cleveland needed more yardage and likely another first down to feel confident about giving him another try.

It couldn’t possibly happen again, could it?

Unlike those previous times, first-year defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was now in charge. Predecessor Dean Pees was often criticized for being passive in such late-game situations, but Martindale was influenced by the late Buddy Ryan and embraced a more aggressive approach with his defense.

On first down, Martindale blitzed Mayfield, whose sideline throw to tight end David Njoku was broken up by dime back Anthony Levine. The Ravens rushed six on second down, forcing another Mayfield incompletion. With Baltimore blitzing yet again on third-and-10, Levine broke up another pass intended for Njoku.

The stage was set for fourth down with a division title and a chance to avenge the previous two years on the line for the Ravens.

With Martindale deploying his fourth straight Cover-0 blitz, Mayfield was hurried by an unblocked Matthew Judon and threw over the middle toward running back Duke Johnson. Delaying his drop into pass coverage to deceive the Cleveland quarterback, Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley leaped, batted the ball in the air, and secured the interception.

Mosley and his defensive teammates sprinted the length of the field in celebration.

There would be no “Immaculate Extension” or “Fourth-and-12” this time around as the Ravens were AFC North champions for the first time since 2012 and back in the playoffs. Making the moment even sweeter was that it eliminated Pittsburgh as Steelers players were watching the end of the Baltimore-Cleveland game on the Heinz Field video board after their win over Cincinnati.

A Ravens defense that had folded under the pressure of previous big moments had finally broken through.

“Would it be us if we didn’t end it that way?” Judon said in the celebratory locker room. “Last year, the fourth-and-12, that’s all we see and that’s all we remember. And then we come down [before] fourth-and-10, Levine made two hell of a plays on man coverage, tight coverage. And then that fourth down, C.J., you can’t say enough about that guy.”

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 7: “Something that you dream of”

Posted on 16 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 8 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The 2003 season was turning into a nightmare for the Ravens, who had fallen to 5-5 after two straight road losses to St. Louis and Miami.

Despite a top-shelf defense and a historic campaign from running back Jamal Lewis, Brian Billick’s team was struggling mightily on offense and down to third-string quarterback Anthony Wright. In his first start for Baltimore the previous week, the 27-year-old had committed three turnovers in a 9-6 overtime loss to the Dolphins, looking the part of a former undrafted quarterback making only his sixth career start.

Returning home to play Seattle in Week 12, the Ravens needed a win to stop the bleeding and to keep pace with surprising Cincinnati for first place in the AFC North. What was to come would be one of the most exciting games in the history of M&T Bank Stadium.

No one knew it early, however, as the teams combined for just six points in the first 29 minutes of play before a pair of touchdown passes by Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the final 30 seconds of the half — a disastrous fumble had given the ball back to Seattle after the first one — gave Seattle a 17-3 lead at intermission. Wright’s second start was looking much like the previous week as he went just 3-for-9 for 37 yards.

Something had to give.

The difference would be Wright’s former college teammate at South Carolina, Marcus Robinson, who had been a non-factor in his first season with the Ravens. Once a 1,400-yard receiver with Chicago, Robinson had caught only nine passes for 76 yards in his first nine games of 2003, showing little chemistry with rookie quarterback Kyle Boller.

Wright and Robinson connected for a 13-yard score to open the second half, the first touchdown scored by the Ravens in two weeks. The pair hooked up for two more touchdowns — 50-yard and 25-yard strikes — in the third quarter, but the problem was the vaunted Ravens defense that suddenly couldn’t stop the Seahawks. Hasselbeck threw three more touchdowns in the second half to give Seattle a 41-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Wright’s mojo temporarily stalled as the Ravens punted on back-to-back possessions, but the second resulted in a muff recovered by Baltimore at the Seattle 35. With the Ravens having a chance to shrink the deficit to two scores with a little over nine minutes to play, Lewis instead coughed up the ball on first down, giving possession right back to the Seahawks.

A comeback just wasn’t in the cards as a sizable portion of the home crowd began heading for the exits, resigned to a third straight loss going into Thanksgiving.

Or so we thought.

A bloodied Baltimore defense forced a three-and-out to set up a punt. Already showing a Hall-of-Fame ability to block punts in only his second season, safety Ed Reed used a beautiful inside swim move to block Tom Rouen’s kick, picked up the ball, and scored to make it a 41-31 game with 6:41 remaining. It was a remarkable play by Reed, but the touchdown felt too little, too late for those still watching.

On the next possession, Seattle picked up three first downs to move into field-goal range and continue draining clock before Pro Bowl inside linebacker and 2003 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis stripped Seahawks fullback Mack Strong of the football. Lewis recovered at his own 29 to give possession back to the Ravens with 4:16 to go, leaving a glimmer of hope for remaining fans.

Needing a miracle conversion of a fourth-and-28 coming out of the two-minute warning, Wright chucked a deep ball to Robinson that deflected off his hands and into the arms of fellow wide receiver Frank Sanders, giving Baltimore a first down at the 21.

Four plays later, Wright and Robinson found the end zone for a fourth time in the second half, trimming the deficit to 41-38 with 1:12 to go.

It again appeared over after an unsuccessful onside kick, but the Ravens still weren’t done. An unthinkable clock snafu by the officiating crew essentially granted Baltimore an extra timeout before the defense stuffed a fourth-and-1 Hasselbeck sneak to get the ball back with 39 seconds left. Two plays later, Wright threw another deep ball to Robinson incomplete, but a 44-yard pass interference call set up a Matt Stover 40-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.

Sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good.

After the Ravens defense forced a Seattle punt on the opening series of overtime, Wright went to the magical connection a final time, completing a 19-yard pass to Robinson on third-and-15 to put his team in field-goal range. After three more Jamal Lewis rushes, Stover booted the 42-yard field goal to complete the largest comeback victory in franchise history.

The amazing 44-41 win sparked a 5-1 finish to the regular season that resulted in the first AFC North championship in team history. And though the Ravens would erase larger deficits — all with more time remaining — in the years that followed, none were as dramatic or meaningful as that season-altering win.

Going 20-for-37 for 319 yards and a 119.1 passer rating, Wright wouldn’t come close to matching his career day for the remainder of that season and his tenure with the Ravens, but his four touchdown passes to Robinson rate among the most improbable single-game efforts in the history of the franchise. It was a day the journeyman quarterback would never forget.

“This is something that you dream of,” said an emotional Wright, whose wife gave birth to their second daughter later that evening. “This is something that you write in books. This is something you think would never happen to you.

“For us to come back and win this game was unimaginable.”

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Ravens set to play five prime-time games in 2020 schedule

Posted on 07 May 2020 by Luke Jones

The uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the NFL from releasing the 2020 regular-season schedule on Thursday as the Ravens are set to play five prime-time games, their most since 2011.

How the schedule plays out and whether fans will be able to attend games won’t be known for quite some time, but a national audience will have no shortage of opportunities to watch reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson in action. Three of the five night games will be on the road, and four will take place in a five-game period from Week 10 through Week 14, an unusual scheduling quirk.

The prime-time schedule is headlined by a rare Monday night home game on Sept. 28 in which Kansas City and Baltimore will square off for the third straight season in a potential preview of the AFC Championship. The Ravens will also travel to Heinz Field to play Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night, the third time in the last 10 years they’ll play on Turkey Day. Baltimore will also play the following Thursday as Dallas comes to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2012 on Dec. 3.

The Ravens open their 25th season in Baltimore at home against Cleveland on Sept. 13.

After alternating home and away games throughout the 2019 season, the Ravens will play back-to-back road games at Indianapolis and New England — the latter being a Sunday night game — after their Week 8 bye, but they will host consecutive games against Jacksonville and the New York Giants in Weeks 15 and 16.

Sporting the NFL’s easiest schedule by opponents’ 2019 winning percentage (.438), the Ravens will play five games against playoff teams from last season: Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New England, and Tennessee. They have eight games against opponents who finished below .500 a year ago: Cincinnati (twice), Cleveland (twice), Washington, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and the New York Giants.

For now, 10 of Baltimore’s 16 regular-season games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday starts, but most games are subject to flexible scheduling (see below), an idea that carries a greater meaning in 2020.

2020 SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 13 vs. Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Kevin Stefanski is Cleveland’s ninth head coach — since John Harbaugh was hired by the Ravens in 2008, which says all you need to know about the Browns.

Sunday, Sept. 20 at Houston Texans — 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Ravens haven’t won in Houston in a decade, but this will be their longest trip of the year and the Texans don’t look nearly as potent after giving away DeAndre Hopkins this offseason.

Monday, Sept. 28 vs. Kansas City Chiefs — 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: You knew this one would be under the bright lights as Baltimore finally gets a crack at Patrick Mahomes in its home stadium after road defeats in each of the last two seasons.

Sunday, Oct. 4 at Washington Redskins — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The 2000 and 2012 Ravens both lost a game at FedEx Field before winning the Super Bowl, one of the odd factoids you’ll find considering how superior the franchise has been to its NFC neighbor.

Sunday, Oct. 11 vs. Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Joe Burrow is the latest Heisman Trophy quarterback to join the AFC North, but the Ravens are eyeing four straight wins over the Bengals for the second time in the Harbaugh era.

Sunday, Oct. 18 at Philadelphia Eagles — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The second-round selection of mobile quarterback Jalen Hurts makes the Eagles offense quite interesting, but the Baltimore defense is used to seeing superior athleticism in practice every day.

Sunday, Oct. 25 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Ben Roethlisberger had long been the king of AFC North quarterbacks, but this will be his first meeting against the guy who’s assumed the throne.

Sunday, Nov. 1 BYE
Skinny: Baltimore’s scheduled break falls in Week 8 for the second straight year.

Sunday, Nov. 8 at Indianapolis Colts — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: The Colts have one of the more talented rosters in the league, but are we really buying a 38-year-old Philip Rivers being the answer there?

Sunday, Nov. 15 at New England Patriots — 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: The Ravens playing a prime-time game in Foxboro is nothing new, but Tom Brady not being on the opposing side will certainly be strange.

Sunday, Nov. 22 vs. Tennessee Titans — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: You think the Ravens and their revamped front seven will be pumped for the rematch against Derrick Henry and the Titans team that broke their hearts in January?

Thursday, Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh Steelers — 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: These AFC North rivals should give thanks meeting up for the holiday as long as Mike Tomlin stays away from the sideline.

Thursday, Dec. 3 vs. Dallas Cowboys — 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFL Network)
Skinny: If you’re going to play two Thursday games, you might as well have them back to back as an elite Baltimore secondary going up against the talented Cowboys wide receivers should be fun.

Monday, Dec. 14 at Cleveland Browns — 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: The Browns have had a strong offseason on paper, but we’ll know whether players have bought into the new regime if they’re still in the hunt in December.

Sunday, Dec. 20 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Calais Campbell is now a Raven and the Jaguars are shaping up to be one of NFL’s worst teams in 2020, so we won’t mention what happened the last time these two teams played.

Sunday, Dec. 27 vs. New York Giants — 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
Skinny: It’s always fun seeing a Super Bowl XXXV rematch, but Daniel Jones playing on the road against this kind of defense wouldn’t seem to bode well for the Giants.

Sunday, Jan. 3 at Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Skinny: Playoff expansion has eliminated one first-round bye, but I’d still be interested to see how Harbaugh would handle Week 17 if Baltimore were in the same position as last year.

Notes: Flexible scheduling can be applied for all Sunday games in Weeks 5 through 17. A flex-scheduling change would be announced at least 12 days before the game except in the final week of the season. For Week 17, the Sunday night game is announced no later than six days prior to Jan. 3.

Another wrinkle implemented in recent years is a select number of games being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring certain games to wider audiences.

Ravens’ refund policy

“If a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled or is played under conditions that prohibit fans from attending, ticket buyers who purchase tickets directly from the club (i.e. season tickets or single-game tickets) have the option of a full refund of the ticket purchase price (plus associated fees) for any impacted games, or they have the ability to apply the applicable amount to a future ticket purchase.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 2020 draft

Posted on 29 April 2020 by Luke Jones

With the 2020 NFL draft in the books and the Ravens shifting attention toward an unprecedented virtual offseason workout program, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore’s draft haul has been widely praised as it is, but Eric DeCosta also used 2020 fifth-round picks to acquire Pro Bowl selections Marcus Peters and Calais Campbell. We know many draft choices don’t pan out, of course, but the Ravens sure took advantage of value.

2. Marlon Humphrey’s fifth-year option being exercised was elementary as he’s projected to make $10.244 million in 2021, but he’s already been a team MVP and a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection prior to turning 24. He’s one more big year away from commanding top-of-the-market money at cornerback.

3. The career of D.J. Fluker has been pedestrian compared to first-round expectations, but his signing is a reminder of keeping expectations in check for rookies, especially without normal offseason workouts. Ideally, a young guy with a higher ceiling seizes the right guard job, but Fluker raises the position’s floor.

4. Whenever anticipating a position battle, I remember how much angst there was about the Ravens making no meaningful addition to replace right tackle Michael Oher in 2014. Rick Wagner, who had barely played as a fifth-round rookie, stepped in as an immediate upgrade for the next three seasons.

5. Speaking of competition, Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser had to be pleased to see no edge defenders taken in this draft class. Ferguson will compete to start and was in no roster danger, of course, but players like Bowser in the final year of their contract are always vulnerable.

6. J.K. Dobbins will try to break this post-Super Bowl XLVII run of second-round picks: Bowser (2017), Kamalei Correa (2016), Maxx Williams (2015), Timmy Jernigan (2014), and Arthur Brown (2013). Talk about “meh,” but I suppose the Ravens did OK trading their 2018 and 2019 second-rounders.

7. How the ground game shakes out with four running backs and the greatest single-season rushing quarterback in NFL history will be interesting — there’s only one football — but there’s no shortage of motivation. Mark Ingram was essentially put on notice and Gus Edwards and Justice Hill dropped down the pecking order.

8. Devin Duvernay will be an interesting wild card with good hands and an uncanny ability to gain yards after the catch. Considering how many screens he ran at Texas, I wouldn’t be surprised to occasionally see him lining up in the backfield and also motioning into jet sweeps.

9. After drafting exactly one wide receiver (Breshad Perriman) in the first three rounds from 2012-2018, the Ravens have selected three (Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and Duvernay) in the last two drafts. Somewhere, Joe Flacco shrugs his shoulders.

10. Not only is Mike Tomlin getting inside information from Maryland wide receiver Dino Tomlin, but former Terps interim head coach Matt Canada became Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks coach in January. Anthony McFarland and Antoine Brooks landing with the Steelers was hardly a shock.

11. The gap is sizable between the Ravens and the rest of the AFC North on paper right now, but Cincinnati and Cleveland had strong drafts and Pittsburgh appeared to do OK despite trading its first-round pick for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick last fall. Much talent was added to the division.

12. I’m not going to pretend to have any great insights into the Ravens’ reported (and unofficial) class of rookie free-agent signings, but I just hope the addition of Kennesaw State fullback Bronson Rechsteiner means his uncle shows up in Owings Mills at some point.

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Ravens-Jets: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens can take the next step in their path to the postseason by clinching their second straight AFC North division title with a win over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

However, they’ll have to do it without left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was officially deactivated after suffering a concussion in last Sunday’s win at Buffalo. Stanley didn’t practice all week and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report, leaving veteran swing tackle James Hurst to fill his all-important position protecting quarterback Lamar Jackson’s blindside. With Stanley out and Hurst moving into the starting lineup, Baltimore activated Hroniss Grasu and Parker Ehinger as its two reserve offensive linemen while rookie fourth-round guard Ben Powers was once again a healthy scratch.

As expected, Jackson is active and will start despite being limited with a minor quad injury sustained early in the second half of the 24-17 win over the Bills. The MVP favorite deemed himself ready to go in Tuesday’s media session.

Tight end Mark Andrews (knee) is also active and will play after going through his usual warmup routine with the other Baltimore tight ends. He missed much of last Sunday’s game, but the 2018 third-round pick was able to log limited practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and appeared to be moving well prior to Thursday’s game.

Defensive back Anthony Levine (ankle) and defensive end Jihad Ward (elbow) are also active after being limited in practices this week.

The Jets are in much worse shape from an injury standpoint after deactivating Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams (ankle), starting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee), first-round rookie defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (neck), and starting right tackle Chuma Edoga (knee). New York also placed starting tight end Ryan Griffin (ankle) on season-ending injured reserve earlier in the day.

Thursday night’s referee is John Hussey.

According to Weather.com, the Thursday night forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures falling to the low 30s with winds light and variable and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their black jerseys with black pants while New York dons white tops and green pants for Week 15.

Thursday marks the 11th all-time meeting between these teams in the regular season with the Ravens enjoying an 8-2 advantage and a 5-0 record at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is aiming to extend its regular-season franchise-record winning streak to 10 games.

Below are Thursday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
OT Ronnie Stanley
LB Chris Board
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Anthony Averett
DT Justin Ellis
G Ben Powers

NEW YORK
S Jamal Adams
DT Quinnen Williams
OT Chuma Edoga
RB Bilal Powell
CB Brian Poole
WR Demaryius Thomas
CB Arthur Maulet

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humphrey

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 5 win in Pittsburgh

Posted on 08 October 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens snapping their two-game losing streak with a 26-23 overtime win in Pittsburgh, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Sunday’s game was far from “must-win” territory, but the Ravens came away with an “exhale” victory. It wasn’t pretty and real concerns persist, but you never take a victory at Heinz Field for granted, no matter the Steelers quarterback. We’ve seen backups win in this rivalry before.

2. Marlon Humphrey made the play of the game, but I’m impressed by his willingness to point out when he can be better, highlighting breakdowns and bad plays like his failed strip of JuJu Smith-Schuster earlier in the game. The 23-year-old wants to be the NFL’s best, and he’s getting closer.

3. Justin Tucker receives more publicity than any kicker in the league, but it still doesn’t do justice to his brilliance. Not only did he make tying and winning kicks in the open end of a stadium notoriously tough on kickers, but his kickoffs gave Pittsburgh poor field position all day.

4. Josh Bynes hadn’t played in a game since November and hadn’t been with a team since being cut by Arizona in March before signing Wednesday, starting, playing 43 snaps, and recording five tackles and an interception. That is remarkable and speaks to his drive to be ready for that opportunity.

5. That sequence of events also reflects how desperate the Ravens had become at inside linebacker. It’s telling that Kenny Young was inactive and Chris Board played only one defensive snap, but moving Patrick Onwuasor from the “Mike” spot back to the weak-side position was also a plus.

6. Lamar Jackson had his worst passing performance of the season, but his 14 carries for 70 yards reminded why you like his skill set even when he’s not succeeding from the pocket. He needs to be better, but his legs were vital as Baltimore couldn’t run between the tackles.

7. Was it any coincidence the offense fizzled from the time Marquise Brown left the game with an ankle issue? The ground game is paramount, but this passing attack isn’t very potent when Brown or Mark Andrews is limited physically. Both were banged up by the end of Sunday’s game.

8. The last drive of the first half was embarrassing. Starting at their 11 with 1:36 to go and two timeouts, the Ravens ran twice to move the chains, huddled with the clock running, took a sack, huddled again, and then Jackson was picked. Did the coaches leave the field early?

9. I don’t believe Earl Thomas had malicious intent with his helmet-to-chin hit on Mason Rudolph, but he appeared to be caught between trying to disrupt the passing lane and hitting the quarterback, which resulted in him launching into Rudolph. That was a disturbing scene.

10. The offensive line struggled against the Pittsburgh front, but Ronnie Stanley continues to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season with Pro Football Focus grading him first in pass blocking and fifth overall among offensive tackles. He’s going to be commanding a ton of money in the near future.

11. Maurice Canady went from being waived at the end of the preseason to starting and playing very well in Pittsburgh. His performance has been crucial, especially with second-year cornerback Anthony Averett disappointing in his opportunity to fill in for the injured Jimmy Smith.

12. Truthfully, I’m not yet sure how good the Ravens are when the teams they’ve defeated have a combined two wins, but Baltimore has the same number of victories as the rest of the AFC North combined. That always helps as a team tries to address its problems.

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Sizing up Ravens’ playoff picture entering Week 16

Posted on 19 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens were lucky not to have their playoff hopes all but squashed on Sunday, but their 27-26 win over Philadelphia leaves them with an 8-6 record and multiple paths to the postseason.

The first is clear while the others involve assistance from other teams.

Winning road games at Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would give the Ravens their first AFC North division title since the 2012 season. Of course, that would require Baltimore to win its first games on the road since September.

Many are hyping the Christmas Day showdown at Heinz Field as an AFC North championship game, but it’s not enough for the Ravens to merely win on Sunday. The Steelers host the winless Cleveland Browns in their regular-season finale, meaning the Ravens would almost certainly need to win a road game against the Bengals for the first time since 2011 in order to secure the division championship.

A path to a wild card also remains — at least for now.

The Ravens completed Week 15 a game behind Miami for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. A win for the 9-5 Dolphins at Buffalo on Christmas Eve would force Baltimore to beat the Steelers to stave off elimination for a playoff spot. A Miami loss would keep the Ravens’ playoff hopes alive in Week 17, no matter what happens against Pittsburgh.

Despite the daunting task of playing their two biggest division rivals on the road in consecutive weeks, the Ravens do have a 7-3 conference record working in their favor as a tiebreaker over fellow playoff contenders Tennessee, Denver, and Houston. Of course, Baltimore owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins via the 38-6 win at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 13.

Currently competing for the AFC South title, the Texans and the Titans meet in Week 17, meaning one is set to lose at least one more game.

If the Ravens are to make the playoffs while losing one more game, they would need the Dolphins to lose out and the other 8-6 wild-card contenders to each lose at least one more game.

Below is a look at the remaining schedule for the Ravens and the other contenders for the final wild card in the AFC:

PITTSBURGH (9-5, first place in AFC North)
Remaining opponents: Baltimore, Cleveland

HOUSTON (8-6, first place in AFC South via head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee)
Remaining opponents: Cincinnati, at Tennessee

MIAMI (9-5, No. 6 seed)
Remaining opponents: at Buffalo, New England

BALTIMORE (8-6, seventh in AFC via conference record)
Remaining opponents: at Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati

TENNESSEE (8-6, eighth in AFC via head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver)
Remaining opponents: at Jacksonville, Houston

DENVER (8-6, ninth in AFC)
Remaining opponents: at Kansas City, Oakland

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Sunday brings mixed bag to Ravens’ playoff picture

Posted on 11 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens aren’t likely to send former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan a Christmas card after Buffalo’s disappoint showing against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Despite intercepting Ben Roethlisberger three times in snowy conditions, the Bills allowed nearly 300 yards from scrimmage to running back Le’Veon Bell in their 27-20 defeat to the Steelers at New Era Field. The final score didn’t indicate how lopsided the game was as Pittsburgh moved a half-game ahead in the AFC North, putting more pressure on Baltimore for its Monday meeting with New England.

A loss to the Patriots wouldn’t wipe away the Ravens’ division hopes by any means, but it would all but eliminate any realistic chance of being able to win the AFC North without a victory at Heinz Field on Christmas Day.

Sunday wasn’t a complete disappointment for the Ravens, however, as Denver lost to Tennessee and is now barely holding on as the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. The Broncos fell to 8-5 and now face a brutal final three weeks, opening the door for a team outside the AFC West to potentially steal the last wild card.

Currently holding a 7-2 conference record, the Ravens are in good shape from a tiebreaker standpoint. They also hold the head-to-head advantage with Miami, who beat Arizona on Sunday to improve to 8-5 but lost quarterback Ryan Tannehill to what’s believed to be a season-ending knee injury. The Dolphins will play their final three games against division opponents — including the next two on the road — with veteran backup Matt Moore likely leading the way.

A loss on Monday night would drop the Ravens into a tie with Tennessee at 7-6, but the Titans own a poor 4-5 conference record and play their next two games on the road.

The Ravens’ best path to the playoffs is still winning the division, but Sunday’s action opened the door further for a potential wild card. And that eases the sting of the Bills not being able to beat the Steelers.

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