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Ravens regular-season moment No. 1: Beating Jacksonville

Posted on 29 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 2 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE and the entire top 25 list HERE.

Novelty and nostalgia had defined the Baltimore Ravens.

A new generation of Baltimoreans finally had a team after 12 years in the NFL doldrums, but the Ravens were much closer to being the Bengals than the Steelers in those early years, going 16-31-1 in their first three seasons and finishing no higher than fourth in the old AFC Central. General manager Ozzie Newsome was building a promising foundation anchored by left tackle Jonathan Ogden and middle linebacker Ray Lewis — two Pro Bowl talents and the first two draft picks in team history — but no one knew exactly when or if that work would pay off.

From playing their first two seasons at Memorial Stadium and hiring Ted Marchibroda as their first head coach to the Baltimore Colts marching band playing and Johnny Unitas and other legends attending games, the Ravens were draped in Baltimore football history. It was a smart and heartwarming nod to the past, but the organization ultimately needed its own legacy after relocating from Cleveland in 1996.

Those Ravens were somewhere between the old Browns and the new Colts, but they were nowhere near NFL relevancy.

The 1999 campaign brought flashes in December with the Ravens winning for the first time in Pittsburgh and blowing out eventual AFC champion Tennessee on their way to an 8-8 finish, but a couple good performances playing out the string after a 3-7 start couldn’t be viewed as a definitive breakthrough. Brian Billick’s second year as head coach would tell the truth.

Baltimore opened the 2000 season with an impressive 16-0 win at Pittsburgh, building on the significant defensive improvement shown during the previous season. But the bigger test would come in Week 2 when the Ravens hosted Jacksonville for the home opener at PSINet Stadium.

The Ravens had never beaten the Jaguars, who had become the class of the AFC Central shortly after their expansion start in 1995. An 0-8 mark consisting of squandered leads, the occasional blowout, and plenty of last-minute heartbreak best illustrated how far Baltimore still needed to come while Jacksonville was coming off its fourth straight postseason appearance, a 14-2 record, and a trip to the AFC Championship game.

No breakthrough appeared imminent in the first quarter as Pro Bowl quarterback Mark Brunell and Pro Bowl wide receiver Jimmy Smith shredded the Baltimore defense for 45- and 43-yard touchdown passes and Billick’s team trailed 17-0 at the end of the period. These looked like the same old Ravens.

Still trying to cement the starting job after a solid finish to 1999, quarterback Tony Banks threw a touchdown to rookie wide receiver Travis Taylor to put the Ravens on the board, but the rest of the second quarter wasn’t much better than the first with the Jaguars adding two more field goals to take a 23-7 lead into halftime. This wasn’t what anyone in Baltimore had wanted, but old habits die hard, especially against Jacksonville.

“At halftime, I told them one thing,” Billick said. “What I told them was, win or lose, it will make no difference. The second half will define who we are. How we conduct ourselves will define the kind of team we are.”

The Ravens took those words to heart coming out of the locker room as the offense needed only four plays to find the end zone with Banks throwing another touchdown to Taylor. A two-point conversion cut the deficit to 23-15 and brought a previously frustrated sold-out crowd to life.

A Banks interception on the next drive led to the fourth Mike Hollis field goal of the day, but the 27-year-old quarterback bounced back with a touchdown pass to fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo, making the score 26-22 late in the third quarter. The stage was set for a thrilling final period.

After punting on their first possession of the fourth quarter, the Ravens collected their second takeaway of the day when outside linebacker Jamie Sharper forced a fumble and recovered the ball at the Jacksonville 12. Banks threw a touchdown to the speedy Jermaine Lewis on the next play as Baltimore took a 29-26 lead with 10 minutes to go.

Maybe it would be different this time.

That optimism only grew after safety Kim Herring intercepted Brunell on the next drive, setting up a 44-yard field goal by Matt Stover to increase the lead. The Jaguars answered with a 48-yard field goal as Baltimore still held a 32-29 advantage with time dwindling.

Having forced two turnovers leading to 10 points in the fourth quarter, the Ravens defense had regrouped from that ugly first half and now had its opportunity to cement that elusive first win against Jacksonville. However, Brunell and Smith still had 2:42 left to torment Baltimore one last time.

After picking up a first down to move into Ravens territory and now facing a third-and-6 from the 40 with 1:55 to go, Brunell faced a heavy blitz and heaved one deep toward wide receiver Keenan McCardell. What happened next seemed to be the cruelest trick yet in the Ravens-Jaguars history as the ball deflected off McCardell’s hands and right to Smith, who broke a Duane Starks tackle and jogged into the end zone for the go-ahead score. It was Smith’s third touchdown catch of the day as he finished with a whopping 15 catches and 291 yards, the most by an opponent in Ravens history.

Here we go again.

Despite erasing a 16-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, the Ravens were trailing 36-32 with 1:45 to play and back in a familiar position with the Jaguars on the verge of improving to 9-0 against them. Only a few fans moved toward the exits while the remainder sat quietly, lamenting how this had happened again.

But the Ravens finally changed the script as Banks completed a pair of throws to little-used receiver and special-teams veteran Billy Davis — who made only one other catch all season — to move the Ravens into Jacksonville territory. A 12-yard completion to Ayanbadejo moved Baltimore to the 29-yard line before Banks spiked the ball to stop the clock with 48 seconds left.

To this point, the start of former Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe’s tenure with the Ravens had been quiet as he didn’t register a catch in the season opener and had only two receptions for 21 yards in the ongoing shootout. Newsome had not only been looking for more production at tight end with the high-profile signing that February, but he valued Sharpe’s pedigree as a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time Super Bowl champion for a franchise that was still learning how to win.

The time was perfect for a lesson.

Sharpe took off right down the seam at the snap and caught a 29-yard rope for the touchdown. The 32-year-old tight end danced and smiled in the end zone while Banks lifted his arms in celebration upon throwing his fifth touchdown of the game, a new team record.

The catch brought a roar louder than anything experienced in the brief history of the 69,000-seat stadium opposite Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Thousands of voices were lost, ears rang, and the upper deck swayed as Stover kicked the extra point to give the Ravens a 39-36 lead with 41 seconds left.

Goosebumps.

There would be no miracle answer from Jacksonville this time as safety Corey Harris intercepted Brunell on the last play of the game. Chants of “Let’s go, Ravens!” bounced down the ramps as departing fans celebrated.

Novelty and nostalgia had been replaced by an arrival.

It didn’t matter that it was only a Week 2 victory. Banks would lose his starting job to Trent Dilfer six weeks later and the Ravens would go five straight games without scoring a touchdown in the middle of that 2000 championship season, but that wasn’t the point. From that exhilarating moment, they were no longer the old Browns or even the new Colts. The Ravens were a viable NFL franchise and here to stay.

The last-minute win over Jacksonville had changed everything.

“It says we’re headed in the right direction,” said defensive end Michael McCrary, who had joined the Ravens in 1997. “It said that the offense had the confidence and composure to go down the field and score. It was a huge turnaround from our teams of the past.

“We’ve never beaten them, and we needed to know as a team where we stood.”

Now two decades later, the Ravens own two Super Bowl championships, have multiple Hall of Famers, and are among the NFL’s model franchises.

But that was the moment that started it all.

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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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jamal295

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 8: “I guess the dude is Nostradamus”

Posted on 12 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 9 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

Coming off a disappointing Week 1 loss at Pittsburgh, the 2003 Ravens were preparing for their home opener when Jamal Lewis chatted with Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis on the phone.

The Browns were coming off their first playoff appearance since rejoining the NFL in 1999 and looking for a mental edge as Davis told the Ravens running back he’d have a difficult time that Sunday. Having already rushed for more than 1,300 yards in each of his two healthy professional seasons — he missed all of 2001 due to a torn ACL — Lewis predicted he would set a new NFL record if he received 30 carries against Cleveland.

Cincinnati’s Corey Dillon had set the leading mark of 278 rushing yards in a game just three years earlier, but Lewis wasted no time signaling his intentions on his first rush of the day.

After losing his balance and nearly falling, Lewis exploded to the second level, stiff-armed Browns linebacker Kevin Bentley, and raced 82 yards for a touchdown, the longest run in franchise history. The physicality was nothing new, but watching the 240-pound back pull away from members of the Browns secondary was a sight to behold.

His next run went for 23 yards, giving the 2000 first-round pick from Tennessee an incredible 105 yards on two carries. With rookie quarterback Kyle Boller making only his second NFL start that day, the Ravens made clear their decision to ride Lewis against a seemingly helpless Browns defense.

A 48-yard run in the second quarter — that would have been a 60-yard touchdown if not for a holding penalty — set up a Matt Stover fielder goal to give the Ravens a 13-3 lead. Before a jubilant sellout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium, Lewis went into the halftime locker room having rushed 16 times for 180 yards, already the third-highest single-game total to that point in his career.

To their credit, the Browns appeared to find some answers in the third quarter as Lewis was held to only 15 yards on six carries and the Ravens led 16-13 going into the final period.

But Lewis began the fourth quarter just like he started the game.

The 63-yard touchdown pushed Lewis over the 250-yard rushing mark and within striking distance of Dillon’s record with nearly a full quarter to play. On the next drive, his fifth carry of 18 or more yards left him one yard shy of history.

The record-breaking run was an ordinary 3-yard gain — with Davis making the tackle — midway through the fourth quarter. The Ravens were forced to punt after failing to convert that third-and-long situation, but the home crowd erupted as the announcement came that Lewis had just set the new league record.

Carrying the ball four more times on Baltimore’s last drive, Lewis fell five yards short of 300. Still, a 295-yard rushing day on 30 attempts had more than supported his bold claim from earlier in the week.

After the Ravens’ 33-13 victory, Browns safety Earl Little lamented, “I guess the dude is Nostradamus.”

In his post-game press conference, Lewis denied that he had predicted a new NFL record, claiming he only said he’d have “a career day” if the Ravens gave him 30 carries and that the feat was “lucky.” But the 24-year-old would embarrass the Browns again in Week 16 with a 205-yard rushing performance and finished 2003 by becoming the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

“Andra said he wanted to bet that I wouldn’t get 100 yards,” said Lewis about the beginning of that record-setting game. “I don’t bet because that’s a jinx, but after I got that 80-yarder, I went up to him and asked if the bet [for] 100 was still on.

“I don’t know if he heard me.”

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 9: “He seems to always be around it”

Posted on 11 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 10 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

Ed Reed never made a reception or logged a rushing attempt in his 12 NFL seasons.

He returned only 30 punts.

But no one was more dangerous or exciting with the football in his hands over the Ravens’ first two decades in Baltimore than the Hall of Fame safety. That was never more evident than in a Week 9 Sunday night meeting with Cleveland in 2004.

Reed had already starred on Sunday Night Football earlier that season, registering a strip-sack and returning the fumble for a 22-yard touchdown in a narrow Week 5 win at Washington. This time around, the 4-3 Ravens were hoping to avoid a rare sweep to the Browns and keep themselves in good position for a playoff push in the second half of the season.

The game played out like so many contests of the Kyle Boller era with the Ravens managing little offense beyond the physical running of Jamal Lewis and relying on a strong defense to do the heavy lifting. Despite falling behind early in the fourth quarter, Baltimore had retaken a 20-13 lead after an embarrassing 7-yard punt by Cleveland’s Derrick Frost and a 2-yard touchdown run by Lewis with just over seven minutes to go.

But the Browns weren’t finished as veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia steadily moved his maligned offense down the field and inside the Baltimore 10. Facing a second-and-goal from the 5 with under a minute remaining and needing a touchdown to force overtime, Garcia zipped a pass over the middle that went through the hands of tight end Aaron Shea and was quickly falling to the turf.

Reed had other ideas, however.

As the M&T Bank Stadium crowd exploded at the sight of the shoe-top interception, Reed had no intention of simply taking a knee to preserve the single-touchdown lead. That was never Reed’s style — even to his detriment on occasion — as he sprinted an electrifying 106 yards for the game-sealing touchdown, the longest interception return in NFL history.

(This is where I share what this moment meant to me on a very personal level during the most difficult week of my life. I said from the start of the list unveiling that I’ve enjoyed different perspectives along the way, so I hope you’ll appreciate this one.)

“He seems to always be around it when you need it,” said head coach Brian Billick about Reed’s game-saving play after the 27-13 win. “He kind of waited to the end to do it. Might have saved my heart a little bit if he’d have done it earlier.”

The breathtaking touchdown was the signature play of his 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year season that included a league-leading nine interceptions and a then-record 358 interception return yards, but it was far from the last time we’d see a play like that from Reed.

Against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands the very next week, Reed picked off another end-zone pass and returned it 104 yards despite a holding penalty wiping away the touchdown. Four years later, the nine-time Pro Bowl safety would top his own record with a 107-yard pick-6 against Philadelphia, albeit in a less dramatic situation (see below).

You just never knew what was going to happen when Reed got his hands on the football, which is what made him so thrilling to watch.

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 13: The Kick-6

Posted on 02 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 14 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

Both teams were bad and facing off on Monday Night Football in late November.

A 1-6 start and season-ending injuries to the likes of Terrell Suggs, Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Justin Forsett had already sunk the 2015 Ravens, easily the worst team of the John Harbaugh era that ultimately finished 5-11. In Cleveland, the Browns were, well, the Browns and hadn’t won a game since knocking off the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 5. An injury-ravaged 3-7 team taking on the 2-8 doormat of the AFC North wasn’t what ESPN had in mind for a national audience, but the game that had been a punchline all week proved to be very entertaining — even if not aesthetically pleasing.

The 34-year-old Matt Schaub was making his first start for the Ravens in place of Flacco — who had torn his ACL the previous week — and played how you’d expect an aging backup to play, throwing an interception returned for a touchdown early in the second half. But Schaub also threw touchdown passes to Buck Allen and Kamar Aiken as the Ravens led 27-20 late in the fourth quarter.

Having replaced the injured Josh McCown earlier in the period, backup quarterback Austin Davis moved the Browns and found a wide-open Travis Benjamin down the seam for the game-tying 42-yard touchdown with 1:47 remaining. It was the kind of coverage breakdown the defense had suffered in a number of close losses throughout that season, and the Ravens were now in danger of being swept by the lowly Browns for the first time since 2007 and only the third time in their history.

The Baltimore offense went three-and-out on the ensuing series and the Browns did the same as both teams seemingly limped to the end of regulation. However, Schaub then tried to force a pass to Aiken from his own territory and was picked off by Tramon Williams, giving Cleveland the ball at the Baltimore 46 with 50 seconds remaining.

The Browns moved the ball 13 yards on three plays — displaying some questionable clock management in the process — to set up a 51-yard try by Travis Coons to win the game. The comedy of errors late in the contest prompted one snarky reporter to opine how the game might end between two teams going nowhere that season.

Lining up on the field goal block team was 6-foot-7 defensive end Brent Urban, who was finally making his NFL debut that night after sustaining two serious injuries over his first two seasons. The 2014 fourth-round pick got a good push off the line of scrimmage and deflected the kick with his left arm. The ball bounced right to safety Will Hill, who had been responsible for the coverage breakdown on Benjamin’s game-tying score.

A couple key blocks helped Hill to tightrope the sideline for the remarkable 64-yard touchdown to snatch a 33-27 victory from the jaws of defeat before a stunned FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was just the second “walk-off” blocked field goal return for a touchdown in NFL history.

Crazy.

“I was locked in on something else and made the wrong play,” said Hill about his earlier mistake. “But I was praying. I said, ‘If we get a block and it bounced my way, I’m going to take it to the end zone.’ Luckily, it did.

“The ball bounced the right way.”

The game meant nothing, but its outcome illustrated the contrast between the two organizations. The injury-depleted and mistake-prone Ravens still managed to find a way while Cleveland self-destructed even more in a way that was all too “Browns.”

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lamarjackson

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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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Ravens regular-season moment No. 25: At the bottom of the list, we start at the top

Posted on 05 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the introduction to the top 25 regular-season moments in Ravens history HERE.

The Colts were the beloved relative many of us never got to meet.

That was just reality for anyone currently under the age of 40 and growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s and early 90s without the NFL. Yes, we cherished stories from our parents and grandparents, but tales of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, Gino Marchetti, and John Mackey felt more like mythology than reality when we hadn’t experienced it ourselves, seeing them only in their post-playing days.

Every autumn Sunday, we were left to ponder the thought of football returning one day while being subjected to Washington Redskins games on local TV.

To their credit, the Stars and the Stallions served as brief diversions while the Cardinals, Patriots, Buccaneers, Rams, Raiders, and Bengals were among the teams mentioned as relocation candidates at one time or another. A sellout crowd for a 1992 New Orleans-Miami preseason game at Memorial Stadium seemed to bode well for expansion hopes — always the preferred path for football’s return — before the NFL would pick Charlotte and Jacksonville in 1993 and Paul Tagliabue would callously suggest the city build a museum or a plant with its stadium resources.

It still didn’t feel real when Art Modell shockingly announced he was moving his Browns to Baltimore on Nov. 6, 1995. Emotions were quite conflicted about Charm City doing to Cleveland what Indianapolis had done in stealing the Colts more than a decade earlier, but the league and its owners had forced the city’s hand after efforts to secure a new team the right way were ignored.

The method was far from ideal, but we would finally have an NFL team again, complete with a new name, new colors, and a new stadium next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards a couple years later.

Many even outside of Cleveland were unhappy about the idea of these new Ravens with Bob Costas and Bob Trumpy — both part of the NBC broadcast for that 1996 season opener — standing out with their disdain. The uniforms were ugly, a far-past-its-prime Memorial Stadium was short on amenities, and the Ravens weren’t any good, especially on the defensive side of the ball with a rookie Ray Lewis — who would have an end-zone interception in that first game — being the only long-term bright spot.

But they were ours.

Having led the Baltimore Colts to three division titles from 1975-79, Ted Marchibroda served as a bridge between old and new as head coach. The Baltimore Colts Marching Band was there, just as it had been throughout the struggle to bring back football. And the legendary Unitas presented the first game ball with many other old Colts on hand as the Ravens kicked off their inaugural season against Oakland on Sept. 1, 1996.

After the teams traded punts to open the game, Vinny Testaverde connected on a 48-yard bomb to Derrick Alexander to put the Ravens deep in Raiders territory late in the first quarter. Five plays later and facing a third-and-6, the lead-footed Testaverde broke the pocket and scrambled up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown as more than 64,000 fans erupted.

“The city supported us, and we felt it,” said Testaverde about that first season earlier this year. “It was like, ‘Man, we are ready to go.’”

It was the first Baltimore touchdown in the NFL since Mike Pagel’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Pat Beach on Dec. 18, 1983, three months before the Colts would leave town in the middle of the night for Indianapolis. The journey to bring the NFL back to Baltimore was anything but organic, but the reaction spawned by that Testaverde score was as real as it gets.

And no one — not Robert Irsay, Tagliabue and the league, or any other critics — could take that away.

The 19-14 win was a bright spot in a 4-12 season, but that 1996 team’s record didn’t matter.

Baltimore was back, and many memories were ahead for younger generations to finally call their own.

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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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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles against the Cleveland Browns during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. The Ravens won 31-15. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 16 win at Cleveland

Posted on 23 December 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens clinching the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs for the first time in team history in a 31-15 win over Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The turning point of Sunday’s victory was the 14-0 run over the final 78 seconds of the first half, but the defense forcing a three-and-out between those two touchdown drives without cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith on the field was enormous.

2. I saw a little Ben Roethlisberger in Lamar Jackson’s second touchdown pass in which he evaded pressure in the pocket and then muscled an end-zone throw to Mark Andrews. His speed and agility are givens, but Jackson doesn’t get enough credit for his strength.

3. Jackson recorded his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season — equaling the total produced by all Ravens players from 2015-17 — and now owns the ninth 1,200-yard rushing season in franchise history. Not bad for a quarterback.

4. The Baltimore run defense has been fairly scrutinized despite a shiny ranking in yards per game allowed, but it answered the bell holding Nick Chubb to 45 yards after he embarrassed the Ravens in Week 4. The dime package sometimes springs leaks against the run, but not this week.

5. The decline of the ground game was a major part of the post-Super Bowl XLVII era with the Ravens producing only one 1,000-yard rusher — Justin Forsett in 2014 — over six seasons. To now have only the seventh 1,000-yard rushing duo in NFL history with one being their quarterback is remarkable.

6. You never want to see fumbles, but it really is amazing that miscues at the mesh point between Jackson and Mark Ingram have been so rare this season. John Harbaugh will now hope his team got that seemingly overdue sloppiness out of its system after a season-high three fumbles.

7. On a day when the defense had some trouble getting off the field due to several drive-extending penalties, Chuck Clark was credited with four pass breakups to continue his breakout season. Two of those breakups came on Cleveland’s final three-and-out of the first half.

8. Mark Andrews is three receiving yards shy of Todd Heap’s single-season team record for a tight end, but a tender ankle could impact his Week 17 status. He may need to settle for becoming the third Raven to catch 10 touchdowns in a season, joining Michael Jackson and Torrey Smith.

9. Ingram will have nearly three weeks to recover from a left calf strain, but Justice Hill scoring his first NFL touchdown should provide a confidence boost if the Ravens need to lean on the rookie a little more in the postseason. The fourth-round pick’s opportunities have been limited.

10. L.J. Fort having two interceptions wiped away by a penalty and a replay review prompted me to look up whether he’d ever picked off a pass. His only career interception came in his first NFL game seven years ago — in Cleveland. Quite the coincidence that likely prompted some memories.

11. We know the 2019 Ravens’ legacy will ultimately be defined in the postseason, but Football Outsiders ranks them very favorably among the greatest regular-season teams of the last 35 years. Knowing the best team doesn’t always win the Super Bowl, remember to enjoy the journey — even as the favorite.

12. We place such importance on the postseason while oddly marginalizing it in the record book. That’s why I had bristled some over this year’s team being recognized as having the longest winning streak in franchise history when the 2000 Ravens won 11 in a row overall. They’re now even.

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) hands off to running back Mark Ingram (21) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 22 December 2019 by Luke Jones

The records and honors continue to pile up for the NFL’s best team, but the Ravens have a simple objective in the penultimate game of the regular season.

A win over Cleveland locks up the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, something the Ravens haven’t enjoyed in their accomplished history dating back to 1996. Topping the Browns would also give Baltimore its 13th win of the regular season, matching the 2006 team for the most in franchise history.

A victory is paramount, but the Ravens can continue to rewrite the record book Sunday as Pro Bowl quarterback Lamar Jackson is just one touchdown shy of setting a new franchise record for touchdown passes while running back Mark Ingram is 37 yards shy of giving Baltimore just the seventh 1,000-yard rushing duo in NFL history. Jackson and Ingram would be the first teammates to do that since DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina in 2009.

As expected, Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley is active and will start after missing the Week 15 win over the New York Jets due to a concussion. Stanley had been officially listed as questionable on the final injury report, but he was a full participant in practice all week, eliminating uncertainty about his status.

Reserve inside linebacker Chris Board (concussion) is also active after sitting out in Week 15.

There were no other surprises on Baltimore’s inactives list with an unusually healthy roster at this late stage of the season.

Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) is inactive for the sixth time in the last seven games, which doesn’t help a Cleveland front that’s already without suspended Pro Bowl pass rusher Myles Garrett. Tight end David Njoku was a healthy scratch for the Browns.

Sunday’s referee is Alex Kemp.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Cleveland calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the high 40s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their white jerseys with black pants while the Browns don brown tops and brown pants for their home finale.

Sunday marks the 42nd all-time meeting between these AFC North teams with the Ravens enjoying a lopsided 30-11 advantage. Baltimore is 19-4 against Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era, but the Browns are aiming to salvage a disappointing season with their first season sweep of the Ravens since 2007.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Anthony Averett
CB Iman Marshall
OL Parker Ehinger
DT Justin Ellis
G Ben Powers

CLEVELAND
DE Olivier Vernon
TE David Njoku
WR Taywan Taylor
S J.T. Hassell
OT Kendall Lamm
G Drew Forbes
TE Pharaoh Brown

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