Tag Archive | "Jamal Lewis"

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 3: Dilfer’s redemption

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 4 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The Tennessee Titans were the defending AFC champions and the NFL’s best team while the Ravens were still trying to regroup entering Week 11 of the 2000 season.

The good vibes and playoff aspirations accompanying a 5-1 start had dimmed with a three-game losing streak and an unthinkable five-game stretch in which the Ravens failed to score a single touchdown. Baltimore had finally snapped that futility with a 27-7 win at Cincinnati the previous week, but beating the lowly Bengals wasn’t convincing anyone that Brian Billick’s team was truly back on track.

Just three weeks earlier, the Ravens had suffered a home loss to the 8-1 Titans, a game in which starting quarterback Tony Banks was benched in favor of Trent Dilfer. The sixth overall pick of the 1994 draft and former Tampa Bay quarterback had thrown three touchdowns in the win over the Bengals in his second start, but going to Adelphia Coliseum — a place where Tennessee hadn’t lost since its opening the previous year — was a much different test for someone with a reputation for making the critical mistake at the worst time.

The clash between the AFC Central rivals and best defenses in the league started perfectly for Baltimore as Dilfer’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail and a Jamal Lewis 2-yard touchdown run made it 14-0, but Titans quarterback Steve McNair threw two touchdowns in the second quarter as the Ravens held a narrow 17-14 lead at halftime. That score held until the fourth quarter when Titans kicker Al Del Greco tied the game with a 23-yard field goal with a little over eight minutes to play.

After punting on the ensuing possession, the Ravens got the ball back deep in Tennessee territory when Peter Boulware stripped a scrambling McNair on third down and Rob Burnett recovered the fumble at the 22-yard line with 4:07 remaining. Considering the way the Baltimore defense had played in the second half, even a field goal would be a perfectly fine outcome if Dilfer and the offense could trim time off the clock.

But on third-and-7, disaster struck as Dilfer’s pass intended for speedy wide receiver Patrick Johnson was intercepted by Titans safety Perry Phenix and returned 87 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:30 to go. It was the kind of play that had too often doomed Dilfer in Tampa Bay and seemingly sunk the Ravens in a game they desperately wanted to win.

However, Del Greco’s first missed extra point in seven years offered a sliver of hope if Dilfer could regroup against a defense that had blanked Baltimore since the second quarter. The 28-year-old now had the chance to rewrite his story or to leave Billick further pondering his quarterback problems with Thanksgiving right around the corner.

The two-minute drive was far from pretty as the Ravens committed two penalties and faced a third-and-5 from their own 35 when a scrambling Dilfer found veteran tight end Shannon Sharpe downfield for a critical 36-yard completion. Nothing came easy on the next set of downs either as Dilfer threw deep and incomplete to Ismail on fourth-and-2.

But a penalty flag came as Tennessee cornerback Dainon Sidney collided with Ismail just short of the goal line for pass interference. The Ravens had a first down from the 2 with 49 seconds remaining.

After Lewis was stuffed for no gain on first down and the ball was spiked to stop the clock to set up a third-and-goal from the 2, Dilfer rolled to his right and fired a strike to Johnson, who kept his feet inbounds for the touchdown with 25 seconds to go.

Not only was Johnson the man Dilfer had targeted on his abysmal interception minutes earlier, but the former second-round pick who’d never lived up to expectations dropped a potential touchdown earlier that day. The extra point by Matt Stover gave the Ravens a 24-23 lead as Dilfer had answered the call.

“For me, poise is just trusting the people around me,” Dilfer said after the game. “I’ve lacked poise in my career because I didn’t trust what’s going on around me. I told these guys I’ve worked my whole career to play with a bunch of guys like this.”

The redemption story wasn’t quite complete, however, as McNair completed an 11-yard pass and then furiously broke free for a 20-yard scramble to move the Titans to the Baltimore 25 with only three seconds to go. Regarded as one of the league’s most reliable kickers for years, Del Greco would have his own chance at redemption with a 43-yard try to win it for Tennessee.

The kick faded wide right as Dilfer fell facedown in relief and Billick raised his arms in victory on the sideline. A game the Ravens had seemingly won, lost, won, and lost again ended in a critical 24-23 victory.

Dilfer wouldn’t be asked to be much more than a game manager for the rest of the season as a historic defense and strong running game led the way, but that touchdown drive spawned confidence that Baltimore could win with him under center. The win showed the Ravens could beat anybody anywhere and were legitimate Super Bowl contenders despite their troubling midseason swoon.

No one knew exactly what would unfold in the coming weeks and months, but anything seemed possible after that last-second win over the mighty Titans.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to come back here for the playoffs,” right tackle Harry Swayne said after the game. “If that’s the case, it’d be like, ‘We’ve been here. Let’s do it again.'”

The words proved prophetic two months later as another hard-fought win at Adelphia Coliseum in the divisional round — complete with more Del Greco woes — proved to be the defining stop on the Ravens’ path to their first Super Bowl.

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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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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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jamal2000

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 18: 2,000 and then some

Posted on 21 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 19 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The game meant nothing and everything.

Thanks to second-place Cincinnati’s loss to Cleveland 4 1/2 hours earlier, the Ravens entered the 2003 regular-season finale having already clinched the first division championship in team history. Conventional wisdom called for head coach Brian Billick to rest his key players in preparation for a wild-card playoff showdown with Tennessee six days later, but there was nothing ordinary about the Week 17 opponent.

“This is the Pittsburgh Steelers,” said Billick about his decision to play his starters. “It’s a rivalry. You can’t cheat the game. You can’t cheat the fans.”

Perhaps more important than Baltimore’s desire to break a five-game losing streak against its AFC North adversary and build momentum going into the playoffs was the matter of All-Pro running back Jamal Lewis putting an exclamation point on his historic season. Voted the AP 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, the 24-year-old entered the night needing 48 yards to become the fifth player in league history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Having already broken the NFL’s single-game rushing record with 295 yards in Week 2, Lewis would touch the ball a whopping 413 times that season while accounting for 46 percent of Baltimore’s total yards and 40 percent of its offensive touchdowns.

The Ravens offense was indeed a one-man show.

The 245-pound Lewis was not only aiming for his 12th 100-yard rushing performance of the year, but 153 rushing yards stood between him and Eric Dickerson’s single-season league record of 2,105 set in 1984. Accomplishing that wouldn’t be easy against a Pittsburgh defense that didn’t want a rival to set a record on its watch.

The bruising back carried five times for 39 yards on Baltimore’s first drive before Anthony Wright threw an interception inside the red zone. However, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed picked off Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox two plays later to set the stage for history.

Lewis gained nine yards on first down to reach exactly 2,000 yards, but the next play would send 70,000 fans into a frenzy at M&T Bank Stadium. Running between left guard Edwin Mulitalo and future Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden, Lewis broke free untouched for a 25-yard touchdown. His league-best 16th run of 20 or more yards that season left no doubt that the 2000 first-round pick from Tennessee would be remembered in NFL rushing lore.

The Steelers would clamp down after that as Lewis would gain only 41 yards on 20 more carries the rest of the way to fall 39 yards short of Dickerson’s record, but the night served as both a celebration and a reminder of the intensity of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry that endures today. Billick never took his foot off the gas as the teams played into overtime with Matt Stover kicking a 47-yard field goal to give the Ravens their first win against Pittsburgh in more than two years and first home victory over their bitter rival since the inaugural 1996 campaign.

You never would have known the game was meaningless by watching as chippy behavior persisted and Ravens punter Dave Zastudil suffered a broken nose and a concussion — and returned to action — over the course of the game. Billick’s decision to play his starters the entire way would be second-guessed for a long time after Baltimore was eliminated by the Titans the following week.

But that night belonged to Lewis, who passed the likes of Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, and O.J. Simpson on the single-season rushing list despite failing to match Dickerson.

“I’m not disappointed,” Lewis said after the 13-10 victory. “The opportunity was there, and we went at it. My line, they blocked well. It was in reach, but we didn’t get it. I think second is good.”

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Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) celebrates with quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) after they connected for a touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 15 win over Jets

Posted on 16 December 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens clinching their second straight AFC North division championship in a 42-21 win over the New York Jets, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. John Harbaugh’s team earned some extra rest after playing its fourth game in 18 days, a challenging stretch this late in the season. It’s funny how these sorts of obstacles are little more than an afterthought when you’re the best team in football riding a 10-game winning streak.

2. The Ravens shattering the 2003 team’s rushing record with two games to go probably deserves more attention. That was the year Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards — third best in NFL history — while rookie Kyle Boller and journeyman Anthony Wright played quarterback. Slightly different than having the MVP there.

3. Lamar Jackson took arguably his biggest hit of the year on the run that broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback. It’s a major relief those types of collisions are so rare with his uncanny ability to avoid violent contact in an 1,100-yard rushing campaign.

4. A missed extra point by Justin Tucker and a blocked punt for Sam Koch were aberrations, but the lackluster kick coverage we’ve seen throughout the season is something that can cost a team dearly at the wrong moment in January. That’s one of the few legitimate concerns on this team.

5. Thursday was a reminder of how much the Ravens still rely on the blitz to create pressure. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had time and room to operate when Wink Martindale called for a simpler four-man rush, especially in the first half.

6. After back-to-back quiet games, Marquise Brown delivered one of his best plays of the season by getting his feet in on Jackson’s 24-yard touchdown pass. It was also a bold strategy in the New York secondary to pass the speedy rookie off to no one in deep coverage.

7. Tyus Bowser hasn’t lived up to his original second-round billing, but he’s had a solid season as a rotational edge defender. His fifth sack of the season and the resulting fumble helped put this game away after the Ravens had punted twice to begin the second half.

8. Mark Ingram tied his career high with his fourth touchdown reception and continues to run with a relentless style that’s fit perfectly in this offense. Le’Veon Bell drew more outside attention leading up to free agency, but Ingram has been the superior player and the better bargain.

9. If the 33-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts looked familiar, it was virtually the same route that Jackson overthrew at the end of regulation in Pittsburgh back in Week 5, a game the Ravens won in overtime. Coaches note how the young quarterback rarely makes the same mistake twice.

10. A substantial sample size supported the concerns about James Hurst filling in for the concussed Ronnie Stanley, but you forgot the veteran reserve was even out there on Thursday night, which is exactly what you want. Hurst deserves praise for his play at left tackle.

11. Having a 28-7 lead certainly helped make the decision easier, but going for it on a fourth-and-1 from your own 29 is the kind of aggressive call that’s giving the Ravens an additional edge over opponents. It enhances your play calling, your win probability, and your team’s mindset.

12. Jackson exchanged jerseys with three different Jets players and even had Tom Brady tweeting about wanting to race him during Thursday’s game. It’s Super Bowl or bust when a team is 12-2 the week before Christmas, but try not to take for granted how special this all is right now.

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Time has come for Ravens to embrace the weirdness

Posted on 03 December 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are weird.

Very weird.

There’s nothing conventional about possessing the ball for more than 24 minutes in the second half or running nearly twice as often as you pass in today’s NFL. You don’t plan for your punter to make the best throw of the day or your starting quarterback to fumble three times and pass for 125 yards in your biggest road game of the season to date.

But that all happened as the Ravens won — again.

Nothing about this is ideal, nor should it be viewed as any kind of long-term blueprint for talented rookie Lamar Jackson, who is an electric runner with a long way to go to become an all-around franchise quarterback. To be clear, that’s to be expected after only three starts, but his athleticism and upside cannot dismiss concerns about ball security, a shortage of plays in the passing game, inconsistent mechanics and accuracy, and not doing the little things such as throwing the ball away instead of taking a loss. If nothing else, we can all agree Jackson running more often than he passes is not a recipe for keeping him healthy for the long haul, a reality that shouldn’t be completely ignored in the present.

In a perfect world, a healthy Joe Flacco would be under center as the Ravens make their December push for the playoffs. The 33-year-old would have a strong running game in the conventional sense, a stout and healthy offensive line, and wide receivers who consistently gain separation and catch the football to allow him to potentially channel past postseason success.

But that’s not reality, which is why Jackson’s skill set is the better fit for what the Ravens have become over the last three weeks in which they’ve gone from a 4-5 team circling the drain to one holding the No. 6 spot in the AFC and just a half-game behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North. A healthy Flacco and a more conventional offense may have also won three straight against struggling teams, but we can’t say that for sure, making it a difficult sell to a rejuvenated locker room that you’re just going to pivot back toward the hypothetical.

Perhaps the rise of Gus Edwards and bye-week adjustments would have led to a better running game with Flacco at quarterback than what we saw with running back Alex Collins over the first half of the season, but we’ve watched the Ravens rush for a remarkable 716 yards over the last three weeks with Jackson’s speed putting incredible pressure on opposing run defenses. Baltimore ran for just 834 yards over its first nine games, and no one could objectively argue that the ground game would be as explosive with an immobile quarterback on the field these last three weeks.

That’s more of a knock on the front office and coaching staff for not being able to field a productive running game by conventional measures, but here we are going into Week 14. Giving yourself the best chance to win in December isn’t about what’s fair to any individual player — even one who won you a Super Bowl several years ago.

It’s time to embrace the weirdness and let it ride in a way similar to how Brian Billick embraced “the dark side” on the way to an eventual Super Bowl win 18 years ago. As head coach John Harbaugh said after Sunday’s 26-16 win in Atlanta, no one really knows exactly where this is going, which should make it fun.

Perhaps the best way to describe what the Ravens have become is a warped version of that 2000 team. This defense doesn’t compare to that historic unit, of course, but holding the league’s 11th-ranked scoring offense to 131 yards and nine points — Jackson’s second fumble resulted in the other Falcons touchdown — was a terrific road performance. No one is ready to confuse Edwards with a young Jamal Lewis, but the rookie free agent’s 5.0 yards per carry and physical style have been a godsend. And if Jackson can limit the turnovers, he at least represents a much more athletic version of Trent Dilfer for now.

None of that is to suggest the Ravens fit the profile of a team poised to make a deep run in January. They might lose by three touchdowns in Kansas City this Sunday, but you could have said the same about the struggling team we saw before the bye week. The Ravens’ best chance — even if still not a good one — is to play keep-away from Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs offense while hoping their own offense becomes more efficient inside the opponent’s 30, something that remains a pressing concern.

Unforeseen circumstances have led to the Ravens discovering a nightmare-inducing running game that’s allowed them to dominate the time of possession, proving the opportunity for the defense to be fresher late in games. The Chiefs will offer the ultimate test as we continue to wonder how long this approach can be sustained. A disastrous performance could lead to reassessing — especially if Flacco is fully healthy and looks good in practice — but we said the same thing last week before Baltimore recorded only its second December road win in the last four years.

There will be plenty of time to debate what Jackson will ultimately become, but keeping him on the field does add the long-term benefit of him gaining experience while the Ravens try to “weird” their way to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

It’s time to just go with it and enjoy the ride.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 23-16 loss to Pittsburgh

Posted on 06 November 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens suffering their third straight loss and fourth in their last five games in a 23-16 final against Pittsburgh, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore will never take the next step by settling for 23-yard field goals against a high-scoring offense. The analytics did support those decisions to kick, but I would have considered going for the fourth-and-3 from the 5 in the second quarter. “Take the points” isn’t always the best strategy.

2. As I’ve written other times, Joe Flacco is far from the only reason for the recent offensive struggles, but he hasn’t been a big enough part of the solution either. He was under duress quite a bit Sunday, but he easily missed a half-dozen throws working from a satisfactory pocket.

3. Insinuating Flacco didn’t throw to Lamar Jackson out of spite is taking quite a leap to trash the character of someone who’s never done anything to warrant such treatment. It’s not like his ability to see the field or go through progressions has never been criticized, so why get personal?

4. How the middle of the field continues to be such a problematic area for the pass defense when C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, and Tony Jefferson account for $22.625 million on the 2018 salary cap is a tough pill to swallow.

5. Orlando Brown Jr. continues to be a bright spot. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t allow a pressure against Pittsburgh and has yet to allow a sack or quarterback hit this season. The right tackle spot should be his with James Hurst potentially moving to left guard when healthy.

6. Matthew Judon hasn’t taken the leap many predicted this season, but he registered Baltimore’s lone sack as well as two hits and two hurries against the Steelers, according to PFF. The Ravens need to see more of that with Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith scheduled to hit free agency.

7. Like Drew Brees’ third-down completion while in the grasp of Jefferson in Week 7, I thought the defense forcing a three-and-out right after Alex Collins’ touchdown might be the turning point. Instead, a holding penalty, a sack, two passes short of the chains, and a punt quickly dashed that thought.

8. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that Jimmy Smith played better with Marlon Humphrey back in action and Wink Martindale once again rotating those two and Brandon Carr on the outside. The defense has certainly had its recent issues, but that luxury should still pay off down the stretch.

9. Those saying Jackson’s use is disrupting offensive rhythm received ammunition when he entered for a run of no gain immediately following Flacco strikes to Michael Crabtree and Chris Moore. If you want to run there, why not hand to Collins on an uptempo play instead of broadcasting what you’re doing?

10. Brandon Williams noted after the game that teams are approaching the Ravens defense differently and aren’t playing “actual football” by running so many sweeps and screens to take interior players like him out of the equation. There’s that whole “needing to adapt” theme popping up again.

11. Don’t look now, but the Ravens are on track to lead the NFL in passing attempts for the third time in the last four years. They also rank in the bottom five in yards per passing attempt for the fourth straight season. Jamal Lewis weeps.

12. Regardless of what happens over these next two months, I’ll maintain that John Harbaugh is a good football coach. However, he doesn’t do himself any favors with a rookie mistake like not using his timeouts ahead of the two-minute warning to conserve more clock.

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Ravens make earliest pick in 16 years

Posted on 28 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After months of anticipation, the Ravens finally made Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley their earliest pick in 16 years as the NFL draft got underway in Chicago on Thursday night.

General manager Ozzie Newsome began the draft with nine scheduled selections, including seven choices in the first 134 overall picks. Coming off their first losing season of the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens hope to continue their tradition of draft excellence in which they’ve selected 17 Pro Bowl players and 10 first-team All-Pro players over the last two decades.

Player personnel assistants Corey Krawiec and Patrick McDonough will represent the organization in Chicago while Newsome and the rest of the Ravens’ brass will be stationed at their Owings Mills headquarters.

The three-day event will continue with the second and third rounds on Friday evening and the final four rounds on Saturday afternoon. Teams will have 10 minutes to pick in the first round, seven in the second round, and five minutes for each pick in the final five rounds.

Below is a look at where the Ravens are scheduled to pick:

Round 1 (6th overall) — LT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
Round 2 (36th overall) —
Round 3 (70th overall) —
Round 4 (104th overall) —
Round 4 (130th overall) —
Round 4 (132nd overall compensatory) —
Round 4 (134th overall compensatory) —
Round 6 (182nd overall) —
Round 6 (209th overall compensatory) —

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Ravens “respect” Jamal Lewis’ decision to sell Super Bowl ring

Posted on 09 February 2015 by Luke Jones

A day after news broke of former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis’ Super Bowl XLVII ring being auctioned off for $50,820, the organization publicly offered their support to the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Ravens revealed the 35-year-old Ring of Honor member reached out to the organization regarding the matter. However, it is unclear whether Lewis talked to them before or after the ring was sold.

“Jamal Lewis informed us that he was forced to sell the Super Bowl XLVII ring due to financial difficulties,” the statement read. “We understand and respect his decision.”

Lewis was one of five Ring of Honor members to receive Super Bowl XLVII rings as a gift from owner Steve Bisciotti. The 2000 first-round pick filed for bankruptcy in 2012, less than three years after his NFL career came to an end.

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