Tag Archive | "Ray Rice"

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) reacts while holding a smartphone after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. The Ravens won 28-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Deadline passes as Ravens, Judon fail to strike long-term deal

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Luke Jones

Wednesday’s franchise tag deadline passed with the Ravens and outside linebacker Matthew Judon failing to reach an agreement on a long-term contract.

That means the 2019 Pro Bowl selection must play the upcoming season under the tag amount of $16.808 million and is scheduled to again become an unrestricted free agent next March. Both sides had been quiet about negotiations throughout the process with no indication that a deal was close.

The 28-year-old signed his franchise tender in late May, eliminating any real possibility of him holding out during training camp. Unlike fellow tagged edge rushers Shaq Barrett and Bud Dupree who filed grievances against their respective teams after being classified as linebackers, Judon was able to work out a compromise with the Ravens to split the difference between the linebacker ($15.828 million) and defensive end ($17.788) amounts. Earlier this offseason, the 6-foot-3, 261-pound linebacker said he was “blessed” to receive the tag, a more diplomatic stance than others prevented from hitting the open market.

“I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business and that they’ve kind of got a ‘bad-good’ problem to have,” Judon said last month. “We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can’t all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers. They have stuff that they have to address, and obviously, I have needs as well.”

Despite a career season in which Judon registered a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks and ranked fourth in the NFL with 33 quarterback hits, some have pointed to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy system as reason to question whether the 2016 fifth-round pick from Grand Valley State is worthy of being paid among the league’s elite pass rushers. Still, Judon was easily Baltimore’s best performer at outside linebacker last year after the free-agent departure of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs, and 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson is the only notable Ravens outside linebacker under contract beyond the upcoming season.

The climate for a long-term contract for Judon doesn’t figure to improve next offseason because of both the financial uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the pending free agency of Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who would be an obvious candidate for the franchise tag in the absence of a long-term extension. General manager Eric DeCosta must also weigh the long-term contract situations for 2019 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, and Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., all players working toward top-tier contracts at their respective positions in the near future.

As Judon alluded to in his recent comments, the Ravens simply may not be able to pay everyone.

With 28 1/2 sacks, seven forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and 185 tackles in 62 career games, Judon became the seventh player to receive the franchise tag in team history and will become the first to play out a season on the tag since Suggs in 2008. The Ravens awarded Suggs with a long-term contract the following summer and eventually reached long-term agreements with five of those previous six players who were tagged, the exception being interior offensive lineman Wally Williams after the 1998 season.

With Judon’s guaranteed salary now locked in barring a trade, the Ravens entered Wednesday with $8.886 million in salary cap space for the 2020 campaign.

Below is a history of how the Ravens have used the franchise tag in their 25 seasons:

1998 OL Wally Williams — played on a $3.062 million tag before signing a five-year, $18.5 million deal with New Orleans the following offseason
2003-04 CB Chris McAlister — signed a seven-year, $55 million extension in October 2004
2008-09 OLB Terrell Suggs — signed a six-year, $62.5 million extension in July 2009
2011 DT Haloti Ngata — signed a five-year, $61 million extension in Sept. 2011
2012 RB Ray Rice — signed a five-year, $35 million extension in July 2012
2016 K Justin Tucker — signed a four-year, $16.8 million extension in July 2016
2020 OLB Matthew Judon — will play on a $16.808 million tag and is scheduled for free agency in 2021

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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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engram

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on training camp preparations and other topics

Posted on 10 June 2020 by Luke Jones

With Ravens coaches returning to the Owings Mills headquarters this week and the NFL releasing protocols for training facilities, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The July 28 report date for training camp is seven weeks away, but much work remains regarding COVID-19 protocols. The recent expansion and renovations of the team facility helps, but spacing lockers six feet apart for a 90-man roster will be quite a challenge by itself.

2. NFL Network’s report on the possibility of the preseason schedule being shortened was hardly a surprise since there was growing support for that long before the pandemic. The bigger question might be whether that sparks permanent change to the exhibition schedule.

3. Pittsburgh moving its camp to Heinz Field raises a fair question for teams that already struggled to find space for 90 players before even factoring in social distancing. A shorter preseason makes you wonder if that high number is absolutely necessary if you want to minimize health risks. Difficult questions.

4. Patrick Queen, Devin Duvernay, and Malik Harrison are the only 2020 Ravens draft picks yet to sign, but we’re approaching the time when you’d expect those rookie deals to get done. Of course, the pandemic could always complicate that timing.

5. Social media hardly provides a complete picture of the work so many players are putting in right now, but James Proche has logged recent workouts with Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, and Trace McSorley. Good for the sixth-round rookie wide receiver getting acquainted with Baltimore quarterbacks.

6. You won’t find a more respected person in the organization than tight ends coach Bobby Engram, who was nominated for the PFWA’s George Halas Award for overcoming adversity to succeed. I recommend this piece from The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec if you’re unfamiliar with the Engram family’s story.

7. The value of the return specialist isn’t what it used to be due to rule changes in the game, but I can’t recall the last time we weren’t talking about that spot being a question mark around this time of year. The days of Jacoby Jones?

8. In contrast, Sam Koch is the only player to have any punts for the Ravens since 2006 and Justin Tucker is the only one to make a field goal since 2012. That continuity is just remarkable compared to most teams. Tennessee had four different kickers last season alone.

9. We’ve talked so much about inside linebacker the last couple years that I couldn’t help but notice Ravens coaching analyst and former player Zach Orr celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday. He thankfully escaped football without serious injury, but you wonder how much better he might have become.

10. Dick Cass, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Ray Rice, Steve Smith, Calais Campbell, and Queen were among the current and former Ravens joining over 1,400 sports figures in signing a letter to Congress requesting an end to qualified immunity. I applaud them for making their voices heard.

11. Have you ever imagined what might have happened if Baltimore signed Colin Kaepernick? Does he replace a Joe Flacco who had a bad back in 2017? Reunited with Greg Roman, does Kaepernick thrive and keep the starting job? Does Lamar Jackson then wind up elsewhere? Quite the potential butterfly effect.

12. Kudos to the Ravens for putting out the following video for high school and college graduates. We all had different school experiences, but I can’t imagine not being able to enjoy those final weeks or to celebrate these accomplishments with friends and family.

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 11: Saluting Heinz Field

Posted on 05 June 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 12 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

Before there was “January Joe,” real questions persisted about Joe Flacco’s ability to lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl.

His rookie season brought encouraging signs and easily cleared the low bar of the Kyle Boller era, but Flacco was mostly along for the ride as a terrific defense and a bruising rushing attack led the 2008 Ravens to an AFC Championship game appearance. His play took a substantial step forward in the 2009 regular season, but a Week 17 hip injury severely hampered him in January as he threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in two playoff games.

Even the start of the 2010 season was rough as Flacco threw five interceptions over the first two games, making a Week 4 trip to Pittsburgh feel like a pivotal test in the third-year quarterback’s development. Winless at Heinz Field since 2006, the Ravens were taking on a Steelers team that was 3-0 despite backup quarterback Charlie Batch filling in for the suspended Ben Roethlisberger. If Baltimore couldn’t come away with a win in Pittsburgh this time around, you wondered when it would ever happen for Flacco and third-year head coach John Harbaugh.

But anything can go in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry as a defensive struggle ensued.

With the Ravens trailing 14-10 after a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run midway through the final quarter, Flacco had the opportunity to make his mark and quiet his doubters. Thanks in large part to completions of 21, 11, 10, and 11 yards, the Ravens had two shots from the Pittsburgh 2 to take the lead with less than three minutes to play.

On third-and-goal, Flacco’s pass to a blanketed Derrick Mason was broken up at the goal line. After a timeout, the Baltimore quarterback then threw incomplete to Anquan Boldin, turning the ball over on downs with 2:40 left and only one timeout remaining. Flacco and the Ravens looked like they would come up short in Pittsburgh yet again.

But instead of sulking over the offense’s inability to put the ball in the end zone, the Baltimore defense stuffed Mendenhall on three consecutive runs to force the Steelers to punt from their own 3. A Pittsburgh holding penalty on Daniel Sepulveda’s 47-yard punt gave the Ravens possession at the Steelers’ 40 with 1:08 remaining. It was the latest miscue in a mistake-prone game for Pittsburgh that included two missed field goals by Jeff Reed to keep the Ravens within striking distance.

If not now, then when?

Flacco connected on three straight passes to put the ball on the 18 with 37 seconds remaining. On the next play with Ray Rice and Todd Heap picking up a blindside blitz perfectly, Flacco pumped and hit veteran wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh in stride in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Houshmandzadeh — the former Cincinnati Bengal who had just joined the Ravens a few weeks earlier — saluted a stunned Pittsburgh crowd while the normally stoic Flacco pumped his fist in celebration.

The Ravens defense finished it off with a Ray Lewis interception on the Steelers’ next play from scrimmage to give Flacco and Harbaugh their first win in Pittsburgh.

Of course, the moment didn’t transform the young quarterback into “January Joe” overnight as Flacco would experience some more hiccups and the Ravens would suffer another crushing playoff defeat at Heinz Field a few months later. But the touchdown to Houshmandzadeh showed what the Delaware product could do in a critical moment against the toughest of opponents on the road.

“I think there are going to be a lot of defining moments for Joe, but this is going to be one of them,” Harbaugh said after the dramatic 17-14 win to improve his team’s record to 3-1 on the season. “This is going to be one that all the Ravens fans are going to remember for a long time.”

The best was yet to come.

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tuckerdetroit

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 23: “I got this”

Posted on 08 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 24 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

Baltimore loves its kickers.

Steve Myhra’s short field goal introduced us to “sudden death” in the 1958 NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium.

Jim O’Brien’s 32-yard kick with five seconds remaining gave the Colts a 16-13 win over Dallas in the mistake-laden Super Bowl V.

Two-time Pro Bowl selection Toni Linhart helped the Bert Jones-era Colts to the first of three straight AFC East championships in 1975 with a 31-yarder in overtime to beat Miami in the thick fog at Memorial Stadium.

A Ravens Ring of Honor member, Matt Stover is still beloved around town today and kicked offense-challenged teams to many victories for over a decade, including two in the midst of a nightmare five-game stretch without scoring a touchdown in 2000.

Billy Cund– never mind.

None compare to Justin Tucker, the 2012 undrafted free agent from Texas who had to try out at rookie minicamp just to be signed to Baltimore’s 90-man offseason roster. Months later, the rookie had not only won the job, but he’d make the biggest kick in franchise history, a 47-yard field goal in single-digit temperatures to upset Denver in double overtime in the divisional round.

Tucker’s excellence would become even more evident in his second season. The 2013 Ravens were a much different team coming off the win in Super Bowl XLVII. Future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were gone, top wide receiver Anquan Boldin had been inexplicably traded away, and tight end Dennis Pitta had missed most of the season with a devastating hip injury suffered early in training camp. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco struggled mightily without his top two receivers from the previous year while a diminished Ray Rice and the running game had completely collapsed, leaving the Ravens with one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

But John Harbaugh’s team had rallied from a 4-6 start to win three straight games and crawl back into playoff contention going into a Monday game at Detroit in Week 15. Tucker had been much of Baltimore’s offense that season, hadn’t missed a field goal since Week 2, and would be named to his first Pro Bowl and be voted team MVP later that month, but the Ravens would never need him more than on that night.

Tucker’s work in the first half was nothing extraordinary as the Ravens had moved the ball pretty well before stalling in the red zone three different times, settling for field goals of 29, 24, and 32 yards to give them a 9-7 lead at intermission. The second half was a different story as the 24-year-old connected from 49 yards in the third quarter and hit from 53 yards away halfway through the last period to give Baltimore a 15-10 lead.

Unfortunately, a Ravens defense that had played well wilted late as quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions drove 80 yards for a touchdown and a 16-15 lead with 2:27 remaining. A loss would all but sink Baltimore’s playoff hopes, but a 27-yard strike from Flacco to Jacoby Jones on a third-and-15 gave the Ravens life in Detroit territory just before the two-minute warning.

Facing a fourth-and-8 from the 43 a few plays later and with his offense seemingly about to go for it, Harbaugh surprisingly called timeout with 43 seconds remaining and sent out Tucker to try a franchise-record 61-yard field goal for the lead. Having connected from 70 yards inside the domed Ford Field during pre-game warmups, the second-year kicker told coaches he was ready to win the game with his leg and lobbied for the chance on the sideline.

“I normally wouldn’t do this but I interjected and said, ‘No, I got this,'” Tucker said after making his team-record sixth field goal in the 18-16 win. “Thankfully, they gave me an opportunity, and the best part of it is I didn’t have to come back to the sideline feeling like a jerk if I missed it.”

With two or three yards to spare, Tucker made just the ninth field goal of at least 61 yards in league history and the second longest in the history of Monday Night Football. The Ravens would lose their final two games to miss the postseason for the first time in the Harbaugh era, but that wild kick and remarkable performance cemented Tucker’s status as the best kicker in the game for years to come.

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Introducing the top 25 regular-season moments in Ravens history

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Luke Jones

1. Beating Jacksonville
2. “We know what kind of quarterback we have”
3. Dilfer’s redemption
4. Ruining homecoming
5. “Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle”
6. “Would it be us if we didn’t end it that way?”
7. “Something that you dream of”
8. “I guess the dude is Nostradamus”
9. “He seems to always be around it”
10. “Not bad for a running back”
11. Saluting Heinz Field
12. “Almost as if he knew what was coming”
13. The Kick-6
14. Five touchdowns in 125 seconds
15. “I didn’t want to hurt my team”
16. “That’s one that loosens your teeth”
17. “Our backs were against the wall”
18. 2,000 and then some
19. “You want to be the last team standing”
20. “Hell yeah, coach, let’s go for it!”
21. Scott blows up Roethlisberger
22. Win or “get run out of town”
23. “I got this”
24. New hope
25. The first touchdown

There has been no shortage of great moments over the Ravens’ quarter-century in Baltimore.

Two Super Bowl championships.

The Mile High Miracle.

Ray Lewis wrestling the ball away from Eddie George.

Shannon Sharpe’s 96-yard catch and gallop to silence the “Black Hole” in Oakland.

The 83-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice to kick off a wild-card round demolition of New England.

But you need no reminder of the unforgettable postseason moments that are a fan’s dessert after the meat and potatoes of the regular season. Right now, we yearn for those daily and weekly servings of escape that sports provide, which is why I’ve elected to dive deeper with the top 25 regular-season moments in Ravens history as the organization prepares to kick off its 25th season in Baltimore this fall.

By no means am I the definitive voice on the topic, but as a 13-year-old starved for football when the Ravens arrived in 1996, a young adult who bought season tickets right out of college, and eventually a beat reporter lucky enough to cover his hometown team, I’ve had a pretty good seat from different perspectives. In the end, my list will very likely differ from yours, which is what makes this fun.

My top 25 regular-season moments come solely from game action, so we’re not considering extracurricular activities such as Ravens Ring of Honor inductions, pre-game tributes, or Lewis’ unforgettable dance that whipped M&T Bank Stadium into a frenzy.

Of course, the term “moment” requires some wiggle room as some choices would be better described as a sequence of events or moments combining to produce a memorable outcome, an impressive accomplishment, or raw emotion. Context definitely matters as I attempt to weigh the historical significance against the real-time reaction each moment garnered. That’s why you’re likely to see a greater number of moments from the more accomplished teams in Ravens history.

To offer an idea of how lofty the standard was to make the cut — or to anger you right off the bat — before we begin revealing one moment at a time, I took a look at some honorable mentions below:

Lamar Jackson’s Cincinnati spin (2019)

If we were to make a list of the greatest individual plays in franchise history, this sensational 47-yard touchdown run would be an easy choice, but the Ravens already led by three scores at the time and Jackson was on his way to a perfect 158.3 passer rating that day, his second in what would be an MVP season. I’d also bet that we’ll see an even more spectacular play from Jackson in a more crucial moment in the future. Make no mistake, the 23-year-old will still make a couple appearances on the list.

Jermaine Lewis excels through grief (2000)

Less than two weeks after the stillborn delivery of his son, the two-time Pro Bowl selection had punt returns of 54 and 89 yards for touchdowns as the Ravens bested the playoff-hopeful New York Jets in a 34-20 final to close the 2000 regular season. The sight of Lewis pointing to the heavens after each score was special, but the University of Maryland product would top that a month later with an 84-yard kick return for a touchdown that removed any lingering doubt that the Ravens would win Super Bowl XXXV.

Ending the touchdown drought (2000)

As time goes on, the idea that the Ravens won the Super Bowl in a season in which they went five straight games without scoring a touchdown feels more preposterous, especially considering they managed to win twice over that stretch. Still, the Ravens were in the midst of a three-game losing streak when Trent Dilfer connected with Brandon Stokley for a 14-yard touchdown at Cincinnati, a play that elicited a loud exhale in Baltimore and began an 11-game winning streak ending in championship glory.

Qadry Ismail goes off in Pittsburgh (1999)

The Ravens had never won at Three Rivers Stadium and certainly weren’t an offensive juggernaut in head coach Brian Billick’s first year as Tony Banks, Baltimore’s third starting quarterback of the season, completed just eight of his 26 passes on the day. However, Ismail, a journeyman in the midst of a career year, hauled in five of those for a franchise-record 258 yards and three touchdowns of 54 or more yards in a 31-24 win. No other Raven has even cracked the 200-yard receiving mark in a game.

Priest who? (1998)

Many recall one-hit wonder Jay Graham and his 154-yard rushing day a year earlier, but Priest Holmes was making his first career start and had only seven career carries as the Ravens played their first ever prime-time home game and were without star linebacker Ray Lewis. Holmes, a 1997 undrafted free agent, wowed everyone with a 173-yard, two-touchdown night in a 31-24 win over the Bengals. Holmes would go on to be the 2001 rushing champion and a three-time Pro Bowl back with Kansas City.

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Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (21) scores on a touchdown run as Houston Texans cornerback Gareon Conley (22) tries to stop him during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Ingram not scared of competition if Ravens draft running back next week

Posted on 15 April 2020 by Luke Jones

Ravens running back Mark Ingram is already an outlier, but he has no plans of slowing down.

The oldest player in the NFL to rush for 1,000 yards last season — Houston’s Carlos Hyde was the only other over age 25 — the 30-year-old Ingram is entering the second season of a three-year, $15.5 million contract and averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry for just the second time in his career. The 2019 Pro Bowl selection isn’t ready for a diminished role after eclipsing 200 carries for just the fourth time in his nine seasons, but that moderate workload is a likely reason why he’s still going strong at a position with a short shelf life.

“I’m with a great team that takes care of me, and I feel like I can play this game at a high level – at the highest level – for at least another four or five years,” Ingram said. “I feel like that. I honestly do. My body feels good. I’m moving good. I have nothing really lagging. If I do, I’ll be working on it, rehabbing it, strengthening it up so all my weaknesses are turning into my strengths.

“I just want to be the best, man. I want to be one of the best. When you talk about running backs who had long, prestigious careers, I want to be in that discussion.”

But that ambition after a strong first season in Baltimore comes as many suggest the organization shouldn’t maintain the status quo at the position, especially after a calf injury slowed the veteran in the shocking playoff loss to Tennessee. The Ravens rushed for an NFL-record 3,296 yards, averaged 0.5 yards per carry more than any other team, and had nearly 100 more carries than second-place San Francisco last year, but you still hear the various ideas.

More or fewer carries for Ingram, who finished just 20th in the NFL in rushing attempts.

More carries for Gus Edwards, who averaged 5.3 yards per rush last year.

More touches for Justice Hill, who flashed late in his rookie season.

Fewer rushes for Lamar Jackson despite him leading the league in yards per carry by an extraordinary margin last year and his generational athleticism being what truly makes this offense special.

Some have gone a step beyond those predictable talking points to even suggest that the Ravens take a running back like D’Andre Swift of Georgia late in the first round.

This is when we remind ourselves there’s only one football to go around, especially if you want to see the passing game continue to grow. That’s not to say the Ravens shouldn’t be open to adding young talent at a position so important to Greg Roman’s offense, but any thought of devoting an early pick to an already deep position falls into the category of trying to fix something that isn’t broken, especially with other needs on both sides of the ball.

Ingram says he wouldn’t be surprised to see general manager Eric DeCosta add a running back in next week’s draft. Perhaps even someone like Maryland’s Anthony McFarland on the final day would make sense.

“I don’t think I’ve been in the league a year where a running back hadn’t been drafted or acquired,” said Ingram, who saw New Orleans draft immediate Pro Bowl back Alvin Kamara in the third round of the 2017 draft. “Running back is always a position you try to have depth and quality. If that did happen, that’s just what it is. We’re going to welcome that young running back and try to make him better, try to make the team better. That’s just the gist of it.

“There’s always going to be somebody younger trying to come in. They’re always looking for new talent, new people at every position. Competition is a part of it. You can’t be scared of competition; it breeds excellence. Whatever we do, I’m sure it would be good.”

We know the Ravens offense is unique and conceivably values the running back position more than the more conventional team — though one could argue it’s really Jackson’s presence that makes any back that much better — but the debate centers around the importance of the position relative to the rest of the roster. Earlier this week, Carolina made 2019 Pro Bowl selection and former first-round pick Christian McCaffrey the highest-paid running back in league history after he eclipsed the 1,000-yard marks in both rush and receiving last year.

Showing support for the running back fraternity, Ingram offered his strong endorsement of the deal.

“Why should a running back be treated less than another position? All these other positions get high numbers,” Ingram said. “Why is it that the running back is subject to that? Why does the running back have to be the red-headed stepchild? I think [McCaffrey] deserves that number. His value on the team, his value across the league, his leadership, everything. I think he deserves that, and I think other running backs deserve bigger contracts as well.”

The overwhelming evidence in recent years suggests lucrative contracts for running backs are poor investments, but the Panthers — coming off a 5-11 season — are the latest team to insist their guy will be the exception. In Baltimore, we tend to forget three-time Pro Bowl selection Ray Rice was already in the midst of a sharp decline just two seasons into a five-year, $35 million contract signed in 2012 before the domestic violence incident that ended his NFL career.

Perhaps the best way to avoid the eventual big contract pitfall is having the discipline to avoid drafting a running back so early in the first place, another behavior analytics fail to support. It’s not that running backs don’t matter as much as understanding there will be more than enough value in less heralded options who can thrive in the right scheme and with a good offensive line, which are the biggest keys to the success of a ground attack.

When an undrafted back like Edwards has averaged 5.3 yards per carry over his two seasons in this offense, do you really expect to get the bang for your buck with a first-round running back?

To borrow a phrase from owner Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens should have bigger fish to fry than drafting a running back early next week. Some competition for Ingram and the other incumbents can come later in the weekend.

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Looking at updated 2020 slate of draft picks for Ravens

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has been busy at the start of the new league year with three trades executed in the last week in addition to a handful of signings.

Baltimore traded tight end Hayden Hurst and a fourth-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for a second-round pick and a fifth-round selection, sent that same fifth-round choice to Jacksonville for five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, and finally swapped defensive end Chris Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick for a 2021 fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh.

With the draft only a month away, the Ravens are scheduled to have nine picks overall and seven in the top 150 spots. This could mark the sixth time in the last seven years Baltimore makes at least six picks in the top 150 selections. With lucrative contracts on the horizon for the likes of MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, DeCosta must continue to inject young and cheap talent into organization.

The following are the picks the Ravens currently own in the 2020 draft:

Round 1: 28th overall
Round 2: 55th overall
Round 2: 60th overall
Round 3: 92nd overall
Round 3: 106th overall (compensatory)
Round 4: 129th
Round 4: 143rd overall (compensatory)
Round 5: 170th overall
Round 7: 225th overall

Just for fun, below is a look at past players selected by the Ravens at each of those spots (or as close as possible) over the years:

28th overall: G Ben Grubbs (29th), 2007
Skinny: The first round will probably be too early for the Ravens to draft an interior lineman in the wake of Marshal Yanda’s retirement, but Grubbs was a five-year starter and made a Pro Bowl before moving on in free agency, the kind of result with which you’re perfectly content with a late first-round pick.

55th overall: CB DeRon Jenkins, 1996; RB Ray Rice, 2008; TE Maxx Williams, 2015
Skinny: This slot has produced quite a range of outcomes with Rice being one of the better players in team history and Jenkins and Williams not living up to expectations. Two second-rounders were dealt to move up for Lamar Jackson, but recent Ravens players picked in this round have been underwhelming.

60th overall: G/OT Kelechi Osmele, 2012
Skinny: Seeing action at three different positions, Osemele started every game he played in his four years with the Ravens before breaking the bank with a big-money deal in Oakland. Finding an offensive lineman of this quality in this part of the draft would be a major success.

92nd overall: C Casey Rabach, 2001
Skinny: Rabach didn’t step into a full-time role until his last season with the Ravens after being stuck behind veteran center Mike Flynn, but he would go on to be a six-year starter for Washington. That makes him a pretty decent pick in the big picture.

106th overall: WR Marcus Smith, 2008
Skinny: Smith appeared in just 21 games over three seasons with Baltimore and is one of the many Day 3 wide receivers selected by the organization not to work out over the years. Considering the hype surrounding this year’s batch of receivers, the Ravens could take a swing at the position here.

129th overall: G Edwin Mulitalo, 1999; OLB John Simon, 2013
Skinny: One of the best fourth-round picks in team history, Mulitalo was a starter for parts of eight seasons and formed a dominant left side of the line with Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden. Despite lasting just one year in Baltimore, Simon has played seven NFL seasons and has 19 career sacks..

143rd overall: DT Aubrayo Franklin (146th), 2003; S Dawan Landry (146th), 2006; OLB Matthew Judon (146th), 2016
Skinny: Franklin would play 11 seasons in the NFL despite a nondescript four-year run with the Ravens, but Landry and Judon are two of the organization’s great late-round stories. Finding multiyear starters this late in the draft is far from the norm, but the value is terrific when a team hits.

170th overall: TE Nick Boyle (171st), 2015
Skinny: Few would have believed Boyle would still be going strong as a critical cog in the offense after twice being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs in his first year in the NFL. Boyle has outlasted Crockett Gillmore, Williams, and Hurst, who were all drafted much earlier than the Delaware product.

225th overall: RB Anthony Allen, 2011
Skinny: Many seventh-round picks don’t even make it out of their first training camp, but Allen played 21 games over two years with the Ravens and was a decent special-teams contributor for the Super Bowl XLVII team. You’re not likely to do much better at this late stage of the draft.

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Eight-time Pro Bowl guard Yanda retires as one of best, toughest Ravens ever

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Luke Jones

After famously encouraging teammates to “embrace the grind” early in what would be the 2012 Super Bowl season, Marshal Yanda is retiring as one of the best and toughest Ravens ever.

The news wasn’t shocking as the 35-year-old had pondered retirement these last couple years and was noticeably more reflective during the 2019 season, but his departure leaves a massive hole Baltimore won’t easily replace in terms of both his elite play and leadership by example.

Some stories about the eight-time Pro Bowl right guard and Iowa farm boy are the stuff of folk heroes — like willingly being tasered three times in the locker room for $600 as a rookie — but the day-to-day consistency of his 13-year career is what made Yanda special. Any offensive lineman would tell you anonymity is a desired trait as it means you’re getting the job done for the guys who touch the ball and star in the highlight shows, but the unassuming Yanda was too great for too long for even the most casual fan not to take some notice after a while.

“For most of your career, most people — including the media, believe it or not — don’t pay attention to those guys up front,” said head coach John Harbaugh last November. “They pay attention to all the other stuff. And the linemen, when they start getting talked about as Hall of Fame players, then all of a sudden, people start watching them. To me, I believe Marshal is doing that at the highest level. He’s playing some of his best football, if not his best football, right now.”

It didn’t come easy, however, for one of only 13 guards in NFL history to be named to eight Pro Bowls.

Unlike other Baltimore greats such as Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs who were drafted in the first round with some hope of greatness from Day 1, Yanda wasn’t selected until the third round in 2007 after beginning his collegiate career at North Iowa Area Community College and working to eventually become a second-team All-Big Ten selection at the University of Iowa. He wasn’t even the first guard drafted by the Ravens that year as then-general manager Ozzie Newsome took Auburn’s Ben Grubbs in the first round, but the organization knew it had added a gamer based on endorsements from longtime Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz, who had previously spent three years as a Ravens assistant.

An early-season injury to Ogden and the subsequent offensive line shuffling threw Yanda into the lineup for 12 starts at right tackle as a rookie. He tore multiple knee ligaments just five games into 2008, a season-ending injury that would also impact his playing time early the following season as veteran Chris Chester fared well at right guard and Yanda was working his way back to full strength. In 2010, offensive line uncertainty again moved him out to right tackle where he’d start all 16 games for the first time in his career.

That stellar play and versatility prompted the Ravens to re-sign Yanda to a five-year, $32 million contract prior to the 2011 season when he could finally call right guard his full-time home and people began taking notice. From there, he’d become the NFL’s best at his position for the better part of a decade, making the Pro Bowl every year other than 2017 when a broken ankle ended his season in Week 2.

The examples of toughness go beyond the “easy money” he made for that locker-room stunt as a rookie and working his way back from the serious knee injury sustained in his second year. Despite undergoing emergency surgery for compartment syndrome in his lower leg in Week 16 of the 2011 campaign, Yanda — also dealing with a painful rib injury — was back on the field the following Sunday to help the Ravens win their first AFC North title in five years and clinch a first-round bye. Instead of succumbing to a season-ending left shoulder injury in 2016, he came up with the idea of moving to left guard, which eased the stress on that arm and allowed him to finish another Pro Bowl campaign. Even upon breaking his ankle in 2017, Yanda walked off the field under his own power.

Aside from overcoming those physical challenges, trying to identify Yanda’s signature play or moment isn’t as easy as with those regularly touching the football or pursuing it every play. An offensive line coach would cite hundreds of examples over the years in which Yanda displayed his masterful technique, but his grit and determination to play through the whistle showed up at a key moment in one of the greatest games in team history.

Tied 35-35 in the 2012 divisional round (see below), the underdog Ravens were trying to move into field goal range and faced a second-and-10 from the Denver 45 on the final play of the first overtime. Ray Rice took a hand-off and ran nine yards before being stood up by two defenders, seemingly leaving Baltimore with an uncertain third-and-1 against a Broncos defense that had mostly bottled up Rice late in the game. However, it never came to that as Yanda, nearing the end of a night in which he played 86 total snaps in single-digit wind chills, ran forward from the second level and plowed Rice and the would-be tacklers an additional two yards for the first down. It was the last meaningful offensive play of the game as Justin Tucker kicked the game-winning field goal moments later and the Ravens would go on to win their second Super Bowl a few weeks later.

Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones owned the night with the “Mile High Miracle,” of course, but Yanda’s late push helped ensure that would be a winning memory and was just one example of his unrelenting will to win.

His Pro Football Hall of Fame fate remains to be seen after playing a position many view as underrepresented in Canton. Former Pittsburgh guard Alan Faneca is still waiting for the call after a 13-year career that included nine straight Pro Bowls from 2001-09, but game-film enthusiasts and football analytics sites have sung Yanda’s praises for years, making him more of a household name than the top interior linemen of previous eras and increasing the likelihood of him receiving a much deserved gold jacket one day. When news broke of his retirement, Pro Football Focus was quick to note how he allowed just one sack in the last 2,331 pass-blocking snaps of his career and just 20 career sacks, a total many guards allow in just two or three seasons.

Yanda could have made his Hall of Fame case more elementary with another Pro Bowl season or two and maybe a second Super Bowl ring as the Ravens come off a 14-2 season led by MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, a thrilling young player the grizzled veteran enthusiastically embraced after having a close relationship with Flacco. Yes, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman easily could have held on for a few more years, but he never played for individual accolades, making the decision admirable as he still ranks as one of the game’s best at his position in his mid-30s. That’s a claim some of the absolute best players in Ravens history can’t make.

“It’s never been about me. I feel fortunate to be a part of this organization, to be drafted here, and the type of success we’ve had in all the games that I’ve been able to be a part of,” Yanda said in early January. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. The most important thing is our next opponent.”

In Yanda’s mind, it was time to walk away if he weren’t fully committed to “embrace the grind” for a 14th season. That journey will now go on without him, but the lessons instilled won’t be forgotten in the same way a 23-year-old Yanda learned what it meant to be a professional from Ogden in the last season of his Hall of Fame career.

For a player many barely noticed in the best possible way week after week and season after season, Yanda sure will be missed.

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