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Game-changers RG3, Reed meet in Ravens-Redskins

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Game-changers RG3, Reed meet in Ravens-Redskins

WASHINGTON (AP) Time to break out more superlatives. Robert Griffin III is about to play another game.

``He's unbelievable. He's back there, he makes more plays than anyone you've been around. He changes the game.''

Ah, but there's a catch. While it certainly sounds like a defensive player getting ready to face RG3, it's actually Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan talking about Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed.

``There's a reason people say he's the best of all time,'' added Shanahan, adding a bit of praise that's not even in Griffin's ballpark.

No active player has more interceptions than Reed. No regular starting quarterback this season has a lower interception rate than Griffin. The veteran ball hawk and do-everything rookie meet for the first time when the Ravens (9-3) visit the Redskins (6-6) on Sunday.

``You've just got to be aware of where he's at,'' said Griffin, who has thrown just four picks this season. ``Just like he's got to be aware of where I am.''

Every Redskins game this season has revolved around the unique challenge of defending a quarterback who can run the option with world class speed, yet whose decision-making when dropping back to pass is the envy of quarterbacks much older.

This week is no different.

``He's making great decisions,'' Reed said. ``He still has a lot to learn, obviously. The offensive scheme that they're running helps him out a lot.''

Griffin is also proving to be a winner and a national phenomenon, leading the Redskins on a three-game streak that has them within a game of first place in the NFC East. His jersey and cleats were sent to the Hall of Fame this week after he topped Cam Newton's NFL single-season record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback.

``We've got to contain him,'' Reed said. ``We've got to get him on the ground and not allow him to run, but that's like telling Superman not to fly.''

Baltimore's reputation for defense has taken a bit of a hit this season as opponents pile up chunks of yards, although the statistics can be misleading. The Ravens are ranked 25th in the conventional measuring stick of yards allowed, but they are eighth in points allowed - and it's points that determine wins and losses.

Baltimore is in good shape to clinch a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season and could sew up the AFC North this weekend, pending the results from other games. The Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but they are currently the NFL's best bounce-back team, winning 15 in a row following a defeat since their last two-game losing streak in 2009.

``There's always a little bit of extra urgency after a loss, for whatever reason,'' Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said. ``I don't know if it's a bad thing or a good thing. But we are always calm, cool and collected and confident around here.''

While the Ravens have a bit of a cushion in their division, the Redskins have been playing in must-win mode since dropping to 3-6 last month. After a trio of intense games against division rivals, Washington can now find motivation in winning the Beltway Bowl against its neighbor to the north.

``This is for all the bragging rights right here,'' Redskins tight end Niles Paul said, ``because we see these guys, we're friends with these guys.''

That's not a universal feeling in the locker room, however. After all, it's hard to build a rivalry between teams that play only once every four years.

``We've got enough rivalries as it is,'' Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said. ``We've got a whole division of rivalries, so I don't think we can accept any more applications.''

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Don Martindale wondered if he would ever get a second chance to be an NFL defensive coordinator after his one-and-done disaster with the Denver Broncos in 2010.

The Broncos went 4-12 that season and gave up more points (29.4 per game) and yards (390.8) than any team in the league. Those miserable numbers, not surprisingly, cost Martindale his job.

He latched on with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 as linebackers coach. After working diligently with several stars, including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Zachary Orr and C.J. Mosley, the 54-year-old Martindale last week was promoted to defensive coordinator.

RELATED: WHO WERE THE RAVENS' MVP'S IN 2017?

To say he's pleased to be in charge of an NFL defense again would be a profound understatement.

"Without a doubt," Martindale said Thursday. "My family knows it. Everybody knows it. My players know it. I can't wait."

His performance in Denver eight years ago is hardly worth putting on a resume, but Martindale believes it was a worthwhile experience.

"Even though the stats were what they were, I was really proud with how we played," he said. "I'm glad I went through that process because I think that makes me a better coach today. It's like I tell my guys: You either win or you learn."

Martindale's new job with the Ravens carries the responsibility of overseeing a unit that has long been among the best in the NFL, thriving under notable leaders such as Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Chuck Pagano and Dean Pees, who retired on Jan. 1.

"I've been preparing for this job all my life," Martindale said. "It's very humbling, but I understand the pressure and I look forward to the challenge."

Martindale takes over a defense that this season ranked 12th in net yards allowed, first in takeaways (34) and sixth in fewest points allowed (18.9). He has no plans to revamp the unit or change the philosophy, especially since head coach John Harbaugh stressed the need to retain continuity before launching his search for Pees' replacement.

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Martindale will, however, put his own stamp on the unit.

"I think personality-wise, and just calls, there's going to be some things that are the same. And then there are going to be sometimes where I'm going to pressure more," Martindale said. "I just think I have a more aggressive personality in calling the game. Sometimes, too aggressive. That's some of the things I've learned from the past."

His most daunting task will be finding a way to make the defense to come up big late in the game. In 2016, a fourth-quarter collapse in Pittsburgh cost Baltimore a playoff berth. This season, a fourth-down touchdown pass in the final minute by Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton bounced the Ravens from the postseason chase.

"Our mantra has always been to finish," Martindale said. "We're close. Obviously, the last two years, it's been the last play that's knocked us out of it. We are going to work diligently -- all of us -- with our package and situational football.

"That's going to be the next step, I think, that will skyrocket us. That's the big thing that I see. We were really good. Let's make it great."

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Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

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USA Today Sports

Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

The Ravens' season had it's ups and down, but out of it came some bright spots.

The defense continued to prove dominate and the offense found its groove during the second half of the season, but who stood out the most?

Offensive MVP: RB Alex Collins

Collins was a late preseason pickup after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks and Ravens fans are grateful they let him go. After new acquisition Danny Woodhead injured his hamstring on the first drive in Week 1 and Terrance West injured his calf Week 5 in Oakland, Allen emerged as a saving grace. He finished the season with 973 yards, six touchdowns and 212 attempts averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry. His longest rushing attempt was 50-yards against the Steelers in Week 4, and then in Week 14, rushed 120-yards on their defense. 

RELATED: RAVENS' 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT ROUNDUP

Defensive MVP: OLB Terrell Suggs

This one was a toss up between Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, but considering the level at which Sizzle is playing at in his 15th season, his 2017 performance is MVP worthy.

The 35-year old finished the season with 49 combined tackles, 12 assist, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. Suggs ranks 11th in the league in sacks and was voted to his seventh Pro Bowl, something that should be expected from the leader of a defense that finished the regular season ranked sixth in points allowed. During the Ravens' Week 12 matchup, Suggs proved he doesn't age when he strip sacked Texans QB Tom Savage with 4:44 remaining in the fourth, shifting the momentum back to the Ravens who were clinging on to a 23-16 win. He's suffered two Achilles tears and a torn bicep over the last 5.5 seasons but has remained Hall of Fame worthy. As of right now, T-Sizzle has no plans of retiring. 

RELATED: FIVE OFFSEASON QUESTIONS RAVENS MUST ANSWER

Rookie of the Year: CB Marlon Humphrey

The Ravens' 2017 first-round pick stepped up to the plate when starting CB Jimmy Smith's season was over after suffering a torn Achilles in Week 13. The rookie out of Alabama finished the season with 34 combined tackles, four assists and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded Humphrey the fifth-best cover corner in the league. QBs only had a 53.5 rating when they threw in his direction. PFF also gave Humphrey a 82.7 rookie rating. 

Humphrey will continue to prove his worth during the 2018 season if Jimmy Smith is still recovering come Week 1.

RELATED: IMPORTANT 2018 OFFSEASON DATES

Special Teams MVP: P Sam Koch

Koch is in his 12th season with the Ravens and he's continuing to prove how efficient that leg of his is. He had a season long of 67-yards and placed 40 of 84 punts inside the 20-yard line. Koch's accuracy earned him AFC special teams player of the week not once, but twice this season. The first came in Week 12 against the Houston Texans when he not only placed five punts inside the 20-yard line, but also faked a punt and threw a 22-yard pass to Chris Moore for a first down. The second honor came in Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns after placing four punts inside the 20-yard line, three of them inside the five. While neither Koch or kicker Justin Tucker were named to the Pro Bowl, Ravens fans never break a sweat when the game is in their hands, or should we say, legs.