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Ravens keep AFC playoff hopes alive with win over Cleveland Browns

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USA Today Sports

Ravens keep AFC playoff hopes alive with win over Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND -- When he looked up and saw hundreds of purple-and-black clad Baltimore fans ringing the tunnel entrance, coach John Harbaugh was moved to return the love.

He tossed his baseball cap into the stands and peeled off two sweat shirts that he handed out as souvenirs.

"Well worth it," Harbaugh said of his generosity.

The Ravens didn't give up anything else Sunday.

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Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass, ran for a score and beat Cleveland again as Baltimore stayed on track for a spot in the AFC playoffs with a 27-10 win over the Browns, now two losses from becoming the NFL's second 0-16 team.

Flacco scored on a 2-yard run and threw a 33-yard TD pass to tight end Benjamin Watson as the Ravens (8-6), coming off a heartbreaking loss to rival Pittsburgh, took control with two touchdowns in the final 3:01 of the first half.

Baltimore's opportunistic defense also contributed by forcing four more turnovers, with tackle Brandon Williams recovering a fumble and rolling into the end zone for a TD in third quarter to put the Ravens up 24-10.

"We've been doing some good things for a few weeks now and obviously it's getting our confidence rolling," said Flacco, who improved to 17-2 against the Browns. "Guys are starting to get some mojo and really starting to feel it."

The Browns (0-14) went 0-8 at home -- 0-7 in Cleveland, 0-1 in London -- for the second time and must win at either Chicago or Pittsburgh to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the notorious 0-16 club. Last season, the Browns avoided infamy by winning their final home game and finishing 1-15.

Cleveland is 1-29 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, who is expected to be back despite his .033 winning percentage. Following the game, Jackson addressed speculation he might be interested in going Cincinnati, where Marvin Lewis is expected to leave at the end of the season.

"I'm not running from this," Jackson said. "I have never gone any place and left it worse than when I found it. I'm not going to run from this. I'm going to be here and I need to get this fixed as fast as I can because I think it is important."

Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer threw two more interceptions, the last into a group of defenders in the fourth quarter.

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Harbaugh wasn't concerned about his team overlooking the Browns with so much on the line. Baltimore was coming off a punch-in-the-gut, last-second loss to the Steelers, and while the Ravens weren't at their best, they didn't do anything to help Cleveland's cause.

And as long as they take care of business at home against Indianapolis and Cincinnati in their last two games, the Ravens will return to the postseason after a two-year absence.

With the Ravens leading 17-10, Baltimore's defense put away the Browns.

Kizer was stripped in the end zone on his blindside by Za'Darius Smith and the loose ball was pounced on by Williams, who shimmied his 340-pound frame across the goal line.

"I had to do a little scooch, but it was good," Williams said, adding it was his first TD since high school. "I'm happy they didn't call it back. I would have been upset."

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Important 2018 offseason dates for Baltimore Ravens

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USA Today Sports

Important 2018 offseason dates for Baltimore Ravens

Mark your calendars now because the Ravens are already gearing up for their 2018 season.

From the Pro-Bowl all the way to the start of the regular season, here are the key dates.

January 28th: Pro Bowl, Orlando, Fla. 

Safety Eric Weddle, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will all be in attendance. In addition, Suggs and Weddle were named starters. The game will take place at Camping World Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN.

February 3rd: Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 Class announced

This will be a very important day for Ray Lewis and the Ravens organization as Lewis waits to here if he will be sealed into football history, one day prior to Super Bowl LII. 

February 5th: Waiver system takes effect

The waiver system allows players' contracts or a club's NFL rights to a player available to other clubs in the league. Upon doing this, the other 31 teams can place a claim to obtain him or waive their chance. During this 24- hour period, once a club waives a player it can not take the player back or change his status. Assignments are based upon draft order until the third week of the regular season. If a player does not get claimed, he becomes a free agent. 

February 20th:  First day to franchise or transition tag a player

February 27th- March 5th: NFL Scouting Combine, Indianapolis, IN

This seven day period will be crucial for General Manager Ozzie Newsome to get a good look at potential Ravens.

March 6th: Deadline to franchise or transition tag a player

March 12-14th: Teams are allowed to contact and negotiate with agents of players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents

March 14th: Start of new league year at 4:00 p.m. ET

At this time, all 2017 player contracts expire meaning teams can begin seeking and signing free agents. Ravens free agents include Mike Wallace, Benjamin Watson, Ryan Jensen, Terrance West, James Hurst, Michael Campanaro, Steven Johnson, Ryan Mallet, Brandon Boykin, Crockett Gillmore, Brent Urban and Luke Bowanko.

March 25-28th: Owners Meeting, Orlando, FL

April 16th: Voluntary OTA's can begin

April 20th: Deadline for restricted FA's to sign offer sheets

April 26th-28th: 2018 NFL Draft, Arlington, TX

The Ravens will be heading down to Arlington, Texas in hopes of picking up their next franchise player. Positions needed include wide receiver, tight end, quarterback and outside linebacker.

May 4-7th or 11-14th: Potential three-day rookie minicamp

May 31-June 2nd: Ravens Beach Bash, Ocean City, MD

July 16th: Deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player 

Mid-Late July: Training camp begins

August 2nd: Hall of Fame Game, Canton, OH

August 4th: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Canton, OH

Again, keep this date marked as it could be the day Ray Lewis is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

September 6th: Start of regular season 

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Don Martindale promoted to Ravens defensive coordinator

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USA Today Sports

Don Martindale promoted to Ravens defensive coordinator

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has promoted linebackers coach Don Martindale to defensive coordinator, assuring a seamless transition in the wake of Dean Pees' retirement.

Martindale has been coaching Baltimore linebackers since 2012. The 54-year-old was the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2010.

After Pees ended his six-year run as the Ravens' defensive coordinator on Jan. 1, Harbaugh said he wanted to maintain continuity with his new hire.

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"I'm a believer in this system," Harbaugh said last week. "This system has been something that's been developed for a long period of time, and we have worked really hard every single year to make it better."

Martindale has been part of that process. He coached the Ravens inside linebackers from 2012-15 and spent the past two seasons as the team's linebackers coach.

In announcing the move Tuesday, Harbaugh said Martindale's "aggressive mentality will serve to take our defense to new levels."

Harbaugh said Martindale "knows the ins and outs of what we have been about on defense and has been an important contributor to our success on that side of the ball."

Also on Tuesday, Harbaugh promoted Mike Macdonald to linebackers coach and Sterling Lucas to quality control defense.

The 30-year-old Macdonald joined the Ravens in 2014 as a coaching intern on defense. He served as a defensive assistant in 2015 and 2016, and this season was the defensive backs coach. Baltimore led the NFL this season with 22 interceptions and forced a league-best 34 turnovers.

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