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Aiken a bright spot in an otherwise dark Ravens season

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Aiken a bright spot in an otherwise dark Ravens season

BALTIMORE – Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career on Sunday against Kansas City, and his emergence continues to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lost season for the Ravens.

Aiken figured to be a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver this year for the Ravens, but he has become the team’s No. 1 option with Steve Smith (torn Achilles) out for the year and first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman sidelined all year by a knee injury.

Aiken had eight catches for 128 yards – both career highs – and a touchdown in the Ravens’ 34-14 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. His touchdown came on a 48-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half when he grabbed the ball at the 5-yard line and avoided tacklers to reach the end zone.

“I was just gauging where they were and where the ball was, and I noticed it was going to come up a little short,” Aiken said. “Their DBs were still backpedaling, so I said it was my play to make.”

Aiken, who was targeted a game-high 12 times, also had a couple of other contested catches, including a tough 30-yarder along the sideline that set up the Ravens first touchdown.

“When the ball’s thrown his way, he’s catching it and taking it out of the air and making plays,” quarterback Jimmy Clausen said.

Guard Marshal Yanda said of Aiken: “He is just fighting his tail off every single play. No matter if we are down or up or we are 14-0 or 0-14, you’re going to get consistent play from him.”

Aiken, who bounced around on four practice squads in his first three years in the league before he ever caught a pass, now has an outside chance to record a 1,000-yard season. With two games left, Aiken has 802 receiving yards, and leads the team in catches (62), receiving yards and touchdown catches (5).

He has caught at least five passes in seven straight games, one shy of the longest such streak in team history (Derrick Mason, 2007).

Still, he said all the personal accolades ring somewhat hollow in a 4-10 season.

“I’d rather win the game,” he said. “I’d rather have 10 yards and have a W than have 100-some yards with a loss.”

With word surfacing that Steve Smith might return next season after previously announcing his retirement, with Perriman expected to be 100 percent, and with some fringe players in danger of losing their jobs, the Ravens receiver corps might look decidedly different next season. But Aiken has made a strong case for a significant role.

“I’m very confident in myself and my abilities,” Aiken said. “Jimmy (Clausen) gave me a lot of chances today to make plays and it just worked out in my favor today. I’ve been putting in the work, week in and week, since offseason, throughout the season. It’s not going to stop.”

RELATED: Chiefs cruise past Ravens: 5 things we learned

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Ravens Week 3 Player of the Game: LB Kenny Young

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Ravens Week 3 Player of the Game: LB Kenny Young

What the Ravens have lost in three-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley due to injury, they've gained in rookie Kenny Young.

Week 2 against the Bengals, Young stepped in for Mosley and put up five solo tackles and three assists. Then when Week 3 came around and Mosley was still too injured to play, Young got the start and logged 44 snaps. He finished with eight solo tackles, two assists and a critical third-down sack on Broncos quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter. Young's stingy performance helped fuel a stellar defensive effort in the Ravens' 27-14 victory.

A fourth-round draft pick out of UCLA, Young has the maturity needed to succeed in this league.

Obsessed with perfection, as noted in a profile done via the Ravens' website, Young is already impressing his coaches and veteran teammates. 

He’s a smart guy, so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a mistake,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s not scared to make a mistake. He’s willing to play fast even if he does make a mistake. And sometimes, some of the plays you see him making? He might not be perfectly where he’s supposed to be, but that willingness to play fast overcomes it, and you go make a good football play.

While the timetable for Mosely's return is unknown, the Ravens can find solace in knowing their young replacement is a steady hand.

The 23-year-old currently leads the team in tackles (17), followed by Tony Jefferson (12). 

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What you need to know from the Ravens' 27-14 win over the Broncos

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What you need to know from the Ravens' 27-14 win over the Broncos

The Ravens got a 27-14 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 3.

It was an interesting game for many reasons including Broncos star rookie running back, Phillip Lindsay, getting ejected in the first half for throwing a punch.

Here's what you need to know from Sunday's win:

— Rookie linebacker Kenny Young stepped in for injured C.J. Mosley and showed he will be a starter. Young had a critical sack on Broncos quarterback Case Keenum on a third down in the second and finished the day with 10 tackles. The Ravens defense as a whole was impressive. While they gave up a lot of short third downs, they stopped their fair share as well. Most importantly was the late fourth quarter interception from Patrick Onwuasor, while the Broncos were threatening in Ravens territory. 

— The Ravens are continuing to work on the run game, as something offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg emphasized after the team was averaging just 3.3-yards-per-carry heading into Week 3. Against the Broncos, the team averaged just 2.8 yard-per-carry, but put up two rushing touchdowns from Buck Allen and Alex Collins.

— It was a strange day for the Ravens' special teams when the Broncos blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. The day became even stranger when safety Justin Simmons, (illegally) leaped over long snapper Morgan Cox to block a field goal and the penalty went uncalled. Kicker Justin Tucker made up for it by hitting not one, but two 52-yard field goals, his eighth straight from beyond 50. 

Joe Flacco finished the day 25 of 40 for 277 yards and one touchdown, while helping improve the team to 12-12 in the red zone. The QBs most impressive play came late in the fourth on a third down hitting the gas pedal, to not only get the first down but stayed in-bounds to keep the clock running and sealing the team's victory. His connection with John Brown continues to be strong after finding the receiver for a 44-yard gain, too.

The Ravens are now 2-1 and head to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night matchup in Week 4. 

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