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Five unsung Ravens who stepped up in their first victory

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Five unsung Ravens who stepped up in their first victory

The Ravens may have saved their season with Thursday night’s 23-20 overtime victory over the Steelers. Here are five Ravens who don’t always make headlines whose contributions should not be overlooked: 

WR Kamar Aiken

With the Ravens trailing 20-7 in the third quarter, Aiken ran a beautiful sideline route, and Joe Flacco hit him Aiken with a perfect touchdown pass to change the game’s momentum. This was Aiken’s best game of the season (five catches, 77 yards. He figures to be more important in the near future, with wide receiver Michael Campanaro suffering an injury and being carted to the locker room.

CB Will Davis

Acquired in a trade after Week 2, Davis was excellent in coverage as a nickel corner, even holding his own when matched up with Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown. Davis showed he could be an asset at a position where the Ravens could never have too much depth.

OLB Za’Darius Smith

The rookie got his first two career sacks on back-to-back plays, and had the first impact game of his young career. If Smith continues to make his presence felt as a pass rusher, it will have an important impact on the Ravens’ front seven, which has missed the presence of Terrell Suggs (out for season).

ILB Daryl Smith

He is simply one of the NFL’s most underrated players, overshadowed since joining the Ravens by Suggs, C. J. Mosley, and Elvis Dumervil. However, Smith was all over the field Thursday night, the game’s leading tackler with 13, including a sack that pushed the Steelers out of field goal range. Smith never seems to age, and his strong play never seems to fluctuate.

WR Darren Waller

He made his first NFL catch, and it was a big one –  a 17-yarder on the game-tying drive in regulation. With Steve Smith out with a back contusion, and Campanaro being carted to the locker room injured, Waller stepped up in a big spot. That is a good sign for a raw 6-foot-6 receiver with potential. 

MORE RAVENS: Ravens report card: Offense

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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