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Flacco finally breaks out on road

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Flacco finally breaks out on road

Ray Rice made the play of the game, perhaps of the season, by converting a 4th-and-29 in the fourth quarter.

That play overshadowed a silver lining for the Ravens: Joe Flacco delivered on the road in a major way for the first time this season.

Flacco had his best game away from M&T Bank Stadium, bringing back the Ravens from 10 points down to win 16-13 in overtime at the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

Flacco went 30-for-51 for 355 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

“Not one guy said anything about, ‘You know what, good game fellas. It’s over.’ There was not one chirp about that,” Rice said of the mood on the sideline. “That showed a lot about our guys.

“We firmly believed that we were going to get that first down no matter what. … You can sense when … they (take) the life out of you. Not this team. This team, we got a will to win. It’s not pretty but we’re sitting at 9-2.”

Flacco hadn’t thrown for more than 232 yards in five other road games and had more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3) away from M&T Bank Stadium entering the game. He was averaging just 176.6 yards passing per game.

It looked like more of the same for the Ravens as Flacco struggled against the Chargers’ No. 8-ranked defense, throwing for just 59 yards in the first half.

Flacco had failed to engineer a touchdown drive in last week’s 13-10 win at the Pittsburgh Steelers. He couldn’t score one in the first three quarters in San Diego.

Then a 54-yard catch-and-run by Torrey Smith set up the Ravens’ first points on a 43-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. And in the fourth quarter Flacco found Dennis Pitta from 4 yards out to trim the deficit to 13-10 with 4:23 left in regulation.

“It was a great play call and I was able to get 1-on-1 coverage over the middle  and … Joe threw the perfect ball. I could get it and the defender couldn’t,” said Pitta, who had 6 catches for 42 yards a week after going out of a game early with a concussion. “That touchdown was important to get us going and back in that game.”

The 25th-ranked Ravens defense was able to force the Chargers off the field in three plays on their next possession so Flacco could work his magic with 3:09 left.

He led the Ravens on a 11-play, 40-yard drive to end the fourth quarter, including Rice’s game-changing first down catch and run that set up Tucker’s 38-yard kick to tie the score at 13 and force overtime.

Rice finished with 97 yards rushing on 22 carries. He had 8 catches for 67.

The defense contained Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers as he was unable to get his team a score in the extra period. He drove them to midfield on an eight-play drive and then the Ravens’ defense forced a three-and-out series.

That’s when Flacco put together another 11-play drive, finding Smith 31 yards down field to San Diego’s 16, to set up Tucker’s game-winner from 38 yards with just more than one minute left in overtime.

The chemistry between Flacco and Smith is key to the offense's success. When the duo connects, it gets contagious. Smith finished with 7 catches for a game-high 144 yards.

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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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