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Flacco, Ravens prepare for difficult opening test in Denver

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Flacco, Ravens prepare for difficult opening test in Denver

What: Ravens (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)

When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Where:  Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Five questions to ask heading into the Ravens’ season-opener

1. Can the Ravens’ defense avoid getting carved up by Peyton Manning?

The Ravens are sick of hearing about Manning throwing seven touchdown passes against them in the 2013 season opener. But it happened.

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees refuses to dwell on the 2013 Denver debacle.

“This is not the same team that we had two years ago,” Pees said. “That game means nothing to me. And if any coach sits and looks at a game (from) two years ago, he’s a fool.”

However, this remains a severe test for the Ravens defense. Manning may not throw with the same zip anymore, but he’s difficult to fool, difficult to sack, and difficult to beat in Denver, where the Broncos were 8-0 during the 2014 regular season. If the Ravens aren’t solid defensively, they won’t win.

RELATED Ravens plan to avoid repeat of 2013 season opener

2.  Will the Ravens’ secondary avoid allowing big plays?

This goes hand-in-hand with question No. 1. The Broncos have two receivers who topped 1,000 yards last season, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Both are dangerous running after the catch. The Ravens’ secondary looks improved on paper, with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb starting at the corners, Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill at safety, and nickel corner Kyle Arrington. But they must cover well and tackle well, or a routine play could quickly become six points.

3. Will we see another big-time, big-spot performance from Joe Flacco?

Flacco loves this kind of stage – on the road, electricity in the air, Ravens as underdogs. This is usually when Flacco dials in, and on his last two trips to Denver, Flacco has thrown for at least 330 yards.

“I like going there,” Flacco said. “I have a good feeling about that stadium, even the first time I stepped in and just started warming up. It’s a pretty cool place to play.”

Those comments should concern the Broncos. When Flacco gets rolling, the Ravens can win anywhere.

4. Can Ravens running back Justin Forsett rip off some big runs?

There has been plenty of talk about the Ravens’ wide receivers, and concern about who will step up to help Steve Smith. There hasn’t been enough talk about Forsett, coming off a 1,266-yard season and running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Forsett led the NFL last season in runs longer than 20 yards, with 17. He’s fresh and healthy. If Forsett has a strong day, it will keep Manning off the field, and greatly improve the Ravens’ chances.

5.  Will the opening-game magic return for John Harbaugh?

The Ravens have the NFL’s best September record (17-8) since 2008, when Harbaugh became head coach. However, the Ravens have lost their last two season-openers. If the Ravens start 2015 with a win in Denver, it could set the tone for another strong September.

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Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

The Baltimore Ravens went into the Tennessee Titans' home and completely robbed them in a 21-0 shutout win.

Here are the players and plays that stood out from the afternoon.

PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Ravens Defense

The Ravens defense had a historic afternoon recording a franchise-record 11 sacks. Yup, you read that right. 11 sacks.

Za'Darius Smith led the way with three, followed by Patrick Onwuasor with two and Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr. and Chris Wormley with one apiece. The 11 sacks tied for the second most by a team in league history and the most in a game since 2012.  It was so historic, the Ravens changed their Twitter name to included 11 S's. 

But that wasn't the only impressive part of the Ravens' afternoon. Marcus Mariota was limited to 10 completions and the defense allowed just 51 passing yards  —  the fewest in franchise history  — and 55 rushing yards. The Titans finished the afternoon 1-for-10 on third down as well.

With the shutout, the Ravens defense cemented its place as one of the NFL's most elite units in 2018. A win that must have been extra sweet after a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns the week prior and with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees staring back from the opposite sideline. The Ravens remain the only NFL team to not allow a second-half touchdown this season. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Crabtree

After dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown Week 5 against the Browns, Michael Crabtree said his priority this week was to get back into the lab and correct his mistakes. Out the gate, the veteran receiver stayed true to his word finishing the Ravens' first drive catching three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Earlier in the week, Joe Flacco had faith his receiver would get over the hump of six drops in five games and was willing to stand by him until it happened.

"Besides just trying to give him the confidence that, you know, I'm still going his way when he calls for it and I still believe that it's going to be the difference...it's something that he'll definitely get over," Flacco said.

The patience worked as Crabtree finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown leading all Ravens receivers.

But more importantly, the relationship between Crabtree and Flacco continues to grow.

"That’s trust. That’s what you need in football, you know," Crabtree said postgame. "Quarterback, receiver relationship. It’s only going to get better. It’s all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I’m new; this is my first year here so I got to do what I got to do."

STAT OF THE GAME: Flacco makes his way into the history books

With 25 completions Sunday against the Titans, Flacco became the third different quarterback in NFL history to complete 25 or more passes in nine consecutive games, per the NFL's communication department. Drew Brees sits atop the list with 11 and 10 consecutive games followed by Peyton Manning with nine. Flacco finished the 21-0 win 25-for-37 with 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

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Ravens pile up team-record 11 sacks against former defensive coordinator

Ravens pile up team-record 11 sacks against former defensive coordinator

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Baltimore Ravens swarmed around their new defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale, celebrating after a game that will go down in the record books.

Getting 11 sacks along with a shutout against the man Martindale replaced makes this mark even sweeter.

Za'Darius Smith had a career-high three sacks as the Ravens piled up the franchise-record Sunday in routing the Tennessee Titans 21-0 in the rain, just missing the NFL record shared by five teams by one.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh called it an "historic defensive performance."

The Ravens (4-2) smothered Tennessee, allowing just 106 yards of offense while they turned Marcus Mariota's day into the worst of his NFL career. Eight different Ravens sacked Mariota, and four got their first sack this season at his expense. The Titans never got closer to the end zone than the Ravens 37, each time pushed back with yet another sack.

"We want to be something special out there," Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon said. "For Wink, it's great to go against his predecessor, and he stepped up and we came through and pitched a shutout. You don't ever talk about unicorns while you're doing it, but we got it done. We got it done for him, and we celebrated after."

Martindale was promoted to defensive coordinator when Dean Pees retired after last season. His retirement lasted less than a month with first-year coach Mike Vrabel luring Pees to join him as the Titans' defensive coordinator.

Asked about Pees, Smith only said that the coordinator told him at his pro day at Kentucky that the linebacker would be a Raven.

"Love him to death, but hey, we won tonight, so we're going to leave it at that," Smith said with a smile.

The Titans (3-3) had not been shut out at home since the franchise relocated to Tennessee.

"That's the headline: The `Tennessee Titans didn't do nearly enough on all levels to win the football game,'" Vrabel said. "Or even make it competitive."

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