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Harbaugh won't let Ravens coast into playoffs

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Harbaugh won't let Ravens coast into playoffs

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Now that they've finally wrapped up another AFC North crown, the Baltimore Ravens intend to get healthy, close out the regular season with a win and take some momentum into the playoffs.

Baltimore (10-5) snapped a three-game skid and clinched its second straight division title Sunday with a 33-14 rout of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. No matter what happens in this Sunday's finale against Cincinnati, the Ravens will host a first-round playoff game on Jan. 5 or 6.

But coach John Harbaugh won't let Baltimore coast into the postseason. After watching Baltimore click in all phases against the Giants, he's looking for an encore against the Bengals.

``That's how you improve, that's how you get you better,'' Harbaugh said Monday. ``Momentum, sure it's a good word. What does that mean exactly? It means that we're improving. The idea is we have plenty of things to work on, and we've got to continue to improve to be the best we can in the playoffs. This week is an opportunity to do that.''

If Baltimore wins and New England loses to Miami, the Ravens get a No. 3 seed and open the postseason against Cincinnati. Harbaugh said he knows all the possibilities - and doesn't really care.

``We kind of understand what has to happen all across the board as far as where that could shake out on Sunday,'' he said. ``But there's no way to say for sure what's going to happen, so we'll just have to see how it plays out.''

If the game is blowout, Harbaugh will consider removing some of his starters. But he's not counting on that happening.

``The biggest thing is that you can't play this game at half speed. Our guys are going to play the game full speed to win,'' he said.

The Ravens are 4-3 on the road, so this could serve as a tuneup for potential games at New England, Denver or Houston.

``It's a plus for us, an opportunity to go play on the road like this in a real tough environment,'' Harbaugh said. ``It's a rivalry game, it's in the division. These two teams play it out pretty good every single time. So yeah, it'll help us build up our callouses a little bit for the playoffs.''

Prior to Sunday's win over New York, the Ravens appeared to be regressing after a 9-2 start. Their losing streak began with three-point losses to both Pittsburgh and Washington and ended with a 34-17 embarrassment at home against Denver.

Against the Giants, however, the Ravens scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, led by 17 at halftime and never let New York back into it.

``We've been practicing really well throughout the course of the last four weeks,'' Harbaugh said. ``At some point in time it's going to show itself on the field on game day. It was our best overall performance, I think. It was the best we've done at putting all three phases together and playing well. We blocked, we tackled, our playmakers made plays. We didn't turn the ball over. We didn't do the things that cost us and hurt us like we did in the other three games.''

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who had six turnovers during the losing streak, threw for 309 yards and didn't give the ball away once. If he and the Ravens play like that in the postseason, Baltimore will be dangerous.

``I said last week we're going to see what kind of team we are. We believe we're this kind of team,'' Flacco said after the Ravens' dominating performance. ``We're really going to see if we are. I think that we showed ourselves and we showed people that we are that kind of team. We're here to stay, and we just have to do all we can to get better, to play like this, and even get better than this throughout the remaining weeks.''

One reason for the Ravens to give their all this Sunday is that it's another chance for the offense to get in sync with coordinator Jim Caldwell, who replaced the fired Cam Cameron two weeks ago. The Baltimore attack sputtered against Denver in its first foray under Caldwell, then racked up 533 yards against New York.

``That's the way we can play,'' said wide receiver Torrey Smith, who returned from a concussion.

Baltimore won't have linebacker Ray Lewis (torn triceps) against the Bengals because Harbaugh wants to give the 17-year veteran more time to recover from an injury that has kept him sidelined since Oct. 14.

But the Ravens hope to have back safety Bernard Pollard, who's missed two straight weeks with a chest injury, and receiver Anquan Boldin, who left with a bruised shoulder in the second half against New York.

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Cyrus Jones looking to seize new opportunity at slot corner

Cyrus Jones looking to seize new opportunity at slot corner

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Cyrus Jones’ old role with the Ravens was as a depth cornerback and return man on special teams. His new role could have much more significance. 

Despite a comfortable win over the Packers last Thursday, the good feelings were quickly dampened by an announcement from coach John Harbaugh that nickel cornerback Tavon Young would likely miss the rest of the season with a neck injury.

Young is still waiting to make a final decision, but with him out of the fold for a significant chunk of time, the race is on to try to replace him in an important role on the Ravens defense.

As of Saturday, one of the favorites to assume that role was Jones. He played 34 defensive snaps against the Packers (57 percent), the highest total on the defense, and is a top option for the Ravens in replacing Young.

“Tavon is a great player, I hate seeing what’s going on with him right now,” Jones said. “I’m praying for him, as all of us are, but it’s up to the next man to step up, whoever that is, and I’m just keeping on trying to come out here and practice hard and get better.”

Young signed a three-year, $25.8 million dollar contract in the offseason. The signing made him the highest-paid nickel cornerback in the league. 

Now, the Ravens will use a host of cornerbacks to assume Young’s role on defense. He had 37 tackles, two sacks and one interception last season. He also recovered three fumbles, two of which went for touchdowns. 

“We’ve got a lot of guys, it will be a little different plan if Tavon’s not there, in terms of playing more guys in the slot than we normally would’ve,” Harbaugh said.

Jones, originally a second-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2016, played 10 games in 2016 before a torn ACL and meniscus ended his 2017 campaign. 

He bounced between New England and Baltimore last season, twice, before settling into his role with the Ravens last year. He played in 13 total games, 11 of which were with Baltimore. 

As for this preseason, he’s registered six total tackles and an interception that went for a touchdown. He saw the majority of his work this preseason, though, against the Packers.

“I think I played hard, I think I played smart,” Jones said. “I got a little fatigued at the end, but overall, I think I’m holding my own out there, flying around and just trying to execute.”

Now, he’ll assuredly be in the mix at cornerback. Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr figure to be the team’s top cornerbacks, but Anthony Averett, Maurice Canady and the return of Iman Marshall could also play a part in how the Ravens fill the role.

Aside from the Young injury news, Harbaugh announced guard Marshal Yanda won’t play in the preseason, but will be ready for the season opener September 8 against the Dolphins. 

First-round pick Marquise Brown is on a much shorter trajectory, however, and could see playing time at the Ravens and Eagles joint practices Monday and Tuesday before the third preseason game of the season. 

That game won’t be a typical third preseason game, though, as Harbaugh told reporters quarterback Lamar Jackson won’t have much different of a workload than he did in the first two preseason games. He played 16 snaps against the Jaguars and 22 against the Packers. 

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Summer Guide: Top restaurants and bars to hit before or after Ravens games

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Summer Guide: Top restaurants and bars to hit before or after Ravens games

Whether you're a Ravens fan looking for a couple of drinks pre-game or a bite to eat post-game, it's important to know the local spots around M&T Bank Stadium. 

With the 2019-20 season only weeks away, it's time for a refresher of the best places to go before and after Ravens games. 

In no particular order, consider these: 

The Abbey Burger Bistro, 1041 Marshall St.

  • 0.4 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Endless burger options, insane potato fries and extensive beer menu.
  • Watch out for the spicy pickle, it's crazy hot!

Blue Moon Too, 1024 Light Street

  • 0.5 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Best breakfast in Baltimore!
  • Perfect place to fuel up before hitting a Ravens game.

Pickles Pub, 520 Washington Blvd.

  • 0.5 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Famous for its atmosphere before and after Orioles and Ravens games.
  • It's got great specialty sandwiches, burgers and a list of craft brews.

Shakers Fine Spirits & Wine Lounge, 737 Carroll Street

  • 0.4 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Perfect for a post-game drink.
  • Quieter ambiance, big list of mixed drinks and wines.

Spoons, 24 E. Cross Street

  • 0.5 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Famous for their eggs and breakfast/brunch.
  • Perfect before a Ravens game.

Pratt Street Ale House, 206 W. Pratt Street

  • 0.6 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Indoor/outdoor seating with a strong beer selection.
  • Great for before or after a Ravens game.

SoBo Cafe, 6 W. Cross St

  • Famous for neighborhood comfort food like Mac n' Cheese and Chicken Pot Pie.
  • Takes reservations, perfect outing before a Sunday game.

Bookmakers Cocktail Club, 31 East Cross Street

  • 0.5 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • 400 types of whiskey, rye, and bourbon.
  • Old-fashioned ambiance, perfect for a pre-game drink.

Fat Larry's Cheesesteaks and Hoagies, 1026 S. Charles St

  • 0.4 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Massive sandwiches to hold you down during Ravens games.
  • Referred to as a "hidden gem" by Baltimore natives.

Sliders Bar and Grill, 504 Washington Blvd.

  • 0.5 miles from M&T Bank Stadium. 
  • Deep-rooted history with the Orioles and Baltimore.
  • Great snackable food for before or after a Ravens game.
  • Down the street from Pickles Pub.

 

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