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'He's ballin'' -- When Baltimore ran into the Russell Wilson buzz saw

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'He's ballin'' -- When Baltimore ran into the Russell Wilson buzz saw

BALTIMORE---The Seattle Seahawks looked like a team headed to a third straight Super Bowl on Sunday, and Russell Wilson like a quarterback who’s earning his four-year, $87.6 million extension.

For the second time in three weeks, Wilson equaled a franchise record with five touchdown passes, and over the last four weeks, he’s done something very special.

Wilson has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each game, 16 in all, and not been intercepted. His completion rate has been over 70 percent.

“It’s been amazing the past few weeks,” Doug Baldwin said.

In the last four games, Baldwin has caught half of Wilson’s touchdown passes—eight.

“He’s playing unbelievable. I know he’ll come up here and say: ‘nothing’s different.’ But, he’s playing his tail off.”

Wilson threw three scores to Baldwin and two more to rookie Tyler Lockett.

He had to because Thomas Rawls, who played magnificently at running back with Marshawn Lynch out with a chest injury, broke his left ankle near the end of the Seahawks’ first scoring drive.

Coach Pete Carroll thinks Lynch, who has missed four games with a chest injury, may be nearing a return.

Without Lynch and Rawls, Seattle was left with veteran Fred Jackson and little-used DuJuan Harris. They contributed little, but Wilson was the whole show.

“It’s Russ right now. He’s ballin’,” Baldwin said.

Wilson, who speaks at length without saying much controversial, always tries to deflect the credit.

“I don’t know if my confidence has changed. I think ultimately we’re just playing better. We’re executing better,” Wilson said.

Seattle has won four straight and is 8-5. They trail Arizona by three games in the NFC West, but have an excellent shot to make the playoffs.

The Seahawks have three games left, at home with Cleveland and St. Louis, and a Week 17 matchup against the Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.

If Seattle is to play in a third straight Super Bowl, something that hasn’t happened in more than two decades, they’ll have to win on the road. That doesn’t faze the unabashed cornerback Richard Sherman.

“If we had to play on the Moon, we would go there and play,” Sherman said.

Last year, there was early season carping at Wilson, but the team went on a roll and nearly won its second straight Super Bowl.

The last-minute loss to New England is surely past this group.

“It took us some time to leave that behind. We don’t need that to be motivated. We need to get rid of that,” Carroll said.

This year, the Seahawks lost four of their first six, and many were thinking free agency had caught up to this bunch.

“No, we thought we were going to lose the rest of our games,” defensive end Michael Bennett cracked.

“Our confidence was so low I couldn’t look myself in the mirror.”

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Bennett’s sarcasm aside, Carroll who seemingly never has a bad day, said he could tell the team, which has won six of seven and lost to the Cardinals by a touchdown in the only loss, was getting back its mojo

“We’ve been feeling it for over a month now,” Carroll said. “Who’s ever called up to play is doing it.”

In the Seahawks’ last two games, they’ve beaten the Vikings and Ravens by a gaudy 73-13.

“For the defense not to give up a touchdown two weeks back-to-back, that’s really special stuff,” Carroll notes.

Besides playing standout cornerback, Sherman is doubling as a public relations specialist. He thinks Baldwin should make the Pro Bowl because he’s certain that the receiver has made the most of his catches.

“Can you guys find me the targets?” Sherman asked. “Let’s find that.”

Wilson has been playing at the highest level of his four-year career.

“He played like he does in practice,” Carroll said.

Baldwin has played with Wilson throughout his career and sees a difference.

“It’s him knowing my body language and knowing when I’m going to cut and knowing what I’m going to do. Last week, I ran the wrong route, and he put the ball in the perfect spot,” Baldwin said.

“Everything that he’s doing right now, he’s done before. He’s doing it at a very high level. He’s always been magnificent outside of the pocket, but now he’s doing something he hasn’t done up to this level inside the pocket. It makes it so much easier on everybody else.” 

Wilson claims not to hear the hype—or the negativity.

“I ignore the noise. I also tell everybody that’s in my small group, not to tell me anything. I don’t want to hear anything,” Wilson said.

Sherman hears the negative, and happily responds.

“The Seattle Seahawks, back doing what they do. Let’s call all those people who wrote us off and call for their jobs," he said.

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

Twenty-four-year-old Kaare Vedvik didn't watch his first football game until seven years ago, and now he's fighting for a spot on the Ravens' special teams roster.

Raised in Norway, Vedvik got his first glance at the game when the Super Bowl was being broadcast on Norwegian television for the first time. 

"It seemed like a really, really interesting sport," Vedvik said via The Baltimore Sun. "It was a sport I was never able to try growing up. I loved any sport that was fun, and football seemed really, really fun."

Fun enough to get the competitive soccer player to be an exchange student in the United States during his junior year of high school to test out the game of football. Vedvik returned to Norway for his senior year but impressed college recruiters enough at a Kohl's Kicking Camp in Texas that he was eventually recruited to play at Marshall University in West Virginia.

Staying in Norway would have meant giving up on sports entirely as school becomes more difficult and sports are no longer offered. Vedvik wasn't ready for that.

While at Marshall, Vedvik played in 38 games in four years as both a punter and kicker. He punted 59 times for 2,597 yards — averaging 44 yards — with 26 of them inside the 20-yard line. Vedvik once punted a 92-yarder, making it the seventh-longest punt in FBS history and the longest in 45 years. He ranked in the Top 10 for fewest punt return yards and averaged 63.6 yards-per-kickoff. 

After a private workout with Ravens special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg, Vedvik became one of 14 Ravens undrafted free agents and has impressed thus far hitting 70 and 67-yard field goals in training camp practices. And in Thursday's preseason game vs. the Rams, Vedvik hit a 56-yard field goal.

"Learning how to kick field goals, the biggest thing for me was to stop swiping across and trying to kick a straighter ball," Vedcik said. "That’s the biggest difference: In soccer, you’re trying to curve balls around a defender."

While Vedvik's chances of dethroning the most accurate kicker in NFL history in Justin Tucker and 12-year veteran punter Sam Koch are slim, he could very well make an impact elsewhere. 

“The guys who are able to do that, they’re just good athletes in general, and Kaare is a good athlete,” Tucker said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Norwegian. “He hasn’t played a lot of football. He has plenty of ability.”

“When he came in, he’s got such a strong leg," Koch added. "You’ve got to have a strong leg in order to get looked at. He’s got a lot of talent. It’s one of those things — bringing him in, honing his skills and seeing what he can do from here.”

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What we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' 33-7 win vs. the Los Angeles Rams

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What we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' 33-7 win vs. the Los Angeles Rams

The Ravens returned to M&T Bank Stadium for their second game on the 2018 NFL preseason schedule and gave us a lot of reasons to be excited.

Joe Flacco and his new core of receivers only needed one drive to show off, Lamar Jackson put his speed on display and Robert Griffin III gave Breshad Perriman a much-needed confidence boost.

Here's what we learned from their 33-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams. 

1. First teamers make it count

It took Joe Flacco and the first-team offense all of 4 minutes and 46 seconds to get themselves on the board. During the 10-play, 70-yard drive, Flacco connected with rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, Javorius Allen, John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and finally, Patrick Ricard for a six-yard touchdown. During the impressive drive, Flacco showed his own mobility by getting out of the pocket for a three-yard gain and a classic Flacco slide. 

Flacco connecting with three of his newest receivers is what we've been waiting to see all offseason. Even though it was just one preseason drive, it's a step in the right direction after the Ravens' 2017 offense ranked 29th in the league in passing. 

"Listen, our guys are really showing up," Flacco said at halftime. "We've had a great camp, and it was good to come out here and see it carry over into a game."

"I think once the regular season starts, this isn't going to mean anything," said Flacco postgame. "But what it does for our confidence as a group, our confidence as a team, that will carry us pretty far into the season."

2. A lot of room to grow for Lamar Jackson

Jackson followed up the Ravens' successful first drive with one of his own. The rookie hit Chris Moore for a 36-yard gain before putting his footwork on display faking out several Rams defenders en route to a 9-yard touchdown run. 

While he made improvements from his Hall of Fame Game appearance, Jackson showed he still has a lot to learn, finishing the night 7-18 for 119 yards. With two preseason games under his belt, Jackson received high praise from his head coach John Harbaugh and Flacco on which he carries himself. 

"He does seem poised for a rookie," coach John Harbaugh said. "Even on the sideline, he may not know everything ... but he comes off the field and knows exactly what he did. I think he's really going to continue to blossom for that reason. He handles situations very well."

Flacco followed up on Harbaugh's comments by calling his touchdown run "pretty impressive" and said it's been good getting to talk to him on the sideline and that "he's a confident young kid... [that's been] handling himself really well."


3. A much-needed confidence boost for Perriman

The Ravens showed their former first-round pick they still have faith in him after picking up his $649K roster bonus included in the final year of his rookie contract earlier this offseason.

During last week's Hall of Fame Game, Perriman dropped a pass from RGIII that turned into an interception. However, the duo redeemed themselves against the Rams when Griffin III threw a 32-yard bomb to the back left corner of the end zone to Perriman. 

A smiling Perriman could be found in the Ravens' locker room after the win saying the play was "definitely a confidence boost" and is just thankful to finally be healthy during the preseason for pretty much the first time in his career. 

He will have to continue to fight for his spot on the 53-man roster with the additions of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown. 

4. Williams continues to be a threat

The 2017 third-round pick followed up his strong performance at the Hall of Fame Game – where he had a total of 41 pass-rushing snaps resulting in six hurries, one QB hit and a pass rush productivity of 17.1 according to Pro Football Focus – with another stellar performance.

During Thursday's matchup, the edge rusher out of Alabama had multiple hurries and a strip sack in the third for the first sack of the preseason.

Williams was following in the footsteps of the Ravens' first-team defense who finished their opening drive with a sack from Matthew Judon on third down to force the punt and an interception in the second from Maurice Canady. 

Ravens vs. Rams Notes

— The competition at right tackle between James Hurst and Orlando Brown Jr. is heating up. Brown Jr. played into the third quarter Thursday after getting in 60 snaps during the Hall of Fame Game. Quarterback Joe Flacco praised the third-round pick saying, "You can't ignore the fact that he's got the ability. He's just so big. He swallows people up. He has the natural ability to play that position and be a really good football player, so it's just exciting to see." 

— The Ravens got two W's last night when John Harbaugh quoted THE Michael Scott when asked about avoiding the injury bug during the preseason. Harbaugh said, "I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious." Classic. 

— While the preseason record does not matter whatsoever, the Ravens haven't lost a preseason game since Sept. 3, 2015. They now have ten days until they head to Indianapolis to face the Colts. 

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