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Ravens defense copes with rash of injuries

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Ravens defense copes with rash of injuries

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The once-esteemed defense of the Baltimore Ravens is almost unrecognizable these days.

Many of the unit's most established players - including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb - have sustained serious injuries. Suggs missed first six games of the season on the sideline with a torn right Achillies tendon, returned for a half-dozen games and then sat out last week with a torn right biceps. Lewis has been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps, and Webb is out for the year with a torn ACL.

As a result, the Baltimore defense has been uncharacteristically porous this season, especially in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens are ranked 24th in total defense, which means their nine-year run of top-10 finishes is almost certainly over. Baltimore finished in the top 5 in run defense over the previous six years, but now its ranked 25th among 32 teams.

Although head coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Monday, the Ravens' current two-game losing streak could be attributed heavily to the defense. Two weeks ago, third-string quarterback Charlie Batch moved Pittsburgh the length of the field in the waning seconds to set up a game-winning field goal. Last Sunday, the Redskins got the tying touchdown and 2-point conversion with 29 seconds left in a 31-28 win.

``We've just got to finish,'' Harbaugh said.

Injuries are mostly to blame. Washington rookie Kirk Cousins victimized reserve cornerback Chris Johnson on the last-minute touchdown pass, and third-string linebacker Josh Bynes was on the field for the conversion play because Suggs, Lewis, Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe were unavailable.

Lewis and Suggs have not yet been on the field at the same time on game day, and it's quite possible the Ravens (9-4) will again be without both Pro Bowl stars when they host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (10-3) on Sunday.

``Every team deals with injuries, and just it's a next-man-up mentality,'' Manning said. ``Ray Lewis is a guy we all know is hard to replace, but Baltimore always has young talent and guys ready to step in. They're aggressive on defense no matter who's in there.''

Perhaps, but the Ravens are clearly better with Suggs and Lewis in the lineup. Both practiced Wednesday, but Harbaugh said a decision on their status for Sunday would be made later in the week.

Harbaugh ruled out McClain, who has neck and back injuries. The injuries on defense run so deep that the Ravens activated cornerback Omar Brown from the practice squad on Wednesday to place Asa Jackson, who was suspended four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

Asked if he's ever been a part of a defense that had so many injuries, safety Ed Reed shook his head before the question was completed.

``This is by far one of those years,'' Reed said. ``I think when coach first got here, second year, we had a lot of injuries. But not like this.''

In addition to Suggs, Lewis, McClain, Ellerbe, Webb and McClain, the Ravens have also been forced to operate at times without tackle Haloti Ngata, cornerback Jimmy Smith and end Pernell McPhee.

``It's been tough,'' Harbaugh said. ``It's been probably as many injuries as we've ever had on defense here during the last five years. We've got confidence in whoever we put out there. We are starting to get a little healthier, so it will be good to get some of those guys back.''

Ellerbe, who has missed two straight games with a sprained ankle, hopes to be available Sunday. This much he does know: Watching from the sideline is no fun.

``That's a terrible feeling, to see your guys out there fighting and trying to win the game and you can't help them,'' Ellerbe said, no doubt echoing the sentiment of many of his injured teammates. ``You know you're an asset to the team but you can't go out there and help. It's just something that's hard to deal with.''

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Report: Ravens extend defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to three-year extension

Report: Ravens extend defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to three-year extension

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, the Ravens have made another move to keep their defense intact long-term. 

Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has reportedly signed a three-year contract extension that will make Martindale the highest paid defensive coordinator in the NFL. But as for the future, the team expects him to be a head coaching candidate after the 2020 season. 

Martindale, 56, has been in Baltimore since 2012 where he started as the team’s linebackers coach. He held that position through 2017 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2018. 

In 2018, his first season as coordinator, he led the Ravens defense to a league best 292.9 yards allowed per game and was runner-up for Associated Press Assistant Coach of the Year.

The Ravens lost some significant pieces after 2018 season and were without Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle and Za’Darius Smith in 2019. After struggling in three of the first four weeks of the season, the revamped defense eventually took shape. 

Baltimore allowed just 15.1 points per game after the Week 4 loss to Cleveland, where it allowed 40 points — their most all season. 

Through the whole season, the Ravens allowed 300.2 yards per game, which ranked fourth in the league. They also ranked third in total points with 17.6 points allowed per game. 

The unit took shape with some key mid-season acquisitions — most notably Marcus Peters, Jihad Ward and Josh Bynes — and lifted the unit to one of the best in the league along with its NFL-best offense.

In a season of new contracts for the Ravens defense, they’ve now extended cornerback Tavon Young, linebacker L.J. Fort, defensive lineman and linebacker Patrick Ricard, Peters and, most recently, safety Chuck Clark in the last year.

Now, the man leading the defense will be in the fold for a few more years, too. 

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Ravens' left guard Bradley Bozeman dominates 72-ounce steak challenge

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Ravens' left guard Bradley Bozeman dominates 72-ounce steak challenge

Baltimore Ravens’ starting left guard Bradley Bozeman showed off one of his many talents earlier this week as he dominated a 72-ounce steak dinner. 

Bozeman accomplished this feat at The Big Texan Steak Ranch while traveling with his wife. The restaurant is famous for this eating challenge, which involves eating over 4 pounds of steak, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad topped off with a butter roll in under an hour. 

Although Bozeman is an absolute unit of a person, this was still no small feat. Bozeman strategized during the meal in order to ensure success as he switched from steak sauce to honey. Yet, Bozeman still questioned his ability to successfully finish with just 2 ounces of steak left. He even instructed his wife who was filming in the audience to shut the camera off in fear of getting sick on camera.

“I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t think it was going to be that tough,” Bozeman told ESPN. “The last bite was rough.”

Bozeman pushed on and not only finished the steak, but even had a little carrot cake for dessert. His prize? Free dinner, a t-shirt, and most likely a massive stomach ache. 

Despite his claim that this was “the toughest food thing” he’s ever done, Bozeman flashed a big smile holding the prized shirt which read “I ate it all!”

Bozeman is now one of only approximately 10,000 people who have successfully finished the meal, with over 110,000 people having tried. 

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