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Ravens escape with win


Ravens escape with win

Ravens 13, Steelers 10
at Heinz Field

The offense slowed down the fast pace to cope with the noise, but it was just as anemic Sunday.

The defense and special teams, however, did just enough for Baltimore to escape with the victory and control of the AFC North.

After the Ravens (8-2) fell behind early on a 31-yard touchdown run by quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was playing for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, they’d take a 10-7 lead on a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones and never look back.

 Justin Tucker had field goals of 26 and 39 yards. Both were set up by turnovers created on a fumble recovery by Ed Reed and an interception by Corey Graham.

Coming off 341 yards passing in last week’s 55-20 win vs. the Oakland Raiders, Joe Flacco returned to form on the road. He went 20-for-32 for 164 yards and no touchdowns. Thirteen of his completions went to running back Ray Rice and slot receiver Anquan Boldin

Flacco has thrown for 232, 187, 147 and 153 in other games away from home this season.

A defense that has had trouble getting to the quarterback all season had three sacks of Leftwich. On a crucial third down near midfield and the Steelers (6-4) trailing 13-10, Haloti Ngata got his first sack since Week 6 by dropping Leftwich for a 10-yard loss.

Graham jarred Heath Miller to cause an incompletion near midfield with 30 seconds left on Pittsburgh’s final drive. On the next play, safety Bernard Pollard flattened Jerricho Cotchery to prevent another completion down field.

Player of the game: This goes to Jones for his 63-yard punt return for a touchdown, silencing a rabid crowd and giving the Ravens the lead 10-7. A week ago, Jones had a 105-yard kickoff return for a TD and he tied and NFL record with 108-yard kick return.

Turning point: Both occurred on the same drive with the Steelers on the verge of regaining the lead. With the Ravens’ offense struggling to move the ball, a 10-yard tripping penalty on Steelers LB Larry Foote gave them an automatic first down. Then DE Brett Keisel was called for offisides on 3rd-and-7 at 2:04. The Ravens still punted but were able to run valuable time off the clock to secure the victory. The Steelers didn’t have any timeouts remaining.

Unsung: James Ihedigbo made a crucial block to help spring Jones for his TD. He also was key in special teams coverage. When it looked like Chris Rainey had room to run when he reversed field on a punt return in the third quarter, Ihedigbo wrapped him up. On 3rd-and-11 from Baltimore’s 43 with less than five minutes left, Ihedigbo hit Leftwich from his blindside to drop him for a 7-yard loss and force a punt.

Lineup shuffle: Jah Reid made his first start of the season, taking over at left guard in place of Bobbie Williams (ankle) who was inactive. Arthur Jones started again in place of Pernell McPhee (knee), who missed his third game in a row.

Quick impact: CB Chris Johnson was acquired last week as a free agent after Jimmy Smith went out because of surgery to repair his groin muscle. Johnson was beaten by Mike Wallace for a 15-yard gain on 3rd-and-10, but he stripped him of the ball and it was recovered by Ed Reed. The play set up the Ravens’ first points to trim the deficit to 7-3.

Warming up: LB Paul Kruger picked up where he left off in the last game, when he was credited with two sacks. He dropped Leftwich for a 7-yard loss on third down. That gives Kruger 4.5 sacks for the season, just one fewer than he had last season.

Conversion rate: The Steelers came into the gameas the best team in the NFL in converting third downs at 50%. But that was with Roethlisberger. Sunday, they were 1-for-8 in the first half alone. They failed on two third-and-1s, with RB Jonathan Dwyer getting stuffed late in the second quarter. The Steelers finished 5-for-17 for the game.

Inefficient: The Ravens had the chance to take a two-possession lead to start the third quarter, but Reid was called for an off-start that cost them 5 yards. Flacco then mishandled a snap in the Shotgun that forced an incompletion. Tucker came in for a 41-yard FG into the open end of the stadium and pushed it wide right. It was just his second miss of the season as the lead stayed 10-7.

Concussed: TE Dennis Pitta was dinged in a game last week and went out early in this one. After making a 5-yard catch on the first drive, Pitta didn’t return because of a concussion. He was replaced in the two-tight end set by Billy Bajema, who was called for a hold that thwarted what was shaping up to be a promising drive in the second quarter.

Run stoppers: Last week’s performance against the Raiders wasn’t a true sign of how, or if, it has improved because their top two runners were out with ankle injuries. Sunday, against Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, the Ravens held firm in allowing just 93 on 24 carries. Redman left early with a concussion and didn’t return.

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst


Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 


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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."