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Ravens kicking game has been something special

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Ravens kicking game has been something special

The Ravens locker room, basking in victory for just the second time this season, broke out in a chant.

"Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!"

The cheering was directed at special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, whose unit received the game ball from coach John Harbaugh after the Ravens' 29-26 win over the Chargers last week.

It was also a fitting tribute in that the Ravens special teams group has been by far the most consistently successful unit through the midpoint of a disappointing 2015 season.

In the win over the Chargers, every special teams unit played a key role in the win. Kicker Justin Tucker went 5-for-5 on field goals. Punter Sam Koch boomed a 62-yarder to the Chargers 3-yard line in the fourth quarter that flipped field position and proved to be one of the key plays of the game. The kick return and kick coverage teams both excelled; Raheem Mostert returned a kick 33 yards, and the Ravens stuffed Jacoby Jones for a 2-yard loss on his only punt return. Asa Jackson blocked a Chargers extra-point kick.

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“The special teams players got the game ball. It was really an honor to be a part of that. I’m very proud of them," Rosburg said last week. "They made a difference in that game, and they’ve played well in other games."

Rosburg has the luxury of having a Pro Bowl kicker in Tucker and a punter in Koch who should be headed to his first Pro Bowl this year as well. Koch leads the league in punting (49.4) and net punting (45.6). (Rosburg had made an impassioned defense of Koch last year when he was passed over for the Pro Bowl.)

But Rosburg also has the tricky task of mixing and matching personnel each week, depending on which players make up the 46-man game-day roster; those final few players on the right side of the roster bubble are often the ones that end up on Rosburg's special teams units on any given Sunday.

Special teams play is often noticed when things go badly -- a botched snap, a fumbled return, a long return the other way. But far more often than not this year, things have gone well for Rosburg and the Ravens.

"Our players are the ones making that happen," Rosburg said. "They’re playing hard. They’re practicing hard, and it’s good to see them get that (game ball) award.”

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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