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Ravens take rare December dive

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Ravens take rare December dive

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been insisting that his team is "built for December" after going 4-0 the month before.

They'd won 70% of their games in the month since 2007 going into this season. But now they're 0-2. And instead of building up heading into the postseason, the Ravens could be breaking down after their second consecutive loss on a field goal.

Kai Forbath drilled a 34-yard field goal to give the Washington Redskins a 31-28 win in overtime at FedEx Field as the Ravens blew an 8-point fourth-quarter lead.

"They deserved to win because of the way they played at the end of the game, but we are not going to be disheartened," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose team has lost three games by a total of 7 points this season. "We understand what we are fighting for, where we have to go as a football team and the things we have to do to be the football team we want to be in December."

Harbaugh has to figure out something fast with the Denver Broncos with quarterback Peyton Manning coming to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday and then the New York Giants led by his brother, Eli.

It didn’t take anyone near their caliber to hand the Ravens (9-4) consecutive losses for the first time in three seasons.

Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers were sparked by third-string quarterback Charlie Batch as he led a 61-yard drive to set up field goal for a 23-20 victory as time expired.

Sunday, Robert Griffin III was knocked out late in the fourth quarter with a right knee sprain an MRI would later reveal. Trailing 28-20, rookie backup Kirk Cousins entered and finished off the drive -- sustained by a pass interference call on Chris Johnson on 3rd and 6 -- to throw an 11-yard TD pass to Pierre Garcon. 

Cousins then ran in a 2-point conversion to tie the score and force overtime. After Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco failed to get a first down, the Redskins’ Richard Crawford returned the punt 64 yards to set up Forbath’s game-winning kick.

Flacco threw 10-for-13 for 120 yards and 3 TDs in the first half as the Ravens took a 21-14 lead halftime. But on their first two possessions of the second half, Flacco had a fumble and an interception inside Washington’s 20-yard line.

The Ravens defense, playing without starting linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps), Ray Lewis (triceps), Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) and starting cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin), did its best. They held the Redskins to two field goals after those turnovers as Baltimore still led 21-20.

"The one in our zone was probably the one that hurt most, on my part," Flacco said of the fumble. "Other than that I don’t think we did too bad of a job. We were able to grind some drives out there and run the ball pretty decently. We just weren’t able to finish."

The Ravens appeared to have done everything right to win. Alfred Morris pounded them early with Washington’s running attack as he had 74 yards to get his team out to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, but they tightened up on him. Griffin threw for 246 yards but was contained on the ground, only getting 34 yards on 7 rushes.

In turn, the Ravens fed the ball to Ray Rice early and often. After running the ball just 12 times last week in a loss to the Steelers, he carried it 19 times for 117 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown.

Combined with Bernard Pierce, they had 27 carries for 170, an average of 6.2 against the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing defense. The run set up Flacco's TD passes, two to Anquan Boldin who went past 10,000 career receiving yards. 

Flacco only connected once with Torrey Smith for 21 yards. He only threw for 62 yards after halftime. 

"We just didn't get it done," Flacco said. 

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How Eric DeCosta, staff plan to build out the Ravens’ draft board during quarantine

How Eric DeCosta, staff plan to build out the Ravens’ draft board during quarantine

When the NFL Draft happens on April 23, the best technology available will be at the Ravens’ staff’s fingertips. 

They’ll also have to conduct the draft more like what was conducted in the 1980s as compared to present day. 

With league-wide shutdowns of team facilities, all NFL teams will have to conduct their own drafts with each individual front office member in their homes. In a way, that means it’s business as usual for the Ravens. 

“I don’t think it’s really going to be that much different than we’ve been accustomed to,” general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We had the opportunity to meet with so many different players at the Senior Bowl and the East-West combine, we really prepared to be the best we can be. The thing we come back to, it’s been this way ever since I know I got into the league, it’s really about the tape, how the guy plays.”

The Ravens will have to navigate the draft, though, without a traditional war room for the staff to congregate in. There, they’ll have to make draft choices and trades remotely.

“We did a lot of work in person in February and also in December to get ready for these meetings,” DeCosta said. “There are some challenges associated, nothing major, but we’re excited for the opportunity and we think it’s going to work out well for us.”

The draft board this year, DeCosta said, will have 185 players that they consider to be “draftable” players for the Ravens. Of that number, 25 of which are wide receivers. He’ll have to make those selections over Zoom, the video-conferencing service. 

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Coach John Harbaugh’s mind isn’t exactly at ease over Zoom, either. 

“Every time I read something in The Wall Street Journal or New York Times that talks about how messed up Zoom is or some of these other deals that came out this morning, I immediately text it to our IT people,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got some real concerns about that, and hopefully we’ll be okay. I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings.”

The draft board and meetings that Harbaugh would like to keep internally will assuredly discuss the bevy of wide receivers available in this year’s class. Three first-round locks appear to be two Alabama receivers, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, and Ceedee Lamb of Oklahoma. 

Denzel Mims, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins and Jalen Reagor all could find themselves picked in the first 32 selections, too.

“There’s a lot of really good players, obviously the receivers class is prolific by many people’s standards," DeCosta said. "There’s probably 25 draft-able wideouts in this draft. Very very talented running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends. We’re going to look at the board, we’re going to assess the strengths and weaknesses at every position when we’re on the clock.”

Baltimore has nine picks in the draft, including seven in the first four rounds. While the opportunity of trading up, or down, exists, DeCosta wasn’t shy about what those picks could mean for the Ravens in the 2020 season. 

“I think with the influx of juniors every year, we see that drafts tend to be stronger in the last five-to-seven years than they have been,” DeCosta said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys this year we feel like will have a really good opportunity with our first seven picks to really get some outstanding football players that can come in immediately and pay dividends for us.”

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Ravens GM Eric DeCosta when asked about Antonio Brown: ‘I think I’ll just leave that one alone’

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta when asked about Antonio Brown: ‘I think I’ll just leave that one alone’

The Ravens’ front office typically holds franchise secrets pretty tightly. Some of the most notable players on the roster, though, are less covert. 

Last week, Lamar Jackson and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown were seen running routes and working out with free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown in Florida. The three posed for a picture and posted videos on Instagram of a portion of the workout. 

Antonio and Marquise are cousins and were previously pictured working out together as well.

At a pre-draft conference call, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta addressed both the situation and rumors that the team might be interested.

“Those are in-house things,” DeCosta said. “Those are my feelings, personal feelings, about that situation. I don’t really feel the need to share that with you all right now.”

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Antonio Brown is under investigation from the NFL for accusations of rape and sexual assault, brought forward by his former trainer Britney Taylor in a civil suit. Brown has filed a countersuit. 

He is also facing charges of felony burglary conveyance, misdemeanor battery, and misdemeanor criminal mischief. He hasn’t played a game since Week 2 of 2019, after which he was released by the Patriots. 

The move came on the heels of his controversial trade and release from Oakland.

“And as far as free-agent players, we wouldn’t talk about those guys right now,” DeCosta continued. “It doesn’t really serve any purpose for us to talk about players that are available right now. There’s really no benefit to do that, so I think I’ll just leave that one alone.”

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