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Five instant observations from Ravens' dominant win over Dolphins

Five instant observations from Ravens' dominant win over Dolphins

BALTIMORE - Five instant observations after the Ravens’ most impressive win of the season, 38-6, over the Dolphins (7-5). The win kept the Ravens (7-5) in first place in the AFC North, in control of their playoff destiny with four games left to play:

1. The Ravens’ offense was finally potent.

The Ravens had five offensive possessions in the first half, and scored on four of them. In the first half alone, the Ravens had 303 yards total offense, and Joe Flacco had three touchdown passes, completing throws to 10 different targets. This was the breakout offensive game the Ravens had been seeking. That should give them confidence heading into Monday Night Football next week, when they visit the Patriots.

2. Flacco could be gearing up for a big December.

This was Flacco’s best game of the season, setting a franchise record for completions with 36. His numbers were gaudy – 36 for 47, 381 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, 119.2 passer rating. Flacco’s history of playing his best football late in the season bodes well for the Ravens, especially since Flacco now looks comfortable running offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. 

If Flacco gets hot in December, he’s good enough to carry the Ravens to the playoffs, whether you think he’s elite or not.

3.The play of tight end Dennis Pitta is a tribute to his perseverance.

Many people urged Pitta to retire after his second major hip surgery. However, Pitta (nine catches, 90 yards) was an offensive force in this game. Consider that Pitta had not scored a touchdown since 2013.  When asked about Pitta not scoring a touchdown this season on Wednesday, Flacco said, “He is playing really well. You cannot try to make those things happen; they just start happening.” Pitta made things happen in this game. Retiring is the last thing on Pitta’s mind.

4. The Ravens’ defense is among the NFL’s best, and it’s locked in.

The Dolphins came into this game riding a six-game winning streak. But they were dominated. If not for a fumble by Pitta that set up the Dolphins’ only touchdown, they might have been shutout. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (12 carries, 61 yards) was contained by the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked run defense. With cornerback Jimmy Smith back in action after a two-game absence, and linebacker Elvis Dumervil finally healthy, the Ravens’ defense isn’t going away.

5. Only one of these teams looked like a legit playoff contender.

If the Ravens have had trouble getting respect this season, what did this game say about the Dolphins? New coach Adam Gase has the Dolphins headed in the right direction. But they were thoroughly outplayed in this one.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."


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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice


Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”