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Five observations from Ravens' tight victory over the Jaguars

Five observations from Ravens' tight victory over the Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE – Five instant observations from watching the unbeaten Ravens (3-0) defeat the Jaguars, 19-17, to keep the Jaguars (0-3) winless:

1. The Ravens aren’t pretty, but they are resilient.

— The Ravens made enough mistakes to lose this game, but found a way to win it. Joe Flacco threw two interceptions, Devin Hester muffed a punt, and there were untimely penalties on the offensive line.

Yet, Ravens defensive end Brent Urban made a huge play late in the game, blocking a 52-yard field goal attempt with just over two minutes to play. Then Justin Tucker delivered with a 54-yard field goal, and Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr sealed the win with a last-minute interception.

2. Having Tucker is a huge advantage for the Ravens.

— Tucker’s game-winning field goal, one of his four field goals on the day, was another example of why the Ravens franchised tagged him before giving him a contract extension.  For a team that plays plenty of close games, Tucker is a crucial weapon. There was never a doubt on his game-winning kick as soon as it left his foot.

3. Ravens inside linebacker C. J. Mosley is playing at a high level.

—Mosley had his second interception in two weeks, making an acrobatic grab when he leaped high in the air, and tipped the ball to himself. He also had a batted pass in the fourth quarter that stopped another Jaguars drive. Mosley looks locked in and could be headed for another Pro Bowl season.

4. There is nothing wrong with Flacco’s mobility. 

— The Ravens’ first touchdown came on a seven-yard Flacco scramble, when he escaped the pocket and ran into the end zone untouched, after no Jaguars accounted for him.

Nobody will confuse Flacco with Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. However, Flacco shows no evidence of being gun shy after last season’s season ending knee injury. He also had a six-yard gain on a quarterback bootleg. The knee injury is clearly in Flacco’s rearview mirror.

5. There is something wrong with the Ravens’ rushing attack

— For the third streak week, the Ravens couldn’t move the ball consistently on the ground.

The long run for the day was a 15-yarder by Terrance West (10 carries, 45 yards), but neither he nor Justin Forsett (seven carries, 20 yards) did much business. Melvin Gordon of the Chargers had 102 yards rushing against the Jaguars in Week 2, and the Ravens expected to have more success. It will be hard for them to keep winning against better teams unless their offense finds more balance.

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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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