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Ravens cement themselves among NFL’s best with 17-point win over previously unbeaten Patriots

Ravens cement themselves among NFL’s best with 17-point win over previously unbeaten Patriots

BALTIMORE — The Patriots defense had Lamar Jackson dead-to-rights in the backfield on third-and-goal late in the fourth quarter when Jackson found himself in the arms of his right tackle, Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown, who turned around and found Jackson in his breadbasket, grabbed ahold of his quarterback and dragged him the final yard into the end zone. The touchdown capped one of the most impressive drives of the season for the Ravens, and one of the most impressive wins, too.

Jackson’s score put the Ravens up 37-20, which was the final, as the Ravens knocked off the previously-unbeaten New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night. 

“We’ve got a lot of football left and this win is going to be important down the road,” Brown said. “Right now, we’ve got to focus on Cincinnati and continue to take it day-by-day and game-by-game every Sunday. Personally, I don’t think we’re playing our best football right now, that’s a good thing with us winning and us being in this position.”

That position the Ravens put themselves in was something they could’ve only dreamed of hours before. 

Against the previously 8-0 Patriots, the Ravens ran roughshod through the Patriots front seven and rushed for 210 yards against a defense that came in allowing just 85.2 per game. Jackson ran for just 61 yards but had two scores as the Patriots struggled to contain the speedy quarterback throughout the game.

The Ravens out-possessed the Patriots 37:01-22:59 and scored as many offensive touchdowns (four) as the Patriots defense had given up in the previous eight games combined. 210 yards rushing was the most a Patriots defense had allowed since 2014.

“Watching the film, a lot of teams were just letting them do what they wanted to do and not being aggressive, not attacking them,” Willie Snead said. “I think out of the gate, we were just coming at these guys. We weren’t afraid of them. We just knew what we had to do.”

Baltimore jumped out to a 17-0 lead on the first three possessions of the game, led by Jackson’s legs. 

New England rallied in the second and third quarters and cut the lead to just four, but the Ravens answered with a 70-yard scoop-and-score from Marlon Humphrey — the longest fumble return in team history. 

The Patriots couldn’t muster much after that, despite scoring a touchdown on the following drive. A big reason for that was simply how often they got the ball back.

Baltimore had just three offensive possessions in the second half, but it certainly made them count. The first possession was a 14-play, 86-yard drive that ended in Nick Boyle’s first-ever touchdown reception. The drive lasted eight minutes and nine seconds. 

The following drive, after an interception, effectively ended the game, as the Ravens suffocated the life out of the Patriots with a 14-play, 68-yard drive that lasted nine minutes and 35 seconds, capped by Brown’s pull of Jackson into the end zone. 

They were the two longest drives the Patriots had allowed all season.

“I think that’s who we are,” said Mark Ingram, who eclipsed 100-yards rushing on the night. “If you go back and look throughout the season, we have lots of drives over 15 plays, eating up time and chewing up clock.”

The biggest player the Ravens couldn’t contain was Jackson, who threw for 163 yards on 17-of-23 passing. But it was his legs which kept the Patriots off-balance and out-of-sync, as they simply didn’t have an answer for Jackson’s ability to extend plays. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, shortly, said as much when asked what the team wasn’t prepared for.

“It’s obvious,” he said.

Jackson’s ability in the pocket slowed down the Patriots linebackers enough to let the Ravens runners get to the outside, the first offense to do that to the Patriots all season. 

The Ravens’ statement win puts the team at 6-2 at the halfway mark of the season, with two convincing wins over the Seahawks and Patriots — two teams widely expected to contend for the Super Bowl.

“We’re not a team to be slept on,” Marquise Brown said. “We are going to compete at a high level each week and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be considered one of the best teams in the league.”

Baltimore is now the second-seed in the AFC, a game-and-a-half behind the No.1 Patriots, who they now have the tiebreaker over. 

While there might’ve been questions after the Seattle game about the legitimacy of the Ravens as a title contender, those questions aren’t there anymore. 

“I mean, shoot, these guys were undefeated,” Snead said. “They were on top of the league and to come in here and try to win, we've got a little pride. I mean, this rivalry goes back further than I’ve been in the league. The tone was set in the beginning of the week and we just had to follow through and play our style of football.”

Now at 6-2 with the 0-8 Bengals on deck, the path to just getting into playoffs could begin to become more an afterthought as home field advantage or a first-round bye begins to become tangible. 

Just a few weeks ago, the Ravens were 2-2 and trailed late in the game against the Steelers in week five. Then out of nowhere, they pulled themselves out a hole just like the final Jackson touchdown. 

Brown, who received a game ball for his effort on Jackson’s late score, just put an exclamation point on the play that could represent the season.

“I might cut it in half and give him the other half,” Brown quipped.

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Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has a decision to make on his playing future, but he's in no rush to make it.

The 35-year-old is under contract with the Ravens through the 2020 season, but will take the next month or so to decide if he wants to continue playing or hang up the cleats.

"I'm going to take my time now," Yanda told Ravens.com regarding his future. "Done playing for the year, just take some time over the next month and basically just go with my heart and see how I feel."

The eight-time Pro Bowler was a vital piece in the NFL's best rushing attack in 2019. Yanda, the leader of the offensive line, started and played in 15 games this season for Baltimore, missing the regular-season finale as the Ravens rested multiple starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.

Following Baltimore's upset divisional playoff loss to the Titans, a visibly disappointed Yanda refused to address his future, but he was definitely thinking about it then.

But if Sunday's Pro Bowl was the last time Yanda put on the pads, he didn't treat the game or experience any differently.

"Not necessarily," Yanda said if he cherished Sunday's Pro Bowl differently. "You're not in that frame of mind. I definitely didn't think about [my retirement decision] too much today, just because it was the Pro Bowl. It's more of a relaxed game, not like a really intense game.

"I didn't have those feelings as much as the Tennessee game," he continued." Yeah, it's a possibility. But those feelings were more in the Tennessee game."

Even at age 35, Yanda remains one of the best guards in the game. He's made the NFL's second-team All-Pro squad the past two seasons and has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011, minus the 2017 season where he played just two games due to a season-ending ankle injury.

There's no debate: Baltimore would greatly benefit from Yanda returning.

"You want people that want you back," Yanda said. "You want to be playing very well when you end. Nobody wants to fade out; you want to go out strong."

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