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The Ravens, for the first time in weeks, were forced to win ugly in last-second victory

The Ravens, for the first time in weeks, were forced to win ugly in last-second victory

BALTIMORE — The Ravens found themselves in unfamiliar territory on Sunday — deadlocked in a game with second half implications that mattered to the result.

For the first time in weeks, the Ravens needed to play Lamar Jackson and the rest of the starters until the final whistle in one of the team’s most dramatic wins of the season. 

After a string of dominant wins since the bye week at the end of October, the Ravens played their first one-possession game since a home game against the Bengals on Oct. 13. 

Baltimore didn’t need a blowout win for its eighth-straight, though, as it beat San Francisco 20-17 on a last-second field goal from Justin Tucker at M&T Bank Stadium.

“These games are needed,” Michael Pierce said. “When you’re trying to go on a run and get to the playoffs, you never expect a blowout, and you need to be in those tight games to see how players respond at some point. Today was pivotal, and I think a lot of guys proved that we can step up when the time calls for it.”

And for the first time in weeks, the Ravens weren’t in control of the game from the start. 

The run defense allowed Raheem Mostert to run wild, as he finished with 174 yards on 19 carries — a 7.7-yard average. The 49ers rushed for 174 yards as a team. 

“They have a good running attack, you can see that today,” Domata Peko Sr. said. “They didn’t try to run too much up the middle, because they know we’ve got some big dudes in the middle. I feel like they got us in the first half with the edges, but I feel like in the second half, we made some adjustments and were able to shut it down for the most part.”

Jimmy Garoppolo finished 15-of-21 for 165 yards passing with a touchdown, and moved the ball well enough to keep the Ravens’ defense on its heels. 

A Garoppolo sack-fumble in the first quarter gave the Ravens a short field and later a touchdown, and a blocked 51-yard field goal from Robbie Gould prevented more 49er points. 

In short, the 49ers gifted, and left points on the field.

“This definitely makes us look at ourselves,” Brandon Williams said. “We have some things to work on and keep getting better. We can learn from this game and keep moving.”

The Ravens struggled offensively, too, as they managed just three second half points — Tucker’s last-second field goal. 

“This is the NFL, so each and every game, you’re going to go in prepared, ready for a dogfight,” Lamar Jackson said. “This one here, it was a dogfight that came down to fourth down (and a) field goal. We were ready, but at the same time, you’ve got to get ready each and every game because you don’t know what (will) happen.” 

Jackson didn’t post stellar numbers for the first time in weeks, as he finished with just 105 yards passing and 101 yards on the ground. His passing total was the lowest of the season.

He also committed his first turnover since Oct. 6 in Pittsburgh with a fumble deep in San Francisco territory. 

“I wanted to get back on the field as fast as possible,” Jackson said of his fumble. “Our defense did a great job of holding them, helping me out, helping our offensive guys out, myself more. But it was my fault, so I’m hot about that right now. If I keep the ball in my hand, you know, we’re going to score.”

San Francisco’s defense, one of the best units in the NFL, held Jackson and the normally potent Ravens offense at-bay for a majority of the game. 

Baltimore had just 283 total yards, its second-lowest total of the season. It also managed just 178 yards on the ground, the fourth-lowest of the year. 

“We don’t really know how other teams are going to game plan us,” Marshal Yanda said. “Everybody has a little bit of a different idea on how to stop us. That was definitely what they wanted to do. Give them credit, they played us tough. It was a tight possession ball game. We’re excited to get that win.”

The 49ers were aggressive in all facets on defense, routinely having defensive ends crash hard on Raven running backs and forcing Jackson to keep the ball. 

While Jackson rushed for 101 yards, which moved him 63-yards away from breaking Michael Vick’s all-time rushing record in a season for a quarterback, Jackson’s gains seemed to be by-design. 

“That’s just their scheme, that’s what they do, they’ve shown that on film,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “The quarterback-driven stuff, they’ve always sent the defensive end at the running back. We expected that, every NFL team that plays them expects that.”

But despite all the miscues and adversity, the Ravens found a way to win despite being out-gained since Oct. 20 in Seattle. Jackson was out-dueled in the passing game by Garoppolo and the turnovers broke even. 

“It hasn’t been easy,” Mark Andrews said. “There’s been a lot of tough spots. You see this game, it was a dogfight. There was multiple times it could’ve gone either way for both teams. Just being able to fight through that adversity and continue to play efficient football on all sides of the football, it was awesome to see.”

While the Ravens escaped with a three-point win against an injured 49ers team, there’s still the looming possibility of a Super Bowl rematch, no matter how far away that might seem. 

And should it come to something like that, the Ravens know these types of games are beneficial in the long run. 

“Obviously, you have to win the close ones,” Yanda said. “At the end of the year, when you play really good teams like that, you are not going to blow out a team like that. That’s part of it. You have to protect the football, score points when you can and play as a team.”

Through the Ravens’ last five games entering Sunday, they’d out-scored opponents 202-62. While those victories had come against four teams with winning records, that’s almost assuredly not going to be the case as the season winds down. 

But the Ravens, now 10-2 and firmly in the driver’s seat for a first round bye, have proven they can win games that end up on highlight reels or last-possession games in the cold rain. 

Winners of eight-straight, the Ravens just proved they don’t always have to win pretty. 

“We’ve been killing people by 20-points, 30-points, putting up 40 every game,” Peko said. “It’s not going to be like that the whole time. This was a good test for us where it’s a swing here, a swing there, but we got the last punch in and knocked them out.”

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Adam 'Pacman' Jones feuding with Joe Haden over burnt jerseys

Adam 'Pacman' Jones feuding with Joe Haden over burnt jerseys

How many, 'This is peak 2020' moments will it take for that saying to go out of style? Or has it already?

Anyway, whatever's going on with former Bengals corner Adam 'Pacman' Jones and Steelers corner Joe Haden could certainly be considered a 'Peak 2020' moment.

It all started when somebody decided to send Jones a box filled with signed Haden jerseys. Thinking Haden sent him the jerseys, Jones lit them all on fire.

In response to the video, Haden's agent Drew Rosenhaus told Pro Football Talk, "I want to clarify that Joe Haden was not involved in sending his jerseys to Adam Jones. He had no knowledge of this and was not connected to it. He had no knowledge of this and was not connected to it. Furthermore Joe has been a first class person on and off the field. We do not appreciate or condone Jones negative reaction or comments. Joe has had immaculate track record in the NFL and should not be treated this way by another member of the NFL family.”

Haden hasn't responded himself yet, so at this moment the feud remains between Jones, a box of jerseys and Rosenhaus. Sounds about right if you paid attention to Jones' playing career. 

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There is no love lost between Jones and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Honestly, you could say the same thing about the rest of the AFC North for that matter. Jones played on the Bengals from 2010-17 and worked up a reputation as a big-hitting defensive back who from time to time, delivered a few dirty hits alongside the notorious Vontaze Burfict. 

It's an incredibly odd situation between one retired player and a vet who's never played with him. Maybe more will come out of this situation, and maybe it flames out. 

One thing is for certain, though. Whoever actually sent Jones those jerseys is sweating right now. 

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Lamar Jackson ranks fifth in 2019 MVP rankings behind Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers

Lamar Jackson ranks fifth in 2019 MVP rankings behind Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers

Apparently winning NFL MVP, ranking No. 1 in the NFL’s Top 100 list and earning a spot on the cover of Madden still isn’t enough for experts around the league to believe Lamar Jackson is the best quarterback.

In Pro Football Focus’ most valuable player rankings of 2019, the Ravens’ quarterback was slotted fifth overall behind four other quarterbacks. Even after winning the league’s MVP award during the 2019 season, Jackson was selected behind Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, and Aaron Rodgers in PFF’s WAR rankings.

The WAR model stands for ‘wins above replacement,’ which factors in how well the player performed, what the player did, how important those tasks were to winning games, and how often the player did the various things he did. 

According to PFF, the model follows a series of five steps to calculate a player’s score:

  • Determine how good a given player was during a period of time (generally a season) using PFF grades.
  • Map a player’s production to a “wins” value for his team using the relative importance of each facet of play.
  • Simulate a team’s expected performance with a player of interest and with an average player participating identically in his place. Take the difference in expected wins (e.g., Wins Above Average).
  • Determine the average player with a given participation profile’s wins above replacement player, assuming a team of replacement-level players is a 3-13 team.
  • Add the terms in the last two calculations to get that player’s WAR.

Based on these calculations, PFF claims a quarterback should always be the MVP, which accounts for the list it released on Thursday. However, many would challenge which quarterbacks deserved a spot in the top five.

Jackson led the league in 2019 with an 81.8 quarterback rating. Mahomes was a close second. Prescott and Wilson ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. However, Rodgers finished down the list at 20th. 

In the NFL’s Top 100 list released at the end of July, Jackson was rated the No. 1 player in the entire league. Russell Wilson came in second. Mahomes was an underrated fourth. But Rodgers and Prescott ranked 16th and 46th, respectively. 

This is far from the first time Jackson was placed lower than expected in an individual player ranking. In early July, both Stephen A. Smith and ESPN left Lamar Jackson out of their top four quarterbacks. In June, Chris Simms ranked him fifth in his quarterback rankings.

Ultimately, while Jackson hasn’t received the complete respect he deserves around the league, he has racked up a number of impressive honors and records and will continue his search for more this fall. 

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