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Ravens have shown as much in close wins as in their blowouts

Ravens have shown as much in close wins as in their blowouts

Good teams win. 

Great teams cover. 

Elite teams win (and cover) even when they play poorly.

Any NFL team can win when they bring their “A” game, but nobody can be at their best every single week. The NFL is a league defined by its inconsistency and parity. The schedule is too grinding, and the sport is too hard to master week in and week out.

Unless you’re the Ravens, that is.

Their franchise-best 11-2 start, built around their current nine-game winning streak, has mostly seen the Ravens play near their peak level against all opponents. Lamar Jackson has looked like the MVP almost every week, and even when facing quality competition the Ravens are making winning look easy.

That hasn’t been the case the last two weeks, though. The Ravens hosted the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13 and traveled to Buffalo in Week 14. Both teams were quality opponents -- combining for a 19-4 record -- with strong defenses ranked in the top six in the NFL.

The Ravens struggled in both games, to varying degrees. They fought the rain Baltimore and the wind in Buffalo, and Lamar Jackson suffered with two of his worst passing days of the season.

The running game wasn’t utterly dominant in either game, and the defense gave up multiple chunk plays. Punter Sam Koch was on the field Sunday seven times, more than the previous five weeks combined. 

And yet, the Ravens won both games. The 49ers game came down to a last-second field goal, while the Bills game felt more in control throughout. Tight end Hayden Hurst considers these types of games hugely important.

"Coming into an environment like this, you know we have a young team," Hurst said after the game. "I think right now we're getting battle-tested. I think it's good for us."

The Ravens’ ceiling is high enough that almost no other contender can match them when they play their best. What should scare the rest of the NFL is seeing them beat two quality opponents, in tough conditions, while playing poorly.

The Ravens defense allowed the Bills to march down the field late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game. Helping Josh Allen and his offense was sloppy play from the Ravens; a whopping 56 yards of the Bills’ drive came on three penalties against the Ravens. 

Lamar Jackson completed 30-of-48 passes for just 250 yards in the last two weeks combined, and Mark Ingram has 30 rushes for 109 yards in the same span. 

The defense was able to get a stop when it mattered, something they haven't had to do much of in the last nine weeks.

"We want to be the heroes sometimes," linebacker Matthew Judon told reporters postgame. "It's usually Lamar and the offensive line, the heroes of the game...but today we were called upon."

It’s easy to throw out terms like “winning ugly” and "bend but don't break," but they apply to the Ravens of the last two weeks. Just like the prototypical defense-first Ravens teams of yesteryear, but unlike the high-octane Ravens of the last several weeks, the Ravens we saw today are a team that doesn’t mind winning ugly or playing in close games.

It says a lot about the strength of this roster that they can blow out teams like the Rams and Texans in dominating fashion. It may say even more that they can play poorly and still beat teams like the 49ers and Bills.

If the Ravens are going to make the Super Bowl this year, they’ll likely have to do it by playing closer to their A game in the postseason. But it’s comforting to see them figure out how to win in other ways too. 

They could afford to lose Sunday, but eventually they will once again play in a game they can’t afford to drop. When the time comes, they’ll enter with confidence that their Plan B can be just as effective as Plan A. 

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh hasn’t been shy on his feelings about the NFL’s coronavirus protocols. He said in June, and repeated Friday, they’re impossible to follow to a T. 

But he’s also very confident in the ability of NFL teams to create a safe and productive environment during a global pandemic. 

Harbaugh said that compared to the rest of the country, most players are safer at facilities with their teams than at their homes.

“I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now, an NBA basketball bubble,” Harbaugh said. “We’re pretty darn safe. If you want to rank them, we’re all in the top five across the country. We’re right up there with anybody. We get tested every day and we are wearing masks everywhere.”

The Ravens, by all accounts, have done well making sure their facility in Owings Mills is not only following protocols for players and coaches, but also making sure it’s as easy a transition as possible. 

Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen said last week that players are constantly being reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands and keep distance from one another.

“All you can do is the best you can do and mitigate it to a great extent,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of that so far, there are no guarantees going forward. We’ve got to stay vigilant like we’ve done.”


The Ravens have had just two players opt out of the upcoming season — wide receiver/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas and tackle Andre Smith — but it was certainly a conversation for a lot of players in the locker room. 

Most notably, defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

“I definitely considered (opting out). You have to,” Campbell said. “You can’t play football with this going on and not think about the risk you’re going to put on yourself and your family. Going through that process, I realized talking to the doctors and just setting up the protocols and other things we have to do to keep each other safe, I felt like the risks were mitigated the best we can.”

Campbell, who was acquired from the Jaguars in a trade in March, is set to turn 34-years-old on Sept. 1 and has asthma. 

The five-time Pro Bowl selection would have been one of the most notable names in the league to voluntarily opt out of the 2020 season. But with the protocols in place, he felt safer about his participation. 

One topic of discussion for the Ravens and their protocols, too, has been the option of quarantining a specific group of players to prevent a spread. 

Likely, those players would be at positions of extreme value — like quarterback — or players where backups aren’t readily available — like kicker. It just so happens that the Ravens have two of the league’s best players at those positions in Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker. 

But as Harbaugh said, each move comes with a consequence, and that includes the “safer” option of quarantining the entire league.

“For instance, if you were going to quarantine the NFL for six months, yeah, if you were a doctor, you’d say, ‘Yeah, we want the best chance to keep everyone safe and healthy,’” Harbaugh said. “That would be great, but I kind of want to see my wife at some point in time in the next six months, and she doesn’t have coronavirus. So you’ve got to live with a certain amount of risk in order to live your life. We don’t want to forfeit all these guys' lives and they’re not willing to do it.”

Which means, for now, the players at the facility have assumed a level of risk for the upcoming season.

With the Ravens’ protocols in place, however, it’s all about minimizing those risks as much as possible.

“I put a lot of thought into it on my own, too, with my own underlying issues,” Campbell said. “I’m pretty confident in my ability to follow the rules.”

Stay connected to the Ravens and Orioles with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown was hardly himself in his rookie season.

Not only did he have a Lisfranc injury in his foot that hampered his health all season long, but he also played portions of the year at less than 160 pounds. 

On the surface, his numbers didn’t take a hit. He was second on the team in targets (71), receptions (46), yards (584) and touchdowns (seven), but he had more to offer than what he showed in 14 games last season. 

This offseason, he added 20 pounds of muscle and, as he said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters, is up to 180 pounds. His foot is feeling better. And Marquise Brown is himself once again.

“I feel I got bright days ahead,” Brown said. “I feel 100 times better than I did last year. So, all I got to do now is focus on the plays, focus on the stuff that I’m supposed to focus on, instead of focusing on my feet and trying to stay healthy.”


Brown’s added weight was the product of a mindset he had about trying to allow himself to undergo the rigors of an NFL season easier than he had a year ago. 

Whenever Brown would catch a pass, he would scurry out of bounds or dive forward to could avoid a hit. While that was certainly a product of the weight he played at and his desire to protect himself, it also had to do with his injured foot, too. 

He wasn’t able to run as fast as he did at Oklahoma, and he still isn’t quite at that speed, either. 

“Sometimes, I would try to make a cut that my foot wasn’t able to make, and I would go down,” Brown said. “Or sometimes, I just know that I’m not going to be able to make that move, so I’ll go down. It was more about getting the yards that I could get, get down, get ready for a next play. It was better for me to be in the game than to be out the game.”

Brown feels better now, and not only that, his teammates have taken notice, too.

“I could tell he put on a lot of weight,” Willie Snead said. “He’s put on a good amount of weight, and you can tell he’s solid now. I know the first thing he said coming into the building is, ‘I’m trying to block somebody. I’m trying to set the tone in the run game, man.’ I could just tell by his build that he took that part seriously.”

The Ravens sent him a GPS tracker while he trained in the offseason, so that while he added the weight, he didn’t lose any of his patented speed. Brown said he’s been able to keep his speed, despite the increased weight now on his 5-foot-9 frame. 

As the team’s top wide receiver, Brown will have an increased workload in his second season not only due to his progression with quarterback Lamar Jackson, but also the Ravens’ desire to pass the football more than they did a year ago.

It's for that reason the Ravens will put a lot more weight on his shoulders this year, as expectations for the organization are sky-high entering the upcoming season.

In that regard, it’s probably a good thing Brown will be a bit bigger in 2020.

“What people fail to realize, when I was at ‘OU’, I was 173-170, so I honestly just gained about 10 pounds,” Brown said. “I actually lost weight last year. To me, I feel back to normal, sort of to say. I feel like myself.”

Stay connected to the Ravens and Orioles with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.