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Ravens' offense bounces back in huge road win against Raiders

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Ravens' offense bounces back in huge road win against Raiders

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mike Wallace got excited as soon as he saw the script, knowing he'd have an early chance to deliver the big passing play that has been missing too often this season for Baltimore.

Wallace caught a tone-setting 52-yard pass from Joe Flacco on the first play from scrimmage to set up an early touchdown for the Ravens, and Jimmy Smith added a fumble return for a score on the next drive that helped fuel Baltimore's 30-17 victory over the short-handed Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

"I just knew last night when I saw this play call, if we get this play I knew it would be on me to start the game off," Wallace said. "It was going to be a snowball effect. I just had thoughts like that last night. Then we came out and caught them on the first play. Wish I would have scored."

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That pass set up tight end Vince Mayle's 2-yard touchdown run on an end-around and the Ravens (3-2) got going after being held scoreless in losses the past two weeks.

Flacco had struggled to get the ball downfield against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, averaging less than 4 yards an attempt those games. But the early deep ball to Wallace helped open things up and the two connected later on a 54-yard pass and a 27-yarder, equaling the team's season total of 20-yard pass plays in the previous four weeks.

"It definitely feels good to let the ball go down the field and let Mike go get one," Flacco said. "You can see it on his face, when he starts getting involved, how much he gets revved up and how much it helps our offense."

The Raiders (2-3), playing without injured star quarterback Derek Carr and two key cornerbacks, played from behind all game as Smith returned Jared Cook's fumble 47 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-0 just 3:50 in.

Backup quarterback E.J. Manuel , making his fourth start in the past three seasons, threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree and led another TD drive that ended in Marshawn Lynch's 3-yard run . He finished 13 for 26 for 159 yards.

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But that wasn't nearly enough for the Raiders, who have dropped three straight following a 2-0 start, putting a severe dent in their hopes to challenge in the AFC West.

"It's a big shock to start the season off this way," running back Jalen Richard said. "I don't even know what to say. It's like a bad shock. We just keep getting whooped. It's just going to come down to when (are) we going to get tired of getting whooped."

The Ravens had also lost two in a row following a 2-0 start, but reversed that slide thanks to Flacco and the opportunistic defense. Flacco completed 19 of 26 passes for 222 yards.

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Former Ravens Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg denies wanting to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver

Former Ravens Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg denies wanting to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver

According to a report from former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi, former Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg wanted to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver. 

Mornhinweg, and the Ravens, claim that’s not true. 

Tuesday morning, Mornhinweg and the Ravens released a statement that claims the conversation Lombardi reported never happened. 

“That didn’t happen,” Mornhinweg responded, according to the release. “Never said that. My thoughts before the draft, and even more when we started working with Lamar, was that this young man was going to be a special quarterback. Very early we saw that along with all of his throwing and escape abilities, he reads the field as well as any young quarterback I ever worked with.”

Mornhinweg, who was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator for three years and with the organization for four, left the organization after last season ended.

The original report from Lombardi, which was on the GM Shuffle podcasts that he hosts, stated that Mornhinweg wanted to move Jackson to wide receiver. 

“Here’s what happened,” Lombardi began. “The first time he (Lamar Jackson) comes in, Marty Mornhinweg — remember, we’re building the team around him — Marty says to the coaches, this is fact, ‘When are we gonna move him to receiver?’”

Lombardi was a scout for the 49ers and Browns before working for the Eagles, Raiders, Browns (for a second time) and the Patriots. He was the general manager and VP of the Browns in 2013-14. He currently works for The Athletic.

“Organizationally, we were on the same page with Lamar, and I thought Ozzie (Newsome) and Eric (DeCosta) did a great job to take him where we did,” coach John Harbaugh added in the release. “Marty was excited from the beginning to coach Lamar and was instrumental in helping him progress through his rookie season.”

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Ravens don't have to worry about Rob Gronkowski returning for the NFL Playoffs

Ravens don't have to worry about Rob Gronkowski returning for the NFL Playoffs

Sitting atop the AFC North and East divisions at 8-2 and 9-1 respectively, the Ravens and Patriots could face each other again in January for either the divisional round or AFC championship.

One thing is for sure -- even if Baltimore has to face the Patriots in Foxborough, the Ravens will not have to worry about crafting a game plan for retired tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The five-time Pro Bowl receiver is guaranteed to be in Miami for Super Bowl LIV, but not to play football -- instead, throwing a party off the field that he calls Gronk Beach.

Gronk told ESPN that a return to playing for the NFL is "always an option in the back of my head. It's not like I'm not staying in shape and not doing anything."

"I wouldn't say 'never coming back,'" Gronk told ESPN after announcing his Gronk Beach festival, that includes performances by Diplo, Kaskade, Rick Ross and Flo Rida. "I'm feeling good, but you know, one year off could possibly be the case. Or maybe two years off, man."

Baltimore already bloodied New England 37-20, handing the Pats their first and only loss of the season thus far when they visited M&T Bank Stadium in Week 9, but both teams should almost certainly anticipate a postseason meeting. Arguably the greatest tight end in league history, Gronk knows his team could use his talents again.

"With the offense, they're finding ways to make it work like they've always done, putting guys in the right situation to make plays," Gronkowski told ESPN about watching the Patriots games closely this season. "But man, they're missing some guy who is 6-6, 260 [pounds]," referencing himself.

Baltimore, you're in the clear this year. But that's all Gronk can guarantee.

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