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What you need to know from the Ravens' 36-21 loss to the Panthers

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USA TODAY Sports

What you need to know from the Ravens' 36-21 loss to the Panthers

The Baltimore Ravens entered Week 8 as the No. 1 scoring and No. 1 overall yards-per-game defense in the league. But If you happened to watch Week 8 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, you would have never believed that.

The Ravens' opening drive was the highlight of the 60 minutes. After that, there wasn't much too write home about as the defense couldn't stop Cam Newton and a banged up offensive line never got its footing.

Here's what you need to know from the 36-21 loss. 

— Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's creativity was put on display in the Ravens' opening drive. While it wasn't perfect, it was different. Ultimately the 11-play, 75-yard drive displayed both Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson running for 13 and 17 yards respectively before Alex Collins dodged several Panthers defenders on his way to a 14-yard touchdown.

Oh, and Justin Tucker nailed the extra point. 

— With that creativity came a lot of poorly executed gadget plays. On a third-and-1 with Jackson under center, the QB ran to his right then attempted a pass to a wide-open Willie Snead. What could have been a huge third-down conversion fell short solely because of a bad throw. That play was followed up by a successful fake punt that was overturned due to an illegal formation penalty. The good field position given to the Panthers after the call resulted in a Christian McCaffrey touchdown to tie the game at seven.

— Running back Alex Collins had his third fumble in eight games. That fumble resulted in a touchdown as well. While the Ravens have typically benched Collins after fumbling, their leading rusher was right back on the field their next drive. He was a vital piece of their late third-quarter touchdown and finished the day with 11 rushing attempts for 49 yards and one touchdown.

— Former Maryland Terrapin wide receiver D.J. Moore gave the Ravens defense trouble all day long. The first-round draft pick finished the day 5-of-6 for 90 yards in addition to 39 rushing yards. 

— The troubles for the Ravens defense didn't stop there. With the Panthers threatening in the red zone, safety Eric Weddle deflected Cam Newton's pass intended for Devin Funchess, but McCaffrey was right there ready to make the diving catch in the end zone to put the Panthers up 21-7. The Ravens' No.1 overall defense gave up 21-points in the first half alone after entering Week 8 allowing just 14.4 points-per-game. 

— The Ravens ended the first half in embarrassing fashion. With five seconds on the clock, backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke found Greg Olsen all alone on the left side of the field for a 13-yard gain before running out of bounds. That set up a 54-yard field goal from Graham Gano with two seconds left in the half and the Panthers went into the locker room at halftime up 24-7.

— The defense was unable to lock up Cam Newton for the entire 60 minutes after Eric Weddle described him as a "fast dinosaur" earlier in the week. Newton finished the day 21-of-29 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He added 52 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown as well.

— A bright spot late in the game was Jackson's 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Hurst. The Ravens' two first-round draft picks provided a glimpse into the future as that was Jackson's first touchdown pass and Hurst's first touchdown catch.

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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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