The Ravens Took Over the NFL… Their Way

“It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect, but it was us.” These words versed by John Harbaugh embody this 2018 Baltimore Ravens squad. All year long, this unit has had me on the edge of my seat with my heart racing, but in the back-half of the season, they have found a way to get the job done each and every time.

Despite losing a memorable thriller at Kansas City in overtime, the Baltimore Ravens have been virtually unstoppable in their “ground and pound” rush-based  attack and hard-nosed defensive mindset. Though the Ravens personnel seems to have given a lot more effort when the fate of their coach, John Harbaugh, was in their very hands; it should be noted that coaching played a major role in Baltimore finding a way to the playoffs, but perhaps their success can be attributed to a win-at-all-costs mentality.

After losing a pivotal game at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens went into their bye at 4-5 and looked dead in the water after underachieving in the first half of the regular season, yet again. It was after the bye, and a Joe Flacco hip injury, that Harbaugh declared 32nd overall pick of the 2018 draft, Lamar Jackson, would start for Baltimore against Cincinnati in Week 11.

Since Harbaugh made the quarterback switch, the Ravens rushing attack has been rejuvenated and the offense’s time of possession skyrocketed. This increase is not only helping the offense, but it helps the defense stay fresh on the sideline and keeps the opposing offense on the sideline waiting their turn while the opposing defense uses up fuel.

The decision to roll with rookie Lamar Jackson over incumbent and healthy starter Joe Flacco had to be a tough one for Harbaugh, who was a rookie head coach the same year as Flacco’s first season in the league. The two go way back, but with the best interests of the team in mind, Flacco knew his time was ticking in Baltimore. Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg & Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale should also receive a lot more credit for the job they have done to revitalize this team into a two-way monster that no team is looking forward to facing.

With an upcoming rematch against the Los Angeles Chargers looming next Sunday, Lamar Jackson will become the youngest QB to ever play in a playoff game. I genuinely believe Jackson can cement himself as a lethal dual-threat weapon on Sunday if he can notch his first playoff win under his belt against a staunch, proven LA Chargers team.

Unfortunately for Baltimore, the Chargers are one of the few teams in the playoffs that the Ravens have already faced, and therefore will have an altered gameplan on defense to attempt to contain the three-headed monster known as Jackson-Edwards-Dixon.

The old saying goes “defense wins championships,” and with this Ravens squad, that tradition rings true. Starting off the season without starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who served a four-game suspension for PED use, the Ravens were forced to turn to veteran Brandon Carr and young Marlon Humphrey.

Results were fruitful, but Jimmy Smith did not seem in football shape until the last half of the season. Terrell Suggs turned back the clock once again having a career year, while Za’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley are playing for the new respective contracts.

This 2018 team is eerily similar to the 2000 squad that won Trent Dilfer a Super Bowl ring on the shoulders of a legendary defense that included Baltimore legends such as Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Rod Woodson, and Chris McCallister. Only time will tell if history may repeat itself.

-Ben Grebe

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