Are the New-Look Ravens Sustainable?

Street Talk Are the New-Look Ravens Sustainable?

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The Ravens have been able to put together their longest winning streak of the season by dominating time of possession with a revamped running game and an opportunistic defense that has made key plays late in games.

Despite the recent success, there are critics who say this type of strategy is not sustainable.

The bottom line is the Ravens are winning.

The question now is how long will the coach John Harbaugh ride this recent blueprint for success?

Rookie Lamar Jackson has led the Ravens to three straight victories in place of the injured Joe Flacco, who still has not been cleared by doctors to play in a game. Robert Griffin III saw his first action against the Falcons in Week 13 and showed he could move the offense. 

The Ravens, however, face their biggest test of the season Week 14 against the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs, who lead the NFL with 37 points per game. Harbaugh has not tipped his hand about who will start that game if Flacco is healthy enough to play.

“There is no quarterback controversy. Not inside. We’re rock solid,” Harbaugh said. “We are blessed with these quarterbacks. One of the guys on the sideline said ‘I can’t believe your quarterback situation. You have one of the best quarterback situations.’ I have to say I believe that. We have three genuine winning quarterbacks that can do it for us.

“There will be no controversy. Our guys want to win. They know our guys want to win. Whatever way we decide to go will only to make our team the strongest it can be. Maybe we play all three. Maybe we play one. We’ll figure it out.”

Jackson is still developing as a pocket passer, but he is able to offset that weakness by making plays with his feet. Fellow rookie Gus Edwards is a downhill runner that is perfectly built for the Ravens offense, which is averaging 129.2 yards rushing per game.

Harbaugh admitted that the coaches are still seeing this new type of run-oriented offense coming together. It’s catching some of the opposing teams off-balance and is comparable to Navy running the triple-option under coach Ken Niumatalolo.

 “It’s tough when you see something for the first time,” Harbaugh said. “You can go back to the old Air Force offense, or what Navy does down there with Ken. When a team sees that for the first time and doesn’t have a chance to work on it all throughout the year, it’s going to be challenging for them, of course, and all of the coaches in the last three weeks have said that. So yes, I do think that’s a plus.”

The Ravens face their biggest challenge of the season at Kansas City. Harbaugh certainly does not want to get into a shootout with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown for 3,923 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

As a result, the ball-control offense could be vital once again. However, Harbaugh acknowledged the offense needs to be more explosive this week. 

“We need some big plays. I think we had one play over 20 yards [Sunday],” Harbaugh said. “That’s an area that we’re working on very hard. We had some things set up. Sometimes, they just happen on normal plays, you know, a normal run will pop. I think it’s a disappointment, but it’s also a credit. We rushed for over 200 yards without a big run.

“I think Denver hit a 60-some-yard run; that kind of got their numbers up. That happens, too, but we also try to scheme some big pass plays that we just haven’t connected on. We’re going to connect on those. That has to happen and will happen. That’s something that’s very important,” he said. 

The Ravens have the league’s No. 1 overall defense. This unit has been able to convert a pair of turnovers into touchdowns the last two weeks. The players said they have been fresh at the end of the game because the offense has kept them off the field.

This could be an improbable key to victory against the Chiefs, who are 6.5-point favorites.

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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