A New Wave of Excitement

Street Talk A New Wave of Excitement

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The buzz is back.

You know there’s excitement in the air when people wear Ravens jerseys to Sunday mass.

There was reason to celebrate after the Ravens pulled off the biggest victory of their season, knocking off the Chargers 22-10 in Week 16. Los Angeles entered the game riding a five-game winning streak and had an opportunity to boost their chances for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The “Baltimore Bullies” ended that momentum.  

The win tightened the Ravens’ grip on the sixth and final playoff spot and also put them in position to perhaps win the AFC North.

It’s a startling turnaround for a team that endured a three-game losing streak midseason that raised questions about the future of the franchise.

While the Ravens have endured ups and downs, the performance Saturday night in Carson City, California, put the rest of the AFC on notice. 

If the Ravens play stellar defense and can control the flow of the game on offense, they will simply be tough to beat.

“We feel like we need to win, that’s it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We feel like we need to win and that’s been our thing: Just win. Just win baby. I think a well-revered football man said that. So that’s where we are.”

The Ravens’ recent resurgence also answered questions about the direction of the franchise.

Just over 24 hours before playing the Chargers, the team announced that Harbaugh will coach the team next year and that the front office was looking to extend his contract. 

The news was met with mixed emotions by some fans. However, Harbaugh is a top-tier coach and the Ravens are confident he is the most logical choice to oversee the new era of the franchise. 

Much of the new-look Ravens will revolve around rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who improved to 5-1 as a starter and was the catalyst for the turnaround this season.

Jackson also has detractors but he has clearly gotten better each week.

When the Chargers took the lead less than two minutes into the third quarter on 1-yard touchdown by Melvin Gordon, Jackson immediately responded. He hit fellow rookie Mark Andrews in stride for a 67-yard touchdown and the Ravens never trailed again.

Opposing defenses could be in big trouble if Jackson finds more consistency with the passing game. He has already created mismatches with his ability to run.

“I think you learn something about Lamar or any player all the time,” Harbaugh said. “He’s your quarterback and we are learning about them all the time. There are a thousand things more for him to learn and there will be a thousand things after that for him to learn and for us to learn.

“It’ll always be an evolution and a growth. To your point, we are learning that it’s never too big for him. He came off the sideline on the rollout pass and the reason he didn’t throw it away, which you normally would in that situation, was that he was thinking about the clock. That is a veteran move right there. That’s pretty impressive,” he said.

Now, the Ravens cannot afford a letdown against the resurgent Browns in the regular-season finale. The franchise has won back many fans with their outreach and performance this season. They have to maintain that momentum and perhaps land a home playoff game. 

One thing is certain: the coaches and players won’t be looking past the Browns. That 12-9 overtime loss in Cleveland earlier this season still resonates with the team. 
“We have the Browns coming up, so we have to focus on that,” Harbaugh said. “We can have a team celebration tonight, but then we have to get ready for the Browns.”

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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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