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Built to Endure

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Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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The Ravens have the best record in the AFC and they appear to be getting better each week.

With a dominant 34-6 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6, the Ravens improved to 5-1 and have taken control of the AFC North.

The Ravens have their first divisional game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. 

“The whole team is one of the best teams in the National Football League right now,” coach John Harbaugh said about Cincinnati. There’s no question about it – just watch them play. They’ve done a great job across the board. In terms of how they’re playing this year, that’s all we look at.”

After a season-opening overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore has taken down the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, and Chargers. 

They’ve managed to overcome a slew of injuries with 15 players on IR, including left tackle Ronnie Stanley who announced Tuesday he was undergoing ankle surgery.

Baltimore is able to completely dominate opponents when it plays well on both sides of the ball. 

However, the Ravens like their role as underdogs, and would rather not be known as the team to beat in the AFC. 

“We don’t want that name,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “We’re good with where we’re at. We don’t need all that extra stuff coming with us. We’re fine. You know what people have been saying about us? Keep the same view – because we know what we’ve got going on over here in this organization.” 

The Ravens offense is ranked fourth in the NFL, averaging 421.7 yards per game. 

Jackson has been dominant and surpassed Hall of Famer Dan Marino by becoming the youngest quarterback in league history to reach 35 career victories. Jackson, who turns 25 in January, is 35-8 as a starter, producing the NFL’s most wins by a quarterback since he became a starter in Week 11 of 2018.

Jackson has thrown at least one touchdown in 13 straight games, tying Vinny Testaverde (1996-97) for the second-longest streak in team history. Jackson holds the franchise record with 15 straight games from 2019-20.

“If we break a record, it happens. But we want something else,” Jackson said, referring to a Super Bowl victory. 

Los Angeles had the league’s worst run defense and the Ravens exploited this weakness. Baltimore pounded the ball up the middle and found space to run outside, finishing with 187 yards on 38 carries

“We want to be able to attack people in different ways,” Harbaugh said. “Believe me, there are plenty of things we can work on in all three phases, offensively included. So, we have to keep working on all of those things.” 

The Ravens defense has been uneven, but they had perhaps their most dominant performance against the Chargers, who finished with 208 total yards and were 3-for-12 on third down.

Baltimore kept quarterback Justin Herbert off-balance and did a solid job tackling. Herbert was 22 of 39 for 195 yards with a touchdown and interception. The Chargers managed just 26 yards on the ground.

Safety DeShon Elliott missed the past two games with a quad injury, but he came back with a vengeance. He had three tackles, one sack, two quarterback hits, two passes defensed, and an interception. His presence is a huge boost to the secondary. 

“We have a great team – offensively and defensively,” Elliott said. “When we play together, when we play as a band of brothers, we can be a very great team. Because that team over there is a great team – a great offense, great defense.”

Linebacker Josh Bynes is on his third stint with the Ravens and he appreciates the winning culture after a couple of stops elsewhere. The continuity has been key and it starts with the owner and works its way down.

“I can go on and on about it, but just as far as the work ethic, what it takes to really buy in with each other,” Bynes said. “When you’re out there on the field, and you’re battle-tested and really know how to stick side by side. As you’ve seen throughout the first six games, we’ve been battle-tested, we’ve been down, but this team knows how to stay together. 

“Even the year we won the Super Bowl (2012), we started off 9-2, and we had a tough time, [losing] four-of-five. The last four out of five games, I think we [lost] that year, and of course, people were talking about us then. Even two years ago (2019) when I came back, we were 2-2, but I felt like we were 0-4 – the way everybody else made it seem – and I said it then – I was like, ‘This team is different.’ We were going to pull through when we needed to pull through, and then we went from 2-2 to win 12 straight games. So, this team is just built differently.”

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