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Ravens MVP of the week: Don “Wink” Martindale

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens made a statement in Week 7 with their 30-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks. While the story of the game was the performance and leadership from quarterback Lamar Jackson, the play of the defense should not be overlooked. The recent moves made on defense by general manager Eric DeCosta were on full display last Sunday. Since one player did not particularly stand apart on defense, the MVP of the week will go to defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale.

The defense faced one of it’s toughest challenges of the season against quarterback Russell Wilson. As the front-runner for the MVP award coming into the game, Wilson had yet to throw an interception while throwing for 14 touchdowns. Baltimore’s defense forced Wilson into his worst game of the season, completing only 20 of 41 passes for 241 yards, one touchdown and an interception with a quarterback rating of 65.2.

After finishing first in total defense for the 2018 season, Martindale’s unit failed to carry over the success into the start of this season. The losses of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in free agency proved to be costly early on. After embarrassing defensive performances in back-to-back losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, DeCosta decided to rebuild on the fly.

The Ravens reunited with veteran inside linebacker Josh Bynes after being out of football for nearly a year. Bynes instantly stabilized the play of the inside linebacker position with savvy and leadership. Baltimore also signed linebacker L.J. Fort and defensive end Jihad Ward. The biggest acquisition came via trade, however, when the Ravens received two-time All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams.

All four players had a hand in the Ravens best defensive performance of the season last Sunday, particularly Peters and Fort. Labelled as a gambler, Peters is known for forcing turnovers at the risk of giving up big plays. His playmaking ability immediately flashed in his first game for Baltimore. With the Ravens trailing 10-6 in the second quarter, Peters baited Wilson into his first interception of the season, which he was able to return for a 67-yard touchdown to give Baltimore their first lead of the day.

Fort made several impressive stops throughout the game, including a sack on Russell Wilson after he escaped the pocket. Fort displayed good awareness and play diagnosis on Sunday while flying around the field to make six total tackles.

Following an 86-yard drive on offense that lasted nine minutes and ended in a field goal to extend the lead to 23-13 for the Ravens, the defense put the game away with a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey recovered the fumble by rookie wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and returned it for the score.

The ability to rebuild the defense on the fly by DeCosta and Martindale has been nothing short of remarkable. Whether the defense can continue to get better remains unseen, but they will have another big test against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football in two weeks when they return from their bye week.