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Ravens News 12/19: Ground and Pound

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Syndication: Florida Times-Union Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ravens use ground-and-pound mentality to run over Jaguars and clinch playoff berth

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

The Ravens’ lead, which felt tenuous for much of the first three quarters, was just 10-7 after a rare coverage bust by the Baltimore secondary resulted in a Trevor Lawrence 65-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Agnew. That’s precisely when the league’s best running team committed to its downhill rushing attack.

On the next five plays, the Ravens ran the football. They never stopped running it until they had pounded the Jaguars into submission. Baltimore rattled off the game’s final 13 points and scored on all three of its full fourth-quarter drives by relying on its trio of running backs and multi-dimensional quarterback.

“I know a lot of teams struggle to run the ball against them, so it was a big challenge for us,” said Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard. “Lamar was running really hard. All of our backs were running really hard. Great ball security. That was a team that thrives on turnovers. Just really proud of our guys, especially on the road, on a silent cadence. I think we did a really good job.”

Ravens show off difference between contender and pretender with win in Jacksonville

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

Registering only one sack and allowing 5.5 yards per play a week after surrendering a season-worst 5.6 per play to the Los Angeles Rams last week, the defense may not have dominated to its typical degree statistically, but a single touchdown allowed reflects very little breaking despite some bending. Two missed field goals and quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s mind-numbing miscues at the end of the first half definitely helped, but Mike Macdonald’s unit forcing three straight Jacksonville three-and-outs after Jamal Agnew’s 65-yard touchdown catch midway through the third quarter put Baltimore in position to lean into the running game — which accounted for 204 yards after intermission — to pull away late. The defense certainly atoned for last year’s late-game meltdown in Jacksonville.

The Ravens were the better team with the superior quarterback, allowing them to move to 11-3 and remain a game ahead of Miami for the AFC’s top spot.

Five Takeaways From The Ravens’ 23-7 Win Against The Jaguars

Bo Smolka, PressBox

The Ravens need more from their tackles for a deep postseason run.

Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and right tackle Morgan Moses (shoulder) have been dealing with injuries all season, and Stanley left this game to be evaluated for a concussion as well. But the Ravens’ inability to find much rhythm offensively was in large part due to the Jaguars decisively and repeatedly winning on the edge.

The Jaguars finished with three sacks and nine quarterback hits, and that sack total doesn’t include an intentional grounding call when Lamar Jackson threw the ball away with Josh Allen bearing down on his blind side. Allen had blown past Stanley, and earlier in that series he had beaten Stanley to stuff Keaton Mitchell after a 1-yard gain.

As they did last week, the Ravens shuffled in reserves Patrick Mekari on the left side and Daniel Faalele on the right to give both the ailing veterans some plays off.

Jackson finished this game with modest numbers, going 14-for-24 for 171 yards. He rarely had a clean pocket, and some of his biggest plays came when he improvised or pulled a typical Jackson, Houdini-like escape to either run or throw.

But for the Ravens’ offense to operate in rhythm, the top tackles need to be better when they face one good edge rush after another in the postseason.

Injured Ravens RB Keaton Mitchell will be missed in more ways than one

Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun

Of course, the Ravens will repeat the often-used NFL mantra of “next man up,” but they don’t have a player on the roster — aside from Jackson — who can deliver the same big-play explosion as Mitchell.

In the NFL it’s called “sudden change,” a player who can deliver a play that can shift the momentum and the course of a game. That was Mitchell for Baltimore.

Not since Priest Holmes from 1997 to 2000 have the Ravens had a running back as explosive as Mitchell. Jamal Lewis was a power back and Ray Rice was a good all-purpose performer, but Mitchell had that extra gear that gave the running game another dimension.

Very seldom in the NFL do you see a runner who is fast enough to reverse field and still able to turn the corner, but Mitchell did that Sunday night, picking up 24 yards late in the third quarter.

Guys like Mitchell become a part of the fabric of a team. He was on the verge of becoming a success story, having rushed for 323 yards on 38 carries in his first seven games before adding nine carries Sunday night for 73 yards, 70 of which came in the second half. He was galloping on a 13-yard run when he was tripped up and injured his knee early in the fourth.

The Ravens secured a playoff berth. Now comes the NFL’s Game of the Year.

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

The Ravens are here, on the precipice of next week’s battle royale in Santa Clara, because they can win fighting just about any style. A week ago, Jackson lit up the Los Angeles Rams for 316 passing yards and three touchdowns. On Sunday, the Ravens rushed for 251 yards (6 per carry) against one of the NFL’s stingiest fronts. The Ravens’ pass defense is one of the league’s best. Their run defense again tightened the screws after a shaky start. Their special teams just won them a game in overtime.

From here, it only gets harder. From here, it only gets more rewarding. The Ravens have battled through injuries and inclement weather, through bad bounces and worse collapses, and their prize is an 11-3 record and a daunting holiday slate. First up, the 11-3 49ers, who ranked No. 1 in the NFL in overall efficiency, according to FTN, even before Brock Purdy and Co. pummeled the Arizona Cardinals 45-29. After that, on New Year’s Eve, a home game against the 10-4 Miami Dolphins, the Ravens’ closest competition in the AFC, who just blanked the New York Jets 30-0, without wide receiver Tyreek Hill.