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Ravens News 12/27: Locked In

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens dominate 49ers with physicality and playmaking, send message to rest of NFL

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

Against three first-place squads this year, the 49ers, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens won by a 94-32 margin. That doesn’t include a 37-3 beatdown of the Seattle Seahawks, who entered the Week 9 game in Baltimore in first place in the NFC West.

“I believe we play better under pressure,” said Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over against a San Francisco defense that hunts takeaways. “We keep our poise. We stay locked in no matter how the game may seem, no matter what the crowd noise is, no matter how hard the defense is hitting us, because that defense was flying around. I have to give credit where credit is due, but we just stay locked in. I don’t think anybody plays like us. We just need to keep playing that way, keep playing the Raven way.”

The Ravens have earned their way into the position they’re in. They earned it by winning nine of their past 10 games after a Week 5 loss to the Steelers showed some vulnerabilities. They earned it by winning three games on the West Coast and another one in London. And they earned it by outplaying a very good 49ers team on their home field.

Lamar Jackson is the MVP favorite again — but he’s a much different player this time

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

The comparisons to 2019 are inevitable. Another win will only hammer home the similarities: a star quarterback, a versatile offense, a frightening defense, an elite special teams unit. The Jackson who leads these Ravens is not altogether too different from the Jackson who led those Ravens, either. He still collects slights like matches, ready to light the fires that fuel him. He still runs like almost no other quarterback — just ask 49ers All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner — and still gets off throws like almost no other quarterback.

But this offense does not need a Houdini. It needs Jackson to buy enough time in the pocket to give running back Gus Edwards the angle for a 39-yard catch-and-run out of the backfield. It needs Jackson to have the patience to wait for wide receiver Nelson Agholor to shake free in the front of the end zone for an easy score. It needs Jackson to take what’s given to him and to take over when he needs to.

Five things we learned from the the Ravens’ 33-19 win over the San Francisco 49ers

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Fans feared a catastrophic evening for the Ravens’ offensive line; it was anything but that

Panicked would be a fair adjective to describe the tone of social media discourse around tackles Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses after the Ravens’ win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Stanley could not impede Jacksonville’s quick, powerful edge rusher Josh Allen as he struggled to plant on his injured right knee. Moses played only about half the time as he did his best to compete with one healthy arm.

If that was the picture against Jacksonville, fans worried Jackson might be in mortal danger against the 49ers, with Nick Bosa closing in from one edge, Chase Young closing from the other and Javon Hargrave pushing up the middle.

What seemed a leading subplot going into the game turned out to be a minor one, however. Bosa and Hargrave did manage multiple pressures, and Young shared a sack with Randy Gregory, but they never kept Jackson from playing his game.

Which means Stanley and Moses deserve credit for holding up better than expected, and Ravens coaches deserve credit for the tackle rotation they’ve implemented over the last three games.

NFL Week 16 Highlights: Notable grades from the weekend’s games

Gordon McGuinness, PFF

S KYLE HAMILTON, BALTIMORE RAVENS

PFF Grade: 91.5

The Ravens’ Swiss Army knife defensive back was once again one of the best players on the field in the team’s win over the San Francisco 49ers on the road on Monday Night Football. Hamilton allowed three receptions for 12 yards on six throws into his primary coverage and recorded two interceptions, a pass breakup and a tackle resulting in a defensive stop.

The Hot Read, Week 16: How the Ravens Stopped the 49ers

Ben Solak, The Ringer

While Purdy looked nothing like he had all season, Baltimore looked everything like it had. The Ravens found ways to generate free rushers from the second level for much of the (meaningful) game, but never by dedicating more than five bodies to the rush. Those rushers created chaos—checkdowns, hurried throws, batted balls. When the Ravens didn’t bring pressure, they overlapped zones, exchanged routes, and tackled in space like none other. And they won at the line of scrimmage—both in the trenches and against routes—with big, physical play. Jadeveon Clowney and Justin Madubuike hardly lost a rep up front. Marlon Humphrey played like it was 2019. Hamilton and Roquan Smith stamped their All-Pro résumés. It was a night for stars.

I’m not sure any other defense is equipped to do this. Nobody plays smarter, more cohesive defensive football in the league than the 11 Ravens on the field, who were coordinated by second-year defensive play caller Mike MacDonald (whom I consider the premier head-coaching candidate in this cycle). Heck, I’m not even sure the Ravens are equipped to do this again—they ran lucky, as all teams with five takeaways do.

But I saw something on Monday night that I wasn’t sure I’d see again this season: Purdy and the Niners, stopped. Hats off to Baltimore, the best team in football.