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Ravens News 1/2: First Class

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Miami Dolphins v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 56-19 win over the Miami Dolphins

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The most important thing the Ravens earned is three weeks’ rest

Home-field advantage is a sweet treat for the Ravens and their fans, but the far more valuable prize was a first-round bye that will afford an extra two weeks — they will have little incentive next Sunday against the Steelers — of rest and recuperation to a roster that needs it badly.

If the Ravens needed to beat Pittsburgh next weekend or win a wild-card game the weekend after, Hamilton’s knee, Stephens’ foot, Humphrey’s calf and Zeitler’s right leg would be urgent, vital concerns. Instead, they will have time to get right, as will the many battered Ravens — including Stanley, right tackle Morgan Moses, Smith and linebacker Patrick Queen — who made it to the end of Sunday’s game.

The Ravens have reason to trust in their maturity, to believe they’re more equipped to make good use of this well-earned break than they were at the end of Jackson’s first full season.

“I think the rest is a blessing, but we also need to make sure we’re using that time to make sure our fundamentals and everything we do mentally is at a high level,” Stanley said. “I think [2019] was a big learning experience for this team. Just to get to this point, that learning experience helped us to overcome so many things. We know where we still have to go, and that memory is always going to stay with us.”

Five Takeaways From The Ravens’ 56-19 Win Against The Dolphins

Bo Smolka, PressBox

Give general manager Eric DeCosta and his personnel staff a game ball.

DeCosta also selected Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers with the first pick of the draft, intent on rebuilding that position group and not scared off by the Ravens tortured history of drafting the position. Flowers has made good on that move. With his 75-yard touchdown, Flowers leads the Ravens with 77 catches for 858 yards — easily a Ravens rookie record — and five touchdowns.

Beyond that, though, the under-the-radar moves DeCosta made have made a big difference, and they were on display in this game.

With Kyle Hamilton and Brandon Stephens out, and with Marlon Humphrey sidelined during the game by a calf injury, the Ravens turned to Ronald Darby and Rock Ya-Sin, two summertime free-agent pickups for depth.

Ditto for Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney, two veteran edge rushers brought in late who have looked rejuvenated in Baltimore. Van Noy, who didn’t even play for the Ravens until Week 4, recorded his career-best eighth sack against Miami.

There was also the signing of veteran wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who had a key touchdown in the win at San Francisco last week, and the signing of undrafted rookie running back Keaton Mitchell, who gave the running game a huge spark before suffering a season-ending injury two weeks ago.

Yes, the Beckham and Jackson deals made the headlines, but many other less-heralded deals done by DeCosta, after consultation with his personnel staff, are also major reasons why the Ravens are celebrating a division title.

NFL Week 17 Highlights: Notable grades from the weekend’s games

Gordon McGuinness, PFF

QB LAMAR JACKSON, BALTIMORE RAVENS

PFF Grade: 95.0

The Ravens clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed, and Jackson almost certainly wrapped up his second MVP award in a dominant win over the Miami Dolphins. The quarterback was nearly perfect, going 18-of-21 for 321 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished the game with two big-time throws.

How Lamar Jackson’s Evolved to Win His Second MVP

Albert Breer, Sports Illustrated

You know it for what Odell Beckham Jr. did. It was at the midpoint of the second quarter, and the Ravens were down 10–7. On second-and-8 from the Miami 34, Beckham made a catch along the right sideline for a 33-yard gain that looked like the two-handed cousin of the iconic one-hander he pulled off nine years ago as a Giants rookie. The play put Baltimore at the 1-yard line and in position to take a lead it’d never give back.

What you don’t know is what happened before that snap.

“I’d seen man coverage, and I love O.B. versus anyone one-on-one—I love any one of my receivers one-on-one with anybody,” Jackson told me, calling from the tunnel inside M&T Bank Stadium. “I’d seen No. 4 [Kader Kohou] guarding him, and I just checked to a different route. O.B. just did what O.B. do—made a tremendous catch, got his feet down inbounds. It was wonderful. O.B. did all of that. I just had to give him a chance.”

Jackson was, of course, humbly passing off credit. But as our conversation continued, it became more and more clear that the play was as much a sign of a young quarterback’s growth, and his team’s undying trust in him to put that growth on the field, as it was another guy’s brilliance.

One Big Thing: The Ravens are in a class by themselves

Scott Van Pelt, ESPN

This two-week stretch is as loud a statement as anyone has made in the NFL this season. It is just the second time in the Super Bowl era a team won back-to-back games by at least 14 points over teams that entered with at least 10 wins. Tack on what they did the week before at Jacksonville and you have three consecutive wins by an aggregate 112-45 — each over teams who might all be division winners.

Over that stretch, Lamar has thrown eight TDs against one pick for 744 yards, and he’s run for 177 more yards. For the season, the Ravens are 7-1 against teams with a winning record and are plus-170 on the scoreboard in those games.

The MVP-to-be was paid this offseason at an elite level, and his performance has been commensurate with his paystub. Ultimately, Steve Bisciotti is paying all that money for a third Lombardi, not Jackson’s second MVP. They could get both, though, because the QB isn’t doing it alone. Baltimore’s defense leads the NFL in sacks, takeaways and scoring — no team since the AFL-NFL merger more than 50 years ago has done that.

The playoff stumbles undoubtedly will be brought up as the Ravens wait to join the playoff party through the bye. But it’s a wait they’ve earned with brilliant play, and it creates belief that they could roll right to Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII.