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Twelve Ravens Thoughts following Week 17 win over Miami

With the Ravens clinching the AFC North division championship and the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2019 with a 56-19 blowout victory over Miami on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Lamar Jackson ended the NFL MVP debate with one of the most brilliant performances of his career. The only game I’d definitely put ahead of it was his career-high 442 passing yards, 62 rushing yards, and four touchdowns to erase a 19-point deficit against Indianapolis in 2021. He was sensational.

2. Limiting the Dolphins to 19 points while Marlon Humphrey, Kyle Hamilton, and Brandon Stephens played a combined 13 snaps is a testament to the secondary depth and Mike Macdonald, whose star rises by the week. Yes, Jaylen Waddle was out, but Miami scored 70 without him back in Week 3. 

3. Justice Hill had the second-most rushing yards, the most catches and receiving yards, and the longest kick return of his career. His effort to convert third-and-16 on what was shaping up to be a frustrating first drive was Ray Rice-esque and set the tone for a tremendous team-wide performance.

4. Not only did Roquan Smith make one of the most impressive interceptions you’ll see from a defender at any position, but he tipped the Tua Tagovailoa pass intercepted by Geno Stone. The defense did a fine job tightening up its middle-of-the-field coverage as the game progressed. 

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5. Though John Harbaugh has been more conservative than in recent seasons, forgoing a Justin Tucker field goal try to go for a fourth-and-7 from the Miami 35 was right out of the 2019 script. With the way this offense is cooking, watch out for more aggressiveness like that.  

6. Over the last five games, Isaiah Likely is averaging 3.8 catches, 58.2 yards, and 0.8 touchdowns per contest. In the nine games in which he was healthy, Mark Andrews averaged 4.8 receptions, 57.9 yards, and 0.7 touchdowns. You couldn’t ask for a better understudy, especially one making highlight touchdown catches.

7. I’ve seen a quarterback under duress throw a pass with his non-dominant arm, but Jackson dropping back like a lefty before flipping his hips to hit a wide-open Zay Flowers for a 75-yard touchdown was a first. Even the Harlem Globetrotters had to be impressed with that one. 

8. Arthur Maulet finished with Pro Football Focus’ top grade among Ravens defensive players. Especially with the angst over Hamilton’s absence, Maulet did fine work at the nickel with five tackles (one for a loss) and a pass breakup. 

9. Though Ben Cleveland did receive some help in pass protection along the way, Harbaugh called his performance “one of the great stories” of the game and praised his improvement in practice this season. He filled in admirably for Kevin Zeitler, who struggled getting through a pregame workout before being deactivated.

10. Taking into account game situation and Baltimore’s emphasis on limiting big plays, the run defense is better than it looks statistically. Still, allowing 5.2 yards per carry over the last seven games is unsettling when pondering potentially being in a tight game with a team like Buffalo later this month.  

11. While the Dolphins own just one win against a team currently above .500, Baltimore improved to 7-3 against winning teams, a mark that doesn’t even include going 3-0 against current 8-8 teams. The Ravens have never had a December more impressive than this one. 

12. Any argument for playing Jackson even a little bit in Week 18 went out the window watching Pro Bowl edge rusher Bradley Chubb tear his ACL with just over three minutes to play. You can’t quantify the rust factor, but I absolutely know what would ruin Baltimore’s Super Bowl hopes. 

— John Harbaugh on lessons learned from 2019 postseason
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