It's Hard to Decide Which Ravens Stat or Record Is Most Impressive
You know a team has had a special season when the following question is posed: Which of the team's statistics or records stands out the most? Moreover, you know it's been a really special season when there are so many to choose from.
The Baltimore Sun's NFL staff tackled the subject after the Ravens' historic 14-2 regular season, as the AFC's top-seeded team prepares to host a divisional playoff game on Jan. 11 against either the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans.
A run-heavy offense that lived up to its preseason billing as being revolutionary seems like a good place to start when picking the most impressive stat.
"The [NFL] single-season team rushing record," editor Jen Badie wrote. "It took 41 years for that record to fall and goes to show how unusual the Ravens' high-powered offense has been this season."
The Ravens' 3,296 yards on the ground was 131 yards more than the 1978 New England Patriots, who set the record during an era when running the football was much more prevalent.
Obviously, Lamar Jackson played a huge role in that record falling, as the likely league MVP led the team with 1,206 rushing yards, shattering Michael Vick's single-season mark for rushing yards by a quarterback despite not playing in the regular-season finale.
What Jackson accomplished with his arm was just as impressive, perhaps even more so because he proved those who doubted his skills as a passer wrong.
"Lamar Jackson joining Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers as the only quarterbacks to throw at least 30 touchdowns passes and six or fewer interceptions in a season," editor C.J. Doon wrote. "Jackson even led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes (in just 15 starts). His Las Vegas over/under total in the preseason was 15. Rushing for over 1,000 yards seemed inevitable, but Jackson becoming a hyper-efficient passer in just his first full season as an NFL starter is nothing short of remarkable."
The Ravens' ability to move the ball both on the ground and in the air is what most impressed Sun columnist Peter Schmuck.
"Becoming the first team in NFL history to average 200-plus yards rushing and 200-plus yards passing," Schmuck wrote. "It's the proof that the coaching staff did create a 'revolutionary' offense and it's the reason that so few teams have been able to slow the Ravens this season."
As extraordinary as the Ravens offense has been this season, the defense more than held up its end, which resulted in the team winning games by scores of 59-10 (over the Miami Dolphins), 49-13 (over the Cincinnati Bengals), 41-7 (over the Houston Texans), 45-6 (over the Los Angeles Rams), and 42-21 (over the New York Jets).
"It's tempting to pick the single-season rushing record, because it had stood so long and seemed so unlikely to be broken in an era when the pass is king. But that doesn't capture the Ravens' comprehensive dominance," reporter Childs Walker wrote. "So it has to be their 249-point margin of victory over 16 games, the best the league has seen since the 2007 New England Patriots went undefeated in the regular season.
"The Ravens led the league in scoring and allowed the third-fewest points. Their two-way excellence will be a major part of their case as an all-time great team if they continue rolling through the playoffs."
The Ravens also were above average on special teams, so they really have been the total package, as noted by reporter Jonas Shaffer.
"It's not necessarily a mainstream stat, but the clear one for me is the Ravens' Defense-adjusted Value Over Average," Shaffer wrote. "The Football Outsiders-generated statistic measures the efficiency of a team's offense, defense or special teams by determining how successful a particular play is relative to the league average. The Ravens' regular-season DVOA of 41.5% was the seventh best since 1985, trailing only juggernauts such as the 1985 Chicago Bears and 2007 New England Patriots."
One number not mentioned is the Ravens' 12-game winning streak. Not only is that five games better than the franchise record of seven consecutive regular-season wins set by the Super Bowl-winning 2000 team, but no Baltimore NFL franchise – not even any of the great Colts teams led by Johnny Unitas – ever won that many games in a row (the 1964 Colts won 11 straight).
Counting the postseason and the start of the following regular season, the 2000-2001 Ravens won 12 consecutive games, so there's another franchise record the 2019 Ravens can break if they win their playoff game next weekend.
Marlon Humphrey Is 'Best Defensive Player in Playoffs'
After winning the team MVP award last season, cornerback Marlon Humphrey once again has played a vital role in the defense's success. As a testament to just how good he has been in his third year, "Good Morning Football's" Kay Adams said Humphrey – who was named to the Pro Bowl this season – is the best defensive player among the 12 playoff teams.
"He makes plays when it matters," Adams said. "He was a high school champion in Alabama, a college champion at Alabama. I think he's ready to add a Lombardi to his resume. He takes the attention to the opposing Wide Receiver 1 so Marcus Peters can make a play and take it to the house."
To Adams' point about Humphrey being a playmaker, he has two fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns this season, two forced fumbles (including one in overtime in Pittsburgh) and three interceptions. He also blocked a field goal attempt.
Humphrey's willingness to move to the slot during the season has been one of the keys to the defense's resurgence after a shaky start. It all goes back a move made by Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale and Defensive Backs Coach Chris Hewitt during the Ravens' Week 4 game against the Cleveland Browns.
To disguise their coverages, the Ravens had Humphrey shadow wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. even when he moved inside to play from the slot.
"What began as a small wrinkle to the game plan wound up planting the seeds of an idea that sprouted over the course of the next several months, grew limbs that stretched across the franchise and altered the trajectory of a historically successful season," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "The Ravens lost to the Browns, 40-25, but Humphrey excelled covering Beckham from his normal spot as an outside cornerback and when he lined up in the slot.
"A few weeks later, the Ravens traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters, a move that infused the defense with immense talent and playmaking acumen. And as part of the plan to formulate the best possible lineup with Peters in the fold, Baltimore made Humphrey's inside cornerback duties permanent."
Moving Humphrey has allowed the Ravens to get their top three cornerbacks – Humphrey, Peters and Jimmy Smith – on the field at the same time when opposing teams use a three-wide-receiver set.
Humphrey said playing nickel back was a challenge, but he's clearly adapted.
"For me, it was a big adjustment, just because I never really thought I could get in there and move too well," Humphrey said. "I had to learn a little bit more of the playbook, but it's really made me see the game a lot better because I already know what the corner's doing, and then on the nickel, I know how the corner's going to play it."
Head Coaching Opportunity 'Long Overdue' for Wink Martindale
Martindale reportedly will interview for the New York GIants' head coaching job Saturday, and one of his former players believes such an opportunity is "long overdue."
"He's going to sleep in the office and find that one play, that one formation, that one blitz that's going to win you a football game, and I think that's what the players buy into, because they know when your hardest worker is your head coach or your coordinator, you're going to play hard for him because he's going to put you in the right position to make plays," said former NFL linebacker Kirk Morrison, who played under Martindale from 2005-2008 when he was the Oakland Raiders linebackers coach, on Glenn Clark Radio.
Martindale, known for his intricate blitz packages, coached the league's top-ranked defense last season and fourth-ranked unit this season. Morrison said it's easy to understand why teams with head coaching vacancies would covet someone with Martindale's track record of success.
"At some point, when your guys do well, people want to bring that culture that they've built here in Baltimore," Morrison said. "That's one thing that's infectious, right? It really is around the league, because you watch them on tape, you watch them week to week and you're like, 'Those guys have fun. Those guys trust. Those guys believe.' And a lot of teams around the league we can watch, they don't have that. Organizations are always trying to get a piece of that and bring it to their organization."
Martindale has said that he would only leave the Ravens for a "dream-type job."
Meanwhile, Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman interviewed with the Cleveland Browns for their head coaching position last night.