Is 'Something Special Brewing in Baltimore' With 2021 Ravens?
"A team of destiny" is one of those sports cliches that makes copy editors cringe, but there are instances in which the phrase, trite as it may be, seems applicable.
We're only four weeks into the season, so it's way too early to draw any conclusions about which team is "destined" to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but this much is undeniable: The 2021 Ravens have faced more than their share of adversity, yet they are 3-1, with two of their wins coming in dramatic fashion.
"There is something special brewing in Baltimore with this year's team," Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed wrote. "Even though they aren't the most talented from top to bottom or the healthiest, they are already battle-tested and possess the resiliency and other intangibles to make a deep playoff run. They will get more pieces, like left tackle Ronnie Stanley and rookie wideout Rashod Bateman, back and round into even better shape as the year goes along."
It seemed like the Ravens were destined for a disappointing season after a disastrous preseason in which the team suffered a surreal spate of injuries, not to mention Lamar Jackson missing 10 days of training camp after contracting COVID-19 for the second time.
Running back J.K. Dobbins suffering a season-ending ACL injury in the Ravens' final preseason game was a severe blow, but at least the team still had Gus Edwards … until it didn't.
Nothing said "the Ravens are cursed" more than Edwards and All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters suffering season-ending, non-contact ACL injuries a few plays apart in practice less than two weeks after Dobbins went down. The prior week, No. 3 running back Justice Hill was lost for the season with a torn Achilles.
Blowing a 14-0 lead in a season-opening loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in overtime only seemed to confirm that it just wasn't the Ravens' year.
However, over the next three weeks, the Ravens scored a thrilling, one-point win over their nemesis, the Kansas City Chiefs; avoided an upset in Detroit thanks to Justin Tucker's record-breaking 66-yard field goal (which hit the crossbar and bounced the Ravens' way) after Jackson converted on fourth-and-19 with 26 seconds left; and dominated the previously unbeaten Broncos in Denver.
"This team continues to deal with a slew of injuries at key positions yet they continue to come out on top," Reed wrote. "They have proven that they can flip the script on offense from run dominant to a more balanced attack, right the ship on defense, and make the proper adjustments during games to set themselves up for success on both sides of the ball.
"At the end of each year, the team hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy looks like they were destined for greatness when looking back on the trials and tribulations they had to endure. Their road to glory was long, winding, and turbulent at times. The Ravens' first month of the season has been all of that and then some, yet they emerged with a winning record and look like arguably the most dangerous team in a seemingly wide-open AFC conference."
Former Steelers Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier Support John Harbaugh's Controversial Decision in Denver
As the pundits continue to debate whether the Ravens should have taken a knee at the end of this past Sunday's game against the Broncos instead of running a play to tie a record for consecutive 100-yard-rushing games, two players who were largely responsible for setting the record weighed in.
Former running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, who played on the Pittsburgh Steelers teams that compiled 43 consecutive games of at least 100 rushing yards from 1974-77, revealed they weren't even aware there was such a record.
Regardless, Harris said he supports Head Coach John Harbaugh's decision to run the play with the Ravens needing three yards to tie the mark. Jackson gained 5 five yards on a sweep.
"I thought the players on Denver were expecting a knee. And I can see where they were a little upset," Harris told 9news.com in Denver. "But you can't worry about their feelings. I think the Ravens did the right thing to go for the record. What would have been interesting is if this (next) game would have been against the Steelers. I'm sure the Colts could care less.
"But I want to say they absolutely had to go for it. That was the right thing to do. You know this record is there, it's within your grasp, and make some new history. They had to do it. That was the right call. And Jackson is probably the most exciting player you could say in the NFL at this time. And also it brought attention to what we accomplished in the 70s.''
Bleier also didn't have a problem with the Ravens not taking a knee.
"It's something that you can be proud of and you take that shot. … You're so close to be able to do that," Bleier said on Glenn Clark Radio. Bleier jokingly added that perhaps the Ravens will invite him and Harris to be on the sideline at M&T Bank Stadium when they attempt to break the record Monday night.
In an interview with 9news.com, Bleier said he would've been bragging about the record all these years if only he had known about it.
"The first time I heard about it was when I got this text message, 'Hey, would you like to do this interview?' About what? 'You set a record 43 consecutive games of 100 yards.' You're kidding me? I wish I would have known that. I would have sold that and marketed that all these years."
Meanwhile, former Raven and Bronco Shannon Sharpe and former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick also backed Harbaugh.
Von Miller on Jackson: 'Not Another Player Like That in the World'
Eight-time All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller has gone up against a lot of great players in his career, but after playing against Jackson, he gave the Ravens quarterback the ultimate compliment.
"There is not another player like that in the world," Miller said on “The Richard Sherman Podcast.” "Lamar Jackson does so much with his legs that he can really just do anything at any given time."
Interestingly, Jackson did more damage with his arm than his legs against the Broncos. He rushed for a season-low 28 yards in seven carries while throwing for 316 yards, the second-highest total in his career.
After going against the Ravens' unique offense, Miller said he's glad to be playing "a normal football team" in the Steelers this Sunday.
"When you're playing the Ravens, that's a team you have to play like a couple of times just to figure them out," Miller said. " … Now we got a Pittsburgh Steelers team and we're back to playing normal football."
- Pro Football Focus named its All-Pro Team for the first quarter of the season. To no surprise, Tucker made the first team. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell and safety Chuck Clark made the second team.
- Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh is No. 14 on NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s Top 25 rookie rankings.