With Lamar Jackson ruled out for Sunday Night Football against the Steelers, Tyler Huntley looked forward to making another important start.
The Ravens' ability to win with Huntley has been proven in December. They defeated the Broncos in Week 13, when Huntley led a game-winning 91-yard drive on Baltimore's final possession. Huntley also started in victories against the Steelers (Week 14) and Falcons (Week 16), with Baltimore's only loss in December coming at Cleveland in Week 15.
With two games left in the regular season, the Ravens (10-5) have clinched a playoff berth, but still need victories over the Steelers and Bengals (Week 18) to capture the AFC North. Sunday Night will be another big situation for Huntley, but he's up for the challenge.
"It feels good that I'm getting a lot of reps, and it feels good to be playing at a time when football is most important – around these times of playoffs [and] getting ready to go into playoffs," Huntley said. "It's an appreciation, for sure."
Huntley said he has leaned on Jackson for advice throughout each week and during games.
"When I come to the sideline, he's telling me what he sees out there, and he's just being that supportive friend," Huntley said. "[He's] a person that's been through it and just talking me through it. So, I appreciate him, and I can't wait until he gets back healthy."
"He wants to be playing, but at the same time, he's just accepting the process and just focusing on getting himself healthy so he can be ready to play when it most matters."
Head Coach John Harbaugh has praised Huntley numerous times for his poise under pressure, and expects the third-year quarterback to be ready for the Sunday night spotlight.
"He doesn't surprise you because he does in games what he does in practice," Harbaugh said. "It's never too big for him. He operates well, he makes plays, obviously under pressure and duress. He manages situations of games well. I just love the way he plays the position, and I think he continues to improve every time he goes out. We're not, 'Oh, what surprises you? What impresses you?' It's like, 'We expect him to play well.'"
Avoiding Three-and-Outs Has Been a Ravens Strength
The Ravens want to finish more drives with touchdowns, but they've been good at keeping their offense on the field. Only the Houston Texans have fewer three-and-outs this season, and Baltimore ranks seventh in the NFL in time of possession.
Harbaugh said avoiding three-and-outs has been a point of emphasis.
"The ability to get the first first-down is something that we really emphasize," Harbaugh said. "We like to get the first first-down on first- or second-down; it's another point we think is important. Then, obviously, third-down success really matters because you want to stay on the field, you want to keep the chains moving. With that, you'd like to get some big plays in there, some big chunk plays and also some scoring plays. So, those are things I think we're working really hard for."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday that Baltimore continued taking a hard look at its red zone offense this week.
"Our No. 1 goal is to win the game, and the No. 2 goal is to score points, it's a huge emphasis for us moving forward," Roman said. "It's very simple fixes, but we're just going to keep pushing the envelope in that area, as we are everywhere."
Mike Macdonald Pleased With Kyle Hamilton's Growth
Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton equaled his season high playing 50 snaps Week 16 against the Falcons. The previous week, Hamilton had a season-high eight tackles against the Browns.
Hamilton has given the Ravens more speed and physicality in the secondary, and Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald praised the rookie for not losing confidence early in the season.
"When Kyle got here, we just put him at safety and tried to get his feet wet there and master one position," Macdonald said. "He started to find a good role at dime and nickel in certain situations. And then adding Roquan [Smith] … I can see he's kind of finding a place there at nickel and sometimes at dime [and] a little bit of safety.
"I think [it was] just finding a home for him where he's comfortable and fits his skillset. And then, to his credit, like I've mentioned before, just being able to handle the adversity at the beginning of the season, keep attacking every day. Having the humility to realize there are things he needed to learn, and he did those things. So, I think he's on a great track. He's going to have a great career."