Patrick Onwuasor, Tavon Young Come Up Clutch for Ravens Defense


The Ravens had been in this situation so many times.

Their offense punted the ball away late, putting the defense on the field, needing Baltimore's calling-card unit to step up just one more time for a victory. This time, they had Chargers veteran Philip Rivers on the other side, a foe very capable of marching his team in for a touchdown.

That script ended with heartbreak too many times. But not this time.

Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor punched the ball out of the arms of veteran tight end Antonio Gates and cornerback Tavon Young scooped it up and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown, essentially sealing the Ravens' 22-10 win in Los Angeles.

Was this the result of lessons learned from the past? Head Coach John Harbaugh swatted that notion away.

"It just doesn't matter to me or to us. It doesn't matter," Harbaugh said. "You take the next challenge and our guys have done that. They plan for the next game and situation and do their best."

It's Week 16, and this Ravens team isn't interested in looking backwards. It's shedding its skin after three straight years outside the playoffs.

The Ravens still need to finish the job in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens were in a win-and-get-in situation last year and crumbled on fourth-and-12 against the Bengals. They need more stops and another win before they can really get that monkey off their back.

But had it not been for Onwuasor and Young's play in Los Angeles, this season's improvement may have been overlooked.

It's the second time in four games Onwuasor and Young have combined for a scoop and score. They did the same to close out a win, and dominant defensive performance against a top-flight offense, in Atlanta. That score was from 12 yards out and not in nearly as high stakes a situation.

"The Falcons game, he got the fumble and I scooped it. Today, he got the fumble and I scooped it," Young said. "That boy [is] great."

Onwuasor had the best game of his three-year career. The former undrafted rookie, who is from Inglewood in Los Angeles, added two sacks to his game-changing forced fumble.

Onwuasor, nicknamed "Peanut," said he had told a teammate earlier in the game that he had seen some opportunities to punch the ball out. Sure enough, Gates was holding the ball a bit loose as he was tackled to the turf.

"I just saw the ball and I punched," Onwuasor said. "We work on it in practice every week, going out there, stripping drills and stuff like that. When I saw my opportunity, I just took it."

Onwuasor said he wasn't sure if Gates was down before the ball came out. Neither was Young, but he was praying. The referees had a long meeting before ruling it a touchdown, and it stood up to review.

"I was just running. I wasn't going to let no quarterback catch me," Young said. "Once I got in the end zone, I was looking around like, 'Lord, please, don't let him have been down.' My dawg, he got it out in time."

The Ravens defense, ranked at or near the top of the league for much of the year, had been surprisingly lacking in turnovers. All season, they've been saying turnovers come in bunches, and they got three in Los Angeles.

"We never take [our foot] off the peddle," Onwuasor said.

"This whole week we were talking about shutting them out. That's our goal every week. We have high standards around here," Young added. "I feel like we match well against any team; we show that every game. We just have to keep it going."

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