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Ravens Looking to Improve Their Run Defense

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) fumbles as he is tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (6) and linebacker Roquan Smith (0) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. The Ravens recovered the ball on the play.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) fumbles as he is tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (6) and linebacker Roquan Smith (0) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. The Ravens recovered the ball on the play.

The Ravens have the NFL's No. 2 overall defense, but they're No. 12against the run and didn't play up to their usual standards in Sunday's 37-31 overtime victory against the Rams.

Kyren Williams rushed for 114 yards on 25 carries against Baltimore, and while the Ravens tightened up in the second half, they're not happy anytime a running back touches them for more than 100 yards.

"We're looking at every way to improve that," inside linebacker Patrick Queen said. "Honestly, it just comes down to every man owning their gap and doing the best they can.

"Sometimes, they have numbers on you, and somebody just has to go make a play. You have to take two gaps. We're looking at ways to improve that. Internally – player-wise – we all want to improve on that. One of us might have to go the extra mile to make a play, so if that's what we have to do, we'll go do it." 

Williams' performance against Baltimore wasn't an isolated case. Browns running back Jerome Ford had his best game of the season (107 yards) in Week 10 when Cleveland defeated the Ravens. Zack Moss of the Colts had 122 rushing when they defeated the Ravens in Week 3.

The Ravens would like to step up their run defense down the stretch. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne is fifth in the league in rushing (806 yards), which will present a test for Baltimore on Sunday night.

"I'm not going to call it a concern, but absolutely an area for improvement," Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said. "It goes with every aspect of the defense, you're always evaluating.

"We're always thinking through the lens of – where are we, where do we want to be, and how do we get there? That's how we're approaching it."

Expect Queen and running mate Roquan Smith to be laser-focused on Etienne, a shifty back who often eludes the first defender. Queen and Etienne competed against one another growing up in Louisiana and Smith is very familiar with Etienne.

"Etienne is a very talented back," Smith said. "There's a reason he went first round (No. 25 overall) as a running back. He can make one cut, make you miss, get North and South as well as he can bounce it.

"We don't need confidence. We know exactly what we can do, and who we are as a defense. It's just a (matter of) being who we are."

Odell Beckham Jr. Learning That Plays Are 'Never Over' With Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson used his footwork and unique ability to extend plays to complete a touchdown pass and two-point conversion pass to Zay Flowers late in Sunday's victory over the Rams.

Odell Beckham Jr. loves Jackson's creativity and says he's still learning ways to take full advantage of Jackson's ability to improvise. Beckham believes the more he can read Jackson, the more dangerous their combination will become.

"I'm starting to understand his mind, more of how to read him and what he needs from me," Beckham said. "I haven't been with a quarterback like this. Baker Mayfield could extend plays, but not the same way Lamar does. This is a different breed of that. The play is never over. It's just something that you have to get used to."

Beckham is having his most productive stretch of the season with 11 catches for 247 yards over the last three games. He said it's easier to play better when you feel better, and it's been a long road back for Beckham after missing the 2022 season (knee) and spraining his ankle in Week 2.

"I'm just getting healthier," Beckham said. "I was hurting earlier, I hate to make excuses, but I just couldn't be myself. It was tough on me. But now I'm starting to feel good, starting to get some more opportunities to make plays. By God's grace I'm making the plays that I'm know I'm capable of making."

Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken also sees the difference.

"He's relatively healthy, he's able to practice," Monken said. "The confidence that he has to play at a certain level, (results in) the confidence we have to put him in certain situations."

Moment Is Never Too Big for Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson's late fourth-quarter touchdown drive against the Rams certainly didn't surprise his offensive coordinator.

Todd Monken is in his first season with the Ravens, but he had no doubt about Jackson's ability to orchestrate such a drive.

"He loves playing football. He's one of the rare guys I've been around," Monken said. "There are guys that like football. He loves football. He loves to play. So those moments never get too big for him – ever."

Monken said he didn't fully appreciate the difficulty of the two-point conversion pass to Zay Flowers that gave the Ravens an essential three-point lead until he watched it in slow motion.

Wide receiver Zay Flowers said it was Jackson’s best play of the year and Monken may concur.

"He made a helluva play," Monken said. "Some of that was a really good route by Zay. We got a little loose with the protection and to step up there …  Wow, what a tremendous play by both of those guys."

Jackson Gives Thumbs Down to T-Shirts of Him

Every player had a custom Lamar T-shirt hanging in their locker Thursday that read, "THAT'S MY QUARTERBACK," on the top.

The shirts were courtesy of safety Daryl Worley who, according to The Banner’s Kyle Goon, was playing a practical joke.

The photo of Jackson, which is from his high school days, features the proud Louisville product wearing a Florida State beanie.

Jackson not only gave the shirts a thumbs down, but tried to (unsuccessfully) lead a rebellion against them.

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