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Ravens' Undermanned Secondary Trying to Derail Cooper Kupp's Bid for NFL Record

break a tackle by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander (24) after catching a pass during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Minneapolis.
break a tackle by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander (24) after catching a pass during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Minneapolis.

The Ravens' gauntlet against the league's who's who of wide receivers continues Sunday. But this time, they'll also be competing against an all-time NFL record.

The Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp is having a season for the ages, leading the league by a wide margin with 1,734 receiving yards. He's on pace to break Calvin Johnson's all-time single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards by one yard.

Johnson set the record with the Detroit Lions in 2012. Now Kupp has the same quarterback, Matthew Stafford, throwing to him with 230 yards left till the record.

"He and Matthew Stafford have an amazing understanding of what to expect from one another. I think they read body language really well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"It's just two very talented guys, who I think are sort of made for each other, if that makes any sense. And that offense is definitely built around their connection. So, we're going to have to do the best we can with that, and I expect us to do well, but that's going to be a huge challenge. Nobody's stopped those guys yet."

Kupp is the first player in league history to record 14 games of 90-plus receiving yards. He's topped 100 in four straight games. The best anyone has done against Kupp this season is the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4, who held him to five grabs for 64 yards.

The last time the Ravens faced the Rams and Kupp in 2019, they held him to six catches for 35 yards. But that was with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters at the top of their games.

Now the Ravens secondary has neither and the team's top remaining cornerback, Anthony Averett, is dealing with a rib injury and questionable to play Sunday. Neither Averett nor Tavon Young practiced Wednesday. Baltimore got a couple cornerbacks back off the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week in Chris Westry and Jimmy Smith, but it's still an unfair fight.

The Ravens did well against Green Bay's Davante Adams two weeks ago despite being short-handed then too, holding him to six catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. But the Bengals' dynamic wide receiver trio of Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd feasted for 404 combined receiving yards the following week.

Safety Chuck Clark indicated that it will be hard to lock onto Kupp in one particular way.

"I think they just find ways to get him open, and sometimes a lot of people kind of lose their eyes on him, and he just [is] popping up out the ground, wide open," Clark said. "But I think they do a good job of getting him the ball in multiple ways, honestly, and not just, 'Hey we need you to run this route.' They find different, creative ways to get him the ball with space to make plays."

As much as the Ravens would like to home in on Kupp, the Rams have other weapons that can hurt you, similar to the Bengals. Robert Woods is out for the rest of the year, but Van Jefferson has picked up the slack with 708 receiving yards and six scores. Then the Rams showed how all-in they are this year when they brought in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has caught a touchdown in four of his six games with the team.

"He's giving them another little spark," Clark said.

With Tavon Young and Averett's status' for Sunday's game up in the air, the Ravens may again need some of their reserves such as Kevon Seymour, Daryl Worley and Robert Jackson to step up. It's a tall task, but Baltimore's backups want to measure up.

"Everybody wants to be great when they go out there," Clark said. "We definitely have played with some different guys that have been filling in, but I think it's on us as the week goes – whoever is out there, the next person up – to kind of fill them in and get them going."

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