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For a moment, it appeared as if the Ravens’ streak of 100-yard rushing games would come to an end against the Denver Broncos’ strong defense.
But during the final seconds of a 23-7 victory Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High, quarterback Lamar Jackson elected to run for 5 yards instead of taking a knee to run out the clock, giving the team 102 rushing yards and extending Baltimore’s streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to 43, tying the 1974-77 Pittsburgh Steelers for the NFL record.
“That’s one of those things that’s meaningful,” coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “It’s a very, very tough record to accomplish.”
The Ravens needed an interception from cornerback Anthony Averett in the back of the end zone to get the ball back with three seconds left. Averett jumped in front of a pass from backup quarterback Drew Lock intended for Pro Bowl receiver Courtland Sutton, giving the Ravens the ball at their own 20-yard line. Then Jackson lined up in the shotgun, took the snap and rushed behind a pair of pulling offensive linemen to pick up the necessary 5 yards before sliding to the ground.
“I remember I was a Browns fan, and we never beat them,” Harbaugh said earlier in the week when asked about the record. “I remember that. It probably had to do with rushing for all those yards. I was a kid. So, I remember Franco Harris and [former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach] Chuck Noll. I really do admire Chuck Noll. I really have a lot of respect for him. I read a lot of the things that he said. So, sure, that’s something that counts for something. It’s kind of not really in the forefront of our thinking right now at all, but it’s something, for sure.”
The Ravens’ running game was quiet for most of the afternoon, even with three-time All-Pro Le’Veon Bell promoted to the active roster. In the first half, the Ravens were only able to muster 47 rushing yards. Running back Latavius Murray led the way for the Ravens on the ground with 59 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jackson added 28 yards on seven carries.
“I’m not going to say it’s more important than winning the game,” Harbaugh said. “As a head coach, I think you do that for your players, and you do that for your coaches, which is something that they’ll have for the rest of our lives.”
Ravens’ defense steps up big time
With 1:02 left in the first quarter, Broncos running back Javonte Williams looked like he was Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. Williams broke a ton of tackles as he ran the ball 31 yards to put the Broncos at the Ravens 9-yard line.
After the Ravens looked like they haven’t solved their tackling issues, they locked in and had its best defensive performance so far this season. The Ravens held the Broncos to 254 total yards (148 passing yards).
The Ravens secondary allowed 632 passing yards in the second half in the past three games. On Sunday, the Ravens allowed 98 passing yards. The Ravens were constantly pressuring quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater, who did not return after halftime in order to be evaluated for a concussion, and Drew Lock.
Ravens recorded five sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Two of those sacks came from outside linebacker Tyus Bowser recorded two sacks.
“The sacks will come,” Bowser said. “We always talk about sack come in bunches. It was just one of them games. Just want to continue staying at and continuing to get better, and hopefully have another game like this.”
Rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh continued to show he is one of the top defenders in the 2021 draft class. With 12:47 to go in the first quarter, Oweh pushed away Broncos offensive tackle Bobby Massie then sacked Bridgewater.
>> Harbaugh said postgame that Villanueva’s knee injury, which caused him to leave in the third quarter was nothing serious. “Stable,” Harbaugh said. “Kind of sore.”
>> After Ravens kicker Justin Tucker converted a 46-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, he became the fastest kicker in NFL history to make 300 field goals. Tucker, who also made kicks from 40 and 20 yards, reached the mark in 148 games, 19 games fewer than former New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski needed to reach 300.
>> Since 2019, Brown has recorded nine receiving touchdowns of 20-plus yards. Brown is tied with New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton for the NFL’s second most during that span. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek hill leads all players with 15.
>> Ravens receiver James Proche II, who shined during training camp, had his best game of the season. Proche recorded 74 yards on five receptions while averaging 14.8 yards per catch. With 4:36 left in the fourth quarter, Proche ran a crossing route before catching a pass from Jackson then speeding down the field for a 32-yard gain.
“It’s really just a byproduct of me doing my job,” Proche said. “Just staying locked in. Not getting too, not getting too low. I put a lot in this game so I play with a lot of passion.”
>> Heading into Sunday’s matchup, Broncos All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller recorded four sacks and six quarterback hits. Ravens offensive lineman Patrick Mekari and the rest of the offensive line held Miller to just one quarterback hit.
>> After Jackson threw for 316 yards, Proche said the narrative of the former MVP not being able to throw is barbaric. “It’s like saying water is dry,” Proche said.
If you ask Jackson, he would quickly tell you that he prefers throwing over running even though he is one of the top rushers in the league. “I prefer to pass,” Jackson said. “I guess, people get caught up but when I run the ball. I’d rather pass for a touchdown than run it.”