After rolling another playoff contender, Ravens are NFL's scariest team

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Minutes after the Baltimore Ravens knocked off another likely NFL playoff team, coach John Harbaugh complimented his pass rush, handed out game balls to two of his running backs and summed up the hottest streak in the league.

“Let’s keep stacking statements,” Harbaugh said. “As the stakes get bigger, the focus gets narrower because the rewards are much greater. Our opportunity is right there in front of us.”

The Ravens (8-2) don’t have the NFL’s best record. Baltimore isn’t even the AFC’s top seed. But with quarterback Lamar Jackson playing at an MVP level and the defense starting to strike just as much fear in teams, the Ravens can lay claim to one title — the NFL’s scariest team.

In a span of five weeks, the Ravens have done more than defeat the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Houston Texans. Baltimore has decimated three teams whose combined record is 23-7, outscoring them by an average of 21.6 points.

This should’ve been the toughest part of Baltimore’s schedule. The Ravens, though, have made it look easy.

With elusive runs and throws in tight windows, Jackson guided Baltimore’s offense to the end zone 10 times against Seattle, New England and Houston. By collapsing the pocket and playing tight coverage, the Ravens’ defense held Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson to a combined 70.8 passer rating.

The Ravens are the last team to beat the Seahawks (8-2). They’re the only team to beat the Patriots (9-1). And they handed Watson his worst loss ever as an NFL starter. (He had never lost by more than eight points before getting routed by 34 in Baltimore.)

What does it say about the Ravens to win in such convincing fashion?

“Maybe there are no weak links,” Baltimore defensive end Chris Wormley said.

In Sunday’s 41-7 win over the Texans, Jackson joined Randall Cunningham as the only NFL quarterbacks to total more than 85 yards rushing, at least four touchdown passes and a passer rating of 130 or higher in a single game. That type of performance, albeit dazzling throughout, has become commonplace.

What really should catch the league’s attention is the statement delivered by the Baltimore defense. The Ravens recorded as many sacks (seven) as points allowed.

Few could’ve predicted this performance against a Texans offense that entered the game ranked No. 4 in total yards (396.7) and No. 8 in scoring (26.4).

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little bit surprised,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said.

Safety Earl Thomas III agreed.

“I hope nobody on the team gets offended by this,” he said. “I didn’t think we were going to [do] this to them like that.”

The Ravens’ transformation has been as remarkable as Jackson in the open field, although it doesn’t garner the same attention.

In Baltimore’s two losses this season, the defense set a franchise record by allowing 500 yards in back-to-back games, struggling to slow down the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3 and the Cleveland Browns in Week 4.

Since that time, over the past seven weeks, the Ravens have allowed the sixth-fewest yards (291.2) and fourth-fewest points (16.0). In that six-game win streak, Baltimore has forced 12 turnovers and has given up nine touchdowns.

This has been accomplished through widespread changes. The current defense features six new starters from the beginning of the season: linebackers Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort and Jaylon Ferguson; cornerback Marcus Peters; safety Chuck Clark; and nose tackle Domata Peko Sr.

“From that moment on, we knew we had to refocus,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said of the turnaround. “It’s about us. We needed to stop worrying about everything else and just concentrate on what we do well. And that’s what we’ve done.”

The Ravens have reeled off six straight wins, a streak that is twice as long as that of the next closest team. Baltimore hasn’t trailed since Oct. 20 in Seattle, a stretch of 14 quarters.

“We’re rolling, and we need to keep building off of this,” running back Gus Edwards said. “Anything is possible for this team at this point.”

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