Monthly Archives: December 2020

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Whenever there’s an injury, NFL coaches pivot to make it a positive. It’s an opportunity for someone else, they say.

In the Ravens’ case, those opportunities have been taken advantage of, and it’s made Baltimore’s already stout defense even stronger down the stretch.

In Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, the Ravens got major contributions from several defensive backups, including cornerback Anthony Averett, linebacker Cheap Chris Board Jersey and rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike.

Averett’s contribution was needed the most considering the Ravens were again without starting cornerbacks Cheap Marcus Peters Jersey (calf) and Cheap Jimmy Smith Jersey (ribs/shoulder). Averett played 100 percent of the snaps against the Giants and finished with five tackles and two pass breakups.

Anthony Averett starting to look like he did before his unfortunate collarbone injury.

Good angles and quick feet/reactions to in breaking routes Sunday. Let up a TD but it was a tough rep and Jones had too much time. pic.twitter.com/gWkoG9FHjX

— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 29, 2020

“I definitely want to prove myself and my contribution to the team,” Averett said. “The team needed me, and I definitely feel like I stepped up, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

“I’m really just proud of him and the job he’s done,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said immediately after Averett spoke. “You can see what a good person he is, and he’s a very hard worker. It’s good to see him playing so well with his opportunity.”

Averett was a 2018 fourth-round pick out of Alabama, where he was teammates with Marlon Humphrey. But while Humphrey and other Ravens 2018 draft picks such as Cheap Lamar Jackson Jersey, Orlando Brown Jr. and Cheap Mark Andrews Jersey have become stars, Averett has had to wait for his time to shine in the Ravens’ loaded secondary.

He got some defensive playing time last year, including three starts, and was off to a fast start in his limited reps this season until he suffered a slight fracture in his shoulder/collarbone in Philadelphia on Oct. 18. That knocked him out for five games.

“Being out for almost two months, it was definitely tough – just mentally,” Averett said. “But I keep my head in the books. And the team, they needed me to step up and start and play this game. You never know how the chips fall, so I was ready, and I feel like I showed I improved these past two games.”

It remains to be seen whether Peters and/or Smith will return to action for the regular-season finale, but the Ravens know they can rely on Averett against a talented Cheap Cincinnati Bengals Jerseys wide receiver corps if not.

“We trust him, and we put him out there on an island sometimes, and he comes up big for us,” outside linebacker Cheap Matthew Judon Jersey said. “That’s what every level has to do on our defense for us to be a great defense; our D-line has to play well, our linebackers have to communicate, and our defensive backs, they’ve got to cover. And when he’s out there, he’s covering people.”

Judon is right about the Ravens’ defense becoming stronger at every level. At linebacker, the Ravens have been thrilled with the development of first-round rookie Cheap Patrick Queen Jersey, but Chris Board has been another up-and-comer who has become an important part of the mix.

Board registered two sacks against the Giants. He only had a ½ sack previously in his entire career. He played 36 percent of the defensive snaps.

In his third season, Board has become recognized as one of the league’s top special teams players. While he takes pride in that, it’s gratifying for the former undrafted North Dakota State product to contribute on defense too.

“I’m just trying to go out and do whatever I can to help us win. Whatever is asked of me, I just go out and do it to the best of my ability. It feels really good though,” Board said.

After the game, Harbaugh said Board has played “excellent football” and is becoming a regular in the inside linebacker rotation with Cheap L.J. Fort Jersey and rookie Cheap Malik Harrison Jersey.

“He’s becoming a really good inside linebacker,” Harbaugh said of Board. “Very rarely do you see the guys who excel on special teams the first couple of years and grow into that not become really good defensive players. … He’s making tackles. He’s covering well. I think he’s really making a name for himself.”

The Ravens’ rookie class has been excellent this season, and one of the latest to emerge is Madubuike. The third-round pick from Texas A&M got a late start because of a leg injury suffered in training camp, which sidelined him for the first four games. He missed more action because of COVID-19.

But Madubuike has played the last three weeks, including some important reps with Cheap Calais Campbell Jersey sidelined. He has flashed his quickness, power and relentless motor, and against the Giants, he got his first career sack.

As the Ravens look to keep their veterans on the defensive line fresh, the rookie can be a difference-maker behind them.

Cheap Justin Madubuike Jersey had another really good game; he keeps getting better every single week,” Harbaugh said.

Lamar Jackson was the NFL’s MVP last year. This year, he’ll have to settle for Ravens MVP, but that will be just fine with him as long as Baltimore continues its run.

The Ravens’ media corps voted Jackson as the team MVP for the second straight season, becoming the first Ravens player to win in back-to-back seasons since running back Ray Rice (2011 and 2012).

Cornerback Cheap Marlon Humphrey Jersey finished second in voting and offensive tackle Cheap Orlando Brown Jr. Jersey and kicker Cheap Justin Tucker Jersey were tied for third.

As is customary for Jackson, he was thankful, yet modest.

“I appreciate that,” Jackson said. “You know, I always tell you guys I feel like that’s a team award. We’ve been through so much adversity this year and humps and stuff like that. Guys just found a way to pull through and keep fighting, especially for this playoff run.”

It was a challenging start for Jackson coming off last year’s historic season. All eyes were on him, including from opposing defenses.

Jackson had some tough games in the first half of the season, particularly in the team’s first two losses against Kansas City and Pittsburgh. After a home defeat to the Steelers in which he turned the ball over four times, including his first career pick-six, Jackson put the loss on his shoulders.

The Ravens went on a three-game losing skid and Jackson caught COVID-19. He had a tough bout with the virus, which kept him sidelined for the third of those defeats in Pittsburgh – a loss that knocked the Ravens out of contention for the AFC North crown.

But since returning, Jackson has also returned to his MVP form from a year ago. Over the past four weeks, he’s thrown for eight touchdowns to two interceptions, run for four touchdowns and posted 80 or more rushing yards in three of the four games.

No performance was more inspiring than his Monday Night Football win over the Cheap Cleveland Browns Jerseys, when Jackson came back from cramps just in time to throw a fourth-and-5 touchdown pass and put the Ravens in position for Tucker’s 55-yard game-winner.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said he’s “very proud” of the resiliency Jackson has shown this season.

“He’s a guy that can look tough situations squarely in the eye and try to figure out a way to overcome them,” Harbaugh said. “He never gets too down about anything. He’s always upbeat and always works hard.”

In his third season, Jackson has a chance to lead the Ravens to the playoffs for the third straight year as their starter – an accomplishment not many quarterbacks have pulled off.

He took over midway through his rookie season in 2018 and galvanized the team down the stretch, winning six of the final seven regular-season games. He was the driving force in the team’s franchise-best 14-2 season last year. And now he has been the catalyst in Baltimore’s turnaround from a 6-5 record to their current win-and-get-in Week 17 scenario.

Jackson replaced another Ravens quarterback who enjoyed immediate NFL success. Joe Flacco and the Ravens went to the playoffs each of his first five seasons, winning a Super Bowl in his fifth year in 2012. The Ravens are hoping they can climb that mountain two years sooner with Jackson.

“Lamar is a special person. He’s a talented guy, of course,” Harbaugh said. “He’s in the process of proving himself, and making a name for himself, and building a career as a quarterback in the National Football League. … We’re proud to be a part of it and we’ll help in every way we can.”

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Next man up: The Steelers depth at inside linebacker was wiped out heading into Sunday night’s game against the Bills, with Cheap Vince Williams Jersey on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, Cheap Robert Spillane Jersey placed on the Reserve/Injured List, and Devin Bush already on IR.

So it was up to newcomer Cheap Avery Williamson Jersey, acquired via trade from the New York Jets earlier this season, and Cheap Marcus Allen Jersey, a converted safety, to hold down the fort.

And they did just that.

Williamson led the team in tackles with 11, including nine solo stops.

“I can’t say enough about his work and his work to get up to speed and embracing the responsibility of being a central communicator for us,” said Tomlin. “He was better. It is reasonable to expect him to continually get better with each opportunity, but I can’t say enough about his efforts in those areas.”

Allen, who has very little experience at linebacker on the NFL level, was second in tackles with eight, including five solo stops and a tackle for a loss.

“Can’t say enough about a guy like Marcus Allen, who’s new to the position, who’s new to the number of snaps he had and getting the type of effort that we got from him,” said Tomlin.

Responding well: During his press conference a week ago, Tomlin showed his displeasure with dropped passes, clearly stating if guys don’t make the catch, the ball won’t come their way.

“They can catch the ball, or they can get replaced by someone who will catch it,” said Tomlin. “It’s just as simple as that. Like I’ve often said, I expect guys to make routine plays, routinely. When there is a pattern of that not happening, we have to look at who we are throwing the ball to.”

On Sunday night, after Cheap Diontae Johnson Jersey dropped the ball multiple times, Tomlin did what he said he would and sent him to the bench in the first half. Tomlin gave the young receiver another chance, and he responded. Cheap Ben Roethlisberger Jersey hit Johnson in the third quarter for completions of five and six yards, and Johnson caught one for 17 yards in the fourth quarter.

“I thought he responded appropriately,” said Tomlin. “He didn’t pout. He waited for his next opportunity and when his next opportunity came, he was productive. So, we’ll move forward.”

A lot on the line: When the Steelers take on the Bengals on Monday Night Football, there will be a lot on the line with the potential of winning the AFC North with a victory. But coming off two straight losses, Tomlin knows they have their work cut out for them.

“There’s a lot on the table for us,” said Tomlin. “We are excited about primetime football. We essentially laid an egg last week on primetime football, so we are excited about getting another opportunity at that.

“We are back in the AFC North in divisional play. If you want to dominate the NFL and be one of the teams in contention to dominate the NFL, it starts first and foremost with divisional play. We have an opportunity to play a divisional game and secure an AFC North title.

“Those are tangible things that have our attention and excitement as we work this week. For us, it’s about assessing who we have available to us and sharpening our sword for the battle that lies ahead. We expect to get the very best of Cincinnati. That’s a rivalry-type game, if you will. It’s an opportunity for them to have a feel good in the midst of a trying circumstance of a season for them. It’s Monday Night Football. We understand and expect all of that.”

The Steelers have clinched a spot in the 2020 AFC Playoffs, and with a win in Cincinnati or a loss by the Cheap Cleveland Browns Jerseys against the New York Giants, the team would host at least one playoff game at Heinz Field. The team is now preparing for the potential of hosting fans at Heinz Field for postseason games after the current Pennsylvania state orders for crowd size expire on January 4, 2021.

As part of those preparations, the team sent an email to season ticket holders on Tuesday with details about selecting seats for postseason games. In the email, the team said it does anticipate there being a limited number of tickets available for home playoff games, and thus, may not be able to accommodate all season ticket holders who wish to attend playoff games.

The email also outlined other important details in a “What You Need To Know” section, which included the following: timeframe to order tickets, details on ticket pods and locations which take into account social distancing guidelines and payment information.

“We are preparing for the possibility of hosting fans at Heinz Field for the postseason after the current State orders expire in Jan. 4, 2021,” said Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten in a statement on Tuesday. “Our goal is to use our previous stadium model and manifest from earlier this year to host approximately 7,500 people at the stadium in January.

“We appreciate those fans who have attended games this year for their support and cooperation in adhering to the policies and protocols that made Heinz Field a safe place to attend a game. We have communicated with our season ticket holders and suite holders about the potential return of fans to Heinz Field in January, and we look forward to hopefully having fans back in the stands for any potential playoff games.”

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The latest edition of the Bengals Booth Podcast recaps the Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins. With radio replays, postgame comments, and in-depth analysis from Dave Lapham. Plus, a “Fun Facts” interview with offensive lineman Quinton Spain.

Podcast highlights include:

1:31 – Podcast begins with a highlight of wide receiver Tyler Boyd’s 72-yard touchdown reception.
8:41 – Postgame analysis from Lapham first discussing the officiating in the game.
16:12 – Evaluating the play of safety Cheap Jessie Bates Jersey and how he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level.
29:18 – “Fun Facts” interview begins with Spain talking about playing fullback in youth football and growing up in Petersburg, Va.
36:46 – Spain discusses working with kids back in Petersburg and how his free youth football camp inspires the community.
For all of the Bengals Booth Podcasts, visit Bengals.com/audio/podcasts. Fans can also download the Bengals Booth Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and wherever podcasts are available.

As it has for the second half of the season, the Bengals defense kept them breathing until the end of the 19-7 loss.

And as they have during their first season together, it was the safety combo of Jessie Bates III and Cheap Vonn Bell Jersey that was the heart of Sunday’s effort that held the offense to one touchdown for the second straight week.

Make that six touchdowns allowed in the last 14 quarters.

Just exactly what their TNT Tandem means to this outfit took center stage as Sunday’s clock ticked under four minutes and Miami running back Myles Gaskin running toward a 47-yard touchdown that would supply the finishing touches and …

But Bates ran him down at the 20 like his Pro Bowl dash at the close of his third season. He punched it out and for the second straight week Bell picked up a rolling fumble (this one at the 13) and took it back to midfield as the Bengals hung in by a thread and moved Miami to 0-for-9 on third down.

A Cheap Ryan Finley Jersey interception ended it all moments later, but only after Bates logged a career-best 13 tackles to end a week he began by vowing to be more physical. He had also vowed to check in with Dolphins head coach Brian Flores at some point Sunday to tell him he appreciated Flores’ mid-week praise of his play.

He checked both boxes.

“Pregame I was able to go over there and dap him up,” Bates said. “Just said, ‘what’s up man? I appreciate you,’ and stuff like that. I just like what he stands for and I support everything he does.”

Bates gave him an eyeful on a day the Bengals defense gave Flores’ offense very little in the first half (two field goals by an offense averaging 17 first-half points) and then next to nothing in the red zone in the second half.

The secondary is carrying them and if you want to know why Miami’s best receiver, DeVante Parker, took a poke at Cheap Shawn Williams Jersey early in the fourth quarter, start by going back to earlier in the second half when cornerback Cheap William Jackson III Jersey defended Parker on a pair of third-down end-zone passes to force field goals.

“The thing I like about what we’re doing is we just continue to fight. Just continue to challenge the guys in the huddle,” Bates said. “We give up a big play, they’re down there on the goal line and I just continue to preach ‘We cannot give up a touchdown. We cannot give up a touchdown.’ And we held our own. I think we held a team to 19 points in back-to-back weeks. It doesn’t happen a lot in the NFL. Not moral victories or anything like that, but I like the energy that we played with on defense today.”

Bell, too. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is using him more and more on the blitz. He blew up Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa just as he was throwing on a third down in the second quarter.

Linebacker Cheap Jordan Evans Jersey picked up the ball and jogged 55 yards for a touchdown while the Dolphins watched, but a replay called it merely an incomplete pass. Yet it was part of an effort that held the Dolphins without a third-down conversion until they ran out the clock. It was 1-for-10 as Anarumo forced Tagovailoa to move beyond his first read. It showed just how far Cheap Joe Burrow Jersey is ahead of Tagovailoa and it’s a lot more than No. 1 pick and the No. 5 pick.

It was only the tenth time since 1991 the Bengals allowed one or no third-down conversions and the first time in six years. Not always a lock to win. They’re 6-4 in those 10.

RELATED LINKS
Bengals Notebook: Allen Winded; Boyd Goes From Ecstasy To Agony; Sorting Out The Emotions
What Zac Taylor, Brandon Allen & The Bengals Said Following Week 13 At Miami
Dolphins Grab Momentum, Game, 19-7
“Coach Lou had a really good idea of what they wanted to do. Tua, like I said at the beginning of the week, he doesn’t check a lot at the line as far as how Ryan (Fitzpatrick) does it,” Bates said. “We had a really good feel for that, but in the second half I don’t think they got in a third-down situation. They were just moving the ball really well. We got to continue to preach to be more consistent. That’s something we have to continue to work on.”

If the offense had a bad half, the defense had a bad quarter. The third. They didn’t get much help from an offense that went three-and-out twice, but after holding Tagovailoa to 111 yards in the first half, he had more than that in the third and finished with 296 yards. The Dolphins did it by getting to the line in a hurry.

“In the first half I think we stopped the run,” said Bates of that 32-yard effort. “We eliminated the explosive plays. In the second half they got us on our heels when they were going hurry up and in that empty formation that they continue to go into. They kind of got us backed up and they were moving the ball really well.

“But like I said we continued to fight and we were giving up three points and I’ll live with that any day.”

Bates has bigger fish to fry than the game’s turning point when Bengals wide receiver Cheap Tyler Boyd Jersey got ejected for fighting when he came up bristling after he got mauled on the sidelines by two Dolphins cornerbacks and a cameraman. When there were no offsetting 15-yard penalties, only one on Boyd, the 53-yard field goal was missed.

“I think on defense you kind of like that stuff,” said Bates, when asked if that threw them out of sync. “It gets you going even more throughout the game. Tyler doesn’t play on defense, so it didn’t really affect us on defense. We just continued to play with energy. Like I said, I’m just proud the guys continuing to fight.”

Bates is worried about larger things than turning points. Like winning, leading and doing it the right way. The 13 tackles are going to get him even more Pro Bowl pub, but …

“That only means so much. I play this game to win football games. I’m here and I feel like I’m leader of this team on the defensive side,” Bates said. “My main goal is to win football games. Like I said and like I continue to say, as long as I continue to do what I’ve got to do, live right and make sure my family is good, God will take care of the rest of that. I’ll get the national media (attention) when I need to, but right now I’m just focusing on building the right environment around here.”

Right now, Bates and Bell and their defense are giving them the air.