Harbaugh has reason to dance after another dominant performance by Ravens
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The more grueling the task, the better the Baltimore Ravens have looked this season — so it was only fair that coach John Harbaugh decided to let loose with a little dancing in the locker room.
“I thought I was smooth, rolling. Then, my daughter showed me later on tape, and it looked a lot like what happens at home when she videotapes me,” Harbaugh said Monday. “You know, the tape doesn’t lie. I was a little bit disappointed with my performance.”
The Ravens can afford to worry about such frivolities now, having decimated Miami 56-19 on Sunday to wrap up the AFC North title and the top seed in the conference. Harbaugh insists Baltimore is focused on its regular-season finale against Pittsburgh on Saturday, but he hasn't said whether quarterback Lamar Jackson will play.
And really, the Ravens (13-3) deserve a chance to take a deep breath and relax — or at least reflect a bit on a remarkable regular season.
Baltimore's schedule was far from generous. The entire division is at .500 or better, and the Ravens had road games against their three AFC North opponents all within the first five weeks — followed by a game in England. Then down the stretch, Baltimore faced Jacksonville, San Francisco and Miami in succession.
The Ravens have emphatic wins over five teams that have at least a share of first place at the moment — Detroit (38-6), San Francisco (33-19), Miami (56-19), Jacksonville (23-7) and Houston (25-9).
In DVOA — the advanced stat popularized by Football Outsiders that's now published at ftnfantasy.com — Baltimore is the third-best team since 1981 through 16 games. The Ravens will be under a microscope when they start the playoffs, but they've certainly earned their first-round bye and No. 1 seed.
And so their coach danced.
“My advice to any young people who are working their way into dances at prom and things like that,” Harbaugh said. "Here’s my advice: Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid. Bring the energy, man. Get off the wall. Get out there and dance. Bring the energy. It doesn’t matter what you look like — it matters how much fun you have.”
What isn't working? In that same DVOA stat, the Ravens rank No. 2 in the NFL on offense, No. 1 on defense and No. 2 on special teams. One of the knocks on Lamar Jackson's MVP candidacy was his pedestrian number of touchdown passes. Then he had five last weekend.
“That guy is different," safety Geno Stone said. "Every day I get to watch in practice, watch him go to work, see his habits. No doubt he’s the best in the league. No doubt he’s the MVP.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Ravens have health issues in the secondary that could have been a big problem against a team like Miami, although the Dolphins were without star receiver Jaylen Waddle. Kyle Hamilton and Brandon Stephens didn't play at all for Baltimore, and Marlon Humphrey is still struggling with calf issues.
Running back Justice Hill seems to have found a comfort zone in the Baltimore offense, particularly as a pass catcher. He had five receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown.
“Justice has really good hands. He’s an excellent route runner. He’s also excellent in pass protection, too,” Harbaugh said. "Lamar saw the coverage, diagnosed it a couple of times and got us into certain routes that freed Justice up on some of those rail routes. That was pretty impressive to see those two guys working together at the line of scrimmage like that.”
Hill also had 48 yards on three carries and broke free for a big kickoff return to start the third quarter.
Umm ... Jordan Stout averaged just 35.5 yards per punt? He only had two chances.
The injury issues are a little less urgent now that Baltimore won't play a meaningful game this week or next. Hamilton (knee) would be a big absence if his problems linger.
Saturday's game may not have much significance for Baltimore, but the Steelers can take a big step toward making the playoffs with a victory.
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