OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Combining the versatility of quarterback Lamar Jackson with an opportunistic defense, the Baltimore Ravens charged into their bye with a three-game winning streak and a healthy lead in the AFC North.
A week of rest should enable the Ravens (5-2) to get back wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle), linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) for a Nov. 3 showdown with the New England Patriots.
“I’m very optimistic that we’ll be full strength coming out of the bye,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Baltimore certainly didn’t need those three injured starters Sunday in Seattle. The Ravens took charge in the second half during a 30-16 victory that extended their division lead to 2 ½ games over Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
So what’s not to like?
Well, the bye week didn’t exactly begin in uplifting fashion. Linebacker Pernell McPhee, who started all seven games and had three sacks, will likely be lost for the season after tearing his triceps Sunday.
“He’s been instrumental with the young guys and been a very good player for us,” Harbaugh said. “I see no reason why he can’t recover from a triceps injury and be back next year stronger than ever.”
The Ravens’ special teams also took a hit Monday when the team released Justin Bethel in order to receive a fourth-round compensatory pick. A three-time Pro Bowl special teams standout, Bethel had six tackles and a fumble recovery in seven games with Baltimore.
Harbaugh said Bethel was cut “because of a funky rule the NFL has with these compensatory picks,” adding, “a judgment has to be made for the future.”
“That’s going to be a blow. We’re going to have to find a way to overcome that,” Harbaugh said.
Just about everything. Not only did Jackson ramble through the Seattle defense for 116 yards, but the Ravens scored two touchdowns on turnovers.
Jackson carried the offense, averaging 8.3 yards per rush and converting several third-down plays with slashing, zig-zag runs into the secondary. He also scored from the 8 on a fourth-and-2 after asking Harbaugh to eschew a field goal try.
The defense, meanwhile, got a pick-6 from newcomer Marcus Peters and the clinching score on an 18-yard fumble return by Marlon Humphrey.
Harbaugh dismissed the notion that Baltimore made a statement with the victory, but noted, “It’s good confidence for us, in terms of going out there and winning in that environment against that team.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The pass rush managed only one sack, by L.J. Fort, giving the Ravens a total of 12 sacks in seven games.
Only five teams have fewer sacks. Baltimore finished with 43 last year.
Third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson was solid on the outside after entering for the injured McPhee.
“Jaylon played very well. He played his best game,” Harbaugh said. “He gave us a couple of really big grabby tackles, to say the least. He was strong at the point of attack, applied pressure, ran to the ball.”
Tight end Mark Andrews came in as the team’s leading receiver, but he dropped the wet football three times — including once in the end zone. He was targeted eight times and finished with two catches for 39 yards.
Harbaugh dismissed the poor performance as an aberration.
500. Jackson has 576 rushing yards in 2019 and had 695 yards as a rookie in 2018. That makes him the second quarterback in NFL history with at least 500 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, joining Cam Newton, who did it in 2011-12.
Harbaugh gave the players a complete week off, a decision he said was made even before the win at Seattle.
“As a coach, you just have to make that determination,” Harbaugh said. “I just don’t feel like any practice this week is going to improve us more than rest is going to improve us, both physical rest and emotional rest. The coaches will be working, though, like we always do.”
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