The Ravens won't have to hear about ranking 32nd against the run any longer. A prideful, talented Baltimore defense reemerged Thursday night in a 40-0 win over the Dolphins, holding Jay Ajayi to 23 yards on 13 carries. Late in the first half, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco was hit by linebacker Kiko Alonsoas Flacco slid to the turf. He got up woozy and left the game with a concussion as well as a laceration on his ear. Immediately following the hit, offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, wideout Jeremy Maclin, and coach John Harbaugh defended their QB by going after Alonso. But in the second half, it was the defense that protected Baltimore's lead, helping the team return to .500 midway through the season.
C.J. Mosley returned an interception 63 yards to give the Ravens a 26-0 lead. The defense then came up with a fourth-down sack of Matt Moore in Dolphins territory to set up an easy touchdown drive. And finally, Jimmy Smith found a pick-six with 4:28 left in the game to put an exclamatory 40-burger on Baltimore's visitors. There would be no Dolphins comeback this time around. Miami finished with 196 yards, and any talk ofMoore supplanting Jay Cutler likely ended with Moore’s 47.2 rating. The Dolphins have now been shut out twice this year while the Ravens have blanked two opponents.
“Our quarterback went down and we took it personally,” Mosley said afterward. “We’re just looking out for our family.”
Let's be clear: The defensive resurgence is meaningless if Flacco isn't able to get back to 100 percent (and improve on his pre-concussion performances). But going into a mini-bye, at least Baltimore can now feel confident that its perennial team strength is performing like it.
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1. Ravens 40, Dolphins 0. Once again, the biggest topic out of a Thursday night game is a questionable headshot. We'll see if Kiko Alonso will get the same heavy punishment Danny Trevathan received for his hit a few weeks back. Afterwards, Harbaugh would not comment on whether he thought Alonso should have been ejected. For his part, Alonso said, “It was bang-bang.” A couple other storylines: Ndamukong Suh grabbed Ravens backup Ryan Mallettby the neck, and a cat ran on the field.
2. This has a chance to be one of the best NFL stories of the year: In Kansas City, Marcus Peters could be the team's best player; he's also the most disliked by fans. The Oakland native and former Rookie of the Year, who has protested during the anthem and berated fans, “is something of a cultural experiment here in Middle America: one that has occasionally pitted a player against his own team’s fans, individualism against traditional values,” Kent Babb writes.
3. Charlotte Wilder profiles Chris Long as the Eagles defensive end donates 10 game checks to improving education equality. Martellus Bennett describes his former teammate as “a rich bum.”
4. J.J. Watt announced his plans Thursday for the $37 million he raised following Hurricane Harvey. He's partnering with four charities and focusing on “rebuilding homes, restoring child-care centers, distributing food and providing medical and mental health services.”
5. Yet another team anchor is out for the year with an injury. This time it’s Patriots linebacker and leader Dont'a Hightower, who tore a pectoral muscle that reportedly had been an issue since the offseason. There’s a chance Bill Belichick will add a replacement at the trade deadline; otherwise some backups are going to have to step up in big ways.
6. “Roberto Aguayo failed,” Jourdan Rodrigue writes of the new Panther, “but he's not a failure.”
7. Carson Wentz is preparing for the first game of his career without All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters. “Losing Peters is a tough loss,” Wentz said. “Love that guy. Been praying for him like crazy. We have a mentality in here that’s infectious and it’s just the next guy up. We have a ton of confidence in [Halapoulivaati Vaitai] to step up . . . It’s a tough loss, but we have a ton of confidence that he’ll get the job done and we’ll keep this train rolling.”
8. According to cornerback Logan Ryan, NFL players are “just like any other fan that's sitting around at work or at a bar,” at least when it comes to how they feel watching their alma mater play football.
9. Heading to college for a moment, Will Grier leads the country with 26 touchdown passes, but he still has a long way to go before he’s as famous as his Vine star brother.
10.Anquan Boldin has an essay in Time Magazine explaining why NFL players protest.
Amidst a one-game suspension, Marshawn Lynch still managed to have some fun, practicing with his high school team. Even more surprising, they managed to bring him down for a loss.