Ravens preparing to play red-hot Dolphins
— For Baltimore Ravens rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley, there may be no better player on the team to take advice from than 14-year veteran Terrell Suggs. While Stanely is preparing for his first postseason push of his young career, Suggs is gearing up for what he hopes is his ninth trip to the playoffs since Baltimore drafted the linebacker in 2003.
With five games remaining in the regular season, the Ravens, currently tied for the division lead with the Pittsburgh Steelers, need to make winning a habit if they intend to punch their first playoff ticket since 2014.
“Terrell Suggs has been saying it’s a five-game season from here on out,” Stanley said. “He’s always told me, ‘I need five fights out of you.’”
That five-game stretch begins Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, when the Ravens (6-5) host the Miami Dolphins (7-4), who have won six in a row.
“Probably the main thing is that they’re finding ways to win, especially at the end of the game,” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday when asked about the Dolphins. “I think they’ve been down two of the last three, maybe, and scored – down two scores late in the game and found a way to win, get stops and make plays. They have made plays in those situations. The quarterback, receivers have made plays. Of course, the run game has been good all year, and their defense. Their front four is excellent. It’s a really aggressive defense. Generally, I’d say that’s what they look like.”
The biggest challenge for the Ravens will likely be stopping the ground attack of Miami, led by running back Jay Ajayi, who leads the NFL with 730 rushing yards during his team’s six-game winning streak. Baltimore will counter with the league’s top rushing defense (74.9 yards per game).
“That is Raven football. You do not want teams to run the ball on you. We take
a lot of pride in that. We take a lot of pride in playing defense,” Suggs said. “We like to play defense around here, and it is a good feeling.”
Suggs compared Ajayi to Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Baltimore faced Elliott, the NFL’s leading rusher, two weeks ago, holding the running back to his secondlowest yards per attempt on the season.
“It is the NFL, so you are always going to face a good back, but he is one of those … He has a little something more to his game, and you are going to like it – just like we had a couple weeks ago,” Suggs said. “We love playing against the best and taking the challenges. This is just another one; we love them, and we look forward to playing.”
While the Ravens haven’t won six straight, they do boast victories in three of their last four games. Baltimore has averaged 21.3 points per game over that span.
“We play tough games every year and all season, and sometimes you go through tough stretches where you lose close ones, and you aren’t playing the best you want to. I think everything is starting to come together. I think we are starting to get guys healthy. I think we have a more consis- tent lineup, and it is leading to more consistency,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We are starting games better, I think. We are not necessarily finishing them out with the foot on the gas, but we are playing good football. I think we are just getting more consistent across the board.”
With both teams focused on finishing, expect Sunday’s contest to be decided late in the fourth quarter.
“At the end of the day, it is wins and losses, and you want to win all your games, especially in the fourth quarter,” Suggs said. “We believe more games are lost than won. We do not want to lose any games, we want to win them. The fourth quarter is where you get that done.”
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Baltimore Ravens’ Elvis Dumervil (58) celebrates with Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle (32) after he sacked and caused Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to fumble to end the Bengals’ final drive last week. The Ravens will host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.