Ravens rookie Jack­son faces big­gest test

Bal­ti­more takes on 10-2 Chiefs, who are mid­dle of the pack in stop­ping the run

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

OWINGS MILLS (AP) — Since tak­ing over as the start­ing quar­ter­back, rookie La­mar Jack­son has re­vi­tal­ized the Bal­ti­more Ravens run­ning at­tack and kept op­pos­ing of­fenses off the field by dom­i­nat­ing time of pos­ses­sion.

He will need do that again this week to help slow down the high-fly­ing Kansas City Chiefs, who lead the NFL with 37 points per game.

“It will be ver y help­ful if we could do that,” Ravens coach John Har­baugh said. “They score in a va­ri­ety of ways very quickly so time of pos­ses­sion would be very help­ful for us.”

Jack­son has emerged as a play­maker in place of Joe Flacco, who has been side­lined with a hip in­jury since Nov. 4. Flacco was not ex­pected to be a full par­tic­i­pant in prac­tice on Wed­nes­day, but Har­baugh said Flacco’s ac­tiv­ity will be “ramped up” later this week.

Un­til then Jack­son is poised to make his fourth con­sec­u­tive start. He has led Bal­ti­more to three con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries, but faces his big­gest chal­lenge this week in a rau­cous Ar­row­head Sta­dium.

“I just feel like those guys are go­ing to have read my lips some­times,” Jack­son said about ad­just­ing to the crowd noise. “I heard Kansas City can be very loud. I’m go­ing to have to do my job and speak up.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been im­pressed by the young quar­ter­back. Jack­son will look to make plays against a Kansas City de­fense that is al­low­ing 122 yards rush­ing per game.

“He can run like a run­ning back. He’s as fast as a re­ceiver and he can throw like a son of a gun. That’s a good com­bi­na­tion to have,” Reid said.

The Ravens have run for more than 200 yards in each of the last three games and hold the sixth and fi­nal post­sea­son spot in the AFC. Bal­ti­more (7-5) also is within a half-game of the first-place Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in the AFC North.

This up­com­ing game fea­tures the Ravens’ top-ranked de­fense against the Chief’s No. 1 of­fense. The play­ers, how­ever, are just fo­cused on win­ning and not any sta­tis­tics.

“We’re a con­fi­dent group and we feel that we can match up with any­one,” Ravens safety Eric Wed­dle said. “With our scheme and the play­ers we have, we should be able to go out and play great de­fense. Ob­vi­ously, this of­fense is the best in the league. It’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge for us, but we’re up for it. We’re ex­cited to go into a play­off-style game.”

In Week 13, Bal­ti­more held the ball for 39:39, com­pared to just 20:21 for At­lanta. The Fal­cons ran just 13 plays in the sec­ond half.

That dom­i­nance helped the Ravens de­fense stay fresh and make big plays, es­pe­cially in the fourth quar­ter. At­lanta quar­ter­back Matt Ryan threw for the fewest pass­ing yards (131) in a game he played from be­gin­ning to end over his 11-year ca­reer.

The Ravens left At­lanta with a 26-16 vic­tory. Bal­ti­more faces a tougher test this week against Kansas City (10-2) and quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes, who has thrown for 3,923 yards with 41 touch­downs and 10 in­ter­cep­tions. Ma­homes has sev­eral key weapons at his dis­posal, in­clud­ing re­ceiver Tyreek Hill (1,119 yards, 11 touch­downs) and tight end Travis Kelce (1,082 yards and nine TDs).

Har­baugh and his play­ers are look­ing for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity to play against the best team in the AFC.

“Kansas City is very loud. It’s a great en­vi­ron­ment,” Har­baugh said. “It’s one of those en­vi­ron­ments you love go­ing into in this league. It’s what you do this job for. Yes, it’s an awe­some place to play. It’ll be loud, they’ll be into it (if) their team is win­ning. This’ll be a big game. We’re look­ing for­ward to that. That’s some­thing that you re­ally kind of rel­ish.”

AP PHOTO

Ravens quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son looks to pass against the Fal­cons this past Sun­day.

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