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Baltimore Ravens

Courtney Upshaw's first sack since 2013 a rewarding moment for Ravens defense

Without a sack for 26 regular season games spanning three seasons, Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw picked an opportune moment to get to Rams quarterback Case Keenum Sunday.

Upshaw beat left tackle Greg Robinson clean off the line with one minute remaining and the Ravens and Rams tied at 13, swatted the ball out of Keenum's hand and celebrated as defensive end Lawrence Guy recovered the ball to give the Ravens a chance to win. Five plays later, kicker Justin Tucker hit a game-winning, 47-yard field goal.

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"It actually feels great to get the first one in that fashion," Upshaw said. "At the end of the day, we want to win the game. We had to make a play. Somebody had to make a play, and I'm just glad I made it."

Upshaw's forced fumble was just the last of a series of plays the defense made to keep the Ravens in the game. Coach John Harbaugh said the defense played "phenomenally well." Upshaw also recovered a fumble forced by nose tackle Brandon Williams in the fourth quarter, and the team forced a season-high four turnovers. They'd had that many takeaways in the first eight games of the season this year.

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The focal point of Sunday's effort appeared to be Upshaw, who was in on five tackles. Upshaw is an unsung member of the Ravens rush defense, constantly getting credit from teammates and coaches for funneling opposing runners inside toward the team's big linemen and athletic linebackers.

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But save for one postseason sack last year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Upshaw has all too often been one step away from the quarterback. His last sack came on Dec. 22, 2013, and Sunday was Upshaw's 27th regular season game since then.

This year more than ever, his pass rush issues have come into focus without star outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Upshaw didn't want to look at it in terms of the drought — "I'm just happy I was part of making that play," he said. But his teammates and coaches were quick to point out how motivated he was by it.

"Here's a guy that has been competing like crazy, been listening to all of [the media's] criticism from time to time … and doesn't let it get to him because he knows how hard he works," Harbaugh said. "He knows what kind of player he is, and to see it pay off for him in a moment like this is just incredible rewarding for him, and for all of us, too."

"I don't think a lot of people understand how good of a player Courtney Upshaw is," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "I think he's one of the most underrated players on this team. Courtney's a beast, and I see this guy go out and bust his butt every day at practice. The guy comes out and works very hard, extremely hard, so for everything to come through for him, I'm just happy for him."

jmeoli@baltsun.com

twitter.com/JonMeoli


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