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From COVID-19 outbreak to Lamar Jackson’s heroic comeback, here are the defining moments of the Ravens’ season

Ravens' Lamar Jackson talks about playing in the playoffs and finally changing the playoff narrative.

The Ravens’ up-and-down regular season closed on a high note when they claimed a 38-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, earning the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs. Before the Ravens’ playoff rematch with the fourth-seeded Tennessee Titans on Sunday, here’s a chronological look back at the most defining moments of their season.

Pro Bowl DE Calais Campbell acquired in trade

On March 19, the Ravens officially acquired the 6-foot-8 defensive end from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 2020 fifth-round draft pick in a bid to bolster their pass rush. The 34-year old, who signed a new deal through 2021, had posted 31½ sacks over three Pro Bowl seasons in Jacksonville. Limited by a strained calf and a COVID-19 infection, he finished with just four this season. However, he’s been a key cog up front, helping tackle Brandon Williams anchor a Ravens defense that ranks ninth in efficiency, according to Football Outsiders.

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Patrick Queen, J.K. Dobbins highlight 2020 draft

The Ravens earned rave reviews in the first two rounds of the NFL draft in April, selecting LSU inside linebacker Patrick Queen with the 28th pick and then snagging Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins with the 55th selection. Queen struggled at times during the regular season but posted 106 tackles (66 solo), three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception, while Dobbins has emerged as the team’s featured back, with 805 rushing yards and a franchise-rookie-record nine touchdowns. Third-round selection Tyre Phillips started the season as All-Pro Marshal Yanda’s replacement at right guard and has rotated at right tackle with D.J. Fluker down the stretch. Wide receiver Devin Duvernay has performed well on kickoff returns, while fellow third-round picks Justin Madubuike and Malik Harrison have contributed on defense.

Earl Thomas III abruptly released in offseason

After Thomas had an on-field altercation with fellow safety Chuck Clark during an August practice, the Ravens released the seven-time Pro Bowl selection a couple of days later, citing “personal conduct that has adversely affected” the team. Just a year before, Thomas had signed a four-year, $55 million contract — including $32 million guaranteed — which was the franchise’s largest-ever deal for a defender. The Ravens did not intend to pay his guaranteed $10 million base salary for this season, and Thomas reportedly had a grievance filed on his behalf by the NFL Players Association in October in a bid to recover it.

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Ravens enter bye week cruising at 5-1

After holding off the Philadelphia Eagles, 30-28, on Oct. 18, the Ravens took a 5-1 record into their Week 7 bye, with a 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on “Monday Night Football” their only blemish. The week of rest came a week earlier than expected, as a coronavirus outbreak among the Tennessee Titans forced a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be rescheduled. But the Ravens came out of their break with a home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 28-24, and went on to drop three of their next four to fall to 6-5.

When it rains, it pours in Foxborough

The Ravens offense was overwhelmed by pounding rain and whipping winds in a 23-16 “Sunday Night Football” loss to the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Nov. 15. After scoring the opening touchdown, the Ravens fell behind 23-10 in the third quarter. They cut the lead to 23-17 but mustered only 33 yards in the fourth quarter, unable to drive past midfield in any of their three final possessions as the conditions worsened. It was the beginning of a three-game losing streak, and the worst was yet come.

Derrick Henry has final say, again, in another loss to Titans

In their Week 11 rematch against Tennessee, the Ravens had a 21-10 lead early in the third quarter against the team that had knocked them out of the 2019 playoffs. But the Titans once again had the last word. Running back Derrick Henry closed out a 138-yard rushing performance with a 29-yard score in overtime to hand the Ravens a second consecutive defeat, 30-24. “It looked like that team wanted it more than us,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said afterward.

COVID-19 outbreak wreaks havoc

A team-wide outbreak in late November sent 23 players to the reserve/COVID-19 list while also infecting coaches, family and staff members. The team announced that one staff member had been disciplined for violating COVID-19 protocols, which according to multiple sources was head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders, who had not routinely worn the proximity tracker required by the NFL for contact tracing or reported potential COVID-19 symptoms as he worked with players. Jackson tested positive on Thanksgiving Day, forcing him to miss a game against the Steelers that was eventually played on a Wednesday afternoon after three postponements. A scheduled Thursday night game against the Dallas Cowboys was also moved to Tuesday, and the NFL fined the team $250,000 in December for the violations.

Ravens fall to Steelers in rare Wednesday game

In the most notable game of a coronavirus-dominated season, the Ravens and the then-undefeated Steelers finally made it to Heinz Field for a Wednesday matinee on Dec. 3 after three postponements. And while the Ravens — with nine starters, including Jackson, on the reserve/COVID-19 list — fell to their archrival, 19-14, the effort proved to be a momentum builder. The game was only the second played on a Wednesday since 1949, making this the first season in NFL history in which one game was played on every day of the week.

Lamar Jackson’s return one for the ages on ‘Monday Night Football’

After heading to the locker room late in the third quarter because of cramps, Jackson returned to the field with two minutes left to play and left as the hero in a 47-42 win at Cleveland. He first threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown on fourth-and-5 with two minutes to play to give the Ravens a 42-35 lead. After the Browns answered with a tying touchdown, he engineered a six-play, 38-yard drive to set up kicker Justin Tucker’s 55-yard game-winning field goal with two seconds to play. “With all the things that went on with this game ... if you wrote a movie about this, people wouldn’t believe it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They would say it could never happen. ‘Reality is stranger than fiction,’ or whatever that saying is. That’s kind of what it is here. It’s crazy.”

Ravens run past Bengals for historic win and playoff spot

When the Ravens thumped the Bengals, 38-3, on Sunday for their fifth straight win, they not only made their way into the playoffs, but also into the franchise’s record book with a staggering 404 rushing yards. It was just the seventh time a team has eclipsed 400 rushing yards in league history. Dobbins led the ground game with 160 yards on 13 carries, while Jackson added 97, becoming the first NFL quarterback to record multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons. The team’s previous single-game high was 350 yards, in a win against the Browns in 2003.

Other memorable moments

Dez Bryant tests positive minutes before kickoff vs. Cowboys: Just 30 minutes before he was set to play against his former team Dec. 8, Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant was pulled off the field after his earlier COVID-19 test came back inconclusive. His subsequent test was positive, forcing him to watch the game from home. In a stream of tweets during the game, a 34-17 Ravens win, Bryant also indicated that he wouldn’t return to the team, which signed him as a free agent in October, but then later wrote, “Yea I’m coming back... I’m being smart.”

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Bryant’s first TD catch in three years: After three years out of the NFL, Bryant scored his first touchdown since Dec. 10, 2017 — a span of 1,106 days — in the second quarter of a 40-14 win over the Jaguars on Dec. 20. “I had to hold back my tears,” Bryant said after the game. “It was very emotional. That love is real. I’m not joking when I say that, these guys here, they are ’100.’ They are amazing, phenomenal people. Win, lose or draw, I swear it’s love in my heart for Baltimore. Forever.”

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Offensive lineman Tyre Phillips takes a fumble 20 yards: Phillips scooped up a fumble and rushed for 22 yards in the fourth quarter of that game against the Jaguars before leaving the game to be evaluated for a concussion. Harbaugh said that Phillips earned a game ball for the play. “We’ve never seen an offensive lineman pick up a ball and gain yards without fumbling,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve actually shown our guys many plays like that. I think Tyre is paying attention because he had that thing covered up nice.”

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