The last time the Ravens and Los Angeles Rams met, All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald watched quarterback Lamar Jackson torch his defense in a 45-6 rout on “Monday Night Football.”
Jackson tied a career high with five touchdown passes and rushed for 95 yards on Nov. 25, 2019, to lead the Ravens to their seventh consecutive victory in a season that would end with the No. 1 seed and NFL Most Valuable Player honors for the second-year quarterback.
Two years later, Donald hasn’t forgotten that beatdown at the L.A. Coliseum. Entering Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium, he’s using it as motivation.
“They beat us pretty bad in a prime-time game. For me personally, that’s in the back of my head. That’s a little motivation. It’s a little payback game,” Donald told reporters Thursday. “That’s a little fire lit under me personally. We’re definitely going to come out ready.”
The stakes are a little bit different this time around. In 2019, the Ravens were in the midst of a record-setting 14-2 season, while the Rams were limping to a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs one year after reaching the Super Bowl.
Entering Week 17, the Rams (11-4) are one of the league’s best teams and fighting with the Green Bay Packers (12-3) for the top seed in the NFC. The Ravens (8-7), meanwhile, have lost four straight and are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since Jackson became the starter in 2018.
With Jackson missing practice Thursday a day after being limited with a lingering ankle injury, the Ravens face an uphill battle against Donald and one of the league’s best defenses.
“It’s going to be a test, for sure,” center Bradley Bozeman said Wednesday of defending Donald. “We’re excited for the challenge. We’re just going to get out there, work today and try to prepare for those guys. They have a great defensive front, and we’ll see where we end up at the end of the day.”
Although Donald was held to just one tackle in that 2019 defeat, he’ll be facing a Ravens offensive line Sunday without Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., who helped pave the way for an NFL-record 3,296 rushing yards.
Donald, the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Month, has 12 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 23 quarterback hits, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles this season, likely earning his seventh straight All-Pro nod.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday “there’s no question” it will be difficult to prepare for Donald, as well as star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and veteran edge rusher Von Miller, who was acquired in a midseason trade from the Denver Broncos.
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“You have two of the top players on the field,” Harbaugh said in reference to Donald and Ramsey. “You have one on the first level, and you have one on the second level who are considered right at the top or the best at their position in the game. Then you have two [more] on the second level — Von Miller and [Leonard] Floyd. Those two guys are pretty darn good, too, and they’re considered top players on the edges. So, they have four really great players and a lot of other good players that a lot of people may not want to talk about. But they’re playing good defense for a reason — good scheme, well-coached.”