Ravens' Head Coach John Harbaugh answer questions at the team's year-end press conference at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills.
At his season-ending news conference on Jan. 17, John Harbaugh called this Ravens team the best regular-season team it could’ve been. Yes, they’d fallen short in a stunning AFC divisional-round loss to the Tennessee Titans. But for so long, they’d been so good and so memorable.
In 2019, the Ravens won a franchise-record 14 games, including a franchise-record 12 straight. They minted an NFL superstar in quarterback Lamar Jackson. They had 13 players named to the Pro Bowl. They blew out teams, skated by a few others and flew in to the playoffs as Super Bowl favorites.
Because of where its season ended, this Ravens team will not be regarded as one of the franchise’s most hallowed. But it certainly left an impression. As the Ravens turn their focus to 2020, here’s a set of superlatives to remember this season by:
Player most likely to win MVP honors (and whatever else he wants in Baltimore)
Jackson, already a first-team All-Pro selection, is only a week away from becoming the second-youngest NFL Most Valuable Player ever. He’s the first quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in a single season, and he broke Michael Vick’s 2006 mark for rushing yards. Not only did Jackson lead the NFL in passing touchdowns, but he also finished with more rushing yards than the Miami Dolphins did overall (in one fewer game, too).
Jackson’s approval rating in Baltimore is close to perfect, even with his 0-2 playoff record. He could run for mayor, air his highlight-reel touchdown run against the Cincinnati Bengals as a campaign ad and win. He won’t, of course, because that’d be one more thing getting in the way of his pursuit of greatness. Jackson is beloved in the Ravens locker room, the community and across the league. But he’s not a champion yet, so the adulation just won’t suffice.
Best player you probably didn’t know about until Week 6
Chuck Clark was something of an afterthought entering the season, just another special teams performer who hadn’t flashed much during training camp while backing up safety Tony Jefferson. But when Jefferson suffered a season-ending injury in a Week 5 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the starting job was Clark’s.
The third-year pro proved he could do it all. As a box safety, Clark led the Ravens in tackles (73), finished third in passes defended (nine), forced two fumbles, and added an interception and a sack. Wearing the green dot, he handled presnap duties for a defense that evolved into one of the NFL’s best. And he rarely left the field, playing over 98% of the defensive snaps in every game after Week 6 and finishing sixth overall in special teams snaps.
Player most likely to skip the postgame ice bath
In one sense, Jackson and the Ravens offense kept Sam Koch busy this season. After all, someone had to hold the ball for kicker Justin Tucker on all those extra-point attempts.
But the 37-year-old stalwart finished with just 40 punts this season, by far a career low. Over a three-game span in November, he punted twice, with his services never needed in a blowout win over the Houston Texans. The Ravens scored so often that they punted only about once every four drives this season, an NFL-best rate. Still, Koch made the most of his opportunities — he was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
Best game to help you forget about the last one
There might not be a better five-game stretch in Ravens regular-season history than the rampage they started in Week 9. After returning from their bye, the Ravens opened November by beating the then-undefeated New England Patriots in prime time, and a month later edged the San Francisco 49ers, the eventual NFC champions. They kept on winning after that, too.
But no victory was more impressive than the Week 12 demolition of the Los Angeles Rams. In a 45-6 road win on “Monday Night Football,” the Ravens scored a touchdown on their first six drives. Not even a season-ending injury to center Matt Skura could stop Jackson and an all-systems-go offense. Jackson passed for five touchdowns, and the Ravens rushed for nearly 300 yards — easily more than the Rams’ total yardage.
Most creative celebrator
Marcus Peters didn’t arrive in Baltimore until Week 7, but he made the most of his first season here. As part of a midseason trade with the Rams, the Ravens got an All-Pro cornerback and, apparently, an all-world merrymaker.
Cameras captured Peters twirling like a ballerina in a jewelry box late in the Ravens’ win over the Rams, his first game in Los Angeles since the mid-October deal. After Peters made a game-clinching deflection of a pass from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen in Week 14, he celebrated by “drinking” a beer in the stands with fans.
When the NFL fined Peters over $14,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct, Bud Light offered to match the amount with a donation to a charity on his behalf.
Boldest fashion statement
The quality of clothing on display merited a preseason honoree and a regular-season honoree. In the preseason finale against the Washington Redskins, rookie wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown wore a highlighter yellow sweatsuit that probably glowed in the dark. It was a rare bright spot — very, very bright spot — at FedEx Field this season.
In Week 11, guard Bradley Bozeman passed on a designer chain for something a little more do-it-yourself. He showed up to the Ravens’ game against the Texans with an oversize “Bozeman” chain that was conspicuously low on precious gems. His wife later said Bozeman got it from a kid on the way in.
There were too many to decide on just one. The best clap-back came from Jackson, who, after posting a perfect passer rating in the Week 1 win over the Miami Dolphins, joked, “Not bad for a running back.” He also provided the best in-game sound bite, telling Harbaugh, “Hell, yeah, Coach. Let’s go for it,” before the Ravens went for it on fourth down in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks.
The best viral marketing for a fast-food chain came from outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who told a “Sunday Night Football” audience that his body was “built by Taco Bell.”
And the best ambiguous mantra came from Florida, by way of Jackson, Brown, running back Mark Ingram II and countless others: “Big truss.” Truss got so big, even Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe worked it into his own imitating introduction for running back Derrick Henry after their playoff upset.
Best nickname that requires a certain maturity to grasp
Before the Ravens’ Week 16 game against the Cleveland Browns, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale shared his nickname for defensive tackles Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce.
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“They’re the ‘FSU Brothers,’ " he said. “I can just tell you ‘Up’ is the last word of that, and neither one of them went to Florida State. So you can understand where we’re going with that, and that’s what they do.”
Neither of the first two words can be printed by a family newspaper, but we hope you can fill in the blanks yourself.