Ravens superlatives for the 2016 season

The Ravens first found ways to win in going 3-0 and then discovered painful ways to lose in dropping four straight games. When they needed to win one game in Pittsburgh to earn the opportunity to play for a division championship, they came up painfully short.

In the 2016 season, the Ravens improved their win total by three games, got significant contributions from their rookie class and enjoyed periods of defensive dominance. However, the lows out-numbered the highs and the Ravens couldn't overcome an anemic offense, late-game defensive breakdowns, a few key injuries and a slew of untimely mistakes.


Their 8-8 record and third non-playoff season in a four-year span was emblematic of a team that could look both great and inept, all in the course of a game. The Sun looks backs on a roller coaster season:

Biggest victory: The Ravens lost four games in a row when they returned home on Nov. 6 to play a Steelers team that had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back from injury. No matter, the Ravens held the Steelers scoreless for the game's first 51 minutes in a 21-14 victory that vaulted them into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh. The Ravens scored on a long Joe Flacco-to-Mike Wallace connection and on special teams, but it was their defense that won them the game and temporarily turned around their season.

Worst loss: Obviously, the Ravens' Week 16 defeat to the Steelers, a result that knocked them out of playoff contention, was the most devastating. But the game that the players and coaches are lamenting most was the 24-16 defeat to a bad New York Jets' team on Oct. 23 at MetLife Stadium. The Jets were 1-5 at the time and finished 5-11. But this day featured the 2016 Ravens at their very worst. Joe Flacco threw two interceptions. The Ravens rushed for just 11 yards on 11 carries and the Jets gained 155 yards on the ground. It was a brutal all-around performance.

Defining moment: Trailing by three points, the Steelers drove to the Ravens' 4-yard line deep in the final minute of a pulsating Christmas Day game. A touchdown meant the Steelers would clinch the AFC North and eliminate the Ravens. A field goal meant the game was going to overtime. A stop by the Ravens meant they'd move into first place and have a chance to win the division the next week. Antonio Brown caught a Roethlisberger pass, shrugged off a hit by C.J. Mosley and then out-muscled Eric Weddle while extending the ball over the goal line with nine seconds to go. It was the knockout blow on the Ravens' season.

Season MVP: It says plenty about how the Ravens' offense performed this year that the team's most valuable player was a kicker, but that should take nothing away from Justin Tucker. He had one of the best seasons for a kicker in NFL history, converting 38-of-39 field goals — his one miss was a block — and all 27 of his extra-point tries. Tucker also tied an NFL record with 10 field goals from 50 yards or more.

Top rookie: First-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed four games with a foot injury and struggled mightily for two games after he returned. However, he was dominant down the stretch, justifying his selection as the sixth overall pick in the draft. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the highest-rated offensive tackle in pass protection over the final six games. That's pretty impressive for a rookie having to block the opposition's top pass rushers each week.

Biggest disappointment: You had to expect some struggles from quarterback Joe Flacco, who was coming off a significant knee injury and had some instability around him. However, Flacco and the offense never put it together. First, Marc Trestman and then Marty Mornhinweg curiously abandoned the run game week after week, despite Flacco struggling to make plays down the field. The Ravens threw the ball more than any team in the NFL, yet they ranked 17th in the NFL in total yards per game and 21st in points per game. That tells you all you need to know about the season Flacco and the offense had.

Biggest revelation: Remember when there was some summer concern about who would replace middle linebacker Daryl Smith? Zachary Orr, an undrafted free agent out of North Texas who was in his third season with the team and had primarily played special teams, stepped in and became one of the defense's most impactful players. He finished with 132 tackles, 40 more than Mosley, the team's second-leading tackler. Orr also had three interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Biggest downer: Jimmy Smith was playing some of the best football of his career before injuries again hit the Ravens' top cornerback, dealing the team a talent loss they couldn't overcome. Smith didn't play the second half of the team's loss to the New York Giants, and electric wide receiver Odell Beckham took over the game. Smith missed two games with a back injury and the Dallas Cowboys' Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant had a field day without Smith on the field against them. A high ankle sprain cost Smith the final three quarters against the New England Patriots and the season's final three games; the Ravens never recovered from his absence.

Best individual performance: Flacco didn't have too many big days during the 2016 season, but he carved up the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 4. In the Ravens' 38-6 victory, Flacco completed 36 of 47 passing attempts for 381 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 119.2 quarterback rating. He completed passes to 10 receivers in the Ravens' best all-around performance of the season.

Best play: The Ravens signed Wallace for his speed and big-play ability and both were on display when Flacco hit the wide receiver on a slant pattern late in the first quarter of the home win versus Pittsburgh. Wallace broke one tackle and then ran away from the Steelers' secondary for a 95-yard score, the longest play from scrimmage in team regular-season history.

Best hit: Fullback Kyle Juszczyk's go-ahead 10-yard touchdown run with 1:18 to play against the Steelers in Week 16 would have easily qualified as the Ravens' best play had they won. They didn't, but Juszczyk deserves recognition for bulling over Steelers hard-hitting safety Mike Mitchell and diving into the end zone. It was a nice display of physicality, power and perseverance from the Ravens' versatile fullback.

Best organization decision: The Ravens rarely make an aggressive foray into free agency, but they did to sign Weddle to a four-year, $26 million deal following his departure from the San Diego Chargers. Weddle had a nice year with 89 tackles, one sack, four interceptions and a forced fumble. He provided much-needed leadership to a secondary that exceeded expectations for a chunk of the season.

Worst organizational decision: The Ravens knew that their top edge rushers — Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil — were both recovering from Achilles' surgery. Yet, they never added a veteran pass rusher. They drafted Kamalei Correa in the second round and used him mostly in the middle during training camp. They selected Matthew Judon in the fifth round and he played pretty well as a rookie, The lack of a consistent pass rush, though, killed the Ravens down the stretch. They finished with just 31 sacks.


Best quote: "All time worst [play] call ever. I like an aggressive mindset, but that was way too aggressive." Ravens coach John Harbaugh commenting on offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg calling a pass with the Ravens up by 10 in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles. Flacco was intercepted and the Ravens nearly coughed up the lead.



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