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Ravens notes: Za’Darius Smith has become one of NFL’s better pass rushers, Harbaugh says

After missing only his second game of the season because of a minor strained right shoulder, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith made just one tackle in the Ravens’ 27-10 thrashing of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

But that tackle provided a turning point. Smith beat Cleveland left tackle Spencer Drango and then sacked and stripped rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in the end zone. The fumble was recovered by defensive tackle Brandon Williams for the touchdown that gave the Ravens an insurmountable 24-10 advantage with 7:06 left in the third quarter.

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The Ravens need two wins to get to the NFL playoffs and that's all they are worried about as they prepare for Saturday's game against Indianapolis.

Although that was Smith’s first sack since Oct. 26, when he had a half-sack in a 40-0 shutout of the Miami Dolphins, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Smith has been developing under the radar into a force in the defense’s pass rush.

“As a coach, you like to see guys do more,” Harbaugh said. “You like to see guys succeed, the hard work that’s put in to make a play like that. It was a quick throw, and boy, he had a tremendous out, in and out. He kind of faked that he was going to go to a power move and bull-rushed the tackle back and slipped outside and got around clean and for the quarterback to even think he would be there, and that’s why the strip sack happened. That was just a great play. I think Za’Darius has become really, quietly or not, maybe not in Baltimore as much, but nationally, a really good pass rusher, one of the better pass rushers in football, an ascending pass rusher. I personally love his work ethic, love his attitude, I love being around him every day. It’s the kind of guy he is. We want to see more of that.”

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With 2½ sacks so far, Smith has already surpassed his 2016 total of one and is two tackles away from tying last season’s mark of 20 stops.

End zone: The Ravens wrapped up their regular-season road schedule with a 4-4 record — finishing with at least a .500 winning percentage for just the second time in the past five years. But Harbaugh was not inclined to sit back and revel in the moment. “We just need to win the last game,” he said. “We would’ve liked to have won the one before that. If you want to go back and look at all the games, we would’ve liked to have won a couple more of those. But those are water under the bridge now. All the other stuff is good after-the-season conversation.” … Harbaugh seemed as astounded as many Ravens fans who watched referee Gene Steratore use an index card to reaffirm that the Dallas Cowboys had gained a first down in the fourth quarter of an eventual 20-17 win over the Oakland Raiders. Asked whether he had ever seen an official use an index card, Harbaugh replied: “Man, I’ll tell you: I’m going to stay away from that one. I like Gene Steratore a lot. I think he does a great job.” … The league will announce the players for the 2018 Pro Bowl on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the NFL Network. The game is scheduled to be played Sunday, Jan. 28, at 3 p.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

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