Defense overcomes penalties, forces late turnovers as Ravens top Texans 23-16

BALTIMORE — Hosting their first home Monday Night football game in over five years, and just the second home Monday Night contest of the John Harbaugh / Joe Flacco era, the Baltimore Ravens walked into M&T Bank Stadium with a purpose on Monday Night. Facing a light schedule the rest of the season, the Ravens needed a win on Monday to keep their #6 playoff spot intact. They took care of business on Monday against the Houston Texans, coming away with a 23-16 win.

The Ravens defense forced three turnovers in the game, two of them occurring in the final five minutes to seal the win. A Terrell Suggs strip-sack recovered by Willie Henry led to a field goal, and a Anthony Levine Sr. interception right before the two-minute warning left no time on the clock for Houston. In the first half, Tony Jefferson caught his first interception as a member of the Ravens and ran it back 13 yards. Jefferson, a recipient of jokes from teammates due to his lack of interceptions, can finally cross that chore off his “To-Do” list.

Although the turnover-savy Ravens defense carried the team again on Monday, the win did not come easy. The Ravens got penalized 10 times against Houston; eight of them against defense. Brandon Carr got penalized three times – twice for holding and once for pass interference. His PI call in the first quarter led to Houston’s first touchdown of the game – a four-yard run by Lamar Miller. That gave the Texans a 7-0 lead, presenting the Ravens with the challenge of winning a game after trailing, something that they had not done prior to Monday.

Along with Carr’s blunders, Jimmy Smith got flagged twice (defensive holding, pass interference), Maurice Canady was guilty of a late hit on Tom Savage, and Matt Judon committed an unnecessary roughness penality off a late tackle on Braxton Miller. On Houston’s nine-play touchdown drive, the Ravens committed three penalties and allowed gains of 23 and 29 yards. On the Texans’ three drives ending in field goals, four penalties were committed by Baltimore. The extra chances given to Houston via penalty, along the offense’s struggles, almost gave the game away. As a result, the Ravens won in their normal fashion: ugly.

Baltimore received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out. Houston got the ball back and responded with their first and only touchdown of the game. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in a 23-yard reception, and Savage would find Bruce Ellington for a 29-yard strike. Opponents have rarely found early success against the Ravens this season, making that opening defensive drive so uncharacteristic of this top-10 defense.

Following a few punts, the Ravens tied up the game on a quick seven-play drive that eclipsed just three minutes. Along the way, the Ravens converted their first of two good 4th-and-one attempts on the night when punter Sam Koch completed a perfect 22-yard pass down the left sideline to Chris Moore. Following a nine-yard completion from Flacco to Nick Boyle, Buck Allen found the end zone on a 10-yard run for his second rushing touchdown of the season.

Allen’s score became the start of a 17-play second quarter that featured another Ravens rushing touchdown. On Baltimore’s drive after Allen’s score, Alex Collins ran for 37 combined yards; a 29-yard dash – again on 4th-and-one – to the Baltimore 8-yard line, and then an eight-yard touchdown run. This five-play drive, like the prior one, occurred quickly (2:26), and gave Collins his second rushing touchdown as a Raven, and the third overall score of his career. His first touchdown as a Raven came during last week’s 23-0 win over the Packers.

On Houston’s drive following Collins’ touchdown, Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked his first of three field goals of the night (25 yards) to end the Ravens’ scoring run at 14 points. On the Ravens’ next drive, Justin Tucker booted his longest attempt of the day – 53 yards – to extend the Ravens’ lead to seven with as many seconds left on the clock. Going into the locker rooms, the Ravens held the 17-10 edge with 30 minutes of football left to play.

On the second Texans drive of the second half, three penalties in the Ravens’ secondary led to Fairbairn’s 36-yard field goal to put the Texans back just by four, 17-13. That wound up as the lone third-quarter score. Early in the fourth quarter, Tucker added three points in Baltimore’s favor on a 31-yarder. Fairbairn added three more points on Houston’s next possession, which turned out to be the last threat Savage and the Houston offense made. Suggs’ strip sack led to Tucker’s last field goal (49 yards), and Levine Sr.’s interception ended the comeback dreams of the Texans.

As a whole, the Texans outgained the Ravens in total yards, 303-294. Both teams faced 14 third down situations; the Texans converted six, and the Ravens successfully converted three. The Ravens went 2-for-4 in the red zone, and the Texans went 1-for-4. The Texans also held the edge in the possession battle, 30:16-29:44.

For the Ravens, Flacco went 20-for-32 for 141 yards. Savage went 22-for-37 for 252 yards and two interceptions. The Ravens failed to rush for 100 yards in their previous two games, but racked up 139 yards of rushing on Monday, led by Collins’ 60 yards with a touchdown on 16 carries. Flacco carried the ball six times for 42 combined yards. For Houston, Miller recorded 51 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Hopkins put on a show for the Texans, catching seven passes for 125 combined yards. Hopkins was targeted 10 times, and four penalties in the Ravens’ secondary occurred when the defender was assigned to Hopkins. The Ravens simply had no answer for him.

C.J. Mosley led Ravens defenders with 12 total tackles (five solo). Suggs notched two sacks, and now owns 124 career sacks, which is 18th all-time. Behind Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor continued his impressive sophomore season with eight tackles (five solo). For Houston, Kevin Johnson picked up seven solo tackles, and Jadeveon Clowney tallied his seventh sack of the season. Clowney disrupt the Ravens;’ offensive line early in the game, but finished with two tackles.

Updated Playoff Picture: 

AFC:

Division Leaders: Steelers (9-2), Patriots (9-2), Titans (7-4), Chiefs (6-5)

Wild Card: Jaguars (7-4), Ravens (6-5)

In the hunt: Bills (6-5), Chargers, Raiders, Bengals (5-6), Jets, Dolphins, Texans (4-7)

NFC:

Division Leaders: Eagles (10-1), Vikings (9-2), Rams (8-3), Saints (8-3)

Wild Card: Panthers (8-3), Falcons (7-4)

In the hunt: Lions (6-5), Cowboys, Redskins, Cardinals, Packers (5-6), Buccaneers (4-7)

Up Next: The Ravens remain at home on a short week with the Detroit Lions coming to town for a 1:00 pm tangle on Sunday, Dec. 3. The Lions will own a rest advantage, with 10 games separating Sunday from their last contest, a 30-23 loss to the Vikings on Thanksgiving. The loss to Minnesota snapped a three-game winning streak for the Lions. The Lions are 0-2 all-time in Baltimore.

Image Credit: Newsday

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Huerter drops 23 but Maryland falls short in battle with Syracuse 72-70

SYRACUSE — Maryland basketball has been back in swing for a few weeks now but their Monday night matchup with Syracuse marks their first opportunity for a quality win. Through the first seven games the Terps have been able to take care of business for the most part. They did get caught by St. Bonaventure this past weekend in a 63-61 loss, but overall things have been progressing smoothly for Mark Turgeon’s young squad.

With the departure of Melo Trimble this past offseason, many thought Maryland would be at a disadvantage in 2017-2018. So far this post-Trimble team has managed to find success by sharing the wealth. We got a glimpse of this last year when Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson ended up as major contributors as freshman. Last season, some pressure was taken off of Trimble but as the season wore on, he ended up shooting more than his teammates but the shots just weren’t falling.

Maryland is certainly lacking some on court leadership with Trimble gone, but it looks like the depth of this year’s team will make up for that. The foundation of Huerter, Jackson, and Anthony Cowan Jr. will lead the way but there are other exciting players to look out for. Junior Dion Wiley is finally back from an injury-plagued 2016-17 while Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell will look to make waves in their freshman year.

The Terps’ downfall so far this season has been turnovers. A lopsided 20-9 turnover margin was a major factor in their loss to St. Bonaventure and it certainly had an impact in the early goings of Monday nights game.

Eleven first half turnovers helped Syracuse take a 36-35 lead but the Terps’ shooting kept them in the game. Maryland finished the half with a 10-4 scoring run and a three-point shooting percentage of 41.7%. Huerter was on fire from beyond the arc and Fernando dominated inside for a balanced Terrapin attack.

Both of these players continued to produce for the Terps in the second half. With the lead bouncing back and forth, the Terps needed to rely on them to stay hot down the stretch.

With under two minutes to play, Huerter nailed his seventh three-pointer of the game to take a 66-65 lead. However, Syracuse’s Tyus Battle would respond quickly with a three of his own. The Terps were looking to score again as the clock winded down but a very untimely turnover by Cowan handed Syracuse the game. Huerter added yet another desperation three-pointer but it was too late for Maryland and the Orange held on for a 72-70 win.

This loss is disappointing for the Terps but the blueprint for success is clear. As long as they can clean up the turnovers, they will have a chance in a competitive Big Ten conference. This was also a good road test for a young team and they played a very solid game besides the turnovers. The freshman – Fernando and Morsell – were especially impressive for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how much they can contribute this year without having the pressure of carrying the team.

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

 

Ravens set to host first Monday night game since 2012

BALTIMORE — We at Charm City Bird Watch hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving with friends and family but now that the holiday rush is over, it’s time to get back to Ravens football. After last week’s 23-0 win over the Green Bay Packers, the team and fan base has been given new life but there remains a lot of work to be do as the Ravens approach the last six games.

The victory in Green Bay marked the third shutout of the year for this Baltimore defense but the team still only has five wins. Their .500 record is good enough for the second wildcard spot in a weakened AFC but there’s barely any space separating the Ravens from other playoff hopefuls like the Buffalo Bills.

Going into this final stretch of the year, we know that the Ravens have a chance simply based on their schedule. Four of the final six games will be against a team with a losing record. The other two are the Lions (6-5) and Steelers (8-2). In addition to this, the Ravens defense will get the chance to face yet another backup quarterback on Monday night in Tom Savage. They are 3-1 so far this year in games against backup QB’s.

Savage did start the season. as the Texans’ starting quarterback, but he got replaced by DeShaun Watson after he struggled mightily in Houston’s season opener. A torn ACL suffered in practice by Watson  means Savage has been thrown right back into the fold, going 1-3 as the Texans’ starting signal-caller.

The visiting Houston Texans are struggling, winning just two of their last six. However, they find themselves just one game behind the Ravens in a crowded playoff race. Many pundits are already counting Houston out, largely due to the loss of Watson. When it comes to the playoffs, this game means just as much for the Texans as it does for the Ravens.

Last Meeting: These teams haven’t seen each other in a few years. The Texans hosted the Ravens during week 16 of the 2014 season and came away with a 25-13 win. This was just the second win against Baltimore in Texans history as the Ravens lead the all time series 7-2. After four previous tries, the Texans have yet to win at M&T Bank Stadium.

Injury Report: As of Saturday Nov. 25

Notes on Texans:

  • Since losing Watson to a season ending injury, the Texans’ offense has averaged 15 points a game. That’s not a very comfortable number to work with if you are the Texans defense, especially when you are giving up over 24 points a game in the same span.
  • If the Texans want to beat the Ravens the blueprint is simple. Get pressure on Joe Flacco. Houston defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney has managed to get after the QB despite commanding double coverage after injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Clowney has posted five sacks in his last four games.

Notes on Ravens:

  • There has been a lot of talk about Flacco’s quality of play this season but lets look at the numbers. Last week Flacco had a decent game but he failed to throw for 200 yards for the sixth time this season. Through ten games, Flacco is also averaging a career low 5.44 yards-per-completion. His passer rating of 74.4 is also the second lowest of his career with 2013 (73.1) coming in just slightly worse.
  • This weeks matchup against Houston marks just the second home Monday night game for the Ravens in the last ten seasons. Even though Flacco’s stats listed above are abysmal, lets give him credit for his 11-1 career record in prime time games.

Details:

When: Monday, Nov. 27, 8:30 pm

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, MD

Radio: WBAL 109098 Rock

Commentators: Gerry SanduskyJustin Forsett, Stan White

TV: ESPNWBAL-TV

Commentators: Sean McDonough, John Gruden, Lisa Salters

Image Credit: Fanspeak

Ravens defense picks apart Hundley and Packers offense in 23-0 win

GREEN BAY, WI — Coming out of a bye week the Ravens needed a strong performance to kick-start the final stretch of their season. If the Ravens are to make the postseason, the window is still open but there is not much room left for error. However, a 23-0 road win against the Green Bay Packers is an awfully good start.

In terms of health the Ravens were not exactly better off than they were a few weeks ago. Getting running back Danny Woodhead back was certainly a big difference maker for the anemic offense. The Ravens found themselves down another offensive lineman as second-year man Ronnie Stanley was unable to suit up as he deals with a concussion. The Ravens also had two healthy scratches – Terrance West and Breshad Perriman – that could have been attributed to Woodhead’s return.

After winning the coin toss the Ravens chose to kick and send their defense out first. This would end up paying off as Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle picked up a pair of interceptions on the first two Green Bay possessions. Brett Hundley and the Packers offense had gone their last two games without a turnover.

The defense continued to feast on the Packers at the beginning of the second quarter. Patrick Onwuasor got to Green Bay running back Devante Mays and force a fumble. The turnover marked the Packers first fumble by a running back this season.

Despite forcing three turnovers after just eighteen minutes of play, the Ravens only put three points on the board. Marty Mornhinweg continued to show how incompetent of a play-caller he is with more head-scratching decisions. Joe Flacco was 13-for-17 on completions at the half but only averaged 5.8 yards-per-completion. Even in third-and-long situations, there was absolutely no urgency to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage.

The screen pass is an important piece in running a successful offense but that’s because you should only be calling it a handful of times per game, not a handful of times per drive. I don’t care how banged up you offensive line is, this is unacceptable on Mornhinweg’s part.

These mind-numbing play calls were not reserved to the pass game. Alex Collins got off to a hot start by running up the middle, yet Mornhinweg decided to call some pitch runs to the outside in third and short scenarios. All of this, combined with an ugly Flacco interception, resulted in a slim 6-0 Ravens lead at halftime.

The Ravens offense looked completely rejuvenated coming out of the half. Chris Moore set the offense up nicely after returning the kick 59 yards. Flacco took over from there, completing three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Mike Wallace brought in Flacco’s precise pass with one arm while fighting with the defender for space.

Considering how well the defense performed in the first half, the new 13-0 lead felt twice as large. Even with a larger lead, the defense did not let up, forcing the Packers to punt or turn the ball over on eight straight drives. Hundley was under pressure for a majority of the second half. When he did manage to escape the Ravens defenders, he was forced to throw it away.

The Ravens offense was just as lost as the Packers following their touchdown but the pressure was not on them. Just one score would have been enough to officially put the game away but the offense didn’t look too concerned with closing it out themselves. Luckily, the defense remained on point, forcing one more turnover while keeping Green Bay scoreless.

Had it not been for this forced fumble by Terrell Suggs, the offense likely would have run out the clock without another score, but excellent field position allowed them to finally put more points on the board in the final minutes of the game.

The Ravens defense finished the 23-0 win with five forced turnovers and six sacks for their third shutout performance of the season.

The Ravens will get a little extra rest before returning home for a Monday Night game against the Texans next week. Earlier this year, this matchup looked like it could be trouble for the Ravens but injuries have decimated the Texans to the point where they are no longer contenders. With that being said, the Ravens will have to make some changes on offense if they want to avoid the upset.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press

PREVIEW: Ravens Travel North to Lambeau to face Packers

BALTIMORE, MD – For only the fourth time since their inception, the Ravens will trek north to where the cheeseheads roam, Green Bay, Wisconsin. With how their last game ended, a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore looks to bounce back against a Packers squad that has been playing a far cry from the quality of NFL fans are used to seeing.

Baltimore is coming off a bye week, which is excellent for the team as they seem to finally be as healthy as can be. Running back Danny Woodhead is returning to the 53-man roster after his stint on the IR-Designated-to-Return list. Head Coach John Harbaugh gleefully told the media how excited he was to have the team in shape coming out of the bye. We all know that a happy “Harbs” means a good week, right? It also figures that the Ravens are historically competitive and good coming out of their bye week as shown by the graphic below.

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Graphic Credit: Cheat Sheet War Room

The last time the Ravens took on the Packers was in 2013, yes the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover season that no one should ever speak of. They lost in pure Ravens fashion 19-17. It is also worth noting that the game was at M&T Bank Stadium and Aaron Rodgers was doing what he does best. This time around the game is at Lambeau and Rodgers will be on the sidelines, still recovering from his broken collarbone suffered in week 6 against the Vikings. It seems the Birds have the advantage here.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR:

  1. Brett Hundley – He hasn’t played THAT badly, okay? He has shown some serious talent by orchestrating good drives against good defenses which is no small task for a backup quarterback. If the Ravens are to stop him Sunday, they have to get pressure up the middle, if they are unable to do it, Hundley can make a defense pay with his mobility.
  2. Ravens Wide Receivers – There is no defensive backfield that has been more prone to getting burned in the NFL over the last five years than the much maligned Green Bay secondary. If the comments by Dennis Pitta ticked the coaching staff off to the point where they want Joe Flacco to prove he CAN be competent, this is the EXACT team to do it against. Look for Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace to combine for at least 250 yards. Yep, 250.
  3. Ravens Pass Rush – So its painfully obvious now, Rodgers’ ability to extend plays and get rid of the ball quickly made his offensive line look much better than it really is. There is still an adjustment period between the Hundley and his O-Line.    Terrell Suggs, Brandon Williams, and Matthew Judon HAVE to take advantage.
  4. Ravens Running Backs – With the expected heavy emphasis on the passing game, this could be a rare case in which the running backs benefit from the spreading out of the defense. Look for the team to have 125 total rushing yards.

Prediction: Ravens win this matchup 28-17 for their first ever win at Lambeau Field (currently 0-3 at Green Bay).

Details:

When: Sunday, Nov. 19, 1:00 pm

Where: Lambeau Field – Green Bay, WI

Radio: WBAL 1090, 98 Rock, Baltimore Ravens website

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Justin Forsett, Stan White

TV: CBS

Commentators: Kevin Harland, Rich Gannon, Melanie Collins

Image Credit: Bleacher Report 

 

 

Ravens offense comes up short in 23-20 loss at Tennessee

NASHVILLE, TN — Coming off a huge 40-0 win against the Dolphins, the Ravens were looking to keep their good fortunes going in Tennessee, but the offense fell asleep at the wheel and the Titans walked away with a 23-20 win.

Joe Flacco suffered a concussion during last week’s game against but somehow managed to make a comeback for this week’s game. A longer week certainly helped with that recovery process. Before exiting in the second quarter last Thursday, Flacco put together a strong outing and he carried that into the first half at Tennessee. Had it not been for Breshad Perriman’s extremely unreliable hands, Flacco would have had an even better half. The third year wide receiver dropped three very catchable passes and created an interception.

Flacco would go on to finish the game 34-for-52 for 262 yards, two touchdowns. The Ravens gun-slinger also threw a second interception in the third quarter and there was absolutely no excuse for it. Flacco threw a bad pass off of his back foot while trying to force the ball to a well-covered Ben Watson down the sideline and it went about as well as you would expect. The veteran QB has now thrown ten interceptions in nine games this season.

The Titans took a 16-6 lead by the half thanks to some sloppy play by the Ravens. Flacco’s first interception was turned into a touchdown. Then, the Titans found the end zone again after a pair of untimely penalties and a shanked punt by Sam Koch.

It’s important to note that Koch’s bad punt should not have happened. An illegal formation penalty on Tyus Bowser negated a great 50+ yard punt by Koch and gave the Titans the ball at Baltimore’s 26-yard line. After being set up with great field position, the Titans found themselves in a third down situation pretty quickly but a penalty would come back to bite the Ravens once again. Za’Darius Smith was flagged for a late hit on Marcus Mariota that gifted the Titans a first-and-goal situation.

Tennessee held this lead for the rest of the game. The Ravens’ defense gave Flacco and company a handful of opportunities to crawl back into the game in the second half but almost every one was squandered. One of the most notable chances took place at the end of the third quarter and spilled over into the fourth.

Faced with a fourth and inches scenario in Titans territory, John Harbaugh made the decision to go for it instead of kicking a field goal. Given the Ravens’ previous fourth down success and the score, the decision wasn’t very controversial but the play calling and referees were. Buck Allen took the handoff from Flacco and ran up the middle where he was immediately stuffed by defenders. Allen managed to stay on his feet and scrap his way to what appeared to be a first down, but the officials spotted him shy of the marker. Harbaugh challenged but the call was held up in New York.

Following the turnover on downs, an Eric Weddle interception gave the Ravens yet another opportunity to come back. This time, Flacco and the offense took advantage. A six play, 42-yard drive was capped off by a three-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Allen, and the Ravens found themselves down by just three.

With under eight minutes to play, Mariota showed a lot of poise; putting together what would end up being a game-winning drive. The third year quarterback rebounded from his interception, throwing for 63 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, the drive took just under five minuets off the clock, leaving Baltimore with almost no time to make a 10-point comeback.

A garbage time touchdown put the Ravens back within three points but it was too late. Justin Tucker and the special teams unit attempted a trick play while going for the onside kick but the ball failed to travel ten yards, securing a 23-20 Titans win.

The Ravens will take their bye this coming week. With just seven games remaining in the season, the Ravens will need a record of 5-2 to finish 9-7. This is usually the worst record you can have if you want to make the playoffs, but the Ravens aren’t looking very capable of reaching the postseason right now.

If there is one thing the Ravens have in their favor, it’s their schedule down the stretch. Four of the final seven games will take place at home, and only two of Baltimore’s future opponents currently have a winning record.

Image Credit: Wade Payne / Associated Press

Preview: Flacco returns in time for tilt in Music City

NASHVILLE, TN — At the Ravens practice facility, there was a reason to be happy this week. No, it’s not because of the shellacking the birds handed to the offensively-challenged Miami Dolphins, or the fact that Alex Collins just ran for the first 100-yard game in his career. No, it was the return of formerly concussed quarterback Joe Flacco.

After six days of fans and media alike preparing for a start by backup gunslinger Ryan Mallett, the entirety of Ravens faithful can give a healthy sigh of relief. Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh both emphasized that Flacco was quick to get over the concussion symptoms, and he had always been in this week’s game plan.

On another note, the defense seems to have jump-started, accumulating two pick-six’s in last Thursday’s game. Linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Jimmy Smith were the heros on defense, each scoring a touchdown after catching an interception.

Things To Look For: 

  1. Flacco: Seeing as he just came back from a brutal hit that had him looking like he was heavily inebriated, it’ll be interesting to watch if he is afraid to take hits this time around. Although, my gut tells me that he will pick up from last week’s impressive start.
  2. Marcus MariotaAfter eight weeks, Mariota doesn’t look like his usual self. After coming off of a back injury which will undoubtedly hinder his speed during play action and bootlegs, he will most certainly fall back on the pair of bruising RBs, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
  3. Titans RBs: As I alluded to in the above paragraph, the two backs will see at least 40 combined carries in this game. If not solely for the sake of the sluggish Mariota, the Ravens 30th-ranked run defense will definitely play a role in how many totes the backs get in this tilt.
  4. Collins: After recording his first 100-yard performance of his young career, Collins looks to put up more big numbers against a Titans defense that has been largely susceptible to all kinds of offense. Look for Collins to get at least 20 touches in this matchup.
  5. Smith: Pro Football Focus ranked Jimmy Smith as the best corner in week 8, lets see if he can finally live up to his 1st round pedigree and recapture his shutdown form from 2013.

Details:

TV: CBS/WJZ (Channel 13)

Commentators:

Kevin Harlan (play-by-play)
Rich Gannon (analyst)
Melanie Collins (sideline)

Radio:

WBAL (1090 AM)
98 Rock (97.9 FM)

Commentators:

Gerry Sandusky (play-by-play)
Stan White (analyst)
Justin Forsett (analyst)

Weather:

High: 78 degrees
Low: 64 degrees
Precipitation: 20 percent
Humidity: 74 percent
Wind: 15 miles per hour

Photo Credit: Ravens’ Website

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