Ravens’ defense could pave way to Super Bowl

OWINGS MILLS — The Ravens’ defense played at historic levels this past season.

Sometimes, those defenders were overlooked because much of the national attention has been on quarterback Lamar Jackson and the high-flying offense.

However, Baltimore became the first team in NFL history to finish a season ranked No. 1 in points allowed (16.5 points per game), sacks (60), and takeaways (31, tied with the New York Giants).

The Ravens also had four defenders — safety Kyle Hamilton, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, and inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith — named to the Pro Bowl.

With those players leading the charge, the Ravens allowed the league’s sixth-fewest yards (301.4 yards per game).

The Ravens finished the regular season at 13-4 and earned the N0. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. That means Baltimore will have home-field advantage at M&T Bank Stadium throughout the postseason.

“’The Bank,’ man. I never played here prior to coming here – never got a chance to play in Baltimore – but hearing the fans here, man, it’s an amazing atmosphere,” said Smith, who was acquired from the Bears in November 2022. “I’m grateful to be here, and it gets rocking, so I’m excited for whoever it is. Just know, we’re doing it chin up, chest out. It’s got to come through ‘The Bank,’ and we’re going to be ready, by any means necessary.”

Madubuike posted a team-high 13 sacks — most among NFL interior linemen. Outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney (career high 9 1/2 sacks) and Kyle Van Noy (career-best 9 sacks) were key free-agent additions.

Despite the stats, the players are focused on one achievement.

“At the end of the day, we have one goal; it’s to win that big one,” Madubuike said. “I don’t really get too far into it, but I just take it one day at a time and one opponent at a time. We have to take it step by step.”

Backup safety Geno Stone finished second in the NFL with seven interceptions, helping Baltimore limit opponents to a league-low 74.6 passer rating.

An efficient pass defense will be vital in the playoffs, especially if the Ravens face some of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, such as Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa.

“We are looking forward to what is next,” Clowney said. “We will have a good week of practice coming up. We’ll watch football this weekend and see who our opponent is, and we’ll be ready.”

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