Ravens’ defense follows the leader, Roquan Smith

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens inside linebacker Roquan Smith usually gathers his teammates before each kickoff for a brief message of inspiration.

Smith’s words are spontaneous, but the players appreciate the pep talk. Sometimes, even the cameraman filming inside the huddle, looks inspired by Smith.

“I never really plan any speeches,” Smith said. “I just go from what’s on the heart, what’s on the mind, and what I feel like – going out through pregame, coming to the stadium and whatever I’m feeling – mentally, and I just express that. I don’t try to make things up to make guys feel this way or feel that way, because, at the end of the day, it’s fake. I’m myself.”

The Ravens pride themselves in having one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL. They plan to have that same physicality against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday at 3 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium.

Smith said it’s an opportunity to have a legacy.

“I know one day when I have kids, I want them to know that I was that guy that [would] knock your face off and do everything that it takes, play in and play out, and make sure [that] my guys are in the best place, as well as I’m in the best place,” Smith said. “I feel like if you do that, everything else will work out for itself.” 

The Ravens’ defense played at a historic level this past season.

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

The Ravens had four players — safety Kyle Hamilton, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, and inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Smith — earn All-Pro honors.

Smith said there is no secret to their success.

“It just goes back to guys not being complacent [and] guys being consistent day in and day out, and it starts with the preparation throughout the week,” he said. “Each and every guy looks [at] themselves in the mirror – like I try to tell each and every guy every day – and if you give everything that you’ve got, there are not many people that can do what we do. I know this defense is really good, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure we show that to the world.”

The Ravens face their biggest test of the season against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who ranked sixth in the NFL with 4,183 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He is 13-3 in the playoffs and has advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of the past six seasons.

The Ravens will try to keep Mahomes under pressure and limit the big plays he is capable of making with his arm, legs and elusiveness.

“It just goes back to doing your job, and I have the utmost respect for each and every guy I go to war with on the field,” Smith said. “I know, play in and play out, we want to dictate the game our way, at the end of the day. So, hats off to [Mahomes] for everything that he does, but at the end of the day, it’s about us, always and forever.”


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