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Ravens defense ‘holds’ attention of Browns QB Mayfield

October 3, 2018

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2017, file photo, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith runs onto the field as he is introduced before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, in Baltimore. The Ravens haven't allowed a touchdown after halftime, and the return of suspended cornerback Jimmy Smith should make the defense even better.(AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baker Mayfield may have discovered why the Baltimore Ravens defense has been so effective this season.

Mayfield, a rookie quarterback with the Cleveland Browns, faces Baltimore’s second-ranked defense on Sunday. One of the members of that unit, safety Tony Jefferson, received a text message this week from Mayfield — one former Oklahoma star reaching out to another.

“He said, ‘I’m watching this film, watching you guys hold,’” Mayfield wrote, according to Jefferson.

Jefferson said he replied: “They didn’t call it.”

Jefferson believes Baltimore’s success on defense can be attributed to skilled players following a solid game plan.

“I just think we’ve been doing a good job executing,” Jefferson said Wednesday. “We’ve worked hard throughout the week on what we want to attack and what we want to do.”

Operating under first-year defensive coordinator Don Martindale, Baltimore (3-1) has limited the opposition to 275.8 yards per game, a meager 29.8 success rate on third down and is yielding only 16.25 points per game.

Most impressive of all, the Ravens have not yet given up a touchdown in the second half. While the players enjoy doing it, they’re not fond of hearing about it.

“We didn’t even know it was a stat until you all brought it up,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “It’s kind of like a pitcher with a no-hitter. Thanks for bringing it up. Good job.”

Coach John Harbaugh broke it down this way: “The guys have gone out and played really well. That’s really what it is. They’ve executed, make plays, turned it over a few times, stopped the run.”

A solid unit should get even better this week with the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith, who missed the first four weeks of the season serving a suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Now in his eighth season, Smith will probably step right back into the starting lineup if he’s ready by Sunday.

“We’ll just have to see in practice how he looks and feels. I mean, he hasn’t been here in four weeks,” Harbaugh said. “He says he’s been training and I’m sure he has. It will be fun to watch him play.”

Although Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey have done well as starters, Harbaugh knows you can never have too many solid cornerbacks.

“It’s going to be great to have all those guys that are good cover players,” he said. “We can play any coverage we want, the way we want. It gives us a lot of options on defense.”

The Ravens bottled up veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday night in a 26-14 victory over the Steelers. Pittsburgh went 2 for 12 on third down overall and was held to 47 yards in offense in the second half.

“I feel like you give up 47 yards in the second half and shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers, that is noteworthy to say the least,” Harbaugh said.

The next challenge is trying to stop a bold rookie in Mayfield, who has been playing with confidence since making his debut two weeks ago.

“Ben’s seen it all, but Baker Mayfield is pretty advanced,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think he’s a rookie in the true sense. He seems like he’s got a real good feel for the game.”

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