Ravens, Jags take defenses abroad in 1st London game of '17
By MARK LONG
NFL spectators in London could have plenty to celebrate Sunday.
With Baltimore and Jacksonville playing the first of five games abroad, those at historic Wembley Stadium might be treated to a punting party. And anyone who's been to an NFL game in London knows the loudest cheers are reserved for kicks.
The Ravens (2-0) and Jaguars (1-1) have punted a combined 20 times this season and could be in for even more given the matchup overseas.
Baltimore has allowed just one touchdown in two victories and leads the league in takeaways (10) and interceptions (eight). Jacksonville tops the NFL in sacks (11) and surrendered one touchdown in its first six quarters before unraveling at home against Tennessee.
So it's no surprise that the Ravens-Jaguars game is the only one on the NFL schedule this week with the over/under for points scored set below 40.
"In this game, you better take advantage of the opportunities when you get them," Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said.
Those could be few and far between against Baltimore, which shut out Cincinnati on the road and gave up 10 points to Cleveland. The Ravens are the only NFL team with at least four interceptions and three sacks in each of their first two games since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
Of course, they played the Bengals, who fired their offensive coordinator after two games, and then faced a rookie quarterback with the Browns.
Now they get the mistake-prone Jaguars. Blake Bortles had three turnovers against the Titans, including two interceptions and a fumble.
"It's tough when it seems like the ball starts rolling downhill and just keeps going," said Bortles, who played turnover-free football in the opener. "It's something I think we've dealt with before and I think we've got to try to stay away from the mindset of, `Here we go again. This has happened before, this is happening again.'
"I think we've got to find ways to get out of that. We have to find ways to make plays, to turn that around, to change that momentum and it's tough when you're not creating those big plays."
The Jaguars struggled to create explosive plays last week without go-to receiver Allen Robinson, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
"It restricts what we felt going into the season was a good matchup for us," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. "I mean, A-Rob has shown through the years that he can go one-on-one and jump over people to catch a football."
Baltimore's offense has lacked deep passes, too. More pressing for the Ravens: They could be down two starters on that side of the ball.
"You're still going to have to go out and run your offense," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We have quick game built in, we have some quick play-actions and all those things we normally do. But you can't become a team that does one thing and one thing only and expect to be successful over the course of a season. We still have to play our game and do what we do and just be somewhat conscious of it."
Here are some other things to know about the Ravens and Jaguars:
BACK TO WEMBLEY: The Jaguars are making their fifth trip in as many years to London and believe they should have an advantage in preparing for the cross-Atlantic trip.
Of the 53 players on Jacksonville's roster, only 15 haven't been before. That includes eight rookies.
"When you're traveling like 10 hours, I don't know if it's ever routine," Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "The travel is always taxing. You always feel like you're waking up out of surgery when you get there.
"At the end of the day, the team that's the most rested is the team that's going to have the advantage. If we're going to have any advantage, it's on the way there, not necessarily when you get there."
MR. LONDON: Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns has made the play of the day in each of his last two games at Wembley Stadium.
There was the diving, 31-yard touchdown catch that beat Buffalo 34-31 in 2015 and then a 42-yard catch-and-run that turned out to be the difference in a 30-27 victory against Indianapolis last year. His efforts even earned him the nickname "Mr. London." With another touchdown catch at Wembley, he would Brandon Lloyd as only players in NFL history with three there.
STOPPING SUGGS: Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has three of team's eight sacks in 2017. He has 6 + sacks in six career games against Jacksonville.
"I'm waiting for him to retire," Marrone quipped. "You know what I'm saying? Every time we play against him, he's always had key plays, he's always wreaked havoc."
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Updated September 21, 2017