Fresh off his sixth sack of the season and his second Pro Bowl selection, outside linebacker Matthew Judon says the Ravens are hitting their stride at the right time and that there’s no way they’ll overlook the Cincinnati Bengals, the four-win team the Ravens have to beat Jan. 3 to secure a playoff spot.
Less than a month ago, the Ravens were 6-5 and in the throes of a major COVID-19 outbreak; at one point, 23 players — including Judon — were on to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Since then, the Ravens have all 23 of those players back and have reeled off four straight wins to improve to 10-5.
The offense is humming again, with the team having scored 148 points throughout the past four games. And the defense is suddenly getting after the passer, having posted 11 sacks during the past two contests. Now, the team just needs to take care of business in Cincinnati to clinch a wild-card spot.
“We are where we are. Last year was a special year, but it was a different year. This year is a special one in its own type of way, dealing with this virus and all of that,” Judon said on Glenn Clark Radio Dec. 28. “Everything’s different so we don’t want to compare it to last year, but we’re hitting our stride at the right time right now. Everybody’s kind of getting healthy off the little situation we had going on. We’re ready and we believe in us. That’s all that really matters.”
“I think we’re all in the building together and knowing that we really can’t see too many other people with COVID going on, we’ve leaned on one another,” Judon added. “It made us tighter as a team and as a unit. We’re just bonding at the right time and it’s showing on the field.”
The 6-foot-3, 261-pound Judon is enjoying another solid season after a breakout year in 2019. Judon, who is making $16.8 million while playing on the franchise tag, has posted 44 tackles, 21 quarterback hits and 6.0 sacks (the latter two are team bests). He missed two games while on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this year.
Judon has a sack in each of the Ravens’ past two games, including one against Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, which resulted in a safety. But Judon’s best play from the past two weeks might have been stopping New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard for a 5-yard loss:
“I like that play. I kind of saw it developing. The quarterback rolls to the right and his whole offensive line went to the left,” Judon said. “I just see Shep setting up behind it. It kind of reminded me of a play that happened in the Browns game a couple weeks ago where they threw it back to [Nick] Chubb. Instead of waiting for the blockers, I went and pressed. I saw his Jordans, so I grabbed his Jordans. It was a pretty nice play.”
This is not the first time the Ravens have faced a win-and-in situation against the Bengals with Judon on the roster. In 2017 (Judon’s second year with the team), the Ravens lost to the Bengals, 31-27, on a now-infamous 49-yard touchdown from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-12 with less than a minute remaining. The Ravens finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, and the franchise moved in a new direction the subsequent spring by taking Lamar Jackson in the first round.
This iteration of the Ravens is not only better but playing their best football at the right time — and they know the Bengals won’t roll over for them.
“You’ve got to go out there and play the game,” Judon said. “You can’t overlook anybody, take anybody too lightly, you’ve got to play the game. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
For more from Judon, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox