The Baltimore Ravens have not had the season they were expecting to have in 2021.
Injuries aplenty, question marks at the running back position and a shocking loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 10 have paved the way for an up-and-down first half of the season.
But despite all the turbulence and nail-biting contests, the Ravens sit at 7-3, leading the AFC North and holding the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
Most recently, the Ravens flirted with disaster against the Chicago Bears Nov. 21, running second-year quarterback Tyler Huntley out for a game that was pivotal for the Ravens going forward.
“You couldn’t even write this for a TV show or anything,” Ravens right guard Kevin Zeitler said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 22, speaking about his team’s ability to produce a winning season despite not playing at full strength.
“Obviously, we have a bunch of guys here, we all care about each other. … Everyone’s training hard every day, everybody’s been able to step in and we’ve been able to make things happen. And we’ve also never given up no matter what the circumstances have been.”
The Ravens’ 16-13 win against the Bears was not Baltimore’s usual victorious performance. The 16 points scored is the Ravens’ lowest in a win this season, and they managed just 299 yards of total offense against a depleted Bears defense.
But Huntley turned in a gritty performance, passing for 219 yards with one interception in the absence of Lamar Jackson, who was ruled out of the game just before kickoff with an illness.
Huntley also maneuvered around six sacks in his first NFL start, showing an ability to move the ball down the field and setting up chances for kicker Justin Tucker.
“I was pumped for Huntley. All training camp, all preseason, he was doing things very well,” Zeitler said. “When everything went down this week and he came in, no one was worried, no one flinched. It was, ‘OK, we know he can do what we need him to do. He delivered exactly how we needed him to deliver. I’m so happy for him to get his first win like that.”
No moment was more crucial in Huntley’s starting debut than late in the fourth quarter. After Bears quarterback Andy Dalton drove his team down the field for a touchdown with 1:41 left in regulation, it would be up to the second-year man out of the University of Utah to salvage the game for Baltimore.
Huntley orchestrated a five-play, 72-yard drive in 1:19 to turn a 13-9 deficit into a 16-13 lead, showing grit and determination in a spot that would have been daunting to most other young quarterbacks.
“Yesterday it took everything we had down to the last minute, but we really wanted to get everything back on track,” Zeitler said of picking up a win after losing to the Dolphins.
The Ravens cannot afford to get complacent heading into the next stretch of games. They hold a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, and five of their final seven games on are against division opponents. The North remains one of the most congested divisions in all of football, with all four teams currently above .500.
“It’s going to be a tough stretch, no doubt, but the only thing we can do right now is take it one game at a time,” Zeitler said. “… There’s going to be no breaks for the next seven weeks, and we have to just have to go out and do what we do every week.”
For more from Zeitler, listen to the full interview here:
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