The Ravens have won 22 straight NFL preseason games. Does it matter?


OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens are the greatest preseason dynasty in NFL history. It’s an achievement, seven years in the making, that is at once curious, remarkable, and irrelevant.

The Ravens will look for their sixth consecutive undefeated preseason (not counting 2020, when the NFL didn’t play exhibition games due to the pandemic) on Saturday night when they take on the Washington Commanders at M&T Bank Stadium. They have won 22 straight preseason games, a league record that surpasses the 19 straight preseason wins of the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers between 1959 and 1962.

All of which means what, exactly? Perhaps nothing at all, since the results of these exhibitions are completely meaningless. But the Ravens, who last lost a preseason game in 2015, are proud of the streak and what it means for their organization.

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“It’s one of those things where you know there are much bigger things you want,” veteran defensive end Calais Campbell said Thursday at the team’s training facility. “But I think it’s a testament to the way people prepare, the training camp process. [and] the kind of guys that we bring here that are trying to fight to make the team.”

There’s something to take, the Ravens believe, in the effort and performance levels of even those players who won’t see much of the field during the regular season, or won’t even be on the roster by then.

“There’s a certain quality to guys that respect the process and put in the effort,” Campbell said. “And I think that shows in preseason games. You have your third and fourth team players playing, playing good football and performing at a high level. I think it’s a testament to the coaches and a testament to the front office for bringing in the right kind of guys.”

The Ravens have a 42-12 preseason record during John Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach. That hasn’t happened because he has put his front-row players at undue risk to try to win preseason games. Harbaugh announced Thursday that quarterback Lamar Jackson will not play against the Commanders. Backup Tyler Huntley will presumably start.

Harbaugh said he will make decisions about other starters on a case-by-case basis.

“There are some starters that need to work,” Harbaugh said. “Some headlines don’t. Probably most beginners don’t. And some of those guys are going to play too. We’re just handling some of those guys. … It is not one size fits all.”

The Ravens’ summer exploits can be easily written off. After all, no trophies are handed out for NFL wins in August. It has to be argued, especially with a 17-game regular season, that the most sensible approach to preseason is to keep all key players inactive, avoid season-destroying injuries, and treat the first two games of the regular season as the preseason of the new age.

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But maybe that’s too dismissive. Perhaps there is something to be said for intending to win every time the score is taken. Lombardi’s Packers won NFL championships, in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, in the last two seasons of their preseason winning streak. The Ravens, while coming off an 8-9 season, have been among the most consistent winners in the league; they have two Super Bowl titles this century and rank fifth among all NFL teams in total wins in the 2000s.

So while Saturday’s result doesn’t mean much when the Ravens open the season against the New York Jets on Sept. 11 at MetLife Stadium, with Jackson in the lineup instead of alongside Harbaugh on the sidelines, maybe it’s a reflection. of an approach. that matters at least a little.

“I think that’s something where you can hang your hat on and say, ‘Okay, we set up a certain kind of way that allows guys to be successful,'” Campbell said. “It is something to be proud of. But obviously there are a lot more things that are bigger than we want. We’d like a streak of that.”

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