Allegany Communications Sports

It was December football at its finest in old Bawlmer, hon, with steady rain falling under increasingly darkening skies, with the only consistent from the hometown Baltimore Ravens being head coach John Harbaugh’s trademark mismanagement of timeouts and play challenges.

But then quarterback Lamar Jackson led a brilliant late-game drive for the lead before Los Angeles Rams kicker Lucas Havrisik sent the game to overtime. Then, after both defenses held on first possessions, Ravens backup punt returner Tylan Wallace sent the wet crowd home happy with an electrifying 76-yard punt return for touchdown to provide the 37-31 Ravens win.

The run of good luck that began during the team’s extended bye continues for the Ravens, who stretched their winning streak to three and their lead in the AFC North to two games, and now hold the top seed in the AFC playoff picture, as the Miami Dolphins, who had previously led the chase, were upset on Monday by the Tennessee Titans.

All told, it was the perfect bye, because with just two games in a 23-day period, the Ravens were able to get a little healthier and in the process, every team that Baltimore needed to lose did — Miami at home to Tennessee, Jacksonville dropped two in a row and Kansas City was hosed in four out of six (according to Mahomes).

Of course, the best news to come out of Sunday’s game was Monday’s MRI results for starting safety Kyle Hamilton, which revealed nothing more serious than a sprain of the MCL. Harbs did not get into specifics of the injury but said on Monday that Hamilton is day-to-day and has a chance to play in Sunday night’s game in Jacksonville.

Other than Lamar Jackson, Kyle Hamilton is the player the Ravens can least afford to lose, because on the defensive side of the ball, the versatile Hamilton is the Jackson, as all positive things seem to flow through him.

The Ravens are on sound footing, but this isn’t the first time at this time of the year we’ve seen this before being disappointed; which makes it critical for Jackson to stay healthy and for the team to safely navigate the final four games, which may be the most difficult games of the season: at Jacksonville, at San Francisco, then Miami and Pittsburgh at home …

While we mentioned yesterday the mood of Steelers Nation was a little beyond testy, the mood of COMMANDERS Nation is more like numb because the results on the field are pure Snyder residue and because the inevitable is the inevitable — head coach Ron Rivera will be dismissed by the team at some point and the Josh Harris ownership group will get its fresh start with its hand-picked coach and, maybe, general manager.

Last week’s 30-point loss to the Dolphins was the Commanders’ third such 30-plus deficit of the season. They’re 4-9, have lost nine of their last 11, are 0-5 in the division, 1-5 at home and have secured a seventh-straight season without a winning record.

Those are miserable results, but keep in mind it’s all about the big picture here; and I believe the Harris group has been willing to see it through with Rivera to add a sense of organizational stability for future head coaching candidates to see. And now that Daniel Snyder is no longer the owner, the Washington job will be a desired landing spot for those candidates.

The front office also likely wants quarterback Sam Howell to continue to work with the same people for the rest of the year to further his development. Why fire Rivera and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy at this point? What good will it do to put Howell in interim-coach limbo?

Plus, if Bieniemy doesn’t end up being the next head coach, there is a chance he could return as the coordinator. So why dismiss him the way the team did Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Kevin O’Connell, who were all ripped during the Snyder reign of terror, but who have all done pretty well for themselves once they escaped, wouldn’t you say? Then again, maybe Bieniemy won’t want to stay if he doesn’t get the head coaching job.

Overall, though, the stability the organization is operating under through another terrible season is likely to be seen as a positive for the next head coach and general manager, because unlike Snyder, who tried to fix things (but only made them worse) by throwing bad money on already-bad money, the Harris group seems content to ride it out in an effort to begin anew.

Oh, and the Commanders’ ever-rising first-round draft pick — now at a solid No. 4 — might be contributing to that contentment as well. And based on how good the Los Angeles Rams receivers are, that 4 could soon be inching toward 3, as Sunday could be a very long day for the Commanders’ secondary.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT