For years now, Ravens fans have brought up 2019, the year that quarterback Lamar Jackson won NFL Most Valuable Player honors and the team fell short of expectations in the divisional round. Now fans have something else to talk about. 2023 could blow 2019 out of the water.

Thanks to Jackson, Baltimore should soon once again call itself home to the league’s MVP. Hopes are high for the playoffs (although there are those wary of the bye week causing rust). With the Ravens earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed, there’s a lot to look forward to.

But, looking back, there’s also a lot to reminisce about. When the outside world didn’t believe (just look at the betting odds and the viral “quarterbacky” conversation), the Ravens put together a season full of moments that will live on.

Now that the final whistle of the regular season has been blown, let’s walk through the highs, the lows, the laughter and the tears.

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Best moment: Tylan Wallace’s game-winning TD vs. the Rams

When Ravens training camp wrapped up, the reserve wide receiver didn’t know whether he was a lock for the team’s 53-man roster. When top returner Devin Duvernay left the Week 14 game against Los Angeles with a back injury, Wallace stepped in despite never having returned returned a punt in an NFL game. And when Wallace got the opportunity to set the Ravens up for a potentially game-winning drive, he went the distance himself. Wallace’s walk-off 76-yard return, now known as the “Ty-Breaker,” sent M&T Bank Stadium into hysterics and handed the Ravens a 37-31 win.

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Best play: Kyle Hamilton’s interception vs. the 49ers

How do you recover after getting knocked to the ground on a chop block from Christian McCaffrey and then pancaked by guard Aaron Banks? Well, Hamilton didn’t just recover before the play was over. He got off the ground and made a play, snagging the ball after cornerback Marlon Humphrey tipped quarterback Brock Purdy’s pass.

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Worst play: Any drop in the Week 5 loss to the Steelers

After not dropping a pass through his first four career games, wide receiver Zay Flowers watched Jackson’s first throw his way in Pittsburgh go through his hands. But the rookie wasn’t the only one with a bad case of the butterfingers. Veteran tight end Mark Andrews missed a catch, except his was in the end zone. Then wide receiver Rashod Bateman dropped one in the end zone, too. Altogether, the Ravens ended up with seven dropped passes in the 17-10 loss, according to TruMedia, their most over the past decade.

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Best meme: ‘Johnny’

When Jackson is your quarterback, there is no shortage of meme material. There was his response to the Ravens’ all-black uniforms: “Sexy.” And his description of Flowers’ bouquet toss touchdown celebration in the win over the Los Angeles Chargers: “Ass.” And the face the official made as he fell into Jackson’s path in the Ravens’ win over San Francisco, helping to cause a safety. But there is no meme that better summarizes this season than “Johnny,” because it’s backed up by cold, hard stats.

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Best quote: Roquan Smith

Before a Week 4 road win over the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens inside linebacker was asking about embracing the role of “villain.” He did not mince words.

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“At the end of the day, you’re considered the bad guy because you’re going into, essentially, another man’s house, and you’re trying to take over. His wife, kids — everyone there to watch them. So we’re going over to beat their tails in front of their wife and kids. So when you think about it from that perspective, any man is going to fight till the death at that point. I know if that’s me in that case, I know I would. So I think about it from that standpoint, and I’m just going in just like I prepare for any other game — play till the whistle, play physical and hit anything that moves.”

Class clown: Marlon Humphrey

Humphrey missed the first four weeks of the season, but he was certainly present in the locker room and community. He could be seen joking with players and getting them worked up. He also started the “Punch Line” podcast, on which he shares the inner workings of his mind through “unfiltered storytelling.” Although his activity has fallen off on X, formerly known as Twitter, he still drops gems here and there, such as “I am a fan of only 1 Harbaugh,” posted after Michigan beat his alma mater, Alabama, in last week’s College Football Playoff semifinal.

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Most likely to be president: Kyle Hamilton

As the Baltimore Banner discovered, there’s not much Hamilton can’t do. In his second year, he’s become a vital piece of the Ravens’ top-tier defense because he’s a versatile, athletic, hard-hitting player who communicates well and understands how plays develop. In the locker room, he’s mature beyond his years. He’s always willing to speak to the media, and he gives insightful quotes. He’s intelligent and appears to be well-liked. If Hamilton decided to pivot careers, he could probably do anything he put his mind to, including running for office.

Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Best game-day ’fit: Odell Beckham Jr.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dressed like a star in Hollywood. (Kyle Goon / The Baltimore Banner)

It was his first game against the Rams, with whom he won a Super Bowl, and Beckham came prepared. The wide receiver took the field for warmups in a T-shirt featuring former teammates, himself and the word “FRENEMIES.” After the game, Beckham was in the locker room in a fur jacket, sparkly pants and gold shoes — an appropriate outfit for the star of the show, who had his second-best performance of the year, with 97 yards and a touchdown.

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(Some honorable mentions: Flowers’ flowered outfits, Bateman’s flared pants and Jackson’s giant parka for Florida weather.)

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Biggest mystery: Tyus Bowser’s knee

No, seriously, what’s going on there? If you have any clues, drop us a line. In mid-August, coach John Harbaugh said Bowser was dealing with an “agitated knee.” Then the Ravens said they were hopeful the outside linebacker would be back by Week 3. Then they placed him on the non-football injury list before the season, which meant he’d be out until at least Week 5. In mid-October, Harbaugh hinted there might be more going on, but Bowser said he was feeling great and gaining confidence in his knee: “If I can play, I’ll definitely play.” Well, the regular season’s over, so who knows if he’ll wear a Ravens jersey again? He’s under contract through 2024, but his salary cap hit next year is a steep $7.5 million.

Best celebration: Odell Beckham Jr.’s first dance

Beckham and Flowers have infused life into the Ravens’ celebration game, but Beckham’s first dance takes the prize. It took a while for Beckham to score his first touchdown, which really built the suspense. He didn’t disappoint. After a 6-yard touchdown catch in a Week 9 win over the Seattle Seahawks, he launched into the Park Heights Strut, a viral dance that originated in Baltimore. You just can’t beat the local connection.

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Worst celebration: The defense’s 3-man celebration

Humphrey has been trying to get his teammates to rehearse their celebrations at practice, he said on his podcast. According to him, only defensive lineman Brent Urban has been onboard. And what do you know? After a takeaway against the 49ers, he tried to celebrate, and only Urban and linebacker Malik Harrison were there to him. By Humphrey’s own estimation, the defense’s celebrations lack chemistry.

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Top rookie: Zay Flowers

Flowers was drafted because the Ravens wanted to take another swing at the wide receiver position, where they’ve struggled to produce homegrown talent. So far, it looks as if they hit the jackpot. Flowers has not only looked like the Ravens’ best rookie, but he also has been the most impressive wide receiver in a group with several veterans.

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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) leaps into the end zone to score against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, December 31, 2023. The Ravens won, 56-19, to secure the best record in the AFC. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Best free-agent signing: Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney was a latecomer to training camp, but he made an impact early in the season. After the Ravens started the year with a slew of injuries at outside linebacker, their pass rush and run defense barely missed a step — thanks, in large part, to Clowney. Once more help arrived, Clowney remained an important contributor. And in Saturday’s loss to the Steelers, he got to celebrate a $750,000 incentive that was well earned after he reached a career-high 9.5 sacks.

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Best win: Ravens 33, 49ers 19

In Week 16, the AFC’s best took on the NFC’s best. The Ravens not only came out on top, but they dominated as well. Their defense knocked Purdy, then the MVP front-runner, out of the race. Jackson and the offense scored over and over against a 49ers defense led by the NFL’s other top linebacker duo. And the Ravens did so in prime time, on a cross-country road trip. It doesn’t get much better than that in the regular season.

Worst loss: Steelers 17, Ravens 10 (in Week 5)

Let’s be real — all four losses were ugly. Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh was sloppy and backup-filled. The fourth-quarter collapse against the Browns in Week 10 was mind-boggling and frustrating. The overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts In Week 3 was filled with late-game errors of execution. But Week 5 was ugly from start to finish. That loss in Pittsburgh was completely on the Ravens. The Steelers didn’t even play that well; the Ravens just gave the game away in their lowest-scoring performance of the season with Jackson as a starter.

Baltimore Ravens cheer from the stands during a football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday, January 6, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Most impressive individual stat: Another ‘perfect’ five-TD game for Lamar Jackson

On Sept. 8, 2019, Jackson led the Ravens to a 59-10 win over the Miami Dolphins. He went 17-for-20 with five touchdown passes and no interceptions, finishing with a perfect passer rating. Last week, on Dec. 31, Jackson led the Ravens to a 56-19 win over the Dolphins. He went 18-for-21 with five touchdown passes and no interceptions, finishing with a perfect passer rating. By doing so, he became the second quarterback ever to have two career games with five or more touchdown passes and a perfect passer rating. The first was the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles with the ball against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, December 31, 2023. The Ravens won, 56-19, to secure the best record in the AFC. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Most impressive team stat: Defense’s triple crown

The Ravens finished the regular season with 31 takeaways, 60 sacks and 16.5 points allowed per game, all of which led the NFL. It is the first time in modern NFL history that a team has finished first in all three categories, and it’s another nice line in coordinator Mike Macdonald’s head coaching resume.

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