Mike Macdonald has been with the Baltimore Ravens for nine seasons. Among those nine, the 36-year-old defensive coordinator has constructed some great units that have changed games every week.

His second term with the organization, however, may be the most essential for the team’s hopes of winning a championship in 2023.

Macdonald, 34, made headlines when he left Baltimore to become the defensive coach of the Michigan Wolverines. His one-of-a-kind strategies and ever-changing blitz packages helped Jim Harbaugh’s team win the Big Ten championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Legend reveal Ravens’ Secret Weapon in 2023 this afternoon
Legend reveal Ravens’ Secret Weapon in 2023 this afternoon

After a year away from Baltimore, Macdonald returned under the eldest Harbaugh sibling and has helped the once-dominant defense turn the corner.

Macdonald increased the Ravens’ defense in total yards (from 26th to ninth in 2021) and has the team allowing the fewest points per game this season.

However, the crowning achievement of Macdonald’s tenure with the Ravens came on Monday Night against the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers were considered an offensive juggernaut going into the game, with quarterback Brock Purdy as the frontrunner for MVP. San Francisco was second in total offense yards and points scored.

On Monday at Santa Clara, the Ravens stopped the 49ers to 19 points and five interceptions, basically ruining Purdy’s MVP bid and putting an end to a lauded exhibition of weapons.

“They’re the No. 1 seed in the AFC for a reason,” said 49ers tight end George Kittle. “They did a great job the first couple series [with] different defensive fronts the entire time.” You’re attempting to go nickel, base, five down, four down. You’re attempting to call the correct play in response to those threats. They definitely done an excellent job of removing our middle material.”

On Monday, it wasn’t only the five interceptions that demonstrated Macdonald’s importance to the Ravens defense.

Baltimore’s defense closed the day with four sacks, 11 passes defended, nine quarterback hits, five tackles for losses, and big hits due to the ever-changing looks and outstanding blitz packages.

It had an impact on how an unflappable quarterback like Purdy saw himself on the field and where he would go from there.

“I have to look myself in the mirror and ask myself why or how that happened, and why I made those decisions,” Purdy said after the game. “Our team came prepared to play, and it pains me to make decisions like that.” It’s also not fair to those guys. That is something I must recognize and comprehend.”

Lamar Jackson could be on his way to earning the MVP award, and Harbaugh could easily win Coach of the Year.

The organization’s unsung hero, however, has been its young and dominant defensive coordinator. So long as he can conceal his coverages and frustrate opposing quarterbacks, the Ravens could be on their way to a third Lombardi Trophy.

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