Archive for October, 2008

Ravens (2-2) @ Colts (2-2)

October 10, 2008


The Ravens go into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this week trying to end their two game losing streak, as well as to avoid becoming the first visiting team to lose at the Colts’ new home.  The horseshoes are 0-2 in their new digs, having suffered losses to the Bears and Jaguars.  In all reality, the Colts have just not been themselves all season, as evidenced by the stat rankings above.  A Peyton Manning-led team barely in the top half of the league in offense?  Hard to believe, but it has been the case so far in 2008, as the historically high octane Indy squad has had all sorts of trouble moving the football.  As a matter of fact, the Colts could very realistically be sitting at 0-4 right now, if it were not for the inability of the Minnesota Vikings to score touchdowns, and if the Houston Texans were able to protect a 27-10 lead with 8 minutes to go.  As the old adage goes, though, “good teams find a way to win.”

On the other side, the Ravens have fallen more squarely into the flip side of that saying, “bad teams find a way to lose,” over the past 2 games.  Rookie QB Joe Flacco looked very rookie-like in throwing 2 (should have been 3) interceptions against Tennessee at home, but this week was named the starter for the rest of the season by coach John Harbaugh.  This is the right move.  Flacco just needs to keep learning the offense and getting a little bit better every week, and should not have to worry about looking over his shoulder now that Troy Smith has been back at practice.  Smith could still have a role in this offense, whether it be as a QB in certain situations, or however else Cam Cameron sees fit, but “starting QB” should not be it.  Those of you clamoring to see the Ravens start throwing the ball deep will probably be disappointed again this week, as Tampa’s Indianapolis’ Cover 2 defense is designed to take away the deep routes (why they would bother staying in this defense against the Ravens is beyond us, but thats another story).

Both teams come into this game with banged-up secondaries.  The Colts are without SS Bob Sanders and CB Kelvin Hayden, while the Ravens will be missing Samari Rolle, Dawan Landry, and likely Fabian Washington.  We all remember what happened the last time the Ravens played the Colts with a depleted secondary, don’t we?  Ugh.  Peyton Manning has not been himself this season, after having preseason knee surgery, but Corey Ivy and Frank Walker may be just what the Doctor ordered for him to get back on track.  Indy has not been able to run the ball worth a horseshit this year, currently ranking last in the league (music to the ears of all of us Joseph Addai fantasy owners, for sure).  Nobody can run the ball on the Ravens.  So we expect that, much like in the last meeting, the Colts won’t even try.  They will probably come out running their no huddle and start spreading the ball all over the field, likely focusing on whoever is lucky enough to line up across from Walker.  Harrison, Wayne, Gonzalez, no matter; Frank Walker’s man will get the ball.

The best chance the purple-and-black will have in this one is to get out to an early lead (which they have done in every game this year), then pound the ball out on the ground against the Colts’ rushing defense, also ranked last in the NFL.  Willis McGahee should play, but is not 100%.  Cameron should find ways to get rookie Ray Rice more involved in the McGahee-McClain rotation than he has been so far, as fresh legs out of the backfield will be the Ravens best weapons on Sunday.  The Colts defense is small and quick, and the Ravens’ big, bruising offensive line, along with fullback Lorenzo Neal, should be able to impose their will.  The question will be whether or not they can score enough points.  Rushing the ball, controlling the clock, and keeping Manning off the field is all well and good, but it takes touchdowns to beat the Colts, not field goals, as the Minnesota Vikings found out in Week 2.

A strong running game will also help to keep the pressure off QB Joe Flacco, who will be in the crosshairs of defensive end Dwight Freeney all afternoon.  Freeney is going up against Jared Gaither, who has played reasonably well in his first year replacing the legendary Jonathan Ogden, but has yet to see the likes of the Colts’ premier pass rusher.   Cameron has said that Gaither will have help at times, but will have to hold his own 1-on-1 as well.  Flacco should be able to have some success hitting short and intermediate throws, especially with Hayden out of the lineup.  It will be interesting to see if the Ravens try to get fancy once they have the Colts committing to stopping the run, or if they just keep pounding it out.  Of course, if the Colts get out to an early lead, it may be an extremely long day for the Ravens and us fans.

If Joe Flacco really wants to cement his reputation among the old-school Ravens (Colts) fans, beating the Irsays in their new stadium will go a long way, even if Joe only “vaguely” knows anything about the old Colts.  Since he wasn’t even born at the time, we won’t hold it against him.

Unfortunately, we see this one ending up in the irony of Baltimore being the first victims of the Colts in their new home.  More pain from Peyton and Irsay for Ravens fans.

Colts 26 Ravens 20

Ravens D Gets it Done….Until the 4th Quarter

October 7, 2008

As we mentioned in this week’s game recap, the Ravens defense, for all its great stats, intimidation, and reputation, for some reason isn’t quite the same when playing with a lead.  It may seem like those last 2 gut-wrenching losses to the Steelers and Titans, so fresh in our minds, were an aberration.  Surely our vaunted defense has no problem holding leads the majority of the time, right?

Not so fast.

A closer look reveals this disturbing statistic:  Dating back to the start of the 2007 season, the Ravens have held a lead at the start of the 4th quarter (or very near it) in 11 games.  Their record in those 11 games is a very mediocre 7-4.  At least 4 of those wins had Ravens fans white-knuckling their seats despite what had seemed like a comfortable lead only moments earlier.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

1.  2007 week 2 Ravens 20 Jets 13 – The Ravens led 17-3 entering the 4th quarter.  A seemingly safe lead nearly disappeared as the great Kellan Clemens led scoring drives of 68 and 81 yards, then drove 73 yards and threw what should have been the game-tying touchdown.  Luckily for the Ravens, Justin McCareins dropped the ball, and the purple and black were able to hold on.

2.  2007 week 3 Ravens 26 Cardinals 23 – This time the Ravens were up by a score of 23-6 as the 4th quarter started.  This lead too, would go the way of the dodo, as Kurt Warner carved up the defense in front of a stunned M&T Crowd.  Arizona had touchdown drives of 71 and 54 yards, and another scoring drive of 64 yards that ended in a field goal.  With the game tied, Kyle Boller and the Ravens took over with 1:50 on the clock, and Matt Stover kicked a 46-yarder as time expired to give B’More their 2nd way-too-close win in as many weeks.

3.  2007 week 5 Ravens 9 49ers 7 – This time, the Ravens were clinging to a much more tenuous lead, 9-7, entering the final period.  Trent Dilfer had revenge on his old coach on his mind as San Francisco took possession with 6:22 remaining.  The 49ers picked up 46 yards on 8 plays, setting up Joe Nedney for a 52-yard FG attempt that would have put the 49ers up with less than 3 minutes to go.  Nedney missed, and the Ravens survived yet another scare.

4.  2007 week 11 Browns 33 Ravens 30 – Special teams were as much to blame for this one as the D, but it still has to be included because the defense had chances to seal it.   The offense held up it’s end of the bargain for once, staging an inspired comeback.  A Matt Stover 47-yard FG with just 31 seconds remaining put the Ravens up 30-27.   A 39-yard return by Joshua Cribbs set the Browns up at their own 43, and from there they went 24 yards in only 26 seconds to set up Phil Dawson’s infamous, game-tying, off the uprights-off the crossbar 51-yarder.   In overtime, Cribbs took the opening kick 41 yards to the CLE 41.  Derek Anderson & Co. would march 43 yards on 9 plays, converting on a 3rd-and-10 from the Ravens 48 en route to setting up the game winning 33 yard chip shot.

5.  2007 week 13 Patriots 27 Ravens 24 – Keeping the 2007 New England Patriots off the scoreboard was pretty much impossible.  However, the Ravens defense had countless opportunities to keep those damn cheaters off poor ol’ Mercury Morris’ street.   On the 2nd play of the 4th quarter, Kyle Boller found Dan Wilcox from 1 yard out to put the Ravens up 24-17.  With the score 24-20, Tom Brady took over from his own 27 with 3:30 showing on the clock.  We won’t rehash all the gory details for you, but suffice to say that the Pats went 77 yards on 13 plays, 3 of which were either successful 3rd or 4th down conversions, to score the game winning touchdown.

6.  2007 week 15 Dolphins 22 Ravens 16 – The winless ‘fins weren’t happy with the purple-and-black, having let New England off the hook, and they made us pay.   Despite leading 13-10 as the seconds began ticking away in the 4th, the Ravens allowed Cleo Lemon to lead field goal drives of 82 and 43 yards, the 2nd of which put Miami up 16-13 with just 1:56 remaining.  Troy Smith, filling in for an injured Boller, took the Ravens 59.5 yards to the Miami half-yard line.  Brian Billick decided to kick the tying field goal instead of going for the win, and overtime ensued.  The Ravens moved the ball on the opening possession, but Matt Stover missed a 44 yard game-winning attempt.  No defensive stop was to be for the Ravens.  Just 3 plays later, Lemon hit Greg Camarillo, who raced 64 yards untouched to the end zone.

7. 2007 week 17 Ravens 27 Steelers 21 – Sure, they were resting most of their starters (hey, how’d that work out for you, anyway?  taints.), but that wasn’t raining on the party at M&T as the Ravens were avenging their week 9 beating in Pittsburgh, carrying a 27-7 lead into the 4th quarter.  Charlie Batch, however, put together TD drives of 81 and 56 yards, and was set up with the chance for the game-winning drive with 1:36 to go from his own 11.  Gladly, the drama didn’t get too intense, as the Steelers only went 19 yards before Batch was intercepted by David Pittman to preserve the win.

8.  2008 week 4 Steelers 23 Ravens 20 – Although this lead evaporated in the 3rd quarter, not the 4th as in the rest of these examples, it bears mentioning.  After allowing just 1 first down on the Steelers previous 6 drives, Pittsburgh went 67 yards on just 4 plays to pull within a field goal.  You know the rest.

9.  2008 week 5 Titans 13 Ravens 10 – The Ravens started the day giving Kerry Collins flashbacks to Super Bowl 35, intercepting him twice in the first quarter.  However, on that final drive, Collins had 62 passing yards after only putting up 101 through the game’s first 54 minutes.

Sure, you could argue that the offense needed to do something to put those games away, instead of leaning on the defense.  But isn’t defense the identity of this team?  Obviously, that’s the idea.  But if defense is really to be the identity of the Ravens (rather than say, “bad,”) then they need to get back to executing for 60 minutes, not 50 or 55 or 59.  Until Joe Flacco and the offense start putting up 20 or 30 on the regular, the Ravens need to be able to count on their defense with the game on the line.  Unfortunately, a mounting pile of evidence is saying that maybe they can’t.

Buddy Lee Done for the Year

October 7, 2008

The rumors that have been floating around regarding Kelly Gregg have proven true.  He is set to have microfracture surgery on his left knee today, and will be out until at least 2009 training camp.  Renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews will perform the procedure.  Gregg injured the knee in the first week of camp this summer, and “it wasn’t responding to anything,” according to his agent.  The Baltimore Sun’s Jamison Hensley reports that Gregg has more tackles than any interior lineman in the NFL since 2002, with 398.

At least to this point, the Ravens D has not missed a beat without Kelly.  Haloti Ngata is having a superb season, Justin Bannan is doing a great job of filling in for Gregg, and the Ravens currently sit first in the NFL in passing yards, rushing yards, and total yards allowed.

Titans 13 Ravens 10 (The WE FEEL YOUR PAIN, CHARGERS Game)

October 6, 2008

For the 2nd straight week, the Ravens dominated the football game for about 55 of the 60 minutes, held a lead in the 2nd half, had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty assessed against them at a crucial time…and lost.  The call against Terrell Suggs with 6 minutes to go, when the Titans were backed up on their own 20 yard line, facing what should have been a 3rd-and-15 from their own 15 (if the play had been stopped, like it should have, to assess the false start penalty on Tennessee), was downright atrocious.  Anybody with a pair of eyes can see that Suggs merely glanced the SHOULDER of Kerry Collins, and not his helmet, and that Suggs completely stopped once the contact was made.  We have another bone to pick with the penalty though:

During the Ravens opening drive of the 2nd half, a similar situation occurred.  Albert Haynesworth came across the line before the snap, made contact with Jason Brown, and the play was whistled dead for encroachment.  EVERYBODY STOPPED (unlike on the Suggs play).  Everybody, that is, except Haynesworth, who kept right on trucking, wrapped up the defenseless Joe Flacco, and slammed him to the ground.  71,000 at M&T Bank Stadium waited for a 2nd yellow flag that would never come (and a flag NOT coming was a rare occurrence in this one).  To throw the flag on Suggs, after not throwing another one on Haynesworth, is quite puzzling.  We don’t ask for perfection, stripes, but is a little consistency too much to ask for?

The officiating in this league has been pretty damn bad in 2008 (see: Hochuli, Ed), and yesterday was just another example.

There are, of course, plenty of other reasons the Ravens lost this one.  The head-scratching clock management at the end of the first half that saw the Ravens pick up a 1st down at the Titans’ 22 with 38 seconds left and 1 timeout left, then proceed to not 1) hurry to the line and spike the ball; or 2) use the timeout.  The result was :24 of wasted opportunity, a missed 45-yard field goal attempt on 1st down, a fruitless 77-yard drive, and a tie game at halftime.

Next on the list is the inexplicable ability of Joe Flacco, when rolling to his right, to convince himself that that guy in blue between him and his receiver isn’t really there.  Flacco threw the ball to Titans defenders 3 times while rolling to his right, and every time every fan in attendance knew what was going to happen as soon as he released the ball.  John Harbaugh’s 2nd successful challenge on 2 tries this season saved Flacco from a 3-pick day, but he deserved all 3 of them.  Enthusiasm for the rookie QB will be tempered for at least a few days here in B’More, and that’s probably a good thing.  Rookies will play like rookies sometimes, and Joe’s day should quiet all this silly 2nd-coming-of-Unitas talk thats been poisoning the local airwaves of late.

Hmm, what else?  Ah, yes, special teams.   A unit that has guys like Brendan Ayanbedejo, Tom Zbikowski, and Haruki Nakamura (on a side note, that was the toughest string of 3 names to spell I have ever had to deal with) runnin around, we’d like to see less relying on kickers and punters to make touchdown-saving tackles.  And when Sam Koch (having a Pro Bowl-Caliber season, btw) drops a punt on the 3 yard line that will force the Titans to go 97 yards on their game-winning drive instead of 80, please PLEASE don’t fall for the returner’s “I’m gonna walk up here and fair catch the ball at the 10…cuz that’s where its gonna land…SUCKERS!” juke.  Please.  Thank you.

The Ravens lack a certain “killer instinct” at the moment.  The ability to finish eludes them.  Finish drives.  Finish games.  The offense has to stop being afraid to go for the jugular when they have a lead.  The defense, now ranked 1st in passing, rushing, and total yards, needs to stop giving up points every time they are handed a lead (more on this later in the week).

About that Secondary Health Thing….

October 3, 2008

WNST is reporting that Samari Rolle will be out for at least 1 month.  Rolle had surgery on his neck earlier this week after injuring it on the late game (read: garbage time) interception of Derek Anderson in Week 3.

Next man up: Fabian Washington.

Washington did well Monday night in Pittsburgh, but he has been battling some health issues of his own so far this year.  Keep your fingers, toes, and whatever else you can cross crossed that Chris McAlister stays healthy, or this season that is looking up right now could start spiraling downward very quickly…

Reminder: Don't Forget to Enter to Win FREE TICKETS!!

October 3, 2008

This is the final Ravens home game before the deadline to enter our Ticket Giveaway!  So if you don’t want to miss out on your chance to win 2 FREE TICKETS to see the Ravens take on the Oakland Raiders, make sure you take a picture of yourself all decked out in your Ravens gear Sunday and send it to us at!

To see all the details, just click above where it says “Free Ravens Tickets! Enter Now!”

Titans (4-0) @ Ravens (2-1)

October 3, 2008

 Things don’t get any easier for our purple and black this week, as the Tennessee Titans, one of just 3 remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, make the trip up to B’More.  These two teams, former fierce AFC Central rivals, last met in 2006 in Nashville, when Trevor Pryce blocked a last second field goal attempt to seal the win for the Ravens.  So far in 2008, the “flaming thumbtacks” (our favorite of all the TMQ nicknames) have outscored their opponents 102-46 in sprinting out of the gates.  However, 3 of these victories have been at home, and the other was in Cincinnati.  Playing at M&T Bank stadium against a Ravens team that can match them physically punch-for-punch, will be a whole different animal.

Quarterbacking the Titans since Vince Young went crazy is former Super Bowl XXXV Ravens punching bag Kerry Collins.  Ironically, Collins role this year in Tennessee has been very similar to that of Trent Dilfer’s on the Ravens in 2000:  don’t screw up, and let your great defense win the game.   Unfortunately for him, screwing quarterbacks up is just what Rex Ryan’s defense does best.  They absolutely abused Carson Palmer and Derek Anderson, then made Baby Ben look stupid for all but 2 drives plays on Monday night.  The Ravens will again be without the services of Samari Rolle, but Fabian Washington is finally healthy, and filled in adequately against Pittsburgh.  Tennessee’s wide receivers don’t exactly scare anybody anyway.


Fact is, these two teams plan to do most of their damage on the ground.  The Titans come in with the duo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White, while the Ravens will counter with Willis McGahee (listed as questionable), Le’Run McClain, and Ray Rice.  Johnson has an explosiveness not seen by the Ravens yet in 2008, and White carries the roll role of bruiser.  Johnson, a rookie out of East Carolina, could threaten the Ravens league-long streak of 23 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.  It sure would be nice to have Buddy Lee back for this one, but Kelly is still out with that knee issue.

The Titans defense has been good, but I really couldn’t tell you anything about them.  I know of two players – Albert Haynesworth, because he committed the only recorded in-game “curb-stomp” in league history, and Jevon Kearse, because…well, because he is old.  I think former Squealer safety Chris Hope may be on the squad, but I may also be making that up.  Anyway, just because I can’t name many of them doesn’t mean I am taking them for granted.  Neither should you, Ravens fans.  A name I DO know is that of their coordinator, Arbutus native Jim Schwartz.  Schwartz, who we would have liked to see at least get an interview for the Ravens head coaching position last winter, will do all he can to get inside the head of the as of yet mostly “Un-Flacc-able” Joe Flacco.  Flacco’s experience against Pittsburgh should help him moving forward, but every week is a new test for the rookie.

Speaking of Flacco, hopefully Joey can find a way to spread the wealth a little more this week, even though Derrick Mason will be looking to have another big game against his former team.  Where, oh where are you, Mark Clayton and Todd Heap? It was nice to see Dan Wilcox catch a pass last week, but the Ravens other receivers need to find a way to get open if this team really wants to go anywhere.

On the sidelines, the Titans have another distinct advantage in Head Coach Jeff Fisher, the longest tenured coach in the league, having started midway through the 1994 season.  Despite being only 4 years older than John Harbaugh, Fisher has 13+ years more of Head Coaching experience.  The last time a Jeff Fisher coached team played at M&T, the Titans defeated the Ravens in the 2003 Wild Card Playoff.

Field position and turnovers will dictate the outcome of this game, which promises to be one of the lower-scoring affairs in the NFL in week 5.  The Ravens special teams have a lot to prove after a penalty filled, dismal performance in Pittsburgh.  If the return teams can’t get anything going, the defenses are just as likely to put points up for their teams as the offenses in this one.  The Ravens’ home field advantage, paired with the fact that Kerry Collins still has purple nightmares 8 years later, will be enough for B’More to do the Titans a favor, and take all that “undefeated” pressure off them.

Ravens 17 Titans 9

Derrick Mason is Joe Flacco's Security Blankey

October 2, 2008

Let me preface this by saying that I, too, am Wacko for Flacco.  I’m sold on the guy as the QB of this team.  He doesn’t rattle, is more mobile than anybody expected, and has shown some nice pocket presence in his first 3 games.

But Joe…you have other receivers, man.  On Monday night in Pittsburgh, Flacco completed 10 passes to wide receivers and/or tight ends, and of those, 8 were to Derrick Mason.

Young, and especially rookie, quarterbacks have a tendency to develop these “security blankets.”  Mason has done a great job of filling that role for Flacco in the early going, establishing himself as the guy Joe can look to and be confident in throwing the ball.

We can all agree that Todd Heap hasn’t done anything worthy of gaining Flacco’s trust to this point, dropping 2 balls so far, one that would have been Joe’s first touchdown, and the other a sure-fire first down.

Demetrius Williams had 2 (by my count) balls thrown his way Monday night, a deep pass thrown late by Flacco that required Williams to turn and wait, resulting in an incompletion, and the other for an 8 yard gain.

The only thing Mark Clayton seems to be “receiving” these days are handoffs on those trick plays.  Is he just getting that little separation in his routes that Joe doesn’t even dare fitting the ball in to him?  If thats the case, he needs to step up, and soon, or he is in danger of forever being branded with the “bust” label here in B’More.  Hell, he already gets that from some fans, as I heard one caller on the radio the other day say that he is worse than even the fabled Travis Taylor was at this point in their respective careers.  Ouch.

Mason will want to have another strong game this week against his former team.  The Titans, much like the Steelers, can get after the QB, so the Ravens may again be forced to max-protect much of the time.  But if this offense really wants to get untracked, then Cam Cameron is going to have to figure out a way to get his young unibrowed signal caller to start spreading the ball to some different targets.

Rodney Harrison "Squeaky-Clean" Compared to Hines Ward

October 1, 2008

Thank you, Mike Preston.

Boy, I didn’t think I would ever hear myself say those words.  However, Preston wrote in his column today something I had originally included in my game recap this week, but removed it for fear of sounding too petty, whiny, sour grapes-y, whatever.  Here it is:

“Cheap-shot artist

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is a great player, but he should end those vicious blocking shots he takes at defensive players when they aren’t looking.

He got a good lick on safety Ed Reed on Monday night, but then he started flexing at the crowd as if he were Hulk Hogan. Some of those blocks are borderline cheap, and some player is going to have his career cut short.

Sorry Ward, you’re now in the same class with New England safety Rodney Harrison, one of the cheapest players in the game.”

Preston is certainly not a Ravens “fan.”  He makes his living writing (largely negative) opinion pieces on the team.  So it is nice to know somebody else is noticing these things.  The National media does nothing but praise Hiney for being “tough” and “hard-nosed,” never mentioning that on half of these “blocks” he makes, the play is over and the defensive player isn’t looking.


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