Archive for September, 2009

Ravens 38 Chiefs 24 (The FLASHBACK TO 1997 Game)

September 14, 2009

JoeyRockets

It wasn’t hard to predict that the Ravens would cover the 13 point spread against Kansas City on Sunday, but you would have been hard pressed to find anybody predicting the fashion in which they would accomplish it; that is, by putting up 38 points, allowing another 24, and setting a team record for total offense in the process.

It seems pretty unbelievable that, the way the Vinny Testaverde-led Ravens of back in the day moved the ball up and down the field (when it seemed like they lost every game 45-42), it is now Joe Flacco’s Ravens that hold the all-time team lead with 501 total yards. Flacco-verde put up the first 300-yard performance of his career, totaling 307 yards through the air and also throwing for three scores for the first time. Ray Rice and the Ravens’ backs chipped in as well, with Rice picking up 108 yards and Willis McGahee adding 44 and a touchdown, and another score on a short reception.

The Ravens’ lack of weapons in the passing game was on display for all to see, as Mark Clayton pulled in five catches for 77 yards and 1 TD, Derrick Mason caught four for 47, and Todd Heap five for 74 and a score. Granted, it was against the Chiefs, but the calls from Brandon Marshall should subside considerably, at least for this week.

The talking heads that haven’t looked at a stat sheet or watched any of the game tape are all aflutter today about how the Ravens’ defense has lost a step. Mike Greenberg said they are “getting old.” You’ll hear plenty of goofs talking about how the losses of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott were felt immediately, as the Ravens gave up 24 to the lowly Chiefs.

Please.

The Chiefs put up 188 total yards of offense on the day. Larry Johnson averaged 1.8 yards per carry, and totaled 20. The Ravens have the #3 overall defense in the NFL after Sunday’s win. The fluky plays kept Kansas City in the game – the blocked punt for a TD, the big interception return setting up a short field. This game was very close to being 41-3.

Which is not to marginalize those plays in any way. Those things happen in the NFL, and games are played on the scoreboard, not in the box score. Those kinds of costly errors are the kind that can lose a game for you, especially against better teams.

Special teams had a horrendous day for the Ravens. Again, head-scratching because of having a head coach with a special teams background – but the aforementioned block punt, a missed 41-yard FG, and absolutely nothing generated in the punt or kick return games added up to a very disappointing effort from all sides. Hopefully the return units can jell a bit better over the next few weeks, but Chris Carr looked indecisive with the ball in his hands. We might see more of Ledarius Webb back there in coming games as well.

The Ravens were unable to escape the game without any injury concerns. Tavares Gooden tweaked his knee on special teams, and we will look forward to hearing more on him this week. Gooden, replacing Bart Scott, needs to prove that he can stay healthy after missing most of last season. Jameel McClain and Brendan Ayanbadejo filled in admirably after Gooden went out. Tom Zbikowski also suffered a concussion. From my view in section 507, I also saw Ed Reed hunched over a few times – hopefully just some cramping, but I haven’t heard anything so far. Ed was more aggressive with his tackling than we saw in preseason, throwing his shoulder into people on his four tackles.

A little more on Flacco – his great fantasy numbers notwithstanding, Joe was actually a bit off for the day. His passes sailed a few times, and he probably should have had more than just the one interception. Still, Flacco called the game “fun,” and it was damn sure fun to watch the Ravens offense, something we haven’t been able to say for a while – not since the second half of the 2006 season, when Hurricane Billick had the offense rolling all the way until they met the immovable object that was the Indianapolis Colts defense in the playoffs.

A lot of credit for the Ravens (That’s “R-A-V-E-N-S-‘,” not “RAVEN’S”) strong offensive day has to go to rookie RT Michael Oher. Oher was a beast, as he’s been since he arrived in B’More, and his presence was what allowed Todd Heap to have the vintage performance that he was able to. Michael Oher will be a huge factor for them this season.

One more bone to pick – this one with Cam Cameron. Sure, your offense put up 38 points and had the best day ever for the Ravens. Well done, and congratulations. However….STOP RUNNING YOUR BACKUP QB AROUND AS A WR! Especially if John Beck is going to be inactive on most game days [Edit – Thanks to Duker for pointing out that Beck was listed as the emergency QB], I really don’t like seeing Troy Smith running routes, instead of holding a clipboard. Even if he is just out there as a decoy, it seems like an unnecessary risk, and one where said risk far outweighs any reward. Am I overreacting here?

Last year John Harbaugh’s Ravens made a habit of absolutely decimating inferior teams, a welcome change from the Brian Billick days. Yesterday saw a bit of a return to those old days, when even bad teams would hang around all day on our team. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the new Kansas City Chiefs aren’t as bad as everyone thinks they will be. Still, it wasn’t the nice, relaxing day at the ballpark that most of us had expected. The Ravens need to eliminate those huge costly mistakes, and quick, because things get markedly more difficult next week in San Diego.

ToddRockets

Chiefs @ Ravens

September 11, 2009

RavensChiefs

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, finally. We survived another offseason, and we finally get the chance to spit out that nasty aftertaste that has lingered in our collective mouths since that fateful night in Pittsburgh last January (damn you, Daren Stone!) A new season is upon us, one that sees our expectations for our team astronomically higher than they were just one year ago. In this space in Week 1 last season, I picked the Bungles to trounce the Ravens 27-13. Like most of you, I all too vividly remembered the nightmare 5-11 previous season, and had little confidence that a rookie QB and rookie head coach could come in and make such an immediate impact.

Shame on me. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh made me eat my words, leading the Ravens to an 11-5 record and two playoff wins. The question now becomes, can they duplicate their success, and avoid a second-year letdown (or “sophomore slump,” if you want to get all cliche’ about it)?

The Ravens lost a couple pieces from that squad, most notably inside linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard, center Jason Brown, and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Every preview you read about the Ravens drones on and on about the loss of Ryan and Scott being potentially catastrophic. To which I say, GET OFF MY CLOUD!

The Ravens have proven, time and time again, that no matter the coordinator (Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan), or the pieces plugged into the positions, that it is the scheme, aggression, and defensive tradition here in Baltimore that makes them a perennial Top-5 defense. As much as we hate to admit it, there is another team to the northwest of us who have done the same thing for far longer than we have. Being stuck in the same division as those who shall not be named, the Ravens have followed the same model, and success has come along with it.

Bart Scott was the third best LB on last year’s team. Tavares Gooden is more than ready to pick up any slack that the departure of Bart may have left. Jim Leonhard was only playing because of injury to the usual starter, Dawan Landry, who is a better all-around safety. New coordinator Greg Mattison has been coaching for 38 years. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs are all back. The Ravens will once again be an elite defense, make no mistake about it.

The unknown, as always with the Ravens, is whether or not the offense can continue its evolution, and build upon the modicum of success it showed a year ago. Nine of 11 starters return, with center Jason Brown and tackle Willie Anderson being the only losses. Brown is replaced by Pro Bowler Matt Birk, a definite short-term upgrade, while rookie Michael Oher takes over for the retired Anderson. Oher has been a beast in the preseason, and looks like another first round gem from Ozzie Newsome. Still, expect some growing pains as he gets used to matching up against the top pass rushers in the NFL.

Flacco comes off a season in which he became the first rookie QB to ever win two playoff games. He passed for 2,971 yards in his rookie campaign, throwing 14 TD and 12 INT. Over the final 11 games of the season though, he had 13 of those TD, and only five of the picks, showing steady improvement. After a brief retirement due to the loss of his good friend Steve McNair, Flacco’s favorite target, Derrick Mason, returns for another shot at his first Super Bowl ring. Joining Mason in catching balls will again be Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, and the Ravens added former Bengal and Patriot Kelley Washington to the WR corps (no Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin, much to the chagrin of some). Todd Heap appears healthy and involved in the offense in the fake games, and L.J. Smith, if he can ever get on the field, will provide another strong target for Flacco.

Also expected to contribute heavily in the passing game, as well as on the ground, is second year RB Ray Rice. Rice appears by all accounts to be the Ravens “starter” at RB, with Willis McGahee relegated to the change-of-pace role, and Le’Ron McClain returning to his natural blocking-back FB position with the departure of Lorenzo Neal. We still expect “Pain Train” to get some touches here and there, but Rice should see the lion’s share of carries in 2009. Rice averaged 3.6 yards on 23 carries (ehhhhh) and 9.0 yards on 12 receptions (ooooh) in three preseason contests. The Ravens seemed very pass-heavy in the fake games though, and I have a feeling that was more for “practice” for Joe than an indication of their actual game plans for this season.

CasselWuss

Kansas City won just two games in 2008, and as a result installed a whole new regime. New head coach Todd Haley replaces Herm Edwards, and a big trade brought Matt Cassel from New England to displace Tyler Thigpen at QB. Cassel tweaked his MCL against Seattle in the third preseason game, and is still questionable for the game. If he is unable to go, Brodie Croyle will start at QB for the Chiefs, in which case, you might want to look away, Mama Croyle. The Chiefs still have WR Dwayne Bowe, an emerging star in the NFL, but they lost their longtime stalwart in the passing game, TE Tony Gonzalez, to the Atlanta Falcons.

Chiefs RB Larry Johnson was the last back to gain 100 yards on the ground against the Ravens, a streak of 35 games; this is an impressive number, despite what perennial nay-sayer Mike Preston would have you believe. He isn’t what he used to be, but Johnson could still give the Ravens trouble, especially if the ease with which the Jets and Panthers were able to run the ball on the Ravens in the preseason is any indication. Look for the Ravens to stack the box, and dare Cassel/Croyle to beat them through the air.

On defense, the Chiefs were #31 in the NFL in 2008 (#28 passing, #30 rushing). Linebacker Mike Vrabel came over in the Cassel trade (a fact he is none too pleased about), but one man can’t fix that kind of ineptitude. After losing DE Jared Allen, the Chiefs plummeted to the bottom of the league in sacks, taking down opposing QBs only 10 (!!!) times all year. This all paints a rosy picture for Joe Cool & Co.

The one thing that gives us pause is this – Todd Haley was the offensive coordinator for Arizona prior to coming to Kansas City. During Week 3 of the 2007 season, the Cardinals were stymied by Rex Ryan’s D for three quarters, before storming back with 17 points in the fourth to force a last-second FG by Matt Stover to win it for Baltimore. Did Todd Haley figure something out that he can carry over to Sunday’s game? Add in that the Chiefs acquired WR Terrance Copper, who spent part of 2009 with the Ravens, and the potential for some Willie Anderson-like shenanigans (the Bengals accused Anderson of tipping off the Ravens to their plays during Week 1 last year)…does this game get a little closer than we might originally think?

In short, no. As discussed, Greg Mattisons’s defense is not Rex Ryan’s defense. Nobody is confusing Cassel, Copper, and Bowe with Warner, Boldin, and Fitzgerald. And Copper wasn’t around long enough to learn much, if anything, of the Ravens’ system.

Ravens 24 Chiefs 10

Ravens 2009 Preview – Weeks 14-17

September 11, 2009

Well, thanks to the Tennessee Titans uncanny ability to completely dominate a game, but still not score any points and lose it, the Ravens don’t find themselves in first place this morning.

Whatever.

The preview train rolls on. For the final four weeks of the season, when we all hope the Ravens are fighting for playoff seeding, things don’t look so easy. We have two NFC North foes at home, and road trips to Pittsburgh and the west coast.

See Weeks 1-4 here, Weeks 5-9 here, and Weeks 10-13 here.

Of course, all of these predictions are based on rosters, teams, etc., as they stand today. Injuries, suspensions, and whatever else could easily drastically change my feeling about any or all of the games. This is for fun more than anything else, so don’t go calling your bookie on my recommendations.

Week 14 – vs. Lions

LionsRavens

Baltimore once again welcome home native son Jim Schwartz. However, Schwartzy’s team this time around isn’t quite the squad he brought to B’More last season. As the new head coach of the Detroit (0-16) Lions, the days of #1 playoff seeds are but a distant memory for Jimbo. The Lions will be playing for nothing but pride and another high draft pick by the time they visit M&T. Ravens roll.

Chance of victory: 90%

Week 15 – vs. Bears

BearsRavens

Chicago is another team that many pundits are high on in 2009. With the acquisition of Jay Cutler at QB, da Bears have a competent signal-caller for the first time since FDR was in office (approximate). Their defense isn’t what it was a few years ago, but everyone seems willing to overlook that. Running back Matt Forte is one of the top young rushers in the NFL, and if Cutler and his rag-tag group of receivers can develop some chemistry by the time they come to Baltimore, this could be a very tight game.

Chance of victory: 60%

Week 16 – @. Pittsburgh

SquealersRavens

A late season visit to the three rivers, in what will most likely be another crucial battle for the AFC North crown and playoff seeding. The Ravens could have gotten this game out of the way last night, but I still have no problem with them asking out of it. The Ravens have played prime time games in Pittsburgh three of the past 4 seasons, and enough was getting to be enough (especially considering the way they play under the lights, under the previous regime anyway).

Start loading up on the antacids now.

Chance of victory: 35%

Week 17 – @ Oakland

RaidersRavens

Sure, it looks like a cakewalk now, sitting here on the eve of Week 1. But are you really comfortable with the Ravens having to go across the country and play on the west coast if a playoff berth is on the line?

Yeah, me neither.

By season’s end, the Raiders COULD be preparing for another Top-5 draft pick, the entire coaching staff in MIGHT consist of Tom Cable and nobody else, and Al Davis MAY have returned to his natural habitat in the chilly waters of Loch Ness.

Slightly less likely though, is that they have come to at least resemble an NFL team, and would love nothing more than to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs as some payback for embarrassing them several times over the past few seasons.

Hope the Ravens have secured their spot by this game, and are just resting the starters.

Chance of victory: 75%


Ravens 2009 Preview – Weeks 10-13

September 10, 2009

Today is the day. The official start of the 2009 NFL season. Hopefully by tomorrow, when we preview the final 4 weeks of the Ravens’ season, they will already hold a 0.5 game lead over that team with the pee-and-poop uniforms, thanks to the Tennessee Titans getting all stompy on them again tonight. Not to get ahead of ourselves though – today’s preview sees what, at least at this point in time, could be the Ravens toughest 4-game stretch of ’09.

See Weeks 1-4 here, and Weeks 5-9 here.

Of course, all of these predictions are based on rosters, teams, etc., as they stand today. Injuries, suspensions, and whatever else could easily drastically change my feeling about any or all of the games. This is for fun more than anything else, so don’t go calling your bookie on my recommendations.

Week 10 – @ Cleveland (MNF)

BrownsRavens

So Browns players let the cat out of the bag, revealing that Brady Quinn will be the opening day starter at QB, thus foiling Eric Mangini’s plan to…hell, I don’t know what that guy is up to (maybe THAT’S his plan! mu-hoo-hahahaha) Seriously, the Browns are going to be a wreck. The Ravens finish off the Ohio sweep in Week 10 at the Mistake by the Lake.

Chance of victory: 75%

Week 11 – vs. Indianapolis

ColtsRavens

The last time the Ravens beat the Colts? Brace yourselves…

December 2, 2001.

That’s right, Peyton and Co. have now owned the Ravens for nearly a decade, winning the last 6 meetings between the 2 teams (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 (Playoffs), 2007, 2008). The last 2 meetings haven’t even been close, with the horseshoes trouncing the purple and black by scores of 44-20 and 31-3.

Enough of that bleak stuff though. The law of averages says the Ravens HAVE to win one some time, right? I have the feeling that this is finally the year. Greg Mattison will play a more fundamentally sound defensive scheme against Manning, and not let him feast on our blitzes like he did against Rex Ryan.

At least, that’s what I’ll be telling myself.

Chance of victory: 55%

Week 12 – vs. Pittsburgh

SquealersRavens

Of course, we all remember (and those towel-waving idiots are quick to remind us) that the Steelers swept the Ravens 3 games to 0 in 2008. What you need to remind yourself and your nearest wannabe-Yinzer, though, is that last year marked the first time Pittsburgh had won at M&T Bank Stadium since 2002, and the first time Baby Ben had ever done so. The fact that it took an improbable goal line reception, and an act of extremely questionable officiating, to bring the victory to fruition should bring us all back from the ledge in realizing that the Steelers, by no means, have the Ravens’ number, at least not here in B’More.

The fact remains, though, that neither John Harbaugh nor Joe Flacco have ever beaten the Steelers. And, until they do so, all bragging rights will reside solely in Western Pennsyltucky.

Chance of victory: 70%

Week 13 – @ Green Bay (MNF)

PackRavens

In another scheduling oddity, the Ravens play their second Monday Night Football game in 4 weeks (of course, both on the road). This time, taking on the Pack on what should by then be at least a slushy, if not quite a frozen, tundra up at Lambeau. Many are taking Green Bay as a dark horse (NICKELBACK!!!) candidate in the NFC this year, and Aaron Rodgers is flying off fantasy football draft boards just below the Bradys and (Peyton) Mannings of the world. Not that fantasy status means anything, I’m just sayin’…their offense is expected to do big things. Even after getting an extra day to heal up after the certain slugfest in Week 12, winning in December in Lambeau will be no small feat.

Chance of victory: 45%

Tomorrow: Weeks 14-17


Ravens 2009 Preview – Weeks 5-9

September 9, 2009

Today is Wednesday, which means we are now down to three work days remaining until we get to watch our purple and black take the field for a meaningful football game for the first time since that awful day in Pittsburgh. Day 2 of our quick Ravens season preview sees the Ravens take on the other purple team in the league, a neck-bearded QB, and Bungle bookends.

See Day 1 here.

Of course, all of these predictions are based on rosters, teams, etc., as they stand today. Injuries, suspensions, and whatever else could easily drastically change my feeling about any or all of the games. This is for fun more than anything else, so don’t go calling your bookie on my recommendations.

Week 5 – vs. Cincinnati

BengalsRavens

Count me in the group that thinks Cincy will be a bit less bungle-riffic in ’09.  Their defense finished up strong in 2008, Carson Palmer is back (back again), and Ocho Cinco looks like he’s ready to return to his Pro Bowl form, assuming he can stop “tweeting” long enough to catch a pass or 80.  I think they’ll win 1st Place – Ohio Division this season, and give a lot of teams all they can handle.  A lot of lesser teams than the Ravens, that is.

Chance of victory: 75%

Week 6 – @ Minnesota

VikingsRavens

The Ravens travel up North for the Purple Bowl in their final game before their first bye week since 2007.  Lots of similarities here – both teams rely heavily on their running game, have very strong defenses, and think they finally have the quarterback they need to get them over the hump.  The difference, of course, is that the Vikings are on a much shorter time table with their grizzled old gunslinger Brett Favre than the Ravens are with 24-year old Joe Flacco.  Also, it takes three Ravens to do the damage in the ground game that the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson is capable of.  Assuming both teams are at full strength, I really think this one is a toss-up.

Chance of victory: 50%

Week 8 – vs. Denver

BroncsRavens

The Ravens get two weeks to prepare for the Denver Broncos, who are likely to be in shambles by late-October.  After one of the most tumultuous offseasons by any team, ever – one that saw them lose their head coach and franchise QB, and suspend their stud WR – most Broncos fans are about as happy with their team’s ownership as we O’s fans are with our baseball team’s.  The bugaboo for the Ravens defense has been the big game QBs – Manning, Brady, Roethlisberger.  Kyle Orton (with Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter to hand off to)?  Not so much.  This one’s in the bag.

Chance of victory: 80%

Week 9 – @ Cincinnati

BunglesRavens

It bugs me a bit when the schedule-makers in the NFL have teams completely finish with one divisional opponent before playing another.  Such is the case for the Ravens this year though, getting the Bengals twice before facing Pittsburgh.  Like I said, Marvin’s Bunch will be competitive, but the Ravens simply outclass them in all aspects of the game.  “The Jungle” won’t provide enough of a home field advantage to make much of a difference.

Chance of victory: 65%

Tomorrow: Weeks 10-13


Ravens 2009 Preview – Weeks 1-4

September 8, 2009

We have four miserable work days to fill until the Ravens’ 2009 season opener this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs.  So I figured, in order to help pass the time, I would do a quick semi-preview (quasi-Lebronish?) of the purple and black’s schedule for the coming months, breaking it up to 4 games/day through Friday.

Of course, all of these predictions are based on rosters, teams, etc., as they stand today.  Injuries, suspensions, and whatever else could easily drastically change my feeling about any or all of the games.  This is for fun more than anything else, so don’t go calling your bookie on my recommendations.

Week 1 – vs. Kansas City


ChiefsRavens

Matt Cassel is supposedly planning to make the start, despite injuring his knee last week.  If he is unable to go, Brodie Croyle will be under center.  It won’t matter if it is Cassel or Croyle, though.  SOMEBODY wearing a Chiefs jersey is going to be throwing balls to Ed Reed this Sunday.  M&T Bank will be rockin’, I’ll be attending my second Ravens’ home opener (hope to see you there!), and the Ravens will win, and win big.

Chance of victory: 90%

Week 2 – @ San Diego

ChargersRavens

A week 2 east-to-west trip for the Mauve Marauders (no? OK.) looks less than appetizing at this point.  San Diego looks to be loaded once again on both sides of the ball, and after their terrible start last season, one would have to believe that they will learn from their mistakes and not let themselves fall into another 4-8 hole before they decide to start playing for keeps.  I think the Ravens will keep this one close, and avoid getting embarrassed like they did on their last trip to Qualcomm, but I don’t see them bringing a W back from sunny San Diego.

Chance of victory: 40%

Week 3 – vs. Cleveland

BrownsRavens

Presumably, Eric Mangina Mangini will have decided on a QB between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn by the end of September, but who’s to say for sure?  Neither of them will be able to handle the Ravens’ D, and even though he made the team against everyone’s predictions, Jamal Lewis is but a shell of his former self.  If Cleveland somehow beats Minnesota, wins at Mile High, and rolls into B’More 2-0 on 9/27, I might be a tad more worried, but another Brown-stain whooping looks much more likely sitting here on Labor Day.

Chance of victory:  80%

Week 4 – @ New England

PatsRavens

Guhhh.  Another early season road trip, another brutal opponent.  The Pats and their fans will no doubt remember that it was the Ravens who kept their 11-5 team out of the postseason in 2008, but the more important factor will be the return of Tom Brady.  After having 3 weeks to shake off any rust (or anything else) that he may have gathered over the past year of laying in bed all day with his supermodel wife, Brady and the Pats’ offense are likely to be firing on all cylinders by Week 4.  I don’t think they’ll run away with it, and the Ravens will hang around just long enough to give us all heart palpitations, but Randy Moss or Wes Welker will supply the dagger late in the 4th quarter.

Chance of victory:  25%

Tomorrow:  Weeks 5-9


Your Typical Steelers Fan

September 4, 2009

Via the delightful People of Wal-Mart:

Big Ben Fan

Looks about right to me.  As of last February, he (she?) can now count all the way to 6!

Preseason Game 4 – Ravens @ Falcons

September 3, 2009

RavensFalcons

The Ravens enter their final warm-up for “real” football tonight, taking on the Atlanta Falcons down at the Georgia Dome.  We should all remember the last time the Ravens played a preseason game there, when Adalius Thomas snapped Mike Vick’s ankle long before anybody knew he was a dogfighting King Pin.  That injury pretty much doomed the Falcons’ season before it even got started – both teams enter this contest with their main objective being to avoid a similar fate.

John Harbaugh has been tight-lipped about just how much burn the Ravens starters will see tonight, but we can safely assume that it won’t be much.  Perhaps a series or 2 each from the starting offense and defense, as long as they get at least 6-10 plays under their belts.  Once that goal is accomplished, and Joe, Ray, other Ray, Todd, Ed, Haloti, et. al take off their helmets in favor of the stylish new Reebok(R) sidelip cap du jour (du an?), we can all breathe a collective sigh of injury-free preseason relief, followed by either a) flipping the channel to the University of South Carolina – North Carolina State University college football game or b) watching guys battle for those final few precious spots on the 53-man roster.

If you chose the latter, you may want to go take a look at Glenn Clark’s final roster prediction over at WNST.net.

The most interesting battles to watch are likely in the secondary, at linebacker, and at running back.  Glenn’s first 3 “out” are RB Matt Lawrence, LB Jason Phillips, and FB Jason Cook.

Then, of course, there is the ever-intriguing (and source of much contention among Ravens fans) battle to replace Matt Stover.  As he did last week against Carolina, Steve Hauschka will basically have the job handed to him on a silver platter, needing only to not screw it up.  Missing any more 27-yard chip shots though, could send this thing to another level entirely.

Just make the damn kicks, kid.

One welcome sight tonight will be the (reported) return of T-Sizzle to the field.  Suggs has been out since the beginning of August with a heel injury, but is scheduled to at least break a sweat with the rest of the projected opening day lineup tonight in Hotlanta.  He probably won’t be pushing it too hard, but we’ll be keeping an eye on how our favorite t-shirt model is moving out there.

This game could have been a lot more interesting had it actually meant something.  Our Boy Wonder QB, Joe Flacco, against their Boy Wonder QB, Matt Ryan.  Our 3-headied, #4 ranked rushing attack, versus their horse, Michael Turner, and their 2nd-ranked ground game.  Our 2nd-year head coach, who revitalized a formerly down-trodden franchise and took them to the playoffs in his freshman year, against theirs, who did likewise.  Our crabcakes versus their….uh….hot(lanta) cakes?

Alas, its just another fake football game, so the intrigue is minimal.  Let’s just hope the medical staff is even more bored watching this one than we will be.

Also, WNST.net is testing out their new live chat-thing, “Purple Haze,” during the game tonight, so be sure to check it out.  Here’s the link – http://www.coveritlive.com/index.php?option=com_altcaster&task=siteviewaltcast&altcast_code=155bd8192b&height=550&width=470

ENOUGH!!! With the "Big Name" WR Talk

September 1, 2009

I had hoped that after Joe Flacco’s 23/28 247 yard performance in just over two quarters on Saturday night, the jibber jabber on Baltimore’s airwaves about the Ravens “needing” a dynamic wide receiver would quiet down at least a bit.  Well, we’re now in just the second day of sports talk radio since the game, and it is obvious that those hopes are not even close to coming true.

Without singling out any particular local personality (did I already do that? oops…to be fair, it’s many of the callers as well), let’s refute the argument that the only piece missing from making the Ravens the 2009 Super Bowl Champions is a Brandon Marshall/Anquan Boldin type.  Let’s also ignore for a moment the ramifications for everything from team chemistry to salary cap to future draft picks that would occur as a result of any hypothetical trade for either of the two aforementioned disgruntled wideouts, and focus on the bigger picture.

More specifically, let’s look at the Super Bowls from the last few years and see if the “game-changing WR makes all the difference” argument holds up.

Super Bowl XLIII

The best two wide receivers in the game, Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, both lined up for the same team.  The LOSING team.  The Steelers won with their defense and a QB who made plays when he had to.  Santonio Holmes, despite his big postseason in 2008, will never be confused with Andre or Calvin Johnson.

Super Bowl XLII

Best WR in the game?  Randy Moss.  Again, on the LOSING team.

To be fair, the Giants had Plaxico “Shot my Leg Off” Burress, who was a game changer in his own right, but again, the Giants proved that a well designed defense can slow down any passing attack, even one as dynamic as the near 19-0 Patriots.

Super Bowl XLI

Let’s be honest.  Yes, the Colts had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, while the Bears had Bernard Berrian and Mushin Muhammed.  But this game came down to Rex Grossman vs. Peyton Manning.

Are there any among us who would argue that, had those two QBs switched teams, that the Bears, and not the Colts, would have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy?

Pass throwers were the deciding factor in Miami, not pass catchers.

Super Bowl XL

Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, Joe Jurivicius, Bobby Engram.  Those were the four leading receivers in the game for the Steelers and Seahawks, respectively, and not a single “dynamic game changer” among the group.

Super Bowl XXXIX

Eagles – Terrell Owens

Patriots – ?????; I can’t remember, can you?

Who won that game?

Super Bowl XXXVIII

Panthers – Steve Smith

Patriots – See above.  Again, the Patriots came out on top.

I could go on, but is it really necessary?

I’m going to side with my head coach, John Harbaugh, who has stated several times, in several ways, just how I feel about the whole debate:

“We don’t believe in one piece to the puzzle; that you plug one guy in, and all of a sudden you’ve got an offense.”

“I don’t know if [Todd Heap’s play] would end the talk about not having a big-name receiver, but maybe it would cut down on the talk. But it gives you another playmaker in the mix. We can spread the ball around pretty well, and [quarterback Joe Flacco] has proven he can spread it around.”

The second quote speaks to the other part of the argument against selling the farm for a big-name WR, the effect that a healthy Todd Heap, along with an improved offensive line that now includes Matt Birk, Michael Oher, and a more experienced Jared Gaither, will have on the Ravens’ passing game.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – a Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin is NOT the fail-safe missing piece keeping the Ravens from their second Super Bowl.

TO, Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, Greg Jennings, and Larry Fitzgerald have as many Super Bowl rings COMBINED as you and I do.

Enough already.


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