Archive for November, 2009

Ravens Release Steve Hauschka; Cundiff Signs

November 17, 2009

Via the WNST text service

Ravens release kicker Steve Hauschka.

Damn, didn’t see that one coming. More as we hear it.

Update (11/18/09 11 AM) – WNST and Aaron Wilson are reporting “rumblings” that the new kicker will be Billy Cundiff. Cundiff was 6/6 for Cleveland in 2009. He did not play in the league in 2007 or 2008, after spending 2002-2005 in Dallas.

See Cundiff’s page on NFL.com

Update 11:15 AM – Reports are confirmed that the Ravens have signed Billy Cundiff.

And now, for an unscheduled version of “Lookalikes!”

Cundiff

For cryin’ out loud. Let’s hope the similarities end there.

Ravens 16 Browns 0 (The GOOD THING IT WAS THE BROWNS Game)

November 17, 2009

Brown Baby 3

The Ravens were able to escape Cleveland with an ugly, ugly 16-0 shutout win over Cleveland High School the Browns for their first Monday Night victory in their last six tries. However, the effort put forth by the purple and black, especially on offense, wouldn’t be enough to win on most any other Sunday (or Monday or Thursday).

The ineptitude of the Cleveland Browns, who never advanced the ball past the Ravens’ 45-yard line on the night, approaches historic levels. After a shutout – a ROAD shutout at that – the impulse is there to laud the Ravens’ defense for pitching their first goose egg since shutting out the Steelers in Week 12 of 2006. But…man…Brady Quinn made Kyle Boller look like the guy the Ravens are set to face next week, and his receivers would just as soon deflect passes to the other team as pull them in and pick up some yardage. Somehow, it was the first time all year that they were kept off the scoreboard, but still…beating your chest about shutting out the Browns seems akin to bragging about how many toddlers you just punched in the face. (cough, Hiney Ward, cough)

After watching the epic Patriots-Colts game on Sunday night (for my money, the best game since the Pats-Giants Super Bowl), watching the Ravens and Browns flail about last night, especially for the first 30 scoreless minutes, was like watching the 85-lb Pasadena Bucs on a Saturday morning – it’s hard to believe the two games were part of the same league.

Brown Baby 2

It was the first time so far in 2009 that an NFL game went to the half tied 0-0, and was just another in the long line of forgettable Ravens’ first halves. Joe Flacco’s “Joe Cool” persona is still apparent, but lately his first half performances make a nickname like “Joe Slow,” as in, slow start, seem more appropriate. As Glenn Clark of WNST points out, the Ravens’ last six first halves of play have resulted in 0, 0, 6, 3, 7, and 7 points, respectively.

The Ravens’ rhythm-less, identity-devoid offense has progressed from a minor annoyance, to a consistent concern, to a full blown crisis. To manage just 1 touchdown and 1 field goal, against the 32nd-ranked defense in the league, is sad, pathetic, inexcusable, and [insert-your-own-derogatory-adjective-here]. Cam Cameron, who had transformed his unit from one of the league’s most laughable to one that some were even describing as “explosive,” over his first season-plus in B’More, has seen his stock fall sharply, and last night may have very likely been a new low. Despite not turning the ball over, the Ravens managed only 9 offensive points (a blocked extra point kept it from being 10). Their seven punts tied a season high, and, despite running the ball on 36 of 58 snaps, time of possession was nearly a wash, at 31:32-28:28.

  • Ravens’ running backs averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.
  • The ONLY Ravens’ wide receiver to catch a pass was Derrick Mason, who hauled in 3 for 78 yards.
  • Flacco was sacked three more times, which now makes seven in the last two games, the total number of times he was taken down in the season’s first five contests.
  • And of course, young Steve “Wide Left” Hauschka did himself absolutely no favors, as he missed a chip shot 38 yard field goal that would have given the Ravens an early 3-0 lead, and had his second extra point attempt blocked by the Browns’ Shaun Rogers. The second year kicker is now just 9-13 on the season (10-15 career), and with Matt Stover coming to town in Irsay Blue this week, the kid is going to find himself none-too-welcome by many in his own home stadium Sunday afternoon.

The game was also rough on the Ravens from an injury standpoint.  Second year safety and huge special teams contributor Haruki Nakamura had his ankle broken on the opening kickoff, and is likely to be placed on injured reserve.  Haloti Ngata was again unable to go on his sore ankle, but should be ready for Indianapolis.

The larger concern is Terrell Suggs, who was injured on a cheap-shot low block by Brady Quinn on Chris Carr’s 3rd quarter interception. Quinn was flagged on the play, but 15 yards, especially in that game, is little condolence for a sprained knee to #55. Suggs left the game and did not return, and his status moving forward is currently unknown (Update: Reports say Suggs out 4-5 weeks. Craaaaaap). His absence did, however, open the door for the much called-for and enigmatic Paul Kruger to get the first game action of his career – he responded by picking up more penalty yards (5) than tackles (0).

There is no better time to pull the “a win is a win” card, for all involved – Ravens players, coaches, and staff, and certainly for us fans. As disgusting and uninspiring as it was, the 5-4 next to “Ravens” in the standings is the same this morning as it would have been after the 34-3 drubbing that most of us expected. B’More is tied with Jacksonville (?!) and Houston at just one full game behind Pittsburgh and San Diego for the AFC’s final playoff spot.

May we suggest that, like us, you spend the next six days convincing yourselves that it was all part of the plan – that the Ravens were simply keeping their true abilities close to the vest, only to unleash them in full force on the unsuspecting Colts (who likely turned this one off at halftime and laughed themselves to sleep). That fantasy may be crushed by the “horseshoe of reality,” in due time, but until then, keep the purple faith, won’t you?

Brown Baby 1

Ravens (4-4) @ Browns (1-7)

November 14, 2009

Ravens vs. Browns

Ravens vs. Browneye Stats

Monday marks the beginning of the second half of the 2009 season, and we and the Ravens should be plenty eager to put the first half behind us. Going into their first prime-time action of the year, the Ravens are losers of 4 of their last 5 after starting off the season at 3-0. Although three of those losses came by a total of 11 points, the fourth one, last week in Cincy, was a thorough beat down by the Bengals. If the Ravens are to have any chance of salvaging their season, it needs to start in Cleveland.

Fortunately, the Browns look like the perfect team to help get the Ravens back on the right track. Their organization is once again in shambles, as General Manager George Kokinis was fired this month before even one full season on the job. First year head coach Eric Mangini appears to have his head firmly planted on the chopping block, as he seems to be losing not only games, but his players as well. Former Ravens Jamal Lewis this week accused Mangini of pushing his players too hard. With the Browns languishing near the bottom of the NFL in nearly every statistical category, no amount of “pushing” is likely to yield any tangible results.

The Browns announced this week that Brady Quinn will once again be their starting quarterback. Quinn, who last played in Week 3 in Baltimore, when he started and was replaced by Derek Anderson, is 46-77 on the season, with one touchdown and three picks. Going into that week 3 contest, there were really only two members of the Browns who scared Ravens fans. One of those two, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, was traded by the Browns to the New York Jets. The WR they got in return, Chansi Stuckey, has only 1 catch for 11 yards since joining Cleveland.

The other weapon the Browns have, returner Joshua Cribbs, was bottled up nicely by the Ravens in the first game. Kickoff and punt coverage have been pleasantly solid for John Harbaugh’s squad in his second season, but Cribbs’ 27.7 average on kickoffs is two yards higher than his 2008 average, and his 16.4 average on punt returns is his career high. He has 1 touchdown on both kickoffs and punts this year. As anemic as the Browns’ offense has been of late (late being roughly the last calendar year), keeping Cribbs in check is pretty much priority numero uno.

When these teams met last, in September, the Ravens spanked the Browns 34-3, and the game wasn’t the slightest bit more competitive than the final score reflected. B’More outgained Cleveland 479-186, and won the turnover battle 4-0 (all interceptions). Brown stain QB’s were a combined 17/27 for 126 yards.

Gandalf Reed

Since that game, the Browns have lost by scores of 23-20 (OT), 27-14, 31-3, and 30-6, and WON a game 6-3, despite being outgained 288-193 in Buffalo. The Ravens should handle them easily, but some fans are still worried about another prime-time letdown by the purple and black.

Some gambling handicapper on the radio the other day mentioned that the Ravens have beaten the spread 8 consecutive times when they are 5 or more point favorites (or something to that effect – correct me if I’m wrong). Basically, during his tenure, John Harbaugh’s teams have had no problems with beating up on “inferior” teams. The Nest is confident that the trend will continue on Monday, but there are several areas where the team can improve from recent showings to maximize their chances.

  • Tackle! – The sure tackling the Ravens displayed against Denver was nowhere to be found against Cincinnati.  With guys like the elusive Cribbs and the still tough-to-bring-down Jamal Lewis toting the rock, the Ravens could find themselves in trouble if they are unable to bring down ballcarriers consistently once again.
  • Start quick – As evidenced by 2 of their 4 losses including 14-0 first quarter deficits, the Ravens have consistently started games very slowly in 2009.  Joe Flacco’s first few throws are always off the mark, and the defense seems to need two or 3 series to figure out what opposing offenses are doing before they can even hope to slow it down.  The Browns aren’t much of a quick-strike threat, so a similar hole to dig out of seems unlikely.  However, it would be great to jump out to a double digit lead of our own quickly, and commence to playing with a lead.  Which brings us to the next point…
  • Run the ball!  Cam Cameron and his offense have struggled all year to establish any sort of a game-to-game identity.  This is by no means helped by the fact that they have been given those aforementioned big deficits to overcome, but even in closer games, it’s impossible to know what to expect from one possession to the next.  Flacco seems to be at his best in the hurry-up or no-huddle offense.  But most Ravens fans would love to see a return to more of 2008’s ball-control style offense, and a running game that features Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le’Ron McClain all in prominent roles.  The Browns seem like the perfect opponents to jump out early on, then use the rest of the game to reintroduce the power running game.

A final interesting story line to this game is the fact that a group of Browns fans are staging a “Free the Birds“-esque late walk-in to this nationally televised event.  Check out the organizer, Dawg Pound Mike’s website here for more.

Seeing their fans show some additional passion and displeasure may inspire the Browns’ players to perform above their abilities. For about a quarter. This one won’t be close.

Ravens 34 Browns 6

Lookalikes! Browns Edition 2K9

November 12, 2009

With former head coach Romeo Crennel banished to the world of no-longer-funny Coors Light commercials, we can’t dedicate an entire Lookalikes! post to his goofy lookin’ mug like we did last year.

So, we had to dig a bit deeper down Cleveland’s roster this time around. Luckily though, and to the surprise of exactly nobody, the NFL’s most woeful franchise still have more than their share of Lookalike!-fodder.

The Browns’ struggles in 2009 all start at the top, with their new (and already “Lame Duck”) head coach, Eric Mangini. Mangini, despite being by all accounts 100% humorless himself, looks strikingly similar to comedian Kevin James.

ManginiJohns

Since the team themselves are nothing short of a 4-hour sitcom on Sundays, Mangini isn’t the only one that looks like a member of prime time “ha ha” television. Defensive back Nick Sorenson has been seen in such movies as “Beerfest,” “Cellular,” and “Dumb and Dumberer,” as well as the sitcom “The Loop” on FOX. Currently, he can be found intercepting absolutely nobody as “Vaughn” on the new NBC comedy “Community” with Chevy Chase and Joel McHale.

ECOLAL

The phrase “taking the Browns to the Super Bowl” has been used as a euphemism for going #2. Well, since it’s painfully obvious that there are no “Super Bowls” anywhere in the foreseeable future for Cleveland, Browns linebacker David Veikune has kindly offered up his head as a defecation receptacle.

PooheadBrown

Way to take one for the team, shithead.

HEY! Here’s something different – a Lookalike! of newly re-minted starting quarterback Brady Quinn, WITHOUT HIS HAND ON ANOTHER MAN’S CROTCH! Instead, it looks as if he is already well prepared for his next career, as the [insert other genre of adult film here] equivalent of porn star Peter North.

BradyNorth

Finally, we have wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Were Massaquoi a character in the 2004 film “Team America: World Police,” he would fit in extremely well running around yelling “a durkadurkadurka muhammed jihad! durka lerka durka!”

MohamedJihad

Talking Ravens Fans Back from the Ledge

November 11, 2009

Ravens Fans Jump

We know, B’More. After watching your Ravens completely decimate the previously undefeated Denver Broncos, you were ready to book your plane tickets to Miami for the Super Bowl. Now, though, after seeing Cincy completely undress our purple heroes for the second time in a month, you’re ready to throw in the towel on the 2009 season, with all hopes and dreams for any January 2010 “Festivus” activities lost forever.

But please, don’t jump off that proverbial ledge just yet. Hear us out.

The question now becomes – are the Ravens as good as they played against Denver OR are they as bad as they played against Cincy?

The answer is probably “somewhere in between,” but it’s going to take MUCH more of the former to have any hopes of a playoff berth. In all honesty, a 4-4 team has no business talking about playoffs, and the TEAM shouldn’t be. We, however, are just fans, and can be as unrealistic as we damn well please right?

Right.

Now then – Sunday’s game was reminiscent of Week 11 last year. The then 6-3 Ravens got manhandled by the New York Giants on the road, and at 6-4 were precariously holding onto playoff dreams. Remember? And remember how they responded? That’s right, by stomping the eventual NFC runner-up Philadelphia Eagles to the tune of 36-7.

With the Cleveland Browns next week (basically a 2nd bye), a similar stomping is very likely. And, with games against Detroit, Chicago, at Oakland, and in Green Bay against a Packers team that looks very pedestrian right now, all is NOT lost.

Let’s put “the p word” aside for now.

Instead, the Ravens’ ultimate goal should be 10 wins. Get to 10 wins, B’More, and let the chips fall where they may. Although in 2008, even 11 wins was not enough for the New England Patriots to get into the postseason, historically 10 wins will get you some January football.

At 4-4, is a 10 win season realistic? Looking at the remaining schedule, the “easiest” path to double digit victories would be as follows:

In decreasing order of “win probability” (based on exactly nothing) –

Win 5 – @ Cleveland
Win 6 – vs. Detroit
Win 7 – @ Oakland
Win 8 – vs. Chicago

Still need two more. The next “most likely” win would seem to be…

Win 9 – @ Green Bay

Winning in December in Lambeau is no easy task, but remember that the Pack just lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs – stranger things have happened.

Unfortunately, that’s the last one that we can feel even remotely warm & fuzzy about. Harbaugh’s crew MUST be able to steal one of the remaining games:

Win 10 (?) – vs. Indianapolis
Win 10 (?) – vs. Pittsburgh
Win 10 (?) – @ Pittsburgh

If you can’t win your home games, you have no business being in the playoffs. Two of the three against Peyton and Ben are in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium. If the Ravens are able to squeak away with a “W” in any one of those three games, 10 wins is still very much in the cards.

So please, step back from the ledge, won’t you?

Play Like a Raven – Week 9

November 10, 2009

PlayLikeaRaven

Played Like a Raven – Ray Rice

JJ

After forcing myself to sit through the game again, I feel a little better about giving this week’s honors to Ray Rice. Not only was he the only member of the Ravens’ offense to board the plane for Cincinnati, but he once again did everything that was asked of him. Rice had 12 carries for 48 yards and the Ravens’ only score, and added 8 receptions for 87 yards, more than double what any other B’More receiver managed. He picked up the blitz nicely, and made himself available for Joe Flacco when, as usual, nobody was open down the field. His 1009 yards from scrimmage this season trail Tennessee’s Chris Johnson by 112 for the NFL lead.

Week in and week out, Ray Rice is playing like a Raven in 2009. Unfortunately, at times he seems to be leaving even the rest of his own offense in his dust.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Offensive Line

Flag

Obviously, this dubious honor could have been given to any number of the players who wore white in Paul Brown Stadium last Sunday. Sure, the secondary was awful, again, and the defensive line and linebackers were nowhere to be found, but the fact remains that the defense still surrendered just 17 points (even if they were all on the Bengals’ first 3 possessions).

Seventeen points allowed should not spell certain defeat for a team whose offense averages nearly 30 points per game (at least when they don’t play the Bengals). However, because of the atrocious play by the Ravens’ O-line, who had been having a stellar year as a group, Joe Flacco had no time to throw or room to step up, and the aforementioned Ray Rice made the majority of his yards from seemingly nothing.

Jared Gaither was beat like a rented mule. Ben Grubbs and Matt Birk regularly whiffed, allowing pressure right up the middle. Chris Chester played worse than we’ve seen him play in probably two years. Even rookie Michael Oher struggled throughout the day. The entire group, along with Flacco, seemed to have trouble setting the protections appropriately.

Speaking of Oher, although he struggled, I don’t think he, by any means, should be “out of the lineup for a while,” as ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook suggests.

Right now, rookie left tackle Michael Oher looks terrible. Oher has, at a tender age, already had a lifetime of complex emotional experiences, plus been the subject of a book that’s been made into a big-studio movie that opens next week. When Oher was drafted, TMQ noted, “The true story of an impoverished African-American boy adopted by an affluent white family has obvious Hollywood appeal, but can any 22-year-old handle such media pressure?” Maybe Baltimore needs to take him out of the lineup for a while.

Could it be that TMQ is watching Gaither and confusing him with Oher, seeing as he calls Oher the “rookie left tackle,” a position he hasn’t played since the Vikings game? It seems likely.

In the end, the Bengals got four sacks on Flacco, a third of the amount the Ravens had surrendered through the season’s first seven games, and the good guys managed only 55 total yards rushing. A dismal, dismal performance.

We’re not quite done yet. This, from last week’s “Play Like a Raven:”

The penalties didn’t matter Sunday, because the scoreboard was sufficiently lopsided. As we’ve seen already too many times in 2009, they CAN and WILL affect close games. With the level of competition the Ravens will face over the next crucial month, the handing out of yardage needs to stop NOW.

Hmmm…feel free to go ahead and STOP GETTING FLAGGED SO MUCH any time, guys.

Adam Jones Wins AL Gold Glove Award

November 10, 2009

Goldman Jones

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Ravens bellyaching to bring you breaking O’s news!

Hey, look at that! A Baltimore Oriole actually WON SOMETHING! Is it 2012, end of times, already?

From orioles.com:

Rawlings announced today that Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is one of this year’s American League Gold Glove Award recipients for defensive excellence in the outfield. The award, the first of Jones’ career, culminates a season in which the 24-year-old was also named to his first All-Star team and set new career-highs in nine offensive categories, including average, hits, runs and RBI.

Jones is the 13th overall Oriole and the first since Mike Mussina in 1999 to be named as a Gold Glove Award winner. He is only the second Orioles outfielder to win a Gold Glove, joining Paul Blair, who won the award eight times.

I guess the end of days prophecy of the Mayans doesn’t kick in until the TEAM wins something?

In all seriousness, Congratulations to Adam!

We Now Return you to your Ravens’ complaining, already in progress.

How about that little baby-faced kicker?! Bring back Stover! Why I oughta……!

Bengals 17 Ravens 7 (The WHICH TEAM IS THE BUNGLES, AGAIN? Game)

November 9, 2009

After a week in which they reassured us that the sky was, in fact, not falling, the Ravens pulled a complete 180 with their worst performance of the season in Cincinnati yesterday. It was the first of the Ravens’ 4 losses where they were absolutely, unquestionably, without a doubt, outplayed and outcoached for 60 minutes. The first of the four where you can’t look back, point to any one or two particular plays, and say, “yup, that was the one that lost it.” It was a flat-out, thorough butt-whipping at the hands of the “Don’t call us the Bungles.”

BungleFail

To any Ravens fan watching, flashbacks to Minnesota in Week 5 were unavoidable, as the purple team came out as flat as could possibly be, on both sides of the ball, en route to digging themselves a quick 14-0 hole. There would be no late-game near-miracle comeback at Paul Brown Stadium though, even if there would be an all too familiar Steve Hauschka “wide left,” thrown in as a little salt on the wound. Even though the defense did buckle down after the Bengals’ first two drives (both touchdowns), allowing just a field goal for the final 47:26, you still came away from this one feeling like it was a steamrolling.

Where to begin?

On offense, Bengals’ defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer now has Cam Cameron’s number in 2009 the way that Dick Lebeau of the Steelers did in 2008 (yet to be seen if it carries over to this year). In six games against the rest of the league this year, the Ravens offense is averaging 30.8 points and 399 yards off offense per game. In two contests against Cincy, those numbers drop to 10.5 and 236. Against the “not Bengals,” Joe Flacco has thrown 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and compiled a passer rating of 100. But when the striped team lines up on the other side of the ball, his numbers have read a dismal 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and 59.2 rating.

That there are now not 1, but TWO teams in the division who seem to have figured out Cameron/Flacco is a bit unnerving.

As bad as Joe was yesterday, he got absolutely zero help from his offensive line, who need to take their share of the blame. The group that had played so solidly all season had their worst outing, as Flacco was under constant pressure and holding and false start flags were rampant. After allowing 12 sacks in 7 games, the Ravens gave up 4 to the Bengals, even without Antwan Odom. Three of these came on the final drive when they were able to tee off on Flacco, but the pressure was there all day. And, for his part, Joe needs to do a much better job of identifying his hot read and getting the ball out quickly when the blitz comes. Several times yesterday he had time to throw, but instead patted the ball and ended up on his butt.

Derrick Mason did absolutely nothing to back up his “nobody can cover me 1-on-1” talk leading up to the game, as he caught just 3 of the 13 balls thrown to him, for a measly 31 yards. Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington had only 1 catch apiece, as the Ravens converted just ONE OF TEN 3rd down opportunities. A terrible effort by all.

All except Ray Rice of course, who was the only thing even resembling a weapon the Ravens had all day. He finished the day with 8 catches for 87 yards and 12 carries for 48 and the team’s only score.

RiceTigers

On defense, all the problems that seemed to have been corrected against Denver came flooding back in force against the Bengals. The pressure that was there from the front seven against Kyle Orton was nowhere to be found when Carson Palmer dropped back. The gap integrity that held the Broncos’ ground game in check was instead replaced with more gaping holes for Cedric Benson, who racked up 117 yards. The sure tackling that negated Denver’s short passing attack regressed to the tune of more arm tackling FAILs and inability to wrap up the ballcarrier (with the pleasant exception of Lardarius Webb).

The few times Greg Mattison did dial up the blitz, it was largely ineffective. They forced some early, errant throws from Palmer in the 2nd half, but during the game’s decisive opening quarter, ginger boy had all day and then some. Cincy was a disgusting 5/5 on 3rd downs on their two touchdown drives, which included an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 with the score 0-0, and an illegal contact call on Chris Carr that gave them another try despite an offensive holding flag being thrown on the play. Other critical mistakes on those two possessions included Fabian Washington dropping what should have been an easy interception on a deep pass and a pass interference flag on Dawan Landry negating a Ravens’ fumble recovery (because, despite interfering, Landry was STILL unable to keep Chad Ochocinco from making the catch…UN-AC-CEPT-AB-LE!)

Ed Reed’s strip of Ochocinco (for the 2nd straight game) could have made this one interesting, had he been able to take it to the house OR had the Ravens’ O been able to score a TD for the 2nd consecutive drive OR had Hauschka not CH-CH-CHOKED again, this time from only 38 yards and the middle of the field.

Of course, none of those things happened, but the Ravens really didn’t deserve this one anyway. Not in the least.

I’ll search in vain for a bright spot for this week’s “Play Like a Raven” feature, but it won’t be easy. This one was just bad all around.

Ravens (4-3) @ Bengals (5-2)

November 6, 2009

Ravens vs. Bengals

Ravens vs. Bunghole Stats

If the Ravens can go into Paul Brown Stadium and exact some revenge on the Bengals this week, they will force their hat back into the ring of serious AFC North contenders. Otherwise, they will have fallen effectively three games behind Cincinnati in the division, quite a mountain to climb with eight games remaining.

So, do the Ravens have what it takes to “man up” and emerge victorious in a venue that has been none too kind to them over the years? B’More’s 34-3 win over the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bungles in 2008 was their first win at PBS since 2004, and they are just 2-4 in their last six in The Queen City. Quarterback Carson Palmer has owned the Ravens in his career, compiling a 7-3 record in 10 career starts.

As several have already pointed out, Cincy is starting to look like a “real” AFC North team – one that can run the ball and stop the run. The Bengals’ Cedric Benson was the one to break the Ravens’ streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher the last time these teams met, when he went for 120 and a TD on 27 carries (4.4 ypc). They also held the Ravens to 82 yards on the ground. Still, the Ravens averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which hints that maybe they should have stuck with their ground attack a bit more. Especially considering it was Joe Flacco’s worst game this season, as he threw for just 186 yards and added two interceptions for his 2009-low rating of 70.1.

85 care package

Chad sent the Ravens’ D a care package this week. The Nest sends one of our own to #85. In it he will find a new helmet (to replace the one Ray knocked off him), a ball gag, a straight jacket, and a nice pretty new “grill.”

Joe Cool has bounced back nicely since getting shut down by Cincy, putting up back-to-back games of a 109.2 rating, and tossing three scores to go along with nary an interception against the capable (23rd) and strong (8th), respectively, defenses of Minnesota and Denver. Derrick Mason, who was held without a catch by Mike Zimmer’s crew last month, has 11 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the two games since.

Ray Rice has been the catalyst for the Ravens’ offense of late, as the little RB that could (wow, that’s terrible…come on, people…THIS MAN NEEDS A NICKNAME!) has averaged over 149 yards from scrimmage per game over the last four contests. Le’Ron “PAIN TRAIN” McClain had a season-high 31 yards on the ground against Denver, as Cam Cameron’s offense showed that, as the weather is cooling, maybe they are starting to get back to the formula that produced so much success in 2008. The Ravens called more running plays than passing plays (35-27) for the first time since the San Diego game, and just the second time all season. This after three consecutive losses where the playcalling was extremely lopsided towards the pass, to the tune of 46-18 (@ Min), 33-18 (vs. Cin), and 49-17 (@ NE). Now, a factor that can’t be overlooked was that the Ravens were playing with the lead for the entire game against Denver, but we would expect that the balance will continue this week. That is, as long as the rejuvenated defense can keep the score close, as Chicago was unable to do in Cincy two weeks ago, getting blown out 45-10.

Speaking of that rejuvenated defense, the Ravens’ D needs to prove that last week was no fluke. Plenty of the pundits were quick to proclaim the Ravens’ defense “back” after they dismantled and nearly shut out the previously high-flying Denver attack last week. However, to those of us who watch every game (twice), the Broncos’ short-passing game was simply the perfect antidote for the problems we have seen with the purple defense all season. Namely, the fact that Kyle Orton threw the ball deep all of ONE time (while the game was in reach, anyway)…and on that ONE throw, there was of course, some laundry also thrown, as Dominique Foxworth was called for pass interference. Apparently Josh McDaniels didn’t get the “just chuck it up” memo that Ravens’ corners have been sending to every team this year, via game film. Carson Palmer is no Kyle Orton, and he will show no such mercy to Foxworth and Fabian Washington, especially with the ever dangerous Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry in his arsenal.

This isn’t to suggest that Foxworth and Washington have no prayer of having good games Sunday. The two played very well against Denver, lack of deep challenges notwithstanding, and Washington especially was extremely active in run support. It’s just that we Ravens fans need to see more of what we witnessed from the pair against Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal before we are comfortable putting the Pepto Bismol bottle down when we see opposing quarterbacks take 7-step drops.

The front seven will also need to continue their solid play from a week ago. Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, Justin Bannan, and Trevor Pryce collapsed the pocket on Orton the likes of which we haven’t seen all season, and Greg Mattison’s blitzes, when called, found gaping holes in the Broncos’ protection schemes. It was a welcome departure from what we had seen to that point, but like the secondary, consistency is the word. Haloti Ngata is still very questionable with the ankle sprain he suffered near the goalline against Denver, and his absence would be noticeable, especially as the Ravens attempt to keep Benson from going over the century mark again. If Haloti is unable to go, the Ravens’ ample depth at DL will have to step up, including Brandon McKinney, Dwan Edwards, and potentially Kelly Talavou, who has been active just once in 2009.

The Bengals have been doing a very impressive job of keeping Palmer upright, as he has been sacked only 11 times, good for 6th in the NFL. By comparison, Flacco has been sacked just 12 times. Rookie offensive tackle Andre “Yip Yip Belly” Smith may see his first game action, though he is said to be expected to mostly play on running downs. If nothing else, this could give the Ravens an advantage in reading the plays pre-snap.

A loss in Cincy on Sunday would, in all likelihood, relegate the Ravens to chasing a Wild-Card berth. Week 9 just seems too soon for that for such a talented football team, one that is legitimately a Top-8 NFL squad. The difference will be the explosiveness of Ray Rice, Joe Flacco continuing to find Kelley Washington for key 3rd-down conversions, and a Ravens defense that is ready to build on what they started last week.

Ravens 24 Bengals 20

Lookalikes! Ravens @ Bengals Edition

November 5, 2009

There is plenty of familiarity between teams in these divisional games. Seeing the Browns, Bengals, and Steelers twice every season leads to Ravens’ players and coaches having a pretty good idea what to expect on the field. Also, it leaves us fans very familiar with just how goofy looking the other teams’ players are. Most of last season’s Bengals Lookalikes! probably still apply. However, they also have some new players who are just as ugly as the guys they replaced.

We’ll start this week’s edition off a little differently though. I wanted to share with you something I’ve noticed for a while now. Of course, here in B’More we’re all quite familiar with the hit HBO series ‘The Wire,’ yes?

TheWire

This has led to plenty of opportunities over the years to compare Ravens players/coaches/whatever to characters or situations on the show (sometimes, quite tastelessly – “RAY LEWIS KILLS PEOPLE LIKE DRUG DEALERS HAHAHAHAHA” – plenty of idiots).

Such as this exchange I had with “Broncos fan” on Facebook earlier this week:

FacebookSmack

Jason Whitlock of FOX has even taken to calling #52 and #20 Ray “Avon Barksdale” Lewis and Ed “Stringer Bell” Reed regularly in his columns when he discusses Baltimore.

I’d like to point out, though, that Ed Reed, though he may be a “Kingpin” of the Ravens defense, “Lookalike!” the muscle used by the Marlo Stanfield regime. Who, you ask? Well, there’s been an evolution.

When he was drafted, Ed Reed resembled Snoop.

ReedSnoop

In 2009, however, he looks more like Chris (Partlow).

ReedChris

Either way, you come into Mr. Reed’s domain, and “you gon’ get got.”

Moving along.

By now everybody has seen the video of Bengals’ rookie OL Andre Smith’s 40-yard dash at the 2009 NFL combine (Warning: don’t click that while eating). Here is a still from that video.

ASmith1

Keep that in mind for a sec (painful as it may be), while I digress.

This week is Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary. You may have noticed the Google homepage celebrating by featuring Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, etc. If you ever, like me, watched the show when you were younger, you’ll remember the “Yip Yip” space aliens. These guys:

YipYips

Now, remember Mr. Smith from above? Let’s zoom in a bit…

ASmith2

See it? THE MAN HAS A FACE ON HIS MIDSECTION! A YIP FACE!

YipsBelly

vomits

Bengals running back Cedric Benson has rejuvenated his career in Cincy. It probably has a lot to do with him avoiding run-ins with the law, such as this 2008 charge of boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest, in Chicago.

BensonBrown

Nice haircut, Ced.

And finally, Bengals’ resident crazy person, Chad Ochocinco, somehow manages to play football with a mouth full of metal from time to time.

OchoLilJohn

Doesn’t that seem a bit dangerous? I mean, I had braces when I was a kid, and I had to wear all sorts of goofy mouth protection to play sports. I remember once I got hit across the face in gym class and my mangled lips bled for like 3 days. I probably got hit by a 12-year old girl’s forearm. How is it that Chad can run around getting blasted by the likes of Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu and not look like this after a while?


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