Archive for December, 2009

Lookalikes! Bears Edition

December 17, 2009

Late/abbreviated edition of Lookalikes! this week gang. I apologize. The man be keepin’ me down.

Lions down, Tigers (Bengals) down,…next up, Bears!

Chicago tight end Greg Olsen and actor Steve Zahn:

zahnolsen

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs and actor Mike Epps:

briggsepps

Wide receiver Earl Bennett and NBA player Greg “80 year old man” Oden:

bennettoden

And the best, quarterback Jay Cutler and his alter ego. We hope to see plenty of this pose from the sulky one on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:

cutlercry

Play Like a Raven – Week 14

December 15, 2009

PlayLikeaRayRice

Was there any doubt that we would go back to “Play Like a Ray Rice” this week? Mighty Mouse could have been in Jamal Lewis/Adrian Peterson territory, had he played the entire game. Twenty-seven racked up 219 yards on 17 touches, a ridiculous 12.9 yards per. He unfortunately fumbled in the red zone for the second week in a row though, after not fumbling for nearly two full seasons – both were in terrible weather, but still, it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Without further adieu, this week’s Play Like Ray Rice is…..

Played Like a Raven – Derrick Mason

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Reader Matt suggested the 2008 Draft Class here, as Rice, Joe Flacco, Tom Zbikowski, and Oniel Cousins all had strong days. Tough to argue with that, but I decided to go the other way – rather than honoring the young guys, I’ll give this week’s honors to the oldest guy on the team. The game was hardly a rout early, as the Ravens led just 3-0 after the first quarter, and a missed 45 yard FG by Jason Hanson was the only reason they were winning at all. Mason, though, got the ball rolling for good. He ran a slant on 3rd-and-2, kept his footing despite being sandwiched by two Lions’ defenders, and sprinted 62 yards to the end zone for the first of 6 B’More touchdowns on the day. It was Derrick’s 2nd-longest reception on the year, and one of the more unique plays that I can remember witnessing.

His 5 catches led the team (ho hum, nothing new there), and he needs just 53 yards per game over the season’s final three weeks to eclipse the 1000-yard mark for the 3rd consecutive season, and 8th time in the last 9 years. His first catch this Sunday against Chicago will be the 850th of his career, and his 3rd will move him ahead of Irving Fryer for #15 all-time.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Troy Smith

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This one might be a little misleading. While Smith’s PLAY was just fine – 2/3 passing, 10 yards, 2 rushes, 14 yards, 1 TD in mop-up duty – the way he conducted himself WAS NOT. In the fourth quarter, when his 15 yard naked bootleg run put the Ravens up 48-3, Smith broke into a ridiculous “Look What I Just Did” dance in the end zone.

Now, I’m not one to hate on players celebrating. I love when Kelley Washington breaks it down. Chad Ocho Cinco cracks me up. I HATE that the league banned team celebrations. And I can’t stand it that Ocho Cinco gets fined more for putting on a sombrero for 10 seconds than Brady Quinn does for endangering Terrell Suggs’ career. The NO FUN LEAGUE stuff is ridiculous.

But, so is dancing around like a fool when your team is winning 48-3. Come…on…man.

The dance served no purpose but to show up a Detroit team that could have obviously not cared less at that point, and Smith should have gotten an earful from his coaches for it.

Despite not fitting the NFL’s strange definition of “unsportsmanlike conduct,” Smith’s actions late in Sunday’s game were what any rational fan would certainly consider unsportsmanlike.

Hopefully, the Ravens win their last three games in similar blowout-fashion, and #10 gets to see some more garbage time burn as a result. If so, let’s also hope he got whatever the heck that dance was out of his system for good.

Ravens 48 Lions 3 (The RUDE WELCOME HOME FOR SCHWARTZY Game)

December 14, 2009

Mason Blammo!

The Ravens proved yesterday that, despite the issues that have plagued them throughout this up-and-down 2009 campaign, they can still beat the tar out of terrible football teams while hardly breaking a sweat. The Detroit Lions had zero fight in them at M&T Bank Stadium, and Head Coach Jim Schwartz was forced to answer questions in the post-game news conference about whether or not his team “quit” during the game, an assertion that will be hard for anyone who saw the game to deny.

NFL teams, even those that are as bad as the Detroit Lions, just don’t give up the video-game like stats that the Ravens put up yesterday – at least not if they are actually attempting to play the game.

Ray Rice – 13 carries, 166 yards, 1 TD; 4 receptions, 53 yards
Willis McGahee – 12 carries, 76 yards, 2 TD
Le’Ron McClain – 6 carries, 32 yards, 1 TD
Derrick Mason – 5 catches, 94 yards, 1 TD
Joe Flacco – 13/20 230 yards 1 TD

Sure, nobody except Ray Rice had that jaw-dropping of a day individually, but when taken all together, the numbers really paint the picture of how thoroughly B’More handled the Lions on the day.

The team’s 548 yards set a Ravens record, surpassing the mark that they had already set once this season, in the season opener against Kansas City.

By mid-way through the 3rd quarter, the game had a pre-season feel to it.

The stands were (at least) half empty, due in part to the beatdown on the field, and in part to the awful weather, a cold downpour.

The Ravens backups were on the field, as Jalen Parmalee was taking handoffs from Troy Smith, and Ray Lewis was on the sideline wearing a beanie cap.

And, although the outcome of the game was crucial for the Ravens’ slim-but-slowly-improving playoff chances, everyone watching was quite relaxed, as the game was easily in hand.

For the Ravens’ starters, it must have been like playing against the practice squad, or worse, tackling dummies. The Lions were woeful from the opening whistle, and their tackling may have been the worst ever on display in downtown B’More. When Derrick Mason ran right through two Lions for a 62 yard score (the team’s first of 6 on the day), you just knew that the game was over, despite there being over 40 minutes left to play.

The Lions one and only weapon, the only guy that had us worried going into the game, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, was held to just 4 catches and 37 yards. He broke free in the secondary a few times, but Detroit QB Daunte Culpepper severely underthrew him each time. The defensive backs, including Lardarius Webb and Tom Zbikowski, made good plays on the ball while it was in the air, and managed to not get called for pass interference even ONCE all day…no small feat for this group here in 2009.

There isn’t a ton to take away from a game like this. It was much better than the 16-0 win in Cleveland a month ago, in that the Ravens totally dominated a terrible team, instead of just holding them off. Still, we can only hope that they are able to execute nearly this well on either side of the ball on days where the other team is actually, ya know…trying.

The win moved them to 7-6, tied with Jacksonville, Miami, and the Jets, all one game behind 8-5 Denver. Jacksonville currently holds the #6 Playoff seed over the Ravens, but they have some tough conference games coming up (Indy, who promises that they will not be resting starters despite locking up the #1 seed this weekend, then @ New England). The Ravens get one more game in the friendly confines of M&T, next week against 5-8 Chicago, before they have to take their Playoff dreams on the road for the season’s final two weeks (and hopefully beyond).

Keep the faith, Purple Maniacs (and fight every urge in your body this Thursday night and ROOT FOR THE COLTS!)

Lions (2-10) @ Ravens (6-6)

December 11, 2009

Ravens vs. Lions

Ravens vs. Lions Stats

After another dismal Monday Night performance by the Ravens, hopefully the woeful Detroit Lions will prove to be just what the Doctor ordered to get them back on track.

The last time the Lions won a road game was October 28, 2007. Three players that aren’t even on the team any more, Jon Kitna, Kevin Jones, and Roy Williams, paced that win.

This season, they are losing games played outside of a dome by an average of 33-14.

Their #1 quarterback, Matt Stafford, is injured and will not start. Instead, veteran journeyman Daunte Culpepper, playing for his fourth team in five seasons (his second in the Motor City), will get the nod. Culpepper has played in four games in 2009, completing 37 of his 65 passes for 433 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Daunte, now 32, can nonetheless still do some of the things he did back in his mid 20’s – namely, scramble and fumble. He has 51 rushing yards on just four attempts this season, but has also fumbled three times. While not quite on the incredible butterfinger pace he was in 2002 (23 fumbles in 16 games), he is still obviously prone to dropping the rock.

Terrell Suggs has been practicing, albeit on a limited basis, and could be back in the lineup Sunday.

Things set up very well for the Ravens here, as they try to scrape back above the .500 mark. Still, most Ravens fans are a bit uneasy about this one, especially after watching Pittsburgh lose to 1-win Cleveland last night. Last year’s AFC Championship Game participants are proving to be but shells of what they were a year ago, and the feeling around town is that a win is far from guaranteed for our purple and black on Sunday.

So, what could go so horribly wrong that the Ravens somehow allow Detroit to escape B’More with a win?

Johnsontron

  • Megatron – The Lions’ undisputed best player is wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The third year pro out of Georgia Tech is a Top 5 WR in the league, and his 6’5″ frame is just the type that has given the Ravens’ secondary fits all season. Johnson, though is BETTER than Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, Dwayne Bowe, and the other guys that have torched the Ravens. Culpepper looks at #81 and sees his glory days with Randy Moss in Minnesota flash before his eyes. Look for Daunte to go deep several times to Johnson on Sunday, especially knowing that the Ravens’ DBs are extremely likely to draw flags, whether they are warranted or not. If Ed Reed, who missed the Packers game and has not practiced (as of Thursday) this week misses another game, Megatron could have a field day at M&T Bank Stadium.
  • Flacco’s Struggles – On paper, the Lions 32nd ranked pass defense looks ripe for Natty Joe to rebound from his career-worst performance at Lambeau.  They allowed Brady Freaking Quinn to throw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns three weeks ago, and Aaron Rodgers hung up 348 on them Thanksgiving day.  Joe, though, has been making poor decisions and poor throws for over a month.  Even against Pittsburgh, he floated the deep ball to Clayton that probably should have been a touchdown.  Let’s hope that the increased mobility we saw from him in Green Bay is proof that his ankle is really feeling better, and that it will lead to some crisper throws.  Combine that with the solid decision-making and spreading around of the football that we saw early in the year, and Detroit won’t stand a chance.
  • Minnie Mouse – Mighty Mouse Ray Rice also needs to bounce back from his poor game in Green Bay.  He lost just the second fumble of his career, and the first since his pro debut against Cincinnati, and was held under 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time since Week 3.  Detroit’s defense is a bit better against the run, allowing 113 yards per game, but they don’t have nearly the talent at linebacker that the Packers boast.  Rice should be able to find running room against the Lions.  If he doesn’t, and if Cam Cameron still refuses to give Pain Train McClain the ball, it will put even more pressure on Flacco.
  • Collapsing Pocket – The Lions, luckily, are a bit more inept than even the Ravens at pressuring quarterbacks.  They have just 21 sacks on the season, one behind the Ravens’ total of 22.  Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, and Ben Grubbs all played terribly in Green Bay, and will need to step it up big over these last four games if the Ravens are to have any chance of making the postseason.  Flacco has been sacked 8 times in the past two games, after not going down at all against Indy.  All five of Pittsburgh’s sacks came in the second half, making it 8 sacks over the last six quarters allowed by the Ravens.  Joe’s significantly diminished play over those six periods is no coincidence.  Keep your QB on his feet, O-Line!

The Ravens have just one home game left after this one. The chances of a home playoff game, should they get into the postseason, are about zilch. Holding serve at M&T Bank Stadium here in Weeks 14 and 15 will have them finish a respectable 6-2 in B’More. At that point, they’ll have their work cut out for them in Pittsburgh and Oakland, but at least they will have a shot. Lose either of these next two, and it’ll be time to pick your surrogate playoff team for 2009, I’m afraid.

Ravens 27 Lions 10

Lookalikes! Lions Edition

December 10, 2009

We kick off the middle leg of our three-week NFC North Lookalike-fest with Detroit Lions punter Nick Harris, who looks a good bit like Andre from the great new FX show “The League.” Andre, who drafted Plaxico Burress this season, is apparently gettin’ freaky with “Shiva,” the namesake of the Fantasy Football League Trophy. I’m quite interested to see how this ends in tonight’s season finale.

AndrePunter

Lions’ WR Bryant Johnson bears a striking resemblance to that other Gooding brother, Omar. Like his more famous brother, Cuba, Omar also peaked way too soon.

Gooding

Everybody remember “Wild and Crazy Kids?” Man, what a show.

Back when we were young, kids had fun OUTSIDE, damn it. Sure, Nintendo was cool, but 16-bits is really only good for about 6 hours of entertainment per week. These fat little bastards nowadays and their XBoxes…I tell ya.

/jealous
//would be a fat ass too if he had all day to play Madden ’10 on PS3

Anyway.

Speaking of memories, who remembers LaVar Arrington?

He was all set to be the next great linebacker in the NFL. In my first fantasy football league, there was a team named “Guns don’t kill people, LAVAR KILLS PEOPLE.” Then he just kinda disappeared. I think maybe he got hurt a bunch of times or something? Seriously, I remember being completely shocked when I heard that Lavar was out of the league for good.

Well, it turns out he’s been fooling us all along, as he reentered the league with a new name – Ernie Sims.

SimsArrington

Next up are a pair of Lookalikes of injured rookie QB Matthew Stafford.

First we have this duck-face:

Stafford Duck

Followed by Matty Poo posing with the most pathetic trophy I’ve ever seen.

TinyTrophy

Did your mom make that for you, Matt?

Finally today we turn our attention to Lions’ first-year head coach and former Arbutus, Maryland resident Jim Schwartz.

Some coaches take a “tough love” attitude to their responsibilities. It appears as though Jimmy might have a different kind of love in mind.

Jim Bruno

Lookin’….uh…tough….there, Jimbo.

NOW GO LOSE BY 50 IN THE STADIUM IN WHICH YOU’RE STILL A PSL HOLDER!

Kyle Boller – Cosmo Boy

December 10, 2009

BollerMSN

Any of you who, like me, have MSN.com as your homepage, woke up to the image of Kyle “Ray Liotta” Boller’s smiling face this morning. Kyle, who has dated such stars as Tara Reid (barf) in the past, and is now reportedly with Miss USA 2009 runner-up Carrie Prejean, shared some tips with Cosmopolitan Magazine for all you aspiring ladies’ men.

BollerCosmo

Kind of seems more like a tip for the ladies that want to get with Kyle (“don’t smoke”) than advice for other dudes. Well played, Mr. Boller.

Play Like a Raven – Week 13

December 9, 2009

PlayLikeaRaven

Well, it appears as if, by renaming this feature, “Play Like Ray Rice,” we served to Jinx Mighty Mouse, as he failed to break the 100-yards from scrimmage mark for the first time since Week 3. Rice managed just 54 yards rushing and 17 receiving. As such, consider this the “further notice” that was promised as to when the Nest would put calling the player of the game the “Ray Rice” on the shelf for a while.

Since calling the game MVP “Ray Rice” had a detrimental effect on his play, maybe this week we can reverse-jinx a consistent scrub, and turn his play around, by honoring the game’s Least Valuable Player in his honor.

Away we go.

Did Not Play Like Dominique Foxworth: Jarret Johnson

JJ

Gotta be honest. It wasn’t easy to pick a game MVP this week, after that disastrous performance in Green Bay. Double J, however, has evolved into the team’s most consistent defensive player, and had what could have been a game-changing play Monday night.

Johnson was tied for third on the team with four tackles, and now has 33 on the season, just 12 shy of his career high set last season.

JJ made a great reaction to Aaron Rodgers’ pass that deflected up in the air off Donald Driver’s leg, resulting in his first pick since 2004. The play gave the Ravens’ offense the ball right back just one play after they had finally gotten on the board to pull within 10 at 17-7. They would score a touchdown just 3 plays later, and the Ravens suddenly had all the momentum in a game that had been a Packer blowout at the half.

Unfortunately for Johnson, the rest of the team, and Ravens fans, this week’s goat made sure to hand all that momentum right back to Green Bay…

Played Like Dominique Foxworth – Joe Flacco

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Joe, Joe, Joe.

Natty Joe had arguably the worst game of his professional career this week. His 27.2 passer rating was his third lowest with the Ravens, trailing just the 22 and 18 he put up in the final two Pittsburgh games in 2008 for ineptitude. With the Ravens facing 2nd-and-goal from the 3 yard line, trailing 24-14, Joe made a play that was WAY too reminiscent of one Kyle Boller for the B’More faithful.

Many are ripping Flacco for the decision to throw back across his body to Demetrius Williams, but I’ll give him half a pass: Joe himself said that the decision was “bad” and the throw was “worse,” and I tend to agree. The decision wasn’t AWFUL – Demetrius was open, had Joe put the ball in the right place. Unfortunately, the throw was all sorts of terrible. With the entire left side of the end zone to work with, why Joe threw the ball directly at Williams, instead of lofting it towards the opposite sideline where only his guy had a chance for it…well, I have no idea.

His first interception was, however, unbelievably dumb from a decision standpoint. There were no fewer than FOUR Packers in the area where Joe delivered that ball, covering just two receivers. It’s understandable that the flea-flicker makes Ravens FANS pumped up to see a big play, but the quarterback of the team needs to be level-headed enough in that situation to recognize that nothing is there, and to throw the ball somewhere – anywhere – else.

On his third pick (yeesh), A.J. Hawk made an outstanding play, no doubt about it. Flacco, however, was likely pressing after the end zone game-killer.

Flacco’s physical pain may have been less than in previous weeks on Monday, but his play was downright painful to watch. On a night where Joe seemed to be moving around better than he had in months, picking up his most rushing yards (16) since picking up 18 in Week, his decision making killed his team. For the second time in three games, he threw a fourth quarter pick that dramatically changed the face of the game in what was ultimately a Ravens loss.

The Ravens’ coaches always tell us that, once Joe makes a mistake, he never makes the same one again.

Well, if that’s the case, he should have learned more than enough this week to last him quite a while.

Flacco needs to finish strong over these last four games, to quash any chance of a “sophomore slump” tag be applied to his entire 2009 campaign.

Bad News, Good News

December 8, 2009

Tanked

The Ravens and Steelers are both headline-worthy this week, but not for nearly the same reason that they were last January.

As much as we hate the Steelers around these parts, football sure seems like a lot more fun when both B’More and Pitt are at the top of their respective games, instead of embarrassing themselves as they have been of late.

Packers 27 Ravens 14 (The FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS Game)

December 8, 2009

FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS ON THE PLAY!

Holy crap.

Ho. Lee. Crap.

No recap of last night’s game would be complete without mentioning the officiating, so let’s just get that out of the way first. As Ravens fans, we of course have the reputation of blaming the refs every time we lose. I’m not blaming them in any way for last night’s loss. But if anyone disagrees that that nationally-televised display of officiating ineptitude was not the strongest argument yet for the case that the NFL needs to make their referees full-time employees, they also probably think Tiger Woods should be nominated for “Husband of the Year.”

There were 310 penalty yards racked up between the two teams, the second most in a single game in NFL HISTORY (Tampa Bay vs. Seattle, October 1976)! Looking at the replays, MOST of the pass interference flags (on both teams) were probably warranted – the calls on Dominique Foxworth and Derrick Mason WERE NOT, however. There comes a point, though, late in the season in a heated battle between two teams jockeying for playoff spots, where these zebras just need to let the players decide the game. I’m not going to sit here and “complain,” per se, about the P.I. call on Green Bay’s Tramon Williams in the end zone with 9:52 to play, considering it SHOULD HAVE helped my team get back in the game (more on that later), but the unbiased football observer in me wishes the official would keep the flag in his pocket in that case. Either Demetrius Williams comes down with the ball or he doesn’t – if he doesn’t, then too bad. EAT THE FLAG!

I caught a show on the NFL Network in between college football games Saturday night, called “Greatest Fourth Quarters.” They showed the fourth quarters (obviously) of three games from about the 1992-1997 time frame. In each, there were calls that, nowadays, would have drawn red challenge flags from the coaches. This was before the days of replay, however. In each case, the zebras huddled up, talked about the questionable play, and in each case, GOT IT RIGHT. That’s right, the officials used to be able to correctly do their jobs without the aid of instant replay. In 2009, the goofs in the striped shirts can’t even seem to get it right WITH the replay.

Perhaps the refs were held more accountable back then? Maybe they were required to dedicate more time to their craft? Or maybe they just tried harder than they do now, when they know they have that little hood to save them if need be.

I don’t know the answer, but I thought it was very fitting that, after watching those officials from a time long past do their jobs impeccably, I was then subjected to the yellow flag storm of Monday Night.

The inconsistency is the worst part. Like all of you, I’ve watched a ton of football this year. I suspect you’ll agree that the discrepancies seen between what one official versus the next considers “pass interference” to be is mind boggling.

Jon Gruden pointed out during the telecast that it was as if the officials had one hand in their pocket whenever Aaron Rodgers put the ball up in the air, waiting for any slight indication of ANYTHING that could be interpreted as P.I. By the end of the game, it was obvious that the same could have been said when Joe Flacco threw the ball.

Entering the game, the Packers and Ravens were the #1 and #2 most penalized teams in the NFL, and it was obvious that their reputations preceded them. That’s not the way it should work. Each game…no, each PLAY…needs to be judged in and of itself, not based on some preconceived notion that the official has about a particular player or team being “prone to committing a penalty” in that situation.

Please, Mr. Goodell – quit wasting your time with stupid initiatives like playing in Europe and expanding the season, and address an issue that plagues the league EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Make the referees full-time employees.

Now, about that game…

Basically, the Ravens just are not a very good football team right now. Although they frittered away some games earlier in the year that they very easily could have won, after 12 games 6-6 seems like exactly where they deserve to be. They are a mediocre team with a struggling quarterback, ineffective running game, non-existent pass rush, laundry list of injuries, and below average coaching.

Joe Flacco, as many have already pointed out, played as poorly as he has in his two seasons in purple. Despite looking like his injured ankle had finally improved to the point that he could move around when needed (his 16 yards rushing were his most since Week 1), his throws still sailed and/or floated, and his decision making was horrendous at times.

More on Joe in this weeks “Did Not Play Like a Raven,” I’m afraid.

The announcement, about an hour before kickoff, that Ed Reed would not be playing, put the kibosh on just about any good feelings that I had going into this one. There weren’t many to begin with, but without #20 back there, Aaron Rodgers seemed likely to have an even bigger field day in store. The defense, however, didn’t play terribly. They forced three Packer turnovers (including one on an interception by Reed’s replacement, Tom Zbikowski) that kept the game from being the total blowout that it probably could have been.

Unfortunately, their lack of pass rush was on full display for all the football world to see. Even Matthew Stafford probably isn’t very worried going into next week’s game. Trevor Pryce’s sack of Rodgers in the 2nd quarter was the Ravens first since the Cleveland game. It was the only one of the entire contest though, as the Ravens now have just ONE quarterback sack in their last TWELVE quarters of play. Greg Mattison can’t seem to figure out when to blitz and when not to (um…no blitz on 3rd and 7 on our own 16? Come on, Man!), and when he does, the Ravens still can’t get any pressure. Their blitzes were picked up easily by Green Bay’s offensive line and backs all night long. “Anemic” is too soft a word for the pass rush at this point.

The Ravens held Packer running back Ryan Grant to just 2.2 yards per carry, but Rodgers hurt them scrambling, picking up 30 yards on 4 totes. Tight end Jermichael Finley proved way too much for Zbikowski and the Ravens’ poor-covering linebackers to handle (side note: every LB, CB, and S on the Ravens’ roster should watch A.J. Hawk on Flacco’s 3rd pick, and get an idea of how to LOOK FOR THE BALL in coverage), as he led the Packers with 7 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Two “Again”s:

  • Lardarius Webb played well, both on kick returns and in coverage.
  • Dominique Foxworth was awful. That whiff on Donald Driver’s touchdown had to have sent Chris McAlister falling off his barstool in laughter somewhere on Bourbon Street.

The offense was, again, inept for the first 30 minutes, as they got shut out. The slow starts are pretty much expected at this point. If it weren’t for the defense setting them up twice with short fields on turnovers, they may have gotten shut out for the entire 60 minutes.

The offensive line, especially tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither, have taken HUGE steps back since shutting out Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and then James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley for the first half of the Steeler game. Over the last six quarters, Joe Flacco has been absolutely running for his life. Inside, there is no movement in the running game, and Ben Grubbs probably had his worst game as a pro last night. Without holes, even Mighty Mouse Ray Rice isn’t going to go far.

It would have been nice to see some of Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain, who could have at least pushed the pile if there weren’t any holes. I was screaming for him all game, but apparently he just wasn’t in Cam Cameron’s “game plan,” as I’m sure he’ll tell us when questioned about it. Nor was the no-huddle offense, despite it seemingly being the only thing that provides any sort of spark these days. The insistence on giving Willis McGahee the ball at the goalline is also head-scratch inducing, even if he did get in once.

LET’S SEE SOME PAIN TRAIN!

As far as John “Andy Reid Jr.” Harbaugh’s clock management, it is just laughable (and Mike Tirico actually WAS laughing at the Ravens’ “hurry up” efforts at the end of the game). The Ravens had zero sense of urgency when they got the ball back with under two minutes to play – but that just mirrored their play through the 58 minutes leading up to that. They were slow in and out of the huddle all night, wasted timeouts on defense and in the red zone, and overall seemed to be playing like the game was untimed.

I have no idea what to make of Harbaugh’s clock management. It defies logic at times, and it only seems to get worse.

It was an ugly, ugly game. Sure, the Ravens were within 3 points in the second half, and had the chance to pull within a field goal one other time – but let’s be honest: they had no business being in this one. Just like they really have no business being in the AFC Playoff discussion.

Hey, at least beating up on the Lions should be fun next week, amirite?

Um…Am I right?

Ravens (6-5) @ Packers (7-4)

December 6, 2009

Ravens vs. Packers

Ravens vs. Packers Stats

The Ravens roll into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for a Monday Night contest against the Packers here in Week 13. Sunday’s NFL action was good news-bad news as far as the Ravens’ playoff hopes are concerned. Losing were the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans, all of whom are nipping at the Ravens heels in the “in the hunt” category. However, the wins by Denver and Jacksonville will help them keep the Ravens at arms-length for the Wild Card slots for now, even if the purple can win in Green Bay. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are suddenly both 6-6 as well, thanks to wins over New England and Buffalo, respectively.

In short, the Ravens need a win to keep pace.

That win will be no small feat, I’m afraid.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 6th-ranked offense will provide quite a challenge for the Ravens’ defense. Despite being ranked #9 overall, Greg Mattison’s unit, as we Ravens fans know, can be exploited for big plays. They had the advantage of the raucous purple crowd in keeping Peyton Manning in check two weeks ago, and Pittsburgh’s inability to squeak out more than 17 points last Sunday may unfortunately be due more to Steelers’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ idiocy moreso than great play by Ray Lewis & Co.

Rodgers is no Dennis Dixon. The second-year starter has thrown an incredible 22 touchdowns to go along with just 5 interceptions (3 of which came in a loss to Tampa in Week 9), and his 104.9 quarterback rating trails only Brett Favre and Drew Brees. He has the kind of weapons on the outside that are sure to give the Ravens’ mediocre secondary fits all night, with Donald Driver (53 rec, 845 yards, 5 TD) and Greg Jennings (47, 722, 3). Unless Dominique Foxworth had some sort of breakthrough in the film room and practice this week (not to mention picking up some less-slippery cleats), we’re in trouble, B’More. Lardarius Webb has been a pleasant surprise at corner, but that still leaves at least three or four other guys in purple chasing green jerseys around Lambeau. Given the Ravens’ linebackers struggles in coverage this season, Rodgers may also find plenty of his tight ends, Donald Lee (30, 224, 1), and Jermichael Finley (27, 339, 1).

Further complicating things is the fact that the Ravens still can’t pressure quarterbacks consistently. They haven’t registered a sack in over eight full quarters, since the end of the Cleveland game. Terrell Suggs is not likely to play, so no help is coming from his end. Whatever Antwan Barnes did to tick off John Harbaugh, it’s about time for Johnny to get over it, as the Ravens are going to have to get after Rodgers to have a snowball’s chance.

If there is one potential bright spot, it’s that Rodgers has never had the pleasure of throwing into a secondary that has Ed Reed patrolling center field. A big game from Fast Eddie would certainly help things, though Rodgers is likely to be fresh off 10 straight days of having “Don’t throw to 20” beaten into his head.

Things don’t get any easier when the Ravens have the ball. The Packers entered Week 13 as the number 1 overall defense in the NFL (the above chart reflects the New York Jets having taken over the top spot after allowing something like 180 yards to Buffalo last Thursday night). They are fourth in the league with 18 interceptions, with the seven of veteran cornerback Charles Woodson leading the way. Woodson is likely to match up with Derrick Mason Monday Night, and he has the ability to completely neutralize Joe Flacco’s favorite target.

Flacco had his best game to date against Pittsburgh last week, so hopefully he is starting to get a better grasp of the 3-4 in his sophomore season. Still, Joe is struggling in recent weeks, and some injury-related poor mechanics keep showing up as his passes sail and float far more than we are used to. The ankle/foot is likely going to persist through the season, unfortunately, so Flacco and the offense need to adjust accordingly.

The combination of a strong, ball-hawking secondary, along with Flacco’s recent struggles could mean that there is no better time than the present for Cam Cameron to rediscover the 3-headed rushing attack of 2008.

Yeah, I know: new year, new team, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Nonetheless, circumstances may dictate a return to old-school Ravens football. If necessity is the mother of creation, now is the time for Cameron to create some more yards on the ground. We saw a glimpse last week, as Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain picked up 28 yards on 4 carries, his most since the Denver game, before bruising some ribs. “Mighty Mouse” Ray Rice will continue to get the bulk of the load, as he should, but as the Ravens enter December with their quarterback nicked up and their defense struggling to get pressure and force turnovers, McClain and Willis McGahee should see more work. Keeping the ball out of Rodgers’ hands as much as possible will be crucial on Monday.

Rookie defensive tackle B.J. Raji is a space eater in the Packers’ #4 rush defense, and Matt Birk, Ben Grubbs, and the recently promoted Marshal Yanda will have their hands full opening up lanes for the monster to get through, no matter the number of heads Cam decides to put on it.

I was hoping for a blizzard in Wisconsin Monday Night. Some strong winds and snow could do wonders for the Ravens’ secondary’s ability to handle the Green Bay receiving corps. However, the current forecast calls for just 4-6 mph winds and a 10% chance of precipitation, along with temperatures in the low 20’s.

The Pack are coming off a 10-day layoff after a Thanksgiving Day thrashing of the hapless Lions. Basically, another game against a team that just had a bye week.

But hey, maybe the Pack will suffer a letdown from not having played in a “real” football game since November 22 against San Francisco?

Also, the Packers are 0-2 against purple teams this season, so maybe they’ll confuse us with a third match-up against the Vikings.

Alright, enough fishing.

There’s really no way to be realistically optimistic about this one. If the Ravens can put together a complete game against a strong team like Green Bay and pick up their first ever win at Lambeau, they will announce themselves as a force to be reckoned with down the stretch. Otherwise, it’s back into the 6-6 AFC quagmire with them, and a bunch of must-wins to round out the Holiday season.

The latter seems the likely scenario.

Packers 27 Ravens 16


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