Archive for September, 2010

You Can't Spell "Bench" Without "B-E-N"

September 30, 2010

You may have heard that the NFL in 2010 is a “quarterback’s league,” due to all the marquee teams having great signal callers. Last year’s Super Bowl featured two of the NFL’s absolute best, Drew Brees of the Saints and Peyton Manning of the Colts.

Well, here in 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers have managed to buck all common football sense and have put together a 3-0 record despite having trotted out some…interesting…players at what is supposedly the game’s most important position:

All of this is because their franchise QB, Ben Roethlisberger, has been serving a four-game (reduced from six) suspension for some (allegedly) naughty behavior last offseason. So what has Ben been up to lately, having been not able to play so far this season?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Good to see he’s doing his best to stave off loneliness, now that his night life style has been severely cramped, c/o Commish Goodell.

Troy PoLOLamaLOLu

September 30, 2010

Ohhhhh, Troy is such a TACKLING MACHINE!!!

Watch him destroy Tony Gonzalez here in Week 1 of this season:

If you look closely enough, you can see his hair go flying in the “whifffff” as Gonzalez goes by.

Will We See "Blitzburgh" Sunday? Or More "Cover-2burgh?"

September 29, 2010

Everyone knows that Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau loves to blitz. When he and Rex Ryan used to go up against one another in Ravens-Steelers matchups, it seemed like a contest of who could come up with the more exotic blitz package. Hell, “Blitzburgh” is a popular moniker used when describing the team’s defense by both fans and pundits alike.

But will we see that kind of scheme from the Steelers on Sunday?

It will be interesting to see whether Lebeau decides to stick with his usual inclinations to blitz, blitz, and blitz some more, or if he changes things up a bit. Joe Flacco, as can be seen in the above graphic (taken from ESPN the Magazine’s 2010 NFL Preview), was at his best against the blitz in 2009.  His nearly 11-point jump in passer rating from non-blitz to blitz situations was the 4th highest of any quarterback in the NFL (interestingly enough, his backup, Marc Bulger, saw the highest rating increase against the blitz in 2009.) Joe really was “Joe Cool” in the face of five or more pass rushers.

On the other hand, Joe’s struggles against “softer” defenses are well documented. He looked completely lost against Cincinnati in Week 2, and had similar struggles against the Bengals, and other Cover 2 defenses like Indianapolis’, in 2009. Don’t think a great defensive mind like Lebeau hasn’t noticed this just as all of Ravens nation has.

Lebeau may very well decide to start the game trying to get pressure from his front four, and dropping seven or even 8 men into coverage to force Flacco to go through all of his reads. And let’s not overlook the fact that it’s the Steelers’ personnel, as much as the scheme, that generates so much heat on opposing signal-callers. When you bring your three defensive lineman after the quarterback, and then throw in James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley as rusher #4, your chances of strong pressure or a sack may rival what other teams generate bringing five or 6 men.

Against a Baltimore offensive line that has struggled at times in 2010, and is still without one of their starting tackles, don’t be surprised if Lebeau and the Steelers aren’t blitzing as much as we’re used to seeing to start the game. Even if the line is able to hold up and give Flacco time, he will need to show that he can find his receivers and deliver the ball quickly into traffic. If he gets into a rhythm early and puts up some points, the Steelers may then go ahead and open the blitz floodgates. Also, 3rd-and-long situations will likely be met with lots of pressure as Pittsburgh tries to force the issue and generate turnovers.

The Dick Lebeau-Cam Cameron chess match has become a fun one to watch. After being schooled by Lebeau in 2008, Cameron turned the tables a bit in 2009, as his offense generated 716 yards of offense in the two contests, compared to 584 for Pittsburgh. Still, all that offensive movement resulted in just the single win. Lebeau has his favorite troy, Toy Polamalu (or something) back to play with this year as well, after being forced to operate without him for most of last season. Of course, Cam has some new weapons of his own to throw at the Steelers.

It should be a good one.

Play Like a Raven – Week 3

September 28, 2010

PlayLikeaRaven

Played Like a Raven – “Flacco to Boldin”

Whether Joe’s first pass of the day was simply a little leftover hiccup from Cincinnati, or a huge wake up call that b-slapped him mentally back into the game, things were different from pass #2 onward.  “Good Joe,” showed up, sound mechanics and all, stepping into his throws and delivering the ball into some tight windows.

More often than not, the recipient of those strong throws was Anquan Boldin, who finds himself in this spot for the second time in just three weeks as a Raven.  Boldin has immediately brought a nastiness to the wide receiver position in Baltimore, a dimension that has been sorely lacking for years.  Watching “Q” go up and snatch the ball out of the air has quickly become a favorite sight of the purple faithful, and for Joe Flacco. Had he not been interfered with not once, but TWICE (both uncalled), Boldin would have had an even bigger day and at least one more touchdown.  As these two continue to develop chemistry and confidence in one another, “Flacco-to-Boldin” could quickly become one of the most familiar phrases on NFL highlight shows.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Run Defense

I struggled a bit with this one; that is, deciding exactly who to pin Peyton Hillis’ 144-yard performance on.  First, I was going to put the lion’s share of the blame on Haloti Ngata.  After all, as the best player on the defensive line and a guy who many consider to be one of the top tackles in the NFL, he should have been able to do more personally to clog up the middle.  Watching the game again though, Haloti wasn’t even on the field for a few of Hillis’ big gains.

So I thought, “lets put this one on the defensive line in general.”  It wasn’t just Ngata who had a bad day – Kelly Gregg and Trevor Pryce didn’t do much either.  Then again, when a running back busts through the line like that, a team that supposedly has a strong linebacking corps should be able to bottle him up just a few yards downfield, not deep in the secondary.  Alright then, let’s go with: The Entire Front 7 “did not Play Like Ravens.”

However, watching the pathetic attempts of some of the Ravens’ secondary in trying to bring down Hillis (looking at you, Fabian Washington and Tom Zbikowski), there was no way I could just let them off the hook.

So we’ll go this route: The ENTIRE Ravens’ defense played un-Raven-like…when the Browns ran the ball.

They were decent when Seneca Wallace dropped back to throw, flushing him from the pocket regularly and ultimately allowing only 141 passing yards on the afternoon.  Granted, they weren’t exactly challenged (again), but I’m still convinced that the reports of the death of the B’More secondary have been greatly exaggerated.  Once Ed Reed comes back, things will only get better.

The play of the pass defense doesn’t excuse the failures to contain Hillis though.  We know that this team has a very stout front seven, so we have to believe this was strictly an aberration.  Though they’d never admit it, it was perhaps a result of the defense looking past the Browns a bit with Pittsburgh looming.

They’ll have to be MUCH better against Rashard Mendenhall this week, or it likely won’t matter that the Steelers are on what amounts to their fourth string quarterback at this point.

Photos c/o Baltimore Sun

Ravens 24 Browns 17 (The Q!!!!!!!!!!! Game)

September 27, 2010

Maybe Anita Marks was right all along

/excuse me while I rinse the vomit from my mouth

While I’d still maintain that the addition of just one player cannot take an offense instantly from mediocre to dynamic and dangerous, Anquan Boldin made quite an argument for himself Sunday afternoon in Charm City. Boldin hauled in 8 passes for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns from Joe Flacco, the last of which put the Ravens ahead for good. For “Q,” it was his second 100+ yard performance in three tries for the Ravens, and his best game since a spectacular 13-catch, 186 yard game in week 11 of 2008.

As far as Flacco, the 22/31 262 yard day should help erase the memories of the debacle in Cincinnati, and for a week anyway, quiet the moronic calls of some Baltimore fans for Marc Bulger. However, things could have started a whole lot worse, as Joe’s very first pass (a back foot floater while he was getting crushed, of course) should have been picked off and taken to the house by T.J. Ward for an early 7-0 deficit. After that one though, Flacco got his act together.

Boldin’s second touchdown grab, a 12-yard strike from Joe Cool, put the Ravens up at a seemingly comfortable clip of 14-3 with just under six minutes to go in the first half. With a defense that was working on their tenth consecutive quarter of not allowing a touchdown to start the 2010 season, and facing a Browns offense that was without their starting quarterback, running back, and one wide receiver, the rout appeared to be on in B’More.

That’s when things started to get interesting, though.

The Browns took possession and methodically marched 83 yards, most of them on the legs of running back Peyton Hillis. The drive culminated in a touchdown with only a few ticks left on the clock, pulling Cleveland to within 14-10, and the halftime feeling was quite an uneasy one at M&T Bank Stadium.

Things didn’t get much better in the second half, as the Ravens offense stalled in the third quarter, twice going three-and-out, and seeing a Billy Cundiff 51-yard field goal attempt clang off the left upright. The Browns took advantage early in the fourth, scoring again on a 1-yard pass from Seneca Wallace to tight end Ben Watson on the first play of the quarter.

Now trailing 17-14, the Ravens’ offense put together arguably their most impressive drive of this young season. They drove 69 yards (+20 of offensive penalties) on 10 plays, culminating in a beautiful rainbow of a 27-yard touchdown pass from, of course…Flacco to Boldin. The Ravens went up 21-17, and would never relinquish the lead again. Only an uncalled pass interference in the end zone prevented Flacco-to-Boldin from hooking up for the FOURTH time on the afternoon, and Baltimore settled for a Billy Cundiff field goal to round out the day’s scoring.

Speaking of Cundiff, he was much more than just a 1 or 3-points at a time kind of typical kicker weapon against the Browns. Cleveland boasts one of the best return men in the NFL, Joshua Cribbs, but Cundiff drilled both of his fourth quarter kickoffs so far into the end zone that Cribbs had no choice but to down them for touchbacks. After hearing that Cundiff won the kicking job over Shayne Graham mainly due to his kickoff strength, it was good to see the evidence of that on full display. With the game as close as it was, a big return by Cribbs there in the fourth could have resulted in a much different final score.

It wasn’t the blowout that many, including this blog, had predicted, but a win nonetheless. The Ravens are now 2-1, and more importantly 1-1 in the AFC North after two of their early season three-in-a-row against division foes. Since it wasn’t a blowout though, many fans are all too happy to search out the negatives, and there were a few to pick apart on Sunday.

First, the run defense was gashed by relative unknown Peyton Hillis (maybe it’s just something about guys named Peyton?), who racked up 144 yards on 22 carries, and carried Ravens defenders with him for a good chunk of that 144. Kelly Gregg and even Haloti Ngata were pushed around up front, and the linebackers didn’t do much better. Browns’ offensive linemen Alex Mack and Joe Thomas had great days, and made big lanes for Hillis. The Ravens’ defense also failed to force a turnover for the second straight game, and still has only one on the year. When it finally seemed like the offense was finding a rhythm and could move the ball at will, the D couldn’t get them the ball back, either by forcing a 3-and-out or getting a turnover. Had the D put the ball back in the hands of Joe Flacco to end the first half, rather than allowing that long touchdown drive, it probably would have been a much less stressful second half for Ravens fans. And, although Seneca Wallace appeared to have all day to survey the field on many of his dropbacks, Greg Mattison’s defense did at least record two sacks on the day.

The run defense should immediately improve once Terrence Cody finally gets on the field, but at this point who knows when that will be? Despite practicing all of last week, Cody was a game-time scratch, and has still yet to see the field in his pro career. Fellow tackle Cory Redding suffered a concussion though, and his availability for next Sunday is unknown. Brandon McKinnie played well in his stead, but no Redding in Pittsburgh could force the coaching staff’s hand a little bit on “Mount” Cody.

A much more troubling injury occurred with about 10 minutes left in the game when Ray Rice caught a short pass for a 4-yard gain. It would be Rice’s last action of the day, and the early diagnosis is a “significantly” bruised knee. While Rice and John Harbaugh seem optimistic at the moment, Ray Rice’s knee is sure to be a hot topic of conversation all around B’More (and Pittsburgh, for that matter) all week. There is no chance the Ravens will come out and say that Rice is definitely out (if that is indeed the case) until they absolutely have to, so that kind of gamesmanship in a critical division rivalry such as this could lead to us not really knowing #27’s status until right up at 1:00 PM Sunday.

Let’s hope it really is just a little bruise that will heal quickly. Against that Pittsburgh defense, the Ravens are going to need all offensive hands on deck.

Sights and Sounds – Ravens vs. Browns

September 27, 2010

Goob and Nestminder took to the M&T Bank Stadium tailgate lots on the morning of the Ravens vs. Browns game to bring you some first-hand footage.  Included are interviews with:

  • Out-of-place Jets fan
  • Commuting Clevelanders
  • Josh Cribbs if he were a large white man
  • The famous Ray Lewis impersonator
  • Ravens’ Superfan Rodney
  • More!

Tailgate with Nestminder and Goob Sunday

September 24, 2010

The Goob and I will be at the Ravens’ home opener on Sunday, and we want YOU to come tailgate with us. Find us at the lot on the corner of Ostend and Scott Street (red in the photo).

When you walk into the lot, go towards the left where the fence separates the two lots. If you see Tailgate 1, you’re close. Against the fence you’ll see a purple (obviously) Ravens school bus (small size). Look for the guy in the Raven bird hat – you can’t miss him.  We’ll be there from about 9 AM until its time to go into the stadium (12-ish; no way I miss introductions).

Come have a beer and talk Ravens with us! Hell, if you want, you can even get in on our next video segment. We’ll likely be filming another “Sunday Afternoon Still-Drunk,” but this time hopefully on a much happier note.

The Ray Lewis Coaching Tree

September 24, 2010

Big ups to our boys over at The Purple Chaos for getting hold of this footage. This NFL Films special, on “The Ray Lewis Coaching Tree,” has been the talk of B’More this week (well, along with how much Joe Flacco sucks), and it’s well worth your time to watch.

It’s been said, but it bears saying again: There will NEVER be another Ray Lewis.

Browns (0-2) @ Ravens (1-1)

September 24, 2010


Our Ravens head back to Charm City for a football game for the first time in nearly a month this Sunday to take on the Cleveland Browns. And boy, could they use the home cookin’.

The Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, and Miami Dolphins are the only teams yet to play a home game through the first two weeks of the 2010 season. The Ravens, though, were not only on the road, but matched up with playoff teams from 2009 for both weeks, while the Cards and ‘Phins got some cupcakes at St. Louis and at Buffalo, respectively. Looked at through that lens, their 1-1 start isn’t nearly as disastrous and catastrophic as listening to sports talk radio in B’More right now would lead one to believe.

Many Ravens fans are already calling for Joe Flacco’s head after his rocky start to the 2010 campaign. As ridiculous as that may seem, I have to think it stems from such a desperate yearning for a true franchise quarterback in this town. The fierce desire for a Brady, Manning, or (gulp) Roethlisberger (the quarterback, not the gentleman) of our own, coupled with the still all-too-fresh memories of the struggles of the only other quarterback this franchise has ever drafted in the first round, combine to make Flacco’s leash, from a fan’s standpoint anyway, shorter than Ray Rice without cleats.

That Marc Bulger suddenly find himself as one of the most popular men in Baltimore, in just week 3, quite frankly embarrasses me to be a Ravens fan. Listening to the calls for Bulger, the ripping of the organization for trading Troy Smith (still just a backup, I’ll have you note), and the grumblings about firing Cam Cameron and even John Harbaugh are enough to make me actually thankful that my car radio only works sporadically these days.

Not that I’m a complete Flacco apologist at this point. His struggles through two games are certainly alarming, but far from a reason to panic and completely go back to the drawing board regarding the future of the franchise, as the vocal minority (I hope) would seemingly have Ozzie Newsome doing. Just as troubling is the play of the Ravens’ offensive line, so strong a year ago, that allowed the Cincinnati Bengals to consistently pressure Flacco with just a four man rush. This team is missing tackle Jared Gaither much more than any of us anticipated. Hopefully Oneil Cousins is able to play more this week and moving forward, which will allow Marshal Yanda to return to his much more natural position at right guard. Right now, the Yanda/Chester 2-guys-out-of-position situation taking place on the right side of the Ravens’ line just isn’t getting the job done. Add to that even Ben Grubbs struggling more than we expect from him, and it’s not really that surprising that Joe feels he has nowhere to step up TO in the pocket.

All that said, there are two schools of thought regarding the Ravens’ offensive game plan going into Sunday. The first is that the Ravens need to come out with the “ground and pound” mentality, running Ray Rice straight at the Browns, who have struggled mightily to stop the run through two games. This scenario would hope to get the offensive line in a rhythm, put the ball in the hands of the team’s top playmaker as often as possible, and remove the burden from Flacco to try to do too much, lest his struggles continue.

The other idea is that the Browns present the perfect opportunity to get Joe on the same page with his receivers and feeling comfortable throwing the ball again. Coming out with the no-huddle offense that Joe has been so successful with in the past, with the quiet home crowd on his side and the ability to change plays at the line could be just what the doctor ordered for Flacco, his o-line, and his receivers. Looking ahead to Week 4, the Ravens are certainly going to have to move the ball through the air to win in Pittsburgh (the Steelers just held Chris Johnson to 30 yards or something ridiculous), and so there is a bit of urgency to righting the offensive ship.

Whichever of these strategies Cam Cameron decides to employ early in the game Sunday, it would be great to see the Ravens come out firing, and avoid the type of slow start that has become par for the course here in the Flacco-Cameron era. In the first quarter this season, the Ravens have had four drives – two fumbles and two punts. They were shut out for the first 30 minutes in Cincy. It’s like its 2009 all over again (think Minnesota, New England, etc.) With the way the defense is playing right now, an offense that scores early and often would have the Ravens quickly flying as high as so many had predicted for them in the preseason. Getting up early on this Browns squad will quickly sap the wind from their sails, feed the frenzied M&T Bank Stadium crowd (it is the home opener, remember), and have the home team coast to a comfortable win. Turning the ball over in the first half, unleashing a barrage of punts, and letting them hang around could spell disaster.

The Browns offense will likely be headed up by quarterback Seneca Wallace this week, with Jake Delhomme dealing with an injured foot. Wallace threw for 229 yards against Kansas City last week, with his favorite target being Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs, who has hurt the Ravens returning kicks in years past (though they bottled him up well in 2009), can also be an effective weapon running the Browns’ version of the Wildcat offense. Now he is showing that he can catch passes as a receiver, and he is undoubtedly the one guy who can turn this game in Cleveland’s favor Sunday. Expect the Ravens defense to be keying on Cribbs, and let’s hope Billy Cundiff can continue his strong season this week with some more touchbacks.

Without Cribbs, the Browns don’t have much. Their running game consists of Peyton Hillis, who came over in a trade from Denver, and Jerome Harrison. Second year player James Davis could also get some touches this week. Hillis is the kind of straight-ahead runner that the Ravens will eat up at the line, especially if Terrence Cody is back this week as he is expected to be. Harrison, though he finished 2009 on a strong note, has been ineffective so far this season, with just 85 yards on 25 carries. Mohammed Massaquoi is the team’s deep threat, but he doesn’t seem to have much chemistry with Wallace as of yet (1 reception, 9 yards against KC).

The Ravens defense, despite being gifted two of them last week, is still looking for their first interception of 2010. They have picked off Browns’ quarterbacks in 11 consecutive games though, so things are looking up in that department. This is another area where building an early lead and forcing the Browns to play catch-up with a mediocre quarterback could lead to a nice little turnover-fest for the purple D. Again, not looking past Cleveland, but looking FORWARD to Pittsburgh sans Roethlisberger, and the get-up-early, play-from-ahead strategy should pay excellent dividends.

John Harbaugh’s teams have a long resume of winning the games that they are “supposed” to win, and this one should be no different. Unfortunately, it will only lead to another week of “so they beat the Browns, so what?” talk on the local airwaves, but that’s not for the team to worry about.

The M&T Bank Stadium crowd will be jacked up for this game, and the Ravens are ready, willing, and able to take out some frustrations on the Cleveland Browns. Ravens win big.

Ravens 31 Browns 6

Lookalikes! Browns Edition 2K10

September 23, 2010

Make sure you check out our previous editions of Cleveland Browns Lookalikes! here and here.

The Browns, forever in rebuilding mode, seem to have a fair amount of roster turnover year-to-year compared to other teams. As a result, there is no shortage of goofy/familiar looking new guys to poke fun at in this space. Don’t worry though, we’ve included some longer tenured Brownstains as well. Let’s get to the Lookalikes!

We’ll start with the weakest of this edition’s bunch. When I first clicked on new wide receiver Chansi Stuckey’s headshot, I immediately thought “Mike Epps!” Upon further review though…

…the resemblance is weak at best.

Never fear, there’s plenty more (and better) where that came from!

Next up we have a guy that I hate more than anyone should ever hate a kicker. However, for Ravens fans that remember this game, Phil Dawson will always be a mortal enemy.

Before he was breaking my heart with good/no-good/good again field goals though, Dawson provided teenage me with countless hours of entertainment in his previous gig, as Beavis on MTV.

Or at least I thought Dawson used to be Beavis. Apparently I was mistaken, though. THIS guy, whom I stumbled across while searching for Beavis pictures, while not a member of the Cleveland professional football team, really is “The Great Cornholio.”

Speaking of childhood entertainment, let’s go back even further. Linebacker Chris Gocong looks a hell of a lot like “Rufio” from the 1990 children’s classic movie “Hook.”

Let’s just hope he doesn’t go all “bangarang” on the Ravens’ offense.

Joshua Cribbs is unarguably the best player on Cleveland’s roster, and has been for quite some time (thanks, Cleveland front office!) Cribbs doesn’t let his bitterness towards Browns management get to him too much though, as he spends his downtime hosting a popular women’s daytime talk show. And then there was that one time he helped that nice lady get in touch with her dead husband. What a guy.

Linebacker Scott Fujita was a member of the New Orleans Saints last year, and got himself a Super Bowl Ring. He now finds himself wallowing in Cleveland. Man, that sucks. Hell, it’s the kind of thing that would make a guy quit football and take a job as a paper salesman.

GO RAVENS!


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