There are no words. I’ll let James Van Der Beek take you through today’s roller coaster of emotions for Ravens fans…
There are no words. I’ll let James Van Der Beek take you through today’s roller coaster of emotions for Ravens fans…
Here we go again. For the second time in three years, either the Ravens will have their season ended at the hands of their most hated rivals…or vice versa. It might be a smidgen less stressful on some levels than the 2008 AFC Championship game – the winner doesn’t go directly to the Super Bowl, just earns the right to try to stop the Patriots’ juggernaut in Foxboro (most likely) – but on other levels there is much more pressure on the Ravens this time around.
In 2008, they far exceeded reasonable expectations, reaching the AFC Championship game with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback. This year, despite going 12-4, the Ravens still underachieved in the eyes of many fans, squeaking games out by the skin of their teeth and still failing to capture the AFC North title and gain at least one home playoff game.
On paper, they’re the more talented team than Pittsburgh. In 2009, Ozzie Newsome drafted Michael Oher in the first round for pretty much one reason – block James Harrison and/or Lamarr Woodley. After the Ravens exit from last year’s playoffs, Ozzie went out and got Anquan Boldin, as the Ravens’ lack of weapons in the passing attack was seen as their “Achilles heel.”
Oher has been unsteady at best this year. Last week against Kansas City, he got beaten several times by Chiefs’ linebacker Tamba Hali. Here in January 2011, Hali (14.5 sacks in 2010) is the more dangerous pass rusher than either Harrison (10.5) or Woodley (10.0), but Oher will have to be better Saturday for the Ravens to have a chance. Those two are relentless, and have given Joe Flacco nightmares throughout his young career.
Boldin had some big games for the Ravens early in the year, but seemed to disappear down the stretch. He reemerged in Kansas City though, with his most productive day since the last Steelers game. “Q” was actually very effective against Pittsburgh this year, with 12 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown in the two games combined.
I’m going to do a bullet-point style run-down of the rest of this preview, so I can get to the work of distracting myself from thinking about this game – and subsequently vomiting – for the next few hours.
While I always pick with my heart to some degree here, I still try to be at least mostly realistic and ojective – my head/heart prediction for this game would be something like 17-16 Ravens – but that hasn’t worked out too well against Pittsburgh in the past.
So, as I said in the podcast – f it. I’m going all in this time.
Ravens 27 Steelers 13
Don’t let us down boys. Not again.
Thursday Night, Nestminder and Goob joined up with fellow Ravens blogger Phil from I Hate J.J. Redick to go up against enemy bloggers Ian and Cory from Steelers n’ At and Three Rivers Burgh Blog, respectively, to discuss Ravens-Steelers and the rest of Divisional Playoff Weekend.
We talked keys to Saturday’s game, Ravens/Steelers strengths and weaknesses, and more. Listen in using the link below:
Just saw this on Deadspin.
Sure, the guy in the video can only be definitively identified as a Pittsburgh PENGUINS fan…but all Penguins fans are also Steelers fans, right?
This is a safe assumption, I believe.
And hell “Baltimore’s” hockey team, the Washington Capitals, have already won at Heinz Field in 2011, having won the “Winter Classic” on New Years Day. Let’s hope our football team follows suit.
From Terry Bradshaw and Merrill Hoge to “displaced” Steelers fans and Big Ben’s so-called “engagement,” our resident Woody Harrelson lookalike is hitting on all cylinders this time around.
On last night’s “Tosh.0″ on Comedy Central, Daniel Tosh had Antoine Dodson (the “they rapin’ errybody” guy) on for his “web redemption” segment.
In the clip – which is filled with rapey innuendo and intended for mature audiences – Tosh and Dodson get a nice dig in on Squealers’ quarterback “Pig” Ben Roethlisberger.
The whole clip is pretty hilarious (as long as tasteless humor is your thing – if you’re here, it probably is), but the Ben appearance is at about 4:40 if you want to skip to it.
|Tosh.0||Tosh Tuesdays 9pm / 8c|
|Web Redemption – Antoine Dodson|
If that title sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same one I used for THIS game. The Ravens’ 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday was eerily reminiscent of the Ravens’ 27-9 win over the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 Wild Card game. As shown in the above graphic, taken from the CBS broadcast yesterday, the Dolphins were fresh off a season in which they set the modern record for fewest turnovers in a season (broken this year by New England).
Miami had turned the ball over just 13 times in 16 games.
The Ravens proceeded to take the ball from Chad Pennington and company five times.
Kansas City was just one worse than that in 2010, turning the ball over 14 times in 16 games. The Ravens went into Arrowhead and intercepted Matt Cassel three times, and recovered two more Kansas City fumbles. Only the tuck rule saved the Chiefs’ from their sixth turnover of the contest.
Although the Ravens again sputtered in the red zone (2/5), the simple fact that the defense kept giving the offense the ball time and again led to the Ravens’ second largest margin of victory of 2010. Everyone was whining a week ago about how the Ravens were the only team to limp into the postseason. Well, they shut us all up by posting the only blowout of Wild Card weekend. While the other three contests had an average margin of victory of 3.7 points, the Ravens blew the Chiefs completely out of the water, winning by 23 points, their most since winning by 24 in Carolina in Week 11.
In addition to the turnovers, the other main storyline of this game was the performance of Joe Flacco. Flacco, while compiling a 3-2 postseason record going into yesterday, had nonetheless been lackluster in the NFL’s “second season.” In his wins, he had done just enough, and in the losses, he had been awful. His 265 yards easily bested his previous high of 189 (and also set a new Ravens’ postseason record), and his two touchdown passes doubled the number he had accumulated through his first five playoff appearances.
Flacco completed 73.5% of his passes, and utilized the middle of the field more than we have ever seen from the third year signal caller. Joe basically carried the offense on his shoulders for the game’s first three quarters, during which the Ravens could find zero running room for Ray Rice or Willis McGahee. “Joe Vick” was on display at times, as Flacco scrambled around nicely and also ran 7 times for 26 yards, picking up several first downs with his feet.
Cam Cameron showed some new looks on offense – I can’t remember seeing the “trips right” formation any time in recent memory – and although I would have liked to see at least one screen pass to Ray Rice, they still did a good job of getting #27 the ball in space so he could do his thing (his thing being, of course, picking up first downs). After a few early near disasters throwing the ball to the sidelines, the Ravens changed things up and instead picked the middle of the Chiefs’ defense apart. Todd Heap did most of the damage, with 10 catches for 108 yards. It was The Stormin’ Mormon’s first 100-yard performance since 2005. Also encouraging for Ravens fans was that Anquan Boldin got involved again, catching 5 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, his most production since Week 13 against Pittsburgh.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by Joe – Flacco held onto the ball too long a couple times, as he is wont to do, and also missed seeing an open Boldin for what would have been a third-down conversion. In addition, he put the ball on the ground twice. His first fumble likely cost the Ravens a touchdown, when he mishandled Matt Birk’s snap on 1st-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 1-yard line on the game’s opening drive (the Ravens would ultimately be forced to settle for a field goal three plays later.) It looked on the replay like, had he secured the ball, Joe would have been able to fall over the goal line. Fortunately, he was at least able to recover that fumble, of which the same cannot be said of his second of the day. Joe was stripped by Tamba Hali (or “Haloti Ngata” according to Bill Cowher in the pregame show), who fell on the ball and gave the Chiefs possession. Two plays after the fumble, Jamaal Charles sprinted 41 yards for the Chiefs’ only points of the day.
Charles was very effective, with nine carries for 82 yards. For a minute, it looked like the Ravens were going to have no answer for the former track star. However, all it took was Terrence “Mount” Cody pulling a Tony Siragusa-Rich Gannon on Charles, and he was never really the same. Cody fell full-weight on the Chiefs’ runner, after knocking the ball out for the Ravens’ first of their five turnovers.
That was a key play in the game. The Ravens had just punted the ball back to Kansas City, trailing 7-3, and the Chiefs were again on the move, having driven from their own 14-yard line to the Ravens’ 48 – mostly on the legs of Charles. After that fumble though, Kansas City would never again threaten to get on the board (they had zero red zone trips on the day).
On the Chiefs’ next drive, Ed Reed (who doesn’t hit any more) provided the exclamation point.
The Ravens drove 80 yards to go up 10-7 at the half, and the game was effectively in the books.
Matt Cassel should go back to the Little League World Series. That guy was a scared turtle all afternoon. Once the Chiefs were forced to pass to try to get back in the game, they didn’t have a chance. His second interception, to Dawan Landry, came after he had spent about 15 minutes scanning the field, as the Ravens generated next to no pass rush on the play. His favorite receiver, Dwayne Bowe, was completely shut out – much credit has to go to Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, and Josh Wilson for that, but I have to think a big part of it was Cassel being intimidated by the presence of Ed Reed.
Reed was given the game ball by Derrick Mason in the post game locker room, and was extremely emotional in stating that his missing brother “would want to beat Pittsburgh.”
Beating Pittsburgh is next on the agenda for the Ravens.
For us, it means an eighth Steelers Hate Week in the last two years. Should be fun.
First things first. With reports coming out Friday evening that Ed Reed’s brother is missing in Louisiana, after apparently jumping into the Mississippi River to elude police, the All-Pro safety’s status for Sunday was suddenly very much up in the air. Around 1 PM Saturday though, it was reported that Reed WILL PLAY Sunday. Our thoughts are certainly with Reed and his family during what could be a very tragic situation. We’re a football site and football fans though, so we’ll also hope for not only a happy ending to this story, but that Reed has his head on straight and is at his best for the game. A cerebral player like Reed can’t afford to be distracted and maintain his usual level of play.
The Ravens will be playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL on Sunday. The Chiefs’ fans, who have not seen a home playoff win since 1993, will be amped beyond belief, and eager to make life hell for Joe Flacco and company. The Ravens, who false start with alarming frequency even when playing in front of a home crowd, will need to first and foremost cut down on the pre-snap penalties which have served to put the offense behind the eight ball time and again throughout the season.
Once the ball is snapped – again, hoping that he waits that long – Michael Oher will have his hands full with Chiefs’ linebacker Tamba Hali. Hali racked up 14.5 sacks in 2010, good for second best in the NFL behind Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. The offensive line as a whole has been alarmingly porous in recent weeks, as Flacco has been sacked four or more times in 5/9 games since the bye week. Flacco went an entire game without being sacked just once this season – Week 3 against Cleveland. He stayed upright all game 4 times in 2008, and twice in 2009. For the Ravens to have success in the postseason, they’ll need to do a much better job of protecting their quarterback. It would also help if Cam Cameron would mix up his formations a little better as well, and put Joe back in the shotgun where he seems to do his best work. For his part, Flacco would do well to start getting the ball out of his hands quicker.
The Chiefs finished 2010 right in the middle of the pack on defense, 17th against the pass and 14th versus the run. They were gashed by Oakland in Week 17, when Michael Bush ran for 137 yards. Watching NFL Playbook this week, Ravens fans were encouraged by the huge holes that the Raiders were able to open up against the Chiefs on their home turf. After breaking out against New Orleans, Ray Rice had more moderate success the last two weeks against Cleveland and Cincinnati, averaging 3.7 and 3.9 yards per carry. Expect a heavy dose of Rice early, though, and the Ravens would also be wise to get Willis McGahee’s relatively fresh legs involved more in the game plan. It would be nice to see Cam try to open up some running lanes by passing early, but it’s doubtful – based on his M.O. throughout the year – that he will choose to have Flacco challenge the Chiefs’ young but talented secondary unless he has to.
Again, I’d love to see Anquan Boldin bust out like he did in the first half of the season as much as the rest of you would, but we just have no reason to believe that will be the case until proven otherwise.
The Chiefs’ offense boasts the league’s #1 running attack. Third-year back Jamaal Charles has had an outstanding season, averaging an incredible 6.4 yards per carry.
That’s right James Van Der Beek…6.4 YARDS PER CARRY!
Charles does his most damage on the outside runs, so the Ravens’ corners will need to be ready to support the run defense. Lately, Lardarius Webb has excelled in this area, coming up and hitting like a safety. Unfortunately, on the other side Josh Wilson suffered a concussion against Cincinnati. He is listed as questionable, so let’s hope he isn’t hesitant in his tackling, because all Charles needs is a speck of daylight to suddenly be 50 yards down the field. Charles was held under 4 yards per carry in a game just once all season, so it’s a bit unrealistic to expect the Ravens to completely shut him down. I’d say holding him to anywhere in the 3.5-4.5 ypc range should be considered a success. The main thing will be to make sure he doesn’t break any 20+ yard runs, which he’s done in three of the last five games.
Charles’ running mate is veteran Thomas Jones. Jones is the Chiefs’ between-the-tackles back, and shouldn’t be as much of a concern for the Ravens. While Charles is the Chris Johnson-type that has given B’More problems, Jones strikes me as the kind of back that they will eat up. The run defense has been extremely stout down the stretch, which gives the Ravens a distinct advantage against Kansas City.
The reason shutting down the run will be crucial is that Matt Cassel has never faced the Ravens’ defense and Ed Reed. Even guys like Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer – as we saw last week – still have trouble accounting for Reed despite being very familiar with him. Reed will need to be free to roam center field at Arrowhead, where he can help take away big play wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. If Charles and Jones are gashing the defensive line and getting into the second level consistently, Reed and Dawan Landry will be forced to come up in the box more, which makes the play action and Dwayne Bowe much more dangerous.
As always, it starts with stopping the run. Bowe is really, really good, and will likely get his handful of catches and approach 100 yards. But he has over twice as many receiving yards as the next guy on the list for the Chiefs. As a result of the Chiefs’ Bowe-focused passing attack, I’ll definitely take Reed over Cassel for a four-quarter span.
The Chiefs gave up a fair amount of sacks as well, including seven last week to the Raiders. Terrell Suggs in particular has a very favorable match-up, going against left tackle Brandon Albert. Albert, a graduate of Glen Burnie High School, gave up eight sacks in his fifteen starts in 2010. I don’t know about you, but I’d say a “Gopher” has zero chance against Sizzle.
With game-time temperatures in the 20’s expected, Billy Cundiff’s kickoff skills may not be on full display. He struggled to get the ball into the end zone in the colder games down the stretch. However, kick returner David Reed is expected to return. Reed led the NFL in kickoff return average after winning the job midseason, and could provide a nice spark.
Kansas City has the home field advantage, but the Ravens have the distinct advantage of recent playoff experience. The Chiefs are a young team on the rise, but the veteran presence of Baltimore will wear down the home squad. The Ravens know exactly how to go into hostile territory and quiet an opposing crowd, having done it in Miami, Tennessee, and New England in recent years. Let’s take care of business at Arrowhead, and force Chiefs fans to wait at least another year before seeing that long-awaited postseason win.
Ravens 23 Chiefs 17
In case you missed it (you probably did – who’s up at 8 AM on a Saturday?), your favorite bloggers were on ESPN Radio 1300 this morning on the “Jimmie Knows” show. Listen below as NestMinder, Goob, and Nick-a-What offer our opinions on the Ravens-Chiefs game including final score predictions.
This will play in any of your Media Players (Real Player, iTunes, Windows Media Player).