Archive for January, 2011

Goob's Pregame Thoughts – Wild Card Playoff Edition

January 7, 2011

Here’s Goob Theoharris with his Ravens-Chiefs preview. This week, some fan favorites from Goob videos past make their returns!

Dear Cam: Use the Shotgun…in One Way or Another

January 6, 2011

Everyone that has watched the Ravens play this year has noticed one very obvious fact about the offense: Joe Flacco performs much better when he sets up in the shotgun, as opposed to under center. Joe’s footwork leaves something to be desired at this point in his development, and his slow dropbacks seem to hinder his ability to get the ball out on time. In the no-huddle offense though, and especially in shotgun, Joe just looks more comfortable, and as a result the offense is much more effective.

We can all agree that Joe is best in shotgun, yes?

Of course, our good buddy Cam Cameron seems to be either oddly oblivious to (unlikely) or blatantly ignoring (that’s the one) this fact.  I get it, we’re trying to “develop” Joe into a more complete QB, yadda, yadda, yadda.  This is the postseason now though.  Time to play as much as possible to your players’ strengths.  Shotgun is what Joe ran in college, and it’s what he’s had the most success with in the NFL so far.

Again, I look back to the terrible offensive day the Ravens had Sunday against the Bengals. In the first half, prior to taking possession with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter for what would be their only “hurry-up” attempt of the day, the Ravens put Flacco in shotgun for five plays.

However, ALL of these plays were on 3rd downs, and 4/5 were on extremely obvious 3rd-and-long passing downs:

  • 3rd and goal from CIN 7: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete short left to 27-R.Rice. Penalty on BLT-27-R.Rice, Offensive Pass Interference, declined.
  • 3rd and 15 from BAL 29: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass short middle to 81-A.Boldin to BLT 37 for 8 yards (57-D.Jones).
  • 3rd and 17 from BAL 23: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco sacked at BLT 20 for -3 yards (31-R.Williams).
  • 3rd and 4 from BAL 39: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete deep right to 27-R.Rice. PENALTY on CIN-59-B.Johnson, Defensive Pass Interference, 24 yards, enforced at BLT 39 – No Play.
  • 3rd and 3 from CIN 30: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass short left to 81-A.Boldin to CIN 29 for 1 yard (34-K.Ratliff) [93-M.Johnson].

In the 2nd half, it was more of the same – 5 shotgun formations, 5 3rd-and-long situations:

  • 3rd and 5 from BAL 45: (Shotgun) PENALTY on BLT-84-T.Houshmandzadeh, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at BLT 45 – No Play.
  • 3rd and 10 from BAL 40: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco sacked at BLT 34 for -6 yards (93-M.Johnson).
  • 3rd and 6 from CIN 48: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco sacked at BLT 44 for -8 yards (96-C.Dunlap).
  • 3rd and 5 from BAL 37: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete short left to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh [97-G.Atkins].
  • 3rd and 14 from BAL 22: (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco scrambles up the middle to BLT 25 for 3 yards (97-G.Atkins).

So to sum up, not including the “hurry up” offense at the end of the first half, the Ravens ran 10 plays from shotgun against Cincinnati, and 9/10 of them were on 3rd-down and 4 or more.  The 10th was on 3rd-and-3.

Just like in today’s earlier post, I have to pause here to admire the creative genius of Cam Cameron.

Also, like in the earlier post, I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that it was again just Cam not wanting to tip his hand to Kansas City.

Maybe not though.  I went back and started to look at the previous week’s game against Cleveland – 5 shotgun formations in the first half, all on 3rd-and-long.  On the first drive of the 3rd quarter, Joe finally lined up in shotgun on 2nd-and-7. After that?

  • 3rd and 1
  • 3rd and 6
  • 3rd and 4

Nine shotgun formations, coming on 7 3rd-and-longs, one 2nd-and-7, and one 3rd-and-1.

:anger rising….:

Against New Orleans: 12 shotgun formations, 10 3rd-and-longs, one 2nd-and-8, one 2nd-and-11.

Incredibly – unless I missed something in my research – the last time the Ravens lined up in shotgun on 1st down in a non-hurry-up situation was…Week 12 against Tampa.

Admittedly, I had started this post thinking that I was going to be begging Cam to “go back” to mixing up the offense with more early-down shotgun formations.  After further review though, it’s obvious that hasn’t been part of the game plan in quite some time, so it seems very unlikely that it would suddenly reappear in Kansas City on Sunday.

Three of Flacco’s last four touchdown passes (both against New Orleans, 1/2 in Cleveland) came on 3rd-and-long shotgun formations.  I’d still like to see some of those plays called on earlier downs, but at this point I’m not holding my breath.  With the expected decibel level at Arrowhead, any no-huddle hurry-up – unless absolutely necessary – is unlikely.

Looks like we’ll have to find another use for Cam’s shotgun…

Red Zone is Creativity Dead Zone

January 6, 2011

The Ravens finished the 2010 regular season with a 49.02% “red zone” success rate.  That is, of their 51 offensive attempts inside their opponent’s 20-yard line, they scored 25 touchdowns.

25/51 = 49.02%

This was slightly worse than 2009, when they scored touchdowns on 51.56% of their red zone trips, and good for 22nd overall in the NFL.  Of the twelve 2010 playoff teams, the Ravens rank 8th, ahead of Pittsburgh (48.0%), Chicago (45.1%), Seattle (42%), and the New York Jets (40%).

Excluding the Atlanta game, when they were 3/3 scoring touchdowns in the red zone, the Ravens were worse than their season average in red zone efficiency in their losses.

Cincinnati: 0/1

New England: 1/3

Pittsburgh: 1/2

So in those three losses, they were a combined 2/6 in red zone scoring, or 33%.  Well below their season average.  In addition, for the season the Ravens averaged 3.2 red zone ATTEMPTS per game, but in these three losses averaged only two attempts per game.

Getting to the red zone is half the battle.  Tack on even another field goal and two of those games (New England, Pittsburgh) are right back in the balance.

Putting aside for a moment how frustrating it is that a team with Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh was just 22nd in the league in red zone efficiency, let’s look at another issue.  On Sunday against Cincinnati, it was the Ravens’ lack of creativity in the red zone that really caught my attention.

Again, they only managed two red zone trips all day, despite five Cincinnati turnovers and one kickoff out-of-bounds.  Shown below is the play-by-play for those series:

  1. 1-9-CIN 9 (11:45) (No Huddle) 27-R.Rice left guard to CIN 6 for 3 yards (91-R.Geathers, 58-R.Maualuga).
  2. 2-6-CIN 6 (11:04) 27-R.Rice left guard to CIN 7 for -1 yards (55-K.Rivers).
  3. 3-7-CIN 7 (10:23) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete short left to 27-R.Rice. Penalty on BLT-27-R.Rice, Offensive Pass Interference, declined.
  4. 4-7-CIN 7 (10:13) (Field Goal formation) 7-B.Cundiff 25 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-70-K.Houser, Holder-4-S.Koch. Billy Cundiff now 25-for-28 FGA.
  1. 1-10-CIN 10 (6:26) 27-R.Rice left guard to CIN 7 for 3 yards (55-K.Rivers, 58-R.Maualuga).
  2. 2-7-CIN 7 (5:52) 27-R.Rice up the middle for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Ray Rice scores 6th touchdown of season, 5th rushing touchdown.

Five plays, four of which were Ray Rice runs, and THREE of which were Rice runs over left guard.

That’s some damn creative play-calling right there.

Luckily, Rice busted through on second down of the second opportunity, or else another three-and-field-goal seems extremely likely.

Now, perhaps this was just a case of Cam Cameron not wanting to tip his hand and show the Kansas City Chiefs what he has up his sleeve for this week.  Let’s hope that’s the case.

If the Ravens reach the Kansas City 8-yard line or so Sunday, and I see Ray Rice take consecutive handoffs, I may just put my foot through the television.

Ravens 13 Bengals 7 (The GOING IN WITH A WHIMPER Game)

January 3, 2011

I won’t be one of these insufferable goofs who says that the Ravens are “the worst” 12-4 team ever or somesuch nonsense. No “bad” team wins 12 games in the NFL, and every team that wins 12 or more games in a season has at least some amount of luck sprinkled in throughout the campaign.

What I will say is this – the Ravens are perhaps one of the LEAST INSPIRING 12-4 teams in recent memory. Let’s look around the league at some of the other games featuring teams headed to the postseason against teams that will be playing golf next week:

Steelers 41 Browns 9
Jets 38 Bills 7
Patriots 38 Dolphins 7
Falcons 31 Panthers 10

Four games won by an average of nearly 29 points.

And then we have our game – Ravens 13 Bengals 7. A game that went down to the wire. A game that the Ravens only won because Cincy turned the ball over five times. A game that still required a last second head-scratching throw by Carson Palmer from the Ravens 2-yard line on 4th-and-goal resulting in an incompletion.

When those other teams were all making statements, rolling into the Playoffs with a good head of steam, the Ravens were struggling with the basement-dwelling Bungles, getting outgained 395-199 on their own field, and looking woefully inept on offense and average at best on defense.

Of course, there was another Playoff team in the AFC that had a much worse day than the Ravens, and it just so happens to be the one that they will see in next week’s Wild Card game. The Kansas City Chiefs were completely dominated by the Oakland Raiders, who handed Kansas City their first loss in Arrowhead all season, 31-10. With the Steelers’ decimation of Cleveland, it was that Chiefs’ loss, combined with a late Adam Vinatieri field goal that lifted the Colts over the Titans, which dictated that the Ravens will now travel to Kansas City in round 1, as opposed to again going to Indianapolis.

It’s easier to look forward after yesterday, because looking back is, for the most part, just cringe-inducing. The Ravens were ugly on both sides of the ball.


  • 2/11 on 3rd down
  • Time of possession – 25:18
  • 3.6 yards per rushing play
  • Four sacks allowed
  • Two turnovers
  • Four three-and-outs
  • Four false start penalties (at HOME)
  • Seven punts
  • Stuffed on 2nd-and-1 and 3rd-and-1 with under 2:00 to play and a chance to run out the clock


  • Zero sacks on 45 passing plays
  • Allowed 7/17 on 3rd-down conversions
  • Allowed 395 total yards
  • Cincy time of possession – 34:42

To be fair, the defense did some OK things as well.  First and foremost, Ed Reed.  The man is just incredible.  His two interceptions (for the second straight game) give him 8 for the season, which leads the entire NFL.  Ed Reed leading the NFL in picks is nothing new, but the difference is that this year he did it while playing in only 10 games.  Tied for second are Devin McCourtey of New England, Troy Polamalu of Pittsburgh, and Asante Samuel of Philadelphia, who each had seven interceptions, and played in 16, 14, and 11 games, respectively.

In addition, the defense is to be commended for allowing only 7 points despite being on the field for nearly 35 minutes, as well as for causing five turnovers.

Flacco was an accurate 14/19, but for only 125 yards.  He threw another interception and no touchdowns, bringing his total for the season to 1 score and 5 picks against Cincy, who continues to confound him.  The offensive line was awful, and gave Joe very little time whenever he dropped back, but Flacco again looked slow and confused against the Bengals’ defense.  His interceptions to Todd Heap was a result of the ball coming out about two seconds later than it needed to, and we saw none of the pocket mobility that he had started to show in previous weeks.

Speaking of the o-line, they weren’t much better run-blocking.  Ray Rice found himself running into walls of orange all afternoon on his way to just 77 yards on 20 carries.  Absent from the game plan again were the screen passes to Rice (although there was a very nice one to Todd Heap), or any attempts to get him the ball in space.  For much of the afternoon, Rice was forced to help block, due to the aforementioned ineptitude of the o-line.

Derrick Mason came out after the game and basically admitted that many of the players are frustrated with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s play-calling (Ray Rice was visibly annoyed a few times Sunday), but stated that his teammates need to just suck it up and run the play that is called.

“I guess that has to be the theme of the playoffs — whatever is being called, we have to make it work,” Mason said. “We can no longer point the finger. We’ve got to make it work as an offensive unit. There’s no more excuses because excuses are going to get you beat. The teams that make excuses are going to have to sit at home next week, so we can’t make anymore excuses. Whatever play is called, we’ve got to make it work, so you can’t blame Cam [Cameron]. Whatever it is, we have to make it work.”

Unfortunately, the Ravens are dealing with some injury concerns coming out of this closely contested divisional game.  Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, Josh Wilson, Dannell Ellerbe, and Michael Oher all left the game at various points yesterday, not to return.  The hope here is that all (or at least most) of those guys could have returned to game, but were held out for precautionary purposes once it became clear that the Ravens’ hopes of winning the AFC North were being summarily dismissed in Cleveland.  In fact, after the game, Harbaugh stated that Oher and Ngata could have returned.  Reed’s injury is to the rib area, and he said that he would need to talk to team doctors before knowing the severity.

The Ravens’ offensive struggles also denied Billy Cundiff another opportunity to set the NFL touchbacks record.  Cundiff tied the record when he booted his 40th of the season after Ray Rice’s 7-yard touchdown.  That score was the team’s final one of the day, despite coming with over 20 minutes of game clock remaining.

Let’s not let Sunday’s game get us too down about the team’s chances for postseason success, though.  If you remember last year, the Ravens struggled to beat the Oakland Raiders in Week 17, and then subsequently went to New England and destroyed the Patriots a week later.  Scan your memory bank even further and think back to Week 17 of the 2000 season – the Ravens had an ugly win against the New York Jets, and Vinny Testaverde threw for 481 yards against the best defense of all time.  The Ravens would barely allow that many yards passing combined over the next four games on their way to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.

As much as it may not feel like it, the Ravens have still managed to put together a nice little four game winning streak following the gut-punch against Pittsburgh, and are a very respectable 7-2 since the bye week.  Let’s also remind ourselves that even if they had beaten the Bengals 35-0, they would still be going to the same place – Arrowhead – Sunday at 1 pm.  The postseason is here, every team is 0-0, and anybody can get hot and on a roll at this point.  Also on the bright side, there is very little chance that the Ravens will have to face #18 in blue on their way to Dallas.  Brady or Roethlisberger certainly, but no Manning.

Standing in the way first are Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Let’s hope our walking wounded get healthy over the next six days and go into Kansas City and make us forget all about the Bengals debacle.

Shutdown Sauce Done Gone Murdered Somebody

January 2, 2011

Late breaking news via multiple outlets on Twitter have been swirling around horrific Orioles closer, Alfredo Simon, who is in jail after he shot someone in Luperton, Puerto Plata (where the hell is that!?)

“Shutdown Sauce” as he has been known in Baltimore, has likely injected his career with some shutdown sauce and probably will never be heard from again. He also does nothing to help the professional athlete image Baltimore has been fighting for years.

So now Simon goes from blowing games for the Orioles to blowing guys in jail probably for the rest of his life. It sucks that someone died but as it relates to the Orioles, they’re probably better now that he won’t be coming out of the bullpen ever again.

UPDATE: Apparently this was a dispute on New Years and a 25 year old man was killed and a 17 year old was shot. The police are still searching for Simon but he has talked to the O’s and insists he had nothing to do with this. (TURN YOURSELF IN THEN DUMBASS!)

UPDATE 2: Looks like it was one of those incidents where everyone is shooting their guns up in the air indiscriminately.  You hear about these kinds of things fairly often from countries where people like to celebrate things with guns (instead of using them to settle differences like we do here in ‘Murrica), and who apparently still don’t comprehend the whole “gravity” concept.  Extremely tragic, and 100% avoidable.  It may turn out that it wasn’t Simon’s gun, but that doesn’t make this story any less sad.

Bengals (4-11) @ Ravens (11-4)

January 1, 2011

The Ravens enter their Week 17 finale against Cincinnati with everything still to play for. A win, combined with a Steelers loss in Cleveland, would give the Ravens the AFC’s #2 seed and a first round playoff bye. However, if Pittsburgh takes care of business against the Browns – the most likely scenario – the Ravens’ game against the Bengals will be essentially meaningless. The worst case scenario, which a Steelers’ win would dictate no matter the outcome in Baltimore, is the #5 seed. The New York Jets can’t possibly overtake the Ravens for that spot, by virtue of the Ravens’ Week 1 win in the New Meadowlands.

As Steelers-Browns and Ravens-Bengals are both 1 PM kickoffs, though, the Ravens have no choice but to go into the game treating it as a must-win. Should Pittsburgh build a large lead in Cleveland, John Harbaugh may decide to “call off the dogs” and put some of his subs into the game. The Ravens, along with the 70,000 plus maniacs at the Purple Palace, will be scoreboard-watching intently during Sunday’s game.

At the very least, this game offers the Ravens a chance to “exorcise some demons,” if you will. They have not beaten the Bengals since 2008, having lost three straight in the series, and it’s the Bengals’ Week 2 win over the Ravens that is, in effect, keeping them from having the inside track to the division title and all that comes along with it.

Joe Flacco’s struggles against Cincinnati are well-documented. With a potential Wild Card weekend match up against the Indianapolis Colts looming, it would warm the hearts of Ravens fans – and likely, coaches – to see Joe show that he can overcome some of his previous struggles against the Cover 2 defense. Since his disastrous Week 2 in Cincy, Flacco has the NFL’s second highest passer rating, and has tossed 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Fortunately, Joe won’t have to do it all himself. The Ravens have reestablished their identity as a run-first football team over the last several weeks, climbing from 19th-ranked to 13th on the ground since the Houston game.  The Bengals, for what it’s worth, have had no luck stopping either the pass or the run in 2010, as their attempt to defend their 2009 AFC North title has been nothing short of pathetic.  They are 4-11, and had lost 10 straight at one point, until winning their last two against Cleveland and San Diego.

Their victory over the Chargers a week ago came as nothing short of a shock to the NFL-watching world.  San Diego still had a playoff berth within their grasp, but were completely dominated at Paul Brown Stadium as the Bengals rolled 34-20.

The hope is that San Diego simply overlooked the Bengals, who were playing without both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.  “Batman and Robin” will be out again this week, but Carson Palmer, after looking completely washed up for most of the season, looked as good as he has since 2005 last week without dumb and dumber out there running routes.  He completed his first 10 passes on his way to 269 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a career-best 157.2 passer rating.  The Ravens would be wise to not sleep on wideouts Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, and tight end Jermaine Gresham.  Those four carved up the Chargers in the absence of 81 and 85.

The Ravens’ defense redeemed themselves a week ago against the Browns’ Peyton Hillis, and they’ll look to do the same against the Bengals’ Cedric Benson.  Benson went over the 100-yard mark twice against the Ravens in 2009, but had just 78 yards on 23 carries in the first meeting in 2010.  Benson, after a career resurgence last season, is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry this year.

Some other notes:

  • The Ravens have not lost a season finale since 2005
  • Billy Cundiff needs two touchbacks to tie the NFL record
  • Ray Rice has over 100 yards from scrimmage in 3 straight against the Bengals
  • Anquan Boldin has more than 3 receptions just twice since the Week 8 bye
  • Todd Heap is expected to play, after missing the past 3 games, and all but one play of the Pittsburgh game

If the cards fall right, and Cleveland has a comfortable fourth quarter lead against the Steelers while the Ravens are pounding the Bengals, the atmosphere at M&T Bank Stadium around 4 PM Sunday could be better than any we’ve seen in Baltimore in nearly a decade – the equivalent to a playoff win.  If not, no big deal – but damn would it be cool.  Let’s hope.

Ravens 27 Bengals 17


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