Archive for September, 2011

Ravens, Ngata Agree to 5-Year Deal

September 20, 2011

Perhaps (or perhaps not) thanks in part to Goob’s attempted viral twitter campaign to #SignHalotiNgata, the Ravens have agreed to terms with the beastly defensive tackle, according to his agent Mike McCartney.

Ngata, who was playing this season under the Franchise tag, will sign his new five-year deal this afternoon, just about an hour before the NFL deadline. It was looking less and less like the deal wasn’t going to get done this year, as had the 4 PM deadline passed today, the Ravens would have been forced to wait until the next “league year” to resume negotiations with Ngata and his agent.

The terms have not yet been disclosed, but Ngata’s deal is expected to eclipse the one signed by New England Patriots’ defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in 2010, a 5-year, $40 million contract.

Update: According to Aaron Wilson, Ngata’s deal pays him $20 million over the first two years, making him the highest paid non-quarterback in the NFL. Wow.

With Ngata locked up, the Ravens not only free some salary cap space for themselves, but they free up the franchise tag, should they need to use it next year on guard Ben Grubbs or running back Ray Rice, who will both become unrestricted free agents in 2012.

What's Important Now – Fixing the Passing Game

September 20, 2011

I was originally going to single out the passing defense – not the offense – in this week’s W.I.N. However, upon further review, I’m actually more concerned about the Ravens’ inability to move the ball through the air, and especially the complete absence of wide receivers from their game plans.

Sure, the passing defense was bad on Sunday – Matt Hasselbeck dropped back 42 times and was never sacked, and put up 358 yards through the air.

Pass defense, though, is a lost art in the NFL in 2011. The league has done pretty much all that it can to encourage gobs and gobs of yards via aerial assault, stopping just short of tying defensive backs’ hands behind their backs. Look around the league – the top seven quarterbacks in terms of passing yards are AVERAGING over 300 yards per game. Tom Brady and rookie Cam Newton are putting up regular 400 and 500 yard performances.

What is most concerning at the moment is not the Ravens’ inability to stop the pass, but the fact that they are so far behind the times in their offensive strategy, and their inability to hop aboard the pass-happy train that has stormed through the league.

Joe Flacco has averaged 210.5 yards passing through two games, good for 25th in the NFL, and ahead of only such gunslingers as Andy Dalton, Kerry Collins, Tarvaris Jackson, Alex Smith, Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel, and Luke McCown.

Ravens wide receivers have caught a total of nine passes through two games – seven by Anquan Boldin and two by Lee Evans.

To put that in perspective, Titans’ wide receiver Kenny Britt caught nine passes by himself on Sunday. Titans wideouts hauled in a total of 21 balls against the Ravens.

There are 22 wide receivers in the NFL who have caught more passes through two games than every WR on the Ravens’ roster combined.

What the hell is going on here?

Sure, the Ravens fancy themselves a run-first, smashmouth type of squad, but with NO threat coming from the wideouts whatsoever, teams will be quick to take that away.

One of the problems on Sunday was protection. Flacco was sacked three times and harassed all afternoon, despite the fact that the Titans blitzed only three times all day. They consistently generated pressure with only four pass rushers (sometimes only three).

Unfortunately, things may get worse before they get better. Evans, who has been dealing with a sore ankle since game 3 of the preseason, and is obviously playing at less than 100%, may get a few games off in the near future, according to Coach John Harbaugh.

Without Evans, the Ravens will be pretty much forced to line up rookie Torrey Smith (0 catches, 1 target in 2011) on every down. Fellow rookie Tandon Doss has been inactive through the first two weeks, which needs to change. The focus in practice for B’More this week should be getting Smith and Doss integrated in the offense ASAP. There is no reason they can’t start contributing sooner rather than later.

The Ravens have tossed around the excuse that Boldin is only in his second year in Baltimore, while Evans, Smith, and Doss are in their respective firsts, as to why there isn’t more chemistry between them and Flacco.

To counter that argument, I would simply again point to the gaudy numbers put up by Hasselbeck on Sunday. Matt is in his first year with any of those Titan receivers, but they seemed to be a well-oiled machine here after just two weeks.

To borrow a line from Ray Lewis, bottom line, it’s time to start getting the guys with jersey numbers in the 80s involved in the offense. That’s What’s Important Now.

Titans 26 Ravens 13 (The TITANIC LETDOWN Game)

September 19, 2011

I’m not hungover…I’m not hungover

After a night of binge drinking, you can wake up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror and say “I’m not hungover” as many times as you want – the fact of the matter is, your head will still hurt.

That seems to be about what happened to the Ravens this week. They spent all week saying the right things after their week 1 win over Pittsburgh – there will be no hang over, no let down, every week is different in the NFL, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Coach John Harbaugh even chastised one unlucky reporter who used the “L” word, completely dismissing any notion that his team would suffer a drop in intensity or execution at LP Field in Nashville.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened.

All credit to the Tennessee Titans, of course, who thoroughly beat the Ravens up and down the field for four quarters on Sunday. Ravens fans are left scratching their heads this Monday morning, as it will take quite a bit of convincing to make us believe that the team we saw take on the Titans is the same group of guys that beat the Steelers handily a week prior.

Sometimes the stats of a game don’t tell the whole story. Yesterday’s numbers pretty much paint an accurate picture:

  • First downs: Titans 21 Ravens 15
  • Total yards: Titans 432 Ravens 229
  • Passing yards: Titans 358 Ravens 184
  • Third down conversions: Titans 7/17 (41%) Ravens 3/10 (30%)
  • Sacks: Titans 3 Ravens 0
  • Time of possession: Titans 35:22 Ravens 24:08
  • Turnovers: Titans 1 Ravens 3

Whooped in every aspect of the game. All the questions that fans and media had about this team coming into the season – how will they pressure the quarterback? How will the secondary hold up? Will the new receivers and Joe Flacco be on the same page? What about the new-look offensive line? – that seemed to all be answered in resounding positive fashion a week ago, are now all suddenly right back on the table.

Titans’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw 42 passes and was not sacked even once. A far cry from the three sacks and constant pressure the Ravens managed against Ben Roethlisberger.

With Chris Carr and Jimmy Smith missing the game due to injury, Hasselbeck and receivers Kenny Britt (9 catches, 135 yards, 1 TD) and Nate Washington (7/99) had their way with the Ravens’ secondary.

All the speed that the Ravens put on display in the opener was nowhere to be found in Nashville. Just like last year, B’More route runners were getting no separation down the field in the routes, and as a result we saw the same happy-feet, indecisive Flacco that we saw in 2009 and 2010. Lee Evans is obviously not playing at 100%, and Anquan Boldin continues to be Mr. Drop-balls-in-the-end-zone.

Guard Ben Grubbs missed the first game of his Ravens career, and was replaced by Mark LeVoir. The results were less than stellar, but LeVoir wasn’t the only problem. Pretty much every offensive lineman with the exception of Marshal Yanda took a step backward yesterday; Bryant McKinnie was nowhere near the mauler he was a week ago, and Michael Oher reverted back to his old false-starting ways (two flags) after successfully waiting for the ball to be snapped to move all last week. There were no holes for running back Ray Rice to scoot through, and the Titans were getting good pressure on Flacco all afternoon – sometimes with only three rushers.

The Ravens defense couldn’t get off the field on third down – especially in the second half, with the game still very much in the balance – or convert their own attempts on offense. Cam Cameron, who looked like a genius a week ago, had some of the questionable play calls we’ve come to expect from him over the years. A throwback pass to Ed Dickson on 3rd-and-2 jumps immediately to mind – wasn’t the focus during the offseason to improve the power and short-yardage running game? You’ve got Ray Rice and Vonta Leach…jam the ball in there and get two damn yards!

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano looked like a genius against Pittsburgh, but he was unable to get consistent pressure on Hasselbeck all afternoon. Hasselbeck seemed to know exactly when and from where the Ravens were blitzing, again and again throwing quick passes to the opposite side from which the pressure was coming. With Ravens corners (especially Lardarius Webb) playing 8-10 yards off the line of scrimmage, Britt was able to turn 1-yard passes into good gains on several occasions.

All the good feelings and momentum the Ravens cultivated in their week 1 win are now a thing of the past. The Steelers – as everyone knew they would – handled the Seattle Seahawks easily. The entire AFC North is now 1-1. The Ravens go back to the drawing board, where they need to figure out what the difference in their play was between week 1 and week 2. The early returns indicate that we could be in for yet another season of maddening inconsistency from a team that has the talent to be much better.

S.I. Cover Jinx. I’m a believer.


Ravens (1-0) @ Titans (0-1)

September 16, 2011

The Ravens go from their current most heated rivalry to one of their former fiercest rivals this week, taking on the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. Back in the old AFC Central days, these two teams had some epic battles. The Ravens were the first visiting team to win in what was then Adelphia Coliseum (now LP Field), and they knocked out the #1 seeded Titans on their way to the Super Bowl XXXV victory.

The rivalry heated up again nicely in 2008, when these two played two more hotly contested games. During the regular season in Baltimore, the Ravens dominated the stat sheet but lost 13-10 on a last minute Titans’ touchdown drive that was aided by a very questionable roughing the passer call on Terrell Suggs. In the playoffs, the Titans once again had the #1 seed, and this time it was they who dominated most of the game only to lose at the end. In what we at the time described as a bit of cosmic justice, the Ravens’ game-winning drive was also aided by the officials, who gave Joe Flacco an extra second or two after the play clock had expired to get off a key snap that turned into a first down completion to Todd Heap.

The rivalry has again gone dormant though, as those 2008 playoffs were the last time these two teams met.

The Titans are no longer coached by Jeff Fisher, the guy at the helm for every one of those aforementioned rivalry games, and the NFL’s longest tenured head coach at the time he was let go. Mike Munchak takes over a squad that went 14-18 over Fisher’s final two seasons, and won only 6 games in 2010. Munchak is looking for his first win as an NFL head coach, as the Titans fell last week in Jackonsville 16-14.

Veteran Matt Hasselbeck comes over from Seattle to quarterback the Titans this year. Hasselbeck has had some success against the Ravens in the past as a Seahawk; in 2007, he was 18/27 with 2 TDs and 2 INTs as Seattle rolled the Ravens 27-6, and in 2003 in Baltimore, he went 23/41 for 333 yards and FIVE touchdowns in that crazy game where the Ravens came back to win 44-41. Hasselbeck was respectable in his Titans’ debut, going 21/34 for 263, 1 TD, and 1 INT last week.

The Ravens will look to get after him like they did Ben Roethlisberger last week, when they forced the Pittsburgh quarterback into five turnovers. They will again be without #1 cornerback rookie Jimmy Smith, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the Steelers game, and likely without Chris Carr, who is dealing with a hamstring issue. Tennessee’s main weapon in the passing game is third-year player Kenny Britt. Britt, who many Ravens fans were hoping to see the team draft back in 2009, caught 5 passes for 136 yards and two scores last week, including an 80 yard touchdown reception. Containing Britt will be no small task, especially considering that the Ravens’ main focus will still have to be on the Titans’ running game.

Chris Johnson, perhaps the fastest man in the NFL, is coming off a very un-CJ2K like performance in Jacksonville, where he had just 9 carries for 24 yards. Johnson had success against the Ravens in the ’08 playoff game (11 carries, 72 yards) before leaving with an injury, after B’More had bottled him up well in week 5 (18/44). Johnson, like Jamaal Charles of Kansas City who the Ravens had to deal with in last year’s playoffs, can break off a 70 or 80 yard score at any time. Ravens’ nose tackle Terrance Cody played reasonably well against Pittsburgh, but he will really need to step up this week with Johnson taking handoffs.

The Titans’ defense should realistically be easy pickens for the Ravens this week, considering what they did to Pittsburgh in week 1. Aside from cornerback Cortland Finnegan and former Bucs linebacker Barrett Rudd, there aren’t many recognizable names on the unit that gave up 323 yards (163 rushing) and 20 first downs to the Luke McCown-led Jaguars in week 1. Maurice Jones-Drew, a very similar back to Ray Rice, averaged over 4 yards per carry last week.

The Ravens offense looked better against Pittsburgh last week than they ever have, and they need to carry that momentum forward to prove that it wasn’t just a fluke. The newly added speed, including tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, and wide receiver Lee Evans (who, though he didn’t have a catch, effectively opened up underneath routes for the backs and tight ends) made the Steelers look old and slow. B’More’s new-look offensive line had a very good game, and should only continue to get better. Look for the Ravens to again aim for a balanced attack (they had the same number of runs as passes last week), with Rice and the tight ends as the focus until Tennessee forces them to go elsewhere.

The Titans and their fans will be fired up for their home opener. The Ravens, though, know that a let-down this week would immediately erase not only all those good feelings from the Steelers win, but also their advantage in the standings moving forward. Games like this always make Ravens fans, who remember Brian Billick teams continually losing to lesser teams, very uneasy. John Harbaugh squads have had no such issues during his tenure though (save for the Bengals), and the Ravens should be able to go into LP Field and handle their business.

Ravens 27 Titans 13

TMZ Report – Chris McAlister is Broke, Living in Mom's Basement (UPDATE – REPORT DISPUTED)

September 15, 2011

This came as more of a surprise here at the Nest than it probably should have, unfortunately.

TMZ is reporting today that former Ravens Pro-Bowl and Super Bowl winning cornerback Chris McAlister is out of money and is living in his parents’ basement.

From TMZ:

Former NFL bad ass Chris McAlister — who signed a $55 MILLION contract in 2004 — claims he’s BROKE AS A JOKE and living with his parents … this according to court docs obtained by TMZ.

The ex-Baltimore Ravens defensive superstar has just filed new documents in his child support war with his ex-wife Marlene in the hopes of  lowering his $11,000 per month obligation.

In the docs, Chris — a 1st round NFL draft pick in 1999 who played in the league for 10 years — states, “I have been unemployed since 2009. I have no income.”

He adds, “I live in my parent’s home. My parents provide me with my basic living expenses as I do not have the funds to do so.”

The whole “athlete goes from riches-to-rags” story is hardly an unfamiliar one, but that doesn’t make the individual instances of it any less tragic.

McAlister had the talent to be the best CB in the league during his playing years, but always seemed distracted by off-the-field pursuits – namely drinking and partying. His days as a Raven were numbered from the day “players’ coach” Brian Billick was replaced by disciplinarian John Harbaugh. Indeed, after McAlister caused some sort of scene at the hotel in Miami in Week 7 of the 2008 season, he never suited up in purple again. He appeared in three games for the New Orleans Saints during their Super Bowl year in 2009, but hasn’t played since.

Update: “Downtown Diane” took to twitter to dispute TMZ’s report:

The lesson here? As always, don’t trust TMZ.

Ed Reed Made History on his Birthday

September 15, 2011

On Sunday, Ed Reed’s 33rd birthday, Ben Roethlisberger was feeling quite generous. The big Pittsburgh quarterback, whom Reed had never before intercepted in their careers, lofted two gift picks right to #20.

With the second interception, Reed notched his 12th career game with multiple interceptions, more than any player in the NFL’s Super Bowl era. He had previously been tied with Ronnie Lott. What’s even more amazing is that it was the THIRD CONSECUTIVE regular season game in which Reed picked off two passes (he intercepted Colt McCoy twice in Week 16 and Carson Palmer twice in Week 17 in 2010).

Jason Cole of Yahoo! sports breaks down Reed’s amazing accomplishments further, in his piece titled “Reed is the greatest NFL thief of all-time.

Reed has 56 picks in his career and moved into a tie for 16th with Lem Barney and Pat Fischer on the all-time list. By the end of the season, Reed has a chance to move way up. There’s currently a five-way tie for the next spot at 57 and Emmitt Thomas is 10th with 58. After that, it jumps to Dick LeBeau and Dave Brown with 62 each and Lott and Darren Sharper at 63.

In contrast, Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu, considered the best safety not-named Ed Reed of this era, is tied for 246th with 27 interceptions.

But the raw numbers only begin to tell the story. Understand that Reed has gotten there faster than just about anyone, getting those interceptions in only 129 regular-season games. That is the fewest of all but one (Bobby Boyd) of the 18 players with 56 or more. Barney played in 140 games, Johnny Robinson (57 interceptions) played in 164 and Tunnell played in 167.

Others took a lot longer to compile their impressive pick total. Krause, for instance, played in 226 games and Woodson played in 238. Eugene Robinson, who is among those just ahead of Reed with 57 picks, played in nearly twice as many games (250) as the Baltimore safety.

Furthermore, Reed is playing at a time when it’s harder than ever to get an interception. While the NFL is much more of a passing league, a big reason is that throwing is safer than ever.

In 1960, when Tunnell was playing his second-to-last season, the NFL averaged one interception every 15 throws (there were 274 interceptions on 4,114 attempts for the season). By 2010, that rate dropped to one interception every 33.8 throws (511 interceptions in 17,269 attempts). The reasons are ample, from the greater use of spread formations and short passing to the improvement in quarterback play. Bottom line, getting a pick takes much greater skill today than ever.

Wear those #20 jerseys proudly Ravens fans. Ed Reed is quickly and efficiently solidifying what was already a very impressive resume to send to Canton in a handful of years.

Which of course isn’t to suggest that Reed is slowing down any – his last three games pretty much summarily dismiss any suggestion to the contrary – just that we all need to be cognizant of the fact that we are witnessing history, and greatness, from the best ball hawk ever.

Suggs Named AFC Defensive Player of the Week

September 14, 2011

photo c/o @WNST

It was bound to be one of the Ravens.

After sacking Ben Roethlisberger four times and causing seven turnovers in Week 1, either Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, or Haloti Ngata was going to be named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

It ended up being Sizzle, the proud new owner of one slightly beaten and bruised Roethlisberger ass.

Suggs, who became the Ravens’ all-time leader in sacks on Sunday, brought down “Big Ben” three times and caused two fumbles, both of which were recovered by the Ravens.

He always shows up big for Ravens-Steelers, and Sunday was no exception. Sizzle has now brought down Roethlisberger 15.5 times in their careers, more than any other player in the league.

Two Point Conversion Done out of Respect, Not Disrespect

September 13, 2011

In the two days since the Ravens’ 35-7 victory over the Steelers (never get tired of typing that), I’ve heard several talking head and sports talk radio caller types droning on about how the Ravens were somehow “piling on” or “disrespecting” Pittsburgh when Sam Koch ran the ball in for two after B’More went up 27-7 early in the third quarter.

It’s not just the typical yapping blowhards though. Even some of the Steelers were apparently offended. Here’s Cheap Shot after the game:

“It leaves a taste in your mouth,” he said. “The 2-point conversion [when the Ravens led, 27-7]. The passing at the end …

“We’ll remember everything.”

Give me a break, Hiney. I know his feelings were probably just as hurt as the rest of his body was after the game, but that’s just some sour grapes whining right there.

Not only that, but that line of thinking is patently WRONG.

Far from being a sign of disrespect from the Ravens, the decision to exploit the Pittsburgh special teams in that situation was much more a show of RESPECT to them. Respect to the abilities of both their vaunted defense and their star quarterback to bring them back.

Did Hines and the rest of the “disrespect” card-playing crowd already forget what happened the last time the Ravens and Steelers met?

Just like this time around, the Ravens had 21 points at the half and the Steelers had 7. And then after four quarters, the Steelers had 31, and the Ravens had 24. One need only go back to THE LAST GAME these two teams played to find the Ravens’ justification for trying to score absolutely as many points as possible, every chance they got, on Sunday.

But hell, let’s look back at some other (Ben and non-Ben) Steelers vs. Ravens games from recent memory:

  • 2008 Week 4 – Ravens hold a double digit halftime lead in Pittsburgh, 13-3. Steelers win in overtime, 23-20.
  • 2008 Week 15 – Ravens lead 6-3 at the half. Steelers win 13-9.
  • 2009 Week 12 – Ravens lead 14-7 at the half. Steelers force overtime before Ravens win 23-20.
  • 2010 Week 4 – Ravens lead 10-7 at halftime. Steelers take the lead and Ravens need a last-minute drive to win 17-14.
  • 2010 Week 13 – Ravens lead 7-0 at the break. Steelers win 13-10.

Notice a trend here? The Ravens lead at halftime, the Steelers come all the way back and at least take the lead, if not win outright.

And somehow the Ravens are supposed to be comfortable with even a 28-7 lead with 29:40 left in the game?

A three touchdown lead, in the minds of Ravens fans everywhere, could have been easily overcome by a strip-sack fumble recovery by Troy Polamalu, a deep bomb to Mike Wallace, and a Ben-wriggling-out-of-a-sure-sack to lob a 15-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller.

That one additional point, at that juncture in the game, meant that Pittsburgh would not only have to score three touchdowns to tie the game, but they would also, at some point, have to try for and convert a two-point conversion of their own. One that the Ravens would be expecting. It put the contest just that little bit further out of reach, which was absolutely the right thing to do when the opportunity presented itself.

Mike Tomlin left his starters in the game until the final snap when Terrell Suggs brought down Roethlisberger for the third time. He wasn’t giving up. So why should the Ravens stop scoring?

This is the NFL, people. The Ravens weren’t running up the score or disrespecting anybody by opting to try to go up by 22 points instead of 21 with nearly an entire half of football left to play. They were recognizing the skill and determination of an opponent that has proven time and again more than able to overcome most any deficit against them. That they were unable to do so Sunday was a testament to the fact that the Ravens never stopped trying to put them out of reach.

What's Important Now – Steelers Getting Jacked Up

September 13, 2011

For the last couple years here at the Nest, we’ve had a weekly segment called “Play Like a Raven.” In it, I chose a player (or group of players) who most “played like a Raven” in that week’s game and gave them my e-game ball. I also picked a guy or a group to berate a bit for what I deemed sub-par performances.

Well, for no reason other than I’m a little bit bored with it, “Play Like a Raven” is going on indefinite hiatus around these parts.

Instead (for now at least), it will be replaced with a new weekly feature, “W.I.N. – What’s Important Now.” For some background on this slogan, let’s look at the Ravens’ official page:

According to Foster’s official website, “W.I.N.” means: “To make change; to influence; to use this moment to be better than the last; to achieve greatness in all aspects of your life; win at home. Win at school. Win at business. Win at life.”

The Ravens have embraced “W.I.N.” ever since Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore three years ago.

For our first installment of “W.I.N,” let’s take a look at what was important in Week 1 – Pittsburgh Steelers players getting their clocks cleaned:

Let’s not save the best for last. Cheap Shot, come on down!

Ed Reed got some revenge on Hiney as well, forcing an incomplete pass and nearly ripping #86’s head off in the process:

Rashard Mendenhall, have you met Haloti Ngata?

“God can have his soul, but his ass is mine.”

One more time, just for good measure:

I could watch that all day.

The Ravens thoroughly outhit the Steelers on Sunday, as evidenced above. They physically intimidated them and imposed their will, directly leading to the WIN. That’s What’s Important Now.


Ravens 35 Steelers 7 (The STAIRWAY TO SEVEN….TURNOVERS Game)

September 12, 2011

For all the talk over the past eight months about how the Ravens couldn’t beat the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger on the field, they not only beat them with #7 on the field Sunday, they beat them like they stole something. Beat them like they haven’t since at least 2006, and perhaps like they never even had.

While it obviously would have been nice for the Ravens to finish a game in which they built a 21-7 halftime lead back in January like they did this time around, this result was better late than never. Let’s take a look at how it went down.

Starting Quick – with Speed and Power

Remember the Ravens’ first offensive snap of the 2010 season? Joe Flacco dropped back, the entire offensive line went to the ground, and Joe got absolutely sandwiched by two New York Jets, fumbling the ball. It was ugly.

2011 started off a little bit more positive.

Ray Rice took the handoff from Flacco and went left, behind new tackle Bryant McKinnie (who took both Jameses – Harrison and Farrior – out of the play), for a huge 36 yard gain. With that, Rice was well on his way to becoming the first opposing running back to go over 100 against Pittsburgh since he himself last did it, in 2009. On the play, Rice gave a nice stiffarm to Ryan “not a rivalry” Clark before scooting for about 15 more yards.

Joe Flacco’s first pass of the season, two snaps later, found Anquan Boldin in the end zone for a 27 yard score.

Haloti and Terrell

The Ravens absolutely dominated the Steelers’ offensive line, with Suggs and Ngata doing the most damage. On the Steelers’ second possession, already trailing 7-0, Suggs came through untouched and blew Ben up, knocking the ball loose. Ngata pounced on it, and four plays later Ray Rice punched it in from the 1 and the rout was on.

It was the first of Suggs’ three sacks and two forced fumbles (both recovered by the Ravens) on the day. The ninth-year defensive end/linebacker hybrid also surpassed Peter Boulware to become the Ravens franchise’s all-time leader in sacks.

Suggs had a now viral quip coming off the field, when he said of Roethlisberger, “God can have his soul, but his ass is mine.”

As for Ngata, he made Ravens fans who are already uneasy about his being yet to sign a long-term contract even more anxious to see a contract get done. On the Steelers’ first play of the second quarter, with Ravens fans everywhere feeling exceptionally nauseous thinking back to last year’s blown 14-point lead, Ngata busted through Pittsburgh’s line and nearly decapitated Rashard Mendenhall as he took the handoff.  The ball popped loose, Ngata pulled it in, and Joe Flacco hit Ed Dickson just one play later to extend the purple lead.

Mendenhall’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates as big #92 barreled towards him at full speed (full speed for Ngata is pretty damn fast, by the way, as he showed in chasing down the speedy Mike Wallace from behind later in the game), something announcer Jim Nantz was kind enough to point out on the CBS broadcast.


Stairway to Seven…Turnovers

The “Stairway to Seven,” as Steelers fans love to call the team’s quest for a seventh Lombardi Trophy, was derailed in February by the Green Bay Packers.

This next iteration of the stairway got off to a great start as well, as the Steelers managed to turn the ball over an incredible SEVEN TIMES in this one.

Roethlisberger himself was responsible for five of them, with the two aforementioned fumbles and three interceptions. One of the picks was tipped at the line by Ngata, but the other two were just incredibly bad and ill advised throws by the two-time Super Bowl champion.

Ed Reed, after a string of disappearing acts against the Steelers, found himself in the right place twice (almost three times) as Ben floated wounded ducks into the Ravens’ secondary.

As Ben scrambled around and unleashed those balls, Ravens fans’ hearts everywhere dropped. We’ve just seen it too many times. As the camera panned away from the line of scrimmage, we just knew we were about to see Heath Miller or Mike Wallace pull in a touchdown to get Pittsburgh back in the game.

Instead, it was Reed that was standing there waiting.

And again.

Reed handily outplayed his rival (in fans’ minds, anyway), Troy Polamalu. Polamalu’s highlight of the day was a post-whistle takedown of Ray Rice in the third quarter scrum – there’s another of your classy players there, towel-wavers.

Well, he was involved in another highlight – #43 was the one that Ed Dickson streaked past on his touchdown catch.

Offensive Line Answers

For all the hand-wringing that was done around town after John Harbaugh opted to not play his new-look offensive line for even a single play in the final preseason game, the brutes up front made John look like a genius – at least for one day.

McKinnie, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, and Michael Oher (ZERO FALSE STARTS!) manhandled a Steelers front seven that has given the Ravens nightmares in seasons past.

In addition to the 170 rushing yards Rice and Ricky Williams racked up, they also made Harrison and Lamarr Woodley all but disappear as well. Woodley ended up with Pittsburgh’s lone sack on the day, as Flacco had time to throw all day – more time than he’s ever had against a Steelers team.

Some are saying it proves that the Steelers’ defense is getting old and slow, but I’m not going to go quite that far. Harrison is still a bit injured, and Woodley is only 26. Pittsburgh’s ferocious pass rush had an off day, and the Ravens’ O-line had a really good day – those are the only conclusions we can draw at this point.

Some Bad News, Too

As awesome as 35-7 is – and we won’t soon forget it – there were some concerning things to come out of yesterday’s game as well.

The first, and most worrisome, is the injury to rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith was injured on the Ravens’ first kickoff, and it was revealed Monday that he has a high ankle sprain and will likely miss a month.


High ankle sprains are trouble.

Smith wasn’t the only guy in the secondary to get dinged up, as Chris Carr reaggravated his hamstring injury.

Fortunately, the Ravens have the Titans, Rams (who just lost their #1 WR for the season), the Jets, AND a bye week coming up before they face any truly scary passing attacks (Houston comes to Baltimore on October 16).

It was also disappointing to see Lee Evans fail to pull in any passes, despite being targeted several times. Perhaps he is still feeling the effects of that foot injury, but word from M&T Bank Stadium was that he seemed to be lacking the explosiveness he showed against Kansas City in the preseason.

It was only one game.

The Steelers will be fine. They have the Seahawks and the Manning-less Colts next up on their schedule, so expect them to get healthy real quick.

The Ravens aren’t going to beat everybody by 28 points, or suddenly become the 2007 Patriots. They aren’t going to force 112 turnovers this season.

But damn, was it an awesome game.

(Screencaps c/o our old friend Christmas Ape)


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