Archive for November, 2011

GOOBVISION: Obligatory Seahawks Preview

November 12, 2011

It was pointed out to me that both of the Ravens’ two losses this season came on weeks where I didn’t post a game preview for that opponent. As a result, I’m not going to miss any more weeks this year. However, since this is just a superstitious video, it won’t have any of the usual GOOBVISION bells or whistles. I’d say to enjoy this, but you won’t. Still gotta do it. Go Ravens.

Ravens (6-2) @ Seahawks (2-6)

November 11, 2011

The Ravens head to Seattle this week to take on Pete Carroll’s squad as well as the famous “12th man” crowd at Qwest Field. The last time the Ravens made this trip, they were smacked around by Matt Hasselbeck (hey, sound familiar?) as Troy Smith made his first NFL start, and I was inspired to write some “Ravens Suck” themed Xmas Carols. That was back in 2007, of course, so lets hope that four years later the results will be markedly different.

Our purple and black look to avoid their third loss of the season to a clearly inferior opponent, after dropping road games in Nashville and Jacksonville. Both of those games, like this one, followed on the heels of huge wins over quality teams. After a big emotional victory like the one last Sunday in Pittsburgh, the team could be primed for another letdown. Since it’s already happened twice this season though, let’s hope they can learn from their past missteps and take care of business on the West Coast.

Seattle has already played the other three teams in the AFC North, falling to all of them. Pittsburgh routed them 24-0 at Heinz Field, the Browns beat them 6-3 in a stinker in Cleveland, and Cincinnati went up to Qwest and pounded the ‘Hawks 34-12. We can’t be the only ones in the division to lose to them, can we?

The Seahawks have shown flashes of competence this season, losing by just two points to the Atlanta Falcons at home in Week 4, then going to the New Meadowlands and beating the New York Giants 36-25 in Week 5. Since then, they’ve lost three in a row though, most recently falling in Dallas 23-13 last Sunday.

On offense, Seattle boasts an explosive running back in Marshawn Lynch. The last time the Ravens faced Lynch – also in 2007, though when he was a member of the Buffalo Bills – they held him to 84 yards on 27 carries (3.1 avg). Marshawn’s once-promising career hasn’t shaped up the way many thought it would when he came out of the University of California, but he’s having a bit of a resurgence in Seattle, averaging 4.1 yards per carry with 4 scores this season. He is, of course, always capable of plays like this one from last year’s playoffs:

The Ravens’ run defense has been stout as always here in 2011, coming in at #3 in the league allowing 86.8 yards per game. Haloti Ngata appeared to be playing hurt in Pittsburgh, so hopefully he will be back close to 100% and his dominating self this week. Terrence Cody and Cory Redding have also been stout against the run, and Ray Lewis is once again defying father time and playing at a high level (Lewis was named 2nd team All-Pro for the first half of the season by Pro Football Focus this week).

It will be interesting to see what game plan the Ravens come out with on offense Sunday. Joe Flacco once again showed his comfort level with the shotgun short passing game last week, not only in the game-winning 92 yard drive, but throughout the game with his great success on 3rd downs. Dallas’s DeMarco Murray was the first runner to break the 100-yard mark against Seattle this season, and they are tied with the Ravens for 2nd in the NFL allowing only 3.4 yards per carry. There isn’t likely to be a lot of room for Ray Rice on the ground, so let’s hope “Good Joe” shows up for the second consecutive week.

Lee Evans practiced Wednesday and Thursday this week, and could return to the lineup for the first time since Week 2. Having Evans back on the field along with Anquan Boldin (the NFL’s leading receiver over the past four weeks) and Torrey Smith (on pace to easily break the Ravens’ rookie receiving record held by Mark Clayton) could definitely help open things up underneath for the running game though. Seattle’s young safeties are two of the top up-and-comers in the game, and Flacco will have to be aware of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at all times.

The Ravens’ pass rush looks to get back on track after failing to show up in Pittsburgh. Through the season’s first seven games, the Ravens were near the tops of the league in getting to the quarterback, averaging 3.5 sacks per game. However, they only managed to bring Ben Roethlisberger down once. Seattle is the perfect place to get back on track; the Seahawks have allowed 29 sacks, second highest in the NFL. Tarvaris Jackson has been brought down an average of three times per game. Jackson has thrown six touchdowns and nine interceptions, so if the Ravens defense shows up Sunday, they should be able to force him into some mistakes and turnovers.

Ed Reed is due for a pick, having not registered an interception since Week 1. I didn’t do the research, but that’s gotta be a personal-high drought for him, right?

The Ravens need to start fast this Sunday, something they’ve failed to do so far this year (Ray Rice’s opening play touchdown in Pittsburgh notwithstanding, of course). They would be well served to take a big early lead, and negate any potential effect the crowd noise (real or artificial) can have on the contest. Don’t give Seattle the illusion that they can hang around. Score early, score often, then pin back your ears and get after Jackson once he is forced to throw to try to catch up, and force some turnovers.

That would be the perfect scenario. As we’ve seen in 2011, though, the Ravens haven’t seemed particularly interested in perfect scenarios. I think they’ll win Sunday, but I don’t think it will be particularly easy or pretty.

Ravens 20 Seahawks 10

Ball So Hard University Shirts from Maryland's Team!

November 10, 2011

Our friends over at Maryland’s Team have come up with a great new design for Ravens fans to represent Terrell Suggs and Ball So Hard University!

They are also offering a special discount for readers of B’More Birds’ Nest!

When you check out, enter code BMBN10BSHU, and they will take 10% off a presale order of the BSHU tee! This offer is only good from Friday 11/11 at 12am until Sunday 11/13 at 11:59pm, so head on over and get your Ball So Hard U shirts now!

GOOBVISION: Ball So Hard University Accepting Applications

November 9, 2011

Want more information about T-Sizzle’s Alma mater, Ball So Hard University? Look no further….

Did the Heinz Field DJ Intentionally Call Joe Flacco "Little Girl?"

November 8, 2011

According to several reports, as the Ravens were getting ready to take the field for what would ultimately end up being the game-winning touchdown drive, the scoreboards at Heinz field flashed side-by-side pictures of Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger, along with their stats through the game’s first 57-plus minutes.

No harm there. Ben had, indeed, outplayed his Baltimore rival to that point in bringing his team back from a 10-point deficit to take a 20-16 fourth quarter lead.

However, it was the choice of accompanying music that has people questioning whether or not the Steelers delivered a bit of a low blow to Joe.

Typically, before a big defensive stand, the song blaring through the loudspeakers at Heinz Field is “Renegade” by the band Styx.

A good song to be sure, but I honestly can’t understand how it pumps up a defense or a crowd. Whatever, the Pittsburgh defense is no joke so it obviously works for them.

Maybe they should have stuck with their go-to, instead of (possibly) trying to insult Flacco and the Ravens by playing “What’s Your Name” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, which includes the wink/nudge lyric “What’s your name, little girl, what’s your name?”

According to Kevin Van Valkenburg of the Baltimore Sun, John Harbaugh was none too happy about the choice of music:

It’s funny, but right before the final drive, the Steelers scoreboard flashed Ben Roethlisberger’s stats next to Flacco’s, and the PA started blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “What’s Your Name.” The stadium roared. John Harbaugh, of all people, was livid about this. (The Ravens coach was so fired up in the locker room after the victory, he actually pulled me aside to explain this, unprompted.) Harbaugh said he thought the lyrics — namely, “Hey, little girl” — were intended to be a shot at his quarterback’s manhood, and that made his blood boil. That’s part of the reason he was so fired up when Flacco engineered the game-winning drive, so much so that he cut his chin jumping up and down and celebrating with players.

Joe, as always, was oblivious to anything going on outside of his (no) huddle.

Since Harbaugh was so juiced up about the way he felt Flacco had been disrespected, I asked Flacco whether he had any recollection of hearing the Skynyrd song or felt similar to the way his coach did.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said, with a look of genuine confusion on his face. “They were playing a song?”

Who knows if there is any merit to this allegation or not? If any of you were at the game, please chime in. Did you feel like the song was a slap in the face to Joe?

Even if it was…meh. If questioning an opposing players manhood is what makes those Yinzers feel better about themselves, it says much more about them than it does about Joe. Who’s the girl now, Heinz Field DJ? The quarterback that has engineering final-minute game-winning drives in your house the past two seasons?

Now that  I think about it, maybe “What’s your name, little girl?” isn’t the best thing to be playing with a picture of Ben Roethlisberger on the scoreboard anyway, hmmmm?

Sounds like something he’d say to a chick at a bar before dragging her into a bathroom.

Vic-Torrey! Smith's Roller Coaster Night Ends on High Note

November 8, 2011

For Ravens rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith, Sunday Night was one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride in Pittsburgh. He had a huge hand in his team’s very first, and very last, offensive plays; both of which initially appeared to be touchdowns.

The first, a Ray Rice 76-yard run, was of course called back due to a very ticky-tack holding penalty on Smith. Later on in the same drive, Torrey caught a 12-yard fade pass from Joe Flacco that probably should have been a touchdown. Though he drew a pass interference flag on the play, Smith was unable to get both feet in bounds (by a toe) and the Ravens would ultimately settle for a field goal.

On the Ravens’ next possession, Smith would again experience the ups and downs of NFL life, this time on back-to-back plays. On 2nd-and-9 from their own 44, Flacco threw deep down the right sideline for Smith, who had Steelers cornerback William Gay beat by two steps. Torrey appeared to short-arm the attempted catch, and the ball fell to the earth incomplete. He probably should have had it.

Undeterred, Joe again went to Torrey on the very next snap. This time, he (intentionally, if you believe Cris Colinsworth) underthrew Smith, who made an excellent adjustment on the ball and hauled it in, despite having to catch Pittsburgh DB Keenan Lewis’ arm as well. The reception was good for 29 yards and set the Ravens up at the Steelers’ 27-yard line. Unfortunately, kicker Billy Cundiff would miss a 40-yard field goal four plays later.

Smith’s night was just getting started though.

On 1st-and-10 from their own 23 midway through the second quarter, Flacco found Torrey open on a 12-yard out  route that would have moved the chains.

The ball bounced right off Torrey’s chest, and the Ravens punted three plays later.

In the fourth quarter, things really picked up in the world of #82.

Looking a 3-and-out in the face on 3rd-and-10 after Pittsburgh had just closed to within a field goal, Flacco found Smith on a 14-yard slant to move the ball to the Ravens” 34 yard line.

Unfortunately, James Harrison would cause a Flacco fumble later in the drive, but Smith’s catch was still a crucial one. A 3-and-out in that situation wouldn’t have been any less damning than what ultimately occurred on the series. It should also be noted that it was Smith who made the tackle on Gay, who had recovered the fumble at the Pittsburgh 40.

Next came the sequence that Torrey, and Ravens fans, will never forget.

Having driven from their own 8-yard line, trailing by four points, the Ravens were within striking distance of a miracle comeback win in the Steel City, looking at 2nd-and-8 from the Pittsburgh 37 with 42 seconds on the clock.

To this point in the drive, Smith had been a non-factor, with zero targets. Flacco made a great move to step up in the pocket and avoid pressure, and threw for Torrey in the end zone. The rookie had Pittsburgh’s best cornerback, Ike Taylor, beaten by two steps.

The ball was there.

The go-ahead score was there.

And it went right through Torrey’s hands.

You could feel the city of Baltimore collectively deflate.

Sure, it was a difficult catch, but it’s one that an NFL wide receiver has to make. As Michael Irvin said on NFL Network, that’s not a ball that you often see not get caught in the NFL.

As angry as Ravens fans were, we couldn’t help but feel bad for Torrey. We all know the story of his troubled upbringing, many of us cheered for him at the University of Maryland, and we want so badly for the young man to succeed. To see him fail so blatantly, so horrifically, at the worst possible moment was almost too much to stomach. Just insult to the injury of yet another loss to the hated Steelers.

But hey, I look at it like this now: Torrey knew that 42 seconds was too much time to give Ben Roethlisberger to potenially move Pittsburgh into field goal range to tie the game and send it to overtime.

He was just being a team player.

A first down and two incomplete passes later (including another drop, this time by Anquan Boldin), Smith found himself in the same situation, this time down the opposite sideline. With only eight seconds remaining on the clock, Torrey felt confident that NOW was the right time to make the game-winning touchdown reception.

After all the ups and downs of his night to that point, Torrey finished on the highest of high notes, and completely redeemed himself for all of his earlier miscues.

With the victory secured, the time was now right for at least one of Smith’s teammates to razz him a bit for his earlier mistakes:

Smith’s first touchdown grab since he caught three in one quarter back in Week 3 in St. Louis couldn’t have come at a better time. While the rookie certainly needs to get more consistent, plays like this will only add to his confidence moving forward. He has struggled at times, but overall has played very well considering he did not benefit from offseason OTAs and that he was unexpectedly thrown into a starting role with the lingering injury to Lee Evans.

It was great to not only see the Ravens pull off the heart-pounding victory on Sunday night, but also to see Torrey get his redemption.

Ravens 23 Steelers 20 (The JOE SENDS THE YINZERS HOME CRYING…AGAIN Game)

November 7, 2011

On the Ravens’ very first place from scrimmage Sunday night, Ray Rice took the handoff from Joe Flacco, ran right, cut back left, slipped a Troy Polamalu tackle, and was off to the races for what appeared to be a game-opening 76-yard touchdown run reminiscent of the one he had in the playoff game in New England in 2009.

However, a dubious holding penalty on Torrey Smith negated the play.

Off the top of my head, I can think of no fewer than four instances of the Ravens putting the ball in the end zone at Heinz Field, only to see the scores come back due to some home cooked laundry on that sorry excuse for a field.

2009 Week 16:

1-10-PIT 31 (9:23) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short right intended for 10-S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by 24-D.Foxworth at PIT 46. 24-D.Foxworth to PIT 27 for 19 yards. Returned for a touchdown. Penalty marked off from spot of foul. PENALTY on BLT-55-T.Suggs, Illegal Block Above the Waist, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 27. (Ravens ultimately kicked FG)

2-10-PIT 32 (:45) 23-W.McGahee left end to PIT 17 for 15 yards. Ran for a touchdown. Penalty marked off a spot of foul. PENALTY on BLT-15-K.Washington, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 17. (Ravens ended up punting)

2010 Divisional Playoff Round:

(6:09) (Punt formation) 13-J.Kapinos punts 45 yards to BLT 45, Center-60-G.Warren. 21-L.Webb for 55 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty. PENALTY on BLT-11-M.Smith, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 19. (Settled for FG)

And then you have last night. Throw in Smith being unable to tap his toes inbounds on a well-thrown end zone fade from the 12, and the zebras prematurely blowing a play dead while Rice fought to get into the end zone at the goalline, and the Ravens would again be forced to settle for three points.

Instead of 28 total points from those plays, the Ravens ultimately managed only 9.

I bring this up to point out the feeling that every Ravens fan found themselves dealing with after just a single drive of this key divisional matchup. It was shaping up, from the outset, to be yet another instance of the Ravens falling just short against their arch rivals.

When James Harrison forced a Flacco fumble, then Ben Roethlisberger found Mike Wallace (not on purpose, though) from 25 yards out with just over five minutes to play to give the Steelers their first lead of the night, Ravens fans everywhere resigned ourselves to our fates.

We’d seen this movie too many times before.

Flacco, however, had a different sequel in mind.

Just as he did in the regular season at Heinz Field last year, Joe would once again dice the vaunted Steel Curtain and send the Yinzers home crying in their little yellow rags.

Last year, though, Joe did it on a short field. The odds were stacked much higher against him this time around, as the offense took over from their own 8-yard line with 2:24 on the clock and only one timeout, trailing 20-16.

Let’s back up a minute, though…

Mike Tomlin has proven himself to be a very, very good NFL coach, but two strange gaffes ending up really costing his team last night. The Steelers faced 3rd-and-5 from the Ravens’ 29-yard line with 2:37 remaining. Instead of running the ball and forcing the Ravens to use their final timeout or let the clock tick down to the 2-minute warning (assuming they were able to stop the Steelers from gaining 5 yards; if they get a 1st down, the game is basically over), Roethlisberger dropped back to throw, ultimately missing Mewelde Moore and essentially granting the Ravens an extra timeout.

Following that, the Steelers lined up for a 47-yard field goal try into the open end of Heinz Field. If Shawn Suisham hits that, the Ravens need a touchdown and an extra point just to force overtime. However, the play clock expired, nobody on the Pittsburgh sideline seemed to notice (or care?), and the ensuing 5-yard penalty forced Pittsburgh to punt.

I’d have to imagine the talk radio shows in Pittsburgh are blowing up this morning with people questioning the clock management of Tomlin there.

Still, you have to assume Tomlin had 100% confidence in his defense to prevent the Ravens from driving the length of the field to win the game in just over two minutes.

Unfortunately for him, of course, that confidence was completely unwarranted on this night.

The drive wasn’t exactly perfect from Flacco, and he saw his share of luck – good and bad – on it, but in the end it got the job done and catapulted the Ravens to 6-2 atop the standings in the AFC.

The bad luck: Dropped passes. As was the theme for a good part of the night, Ravens receivers just plain old had a case of the dropsies. Smith dropped what should have been the go-ahead touchdown from 37 yards out with :42 on the clock (but hey, in his defense, maybe he just knew that if he caught that one, it would have given the Steelers too much time to get into field goal range to tie it up!), and the usually sure-handed Boldin dropped a crossing route that would have set the Ravens up near the Pittsburgh 10-yard line with time for at least 3 throws into the end zone.

The good luck: Joe nearly saw yet another of his game-winning drive attempts end with the ball in the hands of the other team. On 3rd-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 49, he made the wrong read and put the rock right on the hands of Larry Foote, who, unfortunately for Joe, plays for the Steelers. He lucked out when Foote was unable to corral the interception. On the penultimate touchdown pass, safety Ryan Clark woefully misplayed the ball, perhaps underestimating the speed of Smith.

All kinds of luck aside, it was just the kind of drive that so many Ravens fans who are still on the fence about Joe the Quarterback had been waiting for. The same ones that, had the Ravens lost this game, would have been blowing up the talk radio airwaves and blog comments today blaming Joe’s fumble for the loss, completely disregarding all the times his receivers betrayed him as well as the fact that the Ravens defense reverted back to their 2010 form, blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead.

Speaking of the defense, it was a bit of a disappointing outing for Chuck Pagano’s unit, who allowed 392 yards, caused only one turnover and registered just one sack on Roethlisberger. Give Pittsburgh credit for a strong offensive line performance and a good game plan that took Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata out of the game for the most part. Sizzle looked like he was going to have to open up his fridge and give Ben’s behind back to him until he jumped in front of a bubble screen and intercepted him early in the third quarter (a pick is worth at least 2 or 3 sacks, right?).

The season sweep of Pittsburgh is just the Ravens’ second in their existence, and first since 2006. Five years ago, the combined score of the two games was 58-7. This year: 58-27. It feels daaaaaaaaamn good.

The Ravens, for their part, need to avoid another Tennessee-esque letdown next week in Seattle against a scrappy Seahawks team. They can afford no more hiccups moving forward, especially with the Cincinnati Bengals refusing to go away.

We’ll talk more about that later, though. For today, it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous day in Charm City.

GOOBVISION: Ravens 23 Steelers 20 Instant Reaction

November 7, 2011

A slightly intoxicated Goob gives his thoughts on the Ravens SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP of the Steelers. It tastes so damn good.

Update: Welp, this one had a short shelf life. If you were lucky enough to see it while it was out there, consider yourself among the lucky. The rest of you will just have to wait for the next one…

Ravens (5-2) @ Steelers (6-2)

November 4, 2011

Once again the Ravens and Steelers clash with the AFC North title seemingly on the line. Even though it’s early November (way to go, NFL Schedule makers), and with all due respect to the 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals, doesn’t it just feel like yet another playoff-type game between these two heavyweights?

They say “the records don’t matter” when these two meet, but just for fun let’s look at the records when these teams have gotten together over the past four seasons:

2011: 0-0; 5-2, 6-2

2010: 2-1, 3-0; 8-3, 8-3

2009: 5-5, 6-4; 8-6, 7-7

2008: 2-0, 2-1; 9-4, 10-3

Coming into Ravens-Steelers regular season games since 2008, the Ravens have entered with a combined record of 39-21, and Pittsburgh with a combined mark of 42-20. Thats a collective winning percentage of .66. Yeah, these teams are good. Throw in the records for the two playoff matchups, and it obviously jumps even higher.

The stakes are always high. This time is no different.

Since that opening day beatdown, when the Ravens supposedly exposed Pittsburgh as being old and slow, the Steelers have (predictably, and annoyingly) gotten their act together, winning six of seven. Granted, they’ve done it against some sorry teams (Seattle, Indy, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Arizona – combined record of 9-28), but the Ravens stumbled against one of those same teams and nearly fell to another. Those Ravens’ hiccups denied themselves what should have been some breathing room going into Heinz Field.

The Steelers do have one very impressive win on their resume though, last week’s 25-17 win over New England. Pittsburgh played lights out on both offense and defense in that game, holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes and allowing Tom Brady to complete just 3/10 third down tries.

The NFL is definitely a “what have you done lately?” kind of league, so that performance against the Patriots – along with the Ravens falling behind 24-3 to Arizona – has everybody and their mother picking the Steelers to stomp the purple and black this Sunday night.

Again, the Ravens find themselves as underdogs going into western PA. Nobody seems to remember 35-7, nor the fact that the Ravens have built their team to matchup favorably with, and to beat, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pittsburgh is also dealing with a mess of injuries on both sides of the ball. Linebackers and perennial Ravens headaches James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are both no better than questionable for the game, as is fellow LB James Farrior. On the other side, wide receivers Hines Ward and Emmanuel Sanders are both dealing with injuries. The way it sounds right now, only Ward and possibly Harrison are likely to play out of that group.

Pittsburgh’s best offensive and defensive players – Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu – will both be on the field though, and the Steelers’ “next man up” philosophy mirrors that of the Ravens. They have depth at linebacker and defensive line, so I don’t see the injuries tilting this one TOO FAR in the Ravens’ favor.

Ben won’t have nearly as easy a day against the Ravens’ #3 passing defense as he did against New Englands 32nd-ranked unit. Along with Terrell Suggs (who keeps Ben’s ass in a refrigerator in his basement), and his team-leading six sacks, Ben will have to deal with the emerging pass-rush threats of the Ravens, Pernell McPhee (2.5 sacks) and Paul Kruger (3 sacks). The Ravens have 25 sacks this season through just seven games, after registering only 27 all of last season (Thank you, Greg Mattison!).

There is little doubt the Ravens will get to Ben on Sunday (heck, the Patriots got him 5 times), but the key is turning the yardage lost on those sacks into punts from the Steelers. Despite the five sacks, Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda stepped on the field just once last week, as Pittsburgh went 10/16 on third down. On the other hand, the Ravens have allowed only 4 third down conversions on opponents’ last 31 tries (not including two that were converted by penalty). For the year, the Ravens are allowing just 28.6% on third down, good for best in the NFL. Keeping that trend going will go a long way toward walking out of Pittsburgh with a win.

The loss of Sanders (18 rec, 243 yards, 2 TD) hurts Pittsburgh, but they still have plenty of weapons at WR. Ward, while past his prime, can still move the chains with the best of them, and his little antics to get under the Ravens’ skin are always a worry to draw a personal foul flag or two (though lately, the Ravens have handled themselves well). We all know about Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown (34 rec, 431 yards, 1 TD) is another young speedster.

An aside about the “young” wide receivers on Pittsburgh. Ravens fans have spent so long hating Hines Ward that it’s second nature at this point. Ward won’t be around on the field a whole lot longer though, so it’s time to get used to hating these guys. Wallace, Sanders, and Brown have given themselves the name “young money.” Ugh. Not only is this horribly douchey and annoying, but they stole it from rapper Lil’ Wayne. He wants it back.

On defense, the Steelers have gotten their act back together after allowing four touchdowns in Baltimore. The most points they’ve given up since then is 20, and they are allowing under 12 points per game at home (slightly skewed due to shutting out the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2). They flustered Tom Brady – which the Ravens have done on occasion – and had much better success against Matt Hasselbeck than the Ravens were able to. Even without Woodley and/or Harrison, my biggest worry about this game is Dick LeBeau coaching circles around Cam Cameron.

LeBeau went against every instinct in his body last week against New England, playing press man coverage instead of his usual zone blitzing scheme. If he can come up with something to confuse Brady and Belichick…I shudder to think what he can do to Cam and Flacco.

I know Ray Rice likes to say that football is a “players game” not a coaches game, and that they should be able to execute no matter the play call, but I’ve seen Cam take too long to adjust too many times to be comfortable.

What worked last week? Well, the shotgun/muddle huddle/short passing game did. But don’t expect to see too much of that this week. The Ravens came out early in the week dropping preemptive strikes suggesting that they have no interest in that scheme becoming their de facto offensive philosophy.

Ravens say Flacco has completed only 50.9% of his 109 throws out of the shotgun, w/ 4 INT’s, 2TD’s & 9 sacks for a 62.8 quarterback rating.

Translation: don’t expect to see Joe in the shotgun on every play.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the Ravens can establish the kind of running game they were able to in Week 1 against the Steelers, when they ran for 170 yards, it will also be a huge key to victory. The Houston Texans were also able to gash Pittsburgh on the ground, going for 180 yards in Week 4. The Ravens and Texans have similar running schemes, so that leaves some hope that Vonta Leach will be able to clear some space for Ray Rice.

The Ravens have the chance to sweep Pittsburgh for the first time since 2006. They had chances in 2009 and 2010 as well, but came up short both times. With the injuries the Steelers are dealing with, there is no better time than now to go into “The Lion’s Den” and come out on top.

Win Sunday, and you’re in great position to still – despite the two eggs laid in Tennessee and Jacksonville – control your own destiny moving forward and potentially earn a top playoff seed in the AFC. Lose, and it’s the same old story for the Ravens – you’re likely to find yourselves in yet another dogfight for a Wild Card spot, and another steep, steep climb to get to the Super Bowl.

John Harbaugh’s 14-13 regular season road record inspires little confidence. Still, the Ravens have outplayed Pittsburgh the last two times they have met. Here’s hoping they do it again, and avoid the costly mistakes that have hounded them in years past.

Ravens 20 Steelers 17

P.S. Just came across this on twitter: In his last 5 starts vs. Pitt, Flacco has 8 TDs & 2 INTs. In his last 5 starts vs. Bal, Roethlisberger has 5 TDs & 6 INTs.

So there’s that.

Watch Steve Bisciotti on Ravens Rap

November 4, 2011

Here in Baltimore, we’re lucky enough to have one of the best owners not only in the NFL, but in all of sports. Steve Bisciotti is local to the area (grew up in Severna Park), a Baltimore fan through and through, lets his football people do their jobs (instead of meddling like that midget down route 95), and is extremely likable and accessible to the media (unlike that troll in the warehouse).

This week, Steve sat down with Tony Lombardi, Bruce Laird, and Mike Bradley for their weekly “Ravens Rap” show, which is filmed downy oshun, hun (at the Blue Ox Bar and Grill). Steve touched on a wide range of topics, and as always was personable and candid.

The video is a bit long (just under an hour), so just put it on in the background like it was the radio while you sit at your desk today.

Happy Purple Friday!


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