Archive for December, 2011

Jim Harbaugh Gets Brother John an Early Christmas Present

December 20, 2011

The last time the Harbaugh brothers got together on a holiday, there was a bit of animosity in the air, as their teams clashed on Thanksgiving in Baltimore. If and when they get together over the Christmas weekend, though, John is likely to have quite the warm reception for his little brother.

I got you something...

Jim handed John quite a useful early Christmas present last night – the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fourth loss of the season – as his 49ers spanked Pittsburgh 20-3 in San Francisco on Monday night. Ben Roethlisberger played despite suffering a high ankle sprain in his last game, and was visibly hobbled all night. This time, though, his whole “tough guy” routine was unable to overcome what was a very real injury, and he struggled mightily to the tune of 3 interceptions and a lost fumble.

ZOMGYESSSSS!!!!

The Steelers held the inside track for the AFC’s #1 playoff seed for approximately 24 hours, as the loss pushed them back behind the Ravens in the North division and into the wild card slot.

It was a great gift to the Ravens from San Fran, but it’s only worth what they make of it. They are once again in the envious position of controlling their own destiny for the division and for a guaranteed playoff bye. With another tough road game in Week 17 in Cincinnati, though, Ravens fans still aren’t completely comfortable.

The Bengals could very well be still alive in the playoff hunt on January 1, and with the way B’More has represented themselves on the road this season, confidence isn’t exactly high.

Still, the situation is clear – win out and be guaranteed at least the #2 seed, a home playoff game, and a bye.

With Pittsburgh finishing up the season against St. Louis (at home) and in Cleveland, there is little chance the Steelers will stumble again. They’ll be right there to take advantage and jump ahead again, should the Ravens stumble. Pittsburgh could roll Roethlisberger out in a wheelchair and the Rams still aren’t going to Heinz field and winning, so things will definitely be very interesting here these next two weeks.

The next step is finishing up a perfect 2011 at M&T Bank Stadium Saturday against the Cleveland Browns.

The time for excuses is over.

Just win.

Can the Ravens Trust Billy Cundiff?

December 19, 2011

The only positive thing to come from last night’s 34-14 loss to the Chargers is for the fourth consecutive season, the Ravens will find themselves in the playoffs. For most franchises this may be enough to make your city rejoice, but not in Baltimore.

Even though the Ravens have consistently been in the playoffs the past four seasons, they’ve also been consistent in playing them on the road. The team hasn’t hosted a playoff game in Baltimore since 2006.

It looks like that streak will continue.

Now more than ever the Ravens need M&T Bank Stadium and it may not be for the fans– it’s for the turf.
The story has been the same for the Ravens all season. Beat some of the best NFL franchises but lose to the subpar franchises on the road. Each of the Ravens four losses this season has come away from M&T Bank Stadium and to teams with a losing record at the time .

If the Ravens want to be considered an elite team, they’re not doing much to help their case.
One big advantage of playing at home, which may be being overlooked as everyone complains about the defense or Joe Flacco or whatever else, is the kicking game.

Billy Cundiff was a Pro Bowl kicker in 2010 and earned himself a 5-year, $15 million extension last winter. This holiday season, the Ravens may have some feelings of buyer’s remorse.

While Cundiff has connected on all 17 of his kicks at M&T Bank Stadium this season, he is dreadful on the road. Cundiff has made 10 of 19 away from home and clearly struggles during any game where he has to pack his suitcase.
Reports over the past few weeks are that Cundiff hasn’t been practicing due to a left calf injury. Anyone who knows about kicking, (for a right footed kicker) the left foot dictates the direction of the ball. If Cundiff is compensating for his injury, it will be exposed.

Converting 2 of 5 field goals in December isn’t good enough for a team hoping to play in February. Last week, the Ravens tried out veteran kicker Shayne Graham due to Cundiff’s calf issues.

The Ravens need to decide now if they can trust Cundiff. During the postseason, many games come down to the accuracy of your field goal kicker. The man now calling the shots in Baltimore was known as one of the best special teams coaches in the NFL for almost a decade. John Harbaugh had to have questioned himself multiple times on the flight home from San Diego last night if he can actually trust Cundiff when it matters most.

Had the Ravens won last night, they would have held the cards in determining how many more games they needed to play to win a super bowl. Instead, they’re right back where they were with many doubts and another blemish on their record due to their preparation against a lesser opponent.

The kicking game is nothing to mess with and now each Raven will be practicing it in their own way tonight—kicking themselves that tonight’s Steelers and 49ers game even matters to them.

Get your popcorn ready…

Chargers 34 Ravens 14 (The RAY RETURNS BUT DEFENSE DISAPPEARS Game)

December 19, 2011

The Ravens put together another horrific performance on the road in San Diego on Sunday Night Football, bringing their record away from M&T Bank Stadium in 2011 to a very mediocre 3-4. Unlike previous losses in Jacksonville and Seattle though, the Ravens were never really in this one, as the Chargers’ high-powered offense scored at will in blowing Baltimore out of the gym by early in the second half.

San Diego became the first team to score on their first five possessions of a game against the Ravens since the team came into existence in 1996.

The Chargers’ first five drives went as such:

  • 74 yards, touchdown
  • 80 yards, touchdown
  • 80 yards, touchdown
  • 62 yards, field goal
  • 42 yards, touchdown

The sixth drive?

Following  Joe Flacco’s second interception, the Chargers went 8 yards before Nick Novak clanged his 37-yard field goal try off the right upright. If it wasn’t for that miss, San Diego would have scored on their first SEVEN possessions, with their only non-scoring drive coming late in the fourth quarter when all they were trying to do was run out the clock.

You’re not going to win many games when the other team DOESN’T PUNT A SINGLE TIME.

But the Ravens couldn’t get off the field on third down, allowing San Diego to convert 6/9 opportunities, including two 3rd-and-8 situations on their first two touchdown drives. Despite entering the game with a league-leading 45 sacks, the Ravens finished with zero of Philip Rivers on the night, and only a single quarterback hurry. Cory Redding appeared to sack Rivers to set up a 3rd-and-17 with the game tied at 7-7 early in the second quarter, but the play was nullified on an unnecessary roughness penalty on Terrell Suggs. Suggs straight up bitch-slapped Chargers tight end Randy McMichael on the play, obviously frustrated at San Diego’s tactics of having the big veteran shadow him all over the field. Honestly, I thought what Suggs did was a legal move, but I was obviously wrong. The flag extended the San Diego drive, and six plays later they took a 10-7 lead that they would never look back from.

The Ravens would never get to Rivers again all night (Suggs did have a vicious hit on him late in the game, but the ball was already gone).

Chuck Pagano just had no answer, as Norv Turner and Rivers carved his defense up to the tune of 415 total yards. The blitzes that had been so successful in previous weeks just weren’t getting home, as the Chargers’ offensive line did a spectacular job of protecting their quarterback, and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams were absolutely embarrassed by San Diego’s big wide receivers. Vincent Jackson (3 rec, 84 yards) took Williams to the woodshed, while Malcolm Floyd (5, 96) had his way with the rookie Smith. The safeties and linebackers were no help in coverage either, as Rivers was basically playing 7-on-7, sitting back and completing 17/23 passes (74%) for 270 yards – a gaudy 11+ yards per attempt.

The return of Ray Lewis from his turf toe injury was supposed to spark this defense, as the veteran returned to the field rested for the home stretch. Instead of looking fresh, though, Ray’s performance was much more accurately described by Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun, who called it “rusty.”

Speaking of turf toe, Ravens fans were encouraged to see Lardarius Webb listed as active for the game. Unfortunately, Webb was not at nearly 100%, and was only on the field as the nickel cornerback for most of the game. While a healthy Webb may have made a little difference, the ample time Rivers had in the pocket would have allowed him to find an open man regardless of whether Lardarius was playing at his usual high level or not, though.

On the offensive side of the ball, things weren’t much better. While the Ravens were unable to get to Rivers no matter how many rushers they brought, San Diego routinely got in Joe Flacco’s face with just a four-man pass rush. This was very reminiscent of the Tennessee game, as the Ravens’ offensive line and backs again and again failed to block four men with five or six. When all was said and done, Flacco had been sacked a season-high five times. Former Raven Antwan Barnes made Ozzie Newsome look like a fool for giving up on him, racking up four sacks on the night.

While Flacco wasn’t given nearly the luxurious pocket to throw from that his counterpart Rivers was, he did nothing to help himself either. Two of his passes on the game’s opening drive could have been intercepted, and both could have been touchdowns. The second definitely SHOULD have been, as Lee Evans was alone in the secondary – Flacco, though, was late with the ball. After a wonderful drive capped off by a gorgeous touchdown pass to Ed Dickson to answer the Chargers’ opening score, the Ravens found themselves down again, this time 10-7. Facing 3rd-and-3 near midfield, Cam Cameron called a perfect pick play to free Ray Rice for what would have been an easy first down. Joe though, as he is wont to do from time to time, forgot that Rice isn’t 6’2.” The incomplete pass forced a Ravens’ punt, and because the defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed (see above), the Chargers quickly took a 17-7 lead.

San Diego received the opening kickoff of the second half and…SURPRISE…scored a touchdown, making it a 24-7 laugher. At that point, the Ravens were forced to throw, and with Ray Rice and Vonta Leach pretty much neutralized, Flacco threw two interceptions that effectively sealed the game. On the first, he seemingly didn’t see Takeo Spikes at all (though he later said that he did), while the second was just a freaky play by defensive lineman Shaun Phillips to steal an attempted check-down out of the air.

The Ravens never led in the game, though they absolutely should have had a 3-0 lead on that opening drive. Billy Cundiff, however, continued his ridiculous road struggles, missing what should have been an easy 36-yarder. Cundiff has become a liability while kicking anywhere but M&T Bank Stadium, and should the Ravens be forced to go on the road for the playoffs, they should seriously consider replacing him with Shayne Graham.

And, speaking of going on the road for the playoffs….ugh.

Despite the loss, the Ravens had already locked up their playoff spot before the game even started, thanks to losses by the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans earlier in the day. However, their envious position of controlling their own destiny for the #1 overall seed is now completely out the window – they don’t even control their own destiny for the AFC North title and the home playoff game that comes with that any more.

Unless, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers were to lose in San Francisco tonight. If that happens, the Ravens can still win the division by going 2-0 over the last two weeks, and they should also be able to lock down the #2 seed over the Houston Texans for a much-needed bye week.

Do we really think that Pittsburgh, coming off 11 days rest, is going to lose tonight, though? We’ll cheer like hell for it, but with the rapist reportedly playing on his high ankle sprain, we’re all prepared for the worst. The Steelers’ last two games are against St. Louis (at home) and in Cleveland, so this is pretty much it – they win tonight, the AFC North (and likely the AFC’s #1 overall seed) is theirs. Despite sweeping them (and even if they go 6-0 in the division), the Ravens are again looking at a trip to Heinz Field in January.

And they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Go 49ers.

GOOBVISION Smart Phone Giveaway!

December 16, 2011

Tis’ the season for giving, but let’s not kid ourselves…we all like receiving better.

The growing popularity of Goob’s on-camera antics through Facebook and Twitter is all thanks to your promotion, Ravens fans. Now that we’ve been blessed with a larger platform, it makes us more attractive for big companies to provide us awesome stuff to give away, and now it’s our turn to say Thank You!

This holiday Festivus season, we will be giving away TWO Smartphones as a token of our appreciation, courtesy of Qualcomm and their operating system, ”Snapdragon!”

Starting with the Ravens/Chargers matchup Dec. 18 and running through both the “Bridgepoint Education Holiday” and “San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia” college bowl games, Qualcomm Stadium will be temporarily known as “Snapdragon Stadium.”

So you may be wondering, “what the heck is a Snapdragon?” Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm are all-in-one mobile processors, also known as the “heart” of your mobile device.

Over 300 smart phones and tablets are already using Snapdragon, including many HTC and Samsung products. Snapdragon is so advanced it provides customers with the option for gaming and 3D multimedia on their mobile devices.

So how can you win one of these great Snapdragon products? You do what many Ravens fans have already done…. PROMOTE GOOBVISION!

Pre-requisites:

1.)  “Like” Snapdragon on Facebook or follow @Snapdragon on Twitter

2.)  Follow Goob on Twitter @RavenManiac

How To Enter:

1.)  Post or “Share” the most current GOOBVISION video to your Facebook wall and send a screen-shot as proof to @RavenManiac (1 entry)

Link: http://bit.ly/vlpSdN

2.)  Post or “Share” any other (anti-Steelers, Ball So Hard, etc.) GOOBVISION video to your Facebook wall and send a screen-shot as proof to @RavenManiac (1 Bonus Entry)

Link(s): http://bit.ly/mYz5qz  http://bit.ly/u3JihS , http://bit.ly/q55vts

3.)  Post or “Share” the upcoming GOOBVISION video which will be released no later than Dec. 21 to your Facebook wall and send a screen-shot as proof to @RavenManiac (1 Final Entry)

 Contest Rules & Other Info:

 PRIZES:

-One (1) AT&T Samsung Focus S smart phone ($200 value)

-One (1) Sprint HTC EVO 3D ($200 value)

** Prizes cannot be redeemed for cash in exchange or substituted **

CONTEST DEADLINE:

– Contest ends on December 27th, 2011 at 11:59pm EST. Drawing to take place on December 28th, 2011 no later than 8:00pm EST.

DRAWING DETAILS:

– Each entry will be printed out and placed into Goob’s beak hat for a randomized drawing to be videotaped in order to avoid any shenanigans. Winners will be notified via Twitter and have 24 hours to claim their prize or another drawing will take place.  First person drawn will be the #1 seed and have choice of phone.

Contest open to United States citizens only, we will not be shipping these phones around the world.

Ravens (10-3) @ Chargers (6-7)

December 16, 2011

A trip to visit a 6-7 team shouldn’t make a fan base this uneasy, especially one of a team that has rolled off four consecutive wins to position itself on the inside track for the #1 playoff seed in the conference. Even if the Ravens hadn’t already went on the road and laid eggs against such scrubs as Seattle and (ugh) Jacksonville, this trip to San Diego would still feel quite dangerous.

For starters, the Chargers always give the Ravens fits. In recent memory, it’s taken either a great play late in the game to hold them off (2006, 2009), or they’ve just completely trounced us (2007). Add to that the fact that they’re a ridiculous 19-2 under head coach Norv Turner in December, AND that they’ve won their last two games by a combined score of 75-24, and…yeah. This isn’t going to be easy.

Leading up to consecutive 38-14 and 37-10 thrashings of Jacksonville and Buffalo, respectively, in the last couple weeks, San Diego had lost six in a row to pretty much doom their season. They’re still hanging on by a thread though, and with some help, could still sneak into the playoffs. They know they have to win out though, and unfortunately it looks like the Ravens are catching them at pretty much the worst possible time.

Quarterback Philip Rivers is second in the NFL with 17 interceptions – that’s the good news. The bad news is that he hasn’t thrown a single pick in his last three games, while throwing seven touchdowns over that same span. If Rivers is on, and gets in a rhythm, I’m not sure the Ravens have the offensive firepower to win a shootout. The Baltimore defense will have to keep this to a mid-twenties type game at the highest for the Ravens to have a shot. After facing the JV offenses of Cleveland and Indianapolis the past two weeks (and, to a lesser extent, San Francisco before that), let’s hope they remember what it’s like to play an actual NFL quarterback with weapons.

And man, does Rivers have some weapons. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson leads the team with 53 receptions for 952 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight end Antonio Gates also has 53 catches, while Malcolm Floyd (who shunned Baltimore last offseason) is averaging 21.5 yards per catch. The Lardarius Webb toe injury could loom large Sunday night. If Webb is unable to go, rookie Jimmy Smith and Chris Carr will see increased playing time. While Smith has all the physical tools to match up against the San Diego receivers, he is still raw and prone to the mistakes that any young player is; he’ll have his work cut out for him. Carr, while a smart player who knows the Ravens’ scheme like the back of his hand, at 5’10” just doesn’t match up in stature with San Diego’s 6’5″ tandem. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said this week that it’s like watching the Los Angeles Lakers take the field when San Diego comes out of the tunnel, they have so much size. Safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard will be counted on to help prevent the big play, but you have to like San Diego’s chances on pretty much any “jump ball” situation.

So how do you help an overmatched secondary? By getting to the quarterback, of course. Fortunately for the Ravens, that’s been their specialty here in 2011, as they lead the NFL in sacks with 45. Rivers is a guy that doesn’t like to get hit, and he isn’t nearly as mobile as say, that big dummy in Pittsburgh. He’s been sacked 30 times, but only five of those have come over the past four weeks. Former Raven Jared Gaither has stepped in the last two games and played surprisingly well, and Terrell Suggs will have to have some success against the guy he used to go up against in practice if he wants to continue his defensive-MVP campaign, while also having a hand in helping his team bring back a win from the west coast. Cory Redding, Haloti Ngata, Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee, and Jarret Johnson will all have to chip in to make Rivers’ life miserable Sunday night.

On the other side, San Diego has managed only 22 sacks of their own, and it’s another former Raven leading the way there – Antwan Barnes has seven of those 22. Baltimore’s offensive line has stepped up as well, allowing only five sacks of Joe Flacco over the past five games, while also paving the way for some of the running game’s best performances of the season. San Diego is vulnerable on the ground, giving up over 128 yards per game (good for 24th in the league). They also struggle mightily on 3rd downs, allowing opponents to convert on 45.9% of tries (31st). If Ray Rice and Ricky Williams can consistently move the ball on the ground and set up third and short situations (though, not TOO short, as we’ve seen lately), and Flacco can hit his tight ends and backs to move the chains, it will go a long way to keeping Rivers and his group of power forwards playing wideout on the sidelines.

While Webb will likely be out of the lineup, the Ravens should get another key piece back when Ray Lewis takes the field for the first time since the Cincinnati win. The team was 4-0 without him, but this is a great time to be getting him back; San Diego knows all too well about Lewis’s ability to diagnose personnel groups and formations pre-snap, and knowing what Rivers plans on doing before he does it could again prove the difference.

The old cliche in the NFL is when you go on the road late in the season, you pack your defense and your running game. While the weather in San Diego isn’t exactly what whoever first said that had in mind, it still holds true. In those aforementioned losses to Seattle and Jacksonville, the Ravens brought their defense but forgot about Ray Rice. Getting #27 on track against one of the poorer run defenses in the league will be the key if the Ravens want to stay in the AFC drivers’ seat.

There is just too much on the line for the Ravens to not put their best effort forward Sunday night. If they lose to San Diego, they revert to scoreboard-watching; not just Monday night when Pittsburgh travels to San Francisco (without James Harrison and HOPEFULLY without Baby Ben), but also if New England and Houston can dispose of Denver and Carolina, respectively, earlier in the day. That would put them a game behind the Patriots and Texans even if the Steelers were to fall to 10-4 as well.

Things just get too messy and complicated with a Ravens loss. Let’s keep things squeaky clean and crystal clear by getting out of SoCal with a victory.

Ravens 24 Chargers 23

Torrey Smith on "The Today Show"

December 16, 2011

There was a great segment on Ravens’ rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith on the today show this week. Focusing more on his personal journey of growing up as the man of the house from the time he was four years old than on football, it’s still well worth your time to watch. His game-winning catch in Pittsburgh earlier this season doesn’t go without mention though, so take a look.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Redesigned San Diego Chargers Helmets

December 15, 2011

Another week, another opponent, another set of re-imagined logos. In what has quickly become a reader favorite here at the Nest, this time around we try to come up with some more appropriate helmets for the San Diego Chargers…

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is only 30 years old, but the guy already has quite a brood – SIX KIDS! He married his high school sweetheart back when he was still in college at NC State, and apparently got right to work. This first helmet pays tribute to the man’s impressive virility:

(In case you couldn’t tell, yes, that’s a sperm with Rivers’ head on it…and it’s zig-zaggy like a lightning bolt. Zing!)

Rivers, while widely considered an elite quarterback in the NFL, has nonetheless had his struggles this season. His team is a very mediocre 6-7, he’s second in the league with 17 interceptions, and he had that horrible fumble that cost his team a loss to the lowly Chiefs. Maybe this helmet is more representative of his 2011 season:

Of course, it’s not all Phil’s fault that the Chargers have struggled. Somehow, coach Norv Turner manages to take an extremely talented team and make them mediocre year after year. This logo’s for you, Norv:

Combine Norv’s ineptitude and Phil’s struggles, and what do you get? One shitstorm of a Chargers team:

When one thinks of San Diego, the first thing to come to mind is probably great weather and palm trees. After that though, most will think of the 2004 Will Ferrell film, Anchorman, which was set in SoCal. These last two designs are a tip of the cap to Anchorman, San Diego’s answer to Baltimore’s “The Wire.”

The Chargers are no joke at the moment though. They’ve picked up their game these last several weeks, and the Ravens will have their hands full. Let’s hope they can bring 11-3 back from the West Coast.

GOOBVISION: Ravens @ Chargers

December 14, 2011

In this week’s Ravens-Chargers preview, Goob sips tropical drinks, hangs out on the beach, and lets an old friend who’s down on his luck audition for a job.

Play Like a Raven – Week 14

December 13, 2011

PlayLikeaRaven

After being on hiatus all season, I thought it was time for the return of the “Play Like a Raven” feature. One Raven in particular has so embodied everything that it means to Play Like a Raven here in 2011 that he pretty much deserves his own award (much like 2009 and 2010’s “Play Like a Raven” features became “Play Like a Ray Rice”). For now though, let’s take it one step at a time.

Played Like a Raven – Terrell Suggs

Sizzle was an absolute monster again Sunday, recording three sacks of Colts’ quarterback Dan Orlovsky and forcing Danny to fumble on every single one. The fact that his fellow lineman were unable to fall on even one of those fumbles hardly diminish Suggs’ contribution. It was the third time this season – and the second time in the last three games – that Sizzle has enjoyed a triple-sack lunch. Number 3 on Sunday gave him 13 for the season, a new career high. His previous high of 12 came in his rookie year of 2003; the truly impressive thing to note is that back then Suggs was pretty much only asked to rush the passer, while in 2011 he is also one of the best run-defending 3-4 outside linebacker/defensive ends in the NFL.

Just look at the tackle/sack numbers:

2003: 12 sacks, 27 tackles

2011: 13 sacks, 58 tackles

His six caused fumbles for the year also match his career high, again from 2003.

Sizzle’s 13 sacks lead the AFC and put him at #4 overall in the NFL. The three guys ahead of him on the list (Minnesota’s Jared Allen, Dallas’s Demarcus Ware, and Philadelphia’s Jason Babin) all trail Suggs in pretty much every other statistic, including forced fumbles, passes defended, interceptions, and total tackles.

Suggs needs just two sacks over the final three games to tie the Ravens’ franchise record of 15, set by Peter Boulware in 2001.

Although he’s going up against a guy who is very familiar with him – former Raven Jared Gaither – on Sunday, the bet here is that he continues his typical prime-time dominance and at least ties the record in San Diego.

Sizzle is making an extremely strong case to join Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as Ravens who have won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award. If he can continue his incredible season over the final three games, it will not only help him solidify that bid, but should go a long way in helping the Ravens lock up the AFC North title and – hopefully – the conference’s #1 overall Playoff seed.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie

While Suggs was busy getting after the Colts’ quarterback on the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens’ offensive tackles were busy getting their butts kicked by the Indy pass rushers on the other side.

I’ll let the guys from Pro Football Focus break it down:

For a team with genuine Super Bowl aspirations I have one major bone of contention with the Ravens; offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie (-0.8) and Michael Oher (-2.8), especially considering Joe Flacco’s struggles under pressure. Oher hit form mid season between Weeks 8 and 10 but was back to his usual sub-par standard on Sunday, giving up three total pressures. McKinnie has struggled all year with just one game where has graded out higher than +0.9 and Sunday was no different as he failed to make an impact in the run game while giving up a sack and a pressure in pass protection. Baltimore have managed some big wins this season but as we head towards the playoffs they need to get better play from their tackles to allow Flacco time to find all the weapons at his disposal.

We’ll give McKinnie and Oher a little bit of slack here, as nobody can deny the prowess of Messrs. Freeney and Mathis. However, it hasn’t been a one-week thing. As PFF points out, Oher has only had one really good stretch all season (weeks 8-10), and McKinnie has never been much in a Ravens uniform. After the opening play of the season – the big Ray Rice run that went right to Bryant’s side – we all envisioned big things from the mountain of a man holding down the left side. Since, though, he has been decent in pass protection and flat out poor in run blocking, especially when asked to seal off the back side pursuit.

With as strong as the Ravens’ interior linemen – center Matt Birk and guards Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs – have played all season, it’s a shame that these two former first round draft picks can’t perform better on the edges.

Fortunately, the Ravens’ next two opponents rank near the bottom of the NFL in sacks. Neither San Diego (#29 – 22 sacks) nor Cleveland (#24 – 25) have been able to get after quarterbacks well. As we saw in Week 13 though, when Oher allowed Browns’ defensive end Jabaal Sheard to get to Flacco and force a fumble, it only takes one lapse to potentially change a game.

At this point it’s probably not realistic to expect McKinnie to suddenly start to play like his old self. Oher, though, should be able to pick it up again as he did during the middle of the year. The teams that B’More is likely to see in the playoffs – Denver, Pittsburgh, Houston – can all get after the passer with startling regularity. There is no room for poor tackle play, especially from a guy as young and talented as Oher.

Step it up, Michael (on the bright side, he has at least been mostly penalty-free lately).

Lardarius Webb Becomes Third Raven Hobbled by Turf Toe

December 12, 2011

With the hapless Indianapolis Colts in town last week, the number one fear was that the Ravens would suffer another letdown against a poor opponent.

They vanquished Dan Orlovsky and company 24-10, so no issues there.

Next on the fan fear list was that an important player would suffer an injury. As of this morning, it looked like the Ravens had escaped the contest unscathed in that department as well.

Unfortunately, Vinny Cerrato of 105.7 the fan broke the news this morning that the team had indeed suffered a potentially devastating injury.

Lardarius Webb is reported to have suffered a hyperextended big toe, or “turf toe” as it has become infamously known.

Here’s Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times:

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb suffered a turf toe injury toward the end of a win Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts.

Under a best-case scenario, Webb is expected to miss one to a few games.

The worst-case scenario is Webb would be out until the playoffs.

Ugh. The only way this injury could have come at a worse time is if it had happened in Week 17, immediately preceding the postseason.

Webb has been far and away the team’s top cornerback in 2011, and leads the team in interceptions with four. He is also the primary punt returner, and after a slow start to the season had been really picking it up in that department as well, taking one back for a touchdown in Week 14 against Cleveland.

Entering this month, there were 15 cornerbacks in the NFL who had been targeted at least 70 times, and Webb was the only one to not allow a single touchdown. He didn’t allow any over the last two games either, so that streak is still alive.

When Webb wasn’t on the field for the Colts’ final series Sunday, it was assumed that he was simply taken out of the game because the score was so lopsided. Instead, it looks like his tackle of Austin Collie on the previous series is where the injury occurred.

If the reports are true, Webb would be the third Raven this season to miss time due to turf toe. Left guard Ben Grubbs missed six games earlier in the year, and Ray Lewis has missed the last four – though he hopes to return in Week 15 against San Diego – with the exact same ailment.

With San Diego next on the schedule, this is a terrible time for this injury to pop up. The Chargers are loaded at the wide receiver position, and the Ravens could have used all hands on deck in the secondary. Without Webb, we have to hope Chris Carr is able to come back from a back injury that has been bothering him of late. While Webb-for-Carr isn’t a 1-to-1 trade by any stretch, the veteran Carr is at least familiar enough with the Ravens’ system that the drop off should be less than if say, Danny Gorrer has to see extended playing time (though Gorrer, for his part, has been a pleasant surprise on the back end).

I would expect Tom Zbikowski to take over on punt returns. While he isn’t nearly as explosive as Webbie, I’d think the coaching staff trusts him more back there than a guy like LaQuan Williams in important games like the ones remaining on the schedule.

Rookie Jimmy Smith will be a guy that certainly sees more of the field with Webb out, and he will have his hands full against the Chargers’ talented WR corps.

Not to get all Football Outsiders on you, but if I were to try to quantify Webb’s absense, I’d have to guess it’s probably worth at least 4-6 points per game. That’s another touchdown or so that the Ravens’ offense is going to have to expect to have to make up for moving forward without Webb. The final AFC playoff seeding is far from set in stone, and the Ravens can’t afford to let this injury derail them down the stretch.

Hopefully Webb doesn’t miss more than a game or two. All teams are dealing with injuries this time of year, and there is no room for excuses as the season’s final weeks tick away. Let’s get Webbie rested up, and in the meantime it has to be “next man up” in the secondary.


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