Archive for the ‘Ravens Game Recaps’ Category

Play Like a Raven – Week 3

September 28, 2010

PlayLikeaRaven

Played Like a Raven – “Flacco to Boldin”

Whether Joe’s first pass of the day was simply a little leftover hiccup from Cincinnati, or a huge wake up call that b-slapped him mentally back into the game, things were different from pass #2 onward.  “Good Joe,” showed up, sound mechanics and all, stepping into his throws and delivering the ball into some tight windows.

More often than not, the recipient of those strong throws was Anquan Boldin, who finds himself in this spot for the second time in just three weeks as a Raven.  Boldin has immediately brought a nastiness to the wide receiver position in Baltimore, a dimension that has been sorely lacking for years.  Watching “Q” go up and snatch the ball out of the air has quickly become a favorite sight of the purple faithful, and for Joe Flacco. Had he not been interfered with not once, but TWICE (both uncalled), Boldin would have had an even bigger day and at least one more touchdown.  As these two continue to develop chemistry and confidence in one another, “Flacco-to-Boldin” could quickly become one of the most familiar phrases on NFL highlight shows.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Run Defense

I struggled a bit with this one; that is, deciding exactly who to pin Peyton Hillis’ 144-yard performance on.  First, I was going to put the lion’s share of the blame on Haloti Ngata.  After all, as the best player on the defensive line and a guy who many consider to be one of the top tackles in the NFL, he should have been able to do more personally to clog up the middle.  Watching the game again though, Haloti wasn’t even on the field for a few of Hillis’ big gains.

So I thought, “lets put this one on the defensive line in general.”  It wasn’t just Ngata who had a bad day – Kelly Gregg and Trevor Pryce didn’t do much either.  Then again, when a running back busts through the line like that, a team that supposedly has a strong linebacking corps should be able to bottle him up just a few yards downfield, not deep in the secondary.  Alright then, let’s go with: The Entire Front 7 “did not Play Like Ravens.”

However, watching the pathetic attempts of some of the Ravens’ secondary in trying to bring down Hillis (looking at you, Fabian Washington and Tom Zbikowski), there was no way I could just let them off the hook.

So we’ll go this route: The ENTIRE Ravens’ defense played un-Raven-like…when the Browns ran the ball.

They were decent when Seneca Wallace dropped back to throw, flushing him from the pocket regularly and ultimately allowing only 141 passing yards on the afternoon.  Granted, they weren’t exactly challenged (again), but I’m still convinced that the reports of the death of the B’More secondary have been greatly exaggerated.  Once Ed Reed comes back, things will only get better.

The play of the pass defense doesn’t excuse the failures to contain Hillis though.  We know that this team has a very stout front seven, so we have to believe this was strictly an aberration.  Though they’d never admit it, it was perhaps a result of the defense looking past the Browns a bit with Pittsburgh looming.

They’ll have to be MUCH better against Rashard Mendenhall this week, or it likely won’t matter that the Steelers are on what amounts to their fourth string quarterback at this point.

Photos c/o Baltimore Sun

Ravens 24 Browns 17 (The Q!!!!!!!!!!! Game)

September 27, 2010

Maybe Anita Marks was right all along

/excuse me while I rinse the vomit from my mouth

While I’d still maintain that the addition of just one player cannot take an offense instantly from mediocre to dynamic and dangerous, Anquan Boldin made quite an argument for himself Sunday afternoon in Charm City. Boldin hauled in 8 passes for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns from Joe Flacco, the last of which put the Ravens ahead for good. For “Q,” it was his second 100+ yard performance in three tries for the Ravens, and his best game since a spectacular 13-catch, 186 yard game in week 11 of 2008.

As far as Flacco, the 22/31 262 yard day should help erase the memories of the debacle in Cincinnati, and for a week anyway, quiet the moronic calls of some Baltimore fans for Marc Bulger. However, things could have started a whole lot worse, as Joe’s very first pass (a back foot floater while he was getting crushed, of course) should have been picked off and taken to the house by T.J. Ward for an early 7-0 deficit. After that one though, Flacco got his act together.

Boldin’s second touchdown grab, a 12-yard strike from Joe Cool, put the Ravens up at a seemingly comfortable clip of 14-3 with just under six minutes to go in the first half. With a defense that was working on their tenth consecutive quarter of not allowing a touchdown to start the 2010 season, and facing a Browns offense that was without their starting quarterback, running back, and one wide receiver, the rout appeared to be on in B’More.

That’s when things started to get interesting, though.

The Browns took possession and methodically marched 83 yards, most of them on the legs of running back Peyton Hillis. The drive culminated in a touchdown with only a few ticks left on the clock, pulling Cleveland to within 14-10, and the halftime feeling was quite an uneasy one at M&T Bank Stadium.

Things didn’t get much better in the second half, as the Ravens offense stalled in the third quarter, twice going three-and-out, and seeing a Billy Cundiff 51-yard field goal attempt clang off the left upright. The Browns took advantage early in the fourth, scoring again on a 1-yard pass from Seneca Wallace to tight end Ben Watson on the first play of the quarter.

Now trailing 17-14, the Ravens’ offense put together arguably their most impressive drive of this young season. They drove 69 yards (+20 of offensive penalties) on 10 plays, culminating in a beautiful rainbow of a 27-yard touchdown pass from, of course…Flacco to Boldin. The Ravens went up 21-17, and would never relinquish the lead again. Only an uncalled pass interference in the end zone prevented Flacco-to-Boldin from hooking up for the FOURTH time on the afternoon, and Baltimore settled for a Billy Cundiff field goal to round out the day’s scoring.

Speaking of Cundiff, he was much more than just a 1 or 3-points at a time kind of typical kicker weapon against the Browns. Cleveland boasts one of the best return men in the NFL, Joshua Cribbs, but Cundiff drilled both of his fourth quarter kickoffs so far into the end zone that Cribbs had no choice but to down them for touchbacks. After hearing that Cundiff won the kicking job over Shayne Graham mainly due to his kickoff strength, it was good to see the evidence of that on full display. With the game as close as it was, a big return by Cribbs there in the fourth could have resulted in a much different final score.

It wasn’t the blowout that many, including this blog, had predicted, but a win nonetheless. The Ravens are now 2-1, and more importantly 1-1 in the AFC North after two of their early season three-in-a-row against division foes. Since it wasn’t a blowout though, many fans are all too happy to search out the negatives, and there were a few to pick apart on Sunday.

First, the run defense was gashed by relative unknown Peyton Hillis (maybe it’s just something about guys named Peyton?), who racked up 144 yards on 22 carries, and carried Ravens defenders with him for a good chunk of that 144. Kelly Gregg and even Haloti Ngata were pushed around up front, and the linebackers didn’t do much better. Browns’ offensive linemen Alex Mack and Joe Thomas had great days, and made big lanes for Hillis. The Ravens’ defense also failed to force a turnover for the second straight game, and still has only one on the year. When it finally seemed like the offense was finding a rhythm and could move the ball at will, the D couldn’t get them the ball back, either by forcing a 3-and-out or getting a turnover. Had the D put the ball back in the hands of Joe Flacco to end the first half, rather than allowing that long touchdown drive, it probably would have been a much less stressful second half for Ravens fans. And, although Seneca Wallace appeared to have all day to survey the field on many of his dropbacks, Greg Mattison’s defense did at least record two sacks on the day.

The run defense should immediately improve once Terrence Cody finally gets on the field, but at this point who knows when that will be? Despite practicing all of last week, Cody was a game-time scratch, and has still yet to see the field in his pro career. Fellow tackle Cory Redding suffered a concussion though, and his availability for next Sunday is unknown. Brandon McKinnie played well in his stead, but no Redding in Pittsburgh could force the coaching staff’s hand a little bit on “Mount” Cody.

A much more troubling injury occurred with about 10 minutes left in the game when Ray Rice caught a short pass for a 4-yard gain. It would be Rice’s last action of the day, and the early diagnosis is a “significantly” bruised knee. While Rice and John Harbaugh seem optimistic at the moment, Ray Rice’s knee is sure to be a hot topic of conversation all around B’More (and Pittsburgh, for that matter) all week. There is no chance the Ravens will come out and say that Rice is definitely out (if that is indeed the case) until they absolutely have to, so that kind of gamesmanship in a critical division rivalry such as this could lead to us not really knowing #27’s status until right up at 1:00 PM Sunday.

Let’s hope it really is just a little bruise that will heal quickly. Against that Pittsburgh defense, the Ravens are going to need all offensive hands on deck.

Play Like a Raven – Week 2

September 21, 2010

PlayLikeaRaven

Played Like a Raven – Ray Lewis

Best Picture Ever?

Some surmised that the performance we saw from Lewis in the season opener against New York was a result of his personal motivations against his former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, and that it wasn’t indicative of the way the 15-year veteran was likely to play throughout the 2010 season.  What those people must not have understood is that Lewis plays EVERY game with that kind of emotion.  Sure, there may have been a smidge extra saved up for the Jets, but for the most part, that was just Ray “being Ray,” as they say.

His second game was very much like his first.  His 6 tackles were tied for the team lead, and he threw in 4 assists for a total of 10.  Four of his tackles were at or behind the line of scrimmage, as well, so it’s not like he was simply bringing down Bengals’ running back Cedric Benson after substantial gains up the middle, or tight end Jermaine Gresham after first down catches.  Lewis, as he has throughout his career, was playing the game in the backfield.  He also had a sack…but we all know how that turned out.

Save for one play where he missed Benson near the line at the start of the game, Ray Lewis was all over the field once again.  And while he can’t still do all the things that we saw Patrick Willis doing for the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football this week, Ray still sets the tone for a defense that has yet to allow a single touchdown in 2010.

Two thousand and ten.  Not 2000.  Fifteen years into his career, with still only one Lombardi Trophy to show for it, and Ray is still seeing stellar performances by his defense wasted by an inept offense.  His post-game tirade at the officials was a result of some bad calls sure, but we have to consider that he may have been simply redirecting some of his frustrations onto the refs from where, if he was honest with himself, his beef was really with: namely, Joe Flacco and company.

Speaking of Joe…

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Joe Flacco

They don’t get much easier than this, folks.  Joe had arguably the worst game of his professional career (the only games that come close were at Indianapolis in his 3rd career start, the 2008 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, and least year in Green Bay – all 3 were 3 INT, 3 sack days).  Enough ink and internet space has been taken up already discussing Joe’s woes, so I won’t spend much more time here dissecting his performance.

In honor of his new favorite throw, though, we put together some commemorative Nest Art for Joe the Quarterback:

Seriously, Joe, Jim Zorn, Cam Cameron…fix this, and quickly.

Bengals 15 Ravens 10 (The BENGALS' DBs CAN CATCH BETTER THAN OURS CAN Game)

September 20, 2010

Damn Bengals.  They seem to have perfected this whole “beat the Ravens by only kicking field goals” thing.

In an effort to avoid wrapping my laptop’s power cord around my neck, or just throwing the whole thing through the television, let’s first take a look at the positives from Sunday’s game. Trust me, there actually were a few.

  1. The Ravens’ much talked-about (in a “they’ll be the weak link this season” way) defense has yet to allow a touchdown in 2010 in 8 quarters of play.
  2. The secondary in particular played well, holding Carson Palmer to just a 45% completion percentage and 167 yards.  Now, if they could only catch…
  3. Lardarius Webb made his first appearance of 2010, and contributed to the aforementioned strong play of the secondary.
  4. Ray Rice looked strong after being bottled up by the New York Jets, picking up 87 yards on 16 carries (5.4 average) and 30 yards on 4 receptions (7.5).  He also had a key block on Joe Flacco’s lone touchdown pass of the day.
  5. Cedric Benson, who gashed the Ravens for 227 yards in the two games last year, was held to just 78 yards on 23 carries.
  6. From a “big picture” perspective, most of the AFC is 1-1 along with the Ravens.  Only Houston, Miami, the not-really-for-real-at-all Kansas City Chiefs, and those who shall not be named are 2-0.
  7. There are still 14 games to play.

Reluctantly moving on to address the REST of Sunday’s action…

On the Ravens second play of their second drive, a 2nd-and-10 from their own 28, Flacco dropped back, scrambled around in the pocket a bit, and ended up diving forward for a 2-yard gain, barely avoiding the sack.  On the replay though, when analyst Rich Gannon was trying to describe how well covered the Ravens’ receivers were…there he was: Anquan Boldin, streaking down the right sideline, nary a Bengal within 15 yards of him, hand waving frantically in the air calling for the ball.  Of all the terrible plays that Joe made Sunday, THIS play may be the one that makes him slink lowest in his seat when the team reviews film this week.  If Joe even LOOKS to his right at any point during the play, he would have had the easiest 70-yard touchdown throw of his career.  Instead, the Ravens would punt two plays later, and the play was an ominous harbinger of plenty more terrible things to come for #5 and the B’More offense.

With all the talk about the Ravens’ new offense and all its fancy toys, they have now managed just 20 points in two games.  Granted, those 20 points were against the #1 and #4 defenses in the NFL in 2009.  However, the degree of ineptitude that Cam Cameron and his charges showed against Cincinnati was far higher than even the most pessimistic Ravens fan could have predicted.  Flacco was horrific against the Bengals in 2009, throwing four picks in two games.  After one game against them in 2010, he has already matched that interception total, and it’s easy to just say that Cincy has Flacco’s number.  Joe has played far worse against the Bengals in his career than he has against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Sunday he appeared to be playing scared and timid right from the start.

In fact, I’d have never thought I would grimace and say “ew” so many times in one game watching Joe Flacco.  His mechanics are dreadful – his signature move now seems to be what I’ve deemed the “back-foot floater,” a pass that he throws high in the air while leaning back, hoping his target can run under it.  So far this year though, he has not shown near the level of “touch” needed to consistently complete these kinds of passes.  I hated on Mike Preston earlier this week for saying that Flacco needs to step up in the pocket more like a Brady, Manning, or Elway, but I couldn’t agree more with the spirit of the argument (I just thought it was funny how he pulled a few Hall of Fame names out of his hat).  Joe DOES need to step up and put some zip on the ball.  We’ve seen him do it before, so I’m as confused as the rest of you at his seeming regression.

In both games so far in 2010, there has been one play where you can see Joe just get fed up and step into a throw and put it right on his receivers’ chest, giving them no choice but to catch it – against the Jets, it was a sideline out to Derrick Mason; against Cincy, he slammed the ball into Anquan Boldin’s chest on a play where he lined up in the slot.

Where are those passes the rest of the time?

What the hell is up with this new back-foot floater?

Can I get a Ra-Ven? (Get it…”can I get an amen?” No? Ok, fine.)

Staying on Joe for a minute: Another wildly exasperating facet of his play so far this season is that he is seemingly completely unwilling to audible at the line of scrimmage.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve seen him check out of one play in the two games to date.  In New York is one thing, but the Cincinnati crowd isn’t exactly known around the league for being one of the loudest; there is no noise-related excuse for never changing the play.  It’s especially maddening when the Ravens have some sort of slow-developing running play called, and the opposing defense walks 7 or 8 guys to to the line of scrimmage – that play is dead in the water.  Still, Joe makes no effort to change the play.  We saw him do it a couple of times in the preseason (think of the touchdown pass to Boldin in the Giants game), so why has it suddenly stopped?  I’m not suggesting Joe needs to be Peyton Manning up there, diagnosing every defensive player’s assignment, along with his fears, goals, and ambitions…but a check-off here and there would be a sight for sore eyes.

Its all a bit too disappointing to delve into too deeply.  I’m much more inclined to chalk it up to a combination of factors, including the short week, consecutive road games, Cincy “having his number,” poor offensive line play, and the failure of the Ravens’ receivers to create separation (the aforementioned Boldin play notwithstanding) or haul in catches that we’ve seen them make a hundred times before (seriously…anybody else get the feeling the T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still a closet Bengals fan?) Let’s all cross our fingers that a full week of preparation, along with a home game against a sorry Cleveland team, will be just what the doctor ordered to heal up our sputtering offense and suddenly shaky quarterback situation.

Moving on from Flacco, but sticking with the offense in general…

Cam Cameron needs to stop buying into the hype about his offense.  I don’t know if its a symptom of trying to keep all of the receivers happy or what, but on a day where his quarterback is having the worst game of his young career, and his running back is ripping off over 5 yards a carry in a 1-score game…man, come ON.  RUN THE DAMN BALL.  Rice had only 16 carries.  Willis McGahee had three.  Le’Ron McClain had ONE.

I completely understand that the days of the “three-headed-monster” in the Ravens’ backfield are pretty much over, even if I don’t 100% agree with it.  The Ravens have these highly paid guys on the outside and a young quarterback who they are trying to develop, but sometimes the game has to dictate what you’re doing as an offense.  Especially with a makeshift offensive line that is struggling mightily to pass protect, while at the same time showing that they can open holes in the running game.  Moving the ball through the air against the Bengals wasn’t happening, and the Ravens were never down by more than 6 points, so the fact that Rice had only 8 carries per half is absolutely criminal.

Goob already addressed the bogus officiating calls that cost the Ravens 6 points, so I won’t get into it.  Fact is, the key play of the game yesterday wasn’t any of Flacco’s four picks, nor was it either of those two costly penalties.  It was the kickoff return by Bernard Scott with just under 6 minutes remaining.  The Ravens had just taken a 10-9 lead, but the 60-yard kickoff return set the Bengals up in near field goal range to start the drive.  It was a hugely deflating letdown from a unit that had been solid all day, with Billy Cundiff’s two kickoffs to that point both resulting in touchbacks.

The Ravens now have a full week of preparation for their home opener against the Browns.  Identifying and correcting the plethora of offensive mistakes we witnessed on Sunday will be tantamount to not only a victory against Cleveland, but absolutely critical if this team has any hope to realize the lofty goals they have set for themselves in 2010.

Play Like a Raven – Week 1

September 14, 2010

PlayLikeaRaven

Here at the Nest, we decided that, since Rex Ryan wants to take his “Play Like a ____” slogan with him to New York, Monday night’s game would be played for the rights to continue to use the phrase here. Had the Ravens lost the game, we’d have let Rex have it, and would have been forced to come up with some other name for our weekly awards post.

Of course, the Ravens won the game, so “Play Like a Raven” lives on here at the Nest.

Played Like a Raven – Anquan Boldin

The first time Anquan Boldin steps on the field for the Ravens is also the first time he receives this honor – hopefully this is but a sign of things to come from “Q.” In Boldin’s first action in purple and black, he was the best player on the field wearing those colors, at least when the Ravens had possession.

Q hauled in 7 passes for 110 yards, including receptions on 3rd-and-9 and 3rd-and-7 to convert first downs. Early in the 3rd quarter, with the team backed up on their own 11-yard line, Boldin got open down the seam for a huge 38 yard pick up. Two plays later, he found room down the left sideline for a gain of 27. According to the ESPN broadcast, Boldin had only ONE reception of 21+ yards in all of 2009, and he had just doubled that number in the last three snaps. So, for all we’ve heard about Boldin not being a “deep threat,” is that really the case, or was he just not utilized in that capacity in Arizona, where they had Larry Fitzgerald to fill that role.

Boldin also got in on the “get held by Antonio Cromartie” party (I gots rhymes, yo), which resulted in another Ravens’ 3rd-down conversion.

The only critique of Q would be if Jon Gruden was correct in his analysis of Flacco’s interception. In Chuckie’s view, Boldin was likely supposed to run a post on the play, and get his man (Cromartie) out of the play, which was designed to go to Todd Heap. Instead, Boldin hung out by the sideline, looked for the ball, and Cromartie pounced for the pick. Now, I haven’t talked to Q, Heap, or Flacco, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of Gruden’s assessment. However, if his words are true, it’s simply a matter of Boldin getting comfortable in his new offense, and issues like that will work themselves out sooner rather than later.

Anquan Boldin – welcome to the Ravens.

Honorable Mention – Sam Koch

Koch not only had a solid night punting the ball, but made a touchdown saving tackle on Jim Leonhard. Koch, who was a linebacker in high school and who Goob calls “the bodybuilding punter” showed that he can still hit a little bit.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Tom Zbikowski

Oh, Zibby, Zibby, Zibby.

I’m sure you’re all groaning reading this, knowing exactly what I’m talking about.

With the Ravens clinging to a 10-6 lead near the end of the 3rd quarter, and having just forced ANOTHER Jets 3-and-out (which drew lusty boos from the hometown crowd), Zibby went back to receive a Steve Weatherford punt. Weatherford dropped the ball beautifully at the sideline on the Ravens’ 6-yard line, where Zibby was waiting. A fair catch was probably not completely necessary there – I just watched the play again on DVR and Tom could have easily caught the ball, skipped forward to about the 10, and went out of bounds.

Zibby had other ideas though. Forgetting momentarily that he was no longer returning punts for the Fighting Irish, he ran backwards diagonally from the 6-yard sideline to the middle of the field at the Ravens’ goalline, attempting to reverse field and run around the punt coverage of the Jets. Proving that not many players in the league can successfully pull off such a feat, let alone a white dude (no matter what Madden ’11 would have you believe), he was corralled by New York easily and very narrowly avoided one of two equally disastrous outcomes. Not only was he nearly tackled for a safety, but he lost the ball as he hit the ground, almost fumbling and giving the Jets a gift touchdown.

At that point in the game, a big special teams play was pretty much the only way the Jets and their anemic offense were going to regain the lead. After that debacle, the Ravens spent the next 10 minutes of game clock severely hampered by dreadful field position. On the ensuing possession, they punted from their 13, then the Jets punted from the Ravens’ 40, pinning them at the two. The Ravens managed ONE yard, and punted from the three. After a 22-yard return, the Jets set up shop from the Baltimore 35, got five yards and kicked a field goal for the game’s final points.

Luckily for Zibby, the defense (which he was, admittedly a part of) held despite his putting them in a terrible situation. Three points seems a small penance to pay for the kind of bone-headed play he made in running back into his own end zone.

He wasn’t quite done yet though. With 6 minutes to play, and the Ravens still clinging to that one-point lead, Zibby lined up under a Weatherford punt at the B’More 27 yard line, AGAIN eschewed the fair catch, and was immediately popped for a one yard loss. Again, a big special teams play was exactly what the doctor ordered in that situation for Gang Green. Thankfully, Zibby held onto the ball, but he had no business not waving the white flag there.

Here’s what Zibby had to say, courtesy of the Baltimore Sun:

“I took a chance on [the big mistake],” he said. “I lost track of where I was. I lined up on the 15, and I thought I was drifting more left, but I felt myself going back a little bit. I didn’t know I was that deep.”

John Harbaugh had this take:

“I thought he did a nice job of catching the ball and securing the ball, but I think he tried too hard to make a play,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Sometimes guys will do that in their first outing. You’ve got to respect the guys covering a little bit more and take the ball north and south. … Zibby will learn from that. We had a good conversation about it on the train, and it was good-hearted. He’ll be fine, but we need better.”

Harbaugh wouldn’t go as far to say that he is not considering other options on punt returns. Chris Carr averaged 8.2 yards on 32 punt returns last season.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We never rule anything out. Chris Carr’s an option and so are some other guys. But Zibby, I think he’ll be good at it.”

I’m not against giving Zibby another crack or two at it – but any more brainfarts like the one at the Meadowlands, and other options need to be explored, and quickly.

Ravens 10 Jets 9 (The MOST LOPSIDED 1-POINT GAME EVER Game)

September 14, 2010

I’m sure many of you out there are, like me, Maryland Terrapin fans.  And watching this game, I’ll bet many of you also, like me, felt like you were watching Labor Day’s Maryland-Navy game all over again, only this time from the Navy fan’s point of view. They weren’t quite the goalline possessions that the Midshipmen kept coming away empty from, but the Ravens did have the ball inside the Red Zone twice in the games first 25 minutes (once on a 17-play, 9-minute drive) only to turn the ball over and come away empty handed on both chances.

I’ll also say this – I think we Ravens fans may have cashed in every last “the refs hate us” chip that we had left. The Jets were penalized 10 times for 100 yards in the FIRST HALF alone. The Ravens had four 3rd-down attempts turned into first downs via New York penalties, including a 3rd-and-28, and the pass interference in the end zone that set them up at the 1 for their only touchdown of the night – a touchdown that would not have happened had a field goal attempt earlier on the same drive not been nullified by, you guessed it – a penalty.

As a matter of fact…watching the Jets, with their defense committing a stupid penalty for seemingly every big play they make, and their offense that nobody in the stadium has any confidence in to go 40 or so yards to set up a potential game winning field goal…you begin to wonder if it was Rex Ryan or Brian Billick coaching those Ravens teams of the last decade.

John Harbaugh’s team – the “new” Ravens – were penalized just 5 times for 38 yards in the game, compared to 14-125 for Rex’s “old” Ravens. Several times the New York crowd was pining for pass interference flags on Ravens’ cornerbacks, but none would come, as Chris Carr and Fabian Washington were playing with what Harbaugh likes to call “perfect technique.”

The Jet penalties served to effectively offset all the mistakes the Ravens’ offense was making in giving the ball away. It’s a bit eerie when, after a season of hearing your offense hyped up as potentially one of the league’s best, your quarterback’s very first dropback on the very first offensive snap of the season results in a sack-fumble-turnover. Flacco held the ball way too long on that play, and paid the price. On his interception, the MNF crew seemed to think it was as much Anquan Boldin’s fault as Flacco’s – the ball was seemingly intended for Todd Heap, but Antonio Cromartie – who was covering Boldin on the play – came off his man to make the pick. Still, it was an ugly floater of a pass that had me nervous as soon as it left his hand. As for the Ravens’ THIRD turnover of the first half, Willis McGahee, who looked terrible all night save for his crucial touchdown burst, just played right into the Jets’ hands, allowing himself to be held up by tacklers while more flew in to try to knock the ball loose.

It was those turnovers – along with the Jets eating the Ravens’ lunches on special teams – that kept Gang Green in the ball game. The “lopsidedness” of this one, which I referenced in the blog title, is on full display if you look at some of the numbers:

First Downs: BAL – 20 NYJ – 6
Third down conversions: BAL – 11/19 57% NYJ – 1/11 9%
Passing Yards: BAL – 233 NYJ – 60
Time of Possession: BAL – 38:32 NYJ – 21:28

Complete dominance by the Ravens, yet a single point separated the two teams after 60 minutes. As my dad put it, it felt like we were playing the damn Steelers. The only difference – and its a big one – Mark Sanchez is no Ben Roethlisberger (although he and his teammates seem to be working from Ben’s playbook lately).

Sanchez had no ability to drive down the field for a game-winning score. He was horrific all night, throwing check-down after check-down, and at one point sliding like a wuss just shy of what would have been a Red Zone first down when he saw #52 flying at him. The Ravens’ much-maligned secondary was never even tested by the second-year quarterback. Mark Sanchez did NOTHING the entire game, save for confirm every suspicion I have about him being nothing but Matt Leinart version 1.2.

It was ugly – excruciatingly so at times – but all that really matters is that the Ravens walked out of the New Meadowlands with a 1-0 record.

Now, Rex and the Jets: SHUT THE F*$K UP!!!

New Segment: "Goob's Monday Morning Hangover"

September 13, 2010

Each year, the Nest brings you some of the best post-game reactions in Baltimore . As a new blogger to the site, check in after each game for my new segment appropriately titled “Monday Tuesday Morning Hangover”.

Antics such as this each Sunday are the reason for the title of the new segment

For most home (and this year, many away) games, I am found causing a ruckus in the stands and typically get on a few rants whether it’s positive or negative about the outcome of the game. This year, I will play out my emotions either by the strike of a computer key or youtube video- depending on my mood or BAC.

Please check back to the Nest for my take on one or many aspects of the previous day’s gridiron battle. I promise my coverage of the Ravens will be 100000% better than my O’s coverage- it’s my true passion.

Ravens Look Formidable in Final "Dress Rehearsal"

August 29, 2010

Bad Ass O

Someone tweeted last night something along the lines of “if this is the New York Giants’ dress rehearsal, they had better hope for a whole new wardrobe come Week 1.”

Well, if that was the case for Tom Coughlin’s team, then the exact opposite rings true for John Harbaugh’s squad. The Ravens came out firing on all cylinders in Week 3 of the preseason (save for the opening drive 3 and out), ultimately disposing of the Giants by a final of 24-10. While each team’s starters were in the game though (the entirety of the first half), the Ravens outscored Eli Manning and company 17-3. It probably should have been worse, as the dominant display put on by B’More would have seemed likely to result in greater than just the two touchdown advantage.

While Cam Cameron’s game plan in every contest this preseason has obviously been to hone the passing game of his starters, for the first time in three games that plan was finally executed to his, and Ravens’ fans’, satisfaction. Joe Flacco was 21-34 for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns. He spread the ball around very efficiently, using all parts of the field. Todd Heap was the Ravens’ leading receiver, looking like a half-decade younger version of himself while hauling in 6 passes for 69 yards and Flacco’s second score. Derrick Mason had five catches and Mark Clayton made just one, but for a 20-yard gain.

Flacco’s newest weapon, Anquan Boldin, also had his most impressive showing as a Raven to date. Boldin caught 4 passes for 52 yards and the team’s first touchdown, a brilliant catch in which he bailed Flacco out a bit. Joe made a beautifully executed read at the line of scrimmage, calling an audible to check out of the original play call on 4th-and-3 from the Giants’ 9. Flacco dropped back, looked the safety off nicely, and Boldin had two steps on his man headed to the end zone when Joe Cool’s gaze returned to that side of the field. Flacco, though, put the ball a bit behind Boldin, who adjusted his body to make the catch anyway.

Boldin also showed the dimension he brings to the Ravens’ WR corps that had been completely absent: a physical, yards-after-catch element. On the first play of the Ravens’ second drive, Boldin caught the ball near the sticks with two Giants closing quickly. No disrespect to Derrick Mason or Mark Clayton, but those two are hit-or-miss to get the first down in that situation, likely to go down to the first defender to get a hand on them.

Not Boldin.

Q stiff-armed and dragged his way for an additional 3-4 yards, leaving no doubt that it was time to “move those chains.” A beautiful thing to watch.

To show just how focused the Ravens were on the passing game, look no further than the fact that Flacco also led the team in rushing yards against the Giants. Joe looked much more mobile than we remembered from the last half-dozen or so games of 2009, when he was dealing with the much talked-about hip/leg bruise. He avoided pressure nicely several times, and while he won’t be confused with a Drew Brees or Tom Brady yet when it comes to pocket presence, the third-year quarterback is far from the immobile water buffalo back there that injuries made him during times last year.

When Ray Rice finally was called upon to tote the rock, he looked a bit rusty at times, while also appearing to struggle a bit with the new playing surface at M&T Bank Stadium. He also dropped a pass down the seam that Flacco dropped in beautifully, which, had he caught it, would have set the Ravens up with a 1st-and-goal at about the 5 yard line. I’m not terribly concerned about #27, and it is pretty obvious from his lack of carries in game action that the coaching staff isn’t either. Rice also seemed to hear the coaching staff’s “ball security” message loud and clear this week, securing the ball nicely on each of his 9 touches. The same cannot be said for Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain, who fumbled after a nice gain on one of his only three touches. Not exactly great ammo for his “MCCLAIN 4 RB” campaign moving forward.

On the whole, the Ravens offense was very impressive. They showed that opposing defenses will not be able to focus on just Ray Rice or Derrick Mason in 2010, as Flacco seems quite comfortable with all of his weapons entering the season. Once they actually start game-planning for teams, and putting together a more balanced attack (which they most certainly will), this offense just might have a chance to live up to the hype.

One area they will certainly need to improve though, is on 3rd down. They were just 4/15 on the night, although they were an impressive 3/3 on fourth downs.

As for the defense, they had an up-and-down first half despite holding the Giants to just the three points. New York running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 63 yards on just 13 carries in the first half, including a 29-yard scamper by Jacobs. The Ravens missed several plays on defense due to poor tackling, which everyone from Haloti Ngata to Jarret Johnson to Dawan Landry was guilty of at times.

One play that will have Ravens fans talking this week was Bradshaw’s seemingly innocent 12-yard scamper midway through the first quarter. On the play, he appeared to be bottled up in the backfield before eluding Johnson and then running away from Ray Lewis in a way that made the 35-year old linebacker’s age show like it rarely, if ever, has before. It was a play that Ray has made countless times in his career, and one that he may have even made last season. You hate to take too much from any one game, let alone one PLAY, but it was a painful reminder that #52’s best days are getting further and further behind him, and us.

Of course, knowing Ray, he’ll simply log that play in his mental playbook, adjust his angle appropriately next time, make the tackle, and all will be appear to be right in Ravenstown. You have to admire the way Lewis continues to use his knowledge of the game and film study expertise to prolong his career, but his football IQ won’t make up for his diminishing physical abilities forever. Just something to keep an eye on.

On a more positive note, the Ravens’ much-maligned secondary played very well. Fabian Washington whiffed on one wide receiver screen, but was all over two others. Chris Carr recorded a sack and was not really picked on at all by Eli Manning. Tom Zbikowski was beat badly over the top on the Giants’ second drive by Steve Smith, but Manning underthrew him; overall though, Zibby had another solid night. He had better watch out for Haruki Nakamura though. His fellow third-year safety was all over the field, picking off one Manning throw and nearly getting another. “Rooki” is making a strong case for more playing time, and looks to be completely healed from his nasty broken leg suffered against Cleveland last season.

Even those wide open men over the middle that were there for the Redskins a week ago seemed to disappear this week. I expected Giants’ tight end Kevin Boss to have a field day, but he had as many catches as you and I did. Boss was making his first preseason appearance of 2010 after offseason ankle surgery, and probably had some rust. Still, the gaping holes in the Ravens’ coverage that were there last week appeared to have been addressed, at least for one night. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe dropped into coverage impressively and was able to tip the pass that was ultimately intercepted by Nakamura. Despite Jameel McClain again getting the starting nod at inside linebacker next to Ray Lewis, I still think more and more that Ellerbe will be the team’s best option moving forward.

One final note from last night comes from the injury front. Donte Stallworth suffered a broken foot late in the first half, and will need surgery. According to John Harbaugh, the team does not expect to have Stallworth back until at least the Bye week. It’s a shame, as Stallworth was having a strong camp in his attempt to return to the NFL after missing all of 2009, but it’s not a completely devastating blow to the Ravens’ offense. While Stallworth was the team’s purest “deep threat,” he was nowhere to be found when Flacco was doing all that above-mentioned passing all over the field. Stallworth did appear to be the team’s first option at punt returner, but Mark Clayton seems to have secured his spot as the #3 wideout. With Stallworth out, Demetrius Williams and Marcus Smith see their chances to make the roster and impact the team increase, and we have to hope they embrace the “next man up” philosophy and make the most of their chances. Smith admitted that he was energized in the second half last night after watching Stallworth go down earlier (I read that somewhere, but can’t find the quote right now).

Colts 20 Ravens 3 (The EIGHTH STRAIGHT LOSS TO INDY Game)

January 19, 2010

What is it about the Ravens that seems to bring out the best in the Colts’ defense time and time again? Year after year, Indy has a dog-crap defense, and year after year, that dog-crap defense looks like a mighty combination of the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens when the boys from B’More line up against them.

The particulars this time around? The Colts had the 18th-ranked defense in the NFL, and were 24th against the run. They gave up 100-yard rushing days to Maurice Jones-Drew, Ronnie Brown, Steven Jackson, Thomas Jones, Chris Johnson, and Fred Jackson. Frank Gore had a 91-yard day, and MJD had another 97-yard performance.

On Saturday night, the Ravens’ leading rusher, Ray Rice, managed just 67 yards. In the earlier meeting this year, you’ll remember, it was 71 yards. Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee were non-factors, with just four carries for 10 yards combined.

The Ravens failed to score a single touchdown in two full games against the Colts in 2009. In their 2008 meeting, it was the same story. In the 2006 Playoff game? Nary a touchdown scored.

This problem…of being absolutely offensively inept against Indianapolis, now spans several head coaches, and even more offensive coordinators, starting quarterbacks, and leading running backs. It defies logic. Here, Tony Lombardi makes the nauseating argument that the Ravens have NOT SCORED A SINGLE MEANINGFUL TOUCHDOWN AGAINST THE COLTS SINCE 2002!

So sure, we all remember that Peyton Manning never loses to the Ravens. But, in reality, these losses to the Colts are usually just as much on the shoulders of the Ravens’ offense as they are Indianapolis’.

I don’t really have any desire to dig a lot deeper into the Ravens’ dud of a season-ending performance. Those of us who watched the team all season knew that they had far too many issues to be serious Super Bowl contenders. After watching them destroy New England, we told ourselves that maybe, just maybe, they could catch lightning in a bottle and go on a nice little four-game run. In the end though, it was those same issues that were so obvious all season that reared their ugly heads to doom the Ravens.

The ridiculous penalties at inopportune times. Saturday, it was L.J. Smith, Corey Ivy, and Ray Lewis.

The lack of any big-play threats in the passing game. Demetrius Williams reminded us Saturday night why the Ravens are likely to let him walk after the season – his inconsistencies outweigh his considerable upside.

The inability to FINISH in the final minutes of any half. I’ll share another link here – Glenn Clark goes into painstaking detail about how the final five minutes of halves basically caused just about every loss piled up by the Ravens in 2009.

After reading that, we should all be able to agree that John Harbaugh’s main focus this offseason needs to be learning how to more effectively manage the final minutes of halves. Ozzie needs to figure out a way to get Joe Flacco some real weapons besides Ray Rice, so that he can continue the progression that seems to have halted about midway through this season.

We’ll use the next few months leading up to the draft to talk more about the team’s offseason needs.

And, some time this week, I’ll post some pictures and videos from the Nest’s trip to Indy.

Play Like a Raven – Wild Card Round

January 13, 2010

PlayLikeaRayRice

Ray MF’in Rice!

Again justifying his place as namesake of this weekly award, Ray Rice set the tone for the Ravens’ Wild Card victory over the New England Patriots with his 83-yard touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage. For the day, Mighty Mouse had 159 yards on 22 carries and 2 touchdowns.

He wasn’t the only Ray-ven to tear it up, though.

Played Like a Raven – Ray Lewis

Ray Brady

B’More’s original “Ray,” number 52, had himself a day. If Ray Rice set the tone for the offense, Ray Lewis helped set the tone for the defense. With the Ravens already leading 14-0, Lewis picked up his first career postseason sack, a vicious hit on Tom Brady in which he came untouched right through the middle of the Patriots’ offensive front.

Ray ended the day with four solo tackles, but was in on nine more. On one particular play, he came through on a run blitz, was picked up easily by New England, but still managed to get himself back in the play and ultimately was the one to bring down Kevin Faulk after a 7-yard gain.

Lewis played like a man who knows he doesn’t have many chances left at earning a second Lombardi Trophy. He knocked a Tom Brady-led team off for the first time in his career. Hopefully, he will go to Indy this week and play equally inspired football, and knock the Peyton Manning “Monkey” off his back as well.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Kick Coverage

edgar jones

When you win a road playoff game against 3-time Super Bowl Champs by a 33-14 margin, and the game is never really in doubt, it’s really just nit-picking to find a fault with the effort.

No individual player had a terrible day, nor did any singular unit. Saying that the entire special teams squad “did not Play Like a Raven” would be too harsh, as Matt Katula’s snaps were on-point, which led to a perfect day for Billy Cundiff (2/2 FG, 3/3 XP) and another solid performance by Sam Koch (2 inside the 20). However, the kick coverage teams, on both punts and kickoffs, did not play up to their Top-5 billings (despite a beastly hit by Edgar Jones in the first quarter).

Matt Slater had a 26 yard kickoff return, and Darius Butler a 42 yarder. Butler’s served to set up the Patriots’ only real scoring “drive” of the day (their other touchdown came on the muffed punt that gave them the ball at the Ravens’ 16).

On punts, Julian “I’m the Patriots’ only weapon” Edelman only had one attempt, but on it he manged 28 yards, about 18 of which came when everyone watching was sure the Ravens had managed to wrap him up.

These mistakes didn’t amount to much with the team nursing a two-three TD lead all afternoon. However, giving Peyton Manning short fields on the regular will hardly be a recipe for success this week. Let’s hope the coverage units can get over their Massachusetts hiccup, and return to their dominating ways of the regular season.


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