Archive for the ‘Ravens Season Review’ Category

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #9 – Rice Runs to AFC North Title

January 7, 2012

Wrapping up our “Remembering the Regular Season” series is a memory that is yet to turn even a week old. Last Sunday, in week 17, Ray Rice broke touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards on his way to a 191 yard day that went a long way to helping the Ravens secure their first AFC North division title since 2006. He had 199 total yards from scrimmage on the day, and also cemented his position atop the NFL in that particular statistic.

Joe Flacco was a calm and efficient 15/19 for 130 yards and a touchdown, and Terrell Suggs added to his Defensive Player of the Year application with a crucial forced fumble in the fourth quarter that led directly to Rice’s second long score.

With the win, the Ravens clinched the AFC’s #2 seed, which is the reason we were able to spend some time looking back and enjoying the regular season this week, instead of getting ready for a Wild Card playoff opponent.

While the regular season was a blast, and we had a great time reminiscing about it throughout this week, we all hope the best memories of this season are yet to be forged. The Ravens will take on either the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, or Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday at 1 P.M., when they will try to run their home record to 9-0 on the year and earn their second AFC Championship Game berth in four seasons.

It’s been a well-deserved bye week for both the team and fans. Now let’s go sit back, relax, watch some playoff games, and find out who the next victim will be.

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #8 – Undefeated at Home

January 7, 2012

With a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 16 (a game that was much closer than it should have been), the Ravens capped off their first ever undefeated season at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore, since coming into the league in 1996, has still never posted a losing record at home (they’ve gone 4-4 a small handful of times). The Ravens went 7-1 at home in 2006 and 2010, but had never managed a perfect 8-0 until this year.

They joined Green Bay and New Orleans as the only teams to pull off that feat during the 2011 season, and they are now 27-5 at home in the Flacco/Harbaugh era.

Hopefully they can continue their winning ways through at least one (and hopefully two) more games at “The Vault” (or “The Bank,” or “The Flocktagon” if you prefer) here in January, and finish off the entire 2011-12 NFL year unblemished on Russel Street.

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #7 – Finally Beat the Colts

January 6, 2012

The Indianapolis Colts came to town in Week 14, but it certainly wasn’t the typical horseshoes we were used to seeing. Indy entered the game winless, at 0-12, as they had played the entire season without Peyton Manning. Many Ravens fans were having nightmares, remembering the 2007 season when B’More went to Miami and lost to a then 0-13 Dolphins squad.

This game was never in question though, as the Ravens finally put to rest a decade’s worth of frustrations, beating Indy for the first time since 2001.

It was a cathartic victory for all Ravens fans, young and old. The older generation who still remembers when the Colts were ours will always light up when a Baltimore team beats and Indianapolis one. The younger generation (the “get over it” crowd) was just glad to finally get a win after being beaten down by Manning year after year after year.

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #6 – A Thanksgiving Harbowl Victory

January 6, 2012

This past November, the Ravens played in their first ever Thanksgiving game. It was the NFL Network’s prime time game, the one that fans all over the country would have to fight their tryptophan comas to stay up and watch. As it turned out the made-for-TV storyline of brother vs. brother won out over the lure of cozy beds (or at least, they turned the game on before passing out), as the game was the Network’s most-watched program EVER.

John Harbaugh took on his little brother Jim’s San Francisco 49ers in what was dubbed the “HarBowl” or “Harbaugh Bowl” by the national hype machine. When the schedule first came out, this game looked like a cake walk for the Ravens – San Francisco hadn’t won the NFC West since 2002, and they were annually near the bottom of that traditionally poor division. However, Jim – like his brother John before him – took a losing team and immediately made them winners. The 49ers rolled into town with the NFL’s second best record, at 9-1. Quarterback Alex Smith, widely considered a first round “bust,” was playing the best football of his career, managing the game so San Fran’s strong running attack and suffocating defense could do their things.

The game was a slug fest, with Baltimore taking a 6-3 lead into the half, and scoring the game’s only touchdown on a Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta strike from eight yards out. The Ravens’ defense bruised and battered Smith, tying a franchise record with nine sacks, while the Baltimore crowd backed them every step of the way (the stadium was the loudest I’ve ever personally heard it, though to be fair, I wasn’t at the season opener against Pittsburgh).

With these two locking down the #2 playoff seeds in their respective conferences, it isn’t too far-fetched to think that we could be in for another “HarBowl” here in the pretty near future – one that would have much higher stakes.

(Again, beware the music)

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #5 – Flacco's "Drive of the Year" to beat Pittsburgh

January 5, 2012

Chronologically, this is great memory #5 in our “Remembering the Regular Season” series, but I have a feeling it is #1 in the hearts of just about every Ravens’ fan.

For the second consecutive year, Joe Flacco threw a final-minute touchdown pass at Heinz Field to beat the Steelers and send the yinzers home cryin’ in their towels. In 2010, his strike to T.J. Houshmandzadeh capped off a relatively short game-winning drive. This year, the odds were stacked even more strongly against late-game heroics – Joe and the offense took over at their own eight yard line with 2:24 on the clock, one timeout, and trailing 20-16.

What Flacco did next earned him the distinction of “Drive of the Year” (scroll to the bottom) by the website

Against their bitter rival, the Ravens trailed 20-16 with 2:24 left, one timeout, and needing to go 92 yards against one of the best defenses in the league. The often criticized Joe Flacco put a signature win on his resume with a near-flawless drive, throwing for all 92 of the yards, and overcoming some drops by his receivers. It’s an easy choice for Drive of the Year, given the ramifications it had on the AFC this season. Without the drive, the Ravens are likely preparing to go to Denver as the 5th seed right now, while the Steelers would have had the No. 1 seed, and home-field advantage over the Patriots and everyone else.

For a season that produced many great comebacks, no drive had the kind of impact and degree of difficulty as Baltimore stunning Pittsburgh to complete a season sweep.

Torrey Smith, whose holding penalty negated Ray Rice’s long touchdown run on the Ravens’ first offensive play, and who failed to tap his toes in the end zone a bit later, AND who dropped what should have been the game-winner earlier in the drive, redeemed himself by catching the game-winning score on their last play.

It was an incredible win for the Ravens, and one that ended up being extremely crucial to their current status as the AFC’s #2 seed. Here are three great videos that every Ravens fan could watch on repeat for hours on end.

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #4 – Largest Comeback in Team History

January 5, 2012

As the second quarter of the Ravens’ Week 8 game drew to a close, it certainly didn’t look like any “great” memories would be made that day – not for Ravens fans anyway…maybe for Cardinals fans. Arizona had come into Baltimore and, on the strength of a sack-fumble deep in Baltimore territory, a Torrey Smith drop that became an interception, and a long punt return touchdown rookie Patrick Peterson, taken a commanding 24-3 lead with just under four minutes left in the half.

This was immediately following the Monday Night loss in Jacksonville, and it looked like the entire season was unraveling before our eyes.

Then the Ravens started to play.

Specifically, Anquan Boldin had absolutely no interest in letting his old team come into his new home and smack him around. Boldin – with plenty of assists from Joe Flacco – took over.

After pulling to within 24-6 with a late first half field goal, the Ravens took the opening kick of the second half and went 80 yards on seven plays to make the score 24-13. Forty-eight of those yards were courtesy of Boldin – a great catch along the sideline for 37 and an 11 yard pass interference flag in the end zone.

Later in the third, Boldin had what may have been the series of his life: Six receptions on 10 plays, good for 89 yards and another PI flag – again in the end zone – for good measure. That’s right: Q generated an even 100 yards on the drive (it didn’t start at the goalline – a Ravens penalty set them back during the course of the series).

With the Ravens now trailing 24-20, Boldin would draw ANOTHER pass interference call near the end zone (this one at the 3), setting up Ray Rice’s third touchdown of the day as Baltimore took a 27-24 lead just one play into the fourth.

It would take a Billy Cundiff field goal as time expired to put the finishing touches on the win, but in the end it was the largest deficit ever overcome by a Baltimore Ravens team. Boldin finished his day with 7 receptions for 145 yards, and his pass interference flags set up each of Rice’s three short scores.

It wasn’t easy, but without Boldin and this giant comeback, we wouldn’t be talking about an undefeated season at M&T Bank Stadium.

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #3 – Rex's Creation Destroys Him

January 4, 2012

Rex Ryan was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator from 2005-2008. Since he left following the 2008 season to be the head coach of the New York Jets, he has turned their defense into one very similar to that of the Ravens (though they had a bit of a down year in 2011). While the two teams met in New York in the 2010 opener, Week 4 of 2011 was Rex’s first “homecoming” to Baltimore.

The Ravens’ defense, many of whom had played under Rex and still love him, were eager to show their former chief that they hadn’t skipped a beat after he left town.

And they did exactly that.

On the Jets’ first snap, Ed Reed blitzed off the edge and caused a Mark Sanchez fumble that Jameel McClain would recover in the end zone for a Raven’ touchdown. The Ravens only scored four defensive touchdowns during the 2011 regular season, but the final THREE of them would come in this game. Haloti Ngata also caused a Sanchez fumble that went for six the other way, and Lardarius Webb threw in an interception returned for a score.

After the game, linebacker Jarret Johnson said this of his former coach: “Rex created us, now he has to deal with us.”

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #2 – Torrey Ain't No "Bust"

January 4, 2012

Many Ravens fans were elated when former Maryland Terrapin wide receiver Torrey Smith fell to Baltimore in the second round of the 2011 draft. We had watched Torrey torch ACC defenses during his time in College Park and he seemed like the perfect burner to compliment Anquan Boldin and let Joe Flacco’s shoulder howlitzer unleash its true potential.

However, a shaky preseason had many of those same fans knee-jerking like fools and throwing around the “bust” label before #82 had even had a chance to get his feet under him. It’s a very rare thing for a wideout to come in and make an immediate impact, but in today’s “what have you done lately?” world of instant gratification, people expected Torrey to be Randy Moss as soon as he stepped foot on an NFL field.

After not catching a single ball over the seasons first two games, the “bust” cries on local airwaves had only gotten louder as Torrey made his first start in Week 3 in St. Louis.

Replacing the injured Lee Evans, Torrey answered the doubters in a huge way. His first THREE NFL receptions went for touchdowns, as he and Flacco hooked up for scores of 74, 41, and 18 yards in the first quarter against the Rams.

Torrey’s rookie campaign continued to have its ups and downs, but there were far more ups when it was all said and done. Hopefully Smith, who has shown a gear that not many Ravens’ receivers have ever possessed, can continue to make positive impacts and big plays in the postseason.

(I apologize for the music in this video – make sure you turn your sound down/off before hitting play)

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #1 – Ravens 35 Steelers 7

January 3, 2012

While they’ve been in the playoffs every year that we’ve been around save for one, this is the first time since the Nest has been in existence that the Ravens have earned a postseason bye. We find ourselves unsure of how to best fill the time. Instead of letting the wheel-spinning “moves” that the Orioles are making rain on our purple euphoria parade, I thought it best to use this time to reflect on what may have been the most satisfying regular season in Ravens history.

While we all obviously hope that there are plenty more great memories yet to be written by this 2011-12 Ravens’ squad, it seems as good a time as any, as we wait to find out who our first playoff opponent will be, to do some reminiscing.

Great Memory #1 – Week 1 – Ravens 35 Steelers 7

The Ravens started off the 2011 season with quite a bang, spanking their hated rivals from the opening whistle. Ray Rice’s first run of the year was a 36 yard gain. Joe Flacco’s first pass of the year was a 27-yard touchdown strike to Anquan Boldin. Terrell Suggs’ first sack of the year caused a fumble that was recovered by Haloti Ngata. The Ravens took a 14-0 first quarter lead, caused a total of seven Steeler turnovers (5 by Ben Roethlisberger), took turns blowing up Hines Ward, and cruised to a four touchdown win.

It was a great day for all Ravens fans, but it was a day that will always be extra special for us here at the Nest. We watched the game at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Morehead City, North Carolina, because the previous day Goob had gotten married in beautiful Beaufort, NC.

His wedding/Ravens vs. Steelers video tells the story better than words can, so let’s take a few minutes and reflect on just how awesome Week 1 of the 2011 season was.

2008 Season (The MOTHERFLACC'IN FUN Season) – Part 2: Defense

January 28, 2009

The Ravens’ defense managed to stay relatively healthy in 2008, and when the next man needed to step up, there were plenty of capable bodies.  In Rex Ryan’s final year as defensive coordinator, his unit finished #2 overall in the NFL, allowing only 261.1 yards per game.

Defensive Line

The D-line had another very strong year, as the Ravens extended their league best streak of games without allowing a 100-yard rusher to 35 (and counting), and allowed only 81.4 yards rushing per game.  This was good for 3rd in the league, and was only two yards more than in 2007.  This is even more impressive considering they lost the 80 tackles of Kelly Gregg, who did not play a snap all year due to preseason knee surgery.  Justin Bannan stepped up huge in replacement of Buddy Lee, and Haloti Ngata continued his ascent to elite DT status.  Ngata was again snubbed from a Pro Bowl berth, despite his 55* tackles, 1 sack, and 2 interceptions.  His INT of Sage Rosenfels in the end zone in Houston was a perfect example of the kind of athletic ability Haloti possesses.  In only his 3rd season, he is legitimately a Top 5 defensive tackle in the NFL.   The next step in his progression as a player is to become more effective in collapsing the pocket.

Trevor Pryce rebounded from his injury-ridden 2007 to start all 16* games.  Although he put up only 4 sacks (the 2nd fewest of his career in a full season), he regularly pressured quarterbacks and occupied blockers to open up lanes for Ravens’ blitzers.

Despite a healthy Pryce, the Ravens still only managed 34 sacks all season – a modest improvement from 2007’s 32.

Mid-season additions Brandon McKinnie and Marques Douglas also played well in spot duty.

The Ravens’ trouble in getting to the QB over the past 2 seasons really highlights their need for a true “rush” defensive end to compliment the aging Pryce and the versatile Terrell Suggs.  It will be a position they will likely try to address in this year’s draft.

With Kelly Gregg, who will benefit in 2009 from having a full year’s rest, Bannan, who would start on just about any d-line, and Ngata, a certified beast, teams will continue struggling to get anything going on the ground against the Ravens in coming seasons.


The Ravens linebackers, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, had another stellar season as a group. This position has become synonymous with Baltimore football, and the ’08 group carried the torch admirably.

Ray Lewis continues to seemingly get younger rather than older.  At 33, he registered his most solo tackles (85) since 2004, most interceptions (3) since 2003, added 3.5 sacks to his career totals, and still hit harder than anybody on the team (just ask Rashard Mendenhall).  Ray was named to his 10th Pro Bowl and 6th All Pro Team.

Terrell Suggs rebounded from his slightly below average 2007 with a vengeance, setting a career high with 53 solo tackles, racking up 8 sacks, and picking off 2 passes, which he returned for his first and second career touchdowns.  The way he read those screen passes that sealed the deals in both Miami and Cleveland are true testaments to his development as a player; Suggs is no longer just a pass rusher.  As his hybrid DE/LB status attests to, he is a freak of nature out there.

Bart Scott has yet to reproduce anything resembling the monster season he had in 2006, but was solid nonetheless.  He fits the Ravens’ system very well, and although his numbers have fallen off (only 2.5 sacks and 0 INTs last 2 seasons combined, compared to 9.5 and 2 in ’06),  he was rarely caught out of position or missed tackles (on anybody not named Chris Johnson).

Jarret Johnson had another steady year, and recorded career highs in solo tackles (45), sacks (5), and passes defended (3).  For the 5th consecutive season, Johnson did not miss a single game.  Unfortunately, due to his lack of “flash” on the field, Johnson’s 2008 campaign may be best remembered for his silly unnecessary roughness penalty in Pittsburgh on Monday night.  You remember the one – he got baited into a shove by Cheap Shot and Pitt scored a few plays later.  JJ is a good player though, and is the one starter from this group certain to be on the field in purple in ’09.

This group faces a world of uncertainty this offseason, as Suggs, Lewis, and Scott are all unrestricted free agents.  Ideally, the Ravens would like to sign all three, but it just doesn’t make economic sense to commit that much money to one position.  Especially considering the Ravens’ proven track record of finding good young LBs to replace departing veterans.  To whit, Tavares Gooden, Jameel McClain, Prescott Burgess, Edgar Jones, and Antwan Barnes are all waiting in the wings to one degree or another.  Suggs has recently been quoted as saying that the trio may be open to giving a “home town discount.”  As Lee of Ravens365 points out though, that’s all well and good…until agents get involved.

Nest prediction:  Suggs is signed long-term, they find some way to bring Ray back, and Bart Scott “Jets” off to New York with Rex Ryan (I say that without knowing anything about NYJ’s cap space).


The Ravens’ biggest problem in 2007, the secondary stepped up big in ’08, and finished the year as the NFL’s #2 pass defense.  They allowed only 17 passing TDs, 10 fewer than the previous year.

Ozzie made what turned out to be some pretty astute moves during the offseason in an attempt to fortify a group decimated by injuries in 07.  Fabian Washington and Frank Walker proved to be critical acquisitions, and the impact of the Jim Leonhard singing was immeasurable.  Washington had some bumps early, but turned into a very reliable cover man (tackling, not so much) by the end of the year.  Walker also struggled a bit to begin with, and had some stupid penalties scattered here and there, but Frank is still head and shoulders above Corey Ivy.  Samari Rolle played in only 10 games, but was his usual consistent, professional self when he was in there.  Even at 32, he was the closest thing to a “shut down” corner the Ravens had after Chris McAlister went out.

Ah, C-Mac.  We thought he had finally gotten his head on straight after all these years, but apparently the new regime was all it took to tip Chris back into crazyland.  McAlister saw his final action for 2008 in Week 6 (when Marvin Harrison absolutely ABUSED him).  There were reports of a hotel lobby confrontation/big scene involving him, some coaches, and some “ladies” in Miami the following week, then the odd explanations from John Harbaugh in which he wanted us to actually believe that Frank Walker was the better option for the team at that point than C-Mac – even though he was perfectly healthy.  He was finally placed on IR November 12, following knee surgery.  “Dollars to donuts” says that McAlister has played his last game as a Raven.

Another guy placed on IR that same day was strong safety Dawan Landry, who was injured trying to tackle Jamal Lewis in the 2nd game of the season.  He suffered a spinal cord concussion and, although it was hopeful he would play again at the time, that was not to be the case.  His injury opened up the door for little Jimmy Leonhard.  Leonhard, signed off the free agent wire after being released by Buffalo in training camp, never missed a beat.  He reportedly learned the Ravens’ entire sophisticated defense in two days, and seemed to always be in the right place at the right time.  In his first season as a full-time starter, he had 69 tackles, 6 passes defended, and 1 interception (which, being a Raven, he of course returned for a TD).

Then of course there was Ed Reed.  Reed has gotten as much ink this season as just about anybody, so we won’t rehash all of that here. Suffice to say:

  • Reed tied a career high with 9 picks.
  • Two of those were returned for touchdowns.
  • One of those broke his own NFL record for longest TAINT.
  • He added a touchdown on a fumble recovery, after forcing said fumble.
  • At one point (including the postseason), he had TWO interceptions in 5 out of 7 games.
  • If DPOY voting didn’t end after Week 4 (or whatever), he may well have earned his 2nd.
  • He was the only unanimous 1st Team All Pro.

In short, he was Ed Reed.  Not bad for a guy playing with a nerve impingement in his neck, who wasn’t even sure he would step on the field at all in 2008.

Rookie backups Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura also played well when their numbers were called.

An interesting plot heading into the offseason is what the Ravens will do with Leonhard, an unrestricted free agent.  He definitely earned himself some money, but whether he gets that payday in B’More remains to be seen.  Ravens fans would certainly love to see Jimmy stick around…but then what to do with Dawan Landry?  And who’s to say that a guy like Zbikowski can’t become exactly what Jim Leonhard is now, with a little experience (and at a much cheaper price)?  In Ozzie we trust…

Special Teams

Despite having a new head coach with a special teams pedigree, the Ravens were….uneven, at best, in 2008.  Forty year old kicker Matt Stover got off to a rough start, hitting only 4 of his first 7 FG attempts.  He would right himself though, and connect on 23 of his final 26 tries.  Still, Stover’s 81.8 percentage was his lowest since 1998, and his season long of 47 was his shortest season-long since 1995.  On the bright side, Stover set a new NFL record for consecutive PAT’s made, having not missed one since 1996.  Stover is still “Auto-Matt-ic” from inside 40 yards, but his weak leg is starting to hurt the Ravens, especially on kickoffs; they need to use a game-day roster spot each week on a kickoff specialist.  He is an unrestricted free agent, so there will be some off-season conversations in Owings Mills regarding Stover for probably the first time ever.

Stover’s understudy, rookie Steven Hauschka, handled kickoff duties and was 1/2 on long FG tries.  Including the postseason, he managed 7 touchbacks on 56 kickoffs. The Ravens have yet to give any indication on whether or not they consider him to be the “kicker of the future.”

The Ravens’ coverage teams made fans queasy all season.  Although they finished around the middle of the pack in kickoff coverage (tied for 14th), they allowed 2 kick return touchdowns, which tied for most in the NFL with New England.  On punts, Sam Koch was a monster, finishing 2nd in the league in punts inside the 20, and 1st in punts inside the 10.  Koch gave the Ravens a great weapon in the field position game.

It was fortunate for the Ravens that Koch was such a weapon, because they had no such playmaker on returns in the battle for field position.  Yamon Figurs got off to a terrible start and never righted himself.  Hopefully, it was just his “sophomore slump,” but he was atrocious.  Ray Rice and Tom Zbikowski both filled in at times for Figurs, but neither was remarkable.  For an idea of just how bad the Ravens’ kick return team was, look no further than the fact that fans still had no idea who would be the main KR by the time the AFC CHAMPSIONSHIP GAME ROLLED AROUND!  Pretty bad.

Figurs was also terrible on punts, and was supplanted by Jim Leonhard.  Leonhard nearly doubled Figurs’ average return (11.6 – 6.0), and finally gave the Ravens some stability back there.  Of punt returners with at least 20 attempts, Leonhard’s average was good for 6th in the league.

Also of note: undrafted rookie Jameel McClain blocked a punt for a safety and also recorded a sack for a safety, tying the rookie record with 2 2-pointers.

* all stats are regular season only unless otherwise noted


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