Archive for March, 2008

C-Ya, C-Mac. McAlister Placed on IR

March 14, 2008

Wow.  It’s been a busy lunch hour today. 

The Ravens placed cornerback Chris McAlister on injured reserve today, and put CB Willie Gaston on the 53 man roster. 

Its kind of a surprising move, considering we watched C-Mac put the clamps on Randy Moss (for the most part) just 9 days ago.  We’ll wait for more details, but it appears he re-aggravated his PCL enough in that game to shut him down for the rest of the season.  Looks like we have 3 more weeks of Derrick Martin and David Pittman to look forward to.  Joy!


Indy 44 Ravens 20 The [-(C.MAC)-(ROLLE)] x (MANNING) = UGH game

March 14, 2008

Ya know, we aren’t about to let the Ravens’ dismal play ruin our Holiday Spirit here at the Nest. As such, instead of recapping that turd from last night (you can read about it here, here, and here, if you are so inclined), we thought we would have some fun. And so, here it is, “Twas the 13th Game of the Season” (obviously set to the rhyming scheme of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”


Bob Irsay, Circa 1983

Twas the 13th game of the season, at M&T Bank,
Our Ravens had been losing, all year they had stank.
Black jerseys were hung in their lockers with care,
Madden and Michaels, the SNF crew would be there.


Here in Charm City, this game gives us a fright,
playing this team that was taken from us, under cover of night.
But these aren’t the same Colts watched by your father or mother,
and we hoped that this Manning would play more like his brother.


The fans were all standing, not one in their seat,
Remembering Brady, and the Pats’ near defeat.
With Boller under center, and Reed covering Wayne,
We settled our nerves, knowing we’d win the game.


When out of the locker room, there came word of disaster,
C-Mac was out! The Colts would score faster!
Groans arose from the crowd, it couldn’t be true,
The Colts will get open, Samaris out too!


Hope faded quickly, things were not looking good,
The Ravens were not to play as well as they could.
On this cold, dark, and rainy night in the East,
Peyton was in town, and on purple he’d feast!


With a wry, confident grin I’d seen on TV,
18 moved the ball, fast as could be.
More rapid than Elway’s, his passes they flew,
He guided his troops, and they knew what to do.


“Now Reggie! Now Dallas! Now Utecht, and Addai!
Gonzalez! Go deeper! Catch this on the fly!
To the back of the end zone, right down the seam!
No one can cover you, no one on that team!”


Dressed in blue and white, on his cap a horseshoe,
Leading the troops in B-More, like old Johnny U.
Our vaunted defense bit on each fake,
John Madden even asked, “Whats in a Crabcake?”


His throws — how they spiraled! His tosses – how money!
The Ravens were no match, t’wernt even funny.
They shredded our D, laid waste to our O,
Ravens fans left; before the half they did go.


And then what did we see, but a vision so troubling?
Jim Irsay in our house, his champagne glasses bubbling.
Watching o’er the game from his luxury suite,
“We stole your team, B-More, with that Mayflower fleet!”

Colts (10-2) @ Ravens (4-8)

March 14, 2008

Team Stats:

After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against America’s “golden boy” quarterback on national television, the Ravens get a “do-over” of sorts this week, as everyone’s other favorite signal-caller comes to town with the rest of his Super Bowl ring bearing chumps. That’s right, the Indianapolis Colts visit B-More again this week, for a Sunday night match-up. What a difference (almost) a year makes, huh? We Baltimoreans remember all too well the last time we saw our old team return to Charm City, when Indy defeated the Ravens 15-6 in the 2006 AFC Divisional playoff, on their way to winning what should have been OUR Super Bowl. This time, the Colts are desperately trying to keep pace with New England, in the hopes the Pats will falter down the stretch before locking up home-field advantage, while the Ravens….well, the Ravens have only pride and revenge to play for.

The Colts are a different team than they were in the 2006 regular season, as the post-season, defensive powerhouse version of the blue and white has carried over into 2007. The Colts rank #2 in overall defense, allowing just 277 yards per game. Their strength is their pass defense (which also ranks 2nd in the NFL), as Tony Dungy’s “Tampa 2” zone defense has allowed only 15 passing plays of over 20 yards this season, the fewest in the league. Luckily for the Ravens, the deep ball is certainly not a staple of their offense. The horseshoes are a bit more vulnerable to the ground attack, giving up 108 ypg (18th overall). If the Ravens can stick with their newfound commitment to the running game, and J.O., Jason Brown, Mike Flynn, Marshall Yanda, and Ben Grubbs can impose their will up front like they did for the first 3 quarters on Monday night, it will go a long way in helping the Ravens pull the upset.

The Ravens offense as a whole showed signs of life Monday night that we have not seen all year. Quarterback Kyle Boller (with the exception of one glaring, inexcusable mistake) played his best football ….. well, probably ever. The offensive line played like the smash-mouth Ravens of old, Willis McGahee had his best game as a Raven, and Brian Billick actually varied his playcalling enough to keep the Pats off balance. Similar efforts will be needed all around to have any chance Sunday night. The Ravens will likely again be without tight end/giant baby Todd Heap, but the return of Dan Wilcox to the lineup is a welcome sight, as was his touchdown grab Monday.

As far as the Colts offense, well, what is there really to say? Peyton Manning is as advertised. Joseph Addai, while he has had a few poor games in a row, is a very dangerous weapon, moreso than anything in the Patriots backfield. Reggie Wayne has picked up the slack for the injured Marvin Harrison, and Dallas Clark moves the chains from the slot. The Colts are going to do what they always do, which is move the football. To stay in it, the Ravens D will need to continue their Red Zone domination and hold the most visible athlete in America and his troops to field goal attempts. As we saw Monday, the Ravens defense is a completely different animal with Chris McAlister on the field. Unfortunately, his status for Sunday’s game remains uncertain, and he is a game-day decision. With him, the Ravens can stay close, and cause plenty o’ “Manning-face” if they play with the discipline, passion, and intensity they displayed last week. Without C-Mac, or without the same fire in their bellies, the embarrassment many expected last week could show up to M&T Bank anyway, just 6 days late.

After watching the Ravens for those previous 5 weeks before Monday night, and then seeing the team that emerged from the home tunnel against the Patriots, we sure don’t know better than any of you what to make of the 2007 purple-and-black. For predictions’ sake, lets cross our fingers that last week’s team carries over, and we can exact a bit of sweet revenge on those damn Colts, huh?

If not, well….at least we won’t hurt our draft position.

Ravens 24 Colts 23

Ravens Need to Move on from "Patriot-gate," Focus on "Manning-Face"

March 14, 2008

Alright. Enough is enough. The dead horse that is the ref’s calls, Bart Scott’s tantrum, the ill-advised time-out, and the kiss-blowing head coach has officially taken all the kicking it can stand. The most painful loss in recent Ravens history is in the rear view mirror, which is at least better than it being in front of us, right? Yeah, I don’t really know what that means either, but work with me here. Move on.

You can bet every penny in your pocket that from the moment he took his final kneel-down last Sunday to preserve the 28-25 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peyton Manning has thought about nothing but purple. He had a 1.5 day head start on the Ravens to begin with, and every minute they spend wallowing on Monday night’s debacle just tips the scales further in the unicorns’ favor. While Samari Rolle is talking to his agent about how he feels disrespected by the referees, Manning is looking at film of where to throw so Samari can’t get to the ball. While Bart Scott is on ESPN talking about how he is sorry for his inexcusable tirade, Manning is watching for subtle differences in Scott’s pre-snap stance depending on whether he is blitzing or dropping into coverage.

The best way to leave last Monday in the past will be to beat the Colts this week. Every second the Ravens waste dwelling on the past just makes that goal less and less attainable.

Patriots 27 Ravens 24 D. Baby's in-game blog

March 14, 2008

We’re going to try something new this week. I’m stealing an idea from a writer I like (or…used to like until his homer-ism became absolutely insufferable) who shall remain nameless, and writing an in-game blog during the Ravens-Pats game. Enjoy.

It wasnt originally supposed to be this long, but how was I to know it was to be one of the greatest games in Ravens history?!  I’m glad I decided to do it because I think it captures the raw emotion pretty well.

8:15 I’m really nervous as this game approaches. Usually I get a bit apprehensive before a Ravens game because it has playoff implications, or it’s against a hated rival I really want them to beat…but today I think I am just afraid of getting embarrassed on Monday Night Football. The Ravens are wearing all black, which historically means their play will be much less ferocious than they look. It’s a windy, windy night in B-More, with gusts up to 40-50 mph. This could help us keep the Pats passing game in check, but I may be grasping at straws.

8:20 Holy crap! The cameras caught a shot of Bill Belichick smiling!! It was as he was shaking hands with the referee. That camera man should be up for a Pulitzer. (Note: Belichick smiling with the refs….coincidence?)

8:26 All 7 ESPN analysts pick New England. Throw in guest ‘72 Dolphins Bob Griese and Mercury Morris, and its a solid 9/9. Awesome.

8:32 Chris Mortenson tells us that Rex Ryan is Buddy Ryan’s son. Is this news to anybody in America? Seriously?

8:33 Tony Kornheiser just called Tom Brady “too cute to hate.” Expect many more homosexual innuendos from “Kornholer.” He gave his lame weekly 2 minute monologue intro, and did not utter a word about Baltimore or the Ravens. Let the Patriots broadcast begin.

8:35 Shot of Ed Reed getting ready. His face is wrapped up and he looks like a ninja. Here’s hoping he plays like one.

8:36 Ray Lewis shown fighting back tears during the moment of silence for Sean Taylor. Ray is the consummate professional, but its tough to think that his head could be 100% in this game tonight.

8:43 With the Patriots driving, Tom Brady has had all day to go through his reads. The Ravens just committed their 3rd penalty in as many plays, an offsides on Suggs after having too many men on the field and a 15 yard facemask on Samari Rolle. A bunch of mental errors is no way to beat an undefeated team. The Pats set up with 1st-and-goal from the 1. Super.

8:50 Ray Lewis made an outstanding play to break up a touchdown pass on 1st down, we stuffed Heath Evans on 2nd down, and now Brady looks to throw on 3rd…Hes got Watson, but he dropped it!!! THANK YOU BEN WATSON!. And here comes the field goal unit for the Pats. Mike Tirico informs us that its the first time in 21 straight 1st-and-goal from the 1 opportunities for the Pats that they have failed to score a TD. A good moral victory for the D, but the Pats lead anyway, 3-0.

8:55 Shot of Todd Heap on the sidelines in street clothes. Big Baby. GET IN THERE!

8:58 The Ravens couldn’t overcome a false start penalty and are forced to punt. Boller has dropped back to pass twice, and was pressured both times.

9:08 Great play by Kyle Boller!! Escaped the pressure and actually kept his eyes downfield while scrambling! Delivered a strike to Devard Darling who turned it into a 53 yard gain! The Ravens are in business now on the NE 18.

9:13 3rd-and-goal from the NE 5. It would be great to take the lead here…Boller back to throw, and he hits Mason! TOUCHDOWN RAVENS!! Boller threaded it right past the outstretched arms of 2 Pats into Mason’s gut. A great throw under pressure and the Ravens lead the mighty Pats 7-3. I just got 4 text messages at the same time. The air is electric in B-More.

9:16 Corey Ivy sacks Tom Brady on 1st down! Ivy came unblocked from Brady’s front side and took him down for a 6 yard loss. Pats are now facing a 3rd-and-11 from their own 26. We got pressure up the middle, and Brady heaved a jump-pass off his back foot, Jabar Gaffney dropped what would have been a first down. Nice. The Pats held on the play anyway. Good things.

9:20 Just caught a shot of Buddy “The Eskimo” Ryan bundled up like the Michelin Man. Good to see Buddy here. Hey, Buddy, did you know that Rex Ryan is your son?!

9:24 The O-Line isn’t getting it done. Boller is under constant pressure. As soon as I write that, McGahee busts one for 15. He now has 49 yards on 11 carries. Hmmm…maybe we should keep running?

9:26 The cameras catch Billick and you can read his lips: “Its too windy.” So the Ravens will go for it on 4th-and-6 from the NE 28. Boller is DRILLED by AD, but hangs in and makes a GREAT throw to Mason at the 15- FIRST DOWN!!

9:29 Ellis Hobbs tackles Wilcox short of the first down. Hobbs injured himself on the tackle. HA! P*ssy! Stover comes on to try to put the Ravens up by 7….ew! ugly, ugly field goal, almost blocked, but Auto-Matt-ic comes through. 10-3 Ravens!!

9:36 The Pats finally come out in the no huddle. Crap. We all knew this was coming, so lets hope Rex (Buddy’s Son!) has the D prepared.

9:40 Moss juggles what would have been a touchdown. C-Mac has been doing a great job on him though. A defensive holding call makes it 1st-and-goal from the 10. NO! C-Mac just tackled Randy Moss on the slant in the end zone. 1st-and-goal from the 1. Ed Reed seen covering…Mike Vrabel?! HA!! Well, at least we didn’t fall for it. Heath Evans takes it in, tie game 10-10. The Penalties are killing the Ravens. Again. We have 7 for 50 yards, the Pats have none.

9:49 Boller throws too low for Mason on 3rd-and-3. Someone please inform Kyle that he has other receivers. For the love of Pete, I swear he has Mason on his fantasy team. So now we’ll punt it back to them.

9:52 Amazing tackle by Jamaine Winborne on Ben Watson!! It looked like Watson broke it, but Winborne stuck with it and kept him from getting the first, forcing the Pats to punt.

9:56 Trying to avoid a 2nd straight 3-and-out, the Ravens ran the ball up the gut 3 consecutive times. The predictable play calling is starting to hurt us. 95 year old Junior (shouldn’t we start calling him Senior? Lets.) Seau took his rascal into the backfield for the stop on 3rd down.

9:58 Lets go defense, get a turnover here. A pick 6 would be the bees knees…2nd down…INTERCEPTED BY ED REED…REED HAS ROOM ….come on Eddie….looks like hes gonna be wrapped up at the Pats 30…NOOOO!!! He Fumbled it back to New England! UGHHHHHHHHH.

10:10 Halftime in B-More, game tied at 10. The ESPN crew is pretty much speechless. They have all this praise they want to heap on the Pats, and the Ravens have forced them to keep it in their pants. I love it.

10:15 Don Shula commercial, talking all about the ‘72 Dolphins. This is funny to me because its obvious they planned to show all the great Patriots highlights from the 1st half interspersed throughout him talking, but because there were SOOO MANY, we are left with shots staring into Randy Moss’ eyes, and watching Tom Brady take a snap. Again, the Ravens are raining all over the Pats love-fest. Glorious.

10:16 Ravens start with the ball here in the 2nd half. They actually outgained the Patriots in the first 30 minutes. I’m as shocked as the rest of the country. Willis starts off with a 12 yard run. Willis for 8 more. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. If we can pound this old Pats D into submission in the 2nd half, we just might have a chance.

10:21 Boller is shaken after taking another hit, but he completed it to Mason for 21 to set the Ravens up in the Dead Zone.

10:22 Willis McGahee rumbles left, breaking tackles…hes at the 3…2…TOUCHDOWN WILLIS MCGAHEE!!!! A great 17 yard run. Ravens lead 17-10. Holy Crap!!

10:36 The Pats went right down the field. Moss only has 1 catch on the night, Welker 3. No problem for Brady, who goes to Maroney for 35 yards. The Pats converted on a 4th-and-1 and now have 3rd-and-1 on the Ravens 3. *$^%*! Moss got away from McAlister at the line. 17-17 ballgame.

10:39 Great return on the kickoff by Figurs to the BAL 44. McGahee left again….BREAKS IT FOR 18!! A nice block on the play by Kyle Boller on his old buddy AD. Follows it up with a 12 yard reception, then back to Musa Smith for 9 more! WE OWN THE GROUND!! Mike Flynn and Jonathan Ogden seem to be summoning their younger selves, and the young linemen are following suit. Its like watching the Ravens of old. Smash-mouth football. Its great to see.

10:46 The Ravens have 1st-and-goal from the 2 at the start of the 4th here. I’d like to see them continue to pound this defense, but the Pats would probably be totally caught off guard by a pass. McGahee stuffed on 1st down. If you’re going to pass, this is the time. 2nd down, Boller drops back…under pressure….hes hit but got it off…TOUCHDOWN!!!! CAUGHT BY DAN WILCOX IN THE BACK OF THE END ZONE!!!! RAVENS LEAD 24-17!!!

10:52 DE-FENSE!! Haloti Ngata with the bull rush on 2nd down to sack Brady! Antwan Barnes came off the edge on 3rd and the Ravens sacked Brady with a 3 man rush! A great 3-and-out by the D.

10:53 A good return by Figurs could help us put this one away. Hes got room down the sideline! Crap, theres a flag. He got all the way down to the NE 31, pending the flag. And…its on the Pats!! Finally, a call on them. Tack 5 yards on the end of the return, and the Ravens are set up in GREAT field position to put this one away. This HUUUUGE upset looks more and more likely!

10:55 Ughhhhh. Willis Stuffed for 1 yard on 2 carries. False start on Wilcox. THE MENTAL MISTAKES!!! We’re beating ourselves again. So now 3rd-and-14 from outside field goal range due to the wind. Lets get at least half of it here…Boller back to throw, pressured….Picked Off! Intercepted by Sanders who returned it all the way back to the NE 43. Really a poor decision by Boller, and its a shame because he has played out of his mind thus far. You could easily make the case that hes outplayed Tom Brady. Yes…Kyle Boller is outplaying Tom Brady. Its not going to matter unless we get the W though, so lets hope the D can hold him up.

11:01 Got them backed up, 1st-and-20…nice. Brady play-fakes and throws to Maroney….who busts it for 43 yards. UGHHHHHH. Where was the block in the back!?!? I swear I saw Bart Scott get butt-raped by Welker and thrown to the turf. Terrible no-call, and it could be huge.

11:03 The Ravens held on 3rd and Gostkowski comes out to try the 37 yarder….come onnnn wind!!! Crap! Its good. 24-20 Ravens still lead with 8:41 to go.

11:05 That should have been our field goal. Boller screwed up, but he’ll have a chance to redeem himself. A big return would help…..Figurs gets too close to the wedge and trips over his blockers’ feet. Great.

11:08 Here we go! The game-clinching, clock-eating drive will start at our own 28. Lets see the o-line keep plowing.

11:10 The Pats found an answer with the run blitzes. We need to get less predictable again to sustain something. Boller to throw on 3rd…..incomplete. Crap! Brady and the Pats will get the ball back with the chance to take the lead…first time thats happened since the 1st quarter (without 2 pt conversions). It was a bad punt and the Pats have great field position at their own 44. DE-FENSE!

11:13 Nice to see the Pats shooting themselves in the foot with a couple penalties, and theyll be forced to punt from our 41. Hopefully Hanson puts it in the end zone. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but this has to be the most work Hanson has got in a game all season. He kicks it…terrible kick! Out of bounds at the BAL 28! Better than a touchback!

11:19 Another 3-and-out from the offense on the way unless they can get 2 yards here. Boller to throw, out to McGahee….NO! Hes wrapped up behind the marker. DAMN IT!! IF YOU’RE GOING TO THROW ON 3RD DOWN, THROW PAST THE STICKS!!! Another punt coming, and I just threw an empty beer can across the room.

11:21 All rests on the defense. Nothing new in B-More. DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!! OHH!! SAMARI ROLLE JUST LAID THE WOOD ON STALLWORTH TO CAUSE THE INCOMPLETE! HUGE HIT! Rolle is playing like a man possessed.

11:26 Brady has all day to throw. Rex is just not going to give up the big play, dropping 8 into coverage. This is going to come down to the wire. I’m really glad I decided not to have more than that one beer tonight….2 minute warning! Pats ball on the Ravens 40. AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

11:28 Brady hit Winborne in the back with his last pass. Lets hope he hits a Raven in the chest here soon. Isn’t he due for a mistake? He can’t really be THIS good ALL the time can he?

11:30 Brady to throw on 3rd-and-10…complete…but he went out before the marker!! It will be 4th-and-1. AHHHHHH!!!! Seriously, Im freaking out. Brady quick to the line….sneak…STOPPED! WE STOPPED HIM! Wait…NO!!! The Ravens had called timeout!! NOOOOOOO!!

11:31 So the Pats will get another shot at 4th-and-1. I feel my ulcer forming. DE-FENSE!! DE-FENSE!! Brady hands off…STOPPED HIM FOR A LOSS!! BALLGAME!!….wait…a flag….NOO! FALSE START! THE PLAY NEVER HAPPENED!! I’m going to go vomit, Ill be right back…..
So the Pats have a THIRD shot at 4th down….Brady back…NOOOOOO he scrambled for the first down…..UGHHHHHHH.

11:33 Pats first down on the Ravens 18. Faulk gets 5. Second down now…1:06 to go…Brady drops back, its TIPPED BY RAY….20 FEET IN THE AIR RIGHT BEHIND THE LINE….SOMEONE GET IT, GET IT, GET IT!!!!! NOOOO It fell to the earth incomplete. I cannot remember EVER seeing a ball get tipped that high and not picked off by the Ravens. It looked on the replay like Antwan Barnes stared at the ball the whole time it was in the air, but he never made a move toward it. I really hope he just didn’t see it.

11:34 The Pats took a timeout. I’m shaking like a leaf. The Ravens could have been the toast of the NFL, David taking down Goliath….and they stopped the Patriots…3 TIMES ON 4th DOWN! This game should be ours.

11:36 4th-and-5 now from the Ravens 13. FOR THE GAME! COME ON D!! DEEE-FENSE!!!! This is it right here…can’t give Brady 4 more downs. He throws…..TOO HIGH! INCOMPLETE!! RAVENS WILL WI…..NOOOOOOO A FLAG! DEFENSIVE HOLDING! NO NO NO NO NOOOOOO…..I can’t believe it. A ticky tack call if ever there was one. You gotta let them play in that situation. A terrible call and another example of the refs “controlling” the game. UNBELIEVABLE!

11:38 Touchdown Gaffney. They are reviewing it, but it looks good to me. Yup, the TD will stand. Pats lead 27-24 with 44 seconds to go. Bart Scott just exploded. He did something unseen by the cameras and got a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, then threw that flag into the stands, earning another. Ed Reed offsides on the PAT. 35 yards worth of penalties to be enforced on the kickoff. Just stupid. Now we have even less chance to get into Stover’s range.

11:41 That timeout the Ravens took on the 4th down is going to bite them again. They just used their last, and are not near field goal range…on their own 45. 13 seconds left and no time to use the middle of the field. Boller throws….should have been picked. Now 8 seconds and here comes the Hail Mary. It’s all up to lady luck now.

11:42 Boller heaves it……CAUGHT BY CLAYTON ON THE 2!! TACKLED SHORT OF THE GOALLINE NOOOOOO. UGHHHHHOLY CRAP. Mark Clayton brought it in on the 2 yard line and was swarmed by 3 Patriots. He looked to be trying to pitch to Derrick Mason, who pass interfered like a mofo, but to no avail. The Pats are going to escape B-More undefeated. Ohhh, the agony of what could/should have been.

Mc-Done for the year

March 14, 2008

mac9Steve McNair, he of the 11 turnovers in 6 starts in 2007, will miss the remainder of the season, undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.  McNair injured the shoulder November 11th against Cincinnati. 

 The Ravens plan to sign kicker Rhys Lloyd off the practice squad to take McNair’s roster spot, according to the Sun’s Jamison Hensley. 

The Ravens are now left with only 2 able-bodied quarterbacks on the roster, Kyle Boller and rookie-turned-backup Troy Smith.  Although the Ravens spent most of 2006 with only 2 QBs on the roster, don’t be surprised if they sign another later this week.  Should Kyle Boller get hurt, the Ravens will likely not be ready to turn the offense over to the Heisman Trophy winner Smith.  We know many of you would like to see Smith in there anyway, but try to remember what happened the last time we threw a rookie quarterback to the wolves here in B-More. 

Patriots @ Ravens

March 14, 2008

Team Stats:

ehh…..let’s not

Well, the day that looked so appetizing when we first glimpsed the 2007 schedule is finally upon us. The chance to take on perennial contender New England, with their golden boy quarterback and prickly, insufferable coach, in our house, on national television, with huge playoff implications. Oooooh, we Ravens fans were giddy with anticipation.

Needless to say, things haven’t played out quite as we had hoped leading up to this Monday Night Football match up. The Pats have held up their end of the bargain (and then some), coming into B-More with an unblemished 11-0 record. Not only are they undefeated, but they have been absolutely mauling most opponents, averaging 40.2 (!!!) points per game while allowing only 16.8. They come to M&T off their first real scare of the season, having scraped by a feisty Philadelphia Eagles team by just 3 points, 31-28, last Sunday night. The Eagles played extremely well, and all we can hope is that they laid a blueprint that Rex Ryan and the other Ravens coaches can use to keep the purple and black in this one. As a matter of fact, NFL writer John Czarnecki took the game and made a list of the things a team must do to have a chance against the New England juggernaut. The Nest will preview this game a bit differently, walking through each of the “Czar’s” points and looking at how ready the Ravens are to put them into action.

Without further adieu…..

John Czarnecki’s 5 rules to beat the Patriots:

1. Teams must be physical with Randy Moss and other New England receivers
2. You must vary your blitzes on Tom Brady
3. You must gamble and go deeper with your passing game
4. You must be able to pass block on the edges
5. You need a versatile running back

So how do the Ravens stack up in these rules?

Be Physical with the Receivers
This is one that has been evident all season, and several writers have pointed it out before Czarnecki (most notably writer Gregg Easterbrook). Teams have been giving Moss, Stallworth, and Welker a cushion at the line of scrimmage, and paying a heavy price. Philadelphia pressed on the corners, and made Moss look very pedestrian, holding him to 43 yards on 5 catches. The Ravens have one of the biggest, most physical cornerbacks in the league in Chris McAlister. C-Mac is very capable of locking up Moss and giving him all sorts of trouble getting off the line. That is, if he plays. The latest is that he is hopeful to start Monday (knee) but we have heard that before. If he can’t play, Ravens fans should probably abandon any hope they may be holding on to (on the bright side though, we may get to see some history, as Moss will probably break Jerry Rice’s single season touchdown record by pulling in 7…in the first half). On the other side, Samari Rolle is a smaller CB who plays with more finesse, and, especially at this point in his career, is more comfortable giving his man some room. Corey Ivy will likely be matched up on slot man Wes Welker, who took full advantage of the Eagles fixation on Moss, catching 13 balls for 149 yards. This could actually be a good match up for Ivy, who is small and quick, like Welker, but has had trouble covering teams’ #1 and #2 receivers in a starting role.

Vary your blitzes on Tom Brady
Rex Ryan has one of the best defensive minds in the game today. If there is a way to get to Brady, he will find it. However, the Ravens as a team have had trouble pressuring the quarterback all season, and the loss of Trevor Pryce for the season only magnifies this shortcoming. The Ravens may be without linebacker Jarrett Johnson (thumb), which won’t help matters either. Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs, who each had 9.5 sacks in ’06, have just 1 and 4 this season, respectively. Ryan may have to gamble more than he wants to against the Pats, leaving the corners vulnerable, but if the Ravens can’t get to Brady, this one won’t even be close. Let’s see some blitzes, and let the secondary try to redeem themselves.

Gamble, in the passing game and in general
The conservative approach will lose to this years Patriots 99 times out of 100. The Eagles threw long on several occasions, and executed an onside kick in the first half. To win, a team must score early and often, and do anything they can to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. For the Ravens, this goes against everything they have stood for over the past 9 years. Too bad. The old game plan WON’T WORK. There is no question Kyle Boller has the arm to get the ball down the field. However, the Ravens will probably be without their main deep threat, Demetrius Williams (ankle), and their field-stretching tight end, Todd Heap (hamstring), yet again. Derrick Mason, a superior possession receiver at this point in his career, and Mark Clayton, an elusive yards-after-catch kinda guy, won’t be able to get it done. Why not line up return man Yamon Figurs at wideout on a few snaps? The guy can flat out fly, and his speed would force the Patriots to respect the deep ball. For Mason and Clayton, John Madden pointed out repeatedly Sunday night that the New England corners shade to the sidelines and give up the middle of the field. Hopefully, the Ravens noticed this as well.

Pass block the edges
Another area where the ’06 Ravens were so good, and the ’07 Ravens have been so bad. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden had one of the worst games of his career (and probably his worst ever against someone not named Freeney) last week in San Diego, as Shawne Merriman got a little revenge. We can hope that JO is just now rounding into game shape, having missed a good portion of the season, but we fear his frustration with the playcalling (we feel ya, big man) has drained his passion for the game, and it will continue to show as he plays out what is likely his final season. On the other edge, Adam Terry and/or Marshall Yanda will look to protect Boller’s front side. Yanda replaced Terry as the starter last week, and he is a hard-nosed kid who can make some blocks – but he is also young and inexperienced and will make some mistakes. Not the best combination against a (very) veteran New England front seven. It isn’t just the edges the Ravens need to protect though, as the pressure has been coming at Boller from every angle this season.

Have a versatile running back
CHECK!!! Finally, one that we can give a resounding “Yes” to. Willis McGahee, the Ravens’ lone bright spot on offense this season, can do it all. Willis has carried the ball 213 times this season for 910 yards, an average of 4.2 yards per carry, and has added 33 receptions for 201 yards. While not quite as dynamic and explosive out of the backfield as the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook, McGahee is a very versatile back that the Patriots will be keying on. He has been very good at pass blocking this season as well, picking up the blitzes when he needs to, and laying a bone-jarring hit or two in the process. McGahee’s worst enemy this season has been his own head coach, as Brian Billick has forgotten about Willis in key short yardage situations. The Ravens will absolutely HAVE to keep the chains moving to hold that Pats offense on the sidelines as long as possible, and remembering that they have Willis in the backfield will work greatly in their favor. We would much rather see McGahee try to push the line 3 yards on a 3rd-and-2 than grimace as Kyle “Touch? What’s that?” Boller overthrows another 5 yard out. Speaking of which, is it written somewhere in the Ravens bylaws that the #1 running back has to come out on 3rd down? This is another head scratcher for us at the Nest. We know, we know, Musa Smith is the “3rd down back,” but WHY? Leave Willis in there, let him get the 1st down, then give smith a carry on 1st-and-10 if McGahee’s out of shape behind needs a breather. Guess that’s why we’re just fans here, and not coaches.

So there you have it. The Ravens, unfortunately, don’t seem to measure up too well in the Czar’s “Beat the Pats” book. We’ll leave you with some cliché’s, if that helps any.

“On any given Sunday….”
“That’s why they play the games…”
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall”

Patriots – whatever they want (we’ll say they want……38) Ravens 20

Chargers 32 Ravens 14 (The IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE ON? Game)

March 14, 2008

What is there to say after that one? The Ravens got stomped once again, pushing their current losing streak to a team record 5 games. With contests against New England and Indianapolis looming, it puts knots in our stomachs to wonder just how bad it will get before it gets better.

The Birds were once again manhandled up front on both sides of the ball, failing to get any pressure on Philip Rivers while, as usual, allowing Kyle Boller to get bounced around like a rag doll. The Bolts sacked Boller 4 times on the day, forcing him to fumble twice, while the Ravens didn’t even get a sniff of Rivers. Word has gotten out around the league that your QB needs to get rid of the ball quickly against the Ravens, and to Rivers’ credit, he did just that, hitting the quick outs and slants before the purple and black had any time to generate a pass rush.

While they were able to hold Ladainian Tomlinson to just 77 yards on the ground, it didn’t matter at all in the end, as the secondary – unexpectedly without C-Mac yet again – made another young struggling quarterback look like Johnny Unitas. Rivers threw for 3 touchdowns on the day, each to completely uncovered receivers – Chris Chambers from 5 yards out and Antonio Gates from 25 and 35 yards. It was obvious that a lack of communication was to blame for Gates running wide open down the middle of the field on his first touchdown. That said, it seems to us here at the Nest that it would take a team full of deaf mutes without hands to have such dismal communication skills as to allow the #1 tight end in football to roam around downfield with nary a defender in sight. The once dependable Ravens defense has now allowed 30 or more points in 3 of the past 4 games.

Brian Billick Bonehead Call of the Week
In what has become so recurrent around here it is comical, Billick – again – chose to pass in a short yardage situation, with poor results.

Situation: San Diego 29 Ravens 14; 0:19 seconds remaining in the 3rd Quarter; BAL ball, 4th-and-2 on the SD 42

Play Selection: Pass Short left, intended for Mark Clayton

Result: Pass Interference on offense, Quinn Sypnewski. Replay 4th down, 4th-and-12

The broken record plays on….run the ball…:skip:….run the ball….:skip:… the ball….

It’s bad in Charm City right now, and not an understatement to call it the worst it has ever been. We’ll continue to stick with our team through this down time, though, and we also want to thank you readers for sticking with us, no matter how hard the Ravens are to watch/read about right now.

On a different note, we here at the Nest would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and teammates of late Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was shot and killed this week.

Ravens @ Chargers

March 14, 2008

The Ravens (4-6) travel to sunny Whale’s Vagina San Diego to take on the Chargers (5-5) this Sunday. The two top seeds in last years AFC playoffs, these teams are sharing disappointing seasons. The Chargers, however, are lucky enough to play in the craptastic AFC west, and thus find themselves tied for 1st place in their division. Somehow disappointed with the job he did in leading them to a 14-2 record in 2006, the Bolts fired Marty Schottenheimer in favor of Norv “I’m a really good coordinator but a terrible head coach” Turner. Turner has performed his usual magic and “Turn-ed” the team around. Whale’s Vagina San Diego had the number 10 defense and number 4 offense in the NFL last season, and after 11 weeks of the Turner treatment, this year find themselves with the 25th ranked D and 21st ranked O. The Bolts are 4-1 at Qualcomm stadium this year, but could easily be 3-2 if it not for Adam Vinatieri forgetting how to kick field goals from less than 30 yards.

This game matches two young and inconsistent quarterbacks, Kyle Boller and Philip Rivers. Rivers made strides in his play last year, but has regressed this season, having thrown 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a passer rating of 76.5, about 15 points lower than his rating in 2006. For the Ravens, Boller looks to build upon his play in the 2nd half of last week’s game against Cleveland, when he threw two touchdowns and led the Ravens to 23 points. Boller, as we have mentioned here before, has been far from a road warrior in his professional career, compiling a record of 5-13 outside the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium.

Rivers has been far from the only disappointment for whale’s vagina San Diego this season, though. Ladainian Tomlinson, after his record setting season last year, has played like he didn’t turn down the Madden 08 Cover-boy job, sitting 9th in the league in rushing and having only found the end zone 9 times on the ground. On defense, roid-face Shawne Merriman, who had 17 sacks in just 12 games in 2006, has brought down the quarterback just 5.5 times in 10 games in 2007.

The Ravens will suffer from the loss of defensive end and pass rush extraordinaire Trevor Pryce to a torn pectoral muscle. Rivers is a quarterback that will make mistakes if you pressure him, and they need to find a way to do that without Pryce. On the bright side, the purple-and-black secondary is finally healthy, and the team of Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Dawan Landry, and Samari Rolle will all start the same game for just the 3rd time this season. The presence of the opening day secondary will give Rex Ryan more leeway to blitz, as he will be comfortable leaving his corners on an island, especially against a sub-par whale’s vagina San Diego receiving corps.

This is a clash of two teams that are doing way too little with way too much talent. Hopefully, the Ravens have finished licking their wounds from field-goal gate, as they look to avoid setting a new team record for consecutive losses. The Chargers will be out for a little revenge, having lost in B-More last September. The Nest sees this one coming down to the running games. Whichever back, McGahee or Tomlinson, who can take the most pressure off his quarterback, will lead his team to victory.

Give the nod to the B-More D, allowing just 77.4 yards on the ground per contest, over the Bolts, who allow 119.7.

Ravens 23 Chargers 20

From the "Hits Just Keep on Coming" Dept.

March 14, 2008

Another beautiful morning for Charm city sports today. First off, in relevant news, the Ravens are reporting that defensive end Trevor Pryce will likely miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Having played just three games since returning from his broken wrist, Pryce had made a visible difference in the Ravens’ pass rush against the Steelers, Bengals, and Browns, but will finish the year with only 2 sacks, after racking up 13 in 2006. Dwan Edwards will start in place of Pryce, and rookie LB Antwan Barnes will come on in passing situations. All this just likely means a few more seconds to scan the field for the likes of Brady, Manning, Hasselbeck, and Toothlesburger in the weeks to come. Super.

Next up, in “stupid a** list” news, our O’s have been named by CBS sports as the #2 most embarrassing franchise in sports. According to them, only the New York Knicks are more dismal than the Orioles. Let’s forget arguing the merits of the list for now (considering it didn’t even include the Bungles?!?!) and just take in the fact that it took a team with:

1. A head coach who just finished a sexual harrassment trial; and

2. A star player who last week decided he just didn’t feel like playing any more

to keep the Orioles from the summit of Mount Most Embarrassing Team. The particulars:

“2. Baltimore Orioles: Anybody who believes there are situations in sports that are simply impossible to screw up should take a gander at the way the Orioles have reduced themselves to a farce. You’ve got a city with a fine baseball tradition and the most glorious ballpark on the planet, and yet owner Peter Angelos can’t help but huff and puff and blow away every capable baseball man in his employ. Bonus points go to Aubrey Huff for his charming characterization of Baltimore as a “horse[bleep] town” and stripper-painting exhibition on Bubba the Love Sponge’s show this week. Can a guest-hosting stint on The Charlie Rose Show be far behind?”

Woe is us. Discuss.

See the story here.