Archive for October, 2009

Play Like a Raven – Week 5

October 14, 2009


Played Like a Raven – Ed Reed


This one was a bit of a toss up between Reed and Ray Rice, who seemed like practically the only two Ravens trying to win the game. However, I’m gonna give the nod to Reed, as he accounted for half of the Ravens’ “offensive” output on the day, despite touching the ball only once. His 45th career interception and 6th career TAINT put the Ravens up 7-0, and scared Carson Palmer to the point that he didn’t throw to Fast Eddie’s side for pretty much the rest of the afternoon. He also stripped Chad Ochocinco of the ball after a 21-yard reception that would have set the Bengals up in the Red Zone for a chance to take the lead into the half.

Unfortunately, Reed accounts for only 1/4-1/6 of the Ravens’ secondary.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Dominique Foxworth


Dominique Foxworth, the Ravens’ big off-season free agent signing, has been a huge bust through 5 games. Foxworth was torched again Sunday, multiple times – but the one that stands out the most was the play on which he allowed Chris Henry to get behind him for a 73-yard gain on 3rd-and-3. Foxworth, as he has been wont to do all season long, was seen lagging just a step or two behind his man, in a position where he could likely make a play on the ball, were he to simply LOOK FOR IT! But no, Dominique, for some reason, prefers for wide receivers to show him where the ball is, but only once they have firmly secured it in their grasp. Making things even worse, he was also flagged for pass interference on this play. Needless to say, if you interfere with a guy, and he still manages to make the catch, then you sir, are guilty of one big, fat, flaming, epic FAIL.

Fox made sure to end up in the game book for being penalized nonetheless, as he was called for illegal contact on a play where Carson Palmer had all of about 3 seconds to look down the field. You can’t cover a guy for 3 seconds?!

The Foxworth signing was well received around B’More, as Dominique is a local guy. He is from Randallstown and went to the University of Maryland. He was a Ravens fan when the team moved here, and cheered them on as they won Super Bowl XXXV.

Dominique, if you remember back to that Championship season, the Ravens were very stout in the secondary. Now, nobody is asking you to play like a young Chris McAlister, as you are not blessed with his physical gifts. However, if you cannot elevate your play to even the level of Dwayne Freaking Starks, prepare to find yourself next to the likes of Elvis Grbac on Ozzie Newsome’s very short list of boneheaded free agent pickups.


At Least He's Honest…

October 14, 2009

Barry Levinson Plays Like a Raven

October 14, 2009


Last night I, as I’m sure many of you did also, had the pleasure to watch Barry Levinson’s documentary, “The Band That Wouldn’t Die.” The 60-minute film, part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series, was a wonderful depiction of Baltimore’s loss of the Colts, and subsequent years of futile efforts to get the NFL back in town, using the Baltimore Colts Marching Band as a centerpiece. (See trailers and rebroadcast schedule information here)

This piece was the absolute best that I’ve ever seen on the subject. Head and shoulders above what ESPN did last year with their “Greatest Game Ever Played” documentary on the 1958 NFL Championship, and better still than any short 5-10 minute segments that local B’More channels have put together in the last 25 years.

I am 27 years old. I have no memory of the Baltimore Colts. I’ve heard the stories countless times, and at this point I fell pretty squarely in the “get over it” category regarding the Colts’ move to Indianapolis. The way Levinson told the story though, really articulated, better than anyone ever has, what losing the Colts meant to Charm City. I had heard stories about Robert Irsay – he was a drunk, an idiot, a lunatic. However, I wouldn’t have known the guy from Adam, had you shown me his picture. The footage Levinson included, of Irsay being too drunk to open the door at BWI Airport, and his subsequent expletive-filled press conference/tirade/tongue-lashing of the Baltimore media, during which he declared that he had no intentions of “moving the god damned team,” was something I had never before seen. I know now why my father’s and grandfathers’ blood boils at the mere mention of the name Irsay. I understand why it seems like so many in Baltimore are unable to “get over it,” despite having a great new NFL team to root for. And I HATE that drunken moron more than I ever have, for denying me the opportunity to root for the same team that men in my family and city did for 30 years.

As I heard one radio announcer put it today, (and I’m paraphrasing) “it’s like losing a family member. Everyone loses family members, but that doesn’t mean you love new additions to your family any less. Such is it with Baltimore and the Colts and Ravens.”

The story of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, their 13 years of limbo, and their re-branding as Baltimore’s Marching Ravens, is a tale of civic pride and love that should be required viewing for any fan, of any sport, in any city.

If you didn’t catch it the first time around, make sure to clear your schedule or set your DVR for one of the times listed at the above link. You’ll be glad you did.

Thank you, Barry Levinson.

Bengals 17 Ravens 14 (The OFFENSIVE REGRESSION Game)

October 13, 2009

This is the recap that just wasn’t meant to be. I spent a half hour going through my disappointments in the offense, the defense, the playcalling, and the team in general, only to have it all wiped out when I hit the “back” button by accident on my browser. As a result, we’re going to bullet-point this mofo and call it a week.

  • Where is the offense?  Even though they are still ranked #5 in the NFL statistically, the Ravens offense is scuffling for an identity.  They need to figure out who they are, and fast.  I thought we were done with this.
  • Where is the defense?  After allowing 403 yards at home, again failing to get consistent pressure on the QB, and numerous breakdowns in the secondary, the departure of Rex Ryan is looking more and more significant every week.
  • When did everyone on the Ravens forget how to tackle?  Cedric Benson ran through arm tackles all day on his way to breaking the purple and black’s 39-game streak of not allowing a 100 yard rusher.  Cedric.  Benson.  Ugh.
  • Ed Reed is still the man.  After a slow first few games, Reed pretty much single-handedly kept this one from being a blowout.
  • Dominique Foxworth needs to pick it up.  The reviews after 5 games have #24 looking like a HUGE free agent bust from Ozzie Newsome.
  • Even after their medicore performance on both sides of the ball, the Ravens still had a great chance to win this one.  The officials, of course, had other ideas.  The Bengals scored two touchdowns on the day – the first was aided by an illegal contact penalty (on #24, of course) 20-some yards down the field on a 3rd-and-8 play that saw Carson Palmer sacked for an 11-yard loss and should have ended the drive.  Instead, Benson scored four plays later.  The second, on that fateful final drive, included an illegal contact penalty on Chris Carr, a no-call on pass interference on Ochocinco, a 15-yard unnecessary roughness flag on Ray Lewis for decapitating 85, and the kicker…a TICKY TACK pass interference call on Frank Walker with 34 seconds on the clock.  That final flag eliminated what should have been a 4th down and 16, and in all likelihood, a B’More win.  Weren’t we told all week, regarding the calls in New England, that it was just an example of the “home cookin'” that all NFL teams enjoy?  Well, where the hell was our “home cookin’?”
  • I bit my tongue last week, but Sunday was another atrocious example of anti-purple officiating.  The game book will tell you that the zebras threw 10 flags on the Ravens, and 7 on the Bengals.  A bit lopsided, but even more so if you look closer.  Three of the 7 on Cincy were delay of game calls – not like they had much choice there (shut up, Titans fans).  There were also 2 false starts, 1 hold, and 1 offside called on the Bengals.  So basically, ONE call that involved any interpretation on the refs’ part (the hold).  Unlike the Ravens, who saw such calls as illegal contact (2), defensive illegal formation, chop block, unnecessary roughness, and pass interference.  Pretty much every subjective call that can be made.  Oh, and of course there was the whole “taking 5 yards away from you for almost fumbling” on Mark Clayton when Marvin Lewis threw the challenge flag.  I also feel compelled to point out that, in the decisive final quarter, the penalty tally was Baltimore 5, Cincinnati 0.  Not low blows, just facts.

    The schedule is about to heat up something fierce (the Ravens’ next 3 opponents are a combined 14-1), so we’ll see what John Harbaugh and his squad are really made of, as he faces some adversity for pretty much the first time in his short coaching tenure.


Bengals (3-1) @ Ravens (3-1)

October 9, 2009

Ravens vs. Bengals

Ravens vs. Bungles Stats

The Ravens look to bounce back this week after their bitter loss to the Patriots, with the division co-leader (?!) Bengals coming to M&T Bank Stadium. Cincy came out of the gates this season appearing to be much less Bungle-riffic than last year (much to the surprise of anybody who watched them on HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer). Were it not for a freak last-play touchdown by Brandon Stokely of Denver in Week 1, the Bengals would be 4-0. Incredible, I know. They’ve since knocked off Green Bay (at Lambeau), Pittsburgh, and Cleveland (although they nearly lost to, and then tied, the Browns). These aren’t last year’s Bengals, folks, and the Ravens will have a game on their hands come Sunday.

Of course, the main distraction/storyline coming into this one revolves around #85 for Cincy, Chad Ochocinco. Eight-five, so far this week, has:

  • Challenged T-Sizzle to a boxing match;
  • Promised that Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth would “Kiss da Baby” (85 slang for “its over”);
  • Asked his twitter followers if he should start a fight with Ray Lewis in pre-game warm ups;
  • Threatened to interrupt Lewis’ pre-game dance; and
  • Said that his celebration, should he score a TD, would be an impression of “Ricky Bobby,” from the movie “Talladega Nights.”

Think what you want of Chad, but that guy knows how to stir the pot. The most curious of the above threats/promises is the “Ricky Bobby” celebration. In case you haven’t seen the movie, Ricky Bobby is a NASCAR driver. Bobby crashes his car, and jumps out mistakenly believing he is on fire. In his panic, he rips off all his clothes except for his tighty-whitey underwear and his racing helmet, and runs around the track like an idiot. So, Chad…are you going to run around with nothing on but your helmet and jock strap? Please, spare us.

The only thing you’ll have in common with Ricky Bobby come Sunday is broken bones! (again, I apologize if you haven’t seen the movie)

Jean Reed

Moving on.

Part of the reason for the Bengals’ resurgence is the fact that Carson Palmer is back, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer under center. Palmer has not quite played like his old self, but he is slowly getting there. His 75.2 rating through 4 games this season is well below his career average of 88.1, and he is completing only 57.7 percent of his throws. Palmer, though, is a career Raven killer, having compiled a 6-3 record against B’More as a starter.

Another weapon emerging for the Bengals’ offense is RB Cedric Benson, who is running like nobody has since Rudi Johnson’s heydey (who dey?) in Cincy. Benson is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, easily the best of his 5-year career.

Whatever. Nobody runs the ball on the Ravens’ #1 ranked run D, and Benson will be no different. This game, as all Ravens games seem to, will come down to the ability of Greg Mattison’s defense to put pressure on Palmer, and of his much maligned secondary to cover the Bengals talented group of receivers, which also includes Chris Henry, Laverneus Coles, and Andre Caldwell.

The Ravens’ #3 offense will also have their work cut out for them, against an improved Cincinnati defense. Bengals’ DE Antwan Odom is tied for the league lead with 8 sacks, and as a team the Bengals are tied for 4th in the NFL. Not the best news considering the Ravens may be without starting LT Jared Gaither. Gaither, who was carted off the field in New England, said on Wednesday that he expected to be ready by gametime, but did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. If he cannot go, rookie Michael Oher will again protect Joe Flacco’s blind side, and Marshal Yanda will start at RT. Although I personally think Oher can handle any pass rusher in the league 1-on-1, the Ravens will likely give him some help against Odom. Don’t be surprised if Cam Cameron uses less 4-receiver formations this week, instead keeping a tight end in to help block, a la 2008.

All the more reason to…say it with me Ravens fans…RUN THE BALL! Cameron was spouting off some nonsense this week about how football has changed, and running the ball doesn’t mean championships any more and blah, blah, blah. Sorry Cam, but we’re not buying it. That lopsided offense we saw against the Patriots was frustrating to watch, especially with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee both producing like they are. Hopefully the Ravens will show a more balanced attack moving forward. The Bengals are allowing 4.2 yards per rush this season, and heavy doses of Rice and McGahee (and maybe even a dash of Le’Ron McClain?) should be on the menu Sunday, if for no other reason than to keep the Bengals’ pass rush honest.

The Ravens’ special teams are going to see a shake-up this week. After his struggles (which included the costly “krumble”) against the Patriots, Chris Carr will be replaced by Ledarius Webb on kick offs. Webb is an exciting player, a rookie 3rd-round draft choice, who can hopefully inject some life into the team’s return game. He had some issues with ball security in the preseason, so we’ll assume the coaching staff has corrected those problems if they are trusting him on Sundays now – it’s something to keep an eye on though. Carr will still handle punt return duties.

Special teams will also have to cope with the loss of their leader, Brendon Ayanbadejo, who underwent season ending quadriceps surgery this week. The Ravens resigned LB Prescott Burgess, who was a key special teams contributor for them last year and early this season before being traded to make room for TE Tony Curtis.

The Bengals may be a team on the rise, but the Ravens are a team already near the top. They will be playing with an extra edge after feeling like they had a win stolen from them last week. The Ravens will hold serve at M&T Bank Stadium, and take over sole possession of first place in the AFC North through 5 weeks.

Ravens 30 Bengals 20

Play Like a Raven – Week 4

October 7, 2009


Played Like a Raven – Terrell Suggs


With the Ravens trailing 17-7, and having just punted the ball back to New England, giving Tom Brady a chance to really put the game away early in the 2nd half, T-Sizzle came through with the play of the day for B’More. Brady dropped back to pass, Suggs b-slapped New England left tackle Matt Light, and proceeded to do his best James Harrison impression (hey, I hate to admit it, but that guy is making a living off this exact play) by stripping the ball from Brady just as he went to release it. The pigskin rolled into the end zone, where Dwan Edwards fell on it to bring the Ravens to within 3 – and the game was tense for the remainder.

On the play, Sizzle became the Ravens all-time leader in sack yardage with 437 yards. Suggs now has 2.5 sacks through 4 games – a pace, if he can keep it up, that would give him double digit sacks in a season for the first time since 2004.

Did Not Play Like a Raven – Mark Clayton & Chris Carr


While there were plenty of Ravens to touch the ball in between these two, the game in New England basically came down to:

  • The first Raven to touch the ball; and
  • The final Raven to touch the ball.

The first Raven to touch the ball, Carr, made the ill-advised decision to bring the opening kickoff out from 5 yards deep in the end zone. He proceeded to make it to only the Baltimore 18 yard line before being hit and fumbling the ball away to the Patriots, setting up their extremely early 3-0 lead. Later in the half, he again returned a ball that he could have simply knelt for a touchback on, only getting to the 24. Carr was replaced by Ledarius Webb before halftime; Webb twice took touchbacks, but also threw in a 38 yard return on his only attempt – 3 yards shy of Carr’s longest on the season. Carr is averaging only 24.5 yard per kick return in 2009 – unfortunately that is right on par with his career average of 24.7 (Yamon Figurs averaged 24.7 ypr for the Ravens in 2007; in 2008 his number dropped to 21.0.)

The final Raven to touch the ball, Clayton, is the obvious goat. It was a shame, too, as Clayton was having his best game since the opener against Kansas City, when he pulled in 5 passes for 77 yards and 1 TD. He had managed only 4 catches for 55 yards total in the games against San Diego and Cleveland, but was up to 5 receptions for 45 yards (3 coming on the final drive) when his potential 6th bounced off his numbers and ended the Ravens’ comeback bid. Actually, Clayton had his potential 6th reception bounce off his hands not once, but TWICE – the first time in the end zone 3 plays prior. Admittedly, that first catch would have required a much higher level of difficulty, but I get the feeling that up at the World Wide Leader, Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson were smiling and nodding at one another.

The Omnipresent Derrick Mason

October 5, 2009

Remember last December when the NFL Network crew screwed up and put Derrick Mason’s headshot on Roy Williams of the Cowboys’ name? (here is our post showing it in case you forgot)

Well, it seems that D-Mase was so caught up in all the hype surrounding the Favre vs. Packers matchup tonight, that he just couldn’t stay away, as he is moonlighting this season as not Roy Williams, but as former Raven Derrick Martin.


Hopefully Mason can get some inside information on the Packers and Vikings, two teams on the Ravens’ schedule later this season.

Less than 100 Losses!

October 5, 2009


The O’s deserve a small measure of applause (we’ll give them a “pinky clap”) for sucking it up and having some pride, winning their final 4 games to avoid losing 100 games in 2009.

Also, Dave Tremley got re-upped for 2010. In other words, “we aren’t trying to win next year, either.” So there’s that to look forward to.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Ravens coverage.

Patriots 27 Ravens 21 (The 2 TURNOVERS, 2 PENALTIES, 1 DROP Game)

October 5, 2009

Tom Brady wears a Skirt

The Ravens lost their first of the season in Foxboro, and the loss came down to five critical mistakes made by the purple and black.

1. Chris Carr’s opening kickoff fumble

I’ll admit that, at this point, any good feelings I had regarding the signing of Carr this past offseason have flown the coop. He is terribly indecisive on both punt and kick returns, and his decisions to repeatedly bring the ball out from 5 yards deep in the end zone are bash-your-head-against-the-wall inducing. Fumbling the opening kickoff, in a huge game, on the road in front of a hostile crowd is unforgivable (Chris Carr, get me some WAFFLEFRIES!). The defense held strong in keeping NE out of the end zone, but spotting a team like the Patriots a 3-point lead in the first minute of the game is no recipe for success.

2. Joe Flacco’s Red Zone interception at the end of the 1st half

Tough to say who was more “at fault” here, but there was obviously some miscommunication between Flacco and Mark Clayton. Clayton ran a stop-and-go, Flacco threw to the “stop” part of the route, and Leigh Bodden was left as the only player near the ball. Bodden made a very nice play to pick the ball off, but it never happens if Clayton is there to fight him for it.

The Ravens, trailing 17-7 at the time, had the chance to go into the locker room down by a single score, but instead gave themselves the daunting task of overcoming a double-digit deficit against Belichick and Brady.

3,4. Roughing the passer penalties on Ngata, Suggs.

These two plays are being heavily criticized by talking heads and pundits all over the league this week. They were, unquestionably, ticky-tack. However, those are the rules. It’s on the players to know what they can and cannot do, ESPECIALLY to the guy that the rule book was basically rewritten for. Neither of the “hits” (if you can call them that) on Brady were malicious or put him in any danger whatsoever, but that’s not the point. Blame the refs if you want, but the rule committee are the ones really at fault here.

Suggs looked like he was doing everything in his power to avoid Brady, but he stumbled forward and brushed the QB’s legs. In the 2009 NFL, that is a penalty.

New England scored touchdowns on both drives that were extended by the laundry on the field. In short, they took advantage. Great teams take advantage of the rules, mediocre teams complain about them.

Which do you want to be, Ravens?

5. Mark Clayton’s sudden, last minute stone hands

After all that, the Ravens still had a VERY good chance to win this game. The final drive put together by Joe Flacco was a thing of beauty. Starting at their own 20, down by 6, with 3:32 to go, the Ravens were nearly perfect in moving the ball to the New England 14 with 30 seconds to go and 1 timeout remaining.

With 1:10 to go, and the ball at the NE 20, Flacco floated a pass to Clayton in the side of the end zone. It would have taken a GREAT play to pull it in (and given Tom Terrific a bit too much time for comfort), but the fact remains that the ball hit Clayton on the arms, and he COULD have had it.

Three plays later, Flacco went to Clayton again, this time on 4th-and-4, on a 6-yard out. Clayton was wide open, and a catch would have led to a time-out and 4 shots at the end zone from about the 8 yard line to win the game. Unfortunately, Clayton tried to turn and run for the end zone before securing the ball, it bounced off his numbers, and the Ravens got sent home losers.

I’m not gonna sit here and crucify Mark Clayton…but it’s a pretty safe bet that #89 will be featured prominently in this week’s editions of both “Come on Man!” on ESPN and “Did Not Play Like a Raven” right here at the Nest.

I also feel like I have to call out Cam Cameron a bit this week. Cameron, who has been nothing short of spectacular since arriving in B’More, really shat the bed in this one. If I agree with Mike Preston, you know it’s bad.

Joe Flacco threw the ball 47 times for 264 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per play. Conversely, the Ravens ran the ball 17 times for 116 yards, an average of 6.8 yards per play. The Patriots, even with Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker, were much more balanced on offense, nearly 50/50 run/pass. The Ravens could have used their running game, which was working effectively, to move the ball, extend drives, rest their defense, and keep Tom Brady off the field.

Ray Rice had 103 yards on only 11 carries.

Willis McGahee had 11 yards on 5, but again found the end zone through the air.

Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain had…0 carries???

What the hell, Cam?!?!

Never was the puzzling absence of McClain more perplexing than when, with 5 minutes left in the game, the Ravens faced consecutive 3rd and 4th-and-1s near midfield. Rice and McGahee ran back-to-back for 0 yards, and the Ravens handed the ball back to the Patriots, who then had the chance to seal the deal then and there.

Is short yardage not McClain’s specialty? He seems to pick up those short first downs every time! Even more maddening was the fact that, not only was he not given the ball on either of those plays, but he WASN’T EVEN ON THE FIELD! At the very least, McClain should have been used in his decoy/blocking FB role there, needing just 1 yard.

Even before this play, I was yelling at the TV for some Pain Train. I was a bit nervous that he had perhaps been injured and the cameras not caught it, but then I did spot him in on a few plays (blocking, of course) earlier in the fourth.

Let’s hope Cameron looks at the film this week, gives himself a few nice “/facepalm!s” and gets back to balance from here on out. The Bengals, for one, are much improved in the secondary this season.

On the whole, the Ravens had a chance to win in the final minute, against a very good team, despite shooting themselves in the foot multiple times. If you have to lose, that’s the way you want to do it. Hey, they weren’t going to go 16-0. I had them penciled in for 2-2 after 4 games, and they are 3-1 with an earlier-than-expected battle for the division lead coming up this Sunday at home. Let’s move past this one and get ready for Cincy.

Injury Front

Finally, regarding two Ravens who were severely injured in the game:

Brendon Ayanbadejo, last week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and anchor of the Ravens’ already questionable kick coverage teams, told the media he is likely done for the season, needing surgery on a torn quadriceps tendon. (Guh. On the play that Brendon got hurt, he is never even in position to be injured if Dominique Foxworth wraps the ballcarrier up and makes a damn tackle, instead of diving at his ankles with a shoulder!)

Paul Kruger, you are the next man up.

Jared Gaither, taken off the field on a stretcher after slamming his head into Joe Flacco’s back, reportedly has movement in all of his extremities. Gaither was too large to fit in the MRI machine at Mass. General Hospital, but X-Rays on his neck and shoulder came back negative. No word on how long it will be until Gaither returns, but we wish the big man all the best in a full and speedy recovery. In the meantime, Michael “Blind Side” Oher will get to live up to his book by moving to the left side, and Marshal Yanda will take over for Oher on the right.

Ravens (3-0) @ Patriots (2-1)

October 2, 2009

Ravens vs. Patties

Ravens vs. Patties Stats

:shaking head:

I’m sorry, I still have trouble getting over the fact that the Ravens enter their Week 4 matchup with the Patriots with the BETTER offense of the two teams. It’s going to take more than 3 games for us to collectively thaw our frozen offensive hearts here in B’More, but I promise if we stick together, and take it 1 game at a time, we’ll get through it with Joe Flacco and Cam Cameron at our sides.

Going into the season I thought the Ravens had no better than a 25% chance of winning in Foxboro. Naturally, after the hot start, I am much more optimistic. Let’s look at some reasons why:


Through 3 games, the Ravens offense is reaching heights that nobody saw coming. If I’ve seen one national media piece this week on Joe Flacco’s awesomeness, I’ve seen 20. Willis McGahee leads the NFL in touchdowns. He and Ray Rice are averaging, combined, an absurd 5.5 yards per carry – NCAA numbers. Kelley Washington has emerged as a very legitimate #3 WR, and he seems to pick up a first down every time he touches the ball. The young offensive line is playing out of their minds, opening gaping holes and giving Flacco plenty of time to scan the field and fire up his shoulder-cannon.


While the Ravens enter the game relatively healthy, the same can’t be said of New England. With MLB Jerod Mayo already out, DT Vince Wilfork’s ankle injury becomes even more problematic for the Pats. Wilfork is very important to Bill Belichick’s run defense, and with him likely out, the holes that Matt Birk, Chris Chester, and Ben Grubbs are able to create between the tackles just got a bit wider.

They have issues on the offensive side as well. Randy Moss, after his 100-yard day last week against the Falcons, revealed that he was enduring excruciating back pain during the game, and could barely walk on Monday. Moss will play, and surely be effective, but anything that can slow him down, even a little, is a plus for the Ravens.

Wes Welker was listed as questionable for the Atlanta game with a knee injury, and did not end up playing. His status for Sunday is similarly up in the air, after he was limited in practice all week. Welker is as important as Moss to the New England offense, as he keeps the chains moving as expertly as any WR in the league, and is always getting open quickly for Brady when the defense brings pressure.

However, the Pats have no shortage of tiny white WRs sure to get on your nerves. Filling in for Welker is rookie Julian Edelman (11 rec, 118 yards). Fret not. Despite what this guy will try to tell you, Edelman is no Welker – at least not at this point. Wes Welker is a VERY GOOD veteran wide receiver. Julian Edelman has played 3 games in his career. Having #11 in there is a huge step down from #83.

Tiny White WRs

Another injury affecting New England is one that happened over a year ago. Of course, I speak of the season-ending blow to Tom Brady in 2008. Tom Terrific hasn’t regained his old form yet, and has shown the typical jitters-in-the-pocket symptoms that tend to follow such horrific injuries (see: Palmer, Carson; McNabb, Donovan). He’s obviously still great, but he isn’t playing like the 2007 Brady (yet), and so the Patriots seem, for the moment, incapable of blowing teams away like they did during their 16-0 regular season. Brady is susceptible to pressure, and can be forced into early, errant throws if the Ravens defense can get in his face.

Legless Tom

None of this is to say I’m predicting a Ravens blowout. Far from it. Let’s shift to the things that make me a bit uneasy going into this one.


Sure, the Ravens’ D redeemed themselves a bit last week…but there is no getting around the fact that it was against the BROWNS. The Patriots, even with a hobbled Moss, no Welker, and a Timid Tommy Brady, are not the Browns. On paper, the Ravens have nobody to match up with Moss 1-on-1 like the Jets did with Darrell Revis in their victory over New England in Week 2. Fabian Washington has the pure speed to keep up with Moss, but is severely undersized. I feel confident that he can match up well with Welker, but the Pats like to move Welker inside to the slot, where he would face Chris Carr or a linebacker. I’d like to see the Ravens play a lot of Cover 2 Sunday, keeping Ed Reed and Dawan Landry deep over the top. The Pats have struggled in the Red Zone this season, so the weakness of their Red Zone offense versus the strength of the Ravens Red Zone defense is a match-up B’More should try to exploit.

Letting them pile up yards between the 20’s, but keeping them out of the end zone will go a long way towards a purple win. Red Zone offense and defense don’t matter a lick if you are giving up 40+ yard touchdown strikes (because Ed Reed tries to jump an out route and leaves the deep middle of the field completely open like he did several times against San Diego – thank you, NFL Network.)

Holding the Pats into the low-20’s is probably a realistic goal for the Ravens D this week.

Special Teams

The Ravens return games have been crap in 2009. Chris Carr has looked hesitant and unsure, and continues to leave yards on the field. A big game like this may not be the ideal time to give Ledarius Webb his shot, especially considering his preseason fumble issues, so it would be nice to see Carr get on track.

Steve Hauschka is 4/5 on the season, but has yet to face a high-pressure kick, let alone a high-pressure kick in a very hostile environment the likes of which he will see Sunday. In a game that could very well come down to 2 or 3 points, the young kicker leaves us just a little worried.

Bill Belichick

Finally, there is the evil genius himself, New England head coach Bill Belichick. A master of having his teams completely prepared and of exploiting any weakness, however small, in the opponents, the hooded one can never be overlooked. The New England offense was very balanced against Atlanta, as the ageless Fred Taylor ran for over 100 yards. Nobody runs on the Ravens, so was that all part of a master plan to fool them into thinking the Patriots are back to a balanced attack? And with the way his defense held the Falcons’ strong offense to just 10 points…

Belichick is good. Very good.

That said, the Ravens coaches are no slouches themselves. I think Cam Cameron will unveil some new wrinkles this week that will surprise old Bill, and Greg Mattison will show that he does indeed know how to use the Ravens’ plethora of defensive talent effectively against a great offense.

Also, Joe Flacco will step up and show everyone that which we already know, but which nobody outside of B’More wants to admit – he is better than Matt Ryan.

Ravens 28 Patriots 23