Splat goes the Hiney.
Stick to the cheap shots, Cheap Shot.
Splat goes the Hiney.
Stick to the cheap shots, Cheap Shot.
Well, it certainly wasn’t the blowout that we were expecting and hoping for when we heard early Saturday morning that Ben Roethisberger wouldn’t be gracing the field with his big dumb concussed self, but we’ll take a win any way we can get it over Pittsburgh.
If “any way we can get it” includes prime time, a national audience, and handing out the type of crushing loss that we’ve been on the other end of all season, well then, all the better.
First things first, you have to hand it to Dennis Dixon. A guy that has never even practiced with the first team offense stepped in and hardly missed a beat. He had the Steelers in a position to win the game, thanks to his 33-yard touchdown pass in the first half and 24-yard TD scramble with just over six minutes to play. Luckily for the Ravens, he finally made the critical mistake, when he misread the zone blitz and delivered the ball directly to the waiting palms of Paul Kruger in overtime, which set up the game winning field goal for the good guys in purple.
By the same token, as good as Dixon was, that’s how bad the Ravens defense was to get burned by a guy making his first career start. They routinely got torched on first down, setting up 2nd and 3rd and shorts aplenty for Dixon and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Even when EVERYONE IN THE STADIUM knew Pittsburgh was going to run the ball, they still pushed around the Ravens’ front seven easily, and 6 or 7 yards from Rashard Mendenhall (who finished with 95 yards) was the rule rather than the exception. Sloppy tackling, no penetration, and an overall lackluster effort from the tackles and linebackers nearly cost the Ravens this very winnable game.
In the secondary, Lardarius Webb, filling in for the injured Fabian Washington, proved to be the least of the Ravens’ worries. Dominique Foxworth continued his trend of abominable play, getting turned around and burnt like toast by Santonio Holmes on the 33-yard touchdown, and then failing miserably to tackle Holmes or force him out of bounds despite having about 15 yards to make a play. DIVE AT HIS LEGS MAN!…instead of getting stiff armed all the way to paydirt. Holmes has now scored a touchdown in something like 34 straight games against the Ravens. Ah well, better him than Cheap Shot (who was gloriously spotted with tears in his eyes again after the game…always a heart-warming sight.)
On offense, it was again a story of two halves for the Ravens. This time though, the usual was reversed. They played extremely well in the first half, building a 14-7 lead, moving the ball on the ground and through the air, and most importantly, keeping Joe Flacco clean. However, in the second half, Dick Lebeau’s defense made the necessary adjustments, and Cam Cameron had no answers, as the Ravens managed only 3 points, which came with under two minutes to play. The Steelers sacked Flacco five times after intermission, and caused three fumbles, two of which they recovered. Michael Oher and Jared Gaither, who dominated Steelers’ LBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in the early going, appeared to wear down as the game went on, and Flacco was under ever increasing duress.
Fortunately, Kruger’s INT return set the Ravens up with good enough field position where the Steelers’ pass rush was a moot point. Four rushes by Ray Rice and a kneel from Joe Cool were enough to set up Billy Cundiff for a chip shot 29-yarder to send the yinzers, both real and wannabe, and their beat up team home with a big loss.
Cundiff had missed short on a 56-yard attempt as regulation expired, a try that was rushed due to more poor use of timeouts by John Harbaugh. This week his head-scratcher came with 14:50 to go in the game, when he called timeout on 4th-and-7 from the Pittsburgh 34, only to come out and punt the ball anyway. It will be interesting to hear his explanation for that one (BTW, if anybody has heard it, please, enlighten me).
John made up for it later though, as what could have been a disastrous decision to go for it on 4th-and-5 from their own 46 with 3:31 to play ended up looking like a stroke of genius when Flacco found Rice, out of the slot, and Mighty Mouse made a few Pittsburgh defenders look silly on his way to a 44-yard gain that set up the game-tying field goal.
Speaking of Ray Rice…wow. Praise continues to be heaped on the second year back week after week, and he just keeps on coming up with bigger and bigger plays. Rice put up over 100 yards of total offense for the eighth consecutive game, and on one 3rd-down conversion where he needed 12 and picked up 18, he juked about four Pittsburgh defenders completely out of their jocks. I went from screaming at Flacco for checking down to jumping for joy as Rice made the guys wearing white look like Pop Warner newbies.
Special teams was a disappointment on kickoffs, but Chris Carr actually made some plays on punt returns, much to the surprise of…well, everyone. Of course the Ravens’ get flagged for an illegal block on pretty much every return though, so most of it was for naught. Why can’t we tell the difference between the front of someone and their back? HEY TAVARES GOODEN – THE FRONT IS THE SIDE WITH THE FACEMASK! (Gooden proceeds to grab the guy by his facemask and throw him down).
Also, before I forget – thanks to HEEEEEEEEEEEEATH Miller for being scared of FRANK WALKER and doing a turf-dive instead of fighting for a first down in overtime. You da man, Heath.
Pittsburgh fans will of course belittle our nice win by droning on about Polamalu and Benny Boy not playing, and that’s certainly their prerogative. However, I seem to remember a game last season, where the home team won on an overtime field goal despite the visitors’ quarterback making just his third career start, in a hostile environment, on national television.
Steelers 23 Ravens 20, Week 4 2008.
The towel-wavers didn’t apologize for that win, and we’re not apologizing for this one.
With the win, the Ravens move to 6-5 and in a virtual tie with Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, just behind Denver for the AFC Wild Card spots. Let’s hope this hard fought, emotional win can propel them to a nice stretch-run winning streak.
A fun sub-plot that emerged from this game reared its head in the form of the pre-game interview between Bob Costas and Cheap Shot. Shot, much like the past hits NBC showed him delivering to Ed Reed, blindsided his quarterback. Basically, Shot had this to say regarding Baby Ben sitting out the game last night:
Wow. We’ve always known Shot was far from anything resembling a class act, but to call out the guy who has helped you to two Super Bowl rings and gobs of victories and good feelings, on National television no less, for not jeopardizing his future health and well being, all because losing to the Ravens makes your eyes well up like they did the first time you watched Titanic?
Locker room strife in Pittsburgh? Make mine a double.
Thanks to Thanksgiving-related computerlessness, this preview got pushed back a day from it’s normal posting time. As a result, it will have a markedly different tone had it been put together on Friday, due to breaking news first reported by FOX’s Jay Glazer this morning that Baby Ben Roethlisberger will NOT play on Sunday night.
Due to the Steelers’ brass’ decision to not sign a veteran backup earlier this week (they probably figured Benny was pulling one of his typical “oh, ow, it hurts, but um, yeah not really, I’m OK” drama queen acts), the Ravens won’t be facing a Jeff Garcia (who would worry us, even in his first week in the system) or Cleo Lemon (who we all remember for beating the Ravens as a member of the then-winless 2007 Miami Dolphins), but instead second year player Dennis Dixon.
Dixon, a guy mentioned in the 2007 Heisman race during his time at Oregon, has thrown all of ONE pass in his NFL career, a 3 yard completion in mop-up duty last season. The Ravens’ suddenly rejuvenated defense should have no problem making life terrible for the young scambler, and the hostile crowd at M&T Bank Stadium should be able to rattle him early and often (that is, as long as they use their hands to actually MAKE NOISE and not wave the stupid towels that the Ravens are giving out for the game – Glenn Clark articulated the idiocy of this very well HERE).
Speaking of the defense, Greg Mattison’s group, much maligned early in the season, has slowly and quietly crept themselves back into the NFL’s top 10. They forced three turnovers against the Peyton Mannings last week to keep the game close, and are rounding into form nicely. The loss of starting cornerback Fabian Washington for the year to an ACL tear definitely hurts, but Lardarius Webb has shown flashes of brilliance, and will now need to step up and contribute on defense the way he has on special teams. The Ravens also promise that we will see more of (ugh) Frank Walker and Chris Carr in coverage, and they signed Cary Williams, another CB, off the Titans’ practice squad.
Ed Reed, the goat of last week due to his ill-advised and even worse executed pitch attempt, is nonetheless playing his best football of the season as we get into late November. On NFL Playbook on the NFL Network this week, Brian Billick had the honor of diagramming Reed’s interception of Manning, where he absolutely BAITED the best quarterback on the planet into throwing the ball exactly where #20 wanted him to. If you have a chance to catch it, or have it saved on your DVR, go back and be sure to watch the Colts-Ravens segment. Reed broke toward the left sideline, to Pierre Garcon’s side, then wheeled toward Reggie Wayne on the right sideline, turning his back to play completely, and lo and behold, there was the ball. Reed vs. Dennis Dixon isn’t even fair, honestly.
The Steelers’ big-play safety, Troy Polamalu, has been bitten this season by his decision to grace the cover of “Madden 10.” The dandruff-less Polamalu has missed five games already in 2009, and the Steelers are just 2-3 without him. Much to the delight of Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco, who won’t have to worry about accounting for #43 on every single snap, Polamalu will be forced to sit this one out, as well.
Even without Polamalu for half of their contests, Dick Lebeau’s boys have still managed to trot out the league’s #1 overall defense. For Cameron, who seemed scared to try any of his trickery that had worked so well against other teams on the Steelers last year, and whose unit has fallen from #3 to #13 over the past six games, Sunday night will be a chance for him to put some of the recent frustrations behind him. The Ravens should be able to score some points on Pittsburgh, not necessarily because their offense will dominate, but because there is likely to be good field position aplenty, due to 3-and-outs and turnovers delivered by Dixon.
Ray Rice, who has over 100 yards from scrimmage in seven consecutive games, has been the Ravens’ catalyst and basically only weapon on offense of late. Lebeau, however, is likely to have put together a game plan to stop (or at least contain) Rice, so SOMEBODY else needs to show up and produce. Flacco may find that his safety valves of Derrick Mason and Rice are shut off more often than not against Pittsburgh, and will have to be able to find his other options. Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington have combined for just four (!!) catches over the Ravens last three games (each had 1 each against Cincy and Indy, and got shut out in Cleveland). Make no mistake about it – the Steelers will not let Mason and Rice beat them single (double?) -handedly. If the other guys, including Todd Heap and Le’Ron McClain, can’t get involved, this one could be a nail biter even with Dennis Dixon leading the other side.
The Steelers’ prime downfall this season has been that they are giving up points not when that strong defense is on the field, but the rest of the time. Pittsburgh has given up a return touchdown (defensive or special teams) in their last eight games, an NFL record. Their kick coverage unit has been at the bottom of the league, and it’s so bad that they just signed Corey Freaking’ Ivy to help out. Unfortunately, he doesn’t figure to see much action in the secondary this week, but we can always cross our fingers and hope. Lardarius Webb should be able to contribute some good field position of his own on kickoffs, although hopefully there won’t be more than 2 or 3 kickoffs from Pittsburgh all night, and we all know Chris “Fair Catch” Carr isn’t breaking anything, so the Ravens’ best bet at making it nine straight games giving up a return score for Pittsburgh is likely to be someone on the defense.
Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall is having a good year, and will be out for some revenge after Ray Lewis broke his shoulder last season. Haloti Ngata has been limited in practice this week (still with the ankle issue), and Terrell Suggs will, by all accounts, be inactive again. The Ravens’ best bet to neutralize Mendenhall is to get out to an early lead Sunday night, and force the young quarterback to try to beat them throwing. At that point, their pass rushers can pin their ears back, and the ball hawking secondary can have a nice post-Thanksgiving feast.
There are some that will say that, should the Ravens win, the victory will be hollow because of Benny Boy and Troy Toy being out. I’m going to disagree vehemently. If the Ravens were 8-2, yes, I’d be a little disappointed that those two won’t be out there. However, with this team 5-5, desperate for a win, and having seemingly found every way under the sun to lose games in 2009, we should be happy for a victory any way we can get it. Especially in a division game, against one of the handful of teams above us in the Wild Card hunt.
Not to mention, it’s the Steelers – if you dressed up Glen Burnie High School (‘s soccer team) in Pittsburgh jerseys and sicked the Ravens on them, I’d watch all day.
Ravens 23 Steelers 6
Heinz Field is the biggest piece of Crap football playing surface left in the NFL. Maybe instead of producing all of those damn Terrible Towels they could spend some money on putting together a field that’s just slightly better than the pile of dirt I played in growing up. Or at least use those towels to sop up some of the mud.
Same Color Unis.
It’s bad enough that everyone else has to see that stupid black and gold for the Squealer fans, but to be as unimaginative as to have all of your teams dress in the same color unis? Pssssshhhh…lame. At least the Penguins have those sweet powder blue jerseys.
Terry Badshaw (see what I did there /poke poke)
Career Numbers: 212 TDs, 210 Ints; 51.9 Completion %, 70.9 Passer Rating. What. The. Fudge?
Seriously… those numbers are terrible. Here are all the QBs this season who have a worse completion % than Terry’s career average: JaMarcus Russell, Derek Anderson. That’s it.
Not enough you say? Here are all the QBs this season who have a worse Passer Rating than Baldy McBlond put together: Marc Bulger, Brady Quinn, Matthew Stafford, Jake Delhomme, Kerry Collins, Mark Sanchez, JaMarcus Russell, Derek Anderson. Their teams have a combined 12 wins with them at the helm this season.
Bradshaw gets so much credit for being on those Super Bowl teams when it is clear that Trent Edwards or Shaun Hill could easily have outperformed him if playing for the Steelers. I’m glad my team history isn’t saturated with this backwater hillbilly asshole.
Do I need to rant on this one… here I’ll let you finish my thoughts…
“I haven’t seen anything this gay since _________”
Come on really? Even Fox and CBS can find some Michael Tafoya to throw down to the sideline during game day. Is the “talent” in Pittsburgh that bad that they can’t put together a squad of 25 decent looking girls? (<-That question is rhetorical) I mean, I’d be willing to bet Philly has enough leftovers to throw your way Pittsburgh.
Am I the only one who ever notices this? Everywhere I go, no matter the month, day of week, time of day, venue of the moment… I find people wearing Steelers clothes. Holy Cow Turd. How is this possible? Are you seriously that pathetic you have nothing else to wear?
I feel like these people are everywhere. Walking their dogs, getting on planes, even church. Maybe their Xmas wish list should consist of normal clothing.
Troy/Ben Media Bromance
I am so damn sick and tired of hearing how awesome these players are. Every pre-game, “so what do you think about the Steelers Game today?”
“Well if Troy and Ben play…” Give me an effin break, what does their whole team just explode without them? “Oh no Troy and Ben are out? Well gang, we knew this day would come, on the count of 3 everyone hit their Self-Destruct button… 3. KABLAMMO!!!!” Is the movie 2012 secretly about Pittsburgh and the Steelers when “Troy and Ben” leave? And have you noticed that unlike the other 1553 NFL players, these two only have first names? Really people? You would think that these were the only two players on the team. Enough already.
This had potential #1 written all over it. If I were a TRUE Steelers fan – from the Pittsburgh area, my parents loved them, their parents liked them and their parents were bandwagon jumpers when they came into the league (of course average life span of Pittsburgh residents back then was probably about 30) – I’d be choking on my french fry sandwich in anger if all the sudden I turned around and every where I go there are 37,839,302,571 “Steelers fans” wearing Super Bowl Forty-Blahblah t-shirts on underneath their “Ben” jerseys.
That bandwagon is FULL people! Get off, and get off quickly, especially since, in case you didn’t hear, the movie 2012 is about the Steelers.
“Real” Steeler Fans
That’s how I would feel if I were a Steeler fan looking at our fan base. There is no better reason to be thankful… except!!!!
Wait? What’s wrong with Jeff Reed?
You’re just jealous cause your kicker was never a bride-to-be!
Your kicker can’t party like Jeff Reed!
He can’t rip paper towel dispensers off the wall like Jeff Reed!
Your kicker doesn’t have mirror self pics like Jeff Reed!
And with that, we’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all you Nestgoers! Sure, being a Ravens fan is tough sometimes…but it could be so much worse.
Those dastardly clowns in black and gold march into town this week for a prime-time showdown on Sunday night. For the most part, the Steelers players are actually LESS stupid looking than their fans. There are plenty of ugly mofos on the roster though, as we have detailed in the past. Fortunately, their play as of late has been pretty ugly as well, so there may be hope for our heroes in purple.
Question: Will Pittsburgh running back Mendenhall be avoiding Ray Lewis like the plague this week, after Lewis ended his rookie season last year by breaking his shoulder?
Answer: Does a Rashard Rashit in the woods?
Last year, reader “Goob” suggested that we put up a Lookalike! of Hines Ward next to a box of Summer’s Eve(R) Brand feminine hygiene product. While extremely fitting, there are plenty of other squealers who also qualify as Grade A “douche” (see below). Hiney, on the other hand, looks a lot like another guy that used score touchdowns on Sundays.
Scumbag football player? Check.
Running away from the good guys after likely breaking a rule? Check.
Gonna get what’s coming to him? Check and mate.
Now, onto the douche bags.
They say a team takes on the character of their head coach. Well, that makes perfect sense, because the Steelers are total D-bags, just like their King D-Bag leader, who exhibits all the tell-tale signs of a total douche.
Steeler fans like to hate on Ravens fans for our love of Matt Stover. In their defense, this is the kind of kicker they have become accustomed to.
We actually can’t fault you guys all that much for being so anti-kicker love. Kudos for not fully embracing Mr. Reed. Sunday should present some more good opportunities for Fatty Mc-last-line-of-kickoff-return-defense-FAIL over there to work his magic as Lardarius Webb blows by him.
Played Like a Raven – Michael Oher and Jared Gaither
Remember the Sunday Night game in Week 10, when Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels would NOT SHUT UP about Colts’ defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis? It was like they had “Favre-cams” on those two, showing us all the ways that they were wreaking havoc in the Patriots’ backfield, and how creative the Pats were being in trying to slow them down, and blah, blah, blah.
Well, how many times did you hear the names Mathis or Freeney Sunday? Maybe once, and it was in the context of a “where the hell are they?” kind of reference.
Freeney and Mathis COMBINED on the day for nary a tackle, sack, quarterback hurry, deflection, or anything else that would get them on the stat sheet.
Nada. Zip. Zilch. Freeney and Mathis were non-factors. Of course, Freeney had an excuse:
“When they passed the ball, they pretty much left two guys on us to deal with, and the ball was gone,” said Freeney, who missed out on a chance to tie the league record shared by Denver’s Simon Fletcher and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware of a sack in a 10th consecutive game. “Stats don’t always tell the true picture of what’s really going on. Based on how much attention they gave us, that means less receivers go out and less points for them.”
Sure, Gaither and Oher got some help at times, but everyone gets help against those two, and they still have 18 sacks between them. You got shut down, tornado-man. Deal with it.
A very impressive day by the Ravens’ two young tackles to keep them in check. A similar effort will be needed against the Steelers’ fierce pass rushers this week.
The only small bone to pick with these two was that Oher got called for a false start in the second quarter, and Gaither SHOULD have been called for one on the Ravens’ final offensive play. That shouldn’t be happening at home.
On the whole though, it was a fitting way for Oher to celebrate the opening weekend of “The Blind Side,” especially considering that, in the book version, Freeney called Oher out, saying he would be waiting for him on Sundays, or something to that effect.
Did Not Play Coach Like a Raven – Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh
The Ravens’ clock management was atrocious on Sunday, and John Harbugh needs to shoulder the lion’s share of the blame. Although he should be commended for going 2/2 in his first two challenges of the day, which granted him the chance to take a third, the ridiculous way in which he squandered his third challenge was inexcusable.
The game book at NFL.com reads as follows:
Timeout #1 by BLT at 02:26.
3-1-IND 30 (2:26) 18-P.Manning pass short left to 87-R.Wayne to IND 31 for 1 yard (21-L.Webb). Baltimore challenged the first down ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #2.)
The Ravens stopped the clock ONCE by using TWO timeouts. That effectively cost them about 40 seconds worth of critical game clock, in a game that they trailed by two points. Terrible. Just terrible.
Harbaugh’s explanation, that he was trying to “flip” the timeout to a challenge, is laughable. He knows that he can’t do that, and once he realized as much, he needed to abandon the ill-advised notion to challenge the spot of that Reggie Wayne reception. The timeouts are just too crucial at that point in the game.
And this was all on the heels of the strange clock-management at the end of the first half, when the Ravens were calling timeouts when they should have been spiking the ball, and spiking the ball…well, never.
Harbaugh needs to get a handle on this clock thing, as he is quickly entering Andy Reid/Lovie Smith territory.
As for Cam Cameron – when you don’t score a touchdown all day, there are issues. When you can’t punch it in from the opponent’s roughly “3-inch” line, there is a monumental, potentially insurmountable problem with your offense.
As was mentioned in Monday’s recap, the Ravens have now scored just two offensive touchdowns in their last 12 quarters of play, and one in their last eight. The coordinator ire that was so pointed at Greg Mattison early in the year has suddenly and unexpectedly shifted to Cameron.
If the Ravens are to have any prayer of putting together a late winning streak and squeaking into the Playoffs, improvements from the guys in the polo shirts and headsets will be just as important as the guys in jerseys and helmets picking it up.
The Ravens added yet another to the 2009 list of crushing last-minute defeats yesterday, as they fell to Indianapolis by two points despite being in field goal range with under three minutes to play. Joe Flacco’s ill-advised toss right into the palms of Gary Brackett on what turned out to be the team’s final offensive play sealed the deal, and let the horseshoes escape B’More with their perfect record intact, and their seventh straight over the purple and black.
The blowout that many of us expected (and most of us probably would have preferred) never materialized, as the Ravens never trailed by more than a touchdown for the entire afternoon. However, because of their failure to get into the end zone even ONCE, their 32-27 time of possession and 3-2 turnover (3-0 for the game’s first 57 minutes) advantages were rendered moot. The Ravens’ much maligned defense refused to be lit up by Manning like they had by Rivers, Favre, and Palmer, as they picked him off twice in the first half. They set up the offense at the Indy 29 and their own 48 on the strength of interceptions by Dawan Landry and Ed Reed, only to see Joe Flacco & Co. settle for Billy Cundiff field goals on both possessions. After Landry’s, they managed a pathetic three yards before trotting out Cundiff to cut the score to 7-6.
Holding Peyton Manning to just 17 points is a commendable feat – it was the second-least points they have put up all year, and the fewest since Week 1.
This loss is squarely on the shoulders of Cam Cameron and the Ravens’ offense. The O, which came out gangbusters to start the season, has been stuck in neutral since the furious rally in the second half of the Minnesota game. They have now scored just one offensive touchdown in their last TWELVE quarters of play. The chunks of yardage, big plays, and 30-point outputs that gave us visions of Testaverde-to-Jackson to start 2009 have suddenly turned into painful reminders of Tony Banks-to Travis Taylor(-to ground).
The offensive FAIL was never more pronounced than when, with 12 minutes left in the game, trailing 14-12, the Ravens were stopped on three consecutive plays from inside the Colts’ 1-yard line.
Where was Le’Ron McClain?!
Your quarterback is 6’6″ and you need five inches…he almost got it on the first try, so why not sneak it two more times?!
Settling for a field goal there, as the CBS announcers were quick to point out, sealed the Ravens’ fate.
When you can’t punch it in from INCHES out, at home, in a pivotal game…you don’t deserve to win, let alone call yourselves a playoff contender.
Sure, the final drive was heart-wrenching, and the Ravens were in place to go ahead at or near the two-minute warning – but that game was lost with 10:53 on the clock, when Willis McGahee was stopped short for the second straight time.
It was a fitting sequence for an offense that has regressed greatly over the last several games. Joe Flacco, who started the season spreading the ball out admirably between all of his receivers, seems to have again fallen in love with Derrick Mason, only this time there is a lover’s triangle that also includes Ray Rice. The stat sheet will tell you that eight different Ravens caught passes; however, a closer look reveals that 16 of Flacco’s 23 completions went to Mason or Rice. There were three Colts’ defenders around #27 on the game-ending interception…somebody else was open, Joe.
You can’t fault Flacco for wanting to get the ball into the hands of Rice, who has quickly developed into a premiere playmaker, or of Mason, his security blanket. But a line has to be drawn at some point. Kelley Washington has proven himself to be a very capable target, and Mark Clayton seems to be catching everything thrown his way since his drop in Foxboro. Flacco seems to have become extremely risk-averse lately, and the throws into tight windows in the middle of the field that we saw early in the season, and which are crucial to his continued development, have all but disappeared. Whether it is a coach in his ear telling him to be more careful with the ball, or a doubting of his own abilities that has taken hold as a result of his earlier red zone interceptions, is up for debate.
What are not up for debate though, are these facts:
At this point, Ray Rice basically IS the Ravens offense. A situation that is likely to present itself sooner rather than later is that a good defensive coordinator (ahem..Dick Lebeau, anybody?) will find a way to shut down Mighty Mouse and make Flacco use his other options. From what we’ve seen lately, it is tough to believe that Joe Cool still trusts his ability to go to those other guys consistently.
It’s a problem. And Cam Cameron, after all the genius he displayed last season in making something out of not-much in B’More, is going to start finding himself under increasing scrutiny should this year’s team fail to start putting up points again.
Other nit-picky items from the game:
I know I said that this time doesn’t deserve to utter the “p” word. However, thanks to last minute choke-jobs by both the Steelers in Kansas City and the Bengals in Oakland, the AFC North looks exactly the way it did on Saturday. The Ravens blew a golden opportunity to gain some ground, but they did’t lose anything in the standings either. Jacksonville currently holds the final playoff spot in the AFC but come on…does anybody really think they’ll be able to hold onto it? They’re awful.
Sunday Night’s clash with Pittsburgh is just as meaningful as it would have been if both teams won yesterday. And the Steelers may be without Troy Polamalu AND Ben Roethlisberger – at the very least they will not be at full strength. Even though the sky seems to be falling, the truth is, it’s still up there, albeit as gray and cloudly as one would expect in mid-November.
What is it with the evil teams always coming to B’More in twos? Last season, it was the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers in back-to-back weeks for what could have been a glorious span for Ravens fans. This year, it is instead the Colts and Steelers, #1(a) and (b) in the “Hate Book” of many in Charm City. Unfortunately, the chances of double glory in 2009 are realistically quite a bit less than the literally-missed-it-by-an-inch 2008 two-game sweep that nearly was.
The Colts come to town fresh off what was easily the most exciting game of the 2009 season so far, a comeback win over the New England Patriots in which they scored 14 points in the game’s final four minutes for a one-point victory. Could they be in for a let down, after such an emotionally draining victory?
Well, we had better hope so.
One of the two remaining undefeated teams in the league, the Colts are leading the league in passing, with Peyton Manning AVERAGING 315 yards per game. Manning looks like an MVP lock at this point, as there arguably is not a single player in the NFL who means more to his team than does the Indy quarterback (which is why we just went ahead and threw his face up there in lieu of a “Colts” logo). Their defense epitomizes the “bend but don’t break” philosophy, as evidenced by their being ranked 13th overall, but #1 in points allowed. They have allowed only seven passing touchdowns all season, tied for second best in the league.
Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco will look to redeem himself after last year’s dismal showing against the Colts, when he threw three interceptions and never once found the end zone in a 31-3 loss. Flacco has significantly improved his game since Week 6 of 2008, but his recent showings against Cincinnati and Cleveland do not inspire much confidence that he will be able to crack a very tough Indianapolis pass defense. The Colts still have Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney up front, who have 8.5 and 9.5 sacks, respectively. Ravens’ young tackles Jared Gaither and Michael Oher will have their hands full with these two, and the pressure they can bring could force Cam Cameron to keep his backs and tight ends in to block more than he has all year. If you watched the game last Sunday night, New England used a variety of creative ways to “chip” Freeney, including having wide receiver bump him off the line. Ravens’ wideouts are hardly the physical type, so we don’t expect much of that, but don’t be surprised to see more two-tight end sets this week, with both Todd Heap and L.J. Smith.
Traditional wisdom against a team in the situation that the Colts find themselves in, that is, starting two rookie cornerbacks, is to attack through the air. However, that seems like exactly what the Colts want teams to do, so they can have their stout pass rush pin their ears back. Cameron acknowledged this week that Indy’s young corners are playing as good as, or better than, the guys they replaced. Sure, Randy Moss was able to shred them, but…well, you know. In short, the Ravens don’t have the firepower to trade blows with Indy like the Pats did.
If the Ravens want to have any chance in this one, they need to follow the lead of some other teams who have nearly knocked off Peyton & Co. this year, specifically Houston, Miami, and San Francisco.
There isn’t a “book to beat the Colts,” because nobody has done it yet. There are, as you see above, a few recipies to “keep it close against the Colts.” Can the Ravens hope to employ any of these formulas on Sunday?
Dominate 3rd Down
B’More was an impressive 11/18 on 3rd downs three weeks ago against Denver, but are just 5/24 (20%) since then. Hopefully, back in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens can keep the chains moving like they did last time they played in front of the home crowd.
Bend but Don’t Break
In 24 opponents’ trips into their red zone in 2009, the Ravens have allowed 11 touchdowns, good for 46%. That’s 10% worse than their 2008 numbers, when they gave up 14 in 39 trips. Holding Indy to under 50% on the day is probably a best-case scenario.
We all remember one particular game against Peyton in B’More though, when he was touchdown-less, and went to the red zone just twice all day, but still won the game.
Run the Ball
Given Joe Flacco’s recent struggles, the Colts’ strong pass defense and small d-line and linebackers, and the fact that Peyton Manning on the field = bad while Peyton Manning on the sideline = good, there would seem to be no better time than the present for the Ravens to tap into their 2008 formula and re-release the three-headed monster backfield. Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee got back into the action last week to a degree, with 13 and 6 touches, repspectively, but it will take more than than to keep #18 planted firmly on the bench.
Come on, Cam. Break out all the stops in this one – unbalanced line, “Suggs” package, wishbone formation, whatever. Pound the rock and pound it good.
Speaking of coordinators, Greg Mattison will be under the spotlight Sunday too, especially if Cameron’s unit fails to control the clock and put up points, especially early. The Ravens’ defense has not allowed a point in six consecutive quarters, but that was against the Browns and a Bengals team protecting a double-digit lead. Peyton Manning could topple that house of cards quickly and mercilessly. Mattison seems to have no fear of going after mediocre QBs with all he has (see: Orton, Quinn), but for some reason prefers to sit back and let the better gunslingers pick the mediocre secondary to pieces (see: Favre, Rivers, Palmer). Losing Terrell Suggs only makes matters worse, as rookie Paul Kruger will have a tough first assignment in trying to bring down “twinkle toes” Manning.
The recommendation here is to, somehow, try to take both Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark out of the game (also, to cure cancer and end world hunger). The Patriots did a good job of neutralizing Clark, only to see Wayne explode for 126 yards and 2 TDs. The Colts’ young WRs, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, though having strong seasons, both looked a bit rattled and missed some plays against New England. Maybe looking into Ray Lewis’ eyes across the line will have them similarly shaken.
Grasping at straws here, I know.
The other potential saving grace Sunday would be a weather-induced ineffective Manning. “Whether” (ha!) it be a torrential downpour, or 40 mph winds like the ones that nearly helped the Ravens end the Pats’ undefeated streak in ’07, mother nature would be a great 12th man to have on our side this week.
Unfortunately, the current forecast is for 50 degree temperatures, just a 20% chance of precipitation, and light winds.
Where’s a Nor’easter when you need one?
Colts 31 Ravens 20
The Indianapolis Irsays make their way to town this week, going for their seventh straight win over Baltimore’s new team. The Colts “look” pretty unstoppable this season, owners of a 9-0 record and fresh off one of the most exciting victories in recent memory. Things “look” pretty bleak for our Ravens this week, but fortunately, we can always distract ourselves by pointing and laughing at all the goofy looking players on the opposing roster.
So, without further adieu, Lookalikes! Colts edition:
Our first contestant is currently out with a knee injury, so he won’t be taking the field this Sunday.
DON’T MEAN I CAN’T HATE!
If the Colts have a “Captain Ugly” contest in training camp like the Ravens do, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez has to be a shoo-in perennial winner.
Hmm…hang on. Something’s not quite right.
THERE we go.
Stepping in for Gonzalez in the role of “token white WR” on Indy has been rookie Austin Collie. One interesting side effect of the MySpace/Facebook social media revolution is that you have all these suddenly famous young athletes/actors/whatever, who were not famous at all just a year or two ago, that used these sites just like the rest of us every day saps. Which leads to pictures like this one being readily available.
Yes, that’s Austin Collie on the left, hopefully on Halloween. The sad part? He probably won’t even need that tiny little axe to “dice up” Dominique Foxworth and Fabian Washington. Sigh….
Moving along down the Colts roster, we find rookie 3rd-string quarterback Curtis Painter, who is about as close to a real-life “Butters” from South Park as we’ve ever seen.
While fellow pass-rusher extraordinaire Dwight Freeney prefers to use his patented “spin” moves on the field, defensive end Robert Mathis does his turning as “U-Turn” in the Showtime series “Weeds.”
And last, but certainly not least, no Lookalikes! Colts edition would be complete without throwing in their fearless leader, Peyton Manning. Manning look-a-likes are scattered all throughout the internet though, so there is really nothing we could add that hasn’t already been done. (Ed. Note – this has probably already been done too. Oh well.)
Or is there?
Recently, Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher caught a bunch of flack for wearing a Peyton Manning (who plays for a division rival) jersey to a charity event.
Now, we can definitely understand Titans’ fans’ anger here. But let us not forget, Fisher was just following suit – Peyton has been dressing up like Jeff Fisher for years now.
At least Fisher didn’t go on television in costume.
Played Like a Raven – Dawan Landry
The fourth year safety has been having a very lackluster year, and has very obviously not been the player that he was prior to sustaining a spinal cord concussion last season. However, on Monday night, Dawan Landry showed glimpses that just maybe he is returning, slowly but surely, to his pre-injury form. He racked up four solo tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss and had another tackle, that would have went for a loss of 4 yards, nullified by a 12-men on the field penalty by the Ravens. Landry’s 48-yard interception return touchdown provided the knockout blow that Ravens fans had been nervously awaiting all night.
This may come as a shock, but Landry now actually leads the team with his three interceptions. Granted, the entire team only has 9 picks through 9 games, well below 2008’s 26 in 16 pace, but…there it is.
Hopefully this was a sign of things to come for Landry. We’ll gladly take the interceptions, especially considering the lack therof coming from anybody else in the secondary, but it was his return to sure, aggressive tackling that bodes well for #26 moving forward.
Did Not Play Like a Raven – Wide Receivers
For the fourth straight week, this dubious honor goes to not a single player, but an entire group (previous three were: offensive line, anyone who got flagged, and secondary). This time it was the Ravens’ wide receivers who failed to make the trip to Cleveland. The group, as a whole, managed only THREE catches all night; all were, of course, by Derrick Mason. Mason’s long reception on the night was 41 yards, but about 30 of that came after the Browns DB whiffed and ran right by Derrick – it was by no means a stretch-the-field type catch.
The “howlitzer,” as Jaws put it, on Flacco’s shoulder was never on full display, due to, among other problems, the wideouts failing to get any separation down the field. Some blame also needs to go to Flacco, who still throws high way too often, and the offensive line, who seem to give Flacco much too small of a pocket, especially in front of him.
Despite the high throw, it was nonetheless a very catchable ball from Joe to Mark Clayton on a slant route from the slot – one that likely would have resulted in a long catch-and-run touchdown had Clayton pulled it in. It’s a play that an NFL wide receiver needs to make.
Kelley Washington went without a reception for the first time all season, and was targeted only once.
An inability to move the ball in big chunks and put points on the board, against a lowly defense such as that of the Browns, does not inspire confidence for the upcoming contests against Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay. This group, along with pretty much everybody else on the offensive side of the ball, needs to step it up in a big way over the season’s final seven games.