Archive for December, 2010

Goob's Pregame Thoughts: Ravens-Bungles

December 30, 2010

After a brief holiday hiatus, Goob Theoharris is back in front of the camera to give us his thoughts on the Ravens’ Week 17 match up against the Cincinnati Bengals.  This time around, he rubs our faces in all his Ravens-related Christmas presents, talks about man-boobs (but doesn’t rub our faces in his, thankfully), and repeatedly refers to the Bengals as “The Bangles” (please excuse him).


Ravens' Pro Bowlers: Cundiff Honored, Koch Snubbed

December 28, 2010

Billy Cundiff, who is still two touchbacks shy of tying the NFL record after getting shut out for the first time all season in Cleveland, made his first Pro Bowl roster, it was announced tonight.

It’s a great honor for Cundiff, and a far cry from his standing just a few short months ago at the start of training camp.  Cundiff was the underdog to even make the roster after the Ravens brought in veteran Shayne Graham to compete with him for the kicking job in B’More.  Although Cundiff is mainly being recognized for his prowess on kickoffs, the 30-year old journeyman has also had a career-best year booting field goals.  His 24 field goals are the most he’s ever had, and his 88.9% success rate is a personal record, and well above his 76.7% lifetime average.

Cundiff is also 6/7 from 40+ yards this year, and 9/10 from that distance since joining the Ravens last year.

It’s been Cundiff’s kickoffs that have been the real story this year though.  He has helped the Ravens to effectively neutralize opponents’ return men, including Joshua Cribbs of Cleveland and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas. Billy has recorded four touchbacks in a game four times this season – vs. Denver, Buffalo, Miami, and at Carolina.  With warmer temperatures expected this weekend in Baltimore, he still has a decent shot at setting a new NFL record.

The Ravens have had a big edge in field position all season long, and Cundiff is a big reason for that. Unfortunately, the other guy mainly responsible for pinning teams deep in their own territory, punter Sam Koch, was again snubbed for a trip to Hawaii.

Though he was named a first alternate, many expected this to be the year Koch, who has had a wonderful career, finally got recognized for his accomplishments.  He finished #1 in fan voting, but perennial Pro Bowler Shane Lechler of Oakland got the nod in the end.  Lechler averages 47 yards per punt, nearly four yards more than Koch (43.2).  However, Lechler has only landed 26 punts inside the 20-yard line, while booting four touchbacks.  Koch, on the other hand, has placed an incredible 37 punts inside the 20, and still with just four going into the end zone.

Not to mention that Sam looks like a linebacker punting, and can be counted on every time to make a tackle if need be.  Oh, and he made a fine throw to Cary Williams on a fake punt to convert a first down against Miami.  Maybe Lechler, who has already been to six Pro Bowls, will bow out and let Koch take his spot.  He’s a Raider though, so it’s doubtful he has nearly that kind of decency.

Other Ravens going to the Pro Bowl are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata.  Defense still rules the roost in Baltimore.

Ben Grubbs and Le’Ron McClain are first alternates along with Koch.  Joe Flacco and Michael Oher are third alternates, and Anquan Boldin, Dawan Landry, and Ray Rice fourth.

Ravens 20 Browns 10 (The ED REED IS ON FIRE Game)

December 27, 2010

Another week, another run-of-the-mill not overly impressive win for the Ravens. After seeing them beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints a week ago, many expected a thorough beatdown of Cleveland, as they thought this Ravens team had finally “turned the corner.” However, that’s just not who this team is, and, as I correctly predicted, this game was far from a blowout.

Which isn’t to say that the Browns ever REALLY threatened the Ravens on Sunday. Their only touchdown of the day was not only very questionable (as to whether or not the ball was actually caught), but it was scored on a rinky-dink trick play. Brian Robiskie’s 29-yard touchdown reception that put the Browns up 7-0 in the first quarter was not thrown by quarterback Colt McCoy, but by fellow wideout Mohamed Massaquoi. Cleveland was pulling out all the stops in trying to prevent the Ravens from clinching their third consecutive playoff berth and steal a win. From the aforementioned WR-reverse-pass to Wildcat plays with Joshua Cribbs and an onsides kick attempt to start the second half.

The Ravens never pulled away from Cleveland, which will be sure to have some fans whining this week. However, as they’ve shown us time and again in 2010, that’s just not what they do. While the New England Patriots were decimating the Buffalo Bills 34-3 on their way to locking up the AFC’s #1 seed, the Ravens were producing just another workmanlike win as they clinched a spot of their own. The game plan was much simpler going into Cleveland, on both sides of the ball, then the one we saw a week ago against New Orleans. Less blitzing on defense, far fewer screen passes and complicated running plays on offense, and a lot more vanilla, “we can beat these guys straight up” tactics from Cam Cameron and Greg Mattison.

It wasn’t pretty, but in the end, the result is the same at 20-10 as it would have been at 40-6 – the Ravens finish the season with a respectable 5-3 road record, and still have a chance to win the AFC North title and get a first round playoff bye going into Week 17. Wax ecstatic all you want about their lack of “killer instinct” or whatever other nonsense, but don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate the franchise-first accomplishment that Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh have managed, in making the post-season in three consecutive years.

Speaking of Flacco, while his numbers were very pedestrian (12/19 102 yards), he threw two beautiful touchdown passes, was sacked only once, and also had several nice scrambles in racking up 16 yards and two first downs with his feet on plays where it looked like he was dead in the water. And not to mention he tied Ben Roethlisberger for second all-time for wins in his first three seasons as a starter, and joined Dan Marino and Bernie Kosar as the only QBs ever to make the playoffs in their first three years. Unfortunately, he broke out his old friend the “back foot floater” after keeping it under wraps for much of the season. His lone interception of the day, a lame duck intended for Anquan Boldin that was picked off by Joe Haden, was ill-advised and unfortunate.

It didn’t matter much though, because Flacco’s opposite number, McCoy, was far more eager to throw the ball to the wrong team than Joe was. Led by Ed Reed (two interceptions), the Ravens picked McCoy off three times (Lardarius Webb had the other), and caused a total of four turnovers on the afternoon. It was nice to see Jameel McClain scoop up Massaquoi’s second quarter fumble, as those bounces have been going against the Ravens all season. Despite forcing 20 fumbles, that was just the fifth that the Ravens have managed to recover on defense or special teams. That play set up Flacco’s first touchdown strike, a 15-yard bullet to T.J. Houshmandzadeh that beat double coverage, just three plays later.

For Reed, it was his tenth career game with two or more interceptions (but presumably the first game during which he managed to catch his jacket on fire.)

In addition to ruling the air, the Ravens ruled the ground as well.  Ray Rice had 92 yards rushing and Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain added on 34 and 19, respectively, in addition to Flacco’s 16.  In all, the Ravens ran 38 times for 162 yards, another strong performance that bodes well going into the postseason.

On defense, the Ravens backed up their big talk, suffocating Peyton Hillis for just 35 yards on 12 carries.  The Browns had 102 total yards rushing, but many of those were from McCoy (30), and running back Mike Bell (7 carries 27 yards).  Their season average will take a slight hit, but anyone watching the game could clearly see that the Ravens stuffed Cleveland time and again, and did not allow them to get anything established on the ground.

The most disturbing statistic to come out of the game for the Ravens’ defense was their inability to get off the field on third down.  They allowed Cleveland to convert 7/11 3rd-down opportunities, and that 63% failure rate cannot continue moving forward.  That it came against the Browns was even worse, as they had managed only six 3rd down conversions TOTAL over their previous three games.

On offense, third down was a concern as well.  Third and very short continues to trouble this team.  Rice picked up a 3rd-and-1 in the first quarter, but was stuffed on the same down and distance in the third.  Le’Ron McClain was 2/2 on 2nd-and-1 conversions, so hopefully “Pain Train” can be a short-yardage asset moving forward.

On the bright side, the Ravens were penalized only once all day for five yards, and that was an intentional encroachment to give Harbaugh time to decide whether or not to challenge the Massaquoi touchdown pass.  Michael Oher didn’t even jump the snap once!  Congrats, Big Mike.  Keep up the good work.

Special teams had a rough day.  Not only did Billy Cundiff not manage a single touchback (his first such game of the season), leaving him three shy of a new NFL record, but long snapper Morgan Cox tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.  The Ravens will sign a new LS this week.

Annoyingly, it doesn’t look like the Cincinnati Bengals are ready to pack it in for the offseason.  The Bungles knocked off the San Diego Chargers yesterday, knocking them out of the playoff hunt.  The Ravens need to beat Cincy at home next week, while hoping that Cleveland’s tricks are more effective against Pittsburgh than they were against us.  Otherwise, it’s back on the road (looks like Kansas City or, ugh, Indianapolis) for round one of the playoffs.

Ravens (10-4) @ Browns (5-9)

December 24, 2010

The Ravens travel to Cleveland this weekend to take on the Browns. While B’More has never lost to the Brownies in the Harbaugh/Flacco era (5-0), things haven’t exactly been easy for the purple and black in the Forest City. In 2008, Cleveland jumped out to a 27-13 3rd quarter lead before the Ravens rallied for the game’s final 24 points and a 37-27 victory. Last year, on “Monday Night Football,” the Ravens ended the first half locked in a 0-0 tie with the 1-7 Browns. They managed only one offensive touchdown, a Ray Rice 13-yard run, on their way to an ugly 16-0 win.

The 2010 Browns have been one of the NFL’s most schizophrenic teams. They beat the New Orleans Saints 30-17 in the Superdome in Week 7, then pasted the New England Patriots 34-14 in Week 9, and took the New York Jets to overtime in Week 10. They seem to have hit a bit of a wall of late though, losing their last two in Buffalo and Cincinnati. Cleveland finishes the season with two home games against the hated Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers though, and will be eager to provide bumps in the playoff road for one or both of their division rivals.

We all remember Browns’ running back Peyton Hillis barreling through the Ravens defense like a freight train in Week 3 in Baltimore. Hillis racked up 144 yards as the Browns took the Ravens to “the wire” in their home opener. Ray Lewis remembers as well, and has been very outspoken this week in his assertions that Hillis won’t have the same type of success this time around.

Via the Carroll County Times:

“It won’t happen again,” Lewis said. “I hope they understand that. We’re not coming in there to overlook them or nothing and we definitely aren’t coming in there to give him over 100 yards again. So hopefully they can buckle up all their chin straps and do whatever you need to do, but we’re definitely coming in to play a very physical football game.”

“A blind cat will find a meal every once in a while,” Lewis said. “We understand the two big runs we gave up against them.My son could have run through the holes that we gave him in Baltimore.

Those are some big words from the Ravens’ defensive leader.  After shutting down the Saints’ running game (1.9 yards per play) last week, the Ravens feel like they have found their stride on that side of the ball.  Hillis represents the biggest weapon the Browns possess, so shutting him down is priority number one.

It will also be the Ravens’ first look at rookie quarterback Daniel “Colt” McCoy.  McCoy took over in Week 6, but missed three games with injury.  In his six starts, Cleveland is 2-4, and McCoy has thrown 5 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions while averaging a very respectable 8.0 yards per attempt (Joe Flacco is averaging 7.5 ypa in 2010).  His favorite target last week was tight end Ben Watson, who caught 7 passes for 92 yards.  Watson isn’t the athlete at this stage in his career that the Saints’ Jimmy Graham (2 TDs against the Ravens last week) is, and has nowhere near the supporting cast of Graham, so the Ravens should be able to contain him adequately.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens need to prove that last week’s ground explosion is something they can at least come close to replicating.  They’ll attempt to do so against a Browns defensive unit that will be eager to redeem themselves after giving up 150 yards to the Bengals’ Cedric Benson a week ago, and 112 yards to the Bills’ Fred Jackson before that.  Ray Rice, who was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week after his performance against New Orleans, will be squarely in the crosshairs of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.  Rice has had success against Cleveland recently, racking up 96 and 104 total yards, respectively, in the last two meetings.

Joe Flacco picked on Cleveland cornerback Eric Wright in the first meeting, victimizing him on all three Anquan Boldin touchdowns.  Wright was placed on injured reserve this week though, so the Ravens will have to find someone else to go after through the air.  One guy who the Ravens are likely to avoid is rookie cornerback Joe Haden.  Haden has really picked up his game of late, and has five interceptions.  Haden had picks in four straight games back in Weeks 10-13.  Ravens’ wide receivers were forgotten men in last week’s gameplan, accounting for just three catches (one each by Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Derrick Mason).  Donte’ Stallworth was a healthy scratch against the Saints, but will likely play Sunday with David Reed out due to a concussion.

If “ground and pound” is the ticket to the Ravens’ success from here on out, so be it, but it’s at least nice to know that those veteran wideouts are out there if needed.  If the Browns sell out against the run, Flacco should be able to exploit them through the air, Joe Haden or not.

Special teams are always key against Cleveland and return man Joshua Cribbs.  In Week 3, Billy Cundiff effectively negated Cribbs by banging touchback after touchback, especially late in the game.  With game time temperatures Sunday expected to be in the mid-twenties, along with 10-20 mph winds, touchbacks may be hard to come by (we saw how much shorter Billy’s kicks were than usual last week in the B’More cold).  In addition, Tom Zbikowski is out, and Brendan Ayanbadejo and Haruki Nakamura missed practice time this week.  All three – along with David Reed – are key special teams contributors.  Ayanbadejo and Nakamura are, fortunately, listed as probable.

The Ravens made a tentative statement last week that they are legit title contenders.  I say tentative because a loss in Cleveland will toss them right back into the “likely pretender” category.  With the Steelers having already won in Week 16 (a 27-3 throttling of the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night), the Ravens need a win to keep their slim hopes of an AFC North title alive.  A loss would not only throw them back into the crowded Wild Card mix, it would clinch the division for Pittsburgh.  On the other hand, a win clinches a playoff spot of our own, and makes the two AFC North games in Week 17 (Cin @ Bal, Pit @ Cle) critical in the division race.

A great late Christmas present would be for the Ravens to give us a thorough beatdown of the Browns.  While I’ll hope for it, I won’t expect it.  Another close one seems much more likely.

Ravens 24 Browns 20

Goob on WNST with Rex Snider and Kazy Brown

December 23, 2010

Yesterday on WNST, Kazy Brown from West Wing Los Angeles, a Ravens group of ~250 people in L.A., was in studio with Rex Snyder. If you’ve watched Goob’s Ultimate Displaced Fan Video, you know about his story and setting up a similar group in North Carolina.

Goob met Kazy last week tailgating for the Saints game (4:35 of the video) and was very impressed at the success of his group. Giving props where they are due, Goob called in and congratulated Kazy on his success and also answered some of Rex’s questions about being a displaced fan.

Listen in:

Goob on WNST
(File should open with iTunes, RealPlayer, Quiktime, etc.)

More Rex Ryan Escapades

December 22, 2010

I can justify posting this on a Ravens site because:

If the internet detectives are correct, and this is indeed Rex Ryan and his wife engaging in some Youtube foot fetish fun, then the alleged filming incidents likely occurred while Rex was in Maryland and a member of the Ravens organization.

If you haven’t heard yet, go here and check out Deadspin’s feature.

Wow. I mean, the Jets have had some interesting scandals already this year (Hard Knocks, Jen Sterger, Ines Sainz, Sal Alosi), but damn…who would have guessed that it would be Mrs. Ryan that would ultimately provide perhaps the most ridiculous, off-the-wall of them all?

Apparently the Rex Ryan “kharacter” that Drew Magary of KSK has created really isn’t all that far from dead-on accurate.

I keep waiting for Brian Billick to make a cameo in one of these videos.

Ravens 30 Saints 24 (The HEY, WE CAN STILL RUN THE BALL! Game)

December 20, 2010

Geaux Saints!

Geaux…the F home, that is.

The Ravens sent the defending Super Bowl Champs home losers yesterday, ending New Orleans’ six-game winning streak and starting a modest two-gamer of their own in the process.

It was old-school Baltimore Ravens football on the offensive side of the ball.  Cam Cameron fought every instinct he has and tossed his pass-happy playbook out the window – for this week anyway – and came into the game with the mindset that the team was going to run the ball like it was 2008 all over again.  They did exactly that, as the offensive line stepped up and created holes, Joe Flacco tied his career low for completions in a regular season game (10 – Week 14 2008 against Washington), and little Ray Rice exploded and ruled the day.

As the Ravens ran their first play on offense, the FOX announcer (not Billick, the other guy) stated that “the running game has been virtually non-existent” for B’More.  It was to be quite existent on this day, however.

Rice put up 153 yards on the ground against the Saints, a season high.  He also had 31 carries, another season high.  Perhaps more importantly, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry, his highest since Week 10 at Atlanta.  Rice had averaged under 4 yards per carry in four of the previous six games.  Mighty Mouse also added five receptions for 80 yards and his first receiving touchdown of the year, on a beautifully thrown ball from Joe Flacco on 3rd-and-10 from the New Orleans 17-yard line.

Rice, who has frustrated fantasy football owners all season long, rewarded those who kept believing in him in their league playoffs, likely sending many a fantasy owner to their championship games with his career high 233 yards.

While the game plan may not have made the Ravens’ wide receivers very happy, Anquan Boldin (1 catch, 2 yards), Derrick Mason (1 catch, 42 yards), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1 catch, 15 yards) should be commended for outstanding downfield blocking that made many of Rice’s long gains on runs and screen passes possible.

Willis McGahee got in on the action too, with 53 yards on only seven carries.  Le’Ron “Ankle Sprain” McClain opened up holes too, but also robbed Flacco out of what should have been his 3rd touchdown pass of the day with a hideous “windmill” catch attempt.

All told, this Ravens’ team that entered the game averaging just 104.9 yards on the ground per game pounded the Saints for nearly twice that.  B’More racked up 208 rushing yards, and averaged 5.3 yards per rushing play.  That efficiency translated into a 31:30-29:30 time of possession advantage for the game.  Not extremely significant, but when playing an explosive offense like the New Orleans Saints – especially when they are making the kind of amazing circus catches they seemed to be all afternoon Sunday – every second that the defense isn’t on the field counts.

And damn, did those Saints make some catches.  Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes on the day, and Jimmy Graham’s rather routine 1-yard catch in the third quarter was bookended by two amazing grabs.  The first, also by Graham, gave the Saints a short-lived 7-0 lead.  Brees’ final touchdown of the day came on a pass that was intended for Marques Colston, but was tipped and instead hauled down in the end zone by Lance Moore, who expertly tiptoed between the sideline and endline to tie the game at 24 early in the fourth quarter.

Despite leading 21-7 in the second, the Ravens again found themselves tied in the game’s final stanza.

Unlike so many prior instances this year though, both the offense and defense stepped up to secure a slightly less heart attack-inducing victory.  Although the offense again failed to score a touchdown in the second half – the fifth straight game in which that has been the case – they put up three field goals, which ended up being more than enough.  They immediately responded to New Orleans tying the game, as the Ravens’ first offensive play after the N.O. touchdown was Ray Rice’s season-long 50-yard run (accented by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Saints after the play).

Just as the offense was vintage, the defense too resembled a Ravens team of yore.  After pulling our hair out watching 3-man rush after 3-man rush in Houston, Ravens fans were treated to a much more pressure-heavy defense against New Orleans.  The Ravens sacked Drew Brees three times and harassed him all day, forcing the Saints into a season-worst 5/13 on third downs.  Without rookie running back Chris Ivory, the Saints were unable to run the ball at all, managing just 27 yards on 14 carries (1.9 average).

It was good to see linebacker Dannell Ellerbe finally get back on the field.  Ellerbe, active for just the second time since the bye week (another rumored member of the infamous John Harbaugh “doghouse”), had five tackles and a sack, and looked fresh and effective throughout.  Fellow linebacker Tavares Gooden played perhaps his best game as a Raven.  Although he didn’t make it to the stat sheet, Gooden was extremely effective as a blitzer, forcing Brees into several uncomfortable throws and scrambles.  Greg Mattison may be on to something using Gooden, who has great speed for a LB but not ideal size, as a pass rusher more often.

It looked like the Saints might be poised to break Baltimore’s heart, taking over down by 6 from their own 4-yard line with 2:51 to play.  Not only were the Texans’ two 90-plus yard drives still fresh in our minds, but the Saints had already marched 92 yards in under three minutes in the second quarter.

This time though, the defense produced a stop when it counted most.

The Saints would make it just 13 yards, to their own 17, when Haloti Ngata got a hand up and tipped Brees’ pass on 4th-and-8.  Cory Redding pulled it in for his first career interception (Ray Lewis wasn’t close enough to knock it away from him again, a la the Tampa game) to all but seal the deal.  A Billy Cundiff field goal with seven seconds left gave the Saints time for a desperation lateral-fest on the ensuing kickoff and nothing more.

Speaking of Cundiff, he managed just a single touchback on the afternoon, leaving him three short of tying Mitch Berger’s NFL record of 40 in a single season.

It was a great win for the Ravens, but I’m not as quick to call it a “signature” win or whatever other hyperbole many Ravens fans and analysts are using this week.  The win is only extremely meaningful if they can build off it.  With Pittsburgh losing to the New York Jets Sunday, the Ravens are still very much in the hunt for the AFC North title, providing the Steelers lose at least one of their last two.  If the Ravens go to Cleveland and lay a clunker in Week 16 though, then the Saints win quickly loses much of its luster.

The Houston win could have been the start of something.  Yesterday was a great way to build off that game.  Moving forward, with only games against losing teams – though they are division rivals – left, the Ravens can have great momentum going into the postseason, regardless of whether they end up as a wild card or division winner.

Sights and Sounds: Saints @ Ravens

December 20, 2010

Join Goob as he brings you more sights and sounds from M&T Bank Stadium and the surrounding tailgate lots prior to the Ravens’ huge 30-24 win over the visiting Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints!

Vote for Goob in DirecTV's "Ultimate Displaced Fan" Contest!

December 20, 2010

Our resident displaced Ravens fan, Goob Theoharris, has entered to win DirecTV’s “Ultimate Displaced Fan” Contest.  This contest is for fans whose team plays somewhere other than where they live.  Goob needs our help to win, so make sure you go and VOTE FOR HIM now.

Otherwise you just know some dipshit Steelers fan in Wyoming that has never been east of Kansas City will win.  Goob is authentically “displaced” having been born in B’More and lived there for the first 23 years of his life.

It’s a video contest, which is obviously perfect for Goob, who has had you Ravens fans in stitches (and Buffalo fans up in arms) all season long.

Here’s his entry:

Grand Prize is 2 tickets to this year’s Super Bowl.  Last night’s near hiccup aside, lately the Patriots look pretty damn invincible, but if the Ravens can continue to establish their offensive identity here over the next month, maybe…just maybe…we’ll have the chance to watch purple in Dallas.

Watch, and GO VOTE!

(Note: Ugh, the “Vote” button still isn’t up yet at the DirecTV website.  We’ll let you know as soon as it is, but for now, keep Goob and this post in mind. Thanks!)

Flacco Clarifies "Elite QB" Comments on Dan Patrick Show

December 17, 2010

Joe Flacco was a guest on Thursday’s “Dan Patrick Show,” and he attempted to clarify some of the comments he made leading up to the “Monday Night Football” game against the Houston Texans. The MNF crew reported that Flacco told them “he is an elite quarterback.” That assertion has been scrutinized both locally and nationally, as people got a little miffed at Flacco seemingly putting himself in the same category as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees.

Flacco says that, basically, he was just annoyed with the way the MNF guys were all up in his business about how he can play better.

“Ron [Jaworski] and [Jon] Gruden were putting it on me, and I didn’t feel like dealing with that in a production interview…it got under my skin a little bit.”

Joe says that they asked him the same question twice, and that he was trying to get out of the meeting and go to dinner.

I can’t blame Joe here. Good for him for telling those talking head dipshits what they wanted to hear so they would shut up. His main point is that he feels like he’s playing pretty well of late, and giving his team a chance to win. No arguments here.

You can listen to the entire interview by clicking the link below:

Joe Flacco on Dan Patrick Show