Of course Goob can’t help but take this opportunity to laugh maniacally over the Pittsburgh Steelers being eliminated in overtime by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Archive for January, 2012
The Houston Texans succeeded in defending their home turf Saturday afternoon, winning their first playoff game in franchise history. Running back Arian Foster gashed the Cincinnati defense all day, rookie quarterback T.J. Yates made just enough plays, and fellow rookie defensive tackle J.J. Watt made perhaps the play of the postseason picking off Andy Dalton for a touchdown. The 31-10 Houston win sealed their fate in coming to Baltimore for the Divisional Round next Sunday at 1 P.M.
Had Cincinnati have won, it was widely assumed that it would be the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to B’More for round 3 of the rivalry.
Tim Tebow, though, had other plans.
Nobody gave them much of a chance, but Tebow’s Broncos managed to vanquish Pittsburgh in overtime Sunday night, with a thrilling 29-23 victory.
The Steelers were hobbled, with Ben Roethlisberger still nursing his injured ankle (though he looked fine scrambling around in bringing his team back from a two touchdown deficit to force the extra period), and starting defensive linemen Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel both leaving the game early in the first half. Still, that the 8-8 Broncos were able to overcome them for the victory is just as surprising as the Seattle Seahawks win over New Orleans a year ago.
Many Ravens fans had claimed that they were actually pulling for Pittsburgh on Sunday, due to the implications for a potential AFC Championship game. The thinking being that, Pittsburgh had the best chance of knocking off New England (a much better chance than Denver, anyway), in which case a Ravens victory over Houston would result in the AFC title game being Ravens-Steelers in Baltimore.
While that line of thinking is perfectly logical and defensible, I just couldn’t get behind it.
Sports calls for rooting with your heart, not your head, and I don’t have nearly enough control over my emotions to ever subdue them for three plus hours to allow me to root for the Steelers, even if it is “in my best interest.” I was jumping off my couch when Denver was building their lead, and I had that all-too-familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach as Big Baby Ben was mounting his comeback.
When Tebow sent Pittsburgh home losers on the very first play of overtime, I celebrated like it was Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith providing the heroics.
Now, Denver goes to New England. The Patriots beat the Broncos 41-23 in Denver in Week 15, so they’ll rightfully be double digit favorites entering the game. A Pats win would mean that the Ravens would have to travel to Foxboro if they are able to get by Houston.
But at this point, is anybody really ready to count out Tebow?
The good news is that Pats-Broncos will be next Saturday evening, so the Ravens will know their potential opponent before even kicking off. While they can hardly afford to think about it, Ravens fans making plans for AFC Championship weekend will be able to get a head start on things.
I’m of the opinion that the Ravens can beat the Patriots in Foxboro, should it come to that. While an AFC Championship game in Baltimore would have been incredible, I’m not sure my heart could handle another Pittsburgh-Baltimore match up with that much on the line. With the Steelers out of the way, there will be no black-and-yellow cloud hanging over purple town as the postseason euphoria continues, and I’m personally more than happy about that.
Now, let’s get down to focusing on the task at hand – beating the Houston Texans.
Wrapping up our “Remembering the Regular Season” series is a memory that is yet to turn even a week old. Last Sunday, in week 17, Ray Rice broke touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards on his way to a 191 yard day that went a long way to helping the Ravens secure their first AFC North division title since 2006. He had 199 total yards from scrimmage on the day, and also cemented his position atop the NFL in that particular statistic.
Joe Flacco was a calm and efficient 15/19 for 130 yards and a touchdown, and Terrell Suggs added to his Defensive Player of the Year application with a crucial forced fumble in the fourth quarter that led directly to Rice’s second long score.
With the win, the Ravens clinched the AFC’s #2 seed, which is the reason we were able to spend some time looking back and enjoying the regular season this week, instead of getting ready for a Wild Card playoff opponent.
While the regular season was a blast, and we had a great time reminiscing about it throughout this week, we all hope the best memories of this season are yet to be forged. The Ravens will take on either the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, or Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday at 1 P.M., when they will try to run their home record to 9-0 on the year and earn their second AFC Championship Game berth in four seasons.
It’s been a well-deserved bye week for both the team and fans. Now let’s go sit back, relax, watch some playoff games, and find out who the next victim will be.
With a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 16 (a game that was much closer than it should have been), the Ravens capped off their first ever undefeated season at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore, since coming into the league in 1996, has still never posted a losing record at home (they’ve gone 4-4 a small handful of times). The Ravens went 7-1 at home in 2006 and 2010, but had never managed a perfect 8-0 until this year.
They joined Green Bay and New Orleans as the only teams to pull off that feat during the 2011 season, and they are now 27-5 at home in the Flacco/Harbaugh era.
Hopefully they can continue their winning ways through at least one (and hopefully two) more games at “The Vault” (or “The Bank,” or “The Flocktagon” if you prefer) here in January, and finish off the entire 2011-12 NFL year unblemished on Russel Street.
The Indianapolis Colts came to town in Week 14, but it certainly wasn’t the typical horseshoes we were used to seeing. Indy entered the game winless, at 0-12, as they had played the entire season without Peyton Manning. Many Ravens fans were having nightmares, remembering the 2007 season when B’More went to Miami and lost to a then 0-13 Dolphins squad.
This game was never in question though, as the Ravens finally put to rest a decade’s worth of frustrations, beating Indy for the first time since 2001.
It was a cathartic victory for all Ravens fans, young and old. The older generation who still remembers when the Colts were ours will always light up when a Baltimore team beats and Indianapolis one. The younger generation (the “get over it” crowd) was just glad to finally get a win after being beaten down by Manning year after year after year.
Ravens’ Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, whose name has been thrown around this week as a potential General Manager candidate for several teams, will not be going anywhere.
According to the team’s official Twitter account, DeCosta will be staying in Baltimore.
This comes as a great relief to Ravens fans. It’s no secret that DeCosta is the GM-in-waiting in Baltimore, prepared to take over whenever Ozzie Newsome decides to retire from the Ravens and (likely) head back to his Alma mater the University of Alabama. Eric is one of the great football minds in the game, and has been with the Ravens since graduating with a Master’s Degree from Trinity College in 1996.
The Ravens obviously have a great deal of confidence in DeCosta’s abilities to eventually be a successful GM, as they almost undoubtedly had to increase his pay to entice him to stay, with all these other teams requesting his services.
This past November, the Ravens played in their first ever Thanksgiving game. It was the NFL Network’s prime time game, the one that fans all over the country would have to fight their tryptophan comas to stay up and watch. As it turned out the made-for-TV storyline of brother vs. brother won out over the lure of cozy beds (or at least, they turned the game on before passing out), as the game was the Network’s most-watched program EVER.
John Harbaugh took on his little brother Jim’s San Francisco 49ers in what was dubbed the “HarBowl” or “Harbaugh Bowl” by the national hype machine. When the schedule first came out, this game looked like a cake walk for the Ravens – San Francisco hadn’t won the NFC West since 2002, and they were annually near the bottom of that traditionally poor division. However, Jim – like his brother John before him – took a losing team and immediately made them winners. The 49ers rolled into town with the NFL’s second best record, at 9-1. Quarterback Alex Smith, widely considered a first round “bust,” was playing the best football of his career, managing the game so San Fran’s strong running attack and suffocating defense could do their things.
The game was a slug fest, with Baltimore taking a 6-3 lead into the half, and scoring the game’s only touchdown on a Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta strike from eight yards out. The Ravens’ defense bruised and battered Smith, tying a franchise record with nine sacks, while the Baltimore crowd backed them every step of the way (the stadium was the loudest I’ve ever personally heard it, though to be fair, I wasn’t at the season opener against Pittsburgh).
With these two locking down the #2 playoff seeds in their respective conferences, it isn’t too far-fetched to think that we could be in for another “HarBowl” here in the pretty near future – one that would have much higher stakes.
(Again, beware the music)
Chronologically, this is great memory #5 in our “Remembering the Regular Season” series, but I have a feeling it is #1 in the hearts of just about every Ravens’ fan.
For the second consecutive year, Joe Flacco threw a final-minute touchdown pass at Heinz Field to beat the Steelers and send the yinzers home cryin’ in their towels. In 2010, his strike to T.J. Houshmandzadeh capped off a relatively short game-winning drive. This year, the odds were stacked even more strongly against late-game heroics – Joe and the offense took over at their own eight yard line with 2:24 on the clock, one timeout, and trailing 20-16.
What Flacco did next earned him the distinction of “Drive of the Year” (scroll to the bottom) by the website ColdHardFootballFacts.com.
Against their bitter rival, the Ravens trailed 20-16 with 2:24 left, one timeout, and needing to go 92 yards against one of the best defenses in the league. The often criticized Joe Flacco put a signature win on his resume with a near-flawless drive, throwing for all 92 of the yards, and overcoming some drops by his receivers. It’s an easy choice for Drive of the Year, given the ramifications it had on the AFC this season. Without the drive, the Ravens are likely preparing to go to Denver as the 5th seed right now, while the Steelers would have had the No. 1 seed, and home-field advantage over the Patriots and everyone else.
For a season that produced many great comebacks, no drive had the kind of impact and degree of difficulty as Baltimore stunning Pittsburgh to complete a season sweep.
Torrey Smith, whose holding penalty negated Ray Rice’s long touchdown run on the Ravens’ first offensive play, and who failed to tap his toes in the end zone a bit later, AND who dropped what should have been the game-winner earlier in the drive, redeemed himself by catching the game-winning score on their last play.
It was an incredible win for the Ravens, and one that ended up being extremely crucial to their current status as the AFC’s #2 seed. Here are three great videos that every Ravens fan could watch on repeat for hours on end.
As the second quarter of the Ravens’ Week 8 game drew to a close, it certainly didn’t look like any “great” memories would be made that day – not for Ravens fans anyway…maybe for Cardinals fans. Arizona had come into Baltimore and, on the strength of a sack-fumble deep in Baltimore territory, a Torrey Smith drop that became an interception, and a long punt return touchdown rookie Patrick Peterson, taken a commanding 24-3 lead with just under four minutes left in the half.
This was immediately following the Monday Night loss in Jacksonville, and it looked like the entire season was unraveling before our eyes.
Then the Ravens started to play.
Specifically, Anquan Boldin had absolutely no interest in letting his old team come into his new home and smack him around. Boldin – with plenty of assists from Joe Flacco – took over.
After pulling to within 24-6 with a late first half field goal, the Ravens took the opening kick of the second half and went 80 yards on seven plays to make the score 24-13. Forty-eight of those yards were courtesy of Boldin – a great catch along the sideline for 37 and an 11 yard pass interference flag in the end zone.
Later in the third, Boldin had what may have been the series of his life: Six receptions on 10 plays, good for 89 yards and another PI flag – again in the end zone – for good measure. That’s right: Q generated an even 100 yards on the drive (it didn’t start at the goalline – a Ravens penalty set them back during the course of the series).
With the Ravens now trailing 24-20, Boldin would draw ANOTHER pass interference call near the end zone (this one at the 3), setting up Ray Rice’s third touchdown of the day as Baltimore took a 27-24 lead just one play into the fourth.
It would take a Billy Cundiff field goal as time expired to put the finishing touches on the win, but in the end it was the largest deficit ever overcome by a Baltimore Ravens team. Boldin finished his day with 7 receptions for 145 yards, and his pass interference flags set up each of Rice’s three short scores.
It wasn’t easy, but without Boldin and this giant comeback, we wouldn’t be talking about an undefeated season at M&T Bank Stadium.
Rex Ryan was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator from 2005-2008. Since he left following the 2008 season to be the head coach of the New York Jets, he has turned their defense into one very similar to that of the Ravens (though they had a bit of a down year in 2011). While the two teams met in New York in the 2010 opener, Week 4 of 2011 was Rex’s first “homecoming” to Baltimore.
The Ravens’ defense, many of whom had played under Rex and still love him, were eager to show their former chief that they hadn’t skipped a beat after he left town.
And they did exactly that.
On the Jets’ first snap, Ed Reed blitzed off the edge and caused a Mark Sanchez fumble that Jameel McClain would recover in the end zone for a Raven’ touchdown. The Ravens only scored four defensive touchdowns during the 2011 regular season, but the final THREE of them would come in this game. Haloti Ngata also caused a Sanchez fumble that went for six the other way, and Lardarius Webb threw in an interception returned for a score.
After the game, linebacker Jarret Johnson said this of his former coach: “Rex created us, now he has to deal with us.”