Archive for January, 2012

Terrell Suggs vs. Skip Bayless….Again (Video)

January 4, 2012

At this point it seems like Terrell Suggs should just be an every day guest on ESPN’s “First Take.” Once again Tuesday he took on windbag Skip Bayless, and Sizzle was absolutely entertaining and engaging as always. Here’s a short clip of the exchange.

Skip is nothing but a professional troll at this point, but he and Suggs seem to truly enjoy their little banter sessions. And Suggs is also ratings gold for ESPN; following his appearance, he was trending both in the US and Worldwide on Twitter. To hear the entire clip, listen to the First Take podcast at the link below (Suggs starts at about the 46 minute mark).


Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #2 – Torrey Ain't No "Bust"

January 4, 2012

Many Ravens fans were elated when former Maryland Terrapin wide receiver Torrey Smith fell to Baltimore in the second round of the 2011 draft. We had watched Torrey torch ACC defenses during his time in College Park and he seemed like the perfect burner to compliment Anquan Boldin and let Joe Flacco’s shoulder howlitzer unleash its true potential.

However, a shaky preseason had many of those same fans knee-jerking like fools and throwing around the “bust” label before #82 had even had a chance to get his feet under him. It’s a very rare thing for a wideout to come in and make an immediate impact, but in today’s “what have you done lately?” world of instant gratification, people expected Torrey to be Randy Moss as soon as he stepped foot on an NFL field.

After not catching a single ball over the seasons first two games, the “bust” cries on local airwaves had only gotten louder as Torrey made his first start in Week 3 in St. Louis.

Replacing the injured Lee Evans, Torrey answered the doubters in a huge way. His first THREE NFL receptions went for touchdowns, as he and Flacco hooked up for scores of 74, 41, and 18 yards in the first quarter against the Rams.

Torrey’s rookie campaign continued to have its ups and downs, but there were far more ups when it was all said and done. Hopefully Smith, who has shown a gear that not many Ravens’ receivers have ever possessed, can continue to make positive impacts and big plays in the postseason.

(I apologize for the music in this video – make sure you turn your sound down/off before hitting play)

Remembering the Regular Season: Great Memory #1 – Ravens 35 Steelers 7

January 3, 2012

While they’ve been in the playoffs every year that we’ve been around save for one, this is the first time since the Nest has been in existence that the Ravens have earned a postseason bye. We find ourselves unsure of how to best fill the time. Instead of letting the wheel-spinning “moves” that the Orioles are making rain on our purple euphoria parade, I thought it best to use this time to reflect on what may have been the most satisfying regular season in Ravens history.

While we all obviously hope that there are plenty more great memories yet to be written by this 2011-12 Ravens’ squad, it seems as good a time as any, as we wait to find out who our first playoff opponent will be, to do some reminiscing.

Great Memory #1 – Week 1 – Ravens 35 Steelers 7

The Ravens started off the 2011 season with quite a bang, spanking their hated rivals from the opening whistle. Ray Rice’s first run of the year was a 36 yard gain. Joe Flacco’s first pass of the year was a 27-yard touchdown strike to Anquan Boldin. Terrell Suggs’ first sack of the year caused a fumble that was recovered by Haloti Ngata. The Ravens took a 14-0 first quarter lead, caused a total of seven Steeler turnovers (5 by Ben Roethlisberger), took turns blowing up Hines Ward, and cruised to a four touchdown win.

It was a great day for all Ravens fans, but it was a day that will always be extra special for us here at the Nest. We watched the game at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Morehead City, North Carolina, because the previous day Goob had gotten married in beautiful Beaufort, NC.

His wedding/Ravens vs. Steelers video tells the story better than words can, so let’s take a few minutes and reflect on just how awesome Week 1 of the 2011 season was.

Four Years In, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson Stand Atop 2008 Running Back Class

January 3, 2012

There were 23 running backs selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. Bookended by the Oakland Raiders taking Darren McFadden at number 3 and our Baltimore Ravens selecting Allen Patrick with the 240th selection, a whole lot of rock-toting talent was packed into that draft class.

However, only four of the running backs selected have gone on to become Pro Bowl-caliber performers over their first four seasons in the NFL, and if that same draft class was made available to teams today, the order in which the players were chosen would certainly be rearranged quite a bit.

Let’s first take a look at some of the selections, where they were taken, and their numbers through the 2011 regular season.

Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – Round 1 Pick 3

Rushing yards: 2627

Yards per carry: 4.8

Receptions: 116

Receiving yards: 1191

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 20

Total yards from scrimmage: 3818

Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – Round 1 Pick 13

Rushing yards: 3500

Yards per carry: 4.8

Receptions: 81

Receiving yards: 702

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 29

Total yards from scrimmage: 4202

Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys – Round 1 Pick 22

Rushing yards: 2326

Yards per carry: 5.1

Receptions: 102

Receiving yards: 800

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 9

Total yards from scrimmage: 3126

Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers – Round 1 Pick 23

Rushing yards: 3367

Yards per carry: 4.1

Receptions: 68

Receiving yards: 599

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 30

Total yards from scrimmage: 3966

Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans – Round 1 Pick 24

Rushing yards: 5645

Yards per carry: 4.8

Receptions: 194

Receiving yards: 1426

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 42

Total yards from scrimmage: 7071

Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – Round 2 Pick 44

Rushing yards: 4233

Yards per carry: 4.2

Receptions: 223

Receiving yards: 1985

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 29

Total yards from scrimmage: 6218

Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens – Round 2 Pick 55

Rushing yards: 4377

Yards per carry: 4.6

Receptions: 250

Receiving yards: 2235

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 29

Total yards from scrimmage: 6612

Kevin Smith – Detroit Lions – Round 3 Pick 64

Rushing yards: 2212

Yards per carry: 3.9

Receptions: 113

Receiving yards: 1003

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 20

Total yards from scrimmage: 3215

Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – Round 3 Pick 73

Rushing yards: 3027

Yards per carry: 6.1

Receptions: 117

Receiving yards: 1046

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 18

Total yards from scrimmage: 4073

Tim Hightower – Arizona Cardinals – Round 5 Pick 149

Rushing yards: 2054

Yards per carry: 3.9

Receptions: 128

Receiving yards: 879

Total touchdowns (rushing + receiving): 25

Total yards from scrimmage: 2933

Johnson, Rice, Forte, and Charles are clearly the cream of the crop, and as such are the only players on that list to have been selected to a Pro Bowl.

Johnson leads the group in touchdowns, rushing yards, and total yards from scrimmage. Rice is tops in receptions, receiving yards, and is second in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. Forte falls second in receptions and receiving yards, and third in rushing yards and total yards. Charles leads the way in yards per carry, and were it not for an injury that severely limited his 2011 season and some perplexing coaching decisions in Kansas City regarding his playing time, he would very likely be much higher in every category.

Were NFL teams drafting from this same group today, the likely order of selection would be:

1-2. Chris Johnson/Ray Rice (in some order)

3. Jamaal Charles

4. Matt Forte

This is a far cry from where they were actually taken, as the 5th, 7th, 9th, and 6th running backs selected, respectively, back in 08.

As a Ravens fan, I’d probably take Rice first, but I’m trying to be objective here. “Cop Speed,” despite his relatively quiet year, did enough over his first three seasons to warrant being in the conversation of “Class of the Class.”

At the same time, though, CJ has started since his rookie year, while Rice was used almost exclusively as the Ravens’ third-down back during the 2008 season. In his three years as a starter, Rice has averaged 1962 yards from scrimmage per season; if you extrapolate that number through four seasons as the team’s primary option, his total yards would be up in the 7800-range…far above Johnson.

In fact, since 2009, Johnson has bested Rice in total yards only once – during his 2000+ rushing yards season in ’09. Over the last two years, Rice has piled up 770 more yards than Johnson, on just 58 more touches (or 13.3 yards per additional touch).

After further review, I’d argue that, four years in, Ray Rice is the best running back to come out of the 2008 NFL Draft.

Regardless of whether you would rather have Rice or Johnson on your squad, the fact remains that the teams that took guys like Felix Jones and Rashard Mendenhall (:snicker:) over those two would certainly like a do-over.

Ravens 24 Bengals 16 (The RAY RICE RUNS AWAY WITH THE AFC NORTH Game)

January 2, 2012

The Ravens did what they needed to do in winning in Cincinnati for the first time since 2006 on Sunday to bring home the AFC North title and earn a playoff bye. It was the Ravens’ first AFC North crown since 2006, and the win secured their first ever 6-0 division mark. While it was another team effort, with big contributions in the form of turnovers from the defense and key kicks by special teams, Ray Rice, Vonta Leach, and the Ravens’ offensive line were the true heroes that brought home the huge victory for Baltimore.

Rice started the festivities off with a bang, taking his second carry (the Ravens’ fourth offensive snap) 70-yards for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead. It was reminiscent of his big run in the 2009 AFC Wild Card game in New England, as he simply exploded through the line and then proceeded to run away from the pursuing defenders.

After a Bengals’ 3-and-out, a 39-yard pass on 3rd-and-1 from Joe Flacco to tight end Dennis Pitta, during which Pitta picked up about 20 yards after contact, dragging several Bengals with him set up a 42-yard Billy Cundiff field goal that staked the good guys to a 10-0 first quarter lead. Cundiff was kicking for the first time since Week 15 in San Diego, and many Ravens fans thought the team should have again went with Shayne Graham, who spent the majority of his career in Cincy. Cundiff, though, braved the 20-35 mile per hour winds and came through on that, his only 3-point attempt of the afternoon.

Marvin Lewis’s squad would close the gap to 10-3, before a key sequence that had a huge impact on the outcome of this contest.

Facing 3rd-and-1 from their own 38 yard line, the Bengals ran running back Cedric Benson up the middle. Benson was hit by Cory Redding and appeared to be stopped for little to no gain. However, the officials marked the ball well past the 39-yard line, giving the Bengals an apparent fresh set of downs.

John Harbaugh wisely challenged the play, and the spot of the ball was surprisingly (not because it was incorrect, but just because it isn’t common to see a spot moved that far) re-spotted well short of the sticks, forcing Cincy to punt.

The punt was a beauty by Harris, and appeared to be downed at about the 1-foot-line of the Ravens, which would have put them in a horrible position. However, the Bengals player that downed the punt slid into the end zone in the process of downing it, resulting in a touchback instead. Given this much-improved field position, the Ravens had some room to go to work in building on their lead.

Aided by not one, not two, but THREE Bengals penalties (at least two of which were questionable, at best) that gave them first downs, the Ravens would ultimately capitalize on a gorgeous Flacco-to-Pitta 9-yard touchdown with only 11 seconds left in the first half.

It was a situation where the Ravens had about five breaks go their way in a span of just over six minutes. The key thing was, though, unlike so many times in the past, they were able to fully take advantage of these breaks in building a 17-3 halftime lead.

In the second half, Cam Cameron and the Ravens’ offense attempted to take the air out of the ball and simply sit on the two-touchdown lead, running on seven of their first 11 plays following the break. However, a 25-yard score by Cincy running back Bernard Scott – on which Ed Reed unforgivably attempted to tackle the ball instead of the runner when he could have stopped Scott for a short gain – put the pressure back on the Ravens’ O to put some points on the board. After managing only a field goal over the final 30 minutes in Week 16 against Cleveland, it was looking like more of the same and another potential second-half collapse.

The Bengals pulled to within 17-16 and appeared to be driving for their first potential lead of the day, moving from their own 20 to the Ravens’ 43 on five plays with just over seven minutes remaining.

It was then that the Ravens’ Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Terrell Suggs – quiet on the day to that point – came up with the kind of huge play that Baltimore defenders have been making for the last decade-plus. Tight end Jermaine Gresham took a screen pass from Andy Dalton and cut back inside. Suggs, who had started the play on the other side of the field from Gresham, came all the way across the formation to tackle the huge tight end from behind and jar the ball loose. It was Suggs’ NFL-leading seventh forced fumble of the season, and finally – FINALLY – the Ravens were able to capitalize by falling on it. Bernard Pollard recovered it for B’More, and the Bengals’ comeback was – temporarily, at least – held off.

The Baltimore offense would still have to come up with a play though, and avoid giving the ball back to a Cincy offense that had clearly (just like during the game at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this year) found their rhythm in the second half and was gashing a tired Ravens’ defense.

Who else but Ray Rice to answer the call?

Three plays after the fumble, the Ravens faced a 3rd-and-1, and were in danger of suffering a quick 3-and-out to give Dalton and co. another shot. The NFL’s leader in yards from scrimmage had other ideas though, as he took the handoff, quickly picked up enough for the first down, and then juked the Bengals’ safety out of his jock en route to a 51-yard touchdown, his second 50+ yard score of the evening.

The Bengals again drove deep into Ravens’ territory, but were forced to kick a field goal to close to within 24-16, thanks in part to a key sack by – you guessed it – Suggs.

With over two minutes to play and holding two timeouts, Marvin Lewis elected to kick the ball deep rather than try an onside kick. A false start on first down by Marshal Yanda appeared to doom the Ravens from the get-go, but Rice would again come to the rescue. Not only did he pick up 16 yards on 1st-and-15, but he showed great awareness and football IQ in not “Marion Barber-ing” it by running out of bounds. Rice stayed in bounds, forcing the Bengals to start burning timeouts. Although the Ravens were unable to pick up the second first down that would have sealed the game, the run and smart play by #27 had a huge hand in the fact that Dalton would ultimately take over from his own 20-yard line with only 1:05 to work with and no timeouts.

Cincy again made it interesting at the end, as it took two failed Hail Mary attempts to avoid a potential game-tying two-point conversion try.

Bengals fans will bellyache that Lardarius Webb should have been called for pass interference on the first of those two throws, but that wasn’t going to happen. Short of a blatant tackle, NFL referees hardly ever call PI on Hail Marys, and the fact is that A.J. Green was pushing and shoving just as much as Webb was.

The Bengals may have lost, but their lot in life remained unchanged – they still qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card, which is the best they could have hoped for entering the day.

Had the Ravens lost, they would be traveling to Denver for a Wild Card match up this weekend. Instead, they held on to give themselves a much needed two-week break until their next game, which will be played in Baltimore. The Ravens, of course, are undefeated at M&T Bank Stadium this year.

Baltimore managed to go 6-0 against what is unquestionable the strongest division in football, being the only division to send three teams to the playoffs. There is no chance that the Ravens will see the Bengals again unless both teams make it to the AFC Championship game. They could, however, see their arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers for the third time in two weeks if they win in Denver (they will) and if Cincy wins in Houston (could happen).

For now, though, the Ravens and their fans should sit back and enjoy the end result of one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history.

Stay tuned to the Nest this week, as we look back on this up-and-down – but ultimately extremely successful – 2011 regular season campaign.

GOOBVISION – AFC North Champs Edition!

January 1, 2012

Goob celebrates the Ravens’ first AFC North title since 2006 (and first division sweep in franchise history) by handing out some hardware here in his first ever “GOOBIE” awards.