Well, we’ve been awaiting the arrival of this day for nearly five months. Through the celebration of Memorial Day, July 4th, family vacations and a return to another school year, this ONE DAY has occupied a place in the forefront of our minds. As I look back to mid-April, we’ve eagerly yearned for two things to happen ….
The Orioles SECOND win of the season
The release of the 2010 NFL schedules
And, when the Ravens slate of games was announced, we wasted no time in circling the first game of the season. Admittedly, it hasn’t always been so significant to get antsy about the season’s first opponent, right? More often than not, it’s just one of 16 contests.
Do you remember these season openers?
2001 – a lackluster win against the Bears to commemorate the Super Bowl championship
2005 – an absolute beatdown by the Colts; a game featuring embarrassing hometown cheers when Kyle Boller was injured
2007 – losing a Monday night opener to the Bengals, while being hyped as a pre-season Super Bowl favorite
2008 – needing late defensive help and luck to beat a less than powerful Chiefs team
Opening games are much easier to recall than most mid-season matchups, right? All teams are undefeated as they head into week #1 on the NFL slate. All teams have hope and optimism. But, 16 of those same teams will find themselves winless as week #2 approaches.
Is tonight’s matchup against the Jets especially significant as it regards the opening of another season? My mind says NO …. each game is important, with only divisional and December/January contests taking on additional significance. Yet, my heart says “HELL YES” it’s more important.
Why? Well, that’s easy …..
Actually, there are a couple distinct reasons …..
The Baltimore Ravens, as an organization, are not known for rising to the occasion and beating highly touted opponents. And, Monday night matchups on the football world’s big stage haven’t yielded many wins, either.
As we know, the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship game, last year. The Ravens are 6-16 in matchups against teams that appeared in the AFC Championship game, the prior season. They’re not known for beating highly touted opponents.
As for Monday contests, the Ravens are 6-8, as the team enters its 15th year in existence. Not a stellar record, huh?
So, I think tonight’s game against the Jets is quite important. While the game does not represent more than a common victory over the Browns or Bucs in the win column, it can serve as an excellent springboard to start the season. The Ravens have an opportunity to beat a quality touted opponent …. and on the big stage.
If they’re gonna win, I see 3 distinct keys to making it happen …..
1) Force Mark Sanchez To Beat This Defense
I don’t think he can do it. In a pressured situation, I don’t think Sanchez can deliver a victory with his arm. His rookie season proved to be full of both mental and executional errors. And, if his portion on HBO’s Hard Knocks was an indicator for his ability to concentrate and comprehend, I’d suggest the Jets are in trouble.
Sanchez looks beyond confused or lost. In fact, he looks disinterested and easily distracted. While he boasts and walks around Manhattan with a 5th Avenue sense of style, he doesn’t carry the same confidence onto the football field. The guy cannot win a BIG GAME …..
Force him to try. I will bet the house he’ll fail.
If a game is on the line, I don’t want to face Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Heck, I don’t want to face Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers, either. But, I’ll take my chances facing Mark Sanchez. I would bet against him every time.
2) Come Out FIRING !!!!
The entire football world knows and expects the product known as RAVENS FOOTBALL. It’s quite predictable; relentlessly pursue on defense and establish a methodical, conservative running game. The Ravens’ storied offensive approach is contrary to the Mannings, Brees’ and Bradys of the world. Heck, it’s contrary to Roethlisberger – if he really needs to make a play.
I want to see the Ravens testing the Jets on the first possession. I’m not saying abandon the run, I’m just hoping the emphasis of the gameplan doesn’t rest on Ray Rice’s shoulders. Test the UNTESTED Jets secondary …..
Antonio Cromartie was kicked out of San Diego – good cornerbacks aren’t shown the door so easily.
Kyle Wilson has NEVER seen a play in the NFL’s regular season.
Darrelle Revis hasn’t played a minute of “fullspeed” football in nearly 8 months.
Jim Leonhard is a prototypical part-time player.
Will Joe Flacco throw a couple picks if he’s so aggressive? Probably. That just puts the ball back in the hands of this guy …..
I will take my chances against Mark Sanchez every single time. He’s NEVER really won an NFL game. I’ve said this a hundred times over the last few months …. “the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship game in spite of Sanchez, rather than because of him.”
He is not beating the Ravens defense.
3) Ask Yourself, “What Would Bill Belichick Do?”
After the dust and hype from tonight’s contest settles, one team will be undefeated and the other will be winless. That’s the promise of the NFL’s first week. When tomorrow morning arrives, we’ll have a distinct winner and loser.
In fact, when tomorrow morning arrives, John Harbaugh and his staff will have their minds squarely on the Cincinnati Bengals. And, Rex Ryan’s team will be focusing on the New England Patriots. Then again, Rex might be finishing up a fresh helping of humble pie, too.
Make no mistake about it, as I sit here writing this blog, Bill Belichick is probably holed up in some dark room, obsessing over Hard Knocks footage, as well as last year’s AFC Championship game tape. He’ll be watching and rewinding tonight’s game, too.
Is that Belichick’s strategy? No, it’s his preparation. His strategy to pick apart an opponent’s defensive vulnerabilities and eventually clamp down on them by throwing for touchdown after touchdown after touchdown.
While they don’t always achieve such a dominance, the Belichick & Brady combination seek to beat an opponent to a point of certain victory. They’ll stick their foot on the throat of competition and never lift off, until the final whistle blows.
That’s what they did to the Bengals, yesterday. And, it’s exactly what they’ll plan to do against the Jets, next week.
I’m hoping John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Cam Cameron, Ray Lewis, Greg Mattison and every other member of the Ravens has the same relentless desire to crush the opponent in tonight’s game. Come out fast and don’t let off …..
What would Bill Belichick do?
That’s right, he’ll command each and every assault in his arsenal. He’ll pour it on. He’ll test and likely victimize the overhyped Jets defensive secondary.
And, aside from anything else, he knows this kid will never bring his team from behind to beat the Patriots …..
Hate him or not, do what Bill Belichick would do …..
Beat the Jets beyond submission. While Rex Ryan had a great hand in building the Ravens defense, he’s asserted himself as ENEMY #1 on the football field. Let him feel the pain of humiliation.
Rex’s ego is probably bigger than ever. He has guaranteed the Jets go to the Super Bowl.
Tonight, the Ravens can take a first step in ensuring Rex’s promise – albeit from the seats and watching the game as fans.