Ravens, Rants and Rankings – week 8

November 07, 2009 |

Ravens 30 – Broncos 7. This was the best game the Ravens have played all year. The Ravens offense again played well, but both the defense and special teams stepped up and played superlatively which led to a dominating performance against an overachieving Broncos team. Let’s be clear, this was a game that the Raven’s needed to win. This is not the type of Broncos team that we are use to here in Baltimore, they are much quicker and much more disciplined under Josh McDaniels, but the bottom line is that Kyle Orton is their quarterback and they are still not physical enough to deal with teams like the Ravens. Denver plays Pittsburgh next week, look for much the same outcome when they play the Steelers. I don’t believe for a minute that the Ravens were buying the BS being shoveled by their head coach that there is no “must wins”. The way they played belied that belief. Good win, good job all around, let’s see why they were so successful.
Offensively, the Ravens went back to the no huddle offense and used it about 75-80% of the game. It is not a coincidence that they seem to get their offense in gear when they go to this set. It was a smart move against the Broncos here, because a Mike Nolan defense is predicated on having the right personnel on the field in the right situation. Many times you saw the Broncos racing people onto the field to get in position before the Ravens could snap the ball. A lot of times the defense barely got set. How many times did they not get the right personnel on the field? It definitely took them out of their comfort zone. By the middle of the third quarter all this racing on the field and the sheer size and bulk of the Ravens offensive line had worn out the front seven of the Broncos. Jared Gaither made a world of difference solidifying the line. Michael Oher is a workmanlike grinder who is playing very well. Gaither is a special talent; as long as he stays motivated, his career will more closely resemble that of Jonathan Ogden, then that of Bennie Anderson. Between the two of them Elvis Dumervil is still looking for his first sack against the Ravens. Kelley Washington is really paying dividends as our 3rd receiver. Mark Clayton is having a very good year. Take away his drop in New England and he is really becoming a valuable target. More importantly every time I watch him I think I am watching a Derrick Mason clone; and that is a really good thing. Flacco is not afraid to go to him and he consistently makes plays after the catch.
Defensively the Ravens came to play. It was clear from the get go that there was an electricity in M&T Bank Stadium. Jarrett Johnson set the crowd at a frenzied level with his sack of Kyle Orton on the first play from scrimmage. Johnson does not get enough credit for the type of year he is having. He has 5 sacks, stuffs the run and has been very good against the past. He has been the best linebacker on the field for the Ravens this year, and that includes Ray Lewis. The Ravens sent more varied looks at the Broncos and at times had a free run at Kyle Orton. It is clear that they used the bye week to rethink their ability to pressure the quarterback, and it was evident that a return to what they do best put a spring in their step and a swagger back in their defense. In the defensive backfield they played a little more cover 2, but with constant pressure of Kyle Orton and his happy feet after getting his clock cleaned by Jarrett Johnson, covering the Broncos receivers was less taxing for our depleted secondary. It is simple really the less time the quarterback has to throw, the easier it is to cover. All that being said, the secondary played better and Dominique Foxworth was effective. Ed Reed was running around and hitting like he did prior to his neck injury.
The special teams had the best game I have seen in a long time from a Ravens special teams unit. As usual, Sam Koch was a stalwart kicking the ball. Steve Hauschka was perfect on field goals and extra points. He was also effective of kick offs. He regularly reached the goal line on kick offs and occasionally kicked the ball into the end zone. The true improvement was with the return and coverage teams. Denver has a dangerous return man in Eddie Royal and we never gave him a chance to get started. I think one time he got a kick return out to the 35. Also, he was never able to generate a head of steam on any punt returns. Lardarius Webb is a player. He catches the ball and gets up field fast. He hits the hole and doesn’t stop. There is no dancing in his game and this is important. When Webb got some regular playing time in the defensive backfield in the 4th quarter, he was flying around making plays and hitting people. This was good to see. I know the Ravens want to go slow with this young man, but he is quickly carving out a niche for himself on this team. Chris Carr fielded all the punts and got some positive yards on a couple. He also played better in the secondary. This is vital. Ed Reed also made his presence felt on special teams fielding a couple punts and almost blocking another punt. I may be reading something into his performance, but he was flying around the field on Sunday like he did 3 years ago. If Ed is healthy again, watch out NFL. The most important aspect of the special teams was that they did not shoot themselves in the foot with stupid penalties.
My only complaint is our desire to constantly collect bonehead penalties and our growing penchant for challenging the referees. That needs to be curtailed. Michael Oher has a costly roughing penalty(even that it was questionable) and Derrick Mason had no business chastising the referee even if it appeared that he was right. That is the game of football. Mark my words, if we don’t get this in check it will come back to bite us in the ass later in the year.
This was about as best as you could hope for coming out of the bye. The offense continues to evolve. The defense finally resembles what we are accustomed to around here and the special teams controlled the field position all day. It appears that confidence was gained in dismissing and undefeated yet, in my opinion, still overrated Broncos team. We need to go to Cincinnati and take care of business. Let’s return the AFC North back to what it is all about, Ravens v. Steelers for all the marbles. Now that is great football.

Rants
The New Yankees wer clearly the best baseball team this year. You have to congratulate them for winning their 27th world title. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera have won their 5th title. For all the flack they get for buying pennants, this core have players has steered the Yankees to their 5th World Series title in 13 years. Pretty impressive feat! Two of the four are sure fire, 1st ballot Hall of Famers. The other 2 will merit consideration. Aside from the Pettitte daliance with steriods they have all done it the right way and have been consumate professionals for a long time. It is nice to see when perseverence and hard work pay off in the long run. One can only hope for such success for our Birds of Baltimore.
Hard not to second guess the Philadelphia Phillies and Charlie Manual though. I have no problem holding Cliff Lee back for the fifth game as long as you maintain the series lead, but once the Yankees came back and won games 2 and 3, and your are looking at facing Sabathia 2 more times, you have to then match up Lee against Sabathia at least for game 4. He gives you the best chance of beating C.C. and should have been on the mound in game 4 for the Phillies. Game 4 should have been played like it was game 7 for the Phillies, because if they lost it was all over but the shouting. I have to give some thought to a former college acquaintance of mine, Jamie Moyer. How bad do you think the Phillies brass would have liked to have a healthy Moyer to pitch one of those games. He would have given the Phillies a better chance to win Game 6 then Pedro Martinez in that position.
Hold on to your BCS crowns. This might be the year that topples the bowl championship series. This late in the season there are 7 undefeated teams in the country and the hottest team has 1 loss. It is not inconceivable that we could end up with at least 5 undefeated teams. Either Florida or Alabama will end up with a loss, but it is quite possbile that Cincinnati, Iowa, TCU, Texas and Boise State are going to end up undefeated. Texas will really have to stub it’s toe to lose a game even in the Big 12 championship game. It is possible Iowa will lose at Ohio State, but Cincinnati, Boise State and TCU all have a good shot to go undefeated. Which begs the question, if they have a bowl game between 2 of these 3 will anyone show up and will anyone watch? If form holds I am betting on a Florida-Texas showdown with the three non traditional powers undefeated on the outside looking in. Also, the hottest team in the country, Oregon will have to many tough games and to many hurdles to clear to ultimately make an impact on the title game. That is too bad, because they are certainly a fun team to watch. Last question, if there is a rematch between Oregon and Boise State in a BCS Bowl Game, does Oregon coach Chip Kelly have the stones to let LaGarrette Blount play in that game?

Bad boys, bad boys whatcha ya gonna do….In a master public relations move bad boy Brandon Spikes of the Florida Gators, who was caught gouging at a Georgia opponents eyes has turned his school mandated suspension of a half of a game into a full game. He decided himself that he will sit out the entire game to atone for his actions. What? Where did that come from? Talk about turning a villian into a martyr and improving his stock amongst his peers and in NFL circles. Brilliant move, to bad I find it hard to believe it was all devised by Mr. Spikes himself. What young kid would voluntarily give up any part of playing his sport if he did not have to. This reaks of Urban Meyer trying to turn a negative into a positive. It is a bold, inventive move to paint his player in an entirely different light. My only concern is all this would have shaken out the same way if Alabama was the opponent this week instead of Vanderbilt. Coach Meyer I think you have a future in politics.
Allen Iverson, just go away…Please! It took all of 3 games for Iverson’s trule colors to show. Signed in the off season by the Memphis Grizzlies, Iverson was happy to take the money and stated that he wanted to come in and do whatever to help the Memphis Grizzlies be a good basketball team. Three games in he is unhappy coming off the bench, and he is already making life a living hell for new coach Lionel Hollins. Hollins, who played for one of the most complete basketball teams ever, the 76 – 77 Portland Trailblazers, has to be questioning Iverson’s very existence on the roster. Allen Iverson claims he is not a bench player, and that he is not being selfish he is just being honest. Allen Iverson was a great player but he is not the elite player that he once was. His talent is no longer demands that he control the ball at every turn. His tantrum over playing time is only the latest selfish act in a career full of them. It is ashame, because there is a lot of young talent on the Grizzlies, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, OJ Mayo and Hasheem Thabeet just to name a few, but it is also an impressionable group. Who will the group follow, Lionel Hollins or Allen Iverson?
Andre Agassi, I have got to party with you cowboy! What in God’s name would possess you to write a tell all book about your extravagant lifestyle that embarrasses you and your family? The drugs, the sex, the parties, the confrontations and the hair weave apparently all is on display in his new book. If you are now happily married with children what would possess you to put this all out there as public record for you to be scrutinized and criticized. Look we have all done things we are not proud of during our lifetime. I don’t know to many of us that would write a tell all book describing those faults in great detail. What was Jerry Springer all booked up?
Elizabeth Lambert, you are a dirty girl – Check out University of New Mexico soccer player, Elizabeth Lambert. In a recent game against Brigham Young Univ. she was shown punching opposing players in the back and in the face, hip checking players to the ground and yanking a girl to the ground by pulling her ponytail. Even though I am a proponent of women’s sports, I find this type of action a little disconcerting. Maybe Ms. Lambert should petition to join the Broad Street Bullies circa 1975 or better yet she would be perfectly suited for a heel role on WWE.
One non sports thought. Do yourself a favor and check out the FX channel show Sons of Anarchy. It is, hands down, the best show on television. It is always action packed, it is a great story and it is superbly acted. Who knew Peg Bundy was such a good actress. Katey Sagal is that actresses name and she is absolutely brilliant in this show. Check it out you will not be disappointed.

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