Patriots 27 – Ravens 21. The sky is not falling, everybody relax. The Ravens are 3-1 and still in first place with a big showdown with the surprising Cincinnati Bengals coming up this Sunday at home..
Offensively the Ravens got better as the game went on. I thought or biggest advantage on the Patriots would be on the offensive line and I thought they would run the ball more then they did. It makes sense that an effective running game would help control the clock and help stifle the Patriots offense in the process. The Patriots defensive line gave us fits early, but we did wear them down in the second half. We still didn’t run the ball enough throughout the game. The Ravens need to do whatever they need to so that Ray Rice has the ball in his hands 20-25 times a game, whether it be by run or throwing him the ball. He is electric. It is quite clear that Harbaugh and Cameron has complete confidence in Joe Flacco throwing the ball early and often. I like the idea of opening the offense up and I think the confidence in Flacco is warranted, but I feel that ball control would have been a more prudent approach on this afternoon. As of this writing it appears that Jared Gaither is going to be OK and will be back sooner then later. That is terrific news. I heard on the radio, that Mark Clayton was 1 of only 2 NFL receivers not to drop a pass in 2008. He picked a heck of a time to drop his first one in 2 years.
Defensively, the Ravens stopped the run as they always do, but if they did not get pressure on Tom Brady they usually paid the price. The coverage was inconsistent to say the least. On the Randy Moss touchdown, Dominique Foxworth has got to understand with the safety blitz he needs to stay up on Moss and look for the quick pass. Brady basically threw the ball up in the air and Moss was not challenged at all on the catch. For most of the day the Ravens bracketed Moss under and over with the safety and he was not a factor. Wes Welker hurt the Ravens on crossing patterns, and the backs gashed the Ravens on check downs and dump offs. Dawan Landry struggled mightily covering the tight end and slot receivers. He has to be able to cover the tight end better. Both Foxworth and Washington cannot tackle. Their idea of making a tackle is throwing their shoulders at the legs of the ball carrier. I can think of three separate occasions when if either corner would have made the first tackle they would have forced the Patriots to punt. The pass rush was inconsistent but they did succeed in making Brady move in the pocket. Suggs sack and strip of the football was a thing of beauty and completely changed the momentum of the game. Has anybody seen Ed Reed?
Special teams has covered well the lat 2 weeks, but we are sorely lacking on our return game. Chris Carr has not worked out. In the preseason, it was clear that Carr was the choice because the Ravens were more comfortable with his ball handling and ball security, but if he is going to put the ball on the ground, let’s go with the more dynamic Ladarius Webb.
Final thoughts on the game, the Ravens made mental and physical mistakes all day long and still had a chance to win the game at the end. As we were discussing in the final moments of the game, it would have been nice for Joe Flacco to get that signature come from behind win against a real tough team; but it was not to be. I don’t give to much credence to the thought that the roughing penalties killed the Ravens. We got a roughing call in much the same manner when Flacco was hit on one occasion. The calls that killed me were the interference calls, one on Derrick Mason and one on Chris Carr that were just terrible calls! The defensive call was a third down play that extended a Patriots drive. The offensive call stalled a critical Ravens drive.
College Football Officials or Major League Umpires? It is getting harder to tell the difference. In the LSU-Georgia game this past weekend, the officials had a bearing on the outcome of the game. Georgia scored late on a touchdown pass to AJ Greene to go ahead and he was promptly penalized for excessive celebration. The penalty was assessed on the kick off which led to great field position for LSU who then scored to go ahead. Charles Scott ran 33 yards for a score and was penalized for excessive celebration. And as you might have guessed, this was penalized on the ensuing kick off which led to good field position. Now Georgia did not score, and I really have no vested interest in who one this game; but my concern was the penalties and why they were called. AJ Greene did not approach anyone on the other team, and only celebrated with his teammates. Charles Scott just raised his fingers to the sky and bumped his chest. As touchdown celebrations go these days they were very tame. I detest the “look at me” celebrations on the football field and support penalties for those in excess, but in this case the referees changed the course of this game. For a minute I forgot that I was watching a college football game, and thought I was watching a Major League Baseball game.
Heisman Trophy – Most experts would rank the Heisman Trophy finalists as Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Jahvid Best. I think a fourth name needs to be added to the mix, Jimmy Clausen. There is no question that Clausen plays for the weakest team of the bunch (even though Notre Dame is 4-1), but his numbers are off the charts. This year Clausen has a 4-1 record. He is 100-148 passing for 1544yds with 12 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. His quarterback rating is 179.25. His completion percentage is 67.5%. In his last 3 games he has led the Fighting Irish on late drives that have positioned the team to win. The golden boys of the 2009 quarterback class are commonly thought to be, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, but ask NFL talent evaluators and they rave about Clausen and Jake Locker of Washington. Of course both Clausen and Locker are juniors
I smell Pay per View – Braylon Edwards and LeBron James put them in the Octagon or put them in the ring, I don’t care, can you imagine the buy rate on that one. I think I should get a percentage since it is my idea.
So that is what Major League Baseball is suppose to be like – It wasn’t a classically played baseball game, but for sheer drama, excitement and finality it was a classic baseball game. The Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers in 12 innings for the right to face the Yankees in the playoffs. Both teams left everything on the field. As the game wore on the intensity picked up and the Metrodome was electric. It was clear that the players on the field were giving it everything they had. God, I miss good baseball! With that being said…
An open letter to Andy McPhail – Here is how you make the Orioles relevant again; I don’t want the credit, I just want good baseball. First the good, you know the Orioles get beat up pretty good and in most cases it is well deserved, so let’s give them a little credit. They have the best young pitching I have seen in this organization since I was a little kid, and that is a long time ago. Barring injury, Matusz is going to be a top of the rotation guy for a long time. Bergesen was a pleasant surprise. He is the poster boy for the old Oriole mantra, “work fast, change speeds and throw strikes.” Tillman has shown enough that I think he is going to be an effective starter in this rotation for some time. I can’t get passed the fact that the first time I saw him he reminded me so much of Jim Palmer it was scary. I am not trying to put that type of expectation on him, but his physical presence on the mound and his delivery are very similar. Jeremy Guthrie had a bad year, but he is not the only one. I don’t think that his contract issues and the World Baseball Classic did him any favors. So there is 4 fifths of your rotation; and that leaves one spot open in the rotation. While I think Matusz is going to be a stud, I don’t think it is fair to saddle him with that expectation this early. So it is time to sign a front of the rotation guy. The best pitcher out there is John Lackey. Call his agent the moment the Angels are done playing, don’t skimp on the money and bring him to Baltimore. With the rotation set, that leaves us with a woeful bullpen. Let’s face it, as a whole they were God awful. Mark Hendrickson was a real pleasant surprise in the pen and once through a batting order he was very effective. Koji Uehara showed flashes and previously made his living as a reliever. I don’t think he is strong enough to start for a full year, so move him to his comfortable role in the pen. With those two you have your left handed relievers taken care of, in addition to the fact that both can spot start if you need an emergency starter.
Jim Johnson returns to being one of the best set up men as he did for the previous 2 years. Cla Meredith is effective as a side arm situational reliever. Kam Mickolio shows tons of promise and pitched well when used correctly. but he is not yet ready to be a closer. Danys Baez, Matt Albers, Brian Bass and the rest of those cast of characters need to go.
The only spot open is closer. The guy they ought to give the first shot to close is David Hernandez. I like Hernandez, he throws a hard and heavy ball, and he has a bulldog mentality. Next year is the perfect year to try and invent yourself a closer. There is no pressure to win and if we show improvement then it is a win-win situation for all involved. If the team exceeds expectations and you want to make a move you can always make a trade before the deadline.
Offensively, there are a lot of very nice pieces. Up the middle they are solid with Weiters behind the plate, Roberts and Izturis at the middle infield positions and Jones in centerfield. Weiters is getting better behind the plate and he was our hottest hitter in the last month. He will have a monster year in 2010. Roberts in a really good lead off hitter and Izturis is the best defensive shortstop we have had around here is a while, plus his speed and bat in the 9 hole was a pleasant surprise. Adam Jones is a mercurial talent and one of these years will be his breakout year. The corner outfielders with Markakis and Reimold are very capably manned. Nolan Reimold was such a great find. I hope Reimold continues to improve on his play and Markakis is as steady as can be. So the only positions we have open are 1st base and 3rd base. Offensively we are in desperate need of a home run hitter. At third base, we need to move past Melvin Mora. The player they need to sign is Chone Figgins. Now he is not a power hitter but he is an excellent defensive 3rd baseman. He also hits for a high average and is a disruptive force on the base paths. I can’t imagine the chaos that Roberts and Figgins can cause at the top of the Oriole lineup. So the only thing missing is a big time power hitter. The one guy that they should pursue; and in fact, should have signed him last year, is only 50 miles down the road. The Washington Nationals are quietly shopping him around. Go get Adam Dunn. The guy hits 40 home runs a year and drives in 100. He is not a great outfielder or 1st baseman, but we don’t currently have a first baseman of that caliber anyway. I don’t see the downside here. You let him play half the time in the field and DH the rest of the week. He is a proven commodity who has a nasty streak. He is perfect for what this team needs. Ladies and Gentleman if I was the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles below would be the 2010 version.
1. Brian Roberts – 2B
2. Chone Figgins – 3B
3. Nick Markakis – RF RESERVES:
4. Adam Dunn – 1B/DH Felix Pie, Ty Wigginton,
5. Adam Jones – CF Robert Andino, Chad Moeller
6. Matt Weiters – C
7. Nolan Reimold – LF
8. Luke Scott – DH
9. Cesar Izturis – SS
John Lackey – SP Mark Hendrickson – RP
Brian Matusz – SP Koji Uehara – RP
Jeremy Guthrie – SP Jim Johnson – RP
Brad Bergesen – SP Kam Mickolio – RP
Chris Tillman – SP Cla Meredith – RP
Jason Birken – RP
David Hernandez – Closer
The only two things left are finances and field management. Let’s take the easy one first, finances. Committing to Lackey, Figgins and Dunn would take money. Dunn already is under contract, and if my numbers are right, he makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million a year. With the shedding of the contracts of Melvin Mora, Danys Baez and Aubrey Huff that should clear roughly 20 -22 million per year. So making a quick calculation we would still be 12 million to the good after adding Dunn’s contract. Considering that we will have to over pay to sign both Lackey and Figgins we should figure on committing 27-30 million in additional payroll to sign both players. Again after applying the additional 12 million in savings, this would mean that we would only add approximately 15-18 million in gross payroll. Increasing our payroll by 18 million from 2009 to 2010 and adding 3 impact players is a bargain.
I have to admit I am all over the map with regards to Dave Trembley. The Orioles wasted no time in committing to bring him back in 2010. I sometimes scratch my head at his in game moves, but it appears he has the support of the players and he has admirably steered this organization through its most turbulent era. He is rock steady and a real company man. He has taken enough bullets for the organization and always comes back for more. It is amazing to me that this man did not completely wig out during this past season. To make all the changes I have outlined above would require some stability at the top. It will also take some time for the new parts to gel. Having veteran stewardship will help the new pieces gel, plus for all he has put up with he deserves the chance to compete on a more even playing field. Basically by bringing Tembley back so quickly, McPhail has taken a mulligan for the 2009 season.
Ok, now I have that off my chest, on to the NFL Power Rankings.
1. New York Giants – meet the new boss, same as the old boss… But if Eli is hurt how long will this last.
2. New Orleans Saints – Darren Sharper is doing his best Ed Reed impersonation, or maybe that is Ed Reed, because he hasn’t registered on the Ravens field yet.
3. Minnesota Vikings – Tick…they have been impressive, tick…the defense is tough, tick…Petersen is a beast, tick…when will Brett blow up.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton v. Eli in the Superbowl, what would be the over –under on Manning commercials.
5. Denver Broncos – I still don’t believe they are this good, but hey you have to give then there do.
6. New England Patriots – someone is going to have to put a stake through their heart. Still a good football team.
7. Baltimore Ravens – We didn’t expect them to go 16-0 did we? Big game this week against Bengals.
8. Philadelphia Eagles – McNabb comes back, can he be much better then Kolb the last 2 games?
9. Chicago Bears – Cutler is paying dividends. By the end of the year this might be a real tough team.
10. San Francisco 49ers – I think this team is really underrated. Singletary has made them a good team.
11. New York Jets – Sanchez hit a little bump in the road, let’s see if they can right the ship this week.
12. Cincinnati Bengals – I would feel a lot better about this team if they didn’t almost choke it up against Cleveland last week.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers – Got a big win against the Chargers, it appears Polumalo is coming back. They might be ready to go on a run.
14. Atlanta Falcons – coming off a bye, let’s see if they get back to winning after New England set back.
15. Green Bay Packers – walked into a buzz saw on Monday night. That offensive line might get Aaron Rodgers killed.
16. San Diego Chargers – GM calls the team soft…is there a Norv Turner watch in San Diego.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars – very impressive win against the Titans. Gerard’s best game in 2 years.
18. Houston Texans – Maybe they are beginning to turn the corner, still not sold on Schaub however.
19. Tennessee Titans – It is hard to believe that they are this bad a football team.
20. Arizona Cardinals – they have done nothing to warrant being ranked this high but still a lot of talent. Is Warner done?
21. Seattle Seahawks – Losing Hasselback has kind of derailed them. Still think they are better then their ranking shows.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Wade Phillips is in trouble, the Cowboys are soft.
23. Miami Dolphins – I route for Chad Pennington, but let’s see if Chad Henne is ready to step up.
24. Washington Redskins – think Jim Zorn is feeling any pressure? What the heck are they hiring Sherm Lewis to do?
25. Buffalo Bills – When does T.O. explode. He must feel like he is in Siberia playing for the Bills.
26. Detroit Lions- played Bears tough for a half. They were making strides, let’s hope Stafford does not miss much time.
27. Oakland Raiders – they wouldn’t be bad if their quarterback could make a play.
28. Carolina Panthers – hard to understand why they are winless. They have talent, John Fox is a decent coach, where is the weak link?
29. Kansas City Chiefs – tied for last place
30. St. Louis Rams – tied for last place.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – tied for last place
32. Cleveland Browns – Eric Mangini is determined to completely destroy this team.