Tag Archive | "AFC Championship"


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Morning Reaction Friday Football Picks And Comment

Posted on 21 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

Here are this weekend’s AFC & NFC Championship Game (and Local College Basketball) picks. Through Divisional playoff weekend, Drew Forrester is 155-105 and Glenn Clark is 163-97…

NFC Championship Game-Packers/Bears: 23-13 Green Bay (Drew), 24-10 Green Bay (Glenn)
AFC Championship Game-Jets/Steelers: 19-13 New York (Drew), 20-17 Pittsburgh (Glenn)
Clemson/Maryland: 83-74 Terrapins (Drew), 71-64 Terrapins (Glenn)
Loyola/Marist: 64-60 Greyhounds (Drew), 63-58 Greyhounds (Glenn)
Morgan State/Delaware State: 79-70 Hornets (Drew), 78-67 Bears (Glenn)
Coppin State/UMES: 80-77OT Hawks (Drew), 70-59 Eagles (Glenn)
Towson/UNC Wilmington: 80-62 Seahawks (Drew), 70-68 Seahawks (Glenn)
UMBC/New Hampshire: 69-67 Retrievers (Drew), 58-54 Wildcats (Glenn)


If you missed the explanations during our “Picks and Comment” segment Friday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…


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Not “Great Enough” to Beat Steelers, So Ravens Now Forced to Evaluate Everything

Posted on 16 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — After suffering another crushing playoff defeat Saturday, Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh offered a telling postgame statement.

“We just weren’t great enough today to win that football game.”

His team certainly wasn’t.

It was one more crushing defeat for the Ravens (13-5) against the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4), this time a 31-24 meltdown in the AFC divisional round at Heinz Field.

In three seasons under Harbaugh, the Ravens have suffered more than their fair share of such losses.

This one was likely the most crushing of the Harbaugh era, if not the most crushing in franchise history.

Leading 21-7 at the half, the Ravens appeared well on their way to a trip to the AFC Championship Game and well on their way to finally vanquishing their AFC North nemesis in the process.

Three turnovers later, the Ravens found themselves in a dogfight they wouldn’t win.

They were close.

For moments, they were great.

But in the end, Harbaugh was right. They weren’t great enough.

(Here’s the part where fans can feel free to add in the word “again.”)

Not being “great enough” is frustrating. It’s more frustrating when there’s no obvious answer regarding how the team can get there.

I posed the question to Harbaugh following the season ending defeat.

How does this team become “great enough”?

“That’s what we’ll have to study” responded Harbaugh. “We’ll go to work in the offseason and try to build our team the best way we can. Things come up and things happen, you’ve got to adjust and you’ve got to adapt. You never know on a journey what bend the road’s gonna take. You gotta overcome some adversity and some obstacles and we’ll have to build our team the best way we can to be great enough to these kind of games.”

I know what you’re thinking. It sounds like coach speak. It is to some extent. But there’s truth to it.

The truth is that the team really is close to being “great enough”.

On Saturday, it took a blown 14 point lead, those three turnovers, crucial late drops from WR’s Anquan Boldin & TJ Houshmandzadeh and a miraculous 58 yard pass from Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to WR Antonio Brown for the Ravens to be eliminated.

They were about as close to finally getting past the Steelers as possible without actually picking up a victory.

I asked Harbaugh after the game if after another crushing defeat he still believed the team was close to being “great enough”. He agreed, but he added one more thought.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

That’s the reality. The reality is that the Ravens are unbelievably close to turning the corner.

On Saturday night, they actually came to a stop right at the corner. They just couldn’t quite make the turn.

But turning the corner is still going to take a lot of work.

The Ravens have played three seasons with Harbaugh as head coach. In two of those seasons, losing came directly at the hands of the Steelers.

In breaking news (but not necessarily first reported by WNST), the Steelers aren’t coming off the schedule next season.

To become “great enough”, the Ravens are going to have to figure out a way to get past the Steelers.

As DT Haloti Ngata told me after the game, “something has to change, because it’s always them.”

There will be plenty of theories tossed around about how the Ravens can get over the hump.

Many in the fanbase will point their frustration towards Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, whose offense struggled to get out of their own way for the bulk of the 2nd half in the Steel City. Others will direct their frustration towards Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison, who continued to employ a three man rush in 3rd and long situations, including the 58 yarder that set up the game winning touchdown.

Personnel wise, the Ravens will have clear needs in their offensive line and pass rush, but will likely have to re-examine their receiving corps and defensive backfield as well.

Some changes could be out of their hands. Asked about his future after the game, WR Derrick Mason said “I’m not gonna think about it right now.”

C Matt Birk, S Ed Reed and TE Todd Heap could all be forced to similarly consider whether or not they will indeed return to the NFL next season.

FB Le’Ron McClain, RB Willis McGahee and Houshmandzadeh have never hid their displeasure with their roles in Cameron’s offense. Boldin has been less vocal, but has often looked frustrated.

McClain and Houshmandzadeh are joined in (at least potential) free agency this offseason by other valuable contributors like WR Donte’ Stallworth, OT Jared Gaither, OL Marshal Yanda, CB’s Chris Carr & Josh Wilson, S Dawan Landry, P Sam Koch, Ngata and more.

And then there’s the quarterback.

A week after finally putting together a “breakthrough” playoff performance in a Wild Card round win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, Joe Flacco returned to a more “pedestrian” level in the loss to the Steelers.

He was 16/30 for 125 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble.

On the team’s final drive of the game he wildly overthrew Heap and threw a very poor deep ball to Mason before getting sacked. On 4th and long he threw a decent pass but it was dropped by Houshmandzadeh.

Following the loss, fans immediately took to Facebook and Twitter to ask a familiar question.

“Does Flacco have ‘it’?”

GM Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh will have to answer that question this offseason.

Harbaugh wasn’t just throwing around coach speak when he addressed what it would take to reach greatness. He was offering a truthful reflection regarding what the organization was going to have to this offseason.

The answer just wasn’t quite as fulfilling as some fans would want.

They were unbelievably close Saturday night. They were close enough that the Steelers needed a near miracle to win at home.

Yet this offseason will be one where they have to evaluate all aspects of their organization in order to determine what it will take to finally get past the Steelers.


At halftime, they were 30 minutes away from one of the greatest moments in franchise history.

In those 30 minutes, the collapse wasn’t suffered by the players and coaches alone.

The collapse was suffered by the entire organization.


NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Mason, McClain, Ngata, Houshmandzadeh, LB Ray Lewis, WR Marcus Smith, CB Lardarius Webb, LB Terrell Suggs and RB Ray Rice following the loss now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Rice played despite flu-like symptoms Friday night, he said following the game he hadn’t eaten solid food in two days……The Ravens will return to 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills Monday to clean out their lockers. Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with the media

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Ravens-Steelers “Purple Haze” Live Chat 4:30pm Today!

Posted on 15 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Greetings from Heinz Field, where the Baltimore Ravens (13-4) will face the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game. Today’s game will air on CBS (WJZ 13 in Charm City) with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf on the call. We will be chatting about the game in our “Purple Haze” live chat, which you can join HERE.

The winner of today’s game will advance to next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game to face the winner of tomorrow’s divisional round game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets.

Here are today’s inactives…

DT Arthur Jones
DT Lamar Divens
TE Dennis Pitta
TE Davon Drew
OL Bryan Mattison
S Tom Zbikowski (back)
WR/KR David Reed (wrist)
LB Jason Phillips

DE Aaron Smith (triceps)
RB Jonathan Dwyer
CB Crezdon Butler
OT Chris Scott
OT Tony Hills
DT Steve McLendon
LB Jason Worilds
QB Charlie Batch (3rd QB)

The Ravens will be in white tops and black pants. The Steelers will be in black tops and yellow pants.
Jeff Triplette will officiate today’s game (with much of Ed Hochuli’s regular crew).

Come chat with us!


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Would You Make A Sacrifice To See Ravens Win Saturday?

Posted on 12 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

Before big games for local teams, Drew Forrester and I have a tradition on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST.

I’ll say something to Drew along the lines of “Hey Drew, would you give up golf for three months if the Ravens were to beat the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night?”

Drew will respond with something like “Glenn, would you exchange Maryland having a 6-10 ACC record for the Ravens beating the New England Patriots Sunday afternoon?”
Then I’ll throw out something silly like “Drew-how bout this? The Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday afternoon, but the Philadelphia Flyers win the next two Stanley Cups.”

And he’ll finish it up by saying “Okay Glenn, the Ravens win the AFC Championship Game; but you can’t go to Chick-Fil-A again until Training Camp.”

They’re goofy, they’re hypothetical and they don’t really mean anything.

It’s just two radio goofs doing a wacky bit on a morning show.

With the Baltimore Ravens again prepared to play an incredibly important game, we’re not going to be wacky anymore.

Instead, we’re manning up a little bit. In hopes of seeing a Ravens victory Saturday at Heinz Field, we’re going to be willing to make a sacrifice.

We’re not going to make a silly bet. It would be much to easy for us to call up to a radio host in Pittsburgh (like Greg Linnelli, who I happen to like a lot) and say something along the lines of “If the Ravens win, send me a case of Iron City. If the Ravens lose, I’ll send you a case of Natty Boh.”

We’re not doing that.

We’re not going to make some sort of weird bet about what we would do if the Ravens were to lose. Some folks might say something along the lines of “If the Ravens lose in the Steel City Saturday, I’ll wear a Hines Ward jersey to work Monday.”

That might make Matt Vensel smile; or certainly the Steelers fan who is in charge over at 105.7, but we’re not interested in any scenario that involves the Ravens losing.

So we’re not doing that either.

This city NEEDS a Ravens victory Saturday.

So we’re going to make a sacrifice in hopes of seeing a Ravens victory Saturday in the Steel City.

That’s why this Monday, Drew and I will head right down the street to the Royal Farms store on Providence Road in Towson. It’s just a Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin TD pass away from our location here at 1550 Hart Rd.

From 12-1pm, we will stand outside the store wearing sandwich boards that read…


That’s it. We’re willing to sacrifice our time and our comfort (Weather.com says 38 degrees right now) if the Ravens win Saturday.

It means something to us.

We hope it means something to you.

We want to have you join us. You can bring your own signs, you can bring your own face paint, wigs, purple camo pants, whatever you want to bring.

It’s a holiday (Martin Luther King Day), so many of you will be off work or off school. For those of you who still have to go to work (we’re on the air Monday morning), we’re purposely doing this during lunch hour so you can take a few minutes to stop by.

Our friend Frank Schilling from Royal Farms has offered to chip in free coffee to keep everyone warm. We’ll have Ray Lewis Old Spice t-shirts to give away. There’s even a rumor that the folks from Tastykake will come by to give away treats as well (we’re working to confirm that right now).

We’re asking you to commit now to being a part of what we’re going to do.

We’re willing to make a sacrifice because Charm City needs this “psychological burden” (as Head Coach John Harbaugh explained Monday) lifted.

We’re willing to make a sacrifice, but it’s going to be fun.

But it’s all dependent on a Ravens win.

If they don’t win Saturday, it’s unlikely we’ll have gotten off the ground by Monday.

If they do, it’s ABSOLUTELY worth the sacrifice.

If you’re in, just let us know.



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Live From Owings Mills: Harbaugh Says “It’s Our Turn” To Beat Roethlisberger

Posted on 11 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (13-4) returned to practice Tuesday, beginning a short week of preparation for Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Heinz Field.

The Ravens are 0-5 in games started by Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger since hiring John Harbaugh as Head Coach (including the 2009 AFC Championship Game). Harbaugh said Tuesday he’s ready to see that number change.

“It bothers me a lot” said Harbaugh. “I’d rather that we won. We want to win those games. Obviously, he’s a really good quarterback. It seems like we see great quarterbacks a lot. We’ve beaten our fair share, but we haven’t beaten him. It’s our turn.”

Roethlisberger was complementary of the Ravens despite an 8-2 record in the AFC North rivalry in games he’s started. In a Tuesday conference call with Charm City reporters, Roethlisberger said there was one particular factor that allowed for his success in the series.

“Getting lucky” said the two time Super Bowl winning QB. “That’s all it is. I don’t think there’s any magic recipe other than I guess I’m lucky.”

Roethlisberger went on to say that despite his career success, he doesn’t always enjoy playing the Ravens.

“As a competitor, you love (the rivalry). But I hate playing the Ravens because they’re so good. Every single person and every scheme, everything they do challenges you. They’re good.”

Ravens LB Jarret Johnson told reporters Roethlisberger deserves praise, but isn’t the only reason the Steelers have had success against the Ravens.

“When he gets out (of the pocket), he’s killed us” said Johnson. “I think their defense is a big part of (their success), it’s not just him.”

Johnson was also skeptical of Roethlisberger’s theory of being “lucky.”

“I don’t know about that. They’re a good team. There’s one thing about this (rivalry). If you win this game, you’ve earned it. There’s luck that falls in every game (but) if you win these games-for us or them-you’ve earned it.”

: The Ravens held a walkthrough Tuesday which was closed to the media. No official injury report was released Tuesday either.

One player who was a participant in Tuesday’s walkthrough was S Ed Reed, who had left the team following their AFC Wild Card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Reed had traveled to Louisiana to spend time with his family after his brother (Brian Reed) went missing following a jump into the Mississippi River. The younger Reed is presumed dead.

“Ed was here” said Harbaugh. “Ed got back and he practiced, he went through the meetings today. He was in good spirits, he seemed like he was doing pretty well.”

Ravens players were happy to see their Pro Bowl teammate return.

“(That’s) your leader” said CB Josh Wilson. “You always want your leader back. You need him back there to talk it up. I’m just glad for him to be back and just get back to business.”

Reed declined an opportunity to speak with reporters.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Johnson, Wilson, G Ben Grubbs, CB Chris Carr and WR Derrick Mason now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net……The conference calls with Roethlisberger and Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin are also available in the Audio Vault……Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz joined Drew Forrester Tuesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta is scheduled to join Forrester Wednesday at 8:15am, LB Dannell Ellerbe is scheduled to join Forrster at 7:40am Thursday……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday. LB Ray Lewis, LB Terrell Suggs, QB Joe Flacco and TE Todd Heap are scheduled to meet with reporters


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Four decades of being “owned” by Pittsburgh must end today

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Drew Forrester

There’s “must win” and then there’s this, what the Ravens are facing in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

It’s more than must win.

It’s “win or be scarred for another year”.

It’s “win or let Roethlisberger continue to be your Daddy”.

It’s “win or let Pittsburgh continue to dominate Baltimore in playoff football.”

It’s way more than must win.

For the record, Baltimore, as a football city, has never – not once – enjoyed a post-season victory over a Pittsburgh team. When the Colts graced our Sunday afternoons, they were 0-2 vs. the Steelers in the playoffs.  The Ravens own the same record against the Steelers.

That’s 0-4.  But it’s 0-6 if you want to include two World Series losses handed to the Orioles by the Pirates.

Tough to swallow…losing to Pittsburgh in everything except a beauty pageant.

The city of Baltimore is 0-6 lifetime against the city of Pittsburgh in post-season competition.

That needs to change on Saturday at Heinz Field.

It needs to change for a variety of reasons, the least of which is the mere fact that the Ravens’ season gets extended if they pull off a win in the Steel City in five days.  That’s reason enough to win.  Fact: Baltimore can’t win the Super Bowl this season if they lose on Saturday.

But it’s so much deeper than that.

In all fairness, this whole “beating Pittsburgh thing” has morphed into something that’s actually somewhat uncomfortable for us here in Baltimore.  One football game…one athletic competition…one “event” that’s way more symbolic than meaningful to our everyday lives…just shouldn’t mean this much.

It’s not THAT important.  What happened in Arizona over the weekend with that nutjob shooting up a shopping center…now that is important.

Saturday is football, it’s not life and death.

But it’s awfully damn close in Baltimore.

The Pittsburgh people like to act like these games with the Ravens aren’t really that big of a deal.  I guess I wouldn’t consider them such a big deal either if the shoe was on the other foot and it was BALTIMORE that was 4-0 against Pittsburgh over the the last four decades.

I’d easily dismiss the uproar and the nervousness if the Ravens were the team with the upper hand over the years.

But it hasn’t been that way.

Baltimore started losing to Pittsburgh in football games that mattered back in 1975.  And they lost again in 1976.  That, of course, was the day the dude flew the plane into the upper deck after the game.

The Ravens carried on the tradition, if you will, by losing in January of 2002 and again in January of 2009 with a Super Bowl trip on the line.

So that’s why it’s important to us.

It IS uncomfortable for the game to be this important and it IS uncomfortable to literally start getting a nervous twitch in your neck when closing your eyes and visualizing Roethlisberger taking a knee with 28 seconds to go on Saturday and the scoreboard reading “PITTSBURGH 17 – BALTIMORE 14”.

Because no matter what the final score yields on Saturday, it is NOT “Ravens vs. Steelers”.  It’s BALTIMORE vs. PITTSBURGH.

These beatings and this 4-decade losing streak can’t continue any longer.

It just can’t.

Not to them, anyway.

If Baltimore somehow had a 4-decade losing streak to some team from Seattle or San Antonio or Detroit, we wouldn’t care nearly this much.

It’s four decades of not beating Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

It must end.


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Now Harbaugh, Ravens Have to Finally Get Past Roethlisberger, Steelers

Posted on 09 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — I’d love to tell you more about the 30-7 beatdown the Baltimore Ravens (13-4) handed the Kansas City Chiefs (10-7) in an AFC Wild Card playoff matchup Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, but there’s not too much to say.

The Ravens were really good. The Chiefs had one good play.

However, the Ravens win (coupled with the New York Jets’ stunning 17-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night at LucasOil Stadium) sets up a storyline that is ABSOLUTELY worth writing about.

The Ravens’ road to a potential Super Bowl XLV berth will now take them directly to Heinz Field for a divisional round showdown with their heated AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4).

It’s going to be a fun week.

“I think every year (except last year) we’ve had to play Pittsburgh in order to advance” said WR Derrick Mason after Sunday’s game. “They got the best of us that first year, we didn’t get a chance to play them last year. What (a) fitting way to play them again to advance.”

The Ravens of course SHOULD have to go through the Steel City to reach the AFC Championship Game, right? What else could possibly define the success of a season?

Through 18 weeks, the teams’ season has been defined by a crushing 13-10 loss in Week 13 to the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. When they get together next Saturday, the Ravens will have a major opportunity to re-write the story of their campaign.

“It’s going to be just like it always is” said QB Joe Flacco. “It’s going to be a big, physical football game. It should be a lot of fun to play in and a lot of fun to watch. We’re excited about it.”

This of course brings us to the unfortunate part of the story. The part where we have to remind everyone that for all of the success the Ravens have had since John Harbaugh became Head Coach (this makes four playoff wins in three seasons), they’ve never beaten the Steelers when QB Ben Roethlisberger has played.

For this season to not end in heartbreak, that is obviously going to have to change.

“It seems like poetic justice” said Harbaugh. “Whatever we can pour into that game, whatever we can draw from, it’s going to important because they’re so good.”

The reality is that there’s a cosmic feeling about playing the Steelers in the postseason. There’s something a little more special about knowing everything will be on the line against the team most despised by football fans in Charm City.

With no offense to anyone in KC, but things were supposed to happen this way. A Chiefs-Steelers contest would have meant little for the “football gods.” Ravens-Steelers was just meant to be.

“It’s personal between the two cities” said LB Terrell Suggs. “It shouldn’t surprise you that these two teams (are) in the fight and at each others’ throats every year. This is the NFL at its best.”

If the Ravens are finally going to vanquish Big Ben and the Steelers; they’re going to need to continue their stout defensive play. They allowed just 161 yards against the Chiefs and forced five turnovers. Over their last three games (regular season wins at the Cleveland Browns and against the Cincinnati Bengals plus the playoff victory), the Ravens defense has given up just 24 points and forced 14 turnovers.

Of course, the Steelers are plenty capable of playing good defense as well, their unit finished the regular season as the top defense in the league.

This is how it was supposed to be all along. If the Ravens are going to get back to the Super Bowl, the Steelers were always going to stand in their path.

In the days following the Ravens’ Week 13 loss, I wrote about the dynamic between the two teams, sensing the urgency that surrounded Baltimore’s struggles in the rivalry.

“If John Harbaugh is going to succeed as the Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, he is going to HAVE to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Less than six weeks later, Harbaugh will get another crack.

There will be no hyperbole necessary this week. If Harbaugh and the Ravens don’t beat the Steelers, the season will end without a trip to the Super Bowl for a third straight year. Making matters worse, the Steelers get a chance to play for their second Super Bowl trip in three seasons and their third in six years.

It doesn’t take a football historian to understand the significance.

And this time, there will be an added level of emotion surrounding the game.

Following the win over the Chiefs, the organization presented S Ed Reed with a game ball-meant to be given to the entire Reed family.

Over the weekend, a search for Reed’s little brother (Brian Reed) was called off. The younger Reed had jumped into the Mississippi River while being pursued by police, leading many to presume he was dead.

Reed played with a heavy heart Sunday, but made an emphatic statement when accepting the game ball.

In postgame video captured by CBS, Reed told his teammates “my brother…he loved football. But he’d want to beat Pittsburgh.”

It had to be this way.


NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Reed, Mason, Suggs, TE Todd Heap and LB Ray Lewis now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net……The Ravens will be off Monday due to the short week before Saturday’s game……C Matt Birk is scheduled to join Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST Monday at 9:30am

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Ravens easily silence Chiefs in 30-7 beatdown

Posted on 09 January 2011 by Drew Forrester

Well, that basically amounted to “the men against the boys”.

The Ravens flicked a completely outclassed Kansas City team off their purple shoulder Sunday afternoon in KC, producing a workmanlike 30-7 win that sends John Harbaugh’s team to Pittsburgh for a Saturday showdown at Heinz Field.

Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, Round 3.

Honestly…that’s the way it should be.

Other than a first quarter slash-and-dash from Jamaal Charles that gave the Chiefs a 7-3 lead, Baltimore was never really threatened on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.  The Ravens mixed a ferocious second half defensive effort with some gritty quarterbacking from Joe Flacco, who was harrassed all afternoon but survived long enough to move his career post-season record to 4-2 (all on the road).

Someone’s season comes to an end next Saturday in Pittsburgh.

For the Ravens – and their fans – there’s no other scenario nearly as indigestible as losing to Ben Roethlisberger and Company.  It happened in 2009, of course, when Baltimore’s bid for the Super Bowl was squashed by the Steelers and it occurred in Baltimore early last month when Pittsburgh snatched home-field from the Ravens with a late TD after a costly turnover by Joe Flacco.

The fact that will concern Baltimore this week is simple:  Can the team beat Ben Roethlisberger for the first time EVER when the game has really, really mattered?  They’ve never done it, having lost four straight times to the Steelers in December and January with Roethlisberger at the helm and the game having “significant” importance.

And that’s not a low blow…it’s just a fact.

Can they send Roethlisberger packing next Saturday?

That’s the issue at hand and the question that will need to be answered.

One thing for certain:  The Ravens sent the Chiefs packing today.  With ease.

It was the men against the boys.

It won’t be that easy next Saturday, for sure.

But for one day, anyway, a playoff game that was supposed to bring together the veteran, savvy team against the young, energetic, home-standing upstarts turned into a snoozer by mid-way through the 3rd quarter.

The Ravens were more physical.

The Ravens executed with more precision.

The Ravens offensive game-plan, using Todd Heap on quick routes across the middle, was more effective than any resistance Kansas City offered — and it was never diffused by the Chiefs.

This was a beatdown.

It was, frankly, the way the Ravens SHOULD win a post-season game against an inferior opponent.

It’s the same way they smacked Miami in the mouth, 27-9, in 2009 to start that playoff run.

A 12-4 team of the Ravens’ caliber should win by double digits against a 10-6 Chiefs team that went 1-1 against playoff teams during their 16-game regular season schedule.

After weeks of narrowly pulling out wins and holding on for dear life down the stretch, Baltimore produced one of its best efforts of the season on the day when it mattered most.

That’s the way it should be.

And heading to Pittsburgh is “the way it should be” too.

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A Tale of Two Johns: Like Cooper Had to Beat Michigan, Harbaugh Has to Beat Steelers

Posted on 08 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

2-5 isn’t quite 2-10-1.

That being said, 2-5 might not be a totally fair representation.

Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has learned a tough lesson this week following his team’s heartbreaking 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.

In Baltimore-much like in Columbus, Ohio-fans simply won’t accept rivalry losses.

John Cooper was a tremendous college football coach. During a head coaching career at Tulsa, Arizona State, and Ohio State that spanned from 1977-2000; Cooper posted a 192-84-6 record and tallied nine conference championships.

Cooper was the head coach of the Buckeyes from 1988-2000. He went 111-43-4 during that span, claiming three Big Ten titles. Cooper guided the Buckeyes to bowl appearances in 11 of his 13 seasons and finished with a losing record only once-his first season in Columbus. Cooper counted wins in both the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl during his time as the Buckeyes’ head man, and played in bowl games on New Year’s Day or later an impressive nine times.

Cooper had incredible success as the Head Coach at Ohio State. The type of success that might have earned him the right to determine his own fate. “Might have” if not for one glaring problem.


As head man in Columbus, Cooper’s Buckeyes posted just a 2-10-1 record against the Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State’s biggest rival.

It wasn’t just that Cooper’s teams struggled in their regular season finale against the opponent alumni and fans despised the most. The bigger problem was that Ohio State’s battles with Michigan regularly determined the final outcome for the Buckeyes’ season.

In 1993, Ohio State entered the Michigan game with a 9-0-1 record, but a 28-0 loss in Ann Arbor cost them an outright conference title. In 1995, Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George lead the Buckeyes back to Ann Arbor with an undefeated record and national title dreams. After a 31-23 defeat, the Buckeyes were sent to the Citrus Bowl instead.

1996 provided the greatest heartbreak for the Buckeyes in the John Cooper era, as they entered the Michigan game again undefeated and ranked #2 in the country. The Buckeyes had a 9-0 lead at halftime against Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines, but ultimately fell 13-9 at home.

OSU would eventually win another game against Michigan under Cooper in 1998, but they never posted back to back wins in the series under his guide. Cooper was fired following an 8-4 campaign in 2000. While academic and off-field troubles surrounding the program played a role in his firing, his record against Michigan ultimately played a major role.

In fact, when new coach Jim Tressel took over in Columbus he made a point to put special emphasis on the Michigan rivalry. After the former Youngstown State head coach was hired by the Buckeyes, he made a memorable halftime speech at a Ohio State-Michigan basketball game, according to ESPN.com…

“I can assure you that you will be proud of our young people, in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the football field.”

Following Sunday’s loss, Harbaugh now holds a 2-5 record against the Ravens’ heated AFC North rivals, including the 2009 AFC Championship Game.

(Every Ravens fan knows that both of Harbaugh’s wins in the rivalry came in games where Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was not on the field. That’s why the 2-5 record may not be such a fair representation.)

In 2008, Harbaugh’s second loss to the Steelers cost the Ravens a shot at the division title and forced them to hit the road in the playoffs. After a hard fought divisional round win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Ravens appeared flat when they hit the field for the conference title game at Heinz Field. Harbaugh’s third loss to the Steelers cost the Ravens a trip to Tampa Bay to face the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

(Harbaugh’s first loss to the Steelers-a Week 4 Monday Night Football defeat early in 2008-was also a loss that could have earned the Ravens home field advantage had they won the game. Week 4 losses just don’t tend to be quite as agonizing as losses in Week 15.)

Harbaugh’s fourth loss to the Steelers wasn’t quite as crushing. Despite losing in the Steel City in late 2009, the Ravens held on to earn a Wild Card playoff berth via a tiebreaker after the teams finished with matching 9-7 records.

Harbaugh’s fifth loss in the series shapes up to be as crushing if not more than any of the others. Had the Ravens held on for a Week 13 win over the Steelers, they would have controlled their own destiny (and actually held a one game margin of error) to win the division, receive a first round bye and host a playoff game in the divisional round.

The Ravens were a home win over the Steelers away from having a significantly clearer path to Dallas and a chance to again play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy this season.

We know now that the path isn’t so clear.

Had Sunday’s loss been to the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns, it would have been difficult for fans to stomach. Sunday’s loss was particularly costly, and it would have left a dark cloud hanging over Charm City no matter who the opponent had been.

Yet because it was a rivalry loss, because it was the Steelers, there is simply no doubt that the black cloud left by the defeat remains darker than anything that came from fires on The Block or in Mt. Vernon.

(As an aside, does anyone see symbolism in the fact that the city has dealt with multiple REAL black clouds after a Steelers loss?)

The fact is, this fanbase CANNOT stomach losses to the Steelers, especially not losses of such magnitude. Losses hurt, but losses to the Steelers are absolute gut punches.

As Drew Forrester and I opined last week on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, this city doesn’t look at a Ravens loss to the Steelers as a NFL loss. The city tends to look at such losses as a loss to the city of Pittsburgh in general. There’s a natural feeling that it wasn’t a football team that won on Sunday night, but instead the entire Western Pennsylvania area.

It leads to frustration, pain and anger. As I wrote immediately following Sunday night’s game, the ability for fans to be rational goes completely out the window after a loss to the Steelers.

Harbaugh found that out Tuesday night during his radio show on WBAL.

A caller to the show questioned Harbaugh on the job status of DL Coach Clarence Brooks, one of the more respected assistants on the Ravens’ staff.

Harbaugh didn’t handle the question well, chiming back “Clarence Brooks does a great job. We will fight our tails off. If that’s not enough, then find another team to root for” according to the National Football Post.

It wasn’t the only time Harbaugh lost his cool during the show. Again according to NFP, Harbaugh also explained at one point: “if you’re not proud of this football team, then you don’t know football.”

Harbaugh probably didn’t handle the questions the best way he could have. There’s no doubt that his frustration reflected poorly with the fans who were listening, even if his answers were fair.

But the problem wasn’t the response. The problem was the result.

Ravens fans are NEVER going to be accepting of losses to the Steelers.

When the Ravens lose to the Steelers, the fanbase is going to respond poorly. This won’t be the last time a John Harbaugh-coached Ravens team plays the Steelers with major AFC North or overall playoff ramifications. In fact, the majority of the games the two teams will play against each other will be played with a lot on the line.

While college football and the NFL aren’t similar in many ways, this is an area where the rivalry is much like Ohio State-Michigan.

It isn’t just a rivalry because the two teams (or fanbases) don’t like each other. Ole Miss and Mississippi State don’t like each other, but their games rarely mean much of anything in the SEC. Ravens-Steelers games regularly mean a lot in the AFC.

The comparison is something John Harbaugh should really understand. John went to Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. His father (Jack Harbaugh) was an assistant under Bo Schembechler at Michigan. His brother (Jim Harbaugh) was a quarterback for the Maize and Blue. (Jim’s teams were 3-1 against Ohio State.) Ohio State-Michigan is in John Harbaugh’s blood.

In that way, Harbaugh probably understands well what happened to Cooper at Ohio State. Hopefully that understanding can be transcendent.

If John Harbaugh is going to succeed as the Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, he is going to HAVE to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There’s just no getting around that.

Harbaugh is not in jeopardy of being run out of town like Cooper was at Ohio State.

I repeat, Harbaugh’s job is NOT in jeopardy. Certainly not at this point anyway.

But if he’s going to succeed here long-term, he’s going to HAVE to beat the Steelers. If not, a few annoying calls to a radio show will turn into general discontent, and eventually a much more vitriolic fanbase.

That’s what happened to Cooper in Columbus.

Harbaugh doesn’t have to win EVERY game against the Steelers. Since taking over at Ohio State, Tressel has gone 9-1 against the rival Wolverines, which isn’t a realistic expectation for Harbaugh against the Steelers.

But he has to start winning SOME meaningful games against the Steelers, or the Ravens won’t accomplish the things they need to for Harbaugh to be successful as a Head Coach.

And if 2-5 is a pace that continues for Harbaugh against the Steelers, Harbaugh’s story will likely have a similar ending as Cooper’s.


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For Some Reason, This Loss to Pittsburgh Stings More

Posted on 06 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — Following the Baltimore Ravens’ (8-4) loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium, I bumped into veteran FoxSports.com NFL writer Alex Marvez on our way to the losing and winning locker rooms respectively.

Marvez has seen plenty of rivalry games during his time covering the league, but stopped for a second and shook his head almost in disbelief.

I said back to him “of all of the losses to Pittsburgh…for some reason…this one feels like the worst.”

He nodded in agreement. I then added “this couldn’t happen.”

There’s still a part of me that believes that.

I understand the hangover feeling that will play out throughout Charm City this week. In fact, “hangover” might not be a good enough word to describe it. “Coma” might be a better choice. I understand that I might as well forget about the word “rational” for 72 hours or so. I understand that this city will not recover from this one quickly.

This one really COULDN’T have happened. Not like that.

This really does feel worse than any of the losses to Pittsburgh before.

It’s hard to compare to the 2009 AFC Championship Game because the stakes were much higher at Heinz Field that day. But even with the reality of a trip to the Super Bowl being only a late scoring drive away, that one didn’t feel quite so crushing.

Much like the Ravens’ earlier loss at Heinz Field that season (on Monday Night Football), there was a feeling of “we were probably just fortunate to be here.” The Ravens had a rookie head coach in John Harbaugh and a rookie starting quarterback in Joe Flacco, and it appeared as though the heartbreak would be lessened by the likelihood of multiple return trips to that level in the future.

More so, the Championship Game was a game that the Steelers thoroughly dominated. The Ravens hung around thanks to a couple of pass interference calls in the endzone, but it never felt like they truly deserved to win that day.

The 2008 loss at M&T Bank Stadium felt similar to the disaster Sunday night, as it was a game that the Ravens controlled throughout, but couldn’t put away. The loss hurt because it ended amidst the controversy of a Santonio Holmes TD catch

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