Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 11 loss to Dallas

Posted on 22 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling back into a first-place tie in the AFC North after a 27-17 loss to Dallas on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The defense squandering a first-and-30 on Dallas’ first touchdown drive was the turning point of the game, but Mike Wallace’s inability to get his feet inbounds on a deep pass inside the 5 on the ensuing possession was equally frustrating. Neither side of the ball could make the game-changing play.

2. If the second half of the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants wasn’t enough, Sunday offered another reminder of how valuable Jimmy Smith is to this defense. Without his game-changing talent in the secondary, the Ravens have an average group with no answer against an elite receiver.

3. The Ravens have certainly abandoned the run at times, but Week 11 doesn’t fit that narrative. Look at the play-by-play and you’ll find a spot or two for another run, but the ratio was skewed because of a multi-score deficit that led to 15 straight dropbacks to close the game.

4. On a day that produced a record 12 missed extra points, Justin Tucker remained perfect on the year and extended his league-long streak of 30 consecutive field goals. He hasn’t missed an extra point in his career. With kicking issues all over the place, don’t take that excellence for granted.

5. The secondary faced the bulk of the criticism on Sunday, but the linebacker coverage that’s been so good this year looked more like it did in 2015. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr have done a much better job against the pass in 2016, but they struggled against the Cowboys.

6. It’s difficult to recall too many offensive linemen who have shown the ability to switch positions and still play at a high level like Marshal Yanda. Jonathan Ogden is the undisputed top offensive lineman in franchise history, but Yanda is an easy No. 2 on the list.

7. Dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice, Timmy Jernigan played a season-low 21 snaps. You wonder if him being less than 100 percent put too much on the plates of Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams in the battle against the best offensive line in the NFL.

8. Looking at his final numbers, Joe Flacco turned in a solid performance against the Cowboys, but the problem is that feels like it’s become his ceiling this season. In a game screaming for a big play, Flacco was 0-for-4 on pass attempts traveling more than 20 yards through the air.

9. It was disappointing to see Breshad Perriman follow the best game of his career by failing to record a reception and not even being targeted on 23 snaps. The 2015 first-round pick still has a long way to go to become a consistent threat in the passing game.

10. After forcing punts on the first four possessions, the Ravens were too conservative on third down the rest of the way. After blitzing or showing blitz on the first four third-down stops, Baltimore rushed four or fewer on four of the next five third downs without a single stop.

11. Despite the incredible resources pumped into the position, the Ravens have received very little from the tight end spot. Dennis Pitta’s return has been a great story, but he’s piled up no more than 40 receiving yards in any of the last five games.

12. I’m torn whether penalties are a bigger reflection on the coaching staff or on undisciplined — and potentially overmatched — players, but piling up 136 penalty yards is unacceptable when you’re trying to beat one of the best teams in the NFL. It’s a tired problem.

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yanda

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After suggesting change, Yanda excels at new position for Ravens

Posted on 21 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A week ago, the Ravens weren’t sure if five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda would play again this season.

Instead, he made his first career start at left guard on Sunday, performing very well in the 27-17 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys. After suggesting the change to coaches to better protect his injured left shoulder, Yanda earned the highest grade of any Ravens player in Pro Football Focus’ Week 11 grades.

Though the position change isn’t quite as drastic as a right-handed hitter trying to swing from the left side, head coach John Harbaugh noted the challenges of switching to the opposite side of the offensive line. From dropping his opposite hand and leg in the three-point stance to his play responsibilities being flipped, the transition isn’t easy to make on the fly, especially when you’re less than 100 percent physically.

“I was weary of it early in the week,” Harbaugh said. “I was just watching him in individual [portions of practice] and seeing how he moved, but he did look natural doing it. I think he’s been on the left side at times during college and things like that. It just shows you what a phenomenal athlete he is and how determined he is and really what a good football player he is.”

In addition to starting at right tackle in the past — including the entire 2010 season and in the 2014 postseason — Yanda has occasionally practiced at center in the past to be prepared in the event of an emergency situation on game day. Former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak once quipped that Yanda was so versatile that he could probably handle the quarterback position in a pinch.

After missing three of his previous four games, Yanda appeared to make it through the game without suffering any further damage to his left shoulder. He is wearing a harness to protect it during practices and games after initially injuring it in the Oct. 9 loss to Washington.

“He got out of [the game] well. I talked to him this morning, and he felt really good, felt strong,” Harbaugh said. “He got a lift in this morning, so that was a good sign. He got out of it 100 percent.”

J. Smith, Dumervil status up to medical staff

Harbaugh was noncommittal regarding the Week 12 status of cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), who both sat out Sunday’s loss to Dallas.

While it was the first missed game of the season for Smith, Dumervil has appeared in just two of Baltimore’s 10 games this season in a slower-than-expected recovery from offseason foot surgery. Cincinnati is dealing with its own injury issues, but the Ravens would certainly like to have two key defensive cogs back in action.

“We will see. I don’t really know,” Harbaugh said. “It is up to the doctors.”

Dumervil was shut down after two nondescript performances against Oakland and Washington early last month. He returned to practice as a full participant last Wednesday and Thursday, but the medical staff elected to hold the 32-year-old out after a five-week absence from the practice field.

Harbaugh said Dumervil looked good in those practices and did not suffer a setback, making it possible that he could play against the Bengals. The Ravens could certainly use a healthy version of the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher coming off the edge, but it remains to be seen what he will offer after such a lengthy and frustrating rehab process.

“I have no expectations. I am hoping he gets out there and plays, and I hope he has 10 sacks,” Harbaugh said. “That is what I am hoping for. I am hoping he just lights it up and dominates. I am hoping he is the difference. I just don’t have the answer for it. If he is out there, I expect him to play great.”

Boyle back

Second-year tight end Nick Boyle will return to practice this week after serving a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the second ban of his brief career.

“He will be back practicing this week. We will see how he looks,” said Harbaugh about the 2015 fifth-round pick from Delaware. “He has not been here for 10 weeks, so it has been quite a while.”

The Ravens could use the depth with veteran Dennis Pitta and converted wide receiver Darren Waller being the only healthy tight ends on the active roster since the bye week. Crockett Gillmore has missed the last three games with a thigh injury, which has prompted offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to use reserve tackle James Hurst as a blocking tight end in certain situations.

It’s quite a change from the start of training camp when the Ravens had an abundance of talent at the position, but they lost Benjamin Watson (Achilles tendon) and Maxx Williams (knee) to season-ending injuries and Daniel Brown was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Bears in October. Gillmore’s absence has left Baltimore without a quality blocking tight end, which hasn’t helped an inconsistent running game.

“It has not been ideal,” Harbaugh said. “We had a number of tight ends to start the season, and we ended up being thin there the last four or five weeks. I feel like Darren has done a good job; he has actually blocked pretty darn well. We just play the guys we have and go win games with the guys we have.”

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Loss doesn’t change Ravens’ outlook all that much

Posted on 21 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The 27-17 loss to Dallas was disappointing, but the outlook for the Ravens’ season really didn’t change all that much on Sunday.

A mediocre team hung tough throughout the first half before the superior Cowboys seized control over the final 30 minutes. The final result certainly didn’t make the Ravens or their fans happy, but isn’t that what’s supposed to happen when a .500 team plays on the road against one of the best teams in the NFL?

If we’re being honest, what did we learn about the Ravens at AT&T Stadium that we didn’t already know?

Sure, we can calm down with the discussion about where this defense ranks among the best groups in franchise history. The NFL’s top-ranked run defense may have fared well against Ezekiel Elliott early, but the Cowboys’ No. 1 rushing attack ultimately won that marquee battle with 118 yards on the afternoon.

Though still a very good defense statistically, the Ravens have now twice shown — the first instance being the second half of the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants — that they can’t stop a potent passing attack with an elite receiver without Jimmy Smith on the field. Sunday was also one of the few occasions all year in which the defense was exposed for not having a consistent pass rush as rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was hardly touched after the opening quarter.

This defense may not be special, but it’s still good enough to keep the Ravens in games against virtually anyone. A group that has forced turnovers and consistently gotten off the field on third down all year could do neither on Sunday, which tells much of the story of the game.

The Cowboys proved why they’re one of the best offenses in football by controlling the line of scrimmage.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore offense started fast with an impressive six-play, 90-yard touchdown drive on its second possession before punting on four of its next five possessions. Over that time, the Cowboys turned an early 7-0 deficit into a 24-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Again, that script is nothing new for a Ravens offense that’s failed to score 20 or more points in five of 10 games this season.

Quarterback Joe Flacco completed plenty of short passes and had a solid day statistically, but he went 0-for-4 on passes traveling at least 20 yards through the air. The Ravens offense could neither consistently make big plays — outside of Steve Smith — nor sustain drives to keep the Dallas offense off the field.

Seventeen points just isn’t going to get it done when you’re playing a top five offense on the road in today’s NFL.

And, of course, yellow flags crushed the Ravens in all three phases of the game as they finished with a season-high 136 yards in penalties. From center Jeremy Zuttah’s three backbreaking penalties to stall drives to Matt Judon’s offside infraction on a fourth-quarter kickoff that would have backed the Cowboys up to their own 10, Baltimore shot itself in the foot repeatedly.

But we know that’s nothing new once again.

Fans don’t want to hear it after the Ravens fell to 0-4 against teams currently holding winning records, but they do look better than they did a month ago, even if only because of improved health. Chalk it up to good fortune because of a down year in the AFC North, but the Ravens remain in solid position tied with Pittsburgh for first place with six games remaining.

The Steelers aren’t going anywhere and may face an easier path on paper, but the Ravens will now prepare for Cincinnati, who is suddenly looking closer in quality to the Cleveland Browns than to the top two teams in the division. The Bengals fell to 3-6-1 on Sunday while losing five-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and shifty running back Giovani Bernard to long-term injuries, leaving no excuse for the Ravens not to snap their five-game slide against Cincinnati dating back to 2013.

You never want to lose, but the Ravens were playing a non-conference team better than them and appeared to escape Dallas without any serious injuries.

I suppose it’s deflating if you believed Baltimore’s second-half explosion against Cleveland to be a breakthrough, but playing the worst team in the NFL at home is a lot different than venturing down to “Jerry’s World” these days.

The Ravens are what their record suggests they are — not a very good football team — but a division title is still within their sights.

Sunday’s loss did very little to change that, especially if you were being realistic to begin with.

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jernigan

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Ravens-Cowboys: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 November 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated 12:40 p.m.)

The irresistible force against the immovable object.

The NFL’s top-ranked run defense takes on the No. 1 rush offense as the Ravens travel to Arlington, Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys, owners of the best record in the NFL.

Despite that being the marquee matchup of the afternoon, the Ravens were dealt a major blow to their pass defense with cornerback Jimmy Smith being deactivated for Sunday’s game. Smith is dealing with a back injury and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

His absence means defensive coordinator Dean Pees will lean on the likes of Tavon Young, Jerraud Powers, and Shareece Wright to try to slow two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant and the Dallas passing game. Keeping seven defenders in the box to slow rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott won’t be easy without that clear option in Smith to lock down Bryant.

Wright is making his return from a three-game absence with a hamstring injury and was working as a starter opposing Young during warmups. However, it wouldn’t surprising to see the Ravens use defensive back Anthony Levine as a hybrid defender against the run and pass in certain sub packages.

As expected, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) is also inactive despite returning to the practice field this week. He was a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday, but the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher hadn’t been on the field in over five weeks as he continues to work his way back to full strength from offseason too surgery. Dumervil has appeared in only two games all season.

Starting left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) were already ruled out on Friday.

The good news for the Ravens on Sunday morning was the activation of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. Both were listed as questionable to play with shoulder injuries this week.

In an interesting wrinkle, Yanda was working as the starting left guard during pre-game warmups with Vlad Ducasse again working at right guard where he started last week. It would Yanda’s first NFL start at that position as the Ravens will now use their seventh different starting combination of the season on the offensive line.

There were no surprises among the Dallas inactives as cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) and safety Barry Church (forearm) were officially ruled out on Friday. Veteran quarterback Tony Romo (back) is active and will serve in his new role as rookie Dak Prescott’s backup.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

The roof will be closed at AT&T Stadium, making this the first indoor game for the Ravens this season.

Baltimore will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Cowboys sport white jerseys with silver pants.

Sunday marks the fifth regular-season meeting between these teams with Baltimore holding a 4-0 advantage. Dallas is the only team not to have beaten the Ravens in the 21-year history of the latter franchise.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
CB Asa Jackson
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Elvis Dumervil
OL Ryan Jensen
OL Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore

DALLAS
QB Mark Sanchez
CB Morris Claiborne
RB Darius Jackson
S Barry Church
LB Mark Nzeocha
OT Chaz Green
DE Benson Mayowa

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stevesmith

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Ravens-Cowboys: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are trying to prove they belong.

Two straight wins have moved them to the top of a bad division, but a road victory over Dallas would propel them into the conversation of compelling teams in the AFC. Baltimore’s No. 1 run defense is also trying to impose its will against the Cowboys’ top-ranked rushing attack in the marquee matchup of the game.

Meanwhile, the surprising Cowboys own the NFL’s best record at 8-1 and are coming off an emotional road win over Pittsburgh. That victory coupled with a big Thanksgiving meeting with NFC East rival Washington would appear to leave Dallas in danger of an emotional letdown against a 5-4 team on Sunday.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore tries to remain perfect in the all-time regular-season series against the Cowboys. The Ravens are 4-0 against Dallas, but only one of those was on the road, a 33-24 victory that closed old Texas Stadium on Dec. 20, 2008.

Below are five predictions for Sunday afternoon:

1. Steve Smith will catch a touchdown on the day he reaches 1,000 career receptions. The 37-year-old needs only three catches to reach that special mark and tie Hines Ward for 13th on the all-time list, but Smith will be determined to put on a show in a game in which most are expecting Dallas to win. The Cowboys secondary is without cornerback Morris Claiborne and will play plenty of Cover 2 to account for the speed of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, which will leave room for Smith to work the middle of the field. Joe Flacco has so much trust in Smith in a big game and will look his way early.

2. Dez Bryant will exploit a vulnerable Ravens secondary for a 100-yard receiving day. Even if Jimmy Smith plays after being listed as doubtful with a back issue, you can’t like his chances against the talented 6-foot-2 receiver. His expected absence is a big loss because the Ravens don’t have anyone else who matches up well against Bryant and it’s dangerous to take a defender out of the box against the Cowboys running game. Don’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Dean Pees uses Anthony Levine extensively as a dime back to defend the pass and provide help against the run.

3. Kenneth Dixon will receive more touches than starter Terrance West. The rookie had a career-high 80 total yards against Cleveland and matched his career high with 11 touches. Meanwhile, West averaged 3.1 yards per carry in Week 10 and has totaled just 96 rushing yards over the last three games. With the Cowboys ranking third in the NFL in run defense, the Ravens aren’t likely to open many rushing lanes and should utilize Dixon as a receiver out of the backfield. Philadelphia successfully unleashed the shifty Darren Sproles against Dallas in Week 8, which could be a blueprint for Dixon.

4. Ezekiel Elliott will have more rushing yards in the final quarter than the first three combined. The fourth pick of the 2016 draft and the Cowboys offensive line are special talents, but the Baltimore run defense has been just as impressive and will turn some heads. The Ravens will do all they can to take away the run and make rookie Dak Prescott beat them, but their own struggling offense as well as the absence of Jimmy Smith will leave too small of a margin for error on the afternoon. That will lead to some fatigue, which will allow Elliott to find some space for meaningful yardage late in the game.

5. The offense will once again be the Ravens’ primary downfall in a close 23-16 loss. Everyone has talked about the Ravens defense going up against the Cowboys offense, but the real key will be whether the Baltimore offense can do enough to keep up in this one. The Ravens scored a season-high 28 points against the worst team in the NFL last week, but that also included an ugly first half consisting of just two field goals. Optimists are talking about the second half of that one being the breakthrough for Flacco and the Ravens offense, but left guard Alex Lewis is out and right guard Marshal Yanda is far from 100 percent on an offensive line that has been the Achilles heel all year. Dallas lacks a strong pass rush and doesn’t have a great defense, but worse units have been able to shut down the Ravens this season. The defense will keep it close, but one good half against the lowly Browns isn’t enough to convince me that this offense is ready to do what it takes to beat a team like Dallas on the road.

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lewisflacco

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Flacco surprised by Lewis’ criticism, but message itself nothing new

Posted on 18 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Those hoping for a “passionate” response from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to former teammate Ray Lewis’ criticism were probably disappointed on Friday.

A day after Lewis criticized Flacco’s passion for football and sideline demeanor, Flacco said it’s nothing he hasn’t heard before despite not expecting the latest source of criticism to be the future Hall of Fame linebacker who retired at the end of the 2012 season.

“It’s a little surprising coming from Ray, but it’s been something I’ve dealt with [since] probably back before high school and even in high school,” Flacco said. “It’s just part of my personality. When things are going good, it’s [treated] as if it’s a good thing. When things aren’t going as well as you might like them to be, it’s always a question as to whether my personality is that of one that fits what an NFL quarterback should be. It’s not anything I’m not used to, but it is a little bit different coming from Ray.”

While many have blasted Lewis for failing to acknowledge Flacco’s dynamic role in helping him retire with a second NFL championship, the 31-year-old quarterback made no mention of his historic postseason run that included 11 touchdowns and no interceptions that culminated with an MVP performance in Super Bowl XLVII.

Outside observers may not be able to completely dismiss Lewis’ perspective since the two played together for five seasons, but it was apparent in the Baltimore locker room on Friday that the future Hall of Famer’s comments did not sit well with Flacco’s current teammates. Veteran safety Eric Weddle went as far as asking if Lewis had forgotten that Flacco won him a Super Bowl and suggested he should have something better to talk about than tearing down an old teammate.

The Ravens are in the midst of their fourth season since Lewis’ retirement.

“He hasn’t been, but he was here for a while,” Flacco said. “You want to be able to listen to what he says and all that. I know he hasn’t been here for a while, but we want him to feel part of this place and we want him to come around. I don’t know how much that plays or doesn’t play into it.”

Preparing for his biggest challenge of the season to date in playing on the road against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Flacco made the right choice in taking the high road to prevent the controversy from becoming an even bigger story. Even if Lewis’ comments were unfair, Flacco is still in the midst of one of his worst seasons and likely wouldn’t come across well getting into a war of words with the best player in franchise history.

That being said, Flacco didn’t seem concerned about clearing the air when asked if he might give Lewis a call to try to clear the air.

“Probably not. Me and Ray are going to cross paths again,” Flacco said. “It might be brought up; it might not. Who knows?”

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jsmith

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J. Smith, Dumervil doubtful to play against Dallas on Sunday

Posted on 18 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite optimism about their status earlier in the week, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil were designated as doubtful to play against Dallas.

Earlier in the week, head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of Smith’s back ailment and had said he expected the sixth-year defensive back to play against the Cowboys on Sunday. Smith was a limited participant on Friday after missing the previous two practices, but Harbaugh offered a different tone when asked again about his status for Week 11.

“He was out here today. Obviously, it’s a walk-through, so it’s not as physical, but he was out here today,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just wait and see what the doctors tell us. His back tightened up a little bit. We’ll just have to see how it [responds] — whatever the doctors say. He wants to play, and we’ll know. The fact that he was out here today I think is a good sign.”

It’s worth noting that the Ravens haven’t listed a single player as doubtful who ended up being active for that week’s game all season, but the revamped injury report designations for 2016 provide more wiggle room than in the past. The “doubtful” label used to mean a player had no more than a 25 percent chance of playing, but it now means only that an individual is “unlikely to play” in that week’s game.

Smith’s absence would spell bad news for the Ravens’ efforts to slow down two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant. Under normal circumstances, Baltimore would likely ask Smith to shadow the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant in pass coverage.

Dumervil being listed as doubtful was less surprising considering he had missed more than five weeks of action since last playing on Oct. 9. The 32-year-old has appeared in only two games this year after a slow recovery from offseason foot surgery, but he participated fully in workouts on Wednesday and Thursday before being listed as limited in Friday’s walk-through.

The work pattern appears similar to what he did in Week 3 when he practiced on a limited basis for two days before being listed as questionable and ultimately sitting out the Jacksonville game. He made his season debut the following week.

Dumervil told reporters after Thursday’s practice that he felt “really close” to being his old self after a frustrating rehabilitation filled with two setbacks since the start of training camp.

“He responded well. I don’t think he had any problems after the two workouts,” Harbaugh said. “He looked good. He looked quick and explosive, which is what I was looking for. I know Elvis wants to play, and I know I want him to play. It will be up to the doctors whether they allow him to play or not, but he sure looked good in practice.”

The Ravens listed right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring), and linebackers C.J. Mosley (hamstring) and Kamalei Correa (thigh) as questionable for Sunday’s game. Despite serious doubts about Yanda’s status for the rest of the season only a few days ago, the five-time Pro Bowl lineman was a full participant all week, putting him on track to play against Dallas.

Jernigan is the only other real concern among the remaining names as he missed the final two practices of the week. He was a full participant on Wednesday, making one wonder if he suffered an injury in practice.

Baltimore officially ruled out left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) on Friday.

As expected, the Cowboys officially ruled out cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) and safety Barry Church (forearm) for Sunday’s game. Though he is still expected to play, Bryant was added to the injury report on Friday with a back issue and is listed as questionable.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday afternoon forecast in Arlington, Texas calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to 12 miles per hour. Of course, AT&T Stadium has a retractable roof should the forecast change over the weekend.

Below is the final injury report for the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

DALLAS
OUT: S Barry Church (forearm), CB Morris Claiborne (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Dez Bryant (back), OT Chaz Green (foot/back), DE DeMarcus Lawrence (back), QB Tony Romo (back), OT Tyron Smith (back/hip)

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lewisflacco

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Ray Lewis criticizes Flacco’s passion for football

Posted on 17 November 2016 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is having one of the worst seasons of his career.

Former teammate and future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis apparently has taken notice, labeling his play as inconsistent and questioning Flacco’s passion for the game in a conversation with Jason Whitlock on FOX Sports 1 on Thursday. Of course, this isn’t the first time that Lewis has criticized Flacco for not being more of a vocal leader.

Lewis was asked why the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player has been so inconsistent this season.

“I can’t tell you that,” Lewis said. “I’ll tell you what I do know. There is something called talent, and you see it a dime a dozen. Then, there’s something called being passionate about what you do — about really what you do. And me being around it … Gifted? Absolutely. Passionate about what he do? I’ve never seen that. I don’t know what that looks like.

“When you watch, sometimes he’s always isolating himself to go sit on the bench, never talking to anybody after a big play, bad play, whatever it is. Teammates figure out how to create this core that we all get along. Then, there’s a fact, right? Some people will be co-workers, some people will be teammates, and then some people you may call friends. I call Joe Flacco a teammate. We won a Super Bowl together.”

Having played with Flacco for five seasons, Lewis certainly has more perspective than an outside observer and there could be some level of truth in what he says. However, it’s a very poor look for Lewis to only mention in passing the fact that they won a Super Bowl together. Flacco’s historic play in the 2012 postseason was the biggest reason why Lewis was able to ride off into the sunset holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his 17-year career.

I’m guessing Lewis wasn’t worried about Flacco’s passion when he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions over those four postseason wins culminating with a title in New Orleans. Perhaps the former Raven is still a little sore about the quarterback poking fun at his sometimes-incoherent speeches a few years back.

Whitlock suggested that Flacco might have a little “Jay Cutler” in him, a comparison that Lewis didn’t go out of his way to refute.

“When you think about mentality, when you watch him, I don’t know how many times you will hear somebody go out on a limb to defend [and say], ‘He’s the greatest teammate I’ve ever had,'” Lewis said. “I don’t know how many times you would hear that. Maybe it’s because his personality just isn’t that personality. He’s not a ‘rah-rah’ guy. He won’t say much.

“But I still [think], in the game of football, there has to be some burning fire behind you. There has to be something that’s bigger than me. Like, ‘This is us. This is the core.’ And whether you understood everything that I used to do or why I used to do it, sometimes I didn’t rah-rah for me. Sometimes I rah-rahed because my boys needed the rah-rah. Sometimes I stepped in the huddle and said things and stood in the gap for them.”

Regardless of other circumstances such as an injury-riddled offensive line and an inconsistent running game, Flacco’s play is certainly deserving of criticism this season. But Lewis attacking his passion for the game and not offering anything else of substance about what has — or hasn’t — been happening on the field this season is a low blow.

Even if it hasn’t happened in 2016, Flacco has shown countless times that he can play at a high level without the kind of personality Lewis believes he needs. Having a different temperament doesn’t necessarily mean a guy lacks passion.

Maybe Lewis will remember that the next time he glances at his second Super Bowl ring.

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jsmith

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J. Smith, Jernigan absent from Thursday’s Ravens practice

Posted on 17 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to their big Week 11 encounter with the Dallas Cowboys, the Ravens were without seven players during Thursday’s practice session.

Headlining the list was No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, who missed his second straight workout with a back issue. Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the ailment on Wednesday and expressed confidence that Smith would be able to play on Sunday.

Harbaugh also said that he expected Smith to practice this week, making his status for Friday’s workout worth monitoring. Assuming he is able to play, the sixth-year defensive back will likely be trusted to match up with two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) was a new absences on Thursday after not being listed on the injury report a day earlier.

Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh), and left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) were also missing from Thursday’s practice. Taliaferro was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, making it likely that he suffered the injury during practice.

The Ravens also gave linebacker Terrell Suggs and center Jeremy Zuttah the day off. Zuttah played through a mild ankle sprain in last week’s win over Cleveland while it’s no secret that Suggs is playing with a torn left biceps.

For the second straight day, right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) were present and working as full participants. Dumervil wouldn’t confirm Thursday whether he would play against Dallas, but he believes he’s “really close” to being his old self from a physical standpoint after being shut down just over five weeks ago.

“Just the strength [is better],” said Dumervil, who has appeared in only two games this year after undergoing offseason foot surgery. “I think last time, as a competitor, as a winner, you just want to go out [and play]. Sometimes it is good to listen, and I learned that.”

Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (back/hip) returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out on Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), G Alex Lewis (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (back), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

DALLAS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Barry Church (forearm), CB Morris Claiborne (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Chaz Green (foot/back), DE DeMarcus Lawrence (back), OT Tyron Smith (back/hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Tony Romo (back)

 

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Ravens, Cowboys looking to reign supreme in running game

Posted on 16 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Something has to give between the Ravens and the Cowboys on Sunday.

It’s the No. 1 run defense against the top rushing attack in the NFL.

The Cowboys have run for more than 100 yards in every game this season while Baltimore has allowed more than 65 rushing yards in a game just twice. It’s the kind of game outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has relished throughout his 14-year career while playing on some of the better defenses in franchise history.

These Ravens are out to prove they belong in that conversation.

“You want to play against the best,” Suggs said. “When you were 10 years old, you were like, ‘I want to go play in the NFL. I want to be considered one of the best players in the NFL.’ To be the best, you have to play the best. It is a challenge for our defense, but we accept it.”

No one anticipated this kind of success for the Cowboys, who have been led by two rookies on their way to an 8-1 start. Fourth-round quarterback Dak Prescott has taken the league by storm after replacing an injured Tony Romo in the preseason, but first-round running back Ezekiel Elliott has proven why he was the first running back selected in the top five overall picks of the draft in four years.

Leading the NFL with 1,0005 rushing yards and ranking fourth among qualified players in yards per carry (5.1), Elliott would have garnered much consideration from the Ravens had he fallen to the sixth overall pick, according to head coach John Harbaugh. The Ohio State product has emerged as a league MVP candidate with a combination of rare explosiveness and mature vision.

“I think he already had that. I don’t think they had to teach it to him,” Harbaugh said. “That’s why they drafted him where he was. He’s a special guy. The offensive line [also] deserves a lot of credit for the success they’re having.”

Though Elliott is a unique talent, the Dallas offensive line is the primary reason why he has a legitimate chance to break the rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards set by Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson in 1983. Comprised of three former first-round picks, the Cowboys unit is the highest graded in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

Elliott has gained a whopping 439 rushing yards before contact, illustrating how much his offensive line has aided in his instant stardom. In contrast, the Ravens have run for a total of just 773 yards in 2016.

The Cowboys have played their share of shoddy run defenses — a list including San Francisco, Washington, Cincinnati, and Cleveland — but they largely had their way with top 10 run defenses in Green Bay, Chicago, and the New York Giants as well. In fact, the Packers entered Week 6 as the No. 1 run defense in the league and proceeded to give up 191 yards on 33 rushing attempts in a 30-16 home loss to Dallas.

“I definitely think they’re the most athletic,” said defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan about the Cowboys offensive line. “They can go from sideline to sideline, make the cut, blocks on the backside and those different things. It’s going to be a challenge for us. But at the same time, I don’t think they’ve seen a front like ours, either.

“It’s going to be on, and we’re going to be ready for the challenge.”

As impressive as the Dallas ground game has been, the Ravens’ run defense may own a more eye-popping résumé.

Consider that Baltimore has allowed a league-low 3.3 yards per carry while also giving up the longest run of the entire NFL season when Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell ran for an 85-yard touchdown in Week 2. That blemish can’t be erased, of course, but the Ravens have surrendered just under 2.9 yards per carry in opponents’ other 193 rushing attempts this season.

Baltimore has given up just two other runs of 20 or more yards this season while facing five teams — Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland, Washington, and the New York Jets — currently ranking in the top 10 in yards per carry. Of the two occasions the Ravens have surrendered more than 65 rushing yards, one was the game in which Crowell recorded his league-long run and the other was against the Jets in Week 7 when Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley — two of the Ravens’ best run defenders — were out with injuries.

This stingy run defense falls well short of the 2000 Ravens who allowed a microscopic 2.68 rushing yards per carry in a historic season, but an imposing front seven led by nose tackle Brandon Williams, Mosley, and Suggs has its chance to make its biggest statement of the year by slowing Elliott and the red-hot Cowboys. That will be Baltimore’s best chance in trying to pull off the upset on Sunday.

Something will have to give.

“It’s what, nine games in? We’ve stopped the run, but are we going to slip up now and not be able to stop the run?” Harbaugh said. “You have to play every game the next week like it’s the most important game of the season. Our guys understand that. Our guys are going to get ready to play.”

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