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Suggs, Graham new absences from practice on Thursday

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Suggs, Graham new absences from practice on Thursday

Posted on 07 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were further depleted on the defensive side of the ball Thursday as linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Corey Graham were added to a growing list of non-participants.

The defense was already dealing with the absences of linebacker Daryl Smith and starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who were both missing for the second straight day on Thursday. The starting inside linebacker is dealing with a thigh injury while the third-year defensive back is nursing a groin injury that forced him out of last Sunday’s loss in Cleveland.

Suggs was present in the locker room earlier in the day and did not appear to be favoring an injury but was listed with a foot injury on Wednesday’s injury report. Graham, who would be slated to start if Jimmy Smith cannot play, was sidelined with a calf injury.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (back) and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) were also absent for Thursday’s practice. The Ravens are expected to place Osemele on injured reserve at some point this week, and Stokley has been dealing with a groin injury for over a month now.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (finger) was present and working as a full participant after being limited on Wednesday while cornerback Asa Jackson and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore were also practicing. Jackson has been reinstated after serving an eight-game suspension — though he has yet to be placed on the 53-man roster — while Lewis-Moore began practicing Wednesday after starting the season on the non-football injury list while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last January.

For the Cincinnati Bengals, tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin) was downgraded on Thursday’s report after sitting out practice with a groin issue despite working on a limited basis a day earlier. Linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow) missed practice for the second straight day.

Here is Thursday’s official injury report:

OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Corey Graham (calf), CB Jimmy Smith (thigh), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (finger)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Jermaine Gresham (groin0, LB Rey Maualuga (knee), DT Devon Still (elbow)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), LB Mike Boley (hamstring), G Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)

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Ravens’ hope for turnaround falls on Flacco’s shoulders

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Ravens’ hope for turnaround falls on Flacco’s shoulders

Posted on 06 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was dealt a lousy hand this season.

Of course, coming off a Super Bowl MVP performance and signing a record-setting $120.6 million contract in the offseason ease the pain of the plight he now faces, but anyone who’s watched the Ravens this season realizes the sixth-year quarterback has been fighting an uphill battle since the start of training camp.

No Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta.

A running game averaging 2.8 yards per carry and on pace to be the NFL’s worst since the 1953 New York Giants, according to ESPN.

A banged-up and inept offensive line on pace to surrender 50 sacks, which would easily surpass the highest total — 40 in 2010 — given up in Flacco’s career.

With all those factors working against him, Flacco has often been asked this season if he’s had to fight the urge of trying to do too much in the Ravens’ struggling offense that’s now failed to score at least 20 points in in its last three games for the first time since Nov. 2009.

“It’s tough in the NFL to go out there and try to be Superman,” Flacco said. “It’s just impossible to do that. I think that kind of keeps you in check and allows you to go out there and just play the game. It’s frustrating when you’re running off the field and you’re not getting first downs and you’re not scoring points.”

Of course, Flacco’s right in his assessment of no one player being able to do the job all by himself, but the Ravens may need a superhuman stretch — or at least one similar to what we saw in the 2012 postseason — from the quarterback to advance to the postseason for the sixth straight season in the John Harbaugh era. It’s a lot to ask given everything malfunctioning around him, but the Ravens expect a lot from him, evident by the nine-figure investment general manager Ozzie Newsome made last winter.

Flacco’s play has been better than his statistics indicate despite his 79.3 quarterback rating through eight games, which is on pace to be the worst of his career. But that doesn’t mean he’s immune from criticism as his five-interception effort in Buffalo was one of the worst games of his career and his poor first half in Cleveland on Sunday coming off the bye led to another slow start offensively and a third consecutive defeat.

The Ravens needed a pick-me-up from Flacco to build confidence early on against the Browns, but he missed several open receivers in the first half that kept the Cleveland defense in a single-high safety look with seven men in the box, giving an ineffective running game even less of a chance to succeed. With the rushing attack showing no signs of improving, it’s difficult for the Ravens offense to play with confidence if they can’t come out throwing to move the chains early.

This season, Flacco has completed only 53.6 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions in the first half before rebounding in the second half with a 65 percent completion rate and a 91.1 passer rating with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

“We’ll earn our confidence by doing well,” Harbaugh said. “Fundamentally, we have a confident group. There’s no question all of us are confident. We know we can get it done. We know we can get there. But until you start doing it with some consistency, it’s hard to be confident in what you’re doing.”

The slow starts have become an epidemic as the Ravens have fallen behind early and a good — but not great — defense has had to work hard early in games to keep the score close, which might partially explain the unit’s inability to make stops late in the second half to put the offense back on the field for opportunities to complete comebacks.

The Ravens haven’t scored a first-quarter touchdown since the season opener on Sept. 5 and have been held scoreless in the first 15 minutes four times this year. It’s just not a formula conducive to winning more often than not at any level of competition.

In recent weeks, Baltimore has made more of an effort to throw early to help set up the run, but it hasn’t come any easier than it did trying to get Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce on track behind fullback Vonta Leach and the offensive line to begin games. Opponents haven’t respected the run or the Ravens’ pedestrian group of wide receivers and tight ends beyond third-year wideout Torrey Smith.

“You have to be able to hit guys on the outside and win one-on-one routes,” Flacco said. “If you can do that, then you can get teams to play some different coverages where you don’t have one-on-one, and then you can open up the run looks a little bit.”

With the absence of Boldin and Pitta making plays in the intermediate middle portion of the field, the Ravens have seen too many defenders in the box to defend the run, but the disappearance of the vertical passing game has been just as problematic. The early-season struggles in that department were understandable with speedsters Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson sidelined due to injury, but their returns haven’t sparked what was a major part of last year’s passing attack.

In the 2012 regular season and playoffs, Flacco completed 50 of 123 passing attempts that traveled 20 or more yards through the air for 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. This season, Flacco is just 10 of 44 with no touchdowns and three interceptions on attempts of 20 or more yards.

Defenses don’t fear the Ravens’ options at tight end and in the slot, so they’ve been able to account more for vertical threats — particularly Smith — but Flacco’s accuracy in that department has been off on a number of occasions, whether receivers have been open downfield or not. Even if the passing game can’t find consistent production, a few more explosive plays might have been the difference in netting a couple wins in their last four losses decided by a total of 14 points.

With the running game nonexistent, it’s clear offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has elected to put more on Flacco’s plate lately, working extensively out of the shotgun and in three-wide, single-back sets with the intent of throwing the football. The new focus that’s included plenty of no-huddle — Flacco’s favorite way to operate — debuted in the Week 7 loss at Pittsburgh and appears to be the Ravens’ best attempt to establish an offensive identity.

Some would call it nothing but desperation at this point, but the Ravens need Flacco to be better — fair or unfair. Caldwell may continue to introduce new wrinkles such as last Sunday’s debut of the pistol formation, but the best chance of improvement and bouncing back from the franchise’s worst start since the 2005 season rests on Flacco’s right shoulder.

“With Joe controlling this thing, I’m looking forward to continuing to try and change it up,” Rice said. “Whether it’s the [shotgun], under center — it’s essentially just doing the [same] stuff. We’ve just got to execute at a high level. Joe drives this thing, and we’re all just following.”

It’s a lot to ask as Flacco has needed to adapt to changes in personnel — voluntary and due to injury — while dealing with the disappearance of the running game. An improved second half from him isn’t needed to validate his contract or his status as one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but it’s the Ravens’ best — and perhaps only — chance of salvaging what’s looking more like a lost season as the losses mount.

If it were a poker game, Flacco would be playing with rags in early position. He can either fold his hand or try to make some moves in hopes of catching the right card or two along the way. Frankly, even that may not be good enough by the time late December rolls around.

The running game isn’t going to be fixed — at least to the point where it becomes a strength — and Flacco can only make the best of what he has to throw to with the added possibility of Pitta returning in the next few weeks. There are no simple solutions for the Ravens offense other than hopping on Flacco’s back and hoping he finds the kind of groove he did last January and February.

“Even if you do rip up everything, it’s not like you can make it that much different,” Flacco said of the offensive approach. “We’ve just got to be better at what we do. We haven’t been good enough. That’s why we’re not winning football games. We’ve just got to get better and continue to have confidence and continue to believe that we’re going to push through it and be a good football team.”

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Jimmy Smith, Daryl Smith miss practice on Wednesday

Posted on 06 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field to intensify preparations for Sunday’s meeting against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens were without two defensive starters on Wednesday as cornerback Jimmy Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith were absent.

The third-year defensive back left early in the Week 9 loss to the Cleveland Browns with what was described as a groin injury by head coach John Harbaugh. Smith was feeling better on Monday, but his status will be monitored over the course of the week and veteran Corey Graham would start in his place should he be unable to play against the Bengals.

Meanwhile, the starting inside linebacker was absent during the portion of practice open to media with a thigh injury. Smith finished Sunday’s game with nine tackles and a sack despite picking up a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) was also absent from practice on Wednesday as was left guard Kelechi Osemele (back), who will be placed on injured reserve at some point this week.

Fresh off reinstatement following an eight-game suspension, second-year cornerback Asa Jackson was practicing and appears to have a good chance to be activated for Sunday’s game with Jimmy Smith currently ailing. The Ravens have a roster exemption that expires Monday before they must either place Jackson on the 53-man roster or waive him.

Rookie defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore also took the practice field for the first time as a member of the Ravens after he was selected in the sixth round of April’s draft and began the season on the non-football injury list while working his way back to full health. A Notre Dame product, Lewis-Moore tore his ACL in the BCS title game last January and now begins a 21-day window in which he can practice before the Ravens either place him on the 53-man roster or send him to season-ending injured reserve.

Since Jackson and Lewis-Moore aren’t currently on the 53-man roster, they did not appear on Wednesday’s injury report.

Coach John Harbaugh had no new information on the pending return of tight end Dennis Pitta, who could potentially return later this month from the dislocated hip he suffered in late July.

“I don’t know exactly [when he will be ready],” Harbaugh said. “When we talked about that time frame, that was a long time ago. Everything I’ve been told is that he is on schedule, but it’s still pretty vague and generic. We are getting close to that date. I’m interested to hear when he can start practicing again. I’ve been asking that question [and] haven’t gotten a yes yet. He’s closer than ever, obviously, and I have my fingers crossed — just like everybody else does.”

Meanwhile, the Bengals were without inside linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related) on Wednesday.

Here is Wednesday’s official injury report:

OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (thigh), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Rey Maualuga (knee), DT Devon Still (elbow), LT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), LB Mike Boley (hamstring), TE Jermaine Gresham (groin), G Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 05 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Basketball-Loyola @ Maryland (Sunday 2pm Comcast Center); Auto Racing: NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Advocare 500 (Sunday 3pm from Avondale, AZ live on ESPN); College Soccer: Stony Brook @ UMBC (Wednesday 7pm Retriever Soccer Park); High School Soccer: MPSSAA 4A Quarterfinal-Blake vs. Perry Hall(Tuesday 4pm Honeygo Park), State Semifinals (Saturday 12pm Richard Montgomery High School); Boxing: Rocky Martinez vs. Mikey Garcia (Saturday 9:30pm from Corpus Christi, TX live on HBO)

10. John Fogerty (Wednesday 8pm Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric); Paramore/Metric/Hellogoodbye (Saturday 7:30pm Patriot Center), Lynyrd Skynyrd (Sunday 7:30pm Patriot Center); Taking Back Sunday (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head Live), Less Than Jake/Anti-Flag (Thursday 7pm Rams Head Live), Parachute/Plain White T’s (Saturday 7pm Rams Head Live); The Wild Feathers (Sunday 8pm Ottobar); Streetlight Manifesto (Sunday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Living Colour (Sunday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Reel Big Fish (Wednesday 7:30pm Fillmore Silver Spring), New Found Glory/Alkaline Trio (Thursday 7:30pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Toad The Wet Sprocket (Thursday 6pm 9:30 Club), J. Roddy Walston & The Business (Thursday 10pm 9:30 Club); Grouplove/Saints of Valory (Friday 8pm Bender Arena); Mavis Staples (Friday 8pm Kay Theatre); Rebirth Brass Band (Friday & Saturday 8:30pm The Hamilton), Aaron Neville (Sunday 7:30pm The Hamilton); Eminem “The Marshall Mathers LP2″ and M.I.A. “Matangi” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

You know damn well I’ll be at The Lyric Wednesday night for Fogerty. Greatness is greatness, y’all.

I will also be at The Ottobar Sunday night to enjoy the Wild Feathers. And probably drink and try not to think about football.

J. Roddy Walston might well have the Album of the Year. I mean that.

Mavis Staples could convert you. To anything.

9. Kevin James (Wednesday 7pm Warner Theatre), John Oliver (Friday 7:30pm & 10pm Warner Theatre); Bill Burr (Thursday 7:30pm D.A.R. Constitution Hall); Pauly Shore (Thursday-Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Thor: Dark World” out in theaters (Friday); White House Down” and “Grown Ups 2” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); Maryland Irish Festival (Friday-Sunday Timonium Fairgrounds)

You may know Thor better as “The Avenger you didn’t give a crap about but then your fiancee found out he existed”.

Oh my God-you guys remember when Pauly Shore was a thing???

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens sign veteran running back Scott to bolster depth

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Ravens sign veteran running back Scott to bolster depth

Posted on 28 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Desiring to add depth behind starter Ray Rice and backup Bernard Pierce, the Ravens announced the signing of former Bengals running back Bernard Scott on Monday.

Scott reportedly worked out for the Ravens earlier this month and remained an option for the 53-man roster after left tackle Bryant McKinnie was traded to the Miami Dolphins, leaving a vacant spot. Baltimore also worked out former Cardinals running back Beanie Wells, but the 2009 first-round pick tore his Achilles tendon, according to a report from The Sun.

Both Rice and Pierce have dealt with nagging injuries this season, with the latter aggravating a hamstring injury in the Week 7 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 20. The Ravens signed former Kansas City running back Shaun Draughn earlier this season as a No. 3 option but moved on from him when they became healthier at running back and in the return game.

“He’s a bit of a perimeter runner,” said coach John Harbaugh about Scott’s ability. “Not that he won’t run between the tackles – he will – but he’s a speed guy on the perimeter, a pass catcher out of the backfield. He’s always done a pretty good job of pass protection as well. He’s a threat, [and] he’s a dangerous guy. He’s a guy that can take it the distance at any time.”

The 29-year-old Scott spent the first four seasons of his career in Cincinnati where he rushed 255 times for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns and also produced 73 kick returns for 1,787 yards and one return score. After appearing in 45 games in his first three years with the Bengals, Scott was limited to just two games in the 2012 season before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

He was re-signed by Cincinnati in the offseason and began the 2013 season on the reserve physically unable to perform list before the organization decided to release him on Sept. 17.

Scott was originally a sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft and attended Abilene Christian, the same school that produced current Ravens running back coach and former NFL running back Wilbert Montgomery.

“Wilbert has been proud of those guys that come out of there,” Harbaugh said. “There are always fast guys like that who come out of Abilene Christian — starting with Wilbert.”

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The 15-7-0 is unseasonably hotter than the Patriots’ offense

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The 15-7-0 is unseasonably hotter than the Patriots’ offense

Posted on 07 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

15 positive observations from the weekend of football, seven not so positive observations and we acknowledge a “zero” from outside the world of football. A reminder, there’s never any Ravens game analysis here. We do plenty of that elsewhere. It’s a trip through the weekend of football via videos, GIFs, memes, pictures, links, Tweets and shtick.

If there ever is a Fall in the great state of Maryland, don’t worry about having to pay to heat your home. Just read the 15-7-0 and your heart will be warmed for seven whole days*!

(*This is a fact proven by science**.)
(**Even if you don’t think this is a proven fact there’s nothing you can do about it because there is no government so no one can say otherwise. HAHA, jerks.)

15 Positive Observations…

1. Peyton Manning is better at real football than Tony Romo is at fantasy football. There is perhaps no more significant thing that can be said about someone.

Both quarterbacks were awesome Sunday; but one was victorious while the other was picked by Danny Trejo. You probably already know which is which.

I like to think that Peyton Manning threw an interception in this one because he desperately longed to know what the other side felt like.

There was also a moment where he did this.

In a related story, what the sh*t is this man doing?

2. Ohio State has been tested in each of the last two weeks and came up aces. Did anyone check to make sure they didn’t tattoo the answers on the inside of their eyelids?

Something weird happened at the end of the game. I’ll let Brent Musberger explain.

College Gameday was in Evanston before this one, and someone brought a giant Mr. Feeney head, so obviously Gameday should never be anywhere else.

3. At the end of the Navy/Air Force game I had a strong desire to give every Midshipman a hug. And also to punch every Congressman in the nads.

And if it’s a Navy win, that means it’s a Navy motivational video!

Also, I wasn’t able to get one of these at the game Saturday. I would REALLY like it if someone else got me one.

4. If you didn’t have Peyton Manning or Tony Romo on your fantasy team this weekend, I believe the next best bet was Mason Crosby.

And unfortunately if you own Brandon Pettigrew, no points for hurdles.

You DO however get points for James Jones making big plays.

Also Brad Jones did…something.

5. After all of the embarrassment and shame Paris brought upon their family, you have to feel good that young T.Y. has given the Hiltons something to be proud of again.

You think “TY” stands for “Time (to) YOLO”?

Little known fact: the Colts’ Mario Harvey HATES PUNTERS.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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“The Reality Check” Final Regular Season Power Rankings

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“The Reality Check” Final Regular Season Power Rankings

Posted on 02 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Kansas City Chiefs (32)

Okay, so no Josh McDaniels. Umm…Marty-ball?

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (30)

Mike Mularkey: “Are you sure you didn’t want to fire me?”

30. Arizona Cardinals (31)

I cannot believe they’re really considering hiring Todd Haley. OH.MY.GOD.

29. Oakland Raiders (29)

Now they get ready for their Super Bowl…the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine.

28. Detroit Lions (28)

The problem for Jim Schwartz is that he’s a former defensive coach for a team that can’t play defense.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (27)

Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole tells us the Eagles could keep Michael Vick around if they hire Chip Kelly.

26. Cleveland Browns (26)

While the Browns’ first choice is the same Chip Kelly, no one’s first choice EVER has been the Cleveland Browns.

25. New York Jets (23)


24. Tennessee Titans (25)

Check back in with me in five minutes to confirm Mike Munchak still hasn’t been fired yet.

23. Buffalo Bills (24)

I think a Ken Whisenhunt/Russ Grimm combo would be a good fit there.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22)

Do you focus more on what went wrong? Or do you focus more on how to build off of seven wins?

21. Miami Dolphins (17)

At least they have a quarterback.

20. St. Louis Rams (18)

Are they as close as their record would make you believe?

19. San Diego Chargers (21)

If Peyton Manning isn’t in the AFC West, they win the thing and save Norv Turner again.

18. New Orleans Saints (16)

I’ll go ahead and assume they win 13 games next season.

17. Carolina Panthers (19)

By keeping Ron Rivera, they’d give up potential “most desirable location” status for coaches.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (20)

If they had a healthy Ben Roethisberger for 16 games they would have won the division. Unless the Ravens had a healthy Suggs/Ngata/Webb/Lewis. I guess what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter.

15. Dallas Cowboys (13)

What the eff do you do here?

14. Chicago Bears (14)

I’d want this job.

13. New York Giants (15)

“Hynocerous” is one of the Top 5 nicknames in football this year.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

Posted on 01 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 23-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Kevin Huber 51 yard punt downed by Jeromy Miles at Ravens’ 3 yard line (3rd quarter)

4. Ray Rice 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Joe Flacco incompletion intended for Dennis Pitta pushes Ravens back to Bengals 47 on 4th down (1st quarter)

3. Justin Tucker misses 45 yard field goal wide left (3rd quarter)

2. Michael Johnson sacks Tyrod Taylor at Ravens’ 1 yard line on 3rd down (2nd quarter)

1. Carlos Dunlap returns Tyrod Taylor interception intended for Ed Dickson 14 yards for touchdown (4th quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Harbaugh silent on status of Lewis — and everyone else — for Sunday

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Harbaugh silent on status of Lewis — and everyone else — for Sunday

Posted on 31 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have played their cards close to the vest when it comes to their plans for veteran linebacker Ray Lewis and his improbable comeback.

If Monday was any indication, we should expect much of the same this week as they turn their sights toward a wild-card meeting with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Lewis began practicing on Dec. 5 and was moved from injured reserve to the 53-man roster last week but hasn’t played in a game since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14.

Asked what it would take for Lewis to finally return to game action this Sunday, Harbaugh offered no indication whether he expected the 37-year-old to play against Indianapolis. However, it’s difficult to envision the 17th-year linebacker not giving it a go with Sunday potentially being his last game in Baltimore.

“It will take me not putting his name on a piece of paper for the [inactives], and you will find out an hour-and-a-half before the game whether or not that takes place,” Harbaugh said. “It’s all going to be a game-time decision as far as anybody knows. That’s where we’re at. This is the playoffs.”

The Ravens have been more tight-lipped than usual in recent weeks regarding their slew of injuries, and it will only get worse as Harbaugh tries to keep their plans under wraps.

Sixteen players were listed on last week’s injury report and six starters were ruled inactive for the final regular-season game.

“We’re not talking about injuries, we’re not talking about activations,” Harbaugh said. “We really don’t care what you or anybody else thinks about that — as much as we love you — and we’re getting ready to play a football game.

Critics question whether Harbaugh’s tactics — which are, in fairness, becoming more common across the league — really provide any tangible advantage over opponents, but the Baltimore coach was unconcerned with anyone questioning him on Monday.

“I don’t think it really matters,” said Harbaugh when asked if the team truly benefited from hiding injury information. “I think that’s what we’re doing.”

No more shenanigans

Asked to revisit a pair of frustration penalties committed against Bengals rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Harbaugh offered an understanding tact but a matter-of-fact stance in responding to fouls committed by running back Ray Rice and guard Bobbie Williams.

The Ravens committed 10 for 102 yards in Week 17 and finished 31st in the league with 111 penalties this season.

“We don’t need any of that. We don’t need any penalties,” Harbaugh said. “We certainly don’t need any post-snap shenanigans. I don’t care what they do. I don’t care what they say. We don’t need a flag thrown. [We need to] be smart enough to make sure the flag is thrown on the other guy. It’s just that simple.”

In the first quarter, Rice was flagged for unnecessary roughness after pushing Burfict to the ground following a chop block and said after the game the rookie linebacker talked trash throughout the day.

“Ray was trying to finish a block. I thought it was more of an aggressive foul than anything else,” Harbaugh said. “I would counsel him not to do that in the future, but he felt like the play was still on. He didn’t know the play was over; he thought he was getting up to go rush the passer. Not that we excuse that. We don’t want any personal foul penalties.”

Williams’ infraction occurred in the second quarter when he retaliated after Burfict kicked him, according to the veteran offensive lineman. It was an uncharacteristic moment for the 36-year-old, who is regarded as one of the nicest guys in the Baltimore locker room.

“There wasn’t much there, but there was enough to be called, obviously, because it was called,” Harbaugh said. “We counseled him not to get involved in any of that.”

Black Monday

With seven head coaches receiving their walking papers on what’s become the annual “Black Monday” around the NFL, Harbaugh saw his good friend and mentor Andy Reid join the list of dismissed after 14 seasons as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Harbaugh and Reid spent nine years together as the former served as the Eagles’ special teams coordinator for eight seasons and secondary coach in 2007 before being hired to become the third head coach in the history of the Ravens on Jan. 18, 2008.

Joining Reid on the unemployment line were Chicago’s Lovie Smith, San Diego’s Norv Turner, Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt, Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur, Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel, and Buffalo’s Chan Gailey.

“The toughest thing is on the families,” Harbaugh said. “As coaches, we all understand the nature of the business. Players, too, understand the nature of it. That’s part of the challenge, but it’s hard on families. It’s hard on kids who have to change schools, pick up and move and start in other cities and things like that. That’s what you feel for the most, and that’s kind of where your prayers go out towards.”

Of the seven coaches fired on the day after the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, three were hired — and have now been dismissed already — after Harbaugh took the Baltimore coaching job.

DeCosta staying put

In what should come as no surprise, teams have already contacted the Ravens with requests to interview assistant general manager Eric DeCosta regarding potential openings.

However, the longtime Ravens executive isn’t going anywhere. DeCosta was awarded a long-term, high-priced contract last year and is the heir apparent to general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. The Ravens reaffirmed that reality once again on Monday.

“I love being a part of the Ravens and plan to stay here and help them win championships,” DeCosta said in an official statement released by the Ravens. “I have no intentions of leaving this team.”

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Ravens choose only path fully in their hands to close regular season

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Ravens choose only path fully in their hands to close regular season

Posted on 30 December 2012 by Luke Jones

In the moments following the Ravens’ win over the New York Giants last week, John Harbaugh was asked how he’d handle Sunday’s regular-season finale and the answer was predictable with a chance at the No. 3 seed still a possibility.

The head coach said his team would play to win, but it was the caveat he provided that left much doubt over the course of the week.

“We’re going to try and win the game. That’s the No. 1 thing we’re going to do,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what we do, and we’re going to try to win the game. We’re also going to try and make sure we are as healthy as we can be going into the playoffs. So, I think we’ll merge those two considerations.”

In the aftermath of a 23-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in which six starters were ruled inactive and Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a plethora of other starters took seats on the bench before the end of the first quarter, it was evident which consideration won out on Sunday. Optimum health was the only path fully in the Ravens’ hands as they now turn their sights toward the Indianapolis Colts in the opening round of the playoffs next weekend.

No matter what happened in Cincinnati, the Ravens knew they would need help by way of a Miami win over New England in order to move up to the third spot in the AFC. That possibility became even more complicated with Houston falling in Indianapolis to create more incentive for the Patriots to take care of business in Foxborough to clinch a first-round bye. And New England took care of its business in a 28-0 blowout victory.

When it came down to it, there were too many outside factors working against the Ravens to play their starters extensively — without any guarantee of a win, anyway — and risk an injury to Flacco or Rice or pass up the opportunity to rest banged-up players such as Marshal Yanda, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata. Though it didn’t alter their plans, the sight of fullback Vonta Leach limping to the locker room after aggravating an ankle injury on the first offensive series was all the evidence you needed to support Harbaugh’s thinking.

Fortunately, the injuries suffered to Leach and right tackle Kelechi Osemele — who left with a knee injury — aren’t expected to put the pair in danger of missing next week’s game, according to Harbaugh in his post-game press conference. The argument could be made that the Ravens should have just rested their starters from the outset, but you can understand the desire for the starting offense to play a couple series on the road for the first time under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. If the Ravens are to advance to the Super Bowl, they will likely need to win two road games and it was important to iron out any kinks in the line of communication from Caldwell to wide receivers coach Jim Hostler to Flacco in relaying play calls in an opponent’s stadium.

Yes, the No. 3 seed would have increased the Ravens’ chances of potentially hosting the AFC Championship game if the chips fell in their favor. Many debated the merits of playing Indianapolis or Cincinnati in the first round and trying to avoid the Broncos in the divisional round, but there were too many moving parts over which to obsess.

The reality is there are no easy games or paths to the Super Bowl in January, and the Ravens looked at the one possibility that would put them in the best position to make a deep run in January. It was the only one nobody else could impact on Sunday.

It included a healthy Flacco, who played two series and avoided a potentially crippling hit or even the most innocent chance of Matt Birk or Jah Reid stepping on his foot and turning his ankle.

Rice only had three touches and will be as fresh as possible, Anquan Boldin’s bruised shoulder should be little more than an afterthought, and Yanda will have rested a sprained ankle in two of the last three weeks.

A defense that’s struggled to even be average all season will have healthier versions of Ngata, Suggs, and Bernard Pollard as well as a returning Ray Lewis to provide an emotional lift. If the Ravens are to give themselves much of a chance beyond the wild-card round, they would benefit greatly from Ngata and Suggs providing more than they have at any point this season and Sunday’s rest improves the likelihood of that happening.

None of these factors will ensure postseason success for a Ravens team with obvious flaws, but the minute chance of the No. 3 seed wouldn’t have done it, either. Every team not named the Denver Broncos in the AFC playoff field is facing some obvious flaw at the end of the regular season, but the Ravens’ best chance to make noise was a healthier football team — not the No. 3 seeed.

Critics will say the Ravens’ choice to rest their starters squashed the momentum gained in their convincing Week 16 victory, but you’ll find plenty of examples on each side of the equation of playoff teams resting their starters in the regular-season finale. In reality, momentum goes as far as your next opponent and the Ravens will have their hands full with an inspired Indianapolis team led by coach Chuck Pagano.

The Ravens could have played most of their starters to try to win on Sunday and then hope for help to gain the No. 3 seed, but they chose the path of least resistance by pulling their key players out of harm’s way in hopes that they’ll be better for it in January.

In watching them play 16 regular-season games this season, we’ve wondered who the 10-6 Ravens really are and we’re about to find out. At their best, the Ravens can play with anyone and at their worst, they can be handled easily by any opponent in the playoff field.

Sunday’s decision was a sign that the Ravens wanted to buy some stock in themselves instead of putting their health at further risk and hanging their hats on the mediocre Miami Dolphins to offer a hand.

In weighing all the options, the guaranteed chance of having a healthier team in January was just too much for Harbaugh and the Ravens to pass up.



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