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Ravens would be wise to stop focusing on big picture for now

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Ravens would be wise to stop focusing on big picture for now

Posted on 19 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens know they’re struggling at the wrong time of the season.

A three-game losing streak, an ever-growing list of injuries, and problems on both sides of the ball have caused the karma of a 9-2 start to disintegrate into a growing sense that they’re backing into the playoffs with two difficult games remaining and a 9-5 record. A change at the offensive coordinator position has created an even greater perception that the Ravens are a team in disarray.

But coach John Harbaugh’s message has been consistent over the last few weeks. And the words focusing on the big picture have been echoed throughout the Baltimore locker room.

“We’re going to do everything we can do and fight like crazy to become the team that we’re capable of becoming,” coach John Harbaugh said. “And we’re not that team yet. It’s a long season, but all of our goals and all of our dreams are squarely in front of us. And that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Even with the troubles surrounding the Ravens, the head coach is right. Contrary to the beliefs of many fans and media alike, Baltimore’s season isn’t over nor beyond repair. The Packers of 2010 and last year’s Giants are prime examples of that, even if the Ravens aren’t destined for the same championship track when 2012 is all said and done.

However, the focus cannot be on the accomplishment of making the playoffs for the fifth straight year or looking ahead to building on last season’s disappointment in Foxborough. Complacency can be a dangerous trap for a team that’s been so close to their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl in two of the last four seasons. To simply dwell on what could still happen in January while struggles in December are apparent comes across as dismissive or even cavalier if you discuss those goals too much.

Cautious optimism that injured players might return is acceptable, but viewing the return of Ray Lewis as the ultimate fix or holding optimism that Terrell Suggs can put forth a superman-like performance with a torn biceps doesn’t help the rest of the players on the roster. It only deflects the current problems and how to remedy them.

The Ravens also shouldn’t dwell on their poor play over the last three weeks. It’s true they fumbled the possibility of securing a first-round bye, but a division title and the ever-important home playoff game are only one victory away.

“There’s not really much you can do about the past,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You have to just live in the present and move forward, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The present is Sunday’s meeting with the New York Giants, a team in worse position than the Ravens after losing four of their last six games to put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. For Baltimore, any discussions of the postseason or potentially resting starters in Week 17 or hoping to get injured starters back cloud what’s important for a team that should only be worrying about the now.

It’s about tabling the big picture and their biggest goals and dwelling on the simple task of winning one football game. Perhaps it’s channeling former head coach Brian Billick’s ban on using the word “playoffs” in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV season or even borrowing a page from the 2012 Orioles after manager Buck Showalter trained his players to compartmentalize each game and series while the outside world wondered if they’d make their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years.

Injured safety Bernard Pollard didn’t seem interested in discussing the big picture or the Ravens’ ultimate goals before Wednesday’s practice. In his second year in Baltimore, Pollard has never been afraid to tell it like it is and his comments suggested the Ravens might be a little too comfortable with their current position.

“Everybody’s talking about [how] we’re in the playoffs,” Pollard said. “Who cares? The way we’ve played, who cares about the playoffs. With the way we’ve played, that’s going to carry over into the playoffs. And we don’t want that to happen. We have to come together.”

Even if the Giants are faced with a slimmer margin for error, the Ravens have to recapture that mentality where they feel as though there isn’t a next week or a second chance.

With so many factors working against them in recent weeks, they’d be well served in simplifying their approach by blocking out the past and the future. If not, the supremely-talented but inconsistent Giants will be ready to serve up the type of experience the Denver Broncos provided last week in embarrassing the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

“If you think that team is going to come in and lay an egg, we have our hands full,” running back Ray Rice said. “This team won the Super Bowl last year. They have a lot at stake.”

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>

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Our Ravens/Broncos Slaps to the Head

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Our Ravens/Broncos Slaps to the Head

Posted on 16 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Denver Broncos 34-17 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Haloti Ngata

4. Anquan Boldin

3. Cary Williams

2. Jim Caldwell

1. Joe Flacco (Two slaps)

(Ryan’s Slaps on Page 2…)

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Your Monday Reality Check: I Get Why You’re Saying You’d Prefer Blowouts

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Your Monday Reality Check: I Get Why You’re Saying You’d Prefer Blowouts

Posted on 10 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

It didn’t take long.

“The thing is-I’d prefer them to be getting blown out than losing the way they’re losing.”

I can’t remember who it was, and I apologize if it was you. It wasn’t long into “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” Sunday night on WNST that I got the first one. And it wasn’t the only time I heard/read it Sunday. I got it in a few emails and social media messages.

It wasn’t the most infuriating thing I heard Sunday night. In fact, it wasn’t really infuriating at all.

I get it. Honestly, I get it.

I mean, I hope all of us who were greatly bothered by seeing the Baltimore Ravens suffer a second consecutive loss Sunday (this time in overtime at the Washington Redskins) are understanding that 1-the team’s season is FAR from over and 2-no organization with a 9-4 record in a NFL season can EVER be vastly concerned about the following season or any seasons to come.

The only thing the organization can be concerned about is winning their next game, a visit from the Denver Broncos in the case of the Baltimore Ravens.

While you’re questioning the future of the Offensive Coordinator, the quarterback, who stays and goes on the defensive side of the ball and who could be cut to free room under the salary cap; the organization is ONLY concerned about how to break a lengthy losing streak against Peyton Manning and how a maligned Offensive Line can contain Von Miller.

They’ve thought about some of those same things, but they’ll worry about them after the season.

Some of you are struggling with the notion that the season hasn’t ended for the Baltimore Ravens in the course of the last eight days. It was rain falling today in Charm City, but it felt like it was the sky.

If the Ravens HAD been blown out in their last two games and hadn’t managed to pull off a few miracles (a missed Dan Bailey field goal lifting them past the Dallas Cowboys, the impossible 4th & 29 conversion in San Diego) or hold on in some of the uglier games in recent franchise history (wins at Kansas City and Pittsburgh that came without a single offensive touchdown), the Baltimore Ravens would sit at 5-8 and feel much more comfortable about declaring both the season over and welcoming panic within the building at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills.

Instead, they have all but clinched a fifth consecutive postseason appearance and are in no ways guaranteed to not be able to make a run towards a second consecutive AFC Championship Game appearance.

When you tell me you’d prefer blowouts, I understand what you’re really saying. You’re REALLY saying you don’t think the Ravens are going to make that type of run and you’d prefer to see the organization start answering more difficult questions now than have to wait another four or five weeks.

It’s understandable. The most likely scenario for the Ravens is that they’ll enter the playoffs as the AFC North champion (they need only one more win in any game the rest of the way to lock it up) but having lost anywhere from two to four (or I guess even all five) of their final five games. It’s reasonable to assume they won’t enter the postseason playing a particularly consistent level of football.

It’s easier for us to discuss long term questions like “should Cam Cameron be fired?”, “how much is Joe Flacco worth?”, “what do you do with Michael Oher?”, “has Jimmy Smith made enough progress to feel comfortable letting Cary Williams walk?”, “is there any future for Ed Reed here?” and “would cutting Anquan Boldin provide the cap room the organization needs?”

But the only real questions at the moment are more along the lines of “what will the team do if they’re missing Marshal Yanda for a significant amount of time?”, “can Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe and Terrell Suggs return in time to face Denver?” and “should Corey Graham still start after Smith returns?”

None of those questions sound like they’ll make the type of difference necessary to see the Ravens look like Super Bowl contenders again.

That’s where the organization is after 14 weeks of the 2012 NFL season.

I know you don’t REALLY mean you’d rather see the Ravens getting blown out right now, but I understand why it feels that way.

-G

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Our Ravens/Redskins “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Redskins “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 09 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Washington Redskins 31-28 in overtime Sunday at FedEx Field, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Matt Birk

4. Cary Williams

3. Ed Reed

2. Joe Flacco

1. John Harbaugh (Two Slaps)

(Ryan’s Slaps on Page 2…)

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Your Monday Reality Check: I think we all need some civic therapy today

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Your Monday Reality Check: I think we all need some civic therapy today

Posted on 03 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

I don’t have it in me.

Honestly, I combed over all of my usual spots looking for fun videos, GIFs, etc. for the 15-7-0. I wanted to have one more big roundup to close the college football season. I hope Roofing By Elite will be okay with sponsoring this diatribe instead.

As part of hosting a local sports talk show, I often find myself playing the role of civic therapist. After Baltimore Ravens losses, I’ll regularly hear things like “did you have to spend the day trying to talk everyone off the ledge?”

I’d like to think I’ve been fairly successful in that, although it was certainly come with my share of mini-meltdowns in the process.

I don’t think I’m going to melt down this time. I’m certainly not on the ledge myself.

I don’t think I’m on the ledge, anyway.

Am I on the ledge?

You know what happened. The Charlie Batch-led Pittsburgh Steelers invaded M&T Bank Stadium and used a Shaun Suisham field goal as time expired to pull off one of the more improbable victories of the 2012 NFL season. The Steelers snapped the Ravens’ lengthy win streaks both at home (15) and against AFC North opponents (12). They also prevented the Ravens from clinching a playoff spot in the AFC and pulled within two games of their longtime rival in the race for the division crown.

This one hurt.

With Ben Roethlisberger out again, this was a prime opportunity for the Ravens to vanquish one foe and focus on bigger goals. The Ravens are still in good position to claim the AFC North title this season, but everything the Ravens do this season is being measured by the fact that there is an expectation for them to reach the Super Bowl.

It was tough to imagine a team that struggled to a 9-6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs making a run to the Super Bowl. It’s equally difficult to fathom a team that lost at home to Charlie Batch making a run to the Super Bowl.

(This is the part where civic therapist Glenn Clark reminds everyone that they’re not moving up the date of the Super Bowl to December and it is absolutely impossible that the Steelers and Ravens will both be playing in the game. Sorry. I had to.)

The truth is that the concerns that stem from the Ravens’ loss aren’t dissimilar to those we had experienced earlier in wins and losses. The truth is that those concerns will likely pop up again, perhaps as early as next week in a visit to face Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. The truth is that as long as the Baltimore Ravens were winning games, those concerns weren’t REALLY issues.

The Ravens simply needed to put themselves in the best possible situation to make a playoff run. If the Ravens continued to struggle offensively on the road but won, they’d still be in perfect shape to have to win no more than one road game in the postseason to get to New Orleans.

That’s the NFL. Your issues are only as significant as the record you carry them with. In that way, the Ravens are still in good shape at 9-3; but the nature of how this one went awry makes you worry about the ability for the team to keep winning through struggles.

In a game the Ravens only lost by three points, this one had a little bit of everything…

-Questionable play calling
-Poor clock management decisions
-Shaky quarterback play
-Offensive line lapses
-Inconsistent rushing
-Untimely drops
-Non-existent pass rush
-Awful tackling
-Secondary miscommunication
-Game changing turnovers
-3rd down struggles
-Red zone issues
-Potentially season changing injuries
-A partridge in a pear tree

Okay, maybe not the last one. But the rest were accurate at one point or another.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ngata, Reed, four other Ravens leading way in Pro Bowl voting

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Luke Jones

Learning the 9-2 Ravens have six players leading their respective positions in voting for the Pro bowl is no surprise, but the list of names is a change from the past with linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs missing large portions of the season with injuries.

Free safety Ed Reed, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and fullback Vonta Leach each made the Pro Bowl last season for the Ravens and are once again leading their respective positions in the voting. Joining them are cornerback Cary Williams, strong safety Bernard Pollard, and kick returner Jacoby Jones when the latest voting totals were released on Wednesday.

Often maligned by Ravens fans, Williams has played better as the season has progressed and is tied for the AFC lead with four interceptions. Pollard leads the team with 82 tackles this season with the perennial leader Lewis being sidelined for the last five games with a torn right triceps. Neither defensive back has been selected to the Pro Bowl in their respective careers.

Jones appears to be the favorite in the AFC to go to Honolulu as a kick returner after being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice this season. He has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and his 63-yard punt return for a touchdown was the difference in the Ravens’ 13-10 win over Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

The news of Reed and Ngata leading their respective spots is no shock, but their underwhelming performances — at least by their incredible standards — would leave their inclusion up for debate. Reed is an eight-time selection to the game while Ngata has been named to the last three Pro Bowls. Leach is a two-time Pro Bowl selection at the fullback position, one coming in his first season in Baltimore and another with Houston in 2010.

Ngata leads the team with 219,581 votes and is followed in order by Williams (141,660), Leach (127,610), Reed (84,017), Jones (80,278), and Pollard (57,875).

Voting continues through Dec. 17, and teams will be announced on Dec. 26. The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 27, 2013 in Honolulu.

The AFC and NFC teams are selected based on voting by players, coaches, and fans with each counting for one-third of the final outcome.

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Rice’s miracle play grabs headline, but Ravens defense made comeback possible

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Rice’s miracle play grabs headline, but Ravens defense made comeback possible

Posted on 25 November 2012 by Luke Jones

Ray Rice’s miraculous catch and run on fourth-and-29 will go down as one of the greatest regular-season plays in the 17-year history of the Ravens and will be remembered in the years to come.

A late awakening by quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense completed an improbable 16-13 comeback victory over the San Diego Chargers and pushed the Ravens to 9-2, matching their best start in franchise history.

But none of it would have been possible if not for the stout performance of an undermanned, banged-up Baltimore defense at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. As much grief as he received early in the season, first-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees deserves a pat on the back after the last two weeks in which the Ravens have held opponents to a combined 23 points in two road victories.

The injuries are well-documented and the struggles have been scrutinized throughout the season, but the defense came to play in what appeared to be a difficult matchup against a Chargers attack that’s struggled all season but still possesses the weapons to be dangerous on any given Sunday. The Ravens held San Diego to 13 points, surrendered 280 yards, and sacked quarterback Philip Rivers a season-high six times in their most impressive defensive performance of the year.

San Diego was just 3-for-15 on third down and 0-for-1 in the red zone as the Ravens continued an incredible streak of four straight games without allowing a red-zone touchdown. Baltimore has kept opponents out of the end zone in their last 10 trips inside the 20-yard line.

The numbers barely make you blink in the context of what’s been one of the greatest defenses in the NFL for more than a decade, but a simple look around the field reminds you just how impressive the group has been recently. A 10-point effort against Pittsburgh was brushed off because backup Byron Leftwich was at the helm for the Steelers, but to hold Rivers and the Chargers to 13 points in nearly 75 minutes of play Sunday is worthy of recognition.

That is, if you can recognize who’s making the plays. By no means have they become a no-name defense — Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ed Reed are still on the field, even if less than 100 percent in each case — but the Ravens continued to receive contributions from unlikely sources.

Replacing inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who left the game with an ankle injury, 36-year-old special-teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo was a factor in pass coverage, making four tackles and defending a pass in extensive action. Filling in for the man who was already replacing the injured Ray Lewis and has arguably been the Ravens’ best defender this season, Ayanbadejo made several key tackles in the second half to help stall San Diego drives.

Another special-teams player, cornerback Corey Graham, continued his strong play in the secondary by making five tackles and defending two passes as he continues to fill in effectively for the injured Jimmy Smith. He and Cary Williams held up well against taller wide receivers Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander in what looked like a mismatch on paper heading into Sunday’s game.

More impressive than anyone, however, was third-year defensive end Arthur Jones, who collected the first two sacks of his career and added another tackle for a loss as he manhandled the Chargers up front. Largely considered a disappointment in increased action this season, Jones has played his best games of the season the last two weeks, making the extended absence of Pernell McPhee little more than an afterthought at this point.

The key to the defensive prosperity on Sunday was the Ravens’ pass rush as Suggs, Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, and rookie Courtney Upshaw collected sacks in addition to the two secured by Jones. Baltimore took advantage of a poor San Diego offensive line and made Rivers uncomfortable in the pocket, allowing the secondary to tighten its coverage.

Aside from a lone drive for a field goal surrendered in the game’s final 41 minutes, the defense was exceptional, forcing four three-and-outs in the second half and keeping the Baltimore offense within striking distance when it finally awoke from its game-long slumber midway through the fourth quarter.

The numbers won’t blow you away and the defensive stars aren’t playing at the same level they did in the past, but Pees has seemingly cracked the code to repair the crisis this defense was facing during its bye week. In the four games played since the break, the Ravens have allowed a total of 58 points after giving up 43 alone against Houston on Oct. 21.

Maybe it was Pees’ decision to move upstairs to the coaches’ booth. Perhaps unheralded players are finally living up to the mantra of “next man up” that’s constantly uttered in the Ravens locker room.

Whatever the case, the defense is figuring it out and it makes the 9-2 Ravens that much more dangerous down the stretch — even with their many flaws that will once again be discussed this week.

It’s not the Ravens’ dominating defense of old, but the unit saved the day on Sunday.

Even if the late-game heroics of Rice and the offense will be what everyone remembers.

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Our Ravens/Chargers “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Chargers “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 25 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 16-13 win over San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Brendon Ayanbadejo

4. Cary Williams

3. Dennis Pitta

2. Justin Tucker

1. Ray Rice (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Cary Williams

4. Ray Rice

3. James Ihedigbo

2. Anquan Boldin

1. Corey Graham (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Raiders “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Raiders “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 11 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 55-20 win over the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Anquan Boldin

4. Dennis Pitta

3. Cary Williams

2. Bernard Pollard

1. Cam Cameron (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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