Tag Archive | "Cincinnati Bengals"

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Ed Reed tells Luke about life without Sizzle vs. Bengals

Posted on 10 September 2012 by WNSTV

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New G Williams, Ravens brought together by familiarity

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New G Williams, Ravens brought together by familiarity

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens have made it a habit over the years to grab veteran offensive lineman late in free agency or training camp to not only bring experience, but to also have that key backup in case an injury should occur to solidify that same offensive line.

Last year, it was Andre Gurode, who started several games for the injured Ben Grubbs. In 2008, it was Willie Anderson who saw action at right tackle.

This season, with the team reeling from the loss of Grubbs at the left guard position to free agency-as well as Gurode’s dismissal, the Ravens felt like they needed to keep up with that tradition.

And they did just that at the beginning of June, signing former Bengals and Eagles guard Bobbie Williams to a two-year contract.

Williams is adjusting to the atmosphere in Owings Mills, but he’s confident that he’ll fit right in with training camp the first opportunity to do so.

“I’m just taking it all in,” Williams said after practice Saturday. “I’ve been rolling for a week. I came in when the young guys came in, and it was good that I did that so I could get that advantage and get things going. We’re just hitting all cylinders now.”

Williams had spent the last eight seasons with the Bengals, and the 35-year old has started 130 games in his 12-year NFL career.

The Ravens certainly felt like they made the right decision by bringing in a stable and dependable Williams in with the early shuffling of their offensive line in camp.

When he was signed on June 8th, Williams was at first expected to battle for the left guard position with Ravens 2nd round pick Kelechi Osemele and second-year man Jah Reid.

However, both started off training camp with back and calf injuries respectively, and Williams was told to line up and clear the way for newly-paid running back Ray Rice.

Coach Harbaugh earlier in the week said that Williams has already made them forget about Ben Grubbs, and Harbaugh attributed that to his tremendous work ethic.

Those were strong words according to Williams.

“I’m just appreciative that they respect me on that level. I don’t plan on letting anyone down, including myself, and the good Lord.”

Williams said that when he came in, he was told that a spot wasn’t going to be given to him. And despite it looking that way, he still wants to prove himself to Coach John Harbaugh and the coaching staff.

“I came in with the attitude to work-period. And it ain’t going to leave. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it ain’t going to leave till February…let’s just put it that way.”

Williams remembers Coach Harbaugh from Harbaugh’s time as a special teams coach with the Eagles-who drafted Williams in the 2nd round of 2000 NFL Draft-and said that he has always been “a player’s coach.”

And the way Williams talks about offensive line Coach Andy Moeller-you would think they have been around each other for a lifetime-not two months.

“I’m used to the coaching staff and the guys around me. It’s a great group and I’m not just saying that.” And Coach Moeller man-I think the world of him. He’s a real teacher of the game. I truly respect him and his knowledge of the game. And that’s very key.”

He may have that familiarity with his coaches, but many are certain that the Ravens brought Williams in given his time with their AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals.

That kind of insight into an opposing locker room’s scheme could do wonders for a defensive coordinator, and the fact that he knows the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers blitz packages from seeing them 4 times a year the past eight seasons, that can only be added bonus.

“That might have played a little part of it knowing the division,” Williams laughed.”

But Williams said it could also be the exact opposite. The Ravens knew who he was from having to get past him to sack Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton for nearly a decade, and they wanted that kind of “lunch pail” attitude on their line.

To “Play like a Raven”, as the theme points out.

“I also know what kind of team this is, Williams said. “I know that the Baltimore Ravens are a tough, blue collar, hard-working team and they felt I could contribute to that and that I have some of those same qualities. They said, ‘Hey, we know this guy can play here’.”

And with a newly-paid running back in Ray Rice in the backfield and with an offense that lives and dies by his yardage, Williams says he’s the perfect guy to clear those holes for Rice.

“It’s what I’ve always been known to do. I’ve always been that hard-nosed, dependable guy that will get down and dirty and likes contact. I like to be physical. I like to get my hands on people.”

He said all it takes for him to get to that level is getting comfortable with the guys lining up next to him at left tackle and center.

“I’ve got to get familiar with my center. And then my left tackle. I’ve been leaning heavily on Matt Birk and Michael Oher. I sit next to Marshal Yanda in meetings and I’ve asked him some things.”

But obviously, with left tackle Bryant McKinnie not in camp so far-but yet announcing he would report Monday for his first practice-he may have to start all over again with that level of comfort with those playing next to him.

But Williams says that’s no problem at all. McKinnie’s addition to this offensive line finally-much like his own signing by the Ravens-only improves their chances of success.

“Whatever we have, we’re working with that and we’re doing a pretty good job. If another piece is added like I was added, it makes us even better.”

And even if things remain as they are, Williams is still confident that this team can do some special things this season. It’s one of the reasons he signed with the Ravens in the first place.

“That’s just the nature of the game. You learn the ropes and you learn to make do with what you had. You learn to make that work. And you go out there and solidify that.”

And the chance to win a ring? Any way I can help with that, I’m there.”

Thanks to Bobbie Williams for chatting with me after practice today! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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More Questions Than Answers for the Ravens

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More Questions Than Answers for the Ravens

Posted on 25 May 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

#1 – What’s going to happen with Ray Rice?

 Not only has Ray Rice been one of the best pound-for-pound bargains in all of football during his time as a Raven, but unlike many other running backs in similar situations last season Rice played things quiet and trusted that the team would take care of him. Whether or not they do remains to be seen, and whether or not they should is debatable. Running backs come and go quickly in the NFL, but by most accounts Rice has been “special” and is perhaps worth the risk. Either way expect him to play in 2012, but history hasn’t been kind to players who hold out of camp. A bad season for Rice under the franchise tag could be disastrous for him and for the Ravens.

 

#2 – Who’s playing on the offensive line?

 

This question is actually a myriad of different questions. Who fills Ben Grubbs spot at LG? How much does Matt Birk have left in the tank? Can we pencil in Bryant McKinnie at LT? Are Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda still the right side? And where do Kelechi Osemele, Jah Reid, Gino Gradkowski and Ramon Harewood fit into the picture? The answers to all of these questions could represent the beginning or the end of any offensive hopes the Ravens will have in 2012?

 

#3 – Do they have enough at wide receiver?

 

Torrey Smith was a pleasant surprise last season, but whether he can refine his route running and improve his hands still remain to be seen. He’s now a proven field stretcher but will need to add to his game in order to be a bona fide playmaker. Anquan Boldin was worse than expected last season, but was also injured, He’ll need to be more like the Anquan Boldin of old to lead these Ravens forward on the offensive side of the ball. And beyond those two the questions are even bigger. Is Jacoby Jones a wide out or a just a special teamer? Will Tandon Doss be ready to play in 2012? Who is Tommy Streeter and if he’s any good, how did the Ravens get him so late? Before we start comparing Joe Flacco to the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, let’s make sure he has some weapons that he can rely on.

 

#4 – Are the tight ends good enough?

 

Ed Dickson is big and athletic enough but has struggled with his hands. Dennis Pitta has very good hands but may not be big or athletic enough to impose his will on defenders, as modern tight ends are prone to do. Until one or the other shows marked improvement the Ravens will hesitate to use the middle of the field in the passing game, where coincidentally the best offenses all seem to have fantastic weapons. And who is Lamont Bryant?

 

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Lingering legends aside, Ray Rice might be the most popular and productive Raven today. One thing’s for sure…at $550K or so in the final season of his contract, Ray Rice is easily the Ravens best pound-for-pound bargain, and arguably the league’s best. One other thing that seems assured is that Rice is going to get paid. When, how much and where that happens however may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as it would seem.

This has been “the year of…” lots of things in the NFL, the year of the 5K quarterbacks, the year of the rookies, the year of the power forwards at tight end and the year of the disgruntled running back.

 

As running backs league wide from Chris Johnson to Frank Gore, from Matt Forte to Peyton Hillis have barked and in some cases dogged it (allegedly…and no pun intended) over their “contract to performance ratios”, Rice with arguably the strongest case of all has remained silent. Silent about the contract that is, on the field he has been anything but silent or dogged.

 

It’s been a running topic of conversation all season on the MobTown Sports Beat and everyone seems assured that Rice will be taken care of by the Ravens and some have speculated that there’s no reason Rice shouldn’t feel confident that the team will take care of him.

 

It’s all but 100% (in my mind at least) that Rice will be back next season, but under what circumstances and for how long are still debatable.

 

If you subscribe to the school of WWBBD (What would Bill Bellichick do?) the answer is to franchise Rice. Given Adrian Peterson’s new contract, the franchise tag will be a big number, but only for one season. Whether Rice would maintain his decorum for another season under similar (albeit more lucrative) circumstances to this one would remain to be seen as well.

 

In addition to Peterson’s contract, his injury will also likely factor heavily into the Ravens impending decision of whether to franchise Rice or to pay him long term money. Peterson’s injury is a not so subtle reminder of just how quickly a running back in particular can see his season (or even his career) ended. Having all of your eggs in that proverbial basket is a high-risk high reward proposition (as we learned in 2001 with Jamal Lewis’ injury).

 

The value of NFL running backs is on the decline, but the pay scale on the top end of the position is still rising. There are lots of Pro Bowl caliber and highly compensated running backs in the NFL watching the playoffs from home this season, and most of the league’s most productive offenses have plug and play backfields and use the running game as an afterthought for little more than window dressing it would seem at times.

 

Only one running back went in the first round of the last NFL draft and while still promising, Mark Ingram has done little to make teams sorry for passing on him. DeMarco Murray, taken on the second day of the draft was the league’s best rookie at the position.

 

One year prior, Ryan Matthews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best all went in the first round and all were summarily outperformed by undrafted rookies LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. An undrafted practice squad player from one season earlier led the league in rushing last season and the Packers marched through the Super Bowl after losing their bell-cow in Ryan Grant and replacing him with little known and lightly regarded James Starks.

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a look at my positional power rankings for the players and teams that are left in the playoffs. This year’s stats accounted for a lot but at the end of the day it’s my opinion on who I’d suit up today for the best chance at winning.

Quarterbacks

 

1 – Aaron Rodgers (GB)

2 – Drew Brees (NO)

3 – Tom Brady (NE)

4 – Eli Manning (NYG)

5 – Matthew Stafford (DET)

6 – Matt Ryan (ATL)

 

* I gave 6 here since the first 3 were fairly obvious (if not their respective places in that top 3)

 

 

Running Backs

 

1 – Ray Rice (BAL)

2 – Arian Foster (HOU)

3 – Michael Turner (ATL)

4 – Frank Gore (SF)

5 – Darren Sproles (NO)

 

 

Wide Receivers

 

1 – Calvin Johnson (DET)

2 – Andre Johnson (HOU)

3 – AJ Green (CIN)

4 – Victor Cruz (NYG)

5 – Wes Welker (NE)

6 – Roddy White (ATL)

7 – Greg Jennings (GB)

8 – Jordy Nelson (GB)

9 – Mike Wallace (PIT)

10 – Hakeem Nicks (NYG)

 

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Washington Redskins v Baltimore Ravens

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Don’t Believe the AFC North Hype…Yet

Posted on 03 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

 

Of all of the changes that the NFL has brought forth in the last couple of seasons, one that went without a great deal of notice has certainly had a profound impact so far. The line that teams have walked all too often in recent seasons after wrapping up playoff fortunes with games still remaining on their schedule has been too much of a story lately, but this year not so much. Whether a direct result of the decision to put divisional match-ups in the season’s final weeks or not it made for one of the most exciting final weeks of any NFL season in recent memory. Add “Goodell’s Grand Finale” to the once celebrated “Pete’s Parity” and you have the excitement that was week 17 of this NFL season.

The Ravens run through their own division unblemished is cause for celebration, and with 3 teams qualified for this year’s playoffs the AFC North is being hailed as the league’s best division. The Bengals are young and dangerous, and now stocked with picks courtesy of the Carson Palmer trade, the Browns are tough and physical and also stocked with picks courtesy of the Julio Jones trade and perhaps in better position than any team to trade into the first overall pick if the Colts should choose to shop it. And the Ravens and Steelers are simply the Ravens and Steelers. But before we proclaim the AFC North the class of the NFL, we should at least acknowledge that parity is more relative from division to division than league wide, and that the AFC North may simply be the most accomplished division in football because they had the easiest trek though the 2011 season.

 

You never can quite tell how teams will be from season to season in the NFL, but sometimes you can. While every year brings a fresh example of a team with no expectations suddenly becoming a force on the back of a few “minor” tweaks to the coaching staff, roster or approach, we should also acknowledge that those examples aren’t as plentiful as the attention that they get would suggest, and that more often than not we have a pretty good idea going into the season who’ll be good and who’ll struggle.

 

If you were picking a schedule for the Ravens or any AFC North team to have success in 2011, and charged with using the NFL formula of matching up against 1 whole division in the AFC and 1 in the NFC you probably would have picked the AFC South and the NFC West. Surely you would have picked the NFC West as maybe one or two teams in that less than mediocre division could have been expected to be competitive (as the 49ers became this year’s surprise team) but expecting the entire division to have a resurgence would have been unfathomable, as the division has been floundering for years now without improvement.

 

The AFC South would have looked almost equally ripe for the picking even before Peyton Manning was announced to be out for the season, and despite the Texans best attempts at representing the division respectably, injuries ultimately took their toll on them too.

 

Add the bottom dwelling Cleveland Brown to the mix and the formula was just right for the successes of the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. The Browns are scrappy and can’t be totally dismissed, but they did play their divisional schedule to the tune of 0-6 this season, serving up 2 wins each of cushion for the division’s other 3 teams.

 

In 2010 the NFC South had 3 double digit win teams. The Falcons won 13 games, the Saints won 11 and both made the playoffs and the Buccaneers picked up 10 wins and narrowly missed the playoffs while looking promising. They did so while matching up against the terrible NFC West, and an AFC North with 2 bottom dwellers in Cincinnati and Cleveland that offered up “easy” chances at racking up wins. The NFC South also had the floundering Panthers in 2010 who served up 6 wins to the rest of the division in struggling through a miserable campaign themselves.

 

This year the NFC South still looks relatively strong although slightly less promising beyond the top two as they were charged with matching up with an NFC North that was better than last year’s NFC West draw but also took advantage of this year’s weaker AFC South.

 

In 2008 the AFC East and NFC East both looked equally promising as both took advantage of similar scheduling “opportunities”.

 

Next year the AFC North will be afforded the opportunity to feast of the AFC West if they’re able to take advantage, and if the NFC is in the disarray that it appears to be in all of a sudden there too may lie an opportunity. While I won’t yet acknowledge the AFC North as football’s best division, the likelihood of them getting 3 teams into the playoffs again next season (especially if the Browns serve up another 6 wins) might look pretty good again. What they do once they’re there will determine which division is best.

 

 

 

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torrey

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MobTown Sports Beat Thursday Agenda

Posted on 29 December 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s what’s on the agenda for Thursday’s edition of the MobTown Sports Beat. Check us out streaming here from 10am-2pm and chime in by phone (410-481-1570), by email (thyrl@wnst.net) or on Twitter ( @Thyrl or @WNST )  

 

Great Guests

Terps Color Analyst Chris Knoche will join me at 10:30 to talk about the arrival of Alex Len, the Terps win over Albany on Wednesday and what we might expect of them from here.

 

Luke Jones will join me at 12:30 to update this week in playoff preparation with a Ravens report.

 

Nick Minnix from KFFL.com will join me at 1:00 to put a wrap on another fantasy football season and maybe to look ahead at fantasy baseball season too.

 

…and you never know who else might drop in.

 

 

The Big Three Questions

 

It’s the Miami Heat of radio segments as not only will it be tough to expect it to live up to the hype but also because you’ll never get a 4th out of me (I might be running out of time to tell that joke).

 

 

Question #1: Is Baltimore a Wizards town…or an NBA town at all?

 

Question #2: Can Turgeon’s Terps make the tourney…or finish in the top half of the ACC?

 

Question #3: Is it fair to name Alabama the National Champion if they narrowly beat LSU? Does anyone care?

 

 

Nickel and a Nail

 

Five timely topics of conversation for the day and a jab for someone who deserves it.

 

Ravens Playoff Push Begins

 

Week 17 and home field and a bye in the playoffs are on the line against an up and coming Cincinnati team that may be knocking on the playoff door a year ahead of schedule. Of course we’re talking Ravens football today.

 

 

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MobTown Sports Blog

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MobTown Sports Blog

Posted on 05 December 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a quick look ahead at the agenda for Monday on the MobTown Sports Beat:

 

Ravens Reaction

 

The Ravens are always on the table, especially on MSB Mondays. We’ll look back on the Ravens impressive and needed win over divisional rival Cleveland and have plenty of reaction.

 

A Nickel and a Nail

 

Five penny for your thought type topics of conversation and a nail for someone who deserves it.

 

#1 – BC-Mess or Oklahoma Statement

 

Despite an impressive thumping of the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State will be home watching the BCS title game like the rest of us. There’s little doubt that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the country, but do we really want to relive 9-6 snoozer that was the “game of the century” from just over a month ago? And how now can LSU lose a national title to Alabama after beating them on their own field in November and playing a much tougher out of conference schedule and the SEC title game? How much of this is due to the media’s inability to let go of their stated notion that Alabama was the best team in the country in the first place? Would LSU be getting this same opportunity if they had lost at home to Bama?

 

 

#2 – Tarheels are Baby Soft

 

They’re talented, there’s no doubt about that. The Tarheels are inordinately talented for a team in this the “one and done” era, the problem is that they seem to know it too. The juggernaut that Carolina looked to bring to the table after returning Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zellar and John Henson to fuse with the typical insurgence of Tarheel freshman talent so far has been anything but. After stumbling out of the gates last year only to turn it up for the stretch, Barnes looks to be making that his habit. Their talent will be enough to get them by on most nights, but when the real heat turns up, look for these Tarheels to wilt under the pressure like they did against Kentucky on Saturday. They appear poorly coached and at times altogether indifferent. Don’t believe the hype surrounding this Carolina team, as it appears that they themselves have already bought in too much.

 

#3 – NBA Free Agency to Begin on Monday?

 

Sort of at least…beginning on Monday it looks like teams will be free to at least make known their intentions and overtures to prospective free agents ahead of Friday’s projected final resolution in the lockout. Big men abound in free agency and no NBA team ever has enough of those. Greg Oden could be headed to the Heat, making him and them even more hated then each is already individually. Additionally, as “Big 3’s” are seemingly becoming en vogue, teams will be looking to fish or cut bait with a few marquee names that could quickly become trade fodder. Derron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard could all begin or end this season with new teams. And let’s not forget about Danny Ainge’s latest attempt to sabotage the Celtics. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of the Rajon Rondo trade rumors or their impact.

 

#4 – A.F.Seeding

 

The top end of the AFC all managed to hold serve on Sunday. Along with the Ravens win, the Steelers beat the Bengals 35-7, the Patriots beat the hapless Colts 31-24 and the Texans rallied behind TJ Yates for a 17-10 win over the fading Falcons, so the logjam continues at 9-3 atop the AFC.

 

Houston survived a tough opponent behind TJ Yates first start after losing Andre Johnson again mid-game in a scene eerily similar to the one that preceded his last hamstring injury and kept him out of action for several weeks, and Brian Cushing left early too. If it weren’t for bad luck, these Texans wouldn’t have any yet they still refuse to lose in this their ordained playoff season given the absence of Peyton Manning in the division.

 

The Raiders were blasted by the suddenly resurgent Dolphins 34-14 and coupled with another heroic Tim Tebow comeback effort, surrendered the top spot in the AFC West (by virtue of a tiebreaker) to Denver.

 

The Titans and Jets both picked up wins to pull even with Cincinnati in the race for the final wild card spot with the Bengalis still enjoying the benefit of the tiebreaker…for now.

 

#5 – Packers on a Roll

 

Green Bay survived its first real test of the season on Sunday when the Giants punched in a 2-point conversion to tie them with less than a minute remaining and one timeout for the Packers. We should have known on the kickoff that the Pack was about to do something special. Randall Cobb, who’s having a fine year, took a knee on the kickoff just a yard or so deep in the end zone, essentially conceding that taking time away from Aaron Rodgers and the offense, even a few seconds, would be unacceptable even for a return man adept at taking them to the house. Two plays later the Packers were in field goal range and the rest as they say was history.

 

If you’re giving me the Packers or the field today, I’ll still take the field but it’s getting tougher to do each week. You could argue that now isn’t the time to be playing your best football, but the Packers have been doing it since week 1 and still look to be improving. They’re much deeper than last year’s injury riddled bunch and now can count themselves battle tested too.

 

You’d almost like to get an L out of the way before the playoffs start, but if it’s going to happen for these Packers it looks like it’ll happen naturally, as they don’t seem to be slowing at all. Maybe the cursed Colts season has taught a lesson to anyone willing to take note, “embrace the 0, or the 0 will come get you”.

 

And the nail goes to the Ravens and Steve Bisciotti for their announcement to take their ball and go home, or more specifically to cancel indefinitely the Westminster training camp that had become engrained in the traditions of many a Ravens’ fan who can’t get to the stadium for actual games.

 

The move has money written all over it, in this immediate aftermath of the NFL lockout where we as a public were forced to endure the tug of war over an unfathomably fat cache of cash that we were all made too well aware of, that seems to be bad form.  The team will surely try to make it up to the fans somehow, but attempts will be feeble at best compared to the rite of passage that was Ravens training camp.

 

(While not a regular attendee at Ravens training camp myself, I certainly understand the loss that some are feeling. As a 38-year old Baltimore native, my only “real” memories of the Baltimore Colts began and ended with training camps at Goucher college)

 

It’s not lost on us, Mr. Bisciotti, that you’re the same guy who encouraged us to offset the season ticket price increase of a few years ago by selling our Patriots, Steelers and/or Colts tickets as they were doing very well on the secondary market. Clearly the real plight and point of view of the average fan is lost on the occupants of the owner’s box.

 

What’s not lost on Mr. Bisciotti is the ability to pass the buck, or more aptly to allow crap to roll downhill, as he did by calling it a football decision. By stating that the Ravens were a better football team when they practice at their Owings Mills facility the owner laid blame right at the coach’s feet even without saying quite that much.

 

The truth is, it’s hard to say whether the Ravens are better or worse when they don’t have a camp, as this is the first year without one and also a year anomalous in the annals of NFL history due to the lockout. Using this season, as a barometer to measure anything is pointless at best and more likely irresponsible.

 

I’ll agree that life is easier for the Ravens when they don’t have to pack up and move operations from Owings Mills to Westminster and back, but easy isn’t the road to NFL glory. Eight times per season the Ravens will have to pack up and prepare, at least in part, away from the castle, usually in makeshift conditions not ideally suited or built for the purpose of readying a team for a football game. That the Ravens have struggled in doing it this season may speak to the “preparation” they’d have gotten in camp, under similar conditions.

 

 The road to a Super Bowl is a tough one, and one that the Ravens took once already while holding camp in Westminster, and the team enjoys lots of cushy handouts and civic backrubs from fans who’ll never have the chance to set foot in the stadium for a game, to lock them out using the fortress that they in part financed is just wrong.

 

 

@ Me Back

 

3 random questions. Hit me with your answers on Twitter @Thyrl or @WNST, by email thyrl@wnst.net, or at 410-481-1570. Whatever you do, get back @ me.

 

@-1: Who are the top 5 on your #NFL rookie of the year ballot?

 

I’ll go Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, AJ Green, Torrey Smith & DeMarco Murray

 

@-2: Who would you seed 1-8 in a college football playoff?

 

Give me- #1 LSU, #2 Bama, #3 OK St., #4 Boise, #5 Stanford, #6 Arkansas, #7 Wisconsin, #8 Clemson/WVU play-in or Oregon if I have to pick 1.

 

@-3: Who looks the like the best college hoops team so far?

 

For me – Kentucky, Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse, Missouri…but there’s a lot of teams I haven’t seen yet and a bunch more I can’t wait to see again.

 

 

 

 

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A look inside Thanksgiving feast of Ravens-49ers

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A look inside Thanksgiving feast of Ravens-49ers

Posted on 24 November 2011 by Chris Pika

One of the more-hyped games of the 2011 schedule once it came out in April is tonight’s Thanksgiving game in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium when the broithers Harbaugh meet as the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens (8 pm ET; NFL Network).

The 9-1 49ers have a stranglehold on the NFC West and can clinch the division with a victory and either a loss or tie by Seattle on Sunday or a tie and a Seattle loss.

The 7-3 Ravens lead the AFC North, and are tied for the AFC’s best record.

The combined 16-4 record (.800) of the two teams is tied for fourth-best between Thanksgiving Day combatants since 1970.

It will be Baltimore’s John vs. San Francisco’s Jim, and Jim, and according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who will help call the game with Brad Nessler, this matchup is one to watch:

When you combine the surprising success of San Francisco, along with Baltimore being pretty much where you expect them to be, we’ve got one of the best games of the season on Thursday night.

In a national teleconference to promote the game earlier this week, Jim mentioned how brotherly love goes out the window once competition is involved:

Leading up to this, John has talked freely and openly about football with me. Now, it’s more talking in code. I’m being serious. I can see there are limitations to what he’s telling me. I thought love had no boundaries, but now I see that it does.

— Jim Harbaugh, on football communication with John since the 2011 NFL schedule was announced

For John’s part, it is a continuation of competition that has gone on since they were kids:

We were in the same room for 16 years, and we had to draw a tape line. If you stepped across, there was a fight. The last time we fought, I was 27. He was the quarterback for the Bears. He got up to 6-4, 230 pounds. I was 195, something like that. He takes us on vacation to Florida, we’re on the beach, and we get into this wrestling match. It’s getting a little aggressive and works its way over to the water. He gets a shot in; I get a shot in. I’m starting to think maybe I can hang with the big little brother. Next, he grabs me in a headlock, picks me up, and slams me into three feet of water. My head is on the sand underneath the water. Of course, he’s not going to drown me, but I’m thinking maybe he’s snapped. My dad’s trying to pull him off, but he’s too strong. I’m going to drown. Before I died, he pulled me up. He didn’t do mouth-to-mouth; that would have been against the rules. I then realized I’m never going to fight my brother again. He’s too big.

— John Harbaugh on his brother

The first-ever coaching matchup between two brothers in NFL history is a testament to their father, Jack, himself a former college head coach:

Their father gave them a gift; by making them and teaching them how to compete. If we can instill competition in our kids, that’s all we want. We want them to go out in the world and compete.

— NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk on the relationship between Jack Harbaugh and his sons, Jim and John

Baltimore is coming off a 31-24 victory over AFC North rival Cincinnati at home last Sunday:

NOTE OF THE WEEK: SMITH SOARS

  • Ravens rookie WR Torrey Smith leads the NFL with a 20.3 yardsper-catch average (29 receptions for 590 yards).
  • Impressively, 4 of Smith’s 5 TD receptions have covered at least 25 yards (74, 41, 38, 26 and 18 yards), and he’s averaging a sensational 39.4 yards per TD catch.
  • Smith now owns the Ravens’ single-season (590) and single-game (165 vs. Cin. last week) records for receiving yards by a rookie.
  • Never before has a Ravens’ wideout posted dual 150-yard receiving games in a season (165 vs. Cin. and 152 at STL).
  • Smith also owns the top two receiving yards performances by a rookie in the NFL this season.
  • Smith’s 590 receiving yards this season rank second in the NFL among all rookies (635, Cincy’sA.J. Green).
  • Last week, Smith joined Ken Burrow (2 in 1971) and Randy Moss (3 in 1998) as the only rookies in NFL history to have multiple games with at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.

WEEK 12 QUICK HITS:

  • The Ravens have won 15 of their last 16 games at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is 24-5 at home under head coach John Harbaugh, tied (New England) for the NFL’s most home wins since 2008 (as of games played by 11/20).
  • The Ravens aim for their eighth consecutive win at home and sixth this season (5-0 in 2011).
  • Baltimore’s seven-game winning streak at home currently ranks as the NFL’s second longest (Green Bay is first at 10 games).
  • Baltimore aims to reach 8-3 for just the second time in team history (2010 season).

STOUT VS. NFC: Dating back to the 2008 campaign, when head coach John Harbaugh took over in Baltimore, the Ravens have posted a 10-5 record (.667) vs. the NFC, good for the fourth-best mark among AFC teams against the “other conference” during that span.

AFC’s BEST RECORDS VS. THE NFC
(since 2008)
1t. New England Patriots 12-2 .857
1t. Tennessee Titans 12-2 .857
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-4 .714
4. Baltimore Ravens 10-5 .667

San Francisco is working on an eight-game win streak, and beat NFC West rival Arizona 23-7 last Sunday at home:

WINNING WAYS: With the win last week vs. Arz. (11/20), head coach Jim Harbaugh became just the 3rd rookie head coach in franchise history to start his career with a 9-1 record.

  • The 49ers have won eight consecutive games, making Coach Harbaugh’s eight-game winning streak the fourth longest by a rookie head coach since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Jim Caldwell’s Colts won 14 in a row in 2009. Steve Mariucci’s 49ers won 11 in a row in 1997. Ted Marchibroda’s Colts won nine in a row in 1975. Bobby Ross’Chargers won seven straight in 1992.
  • With a 9-1 record to start 2011, the 49ers are tied for the 4th-best start since the team joined the NFL in 1950, behind 1984 (15-1); 1990 (13-1); 1997 (11-1); 1989 (9-1).
  • Harbaugh became the first rookie head coach in franchise history to inherit a team with a losing record and lead them to a 9-1 start in his first season.

GOLDEN NUGGETS:
A HOT START

  • With a 9-1 record to start 2011, the 49ers are tied for the 4th-best start since the team joined the NFL in 1950, behind 1984 (15-1); 1990 (13-1); 1997 (11-1); 1989 (9-1).

ROAD WARRIORS

  • With a 4-0 record on the road, the Niners join the Green Bay Packers as the only two teams in the NFL to remain undefeated away from home.

THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE

  • The 49ers have outscored their opponents 256-145. The +111 scoring differential ranks 2nd in the NFL.

A SHORT FIELD

  • The 49ers have started 25 drives in their opponents territory, ranking 1st in the NFL, and have scored 81 points on those drives, ranking 3rd in the NFL.

YOU WANNA START SOMETHING?

  • The 49ers average starting field position is at their own 33.1-yard line, ranking 1st in the NFL.

LONG WAY TO GO

  • The 49ers rank 1st in the NFL with an opponents average starting field position of the 24.3.

BRINGING IT BACK

  • The 49ers rank t-1st in the NFL with 7 PRs of 20+ yds, while ranking 2nd in the NFL with a KOR avg. of 28.0 yds.

POINTS HARD TO COME BY

  • The 49ers have allowed just 145 points on the season, ranking 1st in the NFL for the fewest points allowed.

SHORT AND TOUGH

  • The 49ers have allowed just 16 first downs on 3rd and less than 4 yds. (15 of 33 – 48.5 pct.), ranking 2nd in the NFL.

EFFICIENCY ON D

  • The 49ers defense has allowed opponents to score on just 24.0 pct. of their possessions, ranking 1st in the NFL.

STICKY FINGERS

  • The 49ers have only committed 9 turnovers on the year, ranking t-1st in the NFL for fewest turnovers (Houston – 9).

PRODUCTIVE ON FIRST

  • The 49ers offense has gained 4+ yds. on 52.2 pct. (142 of 272) of their first down plays, ranking 4th in the NFL.

THE COMEBACK TRAIL: Four, 4th quarter come-from-behind-win epitomizes the never quit attitude the 49ers embody this season. One player in particular can parallel his career to the theme, QBAlex Smith. Smith is now tied with NYG QB Eli Manning for the most comeback wins by an NFL QB this season.

Smith became just the second quarterback in franchise history to record 3, 4th qtr. comebacks on the road (QB Joe Montanta - 4 in 1989 and 3 in 1990).

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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Two days later — With Ray Lewis out, a glimpse to the future wasn’t so bright

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Two days later — With Ray Lewis out, a glimpse to the future wasn’t so bright

Posted on 22 November 2011 by Drew Forrester

Someday — sooner than later, unfortunately — what you saw last Sunday vs. the Bengals will be more the norm than the exception.

And then maybe we’ll all completely appreciate the greatness of Ray Lewis.

Until then, though, we’ll just take moments like Sunday’s affair with the Bengals and appreciate the fact that we haven’t had to deal with many of those over the last 15 years.

But when it happens, when Ray is gone, things are going to be a lot different.

We saw that first-hand on Sunday in the 4th quarter when a rookie quarterback and a handful of not-so-common-names disguised as wide receivers gave the Ravens defense fits before finally falling short on the final series.

Would that have happened with Ray Lewis out on the field?

I doubt it.

Ray’s human — and throughout his career, there have been a few fourth quarter rallies at the expense of his defense, but they sure don’t come around much.  And I can’t imagine the Bengals would have buzzed around like “Air Coryell” in the 4th quarter if #52 would have been able to play on Sunday.

I’ve said this before, and even though it’s a simple statement, it rings true every Sunday when I watch Ray Lewis play football. We’ll never see anyone like him again.  At least not in my lifetime.  And the Ravens – as a team – will go through an eye-opening changing of the guard when Lewis isn’t around anymore.

You’ll see a lot more 31-24 Ravens games and a lot less 17-13 results.

Every player on the defense is better when Ray Lewis plays.  Even now, 15 years in, Lewis is still the man.  Every Wednesday when he meets with the media, Lewis always get in at least one or two “when I look at my defense” quotes…to remind everyone that it is, in fact, still HIS defense.  But something odd happens when Lewis says “my defense”.  He never emphasizes the word “my”, the way you might expect someone who is trying to remind everyone of his established role as the leader of the group.  The words “my defense” roll off his tongue with the same simplicity that you would say “where are my car keys?”

It’s still Ray’s defense.

And as we saw on Sunday afternoon, the longer it remains his defense, the better chance the Ravens have of winning.

Once he’s gone, those chances will diminish greatly.

So enjoy this while you can.

 

 

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