Tag Archive | "Cincinnati Bengals"

Rice was Nice but Torrey was the Story

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Rice was Nice but Torrey was the Story

Posted on 22 November 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

You could say that Torrey Smith had his coming out party in St. Louis in week 3, and if he were simply the field stretching, one-trick pony that many thought him to be, that would be the case. Likewise, you could say that Sunday’s win by the Ravens over the surprising Cincinnati Bengals was born out of a commitment to Ray Rice and the running game (and to some degree it was), but as the Ravens slugged out a hard fought victory against those Bengals no one was more impactful than the Ravens’ rookie wide receiver.

It wasn’t all positive, the impact of Smith, but mostly it was, and save a 2-yard TD drive that was set up by fellow rookie Jimmy Smith’s interception and subsequent fumble to the 2-yard line, Torrey Smith was integral in each of the Ravens scoring drives on Sunday, and had a far greater impact than even his gaudy stat line (165 yards and a TD) would suggest.

 

Either the Bengals did a good job of stifling Smith for the Ravens first 3 series, or the Ravens simply failed to involve him, but coincidentally or not, the Ravens came up empty on their first three possessions against the Bengals and Smith had no impact on any of those drives despite being on the field for 10 of the Ravens 12 plays in those series.

 

By the time the Ravens got the ball for their 4th possession of the game, they were trailing the Bengals 7-0 and feeling the ire of the capacity crowd at M&T Bank stadium. After picking up a first down to keep the drive alive through Ed Dickson, Joe Flacco found Anquan Boldin heading up the right seam for the Ravens first TD and a 7-7 tie.

 

On the TD play, Boldin started on the left side of the offensive formation with Smith on the right. As Smith went deep to the back right corner of the end zone, taking a defender with him, Boldin dragged across the zone and found a soft spot on the right hash mark. As Flacco broke the pocket to his right and appeared to look for Smith in the end zone, the safety in the middle of the field bolted toward the corner, even the 2 defenders nearest to Boldin appeared to lean toward Smith (as if they could do anything about a potential throw from Flacco at that point) giving Boldin all of the space he’d need to dart straight toward the end zone, veering ever so slightly to the left and away from the crowd headed toward Smith in the back right corner.

 

On the next Ravens offensive series, their 5th of the game, the Ravens began their drive with Smith dragging right to left and catching a 13-yard 1st down on their first play. It was a nice throw by Flacco to put it where only Smith could get it, and a nice pick up by Smith on a ball low and away. On the next play, Flacco found Smith on their “bread and butter”, a deep shot down the right sideline with Smith catching and going out of bounds at the 4-yard line and setting up a Ray Rice dive for the Ravens second TD and a 14-7 lead.

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Ravens hold off Dalton and Bengals, 31-24

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Ravens hold off Dalton and Bengals, 31-24

Posted on 20 November 2011 by Drew Forrester

For one week anyway, the armchair quarterbacks will be silenced.

Make that four days.

The Ravens hung on to beat the Bengals on Sunday, 31-24, setting up a huge Thanksgiving Day showdown with the San Francisco 49′ers and temporarily silencing the masses in Baltimore who spent most of last week hammering the Ravens offense after a lackluster performance in Seattle seven days ago.

A 31-point offensive output and a decent day for Joe Flacco (17/27, 2 TD’s) should be enough to shut everyone up until Thursday.

But maybe not.

The Bengals certainly made it interesting, and if not for a horrifyingly bad video review from referee Ron Winter in the 4th quarter, Baltimore could have found itself on the wrong end of a huge late-game meltdown.  Instead, the visitors faced a situation on their final drive that mandated a touchdown.  Cincinnati used a long throw to Jerome Simpson with one minute left to get the ball down to the Baltimore seven yard line, but the Ravens defense stiffened and held off Andy Dalton in the game’s final seconds.

Make no mistake about it, this was a huge win for the Ravens, as it moves them to 7-3 and in first place in the AFC North, owning the tiebreaker over idle Pittsburgh (7-3).

But it took everything the Ravens had on both sides of the ball to hold off the pesky Bengals, as Baltimore built a 31-14 lead in the final period before Cincinnati started to rally.

The outcome was even more critical for the Ravens because it came without Ray Lewis on the field.  The future Hall-of-Famer missed his first game since December 30, 2007 with a toe injury and is expected to miss Thursday’s home outing with the 49′ers as well.

The game featured a healthy dose of running back Ray Rice, who was able to make an impact both on the ground and in the air, running for 104 yards on 20 carries with two TD’s and adding 43 receiving yards.  A week ago, of course, Rice only touched the ball 13 times in the stunning loss at Seattle, causing an uproar with the fanbase throughout the week as everyone demanded more Ray Rice and less Cam Cameron.

Torrey Smith also had a huge day for the Ravens, outracing a beleaguered Bengals secondary and hauling in 6 catches for 165 yards and a 4th quarter touchdown.

Without Leon Hall, the Cincinnati secondary was vulnerable from the start, and the Ravens used an effective mix of run and throw to keep the Bengals guessing just enough to open up the passing lanes for Flacco and Company.

The Bengals are a pretty good team.  In year’s past, they’ve come into Baltimore as a shell of what they showed today and got blown out of the gym.  Sunday, the Ravens got their first glimpse of rookie QB Andy Dalton and he was decent enough to raise a few eyebrows, despite throwing three interceptions, including one late in the first half that halted what might have been an important scoring drive as the second quarter came to a close.  Playing without much-heralded rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals offense still looked dangerous enough to cause some concern in the 4th quarter as Dalton scrambled for first downs and hooked up with Jerome Simpson on a huge pass play in the final minute that had the purple faithful chewing their nails.

It might have gone down to the wire, but it still counts as a win for the Ravens, who are now a perfect 3-0 in the AFC North and hold the edge over Pittsburgh by virtue of the season-series tiebreaker.

The Ravens won’t have much time to enjoy this one, but at least the next three days or so won’t include the routine bashing of Cameron and Flacco by the local barstool coaches.

It’s hard to argue with a victory.

Especially one against a division rival that gave you all you could handle.

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Bengals Play-by-Play voice Dan Hoard surprised by hot start

Posted on 18 November 2011 by WNST Staff

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Westwood One’s Kevin Kugler says Ravens and Bengals have hands full with injuries

Posted on 18 November 2011 by WNST Staff

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Ravens TE Ed Dickson attributes “playing catch-up” for lack of offensive balance

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Ravens TE Ed Dickson attributes “playing catch-up” for lack of offensive balance

Posted on 16 November 2011 by Ryan Chell

It’s been a long season, but Ravens tight end Ed Dickson finally had his breakout game of the year Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

“It was just Joe finding me,” Dickson told Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Tuesday. “I ran some hard, clean routes and Joe did a good job of finding me.”

Dickson was Baltimore’s leading receiver with 10 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns-his second and third scores of the year.

It was the first time Dickson had reached the end zone since the Ravens Week 1 win over the Steelers.

Ironically though, his first score  came not from his quarterback in Joe Flacco, but from running back Ray Rice on a halfback pass in Sunday’s 22-17 loss.

Dickson said that they’ve been working on that play for weeks, and that bringing it out of the playbook was necessary in an effort to get back in the game with the team on the ropes against Seattle.

“We’ve been working on that since the beginning of the season,” Dickson told Clark. “It’s always been up in the playbook, but it was a prime time to call that play because we kind of have a run tendency once we get down that close.”

He and Rice joked back about the play.

“Some of the balls he throws…I’m like, ‘Jesus, just throw it up there.’ He’s a running back, not a quarterback so I told him that it might be wide open and just to get it there.”

That was a creative play out of Cam Cameron’s playbook, and despite some criticism of the play-calling this week, Dickson felt like he, Flacco, and the rest of the offense are at a good pace right now.

“We’re very comfortable,” Dickson said. “I think that is our strong point right now. We can do the “two-minute” anytime whenever they’re ready to call it. We run that to perfection.”

But at the same time, he understands why Ray Rice cannot be “forgotten about” in their offense.

“He’s one of our best players,” Dickson said. “However, we give Ray Rice the ball, you have to get Ray Rice the ball. You have to feed the beast.”

But to quell the “Fire Cam Cameron talk”, Dickson said it was the turnovers, missed field goals, and lack of execution that made Ray Rice non-existent-not Cameron blacking out the run plays on his play-sheet.

“The game got kind of weird because we didn’t expect to fumble two kickoff returns,” said Dickson. “It kind of put us in a bad spot, and we were playing catch-up the whole game.”

Dickson gave the Seahawks all the credit in the world for hitting the target on their backs, but now it’s their job to avoid their AFC North foes in the Cincinnati Bengals doing the same.

“Everybody wants to beat us,” Dickson said, “and that’s something we have to realize this week. Every team is going to be gunning for us, and we’ve got to give our best every week.”

And in a critical three-team race in the AFC North, they know the importance of bringing their “A” game Sunday versus the Bengals.

“Even if Coach Harbaugh doesn’t say anything this week-not even two words-we already know the magnitude of this game, and where it puts us. We’re coming off a loss, so expect a pretty scrappy Ravens team to be ready for this game.”

Dickson basically guaranteed that next Tuesday when he joins Glenn again, the mood in Ravens Nation will be the same as it was two weeks ago against the Steelers, and that Sunday was just a bump in the road.

“We want to get back to the basics,” Dickson said, “and do the things that we do well. We get to come home and play for our home fans and be very physical against this team. We want to be the Ravens team that we showed you guys when we beat up on the Steelers…and flat out win the game.”

WNST thanks Ed Dickson for joining Glenn this week on “The Reality Check” this week! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

 

 

 

 

 

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A Little Purple Kool-Aid to Wash Down Your Disappointment

Posted on 14 November 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Clearly the Ravens have a myriad of issues still to work on as the season progresses if they hope to get to and ultimately win a Super Bowl. Clearly what we saw on the field against Seattle on Sunday was a far cry from elite football, and the Ravens will have to do much better. What’s not so clear at present, in the aftermath of another disappointing loss, but worth mentioning as well is that things aren’t nearly as bad as they looked on Sunday for these Ravens and that there’s plenty of time to iron out the negatives. Since the criticism of the Ravens will be plentiful and easy to come by this week, I offer instead 7 sips of the proverbial Purple Kool-Aid. It’s by no means an attempt to minimize the negative, just a reminder that there’s plenty still to be positive about.

Sip #1 – It’s Good (and hard) to Stay Humble – The NFL is a week-by-week proposition and while it’s generally necessary to play well throughout the season simply to get into the playoffs, it’s never great to be playing at your best in November. Those efforts, while encouraging at any time, are best saved for the playoffs. While adages like “taking them one at a time” and “any given Sunday” are espoused regularly in the NFL, the Ravens have lived it this season and sooner or later are bound to learn their lesson over it. It’s unlikely that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are sitting up nights in bed worrying about needing to get better, but they’ll have to (as impossible as that seems) if they hope to keep winning. This season has given these Ravens plenty of fodder for sleepless nights and hunger to improve.

Sip #2 – They’re Still a Work in Progress – Chemistry in football, and in particular between a quarterback and his receivers can take years to build. In order to win this season, the Ravens will have to do it on the fly. While words like crutch tend to paint a negative picture of what guys like Derrick Mason and Todd Heap meant to Flacco in the offense, gone now are the guys whom Flacco had a seemingly inherent understanding of where they’d be when things broke down. What’s left is a younger and more athletic group, but one full of either first or second year players in the offense with whom Flacco is still trying to assimilate. The addition of Lee Evans (if indeed it’s coming), with whom Flacco seemed to have a good sense of timing in the pre-season could mean exponential improvement in the receiving corps. His absence has provided opportunities for guys like Torrey Smith and LaQuann Williams to develop more quickly. While it’s tough to fathom from the stats sometimes, they’re getting better and more in sync every week.

Sip #3 – They Still Have 4 Home Games Left – If you’re buying the trend, the Ravens struggle on the road, and against bad teams. Four games left at home should provide them enough wins to earn passage to the playoffs. Their three remaining road games are against Cincinnati, Cleveland and San Diego. At least two of the three are tough to call bad, so the Ravens have that working for them too. They’ll have to avoid those road woes if they hope to get playoff games at home though. Hopefully they come out of Sunday’s loss with a better understanding of how important a divisional title and home games in the playoffs are.

Sip #4 – There Are No Bad Teams in the Playoffs – Maybe whoever gets in from the AFC West would qualify as bad, and as a wildcard, traveling there could be the Ravens worst nightmare. Generally though, it’s tough to take playoff games lightly or to underestimate post-season opponents. Once they get there the Ravens should have that working in their favor.

Sip #5 – Maybe they’re Keeping Ray Rice Fresh – Begrudge the number of touches he gets (or fails to get) if you like, but Ray Rice has taken a ton of wear and tear in his three plus, playoff extended NFL campaigns, and he’s not exactly your prototypical “between the tackles” type of runner. The Ravens of the last 2 seasons have been far too Rice-dependant. Not only does it put all of their eggs in one proverbial basket, but it also prevents the Ravens other offensive options from developing. If the Ravens need Rice to get 20+ touches to insure a win, they’d better be careful to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Doing so while also exploring other ways to generate offense could prove prudent in the long run while frustrating in a game like Sunday’s.

Sip #6 – Iron Sharpens Iron – And the NFL is full of iron. Say what you want about the also-rans that have upended the Ravens this season, but there’s no doubt they have talent. Pool all of the best talent from LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State (the nation’s 3 best college teams) this year and practice them together for a year, they’d still be no match for the winless Indianapolis Colts much less the Titans, Jags and/or Seahawks. Still those teams shouldn’t have been in their games with the Ravens. From here on out, the Ravens have been identified. They can play with anyone, and usually will. Teams with little else to play for will now be sure to give the Ravens their best shot. They’ll prepare and play like they expect to win and it’ll be up to the Ravens to remind them that they can’t. If the Ravens allow teams to continually hang around in games, they’ll continue to pay the price for it. Sooner or later they’ll learn from it.

Sip #7 – They Still Control Their Own Destiny – If the season ended today, the Ravens would be the 5th seed and a wildcard in the playoffs. Fortunately the season doesn’t end today and a simple win next week against Cincinnati would put the Ravens back in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the AFC. Climbing back into a tie with the Steelers and Texans over whom the Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreakers, and with New England if they win too by way of common opponents (one the Ravens would maintain as long as they beat the Colts). The Bengals are banged up, losing Leon Hall for the season and possibly AJ Green for a period of time too, and are ripe to be sent back to Earth; and there’s little chance the Ravens will be able to overlook them. Stop me though if you’ve heard that one before.

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 7: 2-3 (-130 pts)    season: 13-12 (-20 pts) 

 

Saints -14 @ Rams 

 

Lions -3 @ Broncos

 

Steelers +3 vs. Patriots

 

Browns +9 @ 49ers

 

Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 7: 2-2-1 (-10 pts)    season: 10-12-1 (-160 pts)

 

Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings

 

Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants

 

Bills -6 vs. Redskins

 

Bengals -3 @ Seahawks

 

Cowboys +3.5  @ Eagles

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 7: 1-2(-24 pts)    season 9-10-2 (-40 pts)

 

Titans -9 vs. Colts

 

Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans

 

Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals

  

Last week Total: 5-7-1  (-164 pts)     Season Total: 32-34-3 (-220 pts)

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Having had just over 24 hours to digest (and regurgitate) the Ravens loss to the Jaguars, here are my 7 points to ponder from the Ravens disappointing performance on Monday night in Jacksonville, a veritable touchdown of takeaways in honor of the Ravens lone TD in the game.

 

 

Point #1 – This might be the best defensive performance we’ve seen from these Ravens in a long time.

 

Unlike their turnover driven performances against Pittsburgh and the Jets, this was smash mouth, “punch you in the face” defense. The 12 points that the Jags scored in the game were tough to come by. Ray Rice’s 1st quarter fumble set the Jags up for a 51-yard field goal if they had simply kicked it immediately on 1st down, in hindsight not a bad idea. Instead the Jags, pulling out all the stops, drove to the 1-yard line and converted on a 4th and 2 in the process before Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled the ball back to the Ravens. The ensuing possession had Sam Koch punting from his own end zone. Again, if the Jags had kicked immediately on first down, the field goal attempt would have been 51-yards from the spot where the drive started. Three negative yards, a timeout and a tough decision later, Jack Del Rio and the Jags were kicking from 54-yards and taking a 3-0 lead.

 

The second field goal for Josh Scobee and company, another ambitious 54-yarder, came only after a Paul Kruger running into the kicker call negated a Jags punt and improved their field position as a result.

 

The Jags 3rd field goal was the result of their most impressive drive in the game, a drive 16 plays in duration and one that arguably should have ended at 5 plays with a punt if not for a terrible unnecessary roughness penalty on Bernard Pollard. Another stop for the Ravens at the 7-yard line was nullified by a Brendon Ayanbadejo penalty and ejection. The 3 points they yielded on that series was ultimately a relief despite it putting the margin at 2 scores, the 8 minutes and 30 seconds they spent getting there might have been an even bigger win for the Jags.

 

And of course the 4th filed goal came after the decision to try and onsides kick at 2:02 of the 4th quarter and was the result of a 4-yard drive.

 

At the end of the day it was a shutout caliber performance by the defense, spoiled by circumstance and bad luck.

 

 

Point #2 – The Ravens were in the shotgun way too much.

 

The Ravens officially ran 38 passing plays and just 12 running plays against the Jags. In the aftermath of the defeat, those numbers have been heavily criticized and deservedly so. In a game as close as that one was, that type of imbalance is all but inexcusable for a team of the Ravens offensive identity. That said, that’s life in the modern NFL, and had the Ravens won, no one would have batted an eye.

 

That Ray Rice only had 8 “touches” has been a bit overstated though as he also had 5 catches on 8 targets in the passing game. Furthermore down and distance have a lot to do with making running opportunities available and the fact that the Ravens offense only ran 25 plays in total in Monday’s first half, 8 of which were 3rd downs explains the imbalance somewhat.

 

What’s tough to explain from where I sit is why the Ravens felt compelled to tip their hands out of the running game as readily as they did on Monday.

 

By my unofficial count, the Ravens lined up 46 times on Monday either in the shotgun formation or with Flacco under center and intending to pass (this includes sacks and penalties). Of those 46 plays, 14 snaps under center were passes leaving 32 snaps from the shotgun.

 

On each of those shotgun snaps the Ravens seemed to go to silent counts with no cadence from Flacco at all. Instead, Marshal Yanda would watch for Flacco’s foot pump and then tap Matt Birk on the leg. Once Birk felt the tap, he’d rock back and snap in a predictable rhythm. I say predictable, but in fairness it appears the Jags got caught jumping offsides at least twice while trying to anticipate the snap. That said, that means there were 30 other plays where they conceivably timed it correctly. Surely this had something to do with the effectiveness the Jags were having with simple 4 and 5-man rushes.

 

That Jacksonville generates enough crowd noise to dictate the Ravens using a silent count in the shotgun is strange (especially after watching Matt Ryan direct the no huddle in Detroit last week). That Flacco is looking less and less like a quarterback during these scenarios is debatable in its impact perhaps, that the Ravens are essentially declaring that Ray Rice running the ball (a staple of the Ravens attack) is not an option and giving the defense a timing mechanism with which to start their jump at the line is absolutely baffling.

 

That Flacco looked so out of sorts when trying to direct a hurried offense when the Ravens needed him to may speak to the limited control he’s given of his offense pre-snap throughout the game.

 

 

Point #3 – Home field advantage may be more important than ever this year.

 

The Ravens have played 3 road games against 3 very bad teams and have looked good for exactly one quarter of one game. They’ve lost 2 road games to teams that had no business playing with them on paper, and while we all know that’s why they play the games, it’s un-Raven-like to say the least.

 

Your glass could easily be half empty or half full regarding the Ravens road successes and failures in the playoffs in the last 3 years and concerning the path that led them there and the missed opportunities to have games at home. If the Ravens are going to have a real shot this season in the playoffs, getting there will only be half the battle. These Ravens thrive on home cooking it seems.

 

 

Point #4 – This is not the same old offense.

 

It may be the same old result, but it’s not the same old offense. Don’t let your lingering frustration from the previous regime cloud your point of view. This isn’t even the same offense they had last year. Much less the Billick offense or the unbalanced run heavy (literally) attack of 2008. Call them crutches, call them security blankets, call them whatever you want, but Flacco knew where Mason and Heap were going to be all of the time it seemed. This new group…not so much.

 

The offensive line was an ambitious experiment to begin with putting 3 of 5 opening week starters in positions that they hadn’t even played in the pre-season together spoke to the possibility of tough sledding. The number of plug-ins necessitated by injuries on the line already only serves to perpetuate that problem. That the offensive line is struggling shouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe the bigger surprise should be how good they have looked at times. Either way they project to get better as time allows them to continue to evolve.

 

Anquan Boldin and two second year tight ends are the long tenured members of the receiving corps already, rookie LaQuan Williams seems to be playing more wide receiver as a rookie for the Ravens than he ever did as a collegiate for the Terps and Lee Evans has been a non-factor.

 

It stands to reason that this offense would struggle and will again, check back on them around week 13 or so, once the weather has changed, to see how well primed they are for the playoffs.

 

 

Point #5 – There’s lots of finger pointing going around.

 

Harbaugh pointing at Cundiff, Suggs pointing at Cam, the fans and the media joining Suggs in pointing at Cam and at Flacco too, everybody it seems blames somebody, and everybody just might be right. For a 4-2 team though this has to be at least a little bit unnerving.

 

This was a lot funnier when it was coming from the Jets locker room a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

Point #6 – You can’t blame apathy again.

 

When the Ravens lost to Tennessee apathy could have been to blame. Whether it was actually the case or not, it was easy for everyone to simply dismiss the loss as the Ravens were riding too high after a win against Pittsburgh or that the Ravens simply didn’t come to play. On the surface you might be tempted to say the same about Jacksonville, but it simply can’t be true.

 

As pointed out in Point #1, the Ravens defense did come to play. It was the defense that should have and could have been riding high and resting on their laurels, but they didn’t. It was the offense that failed to perform on Monday. The offense has been feeling the proverbial heat of criticism for weeks, and while folks were surely taking the Jags as a whole lightly, no one was discounting their defense. The Jags needed a big performance to have any chance against the Ravens on Monday; everyone knew that, including the Ravens.

 

Apathy may never be a legitimate excuse, here it absolutely wasn’t.

 

 

Point #7 – There are deep waters in the AFC North.

 

The sting of Monday’s loss was surely agitated by the fact that it represented a loss of first place in the division (at least mathematically) to the 5-2 Steelers. It also puts the Ravens in a tie with the surprisingly 4-2 Bengals and just a game ahead of the 3-3 Browns. This isn’t your dad’s AFC North it seems, and the 5 games the Ravens have left in the division are looking scarier by the minute.

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T.J. Houshmandzadeh on time in Baltimore: “If the Ravens want me back, I would stay”

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T.J. Houshmandzadeh on time in Baltimore: “If the Ravens want me back, I would stay”

Posted on 28 July 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens may have had to cut ties this week with veteran receiver Derrick Mason and saw the likes of receiver Donte Stallworth take his services to the Washington Redskins, but there is one receiver who is leaving Baltimore behind who not a lot of people are talking about.

And that may be the strangest part of it all. It’s because this receiver in the past has been a guy to usually get the trash-talk started.

That of course is free agent wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh, who by the way of a coaching change in Seattle last summer, found his way to Baltimore and was projected to be the third leg of a superb receiving corps joining the likes of Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Donte Stallworth and others.

Unfortunately, Houshmandzadeh-a catching machine for his first eight seasons in the league with Cincinnati-struggled to get himself in the mix in an offense that lacked identity at times last season, and it turned out there weren’t enough balls to go around for the many playmakers and egos in the Ravens passing game.

But Houshmandzadeh-despite his frustration at his role-was very mature about what happened and he voiced that same expression on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” with Thyrl Nelson Monday.

He was actually more displeased with the Ravens losing in the playoffs than his performance on the field.

“It wasn’t my use,” Houshmandzadeh told Nelson. “It was how the season went. My experience was great, except for not catching that last ball.”

Houshmandzadeh said he doesn’t blame the quarterback, Joe Flacco,  coach John Harbaugh, OC Cam Cameron, or anyone else on the team. He admitted that wearing out his welcome in Seattle and coming into the mix in September was all on him.

“Getting here five days before the start of the season, I was behind everyone else,” Houshmandzadeh said. “We were getting ready to play the Jets, and I only had a few days to learn the plans, and for the coaches to put me in.”

Houshmandzadeh played in all 16 games last year, but as the third wide receiver behind Boldin and Mason-and being a similar receiver to those two, he didn’t get a lot of chances to make plays.

His 30 catches were the lowest total since his rookie year in 2002, and after 2004 with the Cincinnati Bengals, he saw no less than 73 balls come into his possession until suiting up in purple.

TJ Houshmandzadeh

The highlight of his season came in Week 4 against the Steelers in Heinz Field, where he caught the game-winning touchdown from Flacco with just 32 seconds on the clock to put down Pittsburgh, 17-14.

It was that play in particular, and several others, that had Houshmandzadeh putting Flacco in the elite quarterbacks of the NFL, and he would know having caught passes from a Heisman Trophy winner and former top overall pick in Carson Palmer for years.

“The Ravens have the right guy in place,” Houshmandzadeh said. “It’s funny when people pick on him, because he’s cool. Joe was always the last guy to leave the facility. He puts the work in, and he’s only going to get better.”

Houshmandzadeh saw firsthand how much criticism the reserved Flacco took last season for the team’s struggles and for not being a vocal leader, and he said none of that was warranted to say the least.

“The criticism was unfair. Joe’s leadership was never in question,” the receiver said. “His style might be different, but the media didn’t understand.”

And further defending his quarterback-even if he is catching passes from another one this season-he says that the comparisons of Flacco to other elite quarterbacks in the NFL aren’t fair either because of the unique systems each signal-caller has at their disposal.

“Everybody’s offense is different,” T.J said. “Joe worked with what was given to him. It’s unfair to compare him to others’ offenses. We did a lot of different things here in Baltimore.”

And for Houshmandzadeh, it could all be different again for him in the next few weeks should a team other the Ravens give him a buzz. Given the Ravens full depth chart at receiver and Houshmandzadeh’s veteran asking price, he probably won’t be parking at 1 Winning Drive for this year’s training camp.

And he knows that.

“I would love to come back,” he said, “but they have a lot of guys there though.”

But, Houshmandzadeh has learned, especially after his time in Cincinnati and Seattle, to never burn your bridges because there’s always a chance to a return visit.

Maybe even one from Baltimore, per chance?

“I loved Baltimore. My time there was great…if the Ravens want me back, I would stay. All a team has to tell me is that they want to sign me.”

And whoever calls upon his services, he wants them to know that he’s all-in.

“Whenever the call is made, I’m ready to go,” Houshmandzadeh said. “My body feels great. I’m looking forward to what this year holds.”

WNST thanks T.J. Houshmandzadeh for joining @WNST and being a part of a great Ravens team in 2010! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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50 words or less …. celebrating Cinco De Mayo with Peter King

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50 words or less …. celebrating Cinco De Mayo with Peter King

Posted on 05 May 2011 by Rex Snider

Well, it’s Thursday …. but not just another Thursday. Today is Cinco De Mayo !!!! And for those of us who look for a quick, convenient excuse to celebrate a sunset with some cocktails, it’s a GRAND EVENT.

The birds will be looking to win the series, in Kansas City, before heading home to entertain the Tampa Bay Rays for the weekend. Can they win 3 straight series? I like the chances …..
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Stealth Starter
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While he’s taking a back seat to the hype and dominance of Zach Britton, Orioles starter Jake Arrieta has been building a pretty formidable early season resume’, as well. With exception to his April 9th start against Texas, Arrieta has not surrendered more than 3 earned runs in any contest.

The loss against the Rangers is starting to resemble a real aberration, as Arrieta has been quite consistent over the first six weeks of the season. And, the reduced overall ERA in each successive appearance is a GREAT sign.
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38 Years Ago …..
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Rewind your clock to May 5, 1973 …. it will be remembered as the day a horse named SECRETARIAT took Churchill Downs by storm. In capturing the 99th running of the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat set a new record of 1:59, which still stands today.

The amazing feat? He ran faster in each successive quarter-mile of the race. The greatest ever? No doubt about it …..
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A Great Guest
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On today’s edition of the AFTERNOON DRIVE, we will be chatting with Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Peter is always at the forefront of NFL scoop and breaking information.

I follow him on Twitter (SI_PeterKing) for multiple updates, daily, on football. Peter will join us at 2:30pm – if you have a question for him, just email me (rex@wnst.net)

Also on today’s show, we will chat with experts covering the Steelers, Bengals and Browns, to see how the competition fared in last week’s draft.
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End Of The Line ???
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Many of us recall the Detroit Tigers amazing turnaround and World Series appearance during the 2006 season, right? One of the key figures to that team was the 21 year old fireballing reliever, Joel Zumaya.

To say he was “LIGHTS OUT” was an understatement, as Zumaya compiled a 1.94 ERA and 97 strikeouts in just 83 innings pitched. However, he has fought injuries in each season following that rookie debut.

And, he has been shut down again – for the remainder of 2011. At 26, Zumaya is at a crossroads and may very well be done. This certainly serves as a sad testament to the fragile nature of a pitcher’s career.
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The Fallout (BONUS 100+ words)
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When I wrote yesterday’s critical blog regarding Rashard Mendenhall’s tweets on the death of Osama bin Laden, I had a hunch his ramblings might cause some residual news. And, indeed it has …..

Mendenhall’s teammate, Ryan Clark, did an interview and attempted to defend his friend. Clark panned “social media is destroying the world”, as a means of trying to minimize the forthcoming damage. Yes …. Clark also tweeted these very feelings.

Did it help? Uh …. NO.

For his part, Rashard Mendenhall also made an effort to clarify his stance. But, the damage might already be done. Champion Athletics, Mendenhall’s only corporate sponsor is already distancing itself, as they issued the following statement:

“Our focus today is making sure that we communicate that Rashard Mendenhall’s personal opinions were not made on our behalf and do not reflect our view.,”

While Champion’s spokesman, Matt Hall, said it’s “premature” to discuss the future with Mendenhall, this incident will likely serve as an example of how mere words can be costly. Stay tuned …..
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Cerveza, Cerveza, Cerveza
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Today is May 5th, which means we’re celebrating Cinco De Mayo. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking …. it’s Mexico’s Independence Day !!!!

Wrong …..

Here’s the definition of the Cinco De Mayo celebration, according to Wikipedia:

Cinco De Mayo is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride …. the date is perhaps best recognized in the United States as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican ancestry, much as St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest.

Well, that’s good enough for me …. I’ll have an ice cold Corona !!!!

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