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A Baltimore guy hoping Cleveland football fans taste success?  Really?

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A Baltimore guy hoping Cleveland football fans taste success? Really?

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

“How many of us have conflicts with someone else- and how many of us pray for that person? We have individuals with whom we are competitive, or whom we dislike or have a quarrel with; but very few of us have true enemies in the martial sense. And yet if Lincoln could pray fervently- and contemporary reports indicate he did- for the people who were opposing him, how much more can we do for someone we just find a little irritating?” — John Wooden

As 2013 merges into 2014, I look at that quote from the great UCLA basketball coach and I wonder, “Is there someone I consider a rival or an enemy, even, that I believe deserves prayer and good fortune?”

Yes, there is.

I don’t consider football fans in Cleveland to be my “enemy”, per-se.  They’re much more of a rival, really, in the traditional sense of city-to-city support for our respective sports teams.  That said, because of the situation involving the transfer of the Browns to Baltimore in 1996, we’ve probably considered ourselves enemies if for no other reason than we stole their football team and then clenched our fists when those in Cleveland took us to task for it.

After all, in Baltimore, we’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to having a team swiped from us.  Our cries and outrage?  Laughed at by those folks in Indianapolis who were just glad to have a team.

The firing of Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland and the press conference yesterday — where the owner of the team looked outrageously out-of-touch with reality — got me to thinking about the football fans in Northeast Ohio.

I realized, with sadness, that football fans in Cleveland are just like baseball fans here in Baltimore.

Saddled with a poor philosophy that seems almost magnetized to losing, the folks who cheer for the Browns haven’t tasted a Super Bowl win (or, trip, even) since — well…since forever.

Our baseball team hasn’t been to a World Series since 1983.

Cleveland football fans haven’t seen their team play in the biggest football game in the world — EVER.

The baseball organization in Baltimore, save three years since 1993, hasn’t been competitive for nearly 20 seasons now.  Along the way, they’ve embarrassed us, poked at us, infuriated us and, most agonizing of all, used our resources to pad their pockets and make us suffer through year after year of bad baseball.

But if you think we’ve had it bad in Baltimore – baseball wise – it pales in comparison to what they’ve experienced in Cleveland since 1996.

The football fans there lost their team.  It wasn’t because they did something wrong.  Like us, in Baltimore, they woke up one morning and the newscast said “Browns leaving Cleveland”.  And that was it.

Three years later, football started again in Cleveland.

They had a sprinkling of success early in the last decade, but for the most part, it’s been nothing but embarrassment in Cleveland as it relates to the Browns.

Yesterday, of course, they fired their head coach after giving him one season in charge.

He joins the long list of coaches they’ve had in Cleveland over the last decade.

In Baltimore, since 1996, there have been THREE head coaches, period.  Marchibroda, Billick and Harbaugh.

In Cleveland, since 1999, they’ve had Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Terry Robiskie, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmer and yesterday’s departed, Rob Chudzinski.

The people in Cleveland deserve better from the football organization.

Just like the people in Baltimore deserve better as it relates to the baseball franchise we’ve supported since the late 1950′s.

If you’re a man or woman of faith and you believe in the power of prayer, it would be kind of cool for you to throw one or two the way of the football fans in Cleveland as 2014 begins and another season of losing football starts to disappear in the rear view mirror of 2013.

I’m going to do it, for sure.

I don’t necessarily want the Browns to be better than the Ravens, but that, in and of itself, is completely out of my control.

Instead, I’ll just privately hope those football fans in Cleveland get to experience some of the joy we’ve experienced in Baltimore with our football franchise.

And, of course, I’ll continue to hope that someday soon, our baseball organization in Baltimore rivals the football franchise in terms of class, integrity and on-field success.

Above all, though, in 2014, I truly hope the people of Cleveland get some sort of reward for their years of support for a franchise that, frankly, probably doesn’t even deserve it.

If John Wooden says it’s OK, it must be.

 

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Flacco will get the blame, but only if you don’t actually watch the games…

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Flacco will get the blame, but only if you don’t actually watch the games…

Posted on 04 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

The Ravens are 3-5 now after a loss to the NFL’s equivalent of Charlie Brown and, per the usual standards of everyone, it’s time to find a scapegoat.

It’s ALWAYS someone, of course.

I have a feeling this week it’s gonna be Joe Flacco.

I heard a couple of national talking heads blabbering as I was driving in on Monday morning, and they’re already on the “ever since they paid Flacco, he’s stunk” theory.  It’s quite obvious those two goofs do the show from another planet or they simply haven’t watched the Ravens play this season.

Yet, in fairness, there will be people in Baltimore this week who will blame Flacco for the club’s 2013 woes and they actually DO watch the games.

Losing to Cleveland stinks.  No doubt about that.  I called Sunday’s loss in Cleveland “the worst of the Harbaugh-Flacco era”.  I can recall a few games along the way where they’ve played as poorly — road losses in Jacksonville, Seattle and Buffalo, this season, among them — but none of those came after a bye-week, none of those came against a division team you had owned for five years and none of those featured the completely inept performance of the Baltimore running game.

Look, there’s nothing wrong, really, with having “the worst loss…” or anything like that.  Bad games happen.  The other team tries, too, as I always remind all of you.  If you coach for five years or quarterback for five years, you’re bound to have a game that goes immediately to your “worst ever” list.

Sunday, though, was much more than just about Flacco, who clearly had another listless first half before kicking it into gear for a decent final 30 minutes.

It was about Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce not doing anything. Vonta Leach didn’t do anything, either, but he didn’t really play at all because they don’t have  a role for him for some odd reason.

It was about Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher both looking like they thought the game started at 8:25 instead of 4:25.

It was about Tandon Doss coughing up a punt at the absolute worst possible time, with the team trailing only 14-10 and looking like they were going to pull out one of those “a win is a win” kind of victories. As far as individual plays in the game go, that was the biggest one of the game.

It was about the Ravens defense — for the third straight loss now — not being able to get the other team’s offense off the field, regardless of whether it’s 3rd and 4, 4th and 1 or 3rd and 10.  Jason Campbell made a helluva play, granted, on that 4th-and-one throw that effectively sealed the game, but that’s been the Ravens’ defensive M.O. nearly all season.  They’re just not good enough.  They’re not horrible.  But they’re just as much of a liability “under the gun” as the team’s running attack on the offensive side of the ball.

And, lastly, it’s about a team that won the Super Bowl a year ago and the very-much expected “market correction” that comes along with it, no matter what the Head Coach said back in August and anyone else assumed over the last eight weeks.

The margin for error is now slimmer-than-slim for the Ravens, who likely have to go 6-2 at a minimum to qualify for the playoffs.  I can’t see that happening based on the first eight games of the campaign, but stranger things have happened — like the Jets losing by 40 points in Cincinnati one week and beating New Orleans the following Sunday.

Based on what I’ve seen, I’d call a 6-2 run from the club virtually impossible.

They don’t do anything well.

They do a bunch of stuff “OK”, but nothing stands out at all.

They’re just not that good.

Their record proves that.

 

Tomorrow: I’ll share some thoughts on John Harbaugh and his role in this 2013 team.

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fox sports

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Browns Taylor Presents BIG Issue for Ravens

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Brett Dickinson

As the Ravens are set to head to the “Dawg Pound,” major concerns should be set against a stout Browns defense.  Cleveland not only has bevy of pass-rushers at their disposal, but a lock down corner in Joe Haden, an enforcer on the back end, in Safety, T.J. Ward and a solid team leader in Linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson.  The Ravens had trouble moving the ball in the first matchup, during Week 2, in Baltimore; it is safe to expect more issues come 4:30 today.

A lot of notoriety will be placed on the likes of All-Pro, Haden and former Ravens pass-rush specialist, Paul Kruger, but the biggest (literally and figuratively) concern for a struggling Baltimore attack should be massive Nose Tackle, Phil Taylor. Coming in at a ‘listed’ 6’ 3”, 335 lbs. (which may be selling his waist line a little short); he is a load for any offensive lineman to handle.  Facing Baltimore though, Taylor might eat up the middle of their protection.

With Kelechi Osemele officially going on the injured reserve list, with chronic back issues, the Ravens are force to play undersized A.Q. Shipley (a smaller center by trade) at the Left Guard spot, next to undersized, and mostly overwhelmed, Center, Gino Gradkowski. Though Taylor only has two sacks on the season, he could make a major impact in adding pressure from the middle of the trenches, pushing Flacco to move outside the pocket, and possibly into the hands of Krugar or impressive rookie, Linebacker, Barkevious Mingo or a finally healthy, Linebacker, Jabaal Sheard.

In order to limit Taylor’s impact, the Ravens will need to spread out the defense, keeping the least amount of the Browns stellar front seven in the box.  With that being said, Gradkowski and Shipley could double team the large Nose Tackle, hopefully, wearing him down by the fourth quarter. If the unlikely duo of Gradkowki and Shipley can control the middle of the field, the Ravens offense will be able to thrive against a very stout Cleveland Browns defense.

But that is literally a “BIG” if…

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If the Ravens lose on Sunday in Cleveland, please let it be on a safety in overtime

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If the Ravens lose on Sunday in Cleveland, please let it be on a safety in overtime

Posted on 01 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

I know the old saying – “beggars can’t be choosers” – but if the Ravens ARE going to lose in Cleveland on Sunday, I sure as hell hope they do it the same way the Bengals did it on Thursday night in Miami.

Can you imagine what doing my job would entail next week if Paul Kruger, for example, sacks Joe Flacco in the end zone in overtime to give Cleveland a 15-13 win?

I wouldn’t have to say anything at all.  Just open the mic, sit back, and listen to it all.

“Welcome back to the D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, let’s go to the phones to discuss yesterday’s Ravens loss in Cleveland…Smedley’s in Perry Hall.  What’s up Smedley?”

“I can’t believe Jim Caldwell called for a pass play on 3rd and 10 from the 8 yard line…that guy needs go.  I’m telling you, we can’t win the Super Bowl with that bum calling plays.”

“Well, they did win the title last year when he was the offens –”

“That’s not the point, Drew.  We won last year, yes.  But he didn’t have much to do with the offense.  This year the whole offense is his and we can’t get the job done.  Caldwell has to go.”

“Back to the phones we go, Fred’s in Parkville.”

“Harbaugh sucks.”

“OK, anything else?”

“Not really.  That guy has to go, Drew, I’m telling you.  Did you see the start of the game?  We were completely unprepared to play from the jump.  I don’t know what everyone sees in him.”

“Phil’s in Manchester.”

“This is what the Ravens get for giving Flacco a hundred and twenty million.  He has no field vision at all.  Without Boldin, he might as well be Brady Quinn.”

“Dave in Towson, what’s up today?”

“You have to put some of this on the zone blocking scheme.”

“But, the Ravens didn’t use the zone blocking scheme in the game yesterday.”

“That’s what I mean.  They should have used it.  See, the problem is, Drew, Harbaugh has no feel at all for the offense.  One thing about Cam Cameron, he had a feel for that stuff.”

“Steve, you’re up in Towson, what’s going on?”

“Someone mentioned Harbaugh earlier.  I was thinking the same thing.  I’m going all the way back to the coin flip at the beginning of the game.  First, he sends the guys out there to call ‘heads’, which we all know is stupid.  It always comes up tails.  Then, heads comes up, he wins the coin flip, and he defers anyway.  You have to take the ball to start the game.  The whole game went downhill right away, in my opinion.  He has no feel at all for the coin flip.”

————————————————

You might be laughing, but you know what you’re reading above is true.

I don’t know what they’re talking about in Cincinnati this morning, but I can’t imagine they’re saying stupid stuff about their offensive coordinator the way we would be in Baltimore today.

Cameron Wake made one helluva play on the safety to win the game for Miami.

Andy Dalton HAS to get rid of the ball there, yes, but give some credit to Wake for making an All-Pro move to win the game.

————————————————

By the way, none of this will happen next Monday, because the Ravens aren’t going to Cleveland and losing on Sunday.

It won’t be pretty, because it rarely ever is when it comes to the Ravens.

Baltimore 20 — and the Browns 12

 

 

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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

The Ravens improved to 2-1 on the season yesterday with a one-sided, 30-9 win over the Houston Texans. After the way that the Texans handled the Ravens last season, there were a number of reasons to be concerned beforehand. Truth be told, I had a much worse feeling about what might happen against Houston than I did before the beat down the Ravens suffered in Denver in Week1. Hindsight however is 20/20, so here’s a quick rundown of what we know now after the Ravens latest victory:

5. Justin Tucker is Back on Track

…for now at least. Maybe it was the reception that Billy Cundiff received from the Ravens faithful last week that had Tucker out of sorts. Maybe it was just the presence of Cundiff in the building that infected Tucker’s right foot last Sunday. Regardless, Tucker made enough big kicks in his rookie year to have some equity built up with fans. That equity though wouldn’t have lasted through too many 0-for-2 performances like he had last week vs. Cleveland, especially if those misses began to cost the Ravens games.

While concern over the kicking game was mild at most, it was nice to see Tucker get back on track with a 3-for-3 game against the Texans, hitting from 28, 45 and 43 yards. Even though the two from 40+ came in late, low leverage situations, any concerns fans had about the Ravens kicking game can be shelved…for now.

4. Dirty Birds

After struggling with penalties last year, the Ravens still appear to have some work to do in that regard. The 2013 Ravens have 20 penalties for 181 yards through 3 games, including 10 for 87 yards in yesterday’s affair. Despite their most penalized performance of the season vs. Houston, the Ravens still managed to win the “penalty battle” as the Texans racked up 14 for 113 yards.

3. Cheering for Laundry

On the day that Ed Reed returned to Baltimore as a member of a new team, and Ray Lewis returned to be honored by the Ravens, it was the guys who suited up in their places that stole the show. James Ihedigbo picked up 9 tackles, 2 for a loss along with 2 defended passes and simply seemed to be everywhere while covering Ed Reed’s old spot. Daryl Smith, playing in Ray Lewis’ former domain plucked a Matt Schaub pass away from a waiting Owen Daniels, and at a time where the Ravens offense was struggling to make hay, made some on his own, hustling it 37 yards to pay dirt.

For all of the Ravens off-season pick-ups, Daryl Smith might have been the least heralded. He was grabbed on the same day the Ravens visited the White House and his signing went basically under the radar. If he continues to play like he did on Sunday, he could be the team’s most impactful addition. It’s also pretty encouraging that his big play came defending a tight end, which has been an issue for the Ravens of late.  

2. Doss is a Boss

What more can you say about a guy who was shown the door by the team when they pared down to their final 53 men, only to come back with an emphatic impact? Life out of football, brief as it may have been, seems to have brought out the best in Tandon Doss who is making the most out of his second chance with the Ravens. Maybe in the coming weeks Doss can become more a part of the Ravens passing game, and finally show fans those hands we heard so much about from the team about throughout his first 2 seasons. It’s not like the Ravens offense couldn’t use a pair of hands that they can trust between the hash marks.

1. Who Says Joe Flacco Can’t Act?

While Joe Flacco’s increased, post-Super Bowl public profile has led to some pretty clunky performances as a pitchman in various commercials, Flacco’s acting skills were on full display yesterday. After last season’s debacle at the hands of the Texans, JJ Watt and the rest of the Houston pass rush broke the huddle with their ears pinned back more often than not on Sunday. Flacco used that aggression against the Texans inducing 5 encroachment or defensive offsides penalties on the anxious Texans defense.

Elsewhere in the AFC North

The Bengals picked up a big win and remain tied with the Ravens at 2-1 atop the division. For now at least, it’s shaping up to be an interesting battle between these 2 for the division. They’ll meet again in Week 17 this year, maybe with something actually on the line this time.

The Steelers looked really bad to start against the Bears on Sunday night, but showed some real resilience closing the gap from 24-3 to 27-23. It looked like Pittsburgh had really found their resolve in the face of an 0-3 start. In the end though, their comeback attempt was little more than a chance for Ben Roethlisberger to cough up the ball in a late critical situation…it’s kind of their thing.

Leave it to the Browns to all but announce that they’re going into full tank mode by trading RB Trent Richardson and skipping right over Jason Campbell on the depth chart to 3rd stringer Brian Hoyer to replace injured starter Brandon Weeden, and then pick up a win on Sunday. There are even reports that the Browns are shopping receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Of course the Browns can’t even tank right. If they had only known that the best way to win was to actually try to lose, they could have saved themselves and their fans years of heartache.

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Browns’ Radio Analyst Dieken Thinks Loss Of DT Rubin Will Play Impact Against Ravens

Posted on 14 September 2013 by WNST Audio

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We found something worse than replacement refs — Thursday night football

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We found something worse than replacement refs — Thursday night football

Posted on 28 September 2012 by Drew Forrester

There’s a reason why horses don’t race every third day.

They’re not built to do it.

And likewise, football players aren’t built to play two games in four days.

Nowhere was that more evident than on Thursday night in Baltimore, where the Ravens and Browns plodded along in the rain until a Brandon Weeden pass sailed through the end zone on the game’s final play to give Baltimore a 23-16 win.

It’s a shame that NFL players and coaches have to go through this exercise-in-futility once a season, but that’s the way it goes these days as the league tries to dig itself out of a deep financial hole otherwise known as the NFL Network.

What sounded like a great idea a half-dozen years ago — “let’s start our own TV network and dedicate it to the NFL 24/7″ – has now contributed to the watering down of a terrific product.  These Thursday night affairs have become so benign and pedestrian that the outcome is all but predictable.  In fact, the home team is now 17-5 over the last 22 of these things.

“No matter how much you try (as a player), there’s no way you feel like this is actually a ‘regular’ game,” said one Ravens veteran to me in the locker room after the rainy escape from the Browns.  ”I’ve played in a lot of these now and they always have the same weird feeling.  You just get the sense everyone wants to be into it, but some guys just aren’t.  It’s hard.  We just played on Sunday. Usually on Wednesday or Thursday you’re just starting to feel like yourself again.”

That’s exactly what it looked like to me on Thursday.

“Everyone wants to be into it, but some guys just aren’t.”

That Thursday night’s affair featured the visiting Browns was a major help to the Ravens.  Last week, the Panthers drew the short end of the stick when the defending Super Bowl champions came calling and the Giants manhandled Carolina, 36-7.  Cleveland is almost an automatic win these days…and that’s when you play them on Sunday.  Mix in a Thursday night encounter and it’s about the slammest of slam dunks.

The Browns did manage to throw a scare into John Harbaugh’s team, nearly driving the length of the field before the game’s final pass was incomplete in the end zone, but this one was over when the schedule came out last April.

You’re not coming to Baltimore on a Thursday night and beating the Ravens.

Especially if you’re the Browns.

But the real story of Thursday night’s game wasn’t that the Ravens (now 3-1*) won and the Browns (0-4*) lost.

The story of the night was the force-fed approach of Thursday night football by the NFL, who have figured out a way to damage their own enterprise by making players do something they’re not built to do.

Football players – ever since their days in high school – have conditioned themselves to play a game once a week, with 6 or 7 days of rest and recovery from game-to-game.

Three days of recovery isn’t enough for a professional player.

And for a league hell bent on stressing player safety, the message that’s sent with Thursday games is fuzzy at best.  No one wants to play football on Thursday night.  No one.  Ask any coach in the league if they want to play on Thursday and they’ll tell you “hell no”.  Ask any player and you’ll hear the same thing.

But the league, of course, didn’t ask the coaches or players if they wanted to play on Thursday night.

The NFL chased the money, again, and came up with a new way to maximize revenue while minimizing quality.

I assume Thursday football is here to stay.

And I can also assume – or guarantee – that Thursday football will always be scoffed at by the coaches and the players, who simply aren’t built to play two football games in four days.

(Note: Records of Ravens* and Browns* are noted with * to acknowledge that games were played in the regular season with non-professional officials calling the games.)

 

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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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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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Ravens pound hapless Browns, 24-10

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Ravens pound hapless Browns, 24-10

Posted on 04 December 2011 by Drew Forrester

If ever a football game could induce writer’s block, that one on Sunday in Cleveland sure did the trick to me.

I have no idea what to say about that game except this:  How the hell did the Browns win four games so far this season?

Holy cow they stink.

I almost felt bad for the Ravens in the 3rd quarter when it was 10-0.  There was no challenge, no real resistance from the Browns, and, predictably, a half-filled stadium with virtually no energy for the game or the home team.

I thought I was watching the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton. It was that bad.

The Ravens weren’t bad, mind you.  They ran more than Forrest Gump on Sunday, traumatizing the Browns front seven with smash-mouth football and a 204 yard day from Ray Rice that commenced with a 30-yard scamper on Baltimore’s first offensive play of the game.

But the game itself was about as boring as Barry Manilow covering a bunch of Bob Dylan tunes.

Fortunately, unlike two other occasions when the Ravens went into sleep-walking mode against inferior opponents in Jacksonville and Seattle, Baltimore would not give in to the day’s boredom.  They plodded their way to a 10-0 lead and eventually stretched it to 24-3 before giving up a late touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to Evan Moore.

It wasn’t even a cakewalk on Sunday.

It was easier than that.

And it should be that easy again next Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts and their 0-12 record come wobbling into Charm City for an expected thrashing at M&T Bank Stadium.

The schedule favors the Ravens now, as they finish the season with the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals.  Four wins and Baltimore secures home-field throughout the AFC playoffs.  And when you secure home-field throughout, you’re only two wins away from the Super Bowl.

Writer’s block.  That’s what games like Sunday’s affair in Cleveland produce.

I wanted to write about how great the Ravens running game was in the victory.  Or how Baltimore managed to win despite two missed field goals and a costly Joe Flacco turnover near midfield.

But all I could keep thinking was this — “How the hell did Cleveland win four times this season?”

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