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Ten non-Flacco thoughts on Ravens’ offseason

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Ten non-Flacco thoughts on Ravens’ offseason

Posted on 19 February 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens about to enter the most critical contract negotiations in franchise history later this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, it’s difficult not to be inundated with the Joe Flacco discussions as general manager Ozzie Newsome tries to lock up his franchise quarterback for the long haul.

Frankly, the talk has been overwhelming and I’m as guilty as anyone in fueling the Flacco fire — HERE, HERE, and even HERE — and what impact it will have on the rest of the offseason and even the future of the franchise.

With that in mind, I offer 10 offseason thoughts not related to “you know who” as we wait to see how negotiations play out:

1. The Ravens could be faced with the choice of overpaying Bryant McKinnie or enduring another season of Michael Oher at left tackle.
Both sides will explore other options, but it’s difficult to find a left tackle — who’s ready to play immediately, anyway — with no cap room and no draft choice higher than 32nd overall. McKinnie may also find a lukewarm market with his off-field baggage and questions over why the Ravens sat him for the entire regular season. If the Ravens deem McKinnie too expensive or too risky to sign, would they roll the dice in going with Oher at left tackle for another season and hoping they can find their left tackle of 2014 in the draft? It’s a dangerous proposition and the Ravens simply don’t have the resources to expect to find anyone better than McKinnie in free agency.

2. Regardless of how the tackle position shakes out, I’d like to see Kelechi Osemele remain at left guard next season. Lost in the shuffle of the offensive line shakeup to start the postseason was the stellar play of Osemele, who was seeing his first extensive time at left guard since the preseason. The Iowa State product played solidly at the right tackle position, but he showed the potential of being a Pro Bowl player on the interior line in four playoff games. At 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, Osemele clearly has the size to hold up at right tackle, but he could be good enough to make everyone forget about Ben Grubbs at the left guard position. The combination of him and Marshal Yanda could be the best guard duo in the league sooner rather than later, so the Ravens would love to keep Osemele inside in a perfect world.

3. Nothing should be guaranteed to Jimmy Smith next season despite a strong rebound in the postseason.
It looked like a lost season for the 2011 first-round pick after ineffective play and sports hernia surgery dropped him to fourth on the depth chart late in the year, but Smith rebounded to play well in the postseason, including making critical plays on third and fourth down of the Ravens’ goal-line stand in the Super Bowl. His 6-foot-2 frame is the logical replacement for the likely-to-depart Cary Williams, but Smith will need to work his way up the depth chart by first beating out Chykie Brown for the No. 3 corner spot and then Corey Graham for a starting job. His postseason play proves the discussion about Smith being a bust was premature, but the time is now for Smith to prove the Ravens were wise to use a first-round pick on him.

4. This will be a big offseason for Terrence Cody, who is looking more like the second failed second-round pick of the 2010 draft. Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle has already parted ways with the Ravens and Cody might follow him sooner rather than later as the nose tackle enters the final year of his rookie contract. Newsome made it clear at the season-review press conference that the Ravens need to improve at defensive tackle and Cody struggled to get on the field as he competed with veteran Ma’ake Kemoeatu this season. Despite being listed at 341 pounds, Cody was often manhandled and made little impact in taking on blockers to allow linebackers to make plays against the run. The defensive lineman made only two tackles in the postseason and could find himself on the roster bubble should he go through the motions during training camp.

5. With all the discussion over the salary cap purge following the 2001 season, has everyone forgotten how quickly the Ravens returned to prominence after gutting their roster? I understand the line of thinking of both Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti in saying they don’t want to mortgage the future solely to make an ill-advised effort to get back to the Super Bowl next season, but it’s not as though the Ravens fell off a cliff following their last purge. They went 7-9 as the youngest team in the NFL in 2002 and improved to 10-6 and captured their first AFC North title in 2003. It certainly helped that the Ravens had young versions of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as well as offensive pillars in Jonathan Ogden and Jamal Lewis, but that group also had Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright playing quarterback. What’s the moral of the story? Organizations that draft well and stay true to their process for making personnel decisions won’t stay down for long in the NFL.

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Offseason begins and ends with resolving Flacco contract

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Offseason begins and ends with resolving Flacco contract

Posted on 07 February 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even after winning their second Super Bowl only days ago, the Ravens wasted no time in beginning preparations for the 2013 season.

A day after celebrating with a downtown parade and a rally at M&T Bank Stadium, general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and the front office were back at it with a 10-hour personnel meeting on Wednesday in which they evaluated 70 to 75 players. It’s no secret the Ravens face a tight salary cap this offseason, leaving many to wonder if they’d go the same route used in the offseason following Super Bowl XXXV in which the organization put cap ramifications on the back burner in favor of making another run at a championship.

Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti put that possibility to rest at the Ravens’ season-review press conference on Thursday.

“We will not repeat what we did in 2001 because we’re trying to build where we can win Super Bowls more than just one more time,” Newsome said. “I think our team is structured differently this time also. We do have some veterans that will probably be retiring, but we’ve got a great nucleus of young players and players that are just heading into their prime that we’re going to build this team around. We are not going to be restructuring contracts or doing all of those different things to be able to just maintain this team to make another run. We’re not doing that.

“That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to try to go and repeat.”

That reality means the Ravens will likely say goodbye to a number of their 13 unrestricted free agents, which include safety Ed Reed, linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams, and quarterback Joe Flacco. Of those players, Flacco is the only one certain to return as the Ravens will try to reach a long-term agreement with the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player prior to the deadline for using the franchise tag on March 4.

Even with a long-term contract completed with the quarterback, the Ravens are unlikely to maintain the services of Kruger or Williams, who will both receive significant offers on the free-agent market in mid-March. According to several reports, the Ravens are expected to have roughly $15 million in cap space including the money saved from Ray Lewis’ retirement, but that doesn’t account for money needed for the tag for Flacco and for tenders offered to restricted and exclusive-rights free agents. Of course, additional money could come via the retirement of veterans such as Matt Birk or Bobbie Williams or by releasing other veterans.

“We’re not going to get caught up in the moment and do things to our salary cap and make decisions in the euphoria of winning that could hurt us in 2014 and 2015 like we did in 2001,” owner Steve Bisciotti said. “Every single veteran was restructured, I think, so that every single veteran could stay and then we ended up losing so many people the next year. We don’t want to do that.”

In order to maintain any real sense of continuity, the Ravens must agree on a long-term contract with Flacco, but agent Joe Linta has said he’s aiming for his client to become the highest-paid quarterback in the league. The 2008 first-round pick is believed to be seeking $20 million per season with a significant portion of the deal including guaranteed money.

Bisciotti said Thursday the organization offered Flacco a “top-5″ contract last summer and believes winning the Super Bowl this season would not hinder negotiations more than if the Ravens had exited in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’re looking to get a fair deal with Joe and, yes, the franchise number does consume a lot of cap room,” Newsome said. “We’re looking for a fair deal; Joe Linta is looking for a fair deal. If we are able to get a deal done, it will allow us to be able to participate more in the market if we so choose. But we understand what the priority is.”

That priority would include being forced to use the franchise tag to keep Flacco in Baltimore, which would cost $14.6 million for the 2013 season. However, that is only the price for a non-exclusive designation, meaning teams could sign Flacco to an offer sheet if they’d be willing to fork over two first-round picks should the Ravens not match the offer.

The exclusive rights tag would cost roughly $20 million, but it would prohibit teams desperate enough for a quarterback to negotiate with Flacco. Last year, the Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for the second overall pick to draft Robert Griffin III.

“What you have to look at is what the Redskins did this past year to move up to get Robert Griffin,” Newsome said. “If someone thinks that a quarterback is that valuable and I’m sure you can talk to [the Washington front office], they’re very happy with [Griffin] right now and they don’t mind not having those draft picks. I don’t know what 31 other teams are doing, so we have to prepare ourselves for it.”

As the Ravens continue to organize their list of priorities for the 2013 offseason, the fate of Flacco remains at the top of the list as a long-term agreement is a must in order to maintain hope of re-signing or acquiring any impact players.

But time is running out as Newsome joked that the Ravens are “five weeks behind” the rest of the league after winning the Super Bowl. Much has changed with the perception of Flacco, who just completed one of the greatest playoff performances in NFL history.

“I’m coming away today thinking that we can get a deal done,” Newsome said. “We’ve gotten deals done with Haloti [Ngata], [Jonathan Ogden], Ray [Lewis], Ray Rice, Ed Reed, [Terrell] Suggs. I’ve got a very good owner who understands the business [and] understands the importance of certain positions, so I’m optimistic.”

Biggest need up the middle

Asked to assess the biggest area of need for next season, Newsome admitted the middle of the Baltimore defense needed to be improved, in part because of the failure of young players to step up but also due to a number of possible departures.

With Lewis retiring and Ellerbe and Reed potentially hitting the open market, the Ravens could look very different at the linebacker and safety positions next season. Jameel McClain, Josh Bynes, and Brendon Ayanbadejo would be the top returning inside linebackers while 2012 fourth-round pick Christian Thompson would be the next man up on the depth chart at the safety position.

The combination of third-year player Terrence Cody and veteran Ma’ake Kemoeatu was also severely disappointing at the nose tackle position.

“As we talked about it, the middle of the defense [is a priority],” Newsome said. “We think we’ve got to get better at defensive tackle. We know we have one linebacker retiring and another that’s a free agent. We have a safety that’s a free agent and some young guys that have yet to step up. We would say the middle of the defense is the one area that we would concentrate on.

“In saying that, we realized that pass rushers and guys that can cover, we felt pretty good about that.”

The Ravens might not feel as good about their pass rush with the expected departure of Kruger, but Terrell Suggs figures to bounce back from an injury-plagued season and rookie Courtney Upshaw played effectively against the run and should continue to develop in his first full offseason with the team.

Newsome expressed no specific concerns on the offensive side of the football beyond the need to secure Flacco long-term.

“Offensively, we will not turn down a good player if that player is available for us on the offensive side of the ball,” Newsome said. “We just won’t do it, because you can never have enough depth.”

Chance of Reed return?

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/49ers

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/49ers

Posted on 05 February 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Jacoby Jones 108 yard kickoff return TD (3rd quarter)

4. Jacoby Jones 56 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 10 (2nd quarter)

3. Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Randy Moss on two point conversion attempt incomplete (4th quarter)

2. Joe Flacco 15 yard pass to Anquan Boldin on 3rd and inches (4th quarter)

1. Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree on 4th and goal incomplete (4th quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Ellerbe says ankle feels “a lot better” in New Orleans

Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff

LINEBACKER DANNELL ELLERBE

(on eating home cooking from players’ moms) “I haven’t been doing a lot of eating, but I did eat when Jacoby’s (Jones) mom came. It was really good. I wasn’t trying to eat possum. I’ll eat squirrel but I’m not eating possum.”

 

(on not overdoing it before the game) “It’s early right now. We’ve got time to work it out. We have a whole week ahead of us. I’m definitely not going to overdo it.”

 

(on personal requests relating to the Super Bowl) “I think the craziest request I got was everybody wanting a Ray Lewis jersey. Everybody wanted a Ray Lewis jersey or for Ray Lewis to sign something. Everybody was thinking they could come to the Super Bowl and wanted me to pay for everything. That was the craziest. They were asking for food, new clothes, and everything. It was all from family. I’ve got 15 people coming. When I told them how much a ticket was they understood. I think they were just thinking the tickets were free. We only get two free.”

 

(on his ankle injury) “Yes, I’m playing if I played last week. That was the most pain I’ve played in in my entire career. I’m definitely playing in this game. I feel a lot better and it’s the Super Bowl, so I’m not sitting out. I got a cortisone shot. I’m going to stop telling people I got an epidural because that’s what pregnant people get. Never again. I don’t want to go through that again. I hate needles.”

 

(on playing this week) “Oh yeah, I’m definitely playing. If I could handle it last week, I can handle it this week.”

 

(on preparing for this game) “We keep it the same (as the regular season). Last week we got our work in and we’ve been trying to get as much work in and get ready at the same time.”

 

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Ellerbe, D. Reed sit out final practice in Owings Mills

Posted on 26 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Conducting their final practice of the season at their Owings Mills facility before departing for New Orleans on Monday, the Ravens were without two players as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and wide receiver David Reed rested on Saturday morning.

Ellerbe has missed three practices this week as he takes advantage of the extra time between the conference championship and Super Bowl XLVII. The fourth-year linebacker acknowledged on Friday the ankle needed rest and he would have tried to push through the discomfort if the game were being played this weekend in New Orleans.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (thigh) returned to the practice field on Saturday after sitting out Friday’s workout. He played catch with quarterback Joe Flacco during the open portion of practice and appeared to be fine.

Reed is dealing with a hamstring issue that forced him out of the Ravens’ divisional playoff game against Denver but was listed as a full participant in Friday’s practice before sitting out a day later.

The Ravens issued a final injury report of the week on Friday, even though the Super Bowl will not be played until Feb. 3 and they’ll release a new set of injury reports next week. As a result, coach John Harbaugh didn’t appear to put much stock in the “final” report for this week by listing 19 players as questionable for a game that won’t take place on Sunday.

Baltimore departs for New Orleans on Monday afternoon and will conduct practices next week that will be open to just one pool reporter. The San Francisco 49ers will follow the same protocol, per NFL rules.

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Ellerbe taking full advantage of extra week to rest ankle

Posted on 25 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Because the Super Bowl teams were required to release a “final” injury report to simulate players’ availability if the game were being played this weekend, the Ravens listed 19 players as questionable for a game that won’t take place this weekend.

Only two of those players missed any practices over the last two days, making this injury report virtually useless.

Both Baltimore and the San Francisco 49ers will release a new set of injury reports next week, but it appears that linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is the only Ravens player with any real concern at this point as he missed his second straight practice Friday with the ankle injury he’s dealt with since late November.

The Ravens are taking advantage of the extra week of preparation to give Ellerbe some rest as the fourth-year linebacker originally injured the ankle in the Week 12 win over the San Diego Chargers. He missed three games before returning to the lineup in Week 16.

“Any time off is good for you when you’re hurting,” said Ellerbe, who estimated he’d be able to fight through the sore ankle if the Super Bowl were being played this weekend. “I’m going to need a couple more days I’m glad we got two weeks and we’re not playing this Sunday.”

Tight end Dennis Pitta also missed practice on Friday as he’s been hindered by a thigh injury. He worked on a limited basis on Thursday.

The 49ers listed tight end Garrett Celek as questionable while 11 players were designated as probable for a game that won’t take place this weekend.

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (foot), WR Tandon Doss (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), S James Ihedigbo (knee), CB Asa Jackson (thigh), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (thigh), S Bernard Pollard (chest), WR David Reed (thigh), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/biceps), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

SAN FRANCISCO
QUESTIONABLE: TE Garrett Celek (foot)
PROBABLE: LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder), LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), CB Tarell Brown (shoulder), RB Frank Gore (ankle/shoulder), LB Clark Haggans (shoulder), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), RB LaMichael James (back), RB Bruce Miller (shoulder), LB Aldon Smith (shoulder), DT Justin Smith (elbow/triceps), LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

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Ellerbe only player missing from Thursday’s practice

Posted on 24 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field to continue preparations for Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens were only missing one player from Thursday’s workout as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe did not participate.

The fourth-year defensive player has dealt with an ankle injury since late November and has received periodic days off after missing three games to begin the month of December.

Four players were listed as limited participants, including defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and tight end Dennis Pitta.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers released an injury report with no changes from Wednesday’s as linebacker Ahmad Brooks and tight end Garrett Celek were the only non-participants for Jim Harbaugh’s squad.

The Ravens will practice on Thursday and Friday before departing for New Orleans on Monday afternoon.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Asa Jackson (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (thigh), WR David Reed (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (foot), WR Tandon Doss (ankle), S James Ihedigbo (knee), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

SAN FRANCISCO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), TE Garrett Celek (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Tarell Brown (shoulder), RB Bruce Miller (shoulder), LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder), RB Frank Gore (ankle/shoulder), LB Clark Haggans (shoulder), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), RB LaMichael James (back), DT Justin Smith (elbow/triceps), LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

Posted on 22 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 28-13 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Nate Solder called for holding, negating Danny Woodhead 4 yard run on 3rd & 2 (3rd quarter)

4. Stephen Gostkowski 25 yard field goal after Patriots called third timeout (2nd quarter)

3. Tom Brady pass intended for Wes Welker incomplete on 3rd & 8 from Baltimore 34 (3rd quarter)

2. Dannell Ellerbe intercepts Tom Brady pass intended for Aaron Hernandez, tipped by Pernell McPhee (4th quarter)

1. Arthur Jones recovers Stevan Ridley fumble forced by Bernard Pollard (4th quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 20 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 28-13 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game to clinch a trip to Super Bowl XLVII…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Jim Caldwell

4. Pernell McPhee

3. Marshal Yanda

2. Bernard Pollard

1. Joe Flacco (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Why will this one be any different for Ravens against red-hot Denver?

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Why will this one be any different for Ravens against red-hot Denver?

Posted on 08 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have heard the doubts since the first hours following their wild-card playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.

The Broncos demolished them in a 34-17 final at M&T Bank Stadium less than four weeks ago, the worst home loss of the John Harbaugh era. The score really wasn’t even that close as Denver seemingly took its foot off the gas pedal after building a 31-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

Denver has a league-best 11-game winning streak and hasn’t lost a game since the Orioles were still playing postseason baseball in early October. Baltimore has been installed as a nine-point underdog by oddsmakers in Las Vegas.

How can the Ravens possibly expect a different result this time around as they travel to Sports Authority Field at Mile High on a short week to take on the mighty Broncos coming off a bye week?

The image of quarterback Joe Flacco throwing an interception returned 98 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Chris Harris right before halftime is just too much to shake, isn’t it?

“It doesn’t surprise me that nobody would really give us too much of a shot,” Flacco said. “They beat us up pretty good a couple weeks ago. I think you always have that little chip that you want to go out there and prove to people that you’re a good football team.”

The Ravens believe they are a better football team now than the one on display that day at M&T Bank Stadium as they were only six days removed from firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoting quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. Five key starters were missing from the lineup due to injury. And what could have been a one-possession game going into halftime — with the Ravens set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half — was dramatically transformed into a 17-0 deficit that broke the spirit of what was an inspired defensive effort against Peyton Manning in the first half.

So, as the rest of the country focuses on the deficiencies that were on full display in that embarrassing loss, the Ravens instead look ahead at Saturday’s opportunity while acknowledging how one play can dramatically change the tone — and outcome — of a football game.

“Everybody has an opinion. Whatever that opinion is, let them have it,” said linebacker Ray Lewis, who reminded reporters that the 2000 Ravens were underdogs through much of their run to Super Bowl XXXV. “One thing about it, the game has to be played. No matter what anybody says or who they feel is going to win, you have to play the game on [Saturday]. That’s the way we feel — let the game play out. Because at the end of the day, some people are going to be right and some people are going to be wrong.”

There’s no way to sugarcoat that the Ravens are the clear underdog in this one as the Broncos have dominated on both sides of the ball — ranked fourth in total offense and second in total defense during the regular season — over the last three months to enter the postseason as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Denver defense is led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who formed the best pass-rushing duo in the league with a combined 29 1/2 sacks this season. The Broncos battered Flacco to the tune of three sacks and nine quarterback hits in that first meeting.

Manning has played at an MVP-caliber level in throwing for 4,695 yards and 37 touchdowns this season, and wide receiver Eric Decker torched the Ravens with 133 receiving yards in that Week 15 win. The Ravens haven’t beaten a Manning-led team in 11 years as the future Hall of Fame quarterback has gotten the best of them over and over.

But a Baltimore defense without Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, and Bernard Pollard held the Broncos to 10 points in the first 29 minutes of play on Dec. 16, three coming after a Flacco fumble on the Ravens’ first drive to set up Denver at midfield. It was only after the backbreaking interception on a quick out intended for Anquan Boldin that an undermanned defense completely wilted in the second half.

Flacco and the rest of the offense know they must perform at a much higher level to give the Ravens any chance to pull off the upset in Denver. In Caldwell’s debut as offensive coordinator, Baltimore had a fumble, five three-and-outs, and an interception over its first seven drives.

Recently, the starting offense has looked much better in scoring 57 points in games against New York and Indianapolis that sandwiched the regular-season finale in Cincinnati that was a glorified preseason game. The Ravens also may have finally settled on their best offensive line this past Sunday with veteran Bryant McKinnie finally being inserted at left tackle with Michael Oher moving to the right side and rookie Kelechi Osemele shifting inside to left guard.

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