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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest special teams needs

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest special teams needs

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Luke Jones

As the start of free agency moves closer and teams prepare for April’s draft, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

Earlier in the week, I looked at Baltimore’s biggest needs on offense as well as essentials for the defense. In the conclusion of a three-part series, we finally take a long at the often-forgotten but always-important phase of the game: special teams.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron undoubtedly receives the most criticism among the coaches on the Ravens staff, but special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg may deserve the most heat after a disappointing 2011 season. According to footballoutsiders.com, the Ravens’ special teams ranked 30th in the league in a percentage contrived from efficiency in field goals, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, and punt returns.

Looking from a more simplistic stance, Rosburg’s units struggled in both kickoff coverage (31st) and punt coverage (24th) and allowed three returns for touchdowns. In the return game, the Ravens ranked ninth in kickoff return average and 19th in punt return average, rarely getting a significant spark from either group as injuries and ineffectiveness forced them to shuffle returners in and out of the lineup.

Kicker Billy Cundiff converted only 75.7 percent of his field goal attempts, ranking 28th in the league. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker made only one of six attempts from 50 or more yards and was only 11-for-20 away from M&T Bank Stadium — where he was perfect on 17 attempts. And that’s not even taking into account his heartbreaking 32-yard miss in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game that would have sent the Ravens into overtime against New England.

If you’re looking for a bright spot, punter Sam Koch ranked 10th in punt average (46.5 yards) but 19th in net average, which was affected by the Ravens’ suspect coverage.

While it’s difficult to target a laundry list of special teams’ needs from a position-by-position standpoint — the units simply need to improve across the board — but two positions stand out this offseason.

1. Kicker

Before you get carried away, this isn’t the pitchfork mentality we’re talking about here. Cundiff isn’t going anywhere for now. However, his disappointing season topped off by the most devastating moment in the 16-year history of the franchise can’t be forgotten as the Ravens assess their special teams.

To their credit, the organization and Cundiff have handled the miss with as much dignity as can be expected, with no one publicly questioning whether the Ravens should have kept veteran Shayne Graham to kick in the postseason. It’s been a credit to coach John Harbaugh and the family atmosphere in the locker room.

But what everyone is thinking privately is a different story. In his defense, Cundiff battled a left calf injury late in the season, but it doesn’t excuse what was a very inconsistent year after signing a five-year contract last January. For a kicker without a proven track record beyond his Pro Bowl season a year ago, Cundiff may have reverted back to the inconsistent performer seen early in his career.

The Ravens need to bring in another kicker to seriously compete against Cundiff during the preseason. The organization will keep Cundiff for now in hopes of avoiding the situation in which they found themselves in 2009 after parting company with Matt Stover. Neither Steve Hauschka nor Graham Gano were fit for the job, forcing the Ravens to scramble during the regular season until they settled on Cundiff.

It needs to be a serious competition, whether the Ravens elect to find a rookie coming out of college such as Randy Bullock of Texas A&M or a veteran on the open market. Graham wasn’t good enough to win the competition against Cundiff two years ago and has struggled with long-distance kicks in recent years, so it makes little sense to bring him back for the competition.

Even if Cundiff performs admirably in the preseason and wins the battle, the Ravens and their fans simply won’t know whether he’s recovered from the disappointment in Foxborough until he finds himself in another late-game situation. It’s difficult to envision the Ravens ever fully trusting Cundiff again, but they’ll at least give him a chance in the preseason before moving on for good.

2. Kickoff-Punt Returner

The Ravens had 10 different players return kickoffs — three of those only returned squibs or pooch kicks –  in 2011 and never found stability at the position. Second-year return specialist David Reed was demoted after two fumbles on returns against the Seattle Seahawks and then tore his ACL when he finally earned another opportunity to handle kickoffs.

While Reed will certainly find himself in the mix if he proves healthy in recovering from the knee injury this offseason, the Ravens must look to add an impact returner, preferably someone who can handle both kickoffs and punts to allow Lardarius Webb to focus solely on his duties at cornerback. Field position is critical, and the return units rarely aided the Ravens offense in setting it up on a shorter field.

Of course, the new kickoff rule limited many returners across the league, but the Ravens cannot settle for a returner downing the ball in the end zone constantly as they did down the stretch with reserve safety Tom Zbikowski this past season.

The Ravens could look to the draft for a returner such as Arkansas receiver Joe Adams in the middle rounds, who could add depth in both areas. One name to keep an eye on in the preseason is receiver Phillip Livas, who was signed to the practice squad in the final weeks of the season. Though only 5-foot-8, Livas was a record-setting return man at Louisiana Tech and could be a sleeper to watch in the preseason.

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Wounded Ravens hoping to heal in time for Cincinnati showdown

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Wounded Ravens hoping to heal in time for Cincinnati showdown

Posted on 26 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Six days before playing one of the most important regular-season games in the 16-year history of the franchise, the Ravens face the frightening possibility of playing at far less than full strength.

Playing the Cincinnati Bengals — who will clinch the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs with a win — is challenging enough, but the Ravens may have to do it without starting right guard Marshal Yanda, who has graded out as the team’s best offensive lineman this season. Yanda sustained separate contusions to the rib cage and thigh in Saturday’s 20-14 win over the Cleveland Browns and told reporters he had difficulty breathing following the game.

If Yanda is unable to play, veteran Andre Gurode would start at right guard, a position he played early in his 10-year career with the Dallas Cowboys. Gurode made five starts at left guard in place of Ben Grubbs earlier this season.

The Ravens can only hope Yanda makes enough improvement during the week to be available against the Bengals’ sixth-ranked run defense. Baltimore has had much success running to the right side of the offensive line behind Yanda and right tackle Michael Oher.

“We’ll just have to see how he does on that,” Harbaugh said. “They’re good bruises, so we’ll see where that goes.”

With the term “contusion” a vague one, the possibility exists that Yanda’s rib injury might be more severe, but the treatment for cracked or broken ribs wouldn’t be any different than a contusion, leading us to simply wait and see how the fifth-year lineman progresses until Sunday.

Headaches

The Ravens also lost a pair of key defensive contributors in starting cornerback Cary Williams and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who both sustained concussions in the win over Cleveland and did not return. Rookie Jimmy Smith filled in for Williams at cornerback while Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo saw an increased workload in the inside linebacker rotation with Ellerbe sidelined.

With the recent developments in Cleveland with concussed quarterback Colt McCoy and the controversy that ensued, it’s not surprising to hear coaches treading lightly in declaring a prognosis.

“Both are looking pretty decent today,” Harbaugh said. “With concussions, you never really know, so we’ll just have to see when and if they get cleared. We’ll keep our fingers crossed on that.”

Reed’s season over

The Ravens announced early Monday afternoon they had placed kick returner David Reed on injured reserve with a knee injury, and Harbaugh confirmed the second-year receiver tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the second half of Saturday’s win.

Reed will undergo surgery in the near future to repair the ligament, Harbaugh confirmed. The injury was isolated to the ACL and no other structural damage took place.

The ironic part of the injury is that Harbaugh believed Reed was on his way to a touchdown to begin the second half before the knee gave out on the return.

“He had two guys out in front of him, and I didn’t see anybody between him and the end zone there,” Harbaugh said. “That was going to the house, and then the leg buckles. A lot of things are unpredictable in football. That’s certainly not one we would have predicted. We’ll just have to move forward.”

Safety Tom Zbikowski will assume kickoff duties as he did in place of Reed when he was benched during the loss to the Seattle Seahawks in mid-November after fumbling two kickoffs.

On the mend

The Ravens were without three key players entering Saturday’s game against the Browns, but Harbaugh provided positive news on the trio of Billy Cundiff, Cory Redding, and Anquan Boldin on Monday.

Cundiff was replaced by veteran Shayne Graham, who made field goals of 48 and 42 yards against the Browns. Harbaugh said the Ravens do not anticipate keep Graham on the 53-man roster wants Cundiff proves healthy enough to return to the lineup.

The Baltimore coach hopes the return could be in time to play Cincinnati.

“We’ll have to see about this week,” Harbaugh said. “Like I told you, I want to see him practice. We’ll know more Wednesday [or] Thursday.”

Harbaugh also provided a positive update on Redding, who missed Saturday’s game after tweaking his sore ankle during pre-game warmups after going through a series of lateral movement drills. Second-year lineman Arthur Jones took Redding’s place in the starting lineup.

Boldin responded well to surgery to repair a partially-torn meniscus in his knee. The Ravens expect Boldin to be ready for the start of the postseason, but a first-round bye would alleviate concerns with having to rush him back too soon.

“He’s doing very, very well,” Harbaugh said. “The swelling’s out of the knee, so things are looking good there. Nothing’s changed as far as when he’ll be back, time-wise.”

 

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Ravens place kick returner David Reed on IR

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Ravens place kick returner David Reed on IR

Posted on 26 December 2011 by Luke Jones

In a move that became all but a formality following a 20-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Saturday, the Ravens have placed kick returner David Reed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The second-year return specialist regained his kickoff return job on Saturday before sustaining the season-ending injury in the second half. Immediately following the game, it was believed that Reed had suffered a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament.

“David Reed’s injury looks serious,” coach John Harbaugh said following Saturday’s game. “That did not look good.”

The Ravens have yet to announce a corresponding roster move, but safety Tom Zbikowski would presumably take Reed’s place as the primary kick returner. After Reed’s two fumbled kickoffs in the Ravens’ Week 10 loss in Seattle, the fourth-year safety replaced him as the primary returner and held the job until Reed reclaimed the spot on Saturday.

While Zbikowski is considered a steady, straight-line returner, he lacks the big-play capability of Reed in the return game, a major reason why the Ravens had continued to work with Reed extensively on ball security following his disastrous performance against the Seahawks in mid-November.

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 November 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in over two years, the Ravens welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to M&T Bank Stadium with plenty on the line in the tightly-contested AFC North.

With both teams standing at 6-3 and right behind Pittsburgh, the stakes are far higher than anyone imagined at the beginning of the season with the Bengals starting a rookie quarterback and no longer having the services of volatile wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. The Bengals have won three of the last four meetings against the Ravens and boast the AFC’s best road record at 4-1. However, the Ravens are one of only three teams (Green Bay and New Orleans) to be undefeated at home this season and have won 14 of their last 15 games at M&T Bank Stadium.

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The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys and white pants while Cincinnati wears its white jerseys and black pants this afternoon.

As expected, inside linebacker Ray Lewis will not play against the Bengals as he deals with a toe injury. His streak of 57 consecutive starts comes to an end as he’ll miss his first game since the finale of the 2007 season. The question will now become whether he will be ready for the Ravens’ next game in four days against the San Francisco 49ers.

Wide receiver Lee Evans is active for the first time since Week 2, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe also returns after missing the Ravens’ last four games with a hamstring injury. He will start in place of Lewis at inside linebacker next to Jameel McClain.

As expected, the Bengals will be without rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who was listed as doubtful with a knee injury.

Here are today’s inactives:

Baltimore
LB Ray Lewis
WR David Reed
WR Tandon Doss
CB Chykie Brown
RB Anthony Allen
DT Arthur Jones
LB Sergio Kindle

Cincinnati
WR A.J. Green
S Robert Sands
LB Dontay Moch
G Clint Boling
OT Anthony Collins
TE Donald Lee
WR Ryan Whalen

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Gloomy prognosis for Ray Lewis and injured toe for Sunday

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Gloomy prognosis for Ray Lewis and injured toe for Sunday

Posted on 17 November 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 6:00 a.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens inch closer to an AFC North showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, doubts began to grow surrounding linebacker Ray Lewis, who was absent from practice for the second straight day on Thursday.

Reports late Thursday night indicated Lewis will miss Sunday’s game and possibly more after suffering a toe injury in the loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.

Lewis saw a specialist in Florida on Thursday, according to a report from the Carroll County Times.

Listed on the injury report with a foot injury, Lewis did not appear to be favoring anything as he walked to the podium to meet reporters on Wednesday afternoon. The injury could prevent Lewis from playing on Sunday afternoon and a second missed practice in as many days cultivated concern after he struggled in last Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.

The 16-year linebacker has not missed a game since sitting out the final two games of the 2007 season with a hand injury. The 36-year-old has made 57 straight starts for the Ravens.

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Defensive tackle Arthur Jones (concussion) and running back Anthony Allen (hamstring) were also missing from practice for the second straight day. Wide receiver Lee Evans was practicing again, the fifth straight workout in which he’s participated.

Kick returner search

The Ravens conducted their search for a new kickoff returner on Thursday and confirmed that incumbent David Reed will not be back there on Sunday. The news was hardly surprised after Reed fumbled two kickoffs and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg would not rule out Reed as a future consideration for the job, but the Ravens believe the second-year receiver needs to prove he can take care of the football before they put him back deep again.

“He’s looking forward for the next opportunity,” Rosburg said. “Now, we don’t know when that is, and I’m certain when he does get in there again, everybody’s going to be watching him with that in mind. David’s a competitive guy, and he understands what he’s got to do to get that job back. He’s got to earn the trust of everybody on this football team that he’s going to hang onto the ball when he gets it.”

Rosburg said the Ravens will consider every possibility in finding a new returner. Candidates include Lardarius Webb, LaQuan Williams, Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss, Chris Carr, and Tom Zbikowski. Webb is listed as the backup kick returner — behind Reed — on the team’s most recent depth chart while the rookie Williams is listed as the third-string return man.

“We’re going to have a good kickoff return practice, and we’re going to find out who our kickoff returner is going to be for Sunday,” Rosburg said.

Head coach John Harbaugh said on Monday he believes Webb to be the best kick returner on the team, but his current roles as a starting cornerback and the punt returner may cause the Ravens to look elsewhere. However, they could elect to slide Webb to the kick return spot and to use Carr as the punt returner.

First-round pick ready

With rookie Jimmy Smith now having four games under his belt since returning from an ankle injury last month, many have been asking when the first-round pick can expect to see an increase role on the defense.

Since Webb and Cary Williams have played so well in starting roles, the Baltimore defense hasn’t forced the issue with Smith’s development, allowing him to readjust to the speed of the NFL after a six-week layoff. However, with Carr struggling at the nickelback position on Sunday — allowing a critical 24-yard completion to Seattle receiver Golden Tate on the final drive of the game — the Ravens may be ready to expand Smith’s role. The Colorado product saw limited reps in the dime package against the Seahawks.

“He’ll see a considerable amount of time,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. “We’ve got to get him out there and get him going. He’s ready.”

Though not really suited to play inside at the nickel position, the Ravens could elect to slide Webb inside to the nickel spot, allowing Smith to line up on the outside.

Evans fitting into game plan

Optimism continues to grow around Evans, who took part in his fifth straight practice on Thursday afternoon.

Evans’ imminent return — whether it’s this week or soon thereafter — has sparked plenty of debate on where he will fit within the offense. Though the rookie Smith has displayed late-game heroics, his inconsistent hands have also hurt the Baltimore offense at critical points throughout the season.

After being acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills after the first preseason game in August, Evans appeared to be developing quite a rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco in a short amount of time prior to being stricken with the ankle injury. With Evans missing so much time on the field, it remains to be seen what kind of effect it will have on his comfort level with Flacco.

“That doesn’t really affect Joe a lot,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “He’s one of those unique guys that if a guy can get open, he can hit him whether he’s been with him for a week or a month. It’s really going to be predicated in how he practices. He probably needs a week or two of good practice. I think that will help.”

The improved play of Smith as well as the Ravens’ increasing reliance on tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta appears to have bought some time for Evans to work his way back into the flow of the offense, but his addition would provide a major boost in the final stretch of the regular season.

“Some of our other guys are playing really well, and we’ve got some other options until he comes back,” Cameron said. “We’ll see how the practices go, if he’s practicing at a level that [Harbaugh] feels and we feel he can help us win a game, then I’m sure he’ll be active. That may take a week or two.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano, and Jerry Rosburg right here.

 

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Seahawks

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Seahawks

Posted on 15 November 2011 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’ 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field…

(NOTE: Not all pictures are of actual play.)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Golden Tate 24 yard catch from Tavaris Jackson on 3rd & 5 (4th quarter)

4. Marshawn Lynch 8 yard run, Ravens challenge of first down spot fails (4th quarter)

3. David Hawthorne intercepts Joe Flacco, returns to Baltimore 8 yard line, personal foul on Flacco gives Seattle ball on Baltimore 4 (3rd quarter)

2. David Reed fumbles kickoff return, recovered by Ben Obomanu (1st quarter)

1. David Reed fumbles kickoff return, recovered by Atari Bigby (2nd quarter)

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Harbaugh, Ravens “not licking any wounds” in aftermath of Seattle loss

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Harbaugh, Ravens “not licking any wounds” in aftermath of Seattle loss

Posted on 14 November 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — John Harbaugh’s mood was exactly how you might predict it to be 24 hours following the Ravens’ third loss against a sub-.500 team this season.

The Baltimore coach was tense and defensive, clenching his teeth in response to a few questions and providing noticeably short answers on a number of occasions. While Harbaugh was clearly ready to move on to this week’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, his thoughts remained unchanged regarding the Ravens’ 22-17 defeat to the lowly Seahawks.

“It feels the same way that it did [Sunday] night,” Harbaugh said. “Very disappointing loss, one that we have to regroup from, improve in a lot of different areas, and get ready to play this week. Every week in this league is a new week. Every game is a new game. At the end of the year, they count up how many you win and how many you lose.”

As media asked him about the psychology connecting the Ravens’ three losses to teams with losing records and the team’s spirits in the aftermath of the surprising defeat, Harbaugh’s explanation for the loss was blunt: three turnovers, two missed field goals, an erratic passing offense, and a defense that couldn’t get off the field in the game’s final drive.

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“We put ourselves behind the eight ball [in] too many situations and then ended up losing by just five points in a tough environment,” Harbaugh said. “You play better football, you win football games like that. That goes to all of us. That’s what we have to do — we have to coach better, we have to play better — and we’ll win those three football games [we lost].”

Answering many questions with the same theme — only different wording — Harbaugh closed the press conference with the quote of the afternoon when pressed about a perceived attitude of simply moving on to the next week before taking the proper time to focus on mistakes after three defeats to teams with losing records.

Did the Ravens take time to lick their wounds before picking themselves up off the mat on Monday?

“Licking wounds? No, we’re not licking any wounds,” Harbaugh said. “We are moving on. We correct our mistakes, and we go practice on Wednesday. And we get ready to play on Sunday.”

Running away from the run?

A heated topic of discussion on sports talk radio and internet message boards was the Ravens’ one-sided offensive attack that featured 53 passing attempts to only 12 run plays. After an initial uproar was created when Ray Rice received only eight carries in the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last month, the star running back received only five rushing attempts against the Seahawks.

The argument can certainly be made that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and the Ravens panicked too soon in abandoning the run, but an early 10-0 deficit and two lost possessions in the first half — thanks to kick returner David Reed’s two fumbles — threw the offensive game plan out the window. Harbaugh also acknowledged that quarterback Joe Flacco checked out of a run play on the opening drive of the second half when he had his pass tipped into the air and intercepted, leading to another short field goal by Seahawks kicker Steve Hauschka.

“When you don’t have very many plays [in the first half], it’s hard to build up your running game,” Harbaugh said. “When you’re down, you have to throw it to get back in the game. I think every game is different. You’ve got to do in any particular game what you’ve got to do to try to move the ball.”

While many continue to call for Cameron’s job with the Ravens’ perceived refusal to run the football, Harbaugh made it clear that there was no plan to have such offensive imbalance. However, the game situation of being down two possessions and a 4-3 defensive front that continues to give the Ravens problems made it difficult to establish the ground attack.

“In the end, we definitely want to have more runs,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s indicative of having the lead and having more plays, especially early in the game. The way the game went, we had to throw it. And based on some fronts they were giving us early, we felt like we had to throw it, too.”

Searching for answer at kick returner

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Ravens again show they’re not ready to be great in shocking loss to Seahawks

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Ravens again show they’re not ready to be great in shocking loss to Seahawks

Posted on 13 November 2011 by Luke Jones

At one point during the first half of an inexplicable 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, I quipped that the Ravens should petition the NFL to play the Pittsburgh Steelers every week.

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea.

After securing one of the most significant wins in the 16-year history of the franchise in Pittsburgh last week, the Ravens once again proved the margin for error in the NFL is too small to expect to win on the road with anything less than your best performance. Three turnovers, a one-dimensional offense, and a tired defense aren’t going to get it done, even against a 2-6 team that had lost four of its last five games.

While much blame will fall on the shoulders of kick returner David Reed’s two fumbles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for only giving running back Ray Rice five carries, there were far too many problems across the board as the Ravens dropped their third game of the season against sub-.500 teams — Baltimore had only one in John Harbaugh’s first three years as head coach — and lost their hold atop the AFC North.

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The Ravens are now 2-3 against teams with losing records this season while they are 3-0 against those with winning marks (Pittsburgh was 0-0 in Week 1, of course).

Simply put, the Ravens aren’t ready to be an elite team that disposes of inferior competition. For whatever reason, Baltimore has been unable to handle the success of beating quality teams and has followed such feats with mistake-laden, uninspired play against teams it’s supposed to handle without many complications.

After falling behind two scores in the first quarter, the coaching staff panicked despite having come back to win in the Ravens’ two previous games against the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers. Instead of mixing in the run with 30 minutes to play after trailing 19-7 at halftime, Cameron put the game solely on the shoulders of quarterback Joe Flacco in the shotgun much earlier than the Ravens really needed to.

This wasn’t a three-possession deficit like the Ravens faced against Arizona two weeks ago. And the Seahawks defense clearly doesn’t possess the pedigree of a Steelers defense where you simply presume you won’t be able to gain yardage on the ground.

Yet, the Ravens put everything on Flacco all afternoon, who performed exceptionally in come-from-behind victories in their last two games, but the sum of the parts simply isn’t good enough for the Baltimore passing game to expect such success every single week.

Flacco missed open receivers, including a wide-open Torrey Smith streaking down the right sideline at one point, but his receivers let him down with drops on several key occasions as well. Flacco tossed it 52 times for 255 yards and a touchdown, but a meager 4.9 yards per attempt just doesn’t justify the complete abandonment of the running game after an early 10-0 deficit. The heroics in Pittsburgh aside, Flacco and his receivers just aren’t ready to be Tom Brady and the Patriots or Aaron Rodgers and the Packers where you can throw and throw and throw some more to be successful every single week.

As was the case in a loss to Jacksonville last month, giving Rice — your best offensive player — 13 total touches just isn’t nearly enough. And while it’s true the Seahawks ran the same 4-3 defense that’s given the Ravens difficulty all season, it’s not an excuse to fail in even trying to mix in the ground game.

Of course, the Ravens’ inept special teams put Cameron and the offense in a difficult position. To fumble two kickoffs — plays that are meant to swing field position in your favor — is a formula for disaster. The second-year kick returner Reed should find himself fortunate to still have a job this week, let alone remain as the team’s primary returner.

Two more missed field goals from 50 yards or more from Billy Cundiff can — mathematically speaking — be pointed to as the difference in the game. Awarded a five-year, $15 million contract in the offseason, Cundiff cannot be expected to connect on every long try, but a far better clip than the 1-for-6 he has this season isn’t unreasonable.

And, yes, even the vaunted defense failed the Ravens when it mattered most. Though only two of the Seahawks’ six scoring drives were longer than 20 yards, Ray Lewis and the defense took the field with 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter after a Ed Dickson touchdown catch narrowed the margin to 22-17.

Instead of forcing a three-and-out and affording Flacco an opportunity at a third-straight game-winning drive in the final minutes, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 32 yards on seven carries and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson twice completed passes on third down to move the chains and keep the ball out of the Ravens’ hands. Though the Baltimore defense spent 35:01 on the field, it failed to look like that championship-caliber unit that could get a stop when it was needed the most.

As much as the Ravens talked all week about the need to build on the elation of sweeping the regular-season series with Pittsburgh last week, they sure didn’t come out and play like it.

Credit Pete Carroll and the Seahawks — proving once again that no game in the NFL is a slam dunk — but the Ravens tripped and fell down the steps to greatness for a third time this season. They have to find a way to play their best football every week, regardless of who they’re playing, and avoid playing to the level of their competition.

As strange as it sounds, one of the biggest challenges in sports is being able to handle success.

The good news is Baltimore still has seven games remaining on the schedule to figure it out.

The Ravens are good — even very good, at times.

But they’re just not ready to be great.

 

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Our Ravens-Seahawks Slaps To The Head

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Our Ravens-Seahawks Slaps To The Head

Posted on 13 November 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

To just about everyone’s surprise, there were no Pats to be given following the Ravens’ game Sunday, as they fell 22-17 to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

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

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

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

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Ray Lewis

4. Anquan Boldin

3. Jarret Johnson

2. John Harbaugh

1. David Reed (Two slaps)

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Live from Owings Mills: Ngata missing from practice again

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Live from Owings Mills: Ngata missing from practice again

Posted on 03 November 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite the notion that Haloti Ngata’s thigh injury is not considered serious, the Pro Bowl defensive tackle was missing from practice for the second straight day on Thursday.

Ngata was nicked up during the Ravens’ 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals despite the team reporting no new injuries following the game. While concern has grown with the hulking defensive lineman missing from practice again, Ngata is still expected to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Left guard Ben Grubbs practiced for the second straight day after he was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday. The fifth-year lineman appeared to be more active than he was the day before as he fired out from a three-point stance with the rest of the starting offensive line during positional drills.

Return specialist David Reed (knee) returned to practice after not participating on Sunday, but wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (thigh) were not present during the portion of practice. Evans is expected to miss his sixth straight game as he deals with “stress” in his left ankle.

 

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