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NFL Week 1 game notes: Ravens vs. Steelers

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Chris Pika

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL schedule features a pair of teams that have waged one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday’s 1 pm (CBS) game in M&T Bank Stadium may prove to be everything the NFL Kickoff opener was not Thursday night — a healthy dose of strong defense.

In our second edition of “From the notes …” for Week 1, we look inside the weekly PR game notes produced by the Steelers and Ravens PR departments and the NFL Communications office via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pittsburgh won the AFC North last season with a 12-4 record. The Steelers were the AFC Champions, and the club advanced to Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers:

SUDDEN START: Due to the labor impasse the 2011 offseason was all but lost, leaving just over a week for teams to sign undrafted rookies, free agents and their own draft picks that they selected back in late April.

For the Steelers the main focus was on resigning their own players to keep a nucleus in tact that had reaped tremendous success over the past few years.

Pittsburgh’s appearance last year in Super Bowl XLV marked the franchise’s third trip to the title game since 2005. The Steelers bring back 20 players that started in that Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will also return 18 players that started at least 11 games last season, including 15 players that started 14 or more games.

Key players that the Steelers resigned in the offseason included CB Ike Taylor, LB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, OT Jonathan Scott, K Shaun Suisham and NT Chris Hoke. Pittsburgh also signed LB Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract extension.

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Smash Mouth Football, Jets vs. Steelers

Posted on 18 January 2011 by Michael Schwartz

The Steelers are facing the Jets at Heinz Field in the AFC Championship for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The Jets and Steelers both play great defense, and that is why they are still in the playoffs. The Steelers are the number one in the NFL and the Jets are number three. The Steelers have had a great defense since the Steel Curtain. They Steelers build their team to be good at defense, and the Jets have started to do this since Rex Ryan became head coach. The Jets had some good defenders but in the last two years they have acquired Trevor Pryce, Antonio Cromartie, Bart Scott, and many more. Rex Ryan was a defensive coordinator for the Ravens, and when he went to the Jets he wanted to make sure they had a strong defense. They have one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Darrelle Revis and this gives the Jets freedom on defense because Revis doesn’t need safety help over the top. That is a good thing because they can blitz more or double other receivers. The Jets also have helped their offense since Ryan became coach. He drafted Mark Sanchez, picked up L.T, got Santonio Holmes, and Braylon Edwards. This is why they have made it to the AFC Championship two straight years.

The Steelers on the other hand have not made many changes on either side of the ball because the players they have, have worked for them the last couple of years. They have a great quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and they have good receivers in Hines Ward and Mike Wallace. Ward is one of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL, and Wallace is one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL. Rashard Mendenhall is a physical runner, but their offensive line is banged up. The Steelers offensive line had three injuries in their game versus the Ravens and since their playing the Jets, who like to blitz, Big Ben maybe needing to get out of more than usual. The Steelers offense will need to score and that’s no easy task on the Jets. This game will be smash mouth football just like when the Steelers play the Ravens.

The Jets offense will face a tough task, but they have played teams who have good defenses. They played the Ravens in their first game, and they also played the Steelers late in the season. The Steelers were without Troy Polamalu, and the Steelers are a totally different defense. The Steelers will need to run the ball effectively against the Steelers who allow just over 60 yards a game. Shonn Greene is a physical running back who has fresh legs since he wasn’t used too much in the regular season. L.T is probably going to be used in the passing game out of the backfield, because he is a finesse back. The Steelers are great at sealing off the gaps so there is nowhere to run, inside or out. The Jets want to run to set up the pass and that will take pressure off of Mark Sanchez. Mark Sanchez is still a young quarterback, and he needs to make sure he plays a game with little or no mistakes. Troy Polamalu is great at reading the quarterbacks eyes, so Sanchez will need to find Polamalu before the play. If he doesn’t he will have turnovers, and they won’t win this game. They will win this game if they can run the ball effectively, and get their receivers in the game early. Santonio Holmes is coming back to play the Steelers, and they know him and will probably shut him down.

The Steelers will probably have trouble throwing the ball against the Jets secondary. Revis may be on Wallace or Ward, but whoever he is on Cromartie will be on the other. Cromartie is not as good as Revis but is a good corner, but teams like to pick on him because they can’t throw on Revis. Big Ben will need to identify who is on whom so he can decide where he will throw the ball. The Jets like to blitz, even though they didn’t blitz the Pats much, and this means Big Ben will need to see whose coming or he will get sacked. The Jets do a great job at disguising the blitz, but Big Ben is great at avoiding the rush with his size. The Steelers will need to try to run, but if that doesn’t work, then Big Ben needs to take over the game with plays to Wallace and Ward.

Prediction: 24-20 Jets

The loud mouth Jets will win this game and go on to the Super Bowl. They are going to be the better team, and they know that they can beat the Steelers since they already did it. The Jets offense will have decent success running the ball and that’s what’s going to make the game tough for the Steelers. The Jets defense is going to get after Ben since their offensive line is very weak. They have many injuries and Rex Ryan knows how to play Big Ben from his days in Baltimore, so I think that Ryan will dial up the blitzes and get to Ben often.

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Packers Knock #1 Seeded Falcons Out

Posted on 16 January 2011 by Michael Schwartz

The Green Bay Packers led by Aaron Rodgers played their best game of the year. They put up 48 points on an average Falcons defense. They were clicking on all sides of the offense. Aaron Rodgers went 31/36, 366 yards, and 3 touchdowns. The running game wasn’t as effective as it was against the Eagles but they were consistent with it running it with James Starks 25 times. The passing game was just that good though, 7 different receivers caught a pass. Greg Jennings led the Packers with 8 receptions and 101 yards. Jordy Nelson caught 8 passes for 79 yards and one touchdown. Aaron Rodgers had four receivers with 75 yards or more. This shows that he doesn’t care if he’s throwing to a Pro Bowler or an undrafted free agent. Aaron Rodgers has the highest post season passer rating of all time, 129.4. He reads defenses well and he can escape the pressure and do whatever is needed. He escaped pressure and scored a touchdown. The Packers are very tough to beat when the offense is playing at this level.

The Falcons offense was not as good as usual. The Falcons like to run the ball to set up the pass but Michael Turner only had 39 yards on 10 carries. He had 1,371 during the regular season which is over 85 yards a game and he wasn’t even close to that in this game. Matt Ryan threw 9 interceptions the whole year, but he threw 2 versus the Packers. He also lost a fumble, so he had 3 turnovers himself. The only other turnover was by Michael Jenkins, but the Falcons defense didn’t help the offense by allowing 48 points. The Falcons probably wouldn’t have won even if they hadn’t had all of these turnovers because the Packers were scoring at will. They didn’t make mistakes and that is the biggest thing in the playoffs. If you make mistakes then you will lose the game.

The Falcons defense allowed over 400 total yards to the Packers. The Packers had 28 first downs and they were 8/12 on third down. The Falcons only sacked Rodgers twice and other than those plays there was little pressure. Even when there was pressure Aaron Rodgers did a great job at getting away from it and making a play. The Packers didn’t have to punt the ball once, and that is a rare thing in the NFL. Not every day do you see an offense do so well that they don’t have to punt the ball. The Packers offense knocked out the number one seed and that is going to give them a lot of confidence going into Chicago next week. They know that they can beat the Bears, because they did it in week 17. That was a very defensive game, as I said before, but I can’t see that happening again since the Packers scored 48 this week and the Bears scored 35 points. Both teams have good defenses but they both have very explosive offenses when they click. The game next week will be as exciting as any other game in the postseason.

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Loud Mouth vs. Soft Spoken (Jets vs. Pats)

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Michael Schwartz

Rex Ryan, the loud mouth, trash talking coach against Bill Belichick the soft spoken coach. There is a big difference between the two, but both have good teams and good schemes. Bill Belichick’s team is carried by Tom Brady, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and a possible MVP. Rex Ryan and the Jets are led by the defense; they don’t really have one particular leader. Mark Sanchez is a young quarterback, but his is not their leader. Their biggest leader is probably L.T. He is a veteran, and has had a very good year. On the defensive side, Jason Taylor is a veteran who has made speeches to them about the playoffs and playing for as long as he has. The big difference between these two teams is their schemes on each side of the ball. The Patriots are a great passing team, and set up the run with the pass. The Jets run the ball to set up the pass, and this is because Mark Sanchez is not as good as Tom Brady. Sanchez is a second year player, and Brady is a three time Super Bowl winner. There is an obvious difference between the two. The Jets defense relies on pressure to get to the quarterback to force turnovers. The Patriots like to send their four down lineman and drop into coverage. Rex Ryan lives by the blitz and dies by the blitz. Belichick blitzes when on third and longs, or plays where he knows his guys can get to the quarterback. The Patriots have a very young defense led by Jerrod Mayo, who plays middle linebacker. They have the youngest defense in the NFL, but on the line is veteran Vince Wilfork. One of the best defensive tackles in the league because he plugs up the middle with his 350 pound plus body frame. This game will depend on the Jets offense being able to score 25+ points, unless their defense can hold the Patriots under 21. That is a very tough task, because in their last meeting the Patriots won 45-3. The Jets need to run early and often and keep Tom Brady off of the field.

The Patriots offense will score points if the Jets can’t get to Tom Brady. They have Darrelle Revis on one side, and he takes one receiver out of the game but he can’t guard everyone. Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson are the other two cover corners. Cromartie has had a good year, but last time these teams met, Brady shredded him. Darrelle Revis took Reggie Wayne out of the mix last week, and this week he will try to take out Deion Branch or Wes Welker. If he can do this the Patriots will have to rely on Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. These are two good tight ends but they have never played in a post season game so they will likely be nervous. The Patriots will need to run the ball effectively by Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. The Jets defense will blitz Tom Brady and if they can get pressure than the Patriots will be in trouble. Brady doesn’t have speed to get away from pass rushers, and if the Jets are effective then the Patriots will lose. The Jets thrive on stopping the run and making team’s one dimensional, but versus the Patriots they need to stop the pass and then the run and they have a chance.

The Jets offense will have to worry about the Patriots pass rush since Mark Sanchez is not good at getting the ball out quick. The Jets are good at running the ball but their pass game is not that good. They beat the Colts because L.T got in the end zone twice, and ran effectively. They will need to run and that is no easy task since Vince Wilfork takes up the whole middle of the Patriots defense. Jerrod Mayo is a fast linebacker who can chase down running backs. The Jets will need to keep Brady off of the field and the only way to do that is by running the ball effectively. Scoring will be a tough thing against this Pats defense since they get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Mark Sanchez will need to have a good game because the weakest part of the Patriots is their secondary. Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes will need to get open. Mark Sanchez should only throw 25 times in this game, and they should run the ball the rest of the time. Even though L.T is old, he has had a tremendous year and for them to have a chance in this game he needs to run the ball effectively.

Prediction: 27- 17 Patriots

The Patriots will win this game because their offense is too high powered for the Jets defense. The Jets offense can’t score points and that is a problem, they only scored 17 against the Colts defense and this Patriots defense is better. They held the Colts to 16 points, but the Patriots score touchdowns and the Colts couldn’t with all of the injuries their team has sustained throughout the year. The Patriots will stop the Jets running game and that is the only way they can win this game. Mark Sanchez cannot carry a team yet and they need to keep Tom Brady off of the field and that requires you to run the ball effectively. This game will be a one possession game in the fourth but Sanchez will make a mistake and it will cost them the game.

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Blog & Tackle: A look at Ravens-Steelers PR game notes

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Chris Pika

Every game of the NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend is a regular-season rematch as both of the AFC games are between division opponents — the first time since 2000 that two games feature teams playing for a third time in a season.

The nastiest matchup of the weekend is the first on the docket: Baltimore at Pittsburgh. The teams have waged wars in the AFC North over the years, and 2010 was no exception. Each team scored 27 points total in the two games, and the games are as physical as any in the NFL over the previous decade.

The Ravens continued to have playoff success on the road as they beat Kansas City last Sunday 30-7 in New Arrowhead. It was the third straight season with at least one playoff victory for Baltimore, the only club in the NFL to do so over the period. QB Joe Flacco joined Bernie Kosar (1985-87) and Dan Marino (1983-85) to start a playoff game in each of their first three seasons in the league. The Ravens will try to advance to the AFC title game for the first time since the 2008 season.

Pittsburgh survived the loss of QB Ben Roethlisberger to a four-game suspension to get to a 3-1 start which included a home loss to the Ravens. The Steelers won six of their last seven games, including a road win at Baltimore for the division title. Roethlisberger Has thrown a personal-best 158 straight passes without an INT, the longest for the Steelers since QB Kordell Stewart had a streak of 159 consecutive pass attempts without an interception in 2001.

The teams split the regular season meetings, with the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh 17-14 in October, and the Steelers winning in Baltimore 13-10 in December.

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Preview For Ravens vs. Steelers Playoff Game

Posted on 12 January 2011 by Michael Schwartz

Smash mouth football at its best. Ravens and Steelers, two divisional rivals, two of the best defenses in the NFL slugging it out at Heinz Field on Saturday, January 15th. Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense go into Pittsburg with the same regular season record at 12-4. The Ravens dominated the Chiefs in the opening round of the playoffs 30-7. The Steelers had a bye and their last two regular season games were blowouts. They beat the Panthers with ease and then crushed the Browns 41-9. They rested some of their starters in the second half of the Browns game. Their injured players have had rest some of the players are Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, and Bryan McFadden. Troy Polamalu has been battling a Achilles tendon injury for a little over a month. He has had plenty to rest, so he will be as healthy as possible for Sunday. Mike Tomlin said that he will practice later in the week so he can stay as well rested as possible. Aaron Smith and McFadden have been battling injuries but are both expected to play on Saturday. On the other hand, the Ravens played last week, so they didn’t have any time off. In the Chiefs game some Ravens were getting up slowly and limping around. One player was Matt Birk, he was getting up very slow every time he was on the ground. He played the whole game, so he will play on Saturday but he will need to be well rested so he can stop the Steelers pass rush. Haloti Ngata has been battling a sprained knee for the last couple of weeks, he has played each week, but he will be a big factor in the game. He Is the key for the Ravens stopping Rashard Mendenhall from having a big day. This will be a hard hitting game, and there are probably going to be some injuries. The players will play through it, so they can get to the AFC Championship.

The Ravens defense hasn’t beaten Ben Roethlisberger in the last five years. The last time the Ravens played the Steelers, Haloti Ngata broke his nose in the first series. Big Ben finished the game and led them to victory with less than two minutes to play. Big Ben is the toughest quarterback to bring down in the NFL and the Ravens know that. Terrell Suggs will be a key player in Saturday’s game, and he has played against Big Ben many times in his career. He knows that he needs to wrap Ben up and not let him escape. Big Ben will need his receivers to get open quick, because the Ravens pass rush does well in getting to him. Mike Wallace is a very good wide receiver; he has great speed and hands. He likes to run deep and Ben is great at putting the ball where only he can get it. Hines Ward is a veteran wide receiver who always seems to do well against the Ravens. He is a very good route runner, who finds the holes in the defense. The Steelers are very good at running the football. Rashard Mendenhall is a very physical runner and the Steelers offensive line does a great job at giving him holes to run. The Steelers offense revolves around Big Ben making plays out of nothing, but if the Ravens can keep him in the pocket, then they will have a chance to stop the big plays. The Ravens defense will have their hands full in this game with trying to stop the run and the pass. Generally the Ravens are good at stopping the run, but versus the Chiefs Jamaal Charles had 9 attempts for 82 yards. In the second half he was held to 2 carries for -5 yards. The Ravens made the adjustment and stopped Charles. Charles is a back who likes to get to the outside, while Mendenhall is a between the tackle runner. The Ravens defense will need to fill up the holes fast or get good penetration into the backfield. Haloti Ngata is the best defensive lineman, and teams have to double team him or he can get into the backfield. The Ravens secondary had trouble tackling Charles, and if they want to stop the run they will need to tackle Mendenhall from the waist down. Mike Wallace will likely be covered by Chris Carr with Ed Reed helping over the top to prevent the big play. Hines Ward will be covered by Josh Wilson who will need to physical in order to stop Ward. Ward is a very physical receiver and is considered to be very cheap; Wilson will need to keep composure along with the rest of the Ravens defense so they don’t give the Steelers extra downs.

The Ravens offense will have a tough task ahead of them since the Steelers defense is one of the best in the NFL. They are very good at getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. The Ravens offense line has had trouble this year protecting Flacco. The Chiefs had 4 sacks and the Steelers have rushers like James Harrison who is a great defensive end. Michael Oher will have his hands full all day and for the Ravens to win they need Oher to keep Harrison off of his quarterback. The Ravens offense likes to run to set up the pass but against the Steelers they have trouble running the ball. Joe Flacco will need to have a good game just like versus Kansas City. The receivers will need to get open so Flacco can get the ball out quickly. Anquan Boldin had a good game versus the Chiefs with 5 receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. He is a physical receiver, so this is his kind of game. Ray Rice will need to catch balls out of the backfield if the receivers are covered. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee will need to run the ball well in order for the offense to o well. If they run well then that opens up the play action and Joe Flacco is very good when he uses play action. Joe Flacco will need to spot Troy Polamalu on each play so he doesn’t make big plays. Polamalu is the reason that the Steelers won in Week 13, so he will likely be the difference in this game to.

Prediction: 16-13 Steelers

The last 2 meetings between the Steelers and Ravens have been decided by 3 points. I think that that will remain the same. This game will come down to the last couple of plays just like the other games. Big Ben will likely drive the Steelers down the field with 2 minutes or less to go and get them in field goal range. The Steelers will go onto the AFC Championship and lose to either team because they will be so banged up.

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Rex Ryan Keeps His Word

Posted on 11 January 2011 by Michael Schwartz

A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship where the Colts killed the Jets 30-13. The Jets were looking for revenge and of all people Rex Ryan was talking trash. He did the same thing last year, but his team lost. However, this year he kept his word by beating Peyton Manning and the Colts. They did it with defense, which is one of the best in the NFL. The Jets defense held the Colts to 16 points, and this is key since their offense is not very high scoring. The Jets shutdown Reggie Wayne the entire game by putting Darrelle Revis on him. Wayne was held to one catch on one target. The catch was for one yard, so he was no factor in the game. The Jets knew that they were going to have to get pressure on Manning, or make him uncomfortable if they wanted to win the game. They did this for much of the game and that is one reason the Colts couldn’t score much. The Colts had three field goals, including one that took the lead with 53 seconds left, and then one touchdown. The Colts running game had been pretty good in the past couple of weeks, but they couldn’t run on the stringent Jets defense. Joseph Addai was held in check for the whole game and this meant that the Colts had to be one dimensional. The Colts are known to be a passing team, but when the play action doesn’t work Peyton Manning has to try to force things. Manning is one of the best quarterbacks off all time, but when the defense is getting pressure and everyone knows your passing then it’s very difficult to win. The Colts offense took the lead with 53 seconds left when Adam Vinetari hit a 50 yard field goal.

On the kickoff, Antonio Cromartie ran the ball back to the 40 yard line. The Jets had two timeouts, and with 20 seconds remaining Braylon Edwards came to the huddle and said he had one on one coverage. He told Sanchez to throw it to him, like a jump ball and he did. They let the clock run to three seconds before calling their last time out. Nick Folk trotted out and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired. Jim Cadwell made a huge mistake with 30 seconds by calling a timeout, and Peyton Manning’s face told the story. He was in complete disbelief, because the Jets would have had to get to the line quick but instead they had time to set up a play. This is something that confused many people, myself included. This was not the only reason they lost, if they hadn’t let Cromartie return the ball 40 yards then they would have had to go a longer distance. This is something that was just shocking to the announcers, fans, and players. The Jets offense didn’t really play a good game; they relied on L.T for their two touchdowns. They did enough to win and in the playoffs that is good enough. Teams will be happy to get a little lucky as long as it puts them into the next round. Rex Ryan and the Jets have a lot to do since they play the Patriots. Rex Ryan will talk a lot this week, and Brady and the Patriots will just ignore it and play the game on Sunday.

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Ravens Play Great Team Game

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Michael Schwartz

The NFL’s best running team in the Chiefs versus a stout Ravens defense. The Chiefs offense had a early touchdown in the first when Jamaal Charles broke a 41 yard run. The Ravens knew going into this game that they needed to stop Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs rushing attack. After this play the Ravens knew if they didn’t make adjustments it would be a long day. After that the Ravens didn’t let the Chiefs score again. The defense shut down the Chiefs run game and pass game. Cassell threw for 70 yards and the Chiefs ran for 108 yards. Their total net yards were 161, and that is less than half of their season average. The Ravens defense forced 5 turnovers, 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles. The Ravens defense sacked Cassell 3 times and another thing the Ravens defense did well was holding the Chiefs on third down conversions. The Chiefs were 1/8 on third down. The Ravens defense got after the quarterback and that is because Greg Mattison dialed up the blitz. It is something that he hasn’t done all year but he did it and it worked. The Chiefs definitely weren’t expecting the Ravens defense to dial up the blitz and stopping the passing game. Dwayne Bowe didn’t have one reception and that is something that the Ravens emphasized. They were putting Ed Reed as a deep safety on Bowe’s side. The defense had a great plan on how to contain Bowe and the whole Chiefs offense.

The Ravens offense played great in all aspects of offense. Joe Flacco didn’t throw any interceptions, but he fumbled when Tamba Hali came off the edge and stripped it. This led to the Jamaal Charles touchdown but that was the only mistake Flacco made. The Ravens were not running the ball particularly well, but they still had the Chiefs biting on the play action. Todd Heap was unstoppable, he had 10 receptions for 108 yards. The Ravens finally got Anquan Boldin involved. He had 5 receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. He is going to have to do the same next week if the Ravens want to win. Ray Rice caught 5 balls out of the backfield for 42 yards including a touchdown on a third and 2. The offense possessed the ball for more than 40 minutes and that kept the defense fresh and it showed because the were able to force 5 turnovers. The Ravens offensive line allowed 4 sacks and the Steelers have a much better pass rush than the Chiefs and the Ravens will need to protect Flacco a lot better. The Ravens played a great game overall and have a good chance against the Steelers if they can play the same offense they played versus the Chiefs.  The Ravens played this game for Ed Reed and the Ravens linebackers coach who lost a family member this past week.

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Don’t You Talk About My Defense Like That!

Posted on 14 December 2010 by Dwayne Showalter

I can’t stand idly by any longer and let the buffoonery continue.  I know people like to vent after losses (and near collapses like last night in Houston).  But the constant bashing of the Ravens offense while the defense continues to get a free pass has to stop.

It’s like the offense is Muslim and the defense is the Pope around here.   The offense has its moments where components fail and make the whole unit looked whacked but generally it’s just a solid group that goes misunderstood.  And the Pope?  Well golly, how can you question him?

I can.  And I will.  Certainly when it comes to last night’s game.  Once being staked to a 21-0 lead, the defense came on the field.  Admittedly, they were playing well, but let’s be honest, the Texans were killing themselves a bit too.   The D had surrendered 108 yards to that point.  The offense was clicking.  There was no reason to be “winded” at this point.

But the Texans breezed through for an 80 yard, 7-play TD.  Then it was halftime.  OK.  The D made a late mistake.  The break would give them time to sure up themselves for the second half, right?  And the bonus?  Returning the opening kick all the way to restore a 21-point lead.

Now here is where people lose perspective.  They are certainly rested after the half.   So how do you explain a 16 play, 70 yard drive, using half the 3rd quarter.  That’s on them.  Now a Ravens offense comes out that hasn’t ran a meaningful play in nearly an hour and goes three-and-out.  Shame on you offense for doing that for only the 2nd time all night and after scoring TDs on 3 of your last 5 possessions.  Maybe the Ravens defense can step up now and give you a hand.  It’s still 28-10.  No…another 10 play drive ending with a field goal and its 28-13.

Now surely the offense will move the ball, right?  I mean the lead is only 15 and only 11 minutes remain.  Well, they don’t score but they do net a couple first downs, knock 4:33 off the clock and pin the Texans at the 1-yard line with another brilliant punt by Sam Koch.  Now the defense should have had time to catch its breath with timeouts and clock stoppages. 

But no, it’s a 99-yard, 15 play comedy that includes gains of 23,7,10,16,8,13,10,5 and finally a 7 yard TD to close the gap.

Now the offense needs to come up big.  Well, they don’t but they do gain two first downs again, flip the field again, knock 3:18 off the clock and pin the Texans at their own 5.  But as we have seen already, that is no challenge to Houston who gains 95 yards in 2:13 and ties the game with two-point conversion.

And remember the overtime?  Pinned again, Houston is forced, finally, into a mistake that wins the game for Baltimore.  Did the Ravens offense have the knock-out blow in the second half, NO.  I get that.  But that, folks, is one extremely poor defensive showing.  Tired?  Please…I was tired of watching them play like crap.  The offense could at least make some 1st downs.  The defense never stopped Houston after the 21-0 lead.  Never…until overtime.  Guess what, if they would have done it just once in the previous five drives, the game was over.

And for a town that always seems to be chasing the Steelers, chew on this.  In their past three games, Pittsburgh has scored 2 TDs (a 9 yard drive and one to begin the Buffalo game 3 weeks ago), fumbled twice, were picked off once, and punted 16 times.  Now they have kicked 9 field goals in that time.  You can win that way when you play great defense as Pittsburgh is doing.  The Ravens have done it before.  But this is not a great defense or a great offense.  Both have shortcomings.  Somehow they are 9-4.  And the NFL doesn’t offer up “gimme’s”.  So take it for what it is…an escape…and look forward to the next roller coaster ride on Sunday because my guess is we’ll need to scrounge up another 30-plus points versus the Saints…offense, defense and special teams again. 

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

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