Tag Archive | "Frank Walker"

Siragusa

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 (and Worst 7) Ravens free-agent signings

Posted on 20 March 2012 by Luke Jones

In honor of the Ravens re-signing veteran center Matt Birk to a three-year contract on Friday, The Morning Reaction offers its Tuesday Top 7 (and Worst 7) free-agent signings in the history of the Baltimore Ravens.

Luke Jones ranked the best signings while Drew Forrester identified the worst signings made by general manager Ozzie Newsome and the organization.

To hear the full explanation of their lists, click HERE for Part 1 and HERE for Part 2.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 free-agent signings …

7) Tony Siragusa
Siragusa

6) Trent Dilfer
Dilfer

5) Sam Adams
Adams

4) Michael McCrary
McCrary

3) Derrick Mason
Mason

2) Rod Woodson
Woodson

1) Shannon Sharpe
Sharpe

Drew Forrester’s Worst 7 free-agent signings …

7) Corey Fuller
Fuller

6) Mike Anderson
Anderson

5) Keydrick Vincent
Vincent

4) Deion Sanders
Sanders

3) Elvis Grbac
Grbac

2) Frank Sanders
Sanders

1) Frank Walker
Walker

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Harris

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (41-60)

Posted on 27 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number this week, I decided to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Part 1 and Part 2 covered jersey numbers 1 through 40 if you missed them.

Part 3 (41-60) presents the most obvious choice on the list—who was also chosen as the greatest player to wear his number in the history of the National Football League—as well as two of the most obscure numbers in team history.

41 Frank Walker (2008-09)

He was never popular among fans due to his propensity for drawing penalty flags, but Walker was not as bad as some made him out to be. Injuries often forced the backup into starter duty where his weaknesses were exposed.

His only competition for this number was Ralph Staten, a once-promising safety who was jettisoned from the team due to character issues in the spring of 1999. Regardless of where you stand with Walker, he is a pretty clear choice and has at least one big fan on YouTube.

Knowing Walker, it would not be a complete shock to find out he made this video himself.

42 Anthony Mitchell (2000-02)

I went back and forth between Mitchell and fullback Lorenzo Neal, but Mitchell’s three seasons in Baltimore allowed him to grab the honor. Mitchell spent his first two seasons with the Ravens as a special teams contributor before his workload in the secondary increased in 2002, starting six games and grabbing three interceptions.

Of course, the mere mention of Mitchell makes Baltimore think about a certain blocked field goal return in Nashville (check the 3:30 mark).

43 Haruki Nakamura (2008-present)

Despite a promising future, Nakamura has done little to distinguish himself other than contributing on special teams in his first two seasons. However, it tops the work of other defensive backs like Vashone Adams and Anthony Poindexter.

44 Jason Brookins (2000-01)

The big tailback rushed for 551 yards in 2001, beating out the likes of Tony Vinson and Willie Gaston. Brookins is most remembered for leaving the Packers camp a year later after the staff asked him for his playbook, the traditional sign that a player is being cut. It turns out the coaching staff only wanted to add some new plays and by the time Brookins received the message, Green Bay coach Mike Sherman decided to cut the running back.

And the Baltimore coaching staff questioned his decision-making and intelligence while with the Ravens. Imagine that.

45 Corey Harris (1998-2001)

Harris

Harris spent most of his Ravens career as a backup and solid return man, but stepped up in a big way when safety Kim Herring went down with a sprained ankle in the 2000 playoffs. He started against Tennessee and Oakland and started all 16 at strong safety the following season.

46 B.J. Ward (2005)

The Florida State safety played in 15 games in 2005, making 11 tackles and forcing a fumble. Why is he the pick at No. 46? There is no record of any other player wearing the number in the regular season for the Ravens.

47 Will Demps (2002-2005)

The undrafted rookie was the surprise of training camp in 2002, not only winning a roster spot but becoming a starting safety next to Ed Reed for four seasons. Demps returned an interception for a touchdown in the Ravens’ only playoff game during his time in Baltimore, a 20-17 loss to the Titans in January 2004.

48 Frank Hartley (1996)

If linebacker Edgar Jones — who had previously worn Nos. 91 and 84 before switching to 48 this offseason — makes the 53-man roster this season, he immediately grabs the distinction. Until then, the tight end Hartley holds this spot despite never making a catch in eight games in 1996.

Don’t worry, I didn’t remember him either.

49 Chad Williams (2002-05)

Chad Williams

Williams is the easy choice after playing four seasons in Baltimore, registering eight interceptions and scoring three touchdowns as a backup safety.

50 Antwan Barnes (2007-present)

Though Dunbar graduate Tommy Polley and reserve linebacker Brad Jackson earn strong consideration, Barnes wins the honor with five career sacks and strong special teams play over his first three seasons with the Ravens. Despite a high ceiling, Barnes has yet to provide a consist impact as a pass rusher off the edge, something he hopes to change this season.

51 Cornell Brown (1997-2000, 2002-04)

Some will argue special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo for this spot, but Cornell Brown is the obvious choice despite wearing No. 90 in his second stint with the Ravens. Brown made 25 starts and was very good against the run, ofter sharing time with Peter Boulware when the Pro Bowl linebacker was ailing.

52 Ray Lewis (1996-present)

Never mind that Lewis was selected by SI.com as the best ever to wear the jersey number in the NFL. When you think of the Baltimore Ravens, No. 52 is the image that overwhelmingly comes to mind.

One of the greatest defensive players ever.

53 Jameel McClain (2008-present)

Tyrell Peters, T.J. Slaughter, and the injury-cursed Dan Cody also wore the number, but McClain has done just enough in special teams and passing downs to grab the distinction. His stature can rise even higher if he earns the starting job at inside linebacker this season.

54 Roderick Green (2004-05)

Green never realized his full potential as a Raven, but he is a marginally-better choice than Tyrus McCloud, Shannon Taylor, or current linebacker Prescott Burgess for No. 54.

55 Terrell Suggs (2003-present)

Many feel Suggs has never lived up the hype or the record-setting contract inked in 2009, but he is one of the most complete outside linebackers in the league when healthy and motivated. His two-sack performance against the Steelers in the AFC Championship two seasons ago was borderline heroic after sustaining a shoulder injury against the Titans a week earlier.

More sentimental fans will argue for Jamie Sharper — who would be a unanimous choice for any linebacker number other than 55, 52, or 58 — but Suggs has had the superior career.

56 Ed Hartwell (2001-04)

Hartwell put his name on the Baltimore linebacker map when he led the team in tackles in 2002 after Ray Lewis was sidelined with a shoulder injury. A good linebacker in his own right, Hartwell was overshadowed in his last two seasons with the Ravens, a palpable frustration he even voiced before departing for Atlanta in 2005.

57 Bart Scott (2002-08)

Just as popular with the media as he was with the fans, Scott was an undrafted linebacker who made himself into a Pro Bowl force during his seven seasons with the Ravens. His “hot sauce” tackle of Reggie Bush gained notoriety, but the linebacker will always be remembered for a hit he laid on a certain Pittsburgh quarterback.

The number is currently reserved in honor of the heroic O.J. Brigance — who is certainly deserving as he continues to fight ALS — but Brigance would be the first to tell you Scott is the greatest Raven to don the No. 57.

58 Peter Boulware (1997-2005)

Boulware

The franchise’s all-time sack leader dealt with knee and shoulder injuries during his career, but he was a force as a pass rusher and made himself into an every-down linebacker after playing defensive end at Florida State. Boulware earned four trips to the Pro Bowl, won the 1997 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and is a member of the Ravens Ring of Honor.

59 Dannell Ellerbe (2009-present)

Ellerbe

Prior to the 2009 season, long snapper Joe Maese (2001-04) was the clear-cut selection here, but the undrafted Ellerbe made the 53-man roster and eventually wrestled away the starting inside linebacker spot from Tavares Gooden in the final month of his rookie season. Ellerbe’s interception against Oakland in Week 17 helped preserve a 21-13 win and a postseason berth for the 9-7 Ravens.

60 Jason Brown (2005-08)

Super Bowl-winning center Jeff Mitchell was blossoming into a Pro Bowl-caliber player before signing with the Carolina Panthers in 2001, allowing Jason Brown to seize recognition for this number. Drafted in the fourth round in 2005, Brown began his NFL career at left guard before moving to his college position of center in 2008. It earned him a huge payday with the St. Louis Rams the following offseason, as the Ravens could not afford to keep Brown.

Next up: For numbers 61-80, we will dive into the trenches with the offensive line, with a few obvious choices and several integers where we need to look long and hard to find a representative.

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Locked out from Westminster: Looking to Thursday night

Posted on 11 August 2010 by Luke Jones

On a slow news day with the Ravens closing their walkthrough to the public and media today, we now wait for the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.

After all of the hype and expectations surrounding the Ravens throughout the offseason, we’ll finally get a chance to see this team in live-game action, albeit in a cameo appearance for most starters. As with any preseason game, escaping without injury is paramount, especially at the offensive tackle and cornerback positions.

Preseason games are about evaluating each individual play and series, with the end result of a win or loss completely irrelevant in most cases. Even so, it’s difficult not to be excited about the opportunity to see Anquan Boldin bring his combatant style to the Baltimore offense for the first time.

As I discussed with Thyrl Nelson on AM 1570 WNST earlier today, there hasn’t been a more-anticipated preseason opener in Baltimore since Steve McNair’s debut against the New York Giants in August 2006. McNair marched the Ravens 80 yards in 12 plays, finishing the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run as the M&T Bank Stadium crowd instantly adopted the former Tennessee Titan rival as its own.

Though it would be McNair’s only series of the evening, it signaled a reversal in the Ravens’ fortunes at quarterback—for one season at least—and set an early tone for what would be the best regular season (13-3) in franchise history.

And oh yeah, the Giants ended up winning the game, 17-16.

Given the enormous expectations this season, a Joe Flacco touchdown toss to Boldin on the opening drive would top the McNair preseason moment. Whatever happens after that on Thursday night—aside from a major injury—would be irrelevant.

– All eyes will be glued to the secondary as the Ravens will be fielding a patchwork unit of cornerbacks against the Panters. With Chris Carr (hamstring) likely out, Fabian Washington (knee) a game-time decision, and Lardarius Webb (knee) still on the Physically Unable to Perform list, veteran Travis Fisher and Cary Williams could be the starting cornerbacks, an uncomfortable proposition even for the first preseason game.

Williams and rookie Prince Miller will receive a large number of reps, giving the coaching staff ample opportunity to evaluate the two. Williams has shown promise during camp, but a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy clouds his hopes for cracking the 53-man roster.

Miller matched up effectively against the best the SEC had to offer during his collegiate career at Georgia, but his tiny stature—only 5-foot-8—is difficult to overlook as Ravens receivers have consistently beaten him in jump-ball situations. The pint-sized defensive back possesses skill in the return game, a factor working in his favor.

– The Ravens continue to explore external options at the cornerback position, one of them being Frank Walker. The much-maligned veteran remains a free agent but continues to have discussions about a potential return.

However, the Dolphins are interested in the 29-year-old Walker, who spent the last two seasons with the Ravens. He is scheduled to meet with the Dolphins and potentially sign an agreement to play in Miami.

“We have a meeting and depending how that goes, we will see if I want to sign there or not,” Walker said in a text message on Wednesday.

Most Baltimore fans will firmly stand against a potential Walker return, but I still think he’s the best option among the veteran defensive backs flapping in the wind of the free agent wire right now. Then again, I haven’t forgotten about the little yellow flags flying through the air, either.

– Injured cornerback Domonique Foxworth underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL in his right knee on Tuesday.

The surgery was performed by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

“My knee is killin me,” Foxworth said on Twitter. “And almost everytime I eat a lil bit and take pain meds I throw-up.”

Foxworth is a highly-respected figure in the Ravens locker room and faces a long recovery, but he should be 100 percent recovered in time for the start of the 2011 OTA schedule.

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Live from Westminster: Gaither’s health remains mystery, will have tests done Monday

Posted on 01 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — Despite assurances that Jared Gaither was merely suffering from back cramps after being carted off the field Friday afternoon, the offensive tackle was again absent on Sunday morning as his immediate status remains unknown.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh added no clarity to the situation but disclosed Gaither will have blood work done and the medical staff will run the tackle through a series of tests on Monday.

“I’d like to be able to tell you what it is,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know.”

Gaither arrived training camp weighing 311 pounds, more than 20 pounds lighter than the weight at which he played last season. This was not the wishes of the coaching staff and Gaither’s rationale for dropping so much weight is a mystery to Harbaugh.

“[Gaither] made a decision [to drop weight],” the Ravens coach said after Sunday morning’s practice. “He’s working out on his own. It’s not like he was around. He made the decision to go lighter. He can explain to you why.”

You can hear more from Harbaugh in addition to Derrick Mason, Donte’ Stalloworth, and Todd Heap in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right now!

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) throughout the afternoon.

_________________________________________________________________

10:25 p.m. — I’m a little late with this one, but the Ravens have inked offensive tackle Devin Tyler to a contract after placing cornerback Domonique Foxworth on Injured Reserve. Tyler is from Forestville, Md. and attended Temple. He’s 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds.

With tackles Jared Gaither (back), Oniel Cousins (throat), Stefan Rodgers (calf/ankle), and Tony Moll (undisclosed) all not practicing, Tyler is needed to have another camp body at the position.

Tyler, along with two others, tried out for the team following the Sunday morning practice.

2:05 p.m. — It’s no secret the Ravens are on the prowl for cornerback help and have spoken to a few cornerbacks in recent days. Names linked to the Ravens include Fred Smoot and even former Browns corner Anthony Henry.

As I reported on Friday, the Ravens have had discussions with Frank Walker, who spent the last two seasons in Baltimore. Though Walker struggled at times and was often chastised by fans and media alike, he has the advantage of being very familiar with the Ravens’ system. John Harbaugh confirmed after Sunday morning’s practice that Walker has had conversations with other teams as well.

“Sure, [Walker] would have a shot,” Harbaugh said. “You know, [he] knows our scheme, he’s got some options, teams he’s talking to right now, but he’s one guy of a lot of guys we’re looking at.”

In an interview I conducted with Walker a couple weeks ago on AM 1570 WNST.net (you can find it in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault), he reemphasized his love for the organization and how he’d love to come back to play with the Ravens.

1:40 p.m. — Donte’ Stallworth continues to impress in the early days of camp and figures to be the No. 3 receiver if he can stay healthy and fight off former starter Mark Clayton.

Expectations are obviously high for the passing offense, but Stallworth is no stranger to playing with prolific offenses. He was a member of the record-breaking offense of the 2007 New England Patriots that included Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Jabar Gaffney at wide receiver.

While Stallworth isn’t ready to proclaim the Baltimore receivers a more impressive unit than those Patriots, he sees vast potential in what the Ravens can accomplish in the passing game this season.

“This offense is capable of that game kind of season [that the 2007 Patriots had],” said Stallworth when asked about the potential of this receiving corps. “We have a lot of new guys here that are working together and we’re just trying to build on each other and work together and try to put together that same kind of situation.”

1:30 p.m. — With your always exciting kicking update for the day, Billy Cundiff connected from 32, 41, and 55 yards. He missed wide right from 45 yards.

I knew you were waiting on the edge of your seat for that one.

Jameel McClain continues to receive the large majority of reps at inside linebacker next to Ray Lewis with Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe in the mix as well. We all assumed the latter two would be the ones battling for the spot next to No. 52, but McClain continues to go about his business and worked extremely hard in the offseason, according to his coaches.

1:25 p.m. — Expectations are soaring for the Baltimore offense after the acquisitions of Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, and Sunday morning’s workout was a perfect example why.

Joe Flacco threaded the needle repeatedly, torching defensive backs even when they blanketed receivers. During a red zone session, Flacco connected with Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta for touchdowns and threw a beautiful over-the-shoulder ball to fullback Le’Ron McClain, who was covered perfectly on the play.

Of course, Flacco’s performance on August 1 means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but for one morning only, he looked like the elite quarterback many hope—or expect—him to become in 2010.

12:40 p.m. — My apologies for the lack of updates so far. Members of the media just attended the NFL Rules session with officials at training camp this weekend. I’ll write about the rules changes in the near future and how it might impact the NFL in 2010.

Tight end Todd Heap returned to practice after passing his conditioning test and being removed from the non-football illness list this morning. He was suffering from swollen tonsils, a condition he described as “knocking him out.”

In addition to Gaither missing practice, cornerback Fabian Washington sat out the morning workout as he continues to work his way back into training camp mode. Offensive tackle Tony Moll and veteran cornerback Walt Harris were also sidelined.

With Gaither and Moll out, Joe Reitz took the first-team reps at right tackle, but the Ravens have signed offensive lineman Daniel Sanders to add another body to a banged-up unit. The team also worked out a few offensive linemen after the morning workout on Sunday.

As for the players currently on the PUP list, there were no changes Sunday morning.

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Live from Westminster: Foxworth gone for season, Gaither provides scare in afternoon

Posted on 30 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The excitement was palpable as the Ravens took the field for their first full-squad practice on Friday morning, but the mood changed dramatically with the absence of starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth and WNST.net learning he tore the ACL in his right knee on Thursday evening during an “orientation” practice.

The Ravens will now piece together a secondary for the start of training camp as they await the returns of Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb, both returning from ACL injuries last season. With all three cornerbacks currently out of practice, Chris Carr and Travis Fisher lined up with the first-team defense.

Not exactly a tandem that inspires confidence.

Be sure to head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Domonique Foxworth, John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison regarding the Foxworth injury and the first day of full-team workouts.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below).

_______________________________________________________

6:30 p.m. — The Ravens have confirmed Jared Gaither was merely dealing with back cramps this afternoon when he was carted off the field. Definitely good news on a day when it’s much needed.

The team has also brought in former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Nashville Dyer, presumably for a tryout. Dyer has also spent time in NFL Europe.

5:20 p.m. — Ed Reed did some conditioning and strength work on his own this afternoon as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

Rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody showed a very impressive bull rush against starting guard Ben Grubbs, pushing him deep into the backfield during 1-on-1 linemen drills. However, right guard Marshal Yanda held his ground against the 350-pound rookie later in the drill.

And the Baltimore defense looked to be in midseason form when K.J. Gerard intercepted a pass and attempted to lateral the football to a teammate. Gerard nearly fumbled but managed to maintain possession.

A nice play, but one that makes fans pull their hair out.

5:15 p.m. — In a day filled with disappointing news, the status of Fabian Washington provides a small beacon of light as the cornerback returned to the practice field this afternoon. He sported a red mesh top over his white practice jersey, indicating no contact for the starting corner.

With the loss of Domonique Foxworth for the season, any progress by Washington or Lardarius Webb is a great piece of news.

5:00 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you just received the news that Jared Gaither was carted off the field with an apparent back injury. There didn’t appear to be an exact moment of injury, as he stood in pain for a few minutes before going to the ground.

He remained on his stomach for a few minutes before taking off his shoulder pads as the training staff applied ice packs to his back. He then gingerly walked over to the cart before laying on it and being taken off the field.

This could simply be a minor issue of some spasms, but with the events of the last 24 hours, it’s hard not to think the absolute worst if you’re a Ravens fan.

2:20 p.m. — Ray Lewis started his 15th training camp with the Ravens on Friday morning, the only player left from the inaugural 1996 season.

The 35-year-old linebacker emphasized the need for the team to move on from the Foxworth injury despite his disappointment and sympathy for his fallen teammate.

“I think every team is going to—one way or another—face some type of adversity through the course of the year,” Lewis said after practice. “It just so happens for us, it came on Day 1. Losing a guy like Foxworth, do you try to replace that guy? No, but the next guy has to step up, and that’s what teams are built by. The bottom line is figure it out, move whatever pieces you have to move around, and just keep moving.”

You can catch the full interview with Ray Lewis in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

2:10 p.m. — Other highlights of the morning practice took place during 7-on-7 passing drills when Troy Smith connected on a long touchdown pass to Eron Riley. Chris Carr later picked off a Marc Bulger pass and returned it for a touchdown.

The biggest cheers of the day were drawn when Joe Flacco connected with new standout receiver Anquan Boldin for a short touchdown.

“[Flacco’s] a great young talent, and I only see him getting better,” Boldin said after his first training camp practice as a Raven. “This year, they went out and got weapons to put around him, so hopefully he goes out and has a killer year.”

2:00 p.m. — The team spent a good portion of practice in an 11-on-11 “thud” scrimmage (contact without taking anyone to the ground). The first play of the session was a completion from Joe Flacco to Derrick Mason.

Imagine that.

Other highlights included a Marc Bulger strike to Mark Clayton in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Bulger is still in a bit of a learning mode but saw his participation level increase on Friday compared to the earlier workouts of the week.

Surprisingly, Jameel McClain received extensive reps at the other inside linebacker spot next to Ray Lewis during the 11-on-11 portion. Most expect Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden to compete for the starting job next to the 35-year-old Lewis, but McClain received the reps on the first day.

1:55 p.m. — With the disappointing news of Foxworth’s injury dominating the media’s attention this morning, I’ll remind you a practice actually took place this morning as well.

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither participated fully despite dealing with a foot injury during the OTA schedule. While he’s projected to be the starting right tackle with Michael Oher being shifted to the left side, both players took their turns at each position throughout the morning workout.

In fact, Gaither seemed to receive most reps on the left side as the practice wore on Friday morning. We’ll continue to monitor each young tackle to see if perhaps the Ravens are wavering on the decision to flip-flop the two.

1:35 p.m. — In addition to Heap, cornerback Fabian Washington did not practice on Friday morning despite coming off the PUP list on Thursday. With the injury to Foxworth, the team may choose to be extra cautious with throwing Washington back into the mix full-go.

Walt Harris came off the PUP list and practiced this morning.

Free safety Ed Reed, running back Matt Lawrence, tackle Oniel Cousin, center Matt Birk, cornerback Lardarius Webb, and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo remain on the PUP list. Heap is on the non-football illness list.

In other injury news, running back Willis McGahee lost a tooth and left the field with a member of the training staff in the middle of practice. He was seen walking around the team hotel in good spirits after practice.

1:00 p.m. — As we learned Thursday evening, Todd Heap has been placed on the non-football injury list as he is reportedly suffering from flu-like symptoms. He was dressed in shorts and a jersey and observed practice from the sideline.

12:50 p.m. — Domonique Foxworth just spoke with the media in the lobby of the Best Western and was clearly distraught over the loss of his season before the first day of full-squad workouts. He tore the ACL in his right knee in a non-contract drill on Thursday evening in a workout closed to the media and public.

“I was just running and tried to change directions,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done a million times in my career. This time it just didn’t work.”

Foxworth did not know it was a serious injury as he said the most serious injury of his career had previously been a sprained ankle. He learned the results of the MRI on the right knee during Friday morning’s workout.

“It’s a ton of emotions,” he said. “The biggest one I’m feeling—and I know it’s probably unfounded—but I just feel like I’m letting people down. I know everyone’s excited about this team and excited about this season and my teammates—I know how excited they are—and the fans.”

The Ravens will now explore all external options to add depth with veteran Frank Walker being a logical candidate to return after spending the last two seasons with the team. Walker has been contacted by the team but no offer has been made at this time.

With Foxworth’s injury, the focus will shift even more heavily on the status of Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb, the new projected starters.

“We’re going to be fine, with or without me,” Foxworth said. “They’re going to be fine. I’m going to do what I can to help them. [Secondary coach Chuck Pagano’s] going to do an incredible job. I promise you if there are any shortcomings on this team, it won’t be in the secondary. I can guarantee that.”

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Ravens Colts Playoff

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Divisional Playoff Preview: Ravens @ Colts

Posted on 15 January 2010 by Derek Arnold

Ravens Colts Playoff

Ravens Colts Stats 2

Another season, another trip to face the AFC South winners, holders of the #1 overall seed in the AFC. Can the Ravens repeat the huge upset they pulled last year in Nashville against the Titans? Methinks yes. Let’s look at the reasons why…

Peyton Zulu

1. The Colts’ regular season dominance will again hurt them in the postseason

The Colts won more games than any other team 00’s. However, as of right now there are two teams who have won more Lombardi Trophies than they did (Pats, Steelers) and three others who have won just as many (Ravens, Buccaneers, Giants). All their regular season victories have not translated into January and February success. In fact, at times they have been so dominant during the regular season that they have locked up the #1 seed early enough that their last game or two has been meaningless. Every time that such a scenario has played out so far, they have lost their first playoff game. That’s right; Peyton Manning and his Colts are 0-3 in the Divisional Round during years in which they had a bye during the Wild Card round. Their only Super Bowl win came in 2006, when they were forced to play a Wild Card game.

This year, the Colts wrapped up the AFC’s #1 seed on December 13th (Week 14). They then played to win one more time, four days later in Jacksonville. They did this only to set the record for most consecutive regular season wins (Edit – they had already broken this record the previous week. So, Bill Polian is not only a shithead, but he can’t count either). Since then, they have played a game “in anger” exactly zero times. They took their starters out in Week 16 against the New York Jets, and promptly lost any chance at an undefeated season they may have had (more on that later), and laid a stinker in Buffalo in Week 17, finishing up at 14-2. Tack on last week’s bye, and it will have been one day short of a full month since the Colts last tried to win a football game.

The Ravens, on the other hand, have been fighting for their Playoff lives all season. Under intense pressure to win, they came out on top in three of their last four in the regular season and then pounded Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Wild Card round. If not for a few costly drops in Pittsburgh in Week 16, the good guys in purple would be riding a nice little five game winning streak.

It will take the Colts at least a quarter to get re-acclimated to game speed, and part of me believes they will not be able to match the Ravens’ intensity at any point during the 60 minutes. If the Ravens can start fast like they did in New England (not necessarily 24-0, but 10-0 or 14-0), the thought of “here we go again” will force itself into the Indy psyche.

2. Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le’Ron McClain

The Colts were 24th in the NFL stopping the run, allowing 126.5 yards per game. Sure, these three managed only 100 yards combined in the Week 11 meeting, but that was back when the Ravens still had no offensive identity. Now that they are fully committed to being a pound-it-down-your-throat running team, they should have much less trouble pushing around the Colts’ undersized front seven. In four of the last five games, one of the Ravens’ rushers has topped the century mark – Ray Rice three times (166 vs. Det, 141 @ Pit, 159 @ NE) and Willis McGahee once (167 @ Oak).

The formula for success against Peyton Manning is the same as it’s been pretty much his entire career – keep him off the field as much as possible, and when he is on it, move him off his “spot.”

The Ravens’ running game will go a long way to fulfilling the first ingredient in that recipe. As far as the other…

3. The return of the Ravens’ pass rush

There is no denying that the Ravens have had trouble getting to the quarterback at times this season. However, over the last several games, they seem to have figured things out a bit.

In Week 16, they sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times – 3.5 came from defensive linemen
In Week 17, they sacked Jamarcus Russell three times and caused him to fumble once – all 3 were from defensive linemen
Last week, they sacked Tom Brady three times and caused him to fumble once – Two of 3 were from defensive linemen

So, not only are the Ravens now getting to quarterbacks, they are doing it without being forced to blitz the house. This latter point is huge against Peyton Manning, who eats blitzes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Peyton Manning BEGS you to blitz him. If the Ravens can pressure him, get his feet all nice and happy, and move him off of his spot, he will become very average very quickly.

Guys like Dwan Edwards, Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Antwan Barnes, who have picked up their games recently, need to keep it up Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Throw in the occasional well-timed blitz by Ray Lewis (who is much better served rushing the passer than say, trying to keep up with Dallas Clark in the middle of the field), and hopefully the Ravens will be making Peyton very familiar with the turf.

3(b). The Ravens’ Secondary

This point goes hand-in-hand with the last one. Since the Ravens’ front has been getting to passers, their formerly dreadful secondary has suddenly come alive. Dominique Foxworth has started to live up to his huge free agent contract over the last month or so. Chris Carr, filling in for the injured Lardarius Webb, has improved every single game since becoming a starting CB. Hell, even Frank Freakin’ Walker was making plays last week in New England. When Walker is batting down passes, instead of having flags heaved in his direction, you know things are going well.

The Ravens picked off Manning twice in Baltimore in Week 11. They won’t have the advantage of crowd noise that they enjoyed in Charm City, but the play of the aforementioned guys, along with Dawan Landry, has improved dramatically since even that mid-season contest. If they continue their strong play, that should more than make up for the fact that Manning will be operating in his cozy home confines.

4. Michael Oher and Jared Gaither

These two won our “Play Like a Raven” award in Week 11, as they kept the Colts’ fearsome twosome of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis completely shutout of the stat sheet. We all know from those investment commercials that past success is no indicator of future performance and all that, but it’s good that the Ravens’ young tackles will have some confidence going up against such an intimidating opponent.

Freeney, who said at the end of “The Blind Side” (book, not movie), “You tell Michael Oher I’ll be waiting for him,” will have another chance to back up those words.

Unfortunately, as far as the Ravens are concerned, he may have a much higher number of chances than he did in the previous meeting.

Freeney usually lines up on to the quarterback’s left (the “Blind Side,” naturally), while Michael Oher has spent the majority of his rookie season playing right tackle. However, Jared Gaither’s status for Saturday is still up in the air. If Gaither cannot go, Oher would again move to the left side. What happens on the right side would then also be undetermined – the Ravens could put Oneil Cousins at right tackle OR move Marshal Yanda from right guard to right tackle, and reinsert Chris Chester at right guard.

Gaither did fully practice on Thursday, but would not talk to reporters about his injury. Cross your fingers that he is able to go.

And now, for some silly reasons:

5. Karma

The Colts’ brass’ decision to forego the chance at a perfect season really sucks. It sucks for their players. It sucks for their fans. It sucks for fans of football in general. It sucks for anybody who gets sick of seeing that old curmudgeon Mercury Morris vindicated every damn year. It just…really sucks.

The Colts’ players were visibly distraught on the sidelines in Week 16 after the starters had been removed. Watching their chance at history go up in flames obviously did not sit well.

Understandably so.

Imagine being Peyton Manning. You’re constantly compared with Tom Brady. You hear all the time how the two of you are 1-2, in some order, among quarterbacks of this generation. Those that argue for Brady point to his postseason success as the deciding factor. Tom Brady was two minutes from posting a historic 19-0 season. He failed.

Now, you have the chance to be the one that goes 19-0. If you can win your second Lombardi Trophy, and go 19-0 in the process, something ol’ Tommy was unable to do, you’ll win. YOU will be the one that did what Tom could not. YOU will now be the undisputed best.

And then Bill Polian goes and takes all that out from under you.

How would you feel if you were Peyton? Deflated, I’d say, to put it mildly.

The other 44 guys wearing horseshoes on their helmets Saturday might not be dejected to quite that level, but they’ll still be a bit less motivated, to one degree or another, than they would have been had they finished the regular season 16-0.

Aside from that, the Colts NEED to lose at some point this postseason for the sake of football fans everywhere. If they win the Super Bowl, after deciding to rest their players and not try for 19-0, it will deprive us of the chance to see any team try to be perfect in the future. The Colts CANNOT be allowed to set the precedent that resting your players, even with the perfect season on the line, is the way to go, or other teams will surely follow.

Roger Goodell says there is “no solution” to teams resting starters. Yes there is: BEAT THE HELL OUT OF THOSE TEAMS. Prove, time and time again, that you cannot just turn the competitive edge on and off like a light switch.

SOMEONE needs to beat the Colts this January, for football fans everywhere. Might as well be the Ravens.

Oh, and of course there’s those whole stole-our-team then knocked-us-out-of-the-playoffs-in-2006 karma that needs to be repaid.

6. Nestminder in da house

Finally, the Ravens will win because I’m going to my first postseason road game. I’m ridiculously pumped to go to Indy, and judging by the fact that I had to book my flight out of Dulles, due to all Baltimore-Indianapolis flights being booked, I am very eager to see just how well the purple is represented in the Midwest.

I’ll be at the WNST pre-game tailgate party at the Rock Lobster, and if you’re in Indy, you should be to. Hope to see you there.

I’ll have plenty of pictures, and hopefully some videos, of the trip next week. Hopefully (come on, come on, COME ON) they will be celebratory in nature.

Ravens 24 Colts 20

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Ravens 33 Patriots 14 (THE DISMANTLING OF THE PATS’ DYNASTY Game)

Posted on 12 January 2010 by Derek Arnold

BeliStan

Wes “Tiny Tim” Welker hobbled out to midfield with the captains for the coin toss.

Matt Slater stopped Jalen Parmele in his tracks at the Ravens’ 17 yard line on the opening kickoff.

Those two moments, both occurring prior to about 1:05 PM Eastern Time, would be the last semblance of good feelings for every chowdah-swilling Masshole in attendance at Gillette Stadium on this day.

On the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage, Ray Rice took the handoff on the “slow to, fast through” play, and raced 83 yards to the end zone. The longest play of Mighty Mouse’s young career, and the second longest rush in NFL postseason history, served to set the tone for what was to be a glorious day for the Ravens and B’More. Three plays into the ensuing New England possession, it was Week 4 all over again for Terrell Suggs and Tom Brady, as Sizzle AGAIN stripped the three-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, this time falling on the ball himself at the Pats’ 17 yard line.

Five plays later, it was Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain getting into the end zone, and the route was on. Less than five minutes into the game, with the Foxborough crowd still getting situated in their seats, the purple and black led 14-0.

For the swarming Ravens’ defense though, who would have their best game of the season, the turnover party was just getting started. After each squad went 3-and-out (New England’s highlighted by a ferocious Ray Lewis sack, the first of his career in the postseason), the Pats would reach only their own 25 yard line before turning it over once again, this time on a ridiculous “who in the world was he throwing that to?” ball by Tom Brady that was snatched up by Chris Carr.

The Ravens’ methodical ground game would come through once again, turning this Patriots mistake into seven points as well.

Twelve minutes into the game, with Joe Flacco having completed just one pass for 13 yards to that point, the Ravens already found themselves ahead 21-0. Ravens fans buckled down for what looked to likely be a long, LONG, 48 remaining minutes, as we were sure that Brady & Co. would not go quietly, and would muster a valiant comeback.

Such a situation did not even come close to materializing.

When all was said and done, the Ravens had intercepted Tom “Terrific,” who was Tom “Terrible” on this day, three times, and stripped him once. As mentioned, the Ravens’ defense came to play, having easily their most impressive performance of 2009. Brady was sacked three times, New England’s running plays fooled nobody, and the Pats’ go-to wide receiver screen game was completely ineffective thanks to outstanding tacking from the B’More secondary, especially Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr. Foxworth had his best day as a Raven, leading the team with 8 tackles, most of which were near the line of scrimmage, and holding Randy Moss to just five catches for 48 yards. Carr made several stops in the backfield, and seemingly continues to improve each week since being inserted as a starting cornerback. His only mistakes of the day really weren’t his fault – Tom Zbikowski got in the way of the punt that he muffed, and he simply lost his footing on Pats’ WR Julian Edelman’s second touchdown catch of the day.

Ed Reed and Dawan Landry both had interceptions, and each broke up another pass. It was so bad even FRANK FREAKING WALKER was making plays. No, really. Walker had a direct hand in Landry’s pick, blowing up Ben Watson just as the ball arrived causing it to pop up in the air, and made several strong tackles (of course, he dropped what should have been another interception, just to remind us that he’s still Frank Walker – but overall a very good day by #41.)

All told, New England managed just 196 total yards, went 3/12 on 3rd downs, and scored their fewest points since Week 2 against the Jets.

The Patriots’ defense, which we had been told all week was well equipped to hold down the Ravens’ running attack with defensive tackles Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork returning to the lineup, got pushed around handily by the purple and black offensive heavies. Ravens running backs totaled 46 carries, 229 yards (a 4.98 average), and four touchdowns. Even Joe Flacco got into the act on the ground, scrambling for a key first down in the fourth quarter that set up the Ravens’ final points of the day.

Flacco’s day passing was non-existent, but it didn’t need to be otherwise. His 4/10, 34 yard, 1 Int performance tied Bob Griese of the 1973 Miami Dolphins for fewest passing yards in a Playoff win in the Super Bowl era. The haters will be quick to jump on Joe for these numbers, but pay them no mind. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers may have thrown for 422 yards and 4 touchdowns in the late game Sunday, but all those pretty stats got him nothing more than a one-way ticket to the offseason. If Flacco does his best Trent Dilfer impersonation all the way to a Lombardi Trophy, not a soul in Charm City will complain, I promise you that.

At the end of the day, the Patriots’ dynasty of the 2000s was left in shambles. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who had never lost a Playoff game at home together, were embarrassed by John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco (ok, moreso Ray Rice, but you get the idea). Much to the chagrin of all the talking heads (none of whom were giving the Ravens a snowball’s chance in hell, all but booking the New York Jets’ tickets to Indianapolis) there will be no Brady-Manning rematch in the AFC Championship and no dimpled chin darling to fawn over in future rounds of the 2009 postseason. Nope, it’s unibrow time, baby!

Tidbits:

  • It was the first time an NFL Playoff game had been lost by the Patriots in New England since 1978 (The CBS broadcast decided to break this stat down into days, for some asinine reason – 11,000 or something like that).
  • There is now nary an active quarterback in the NFL with more road Playoff victories than Baltimore’s own number Five. The Ravens also tied the 1970s Dallas Cowboys for most road Playoff wins in one decade (6).
  • The Ravens’ committed only three penalties for a paltry 15 yards, both lows for this flag-filled season (big ups to referee Gene Steratore and his crew, by the way, for actually letting the players decide the game! Is there any way we can reserve him for all Ravens games from now on?)

Next up for our purple heroes is a rematch of the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff with the Indianapolis Colts. Hopefully the road team will emerge victorious this time around as well.

Pats Fans

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LOLPats

Posted on 11 January 2010 by Derek Arnold

(You know, like LOLCATS…)

My full game recap is in the works, but in the meantime, let’s have some fun at the Patriots’ expense, shall we?

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Thanks to the Baltimore Sun for all the pics.

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Ravens 21 Raiders 13 (The WATCHU TALKIN’ ‘BOUT, WILLIS? Game)

Posted on 04 January 2010 by Derek Arnold

It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure, but the end result of Sunday’s game in Oakland is inarguable: The Baltimore Ravens are IN the playoffs for the second consecutive season. That’s now 2/2 for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco, just the second time in Ravens history that they have advanced to the postseason in consecutive years. Oh, and, as an added bonus, thanks to the Houston Texans’ comeback win over New England earlier in the day, the Ravens were able to make sure that those scallywag luck-meister Shittsburgh Squealers are OUT of the playoffs. That’s right, nary a stupid yellow rag to be seen for the next 9 months. A good day, for sure.

The Ravens won this game on the legs of Willis McGahee, who turned in a career day. His 10 carry, 167 yard, 3 TD performance was arguably the best game yet in his seven seasons. The three touchdowns were his most since scoring four in Seattle in November of 2004, and the 167 yards were his most ever. His 77-yard touchdown in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, a perfect example of power and speed, as he used a devastating stiff-arm in the open field to beat the only defender that had a chance to stop him, then raced away from the pursuit, and his 36-yard scamper on 3rd-and-4 with 2:43 to go in the game allowed the Ravens to kill the clock and seal the win. There is little question about who “Played Like a Raven” in Week 17.

McGahee’s effort overshadowed another solid, if unspectacular, day from Ray Rice, who managed 70 yards on 14 carries, and added 19 yards on four receptions. Rice never seemed to find much of a rhythm, though, and uncharacteristically dropped a pass out of the backfield. Although Phil Simms and Jim Nance never made mention of it, Rice may have also been a bit nicked up at times during the game, as we saw a lot more of Willis McGahee outside of the red zone than usual, even before he demonstrated that he had came to Oakland to play.

And it was a good thing that the Ravens’ ground game was clicking on all cylinders, because the passing game…

YIKES!

Ew, man, was the Ravens passing “attack” ugly in Oakland. Flacco was 11/19 for 102 yards, and was sacked four times.

Ravens tight ends and wideouts totaled 6 catches for 77 yards. Ugh.

Yardage-wise, it was easily Flacco’s worst game of 2009, and he failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the fourth time in his sophomore campaign, and the first time since Week 11 against Indy. His pocket presence was absolutely atrocious – he was regularly flushed, tucked the ball and took a sack after his first read was covered, and at one point was even penalized for an illegal forward pass, after he ran past the line of scrimmage before overthrowing Ray Rice in the end zone. It’s a toss-up between this game and the Green Bay game for Joe’s worst of the season. If there is any solace to take, it is that after the Green Bay game, he bounced back great for the next three straight contests. If he can bounce back strongly for the next three…well, Miami awaits.

Unfortunately, the Raiders may have given defensive genius Bill Belichick, head coach of the Ravens’ next opponent, the New England Patriots, a blueprint for beating Joe Flacco. It was an awful, awful day for #5, and if he plays like that in the postseason, the Ravens will quickly be playing golf as a team.

The defense lucked out in Oakland as well. If Charlie Frye had played the entire game, the Ravens would very likely be packing up their lockers in Owings Mills this week. Frye torched the Ravens in the first half, to the tune of 18/25 180 yards 1 TD. That’s right, CHARLIE FREAKIN’ FRYE had nearly twice the passing yards and completions as Joe Flacco did all day, in one half of play. Greg Mattison, despite all the praise that must be thrown his way for making this rag-tag bunch into a Top-5 defense, still inexplicably opts to rush just three on 3rd-and-long situations, and even a quarterback as terrible as JaMarcus Russel can convert in that situation (as he did on 3rd-and-15 in the 3rd quarter). The Raiders chose to pick on Ray Lewis and Chris Carr all afternoon. Carr, for his part, was at least solid in tackling. Lewis, however, should be nothing but a blitzer on passing situations at this point. When Ray-Ray blitzes, good things seem to happen. When he tries to cover a talented tight end down the slot…not so much (as evidenced by Zach Miller’s 2nd-quarter TD reception).

Somehow, Frank Walker is still on the team. On one play, Walker could have broken up a pass from Russel, had he just, oh, I don’t know, STUCK HIS ARMS OUT. Instead, #41 was running around like his hands are tied behind his back, and the pass was completed. Of course, he was also flagged for illegal contact at one point during the game. STOP PLAYING FRANK WALKER!

Seriously, John (Greg, Ozzie, WHOEVER), Corey Ivy has to be a better option at this point. At least he will TRY.

The Ravens’ special teams were again uneven. Jalen Parmele had a strong day returning kicks, but there was another holding penalty that negated a big punt return by Carr, and Matt Katula’s snaps were again all over the place. The bad snaps are good for pretty much one missed FG per game now, not a good trend to be on going into the Playoffs, where every mistake is magnified. If a playoff game comes down to a late FG, who among us is confident in the Katula-Koch-Cundiff trio, given their recent struggles?

The Ravens are playing far-from-perfect football right now, but we have all week to discuss their shortcomings. Perhaps it hints to just how talented of a team they are that, despite the issues, they are among just 12 teams that will be playing after this week. Let’s take this time to simply celebrate and enjoy another postseason berth.

My celebration recommendations: A glass of this, and one of these.

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Steelers 23 Ravens 20 (The NEGATED BY PENALTY Game)

Posted on 28 December 2009 by Derek Arnold

I honestly can’t remember a game that included such ridiculous stomach-churning, caused by great highs followed immediately by crushing lows.

With the Ravens having just cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 20-17 in the third quarter, on the first play after the kickoff, Dominique Foxworth intercepted Baby Ben and returned in 46 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, the Ravens had their first lead of the day.

Touchdown NEGATED by a retarded block-in-the-back by Terrell Suggs that served absolutely no purpose at all.

They would manage just a field goal after the penalty, tying the game at 20.

Five minutes later, with the game still tied, Willis McGahee broke free around the left side of the line and raced 15 yards into the end zone, putting the Ravens up 26-20. Or so it seemed, until the little yellow “flag” flashed on our screens.

Touchdown NEGATED by a Kelley Washington hold, that again, affected the play in no way – Willis was in whether he holds or not there. Simply getting in the way would have been enough.

Two plays later, Derrick Mason sprints 21 yards into the end zone, wiiiiiiide open, and Flacco lays it right in his gut. Or, it would have hit his gut, had his facemask not gotten in the way.

Touchdown pass DROPPED.

After the drop, the second should-have-been touchdown in three plays, the Ravens self destructed, going from 1st-and-10 at the Pit 21 to 4th-and-30 at the 41, on the shoulders of illegal formation and personal foul penalties.

And, last, but not least….

Pittsburgh facing 3rd-and-11 at the two minute warning, up by 3, the Ravens needing a stop to cling to any semblance of hope. Baby Ben fades back, avoids Trevor Pryce, and heaves up an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Tom Zbikowski, and returned to the Pittsburgh 42. The Ravens now need just a few yards to attempt the game-tying FG to force overtime, or could win with a touchdown.

Interception NEGATED by illegal contact on Frank Walker.

On the play, Mike Wallace ran right into Walker’s arms, the two embraced in a sort of post-Christmas hug for a second, and then the pass flew. Not only does Walker have every right to that space that Wallace does, the fact that Roethlisberger was running around like a chicken with his head cut off makes it perfectly acceptable for Frank to make contact more than 5 yards down the field.

For the second week in a row, Baby Ben threw what should have been a game-changing interception in the final minutes, only to be bailed out by the guys in stripes.

On the day, the Ravens racked up 11 penalties for 113 yards. The Steelers, meanwhile, had 4 for 20 (heh, 420).

Two of those calls were inexcusable personal fouls, one on Oneil Cousins, and the other on Haloti Ngata. On Ngata’s, it was Daren Stone all over again.

For a guy that wants to come off as a disciplinarian, John Harbaugh continues to prove that he has absolutely no control over his team. According to WNST morning show host Drew Forrester, Walker was out on the field during warm ups waving a terrible towel, taunting the Steelers. Excusing for a second that FRANK FREAKING WALKER has no business taunting anybody; let’s ask the question of why the hell Harbaugh is allowing his guys to do that kind of Bush league high school crap.

Week after week, the Ravens rack up high double and triple digits in penalty yards.

Week after week, they make stupid, undisciplined errors, resulting in yellow flying from the skies like the snow was last Saturday.

And, week after week, there seems to be no accountability for these errors, as the same guys (cough, NGATAWALKER, cough) are the culprits.

Haloti Ngata is a great player, no doubt about it, but for a guy that just registered his first sack of the season in Week 16, he needs to be told to cut out the bone-headed personal fouls or that big contract he is looking for will be from a team that plays far from Charm City.

Harbaugh has now had nearly two full seasons to back up his tough talk about accountability and discipline. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and the Ravens pudding seems to still be missing some key ingredients.

Another thing the head ball coach has had two years to figure out is this clock thing. At the end of the first half, Pittsburgh faced 3rd-and-12 from their own 4 yard line. There was about 1:50 on the clock when the 2nd down play ended. Had the Ravens called timeout, they could have gotten their ish together on the sideline, put in the correct personnel, sold out against the pass, and in all likelihood, gotten the ball back with great field position and over 1:30 to work with.

Instead, John the dumb dumb kept his timeouts in his pocket, the Steelers gladly let the clock tick down to 1:11 before snapping it, Terrell Suggs idiotically jumped offsides, and Fat Ben took advantage with a free-play Hail Mary down the right sideline.

Four plays later, Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown in his 4358345983450th straight game against the Ravens, and the teams went into the locker room with the score 20-10.

Face, meet palm.

Along with ALLLL of that, throw in the fact that the Ravens gave the Steelers THREE short fields in the first quarter (an interception when Flacco was hit as he threw, a big kickoff return, and a shanked punt), directly leading to 13 points, and it is painfully obvious that the Ravens gave this game away. They were the better team than Pittsburgh, despite what the wannabe yinzer in the cubicle next to you is trying to tell you this morning.

They continue to remind us, however, that they just don’t know HOW to win. This game was another in the painfully long string of “couldda, wouldda, shoulddas” that this season has seen, from the first Cincinnati game, to New England, to Minnesota, and now to the City of Lucky Champions.

/breathes

Ok, all that aside, there were some positives yesterday.

Most notably was Ray Rice (of course), who ran for 141 yards on 30 carries, the first back to break the century mark against the Steelers since 2007, breaking the longest current streak in the NFL.

Todd Heap has his second straight two TD performance, and Flacco seems to have no qualms about going to #86 when he needs a big play.

The pass rush was decent, as the Ravens sacked Roethlisberger 4 times, 2.5 coming from the defensive line.

Perhaps the most important positive for the Ravens yesterday, though, came not in western Pennsylvania, but on the other side of the state, in Philadelphia. Let’s all thank the Eagles for holding off a furious rally from the Broncos. By virtue of that game, there are still no 9-win non-division winners in the AFC, and the Ravens WILL be in the playoffs with a win in Oakland next week.

For a full explanation, read Glenn Clark’s thesis here.

Win, and we’re in. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. The same cannot be said for those bad guys in yellow and black, who need to win in Miami AND to get more than a little help, to see the postseason.

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