Tag Archive | "giants"

Flacco, offense finish home schedule like they started it — with a bang

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Flacco, offense finish home schedule like they started it — with a bang

Posted on 23 December 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Much like we saw three months ago when the Ravens crushed the Cincinnati Bengals to kick off the 2012 season, Joe Flacco and the offense looked every bit the part of an elite group in a 33-14 thrashing of the New York Giants on Sunday.

The Baltimore quarterback threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce each ran for over 100 yards. Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin combined for 12 catches, 181 yards, and one touchdown. And the offensive line not only gashed the Giants’ front seven to the tune of a season-high 224 rushing yards, but the unit didn’t allow a sack as New York registered only two quarterback hits over 60 minutes of play.

But the story of the day was Flacco, who bounced back from one of the lowest moments of his career — an interception returned 98 yards by Chris Harris to create a 17-0 halftime deficit in an embarrassing loss to Denver last week — to play one of his best games of the season when the Ravens needed it most. Faced with the prospects of going to Cincinnati next week for an AFC North championship game if his team didn’t win, Flacco was brilliant in making his reads, throwing with pinpoint accuracy over the middle of the field, and even completing passes on the run.

On Sunday, Flacco reminded us why the Ravens think so highly of him and are committed to him for the long haul — even if the terms of a contract have yet to be ironed out. However, that faith had been tested more than ever after last week’s performance and the Ravens’ first three-game losing streak in over three years.

“Like I said last week, we’re going to see what kind of team we are,” Flacco said. “We believe we’re this kind of team, and we’re really going to see if we are. I think that we showed ourselves and we showed people today that we are that kind of team. We’re here to stay.”

But that’s just the problem. I don’t know if Flacco and this offense are here to stay.

We spoke of Flacco finally taking a quantum leap after last year’s AFC Championship and that 44-13 thrashing of the Bengals to open the season on Sept. 10. But what followed was an up-and-down season in which the fifth-year quarterback has been mostly good at home and mostly bad on the road.

The sight of Flacco lying face down on the M&T Bank Stadium turf seconds before halftime last Sunday told you just how badly the quarterback needed this performance. His teammates hadn’t lost faith in him, but nearly everyone else was wondering if he had what it took to climb out of the gaping hole of a three-game slide in December.

He answered the bell by completing 25 of 36 passes for a 114.2 passer rating to put the Giants’ postseason hopes on life support.

“People won’t be talking about Joe’s technique and how he’s not dropping or throwing the ball properly,” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said. “I guess they’ll be saying, “Oh, man, Joe’s amazing’ this time. We had a talk about our critics and how [you] don’t play better for your critiques. Play better for each other.”

Those thoughts about their critics were offered by owner Steve Bisciotti as he met with his team last week to offer inspirational words, and the Ravens certainly took them to heart as they turned in arguably their most complete victory of the season against an opponent that was supposed to be feeling more urgency than them.

The key to the offensive success was third-down efficiency as the Ravens were 10-for-14 in that department prior to the fourth quarter and finished 11-for-18. It was a dramatic change from last Sunday when the group went a woeful 1-for-12 on third down against the Denver defense.

Those conversions allowed offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to give 24 carries to Rice. Moving the chains on third down gave the offense the chance to possess the ball for 39:21 and keep a banged-up defense as fresh as it could be. All of those stats and touches and run-to-pass comparisons seem to work out when you’re able to convert on third down and sustain drives.

It’s a clear but difficult objective.

“It’s about execution. It’s a simple word, but it’s a very tough task to do,” Rice said. “To come in week in and week out and execute at a high level, that’s tough. But that’s what we get paid to do. The pressure was on us.”

And the pressure was on Flacco most heavily as he’s moved to the top of the accountability pecking order with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron now history. It was just as ugly last week as it was exquisite on Sunday as the quarterback carved up a New York secondary that had little chance with the Ravens’ offensive line keeping the Giants’ vaunted pass rushers in check.

Will we see more of that offensive production as the Ravens go to Cincinnati with an opportunity to jockey for the No. 3 seed while resting banged-up players who could use a week off before the playoffs begin? Or will Flacco revert to the quarterback who’s struggled mightily outside Baltimore to renew those doubts entering the playoffs?

The signal-caller said it best when asked if Sunday’s performance could be a springboard to bigger and better things in the postseason.

“I’m not a big believer in any of that,” Flacco said. “I think each week is an individual game and a different opponent, and you have to go out there and you have to go through the week and prepare and go out there on Sunday and play well, just like you did the previous week. I’m not necessarily a big believer in any one game propelling you throughout the other ones.”

How he performs in the postseason will still define Flacco’s 2012 campaign.

Sunday was a step in the right direction, but it’s tough to feel convinced until we see more of it, at least with some improved level of consistency.

Regardless of what lies ahead for the quarterback’s performance, Sunday was the type of outing that creates optimism that the Ravens can still be dangerous in the AFC where every team aside from the Denver Broncos has shown concerning flaws in recent weeks. You never really know until you get to January as the Giants of last year and the Packers of two seasons ago showed.

“We say that the NFL is a week-to-week business,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It really is. One week to the next does not guarantee one thing. [The Giants] scored over 50 points two games ago. This is a really good football team. I thought our guys played exceptionally well. Getting a little bit of momentum helps.”

It certainly does, but momentum is only as good as your next opponent.

And we’ll learn quickly if Flacco and the Ravens can build on this victory a little better than they did after that first blowout victory over Cincinnati to begin the season. It will be all the more critical with the “second” season looming.

 

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Flacco: “I believe in myself and I believe in this team”

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Flacco: “I believe in myself and I believe in this team”

Posted on 23 December 2012 by WNSTV

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Our Ravens/Giants “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Giants “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 23 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

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

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

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 33-14 win over New York Giants Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Corey Graham

4. Anquan Boldin

3. Brendon Ayanbadejo

2. Torrey Smith

1. Ray Rice (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Ravens-Giants: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Giants: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 23 December 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens hope to bring an early Christmas present to Baltimore this year by way of their second straight AFC North championship with a win over the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon.

Of course, they’ve faced scenarios in each of the last three weeks in which they could have locked up a division title, but they’ve been unable to do it as they’ve lost three in a row and now face the prospects of likely needing to win one of their final two games to clinch. Otherwise, their once-excellent position with a 9-2 record could morph into settling for a wild card and a road playoff game in the first round of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the 8-6 Giants need to win each of their last two games to give themselves an opportunity to defend their Super Bowl title in the postseason. New York has lost four of its last six and is a week removed from a 34-0 defeat in Atlanta, the first shutout suffered by the Giants since 1996.

After practicing on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday, right guard Marshal Yanda is active and will return to action after missing last week’s game against the Broncos. The Ravens must feel confident in his ability to hold up with the ankle as Bobbie Williams and Ramon Harewood are both inactive against the Giants.

Though we learned Saturday that linebacker Ray Lewis is not expected to return before the start of the playoffs, the Ravens will welcome the return of inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe after a three-game absence due to an ankle injury. However, linebacker Albert McClellan is listed as inactive after dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered against Denver.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Bernard Pierce are both active and obviously passed their baseline neurological tests to clear them for contact. There’s no reason to expect either player to be limited after sustaining concussions in Week 15.

As expected, strong safety Bernard Pollard will miss his second straight game as he continues to deal with a rib injury that was aggravated in the Ravens’ loss to Washington in Week 14.

Rookie outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton is active a day after being promoted to the 53-man roster to take injured linebacker Jameel McClain’s spot.

The Giants will be without standout defensive end Justin Tuck, who is inactive with a shoulder injury. Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw is active and will play, however.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Carl Cheffers.

Baltimore leads the regular-season series, 2-1, and won the only postseason meeting between the teams, a 34-7 final in Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28, 2001.

The Ravens will wear their black jerseys and black pants while the Giants wear their white tops with gray pants.

Here are Sunday’s inactives …

BALTIMORE
WR Tandon Doss
S Bernard Pollard
LB Albert McClellan
G Bobbie Williams
OL Ramon Harewood
WR Deonte Thompson
DL Bryan Hall

NEW YORK
DE Justin Tuck
WR Ramses Barden
S Kenny Phillips
S Tyler Sash
DE Adewale Ojomo
TE Travis Beckum
TE Adrien Robinson

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the day as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live updates and analysis from M&T Bank Stadium throughout the day.

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Ravens-Giants: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Giants: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 22 December 2012 by Luke Jones

Two teams each going in the wrong direction in recent weeks will clash at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday as the Ravens take on the New York Giants for the fourth time in their regular-season history.

Mired in a three-game losing streak and needing a win to clinch their second straight AFC North title, Baltimore takes on the 8-6 Giants, who are in need of two wins in their final two games to have the opportunity to defend their Super Bowl title in January. Having lost four of the last six games it’s played, New York has been even more inconsistent than the Ravens this season, looking like arguably the best team in the NFL in dominating wins over San Francisco and Green Bay and turning in terrible road performances at Cincinnati and Atlanta.

The Ravens hold a 2-1 all-time record over New York in the regular season and, of course, own a victory in the only postseason meeting between the teams, which occurred in Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28, 2001.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens will look to finally lock up the division title and secure a home playoff game after failing to do so the last few weeks …

1. Ray Lewis will not play against the Giants, but the returning Dannell Ellerbe will pay dividends for the Baltimore run defense, which will hold New York to less than 110 rushing yards. Maligned all season despite allowing the ninth-lowest yards per carry average (4.1) in the NFL, the rush defense has struggled immensely in the last two weeks as Washington and Denver have run all over the Ravens. The Giants rank 15th in rush offense, but the shifty Ahmad Bradshaw has been hampered by knee and foot injuries. Ellerbe is expected to be a game-time decision, but he practiced all week on a limited basis and the Ravens didn’t promote inside linebacker Nigel Carr from the practice squad to take injured Jameel McClain’s place on the 53-man roster, an indication that they may feel confident in Ellerbe’s status against the Giants. The fourth-year linebacker ranks third on the team with 78 tackles despite beginning the season in a reserve role and missing the last three games with an ankle injury. His presence will help in slowing the Giants’ rushing attack.

2. Giants tight end Martellus Bennett will catch a touchdown and produce 75 receiving yards against the Baltimore pass defense. The Ravens’ struggles against tight ends have been overblown this season as Brent Celek, Jason Witten, and Heath Miller are the only three opponents to have more than 60 receiving yards in a game from that position. However, the middle of the field has been vulnerable and the Giants have been happy with their return for Bennett, who has 50 receptions for 584 yards and five touchdowns in his first season in New York. Ellerbe is regarded as the Ravens’ best linebacker in pass coverage, but he would be playing at less than 100 percent and has struggled to use the backpedal. Baltimore linebackers take too many false steps to account for the run and don’t get enough depth in coverage, which will lead to the talented Bennett getting open in the intermediate portion of the field as the Ravens secondary is focused on stopping Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Domenik Hixon in the passing game.

3. Ray Rice will collect only his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. With Joe Flacco and the offense sputtering in recent weeks, new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell must rely on his unit’s biggest strength and that’s Rice. Though on pace for his lowest rushing total since his rookie year, Rice’s 4.5 yards per carry average doesn’t reflect a poor season, but his 263 projected carries would be his lowest amount since 2009. Marshal Yanda’s expected return will allow the Ravens to run effectively to the right side as they normally like to do, and the Giants have allowed 4.6 yards per carry, which is 26th in the NFL. New York’s front seven is filled with plenty of big names, but the group hasn’t performed well this season and Rice will receive plenty of opportunities as the Ravens try to control the tempo of the game. The uncertain status of rookie Bernard Pierce will likely force the Ravens to rely more heavily on Rice than normal, which won’t necessarily be a bad thing as they need production from their best offensive player.

4. The Giants’ play action coupled with the the Ravens’ ineffective pass rush and undisciplined secondary will lead to a long touchdown to Victor Cruz. Paul Kruger and Arthur Jones have been the only consistent contributors to the pass rush in recent weeks, but the biceps injury to Terrell Suggs now makes you wonder if teams will begin turning more attention toward Kruger as they did early in the season when he rarely was able to make an impact. New York has allowed just 16 sacks all season, so it’s difficult to envision the Ravens putting much heat on Eli Manning. The Giants quarterback loves using play-action passing, and the Ravens secondary has been burned all season due to miscommunication and biting on double moves. Cruz leads the Giants with 79 catches, 1,019 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. He’ll add a 10th to those totals on Sunday to bounce back from his poor performance in Atlanta last week.

5. I trust Manning more than Flacco and the Ravens offense, and it will be the difference in a 27-21 win for the Giants. Both teams have flaws on each side of the football, but it’s difficult to overlook Flacco’s six turnovers in the last three games. Manning has been inconsistent as well and has similar season totals to the Baltimore quarterback, but his pedigree and track record for playing well when his back is against the wall should give the Giants confidence in these final two games. Flacco was playing exceptionally well at home this season until the last two contests at M&T Bank Stadium when he posted absolute duds. The Giants will be a desperate football team after being thoroughly embarrassed in Atlanta last week, and I can’t bet against a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. It will be the difference in Sunday’s game as I just can’t put any faith in Flacco, Caldwell, and the Ravens offense at this point. The group lacks confidence and won’t do enough to overcome a banged-up defense and an opponent needing a win even more than they do.

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Report: Lewis not expected to return prior to playoffs

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Report: Lewis not expected to return prior to playoffs

Posted on 22 December 2012 by Luke Jones

Less than 10 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the torn triceps in his right arm, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis appeared poised to make his improbable return to the field against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Instead, his comeback will apparently be delayed for a couple more weeks.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported early Saturday afternoon that Lewis is not expected to return until the playoffs despite growing optimism this week that the 37-year-old linebacker would play in the regular-season home finale.

Baltimore would have needed to activate Lewis from the injured reserve-designated to return list on Saturday afternoon for him to  play in his first game since Oct. 14 when he suffered the injury to his right upper arm against the Dallas Cowboys. Originally declared to be lost for the season by coach John Harbaugh, Lewis was placed on IR with this season’s new designation to return after a minimum of eight weeks.

At the time, many assumed the Ravens were simply granting Lewis a courtesy as most medical experts declared a minimum of four months for a recovery from such a serious procedure. However, the 13-time Pro Bowl selection returned to practice on Dec. 5, which was far ahead of even the most optimistic timetables suggesting Lewis could return for a postseason run.

With three weeks of practice now under his belt and fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain sidelined for the rest of the season to open up a spot on the 53-man roster, Lewis hoped to come out of the tunnel to do his famous dance Sunday afternoon as the Ravens introduced the starting defense. The veteran’s spirits appeared to be higher this week and he spent more time in the locker room, two

“The guy’s still in great shape. The guy doesn’t look like he missed a day of practice,” said defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who added that Lewis has spent extra time with him to help him with his conditioning and the mental aspects of the game. “This is a guy who’s a great leader and is passionate and is an emotional leader. We love having him out there.”

With Lewis already practicing, the Ravens will face a decision this week with the 21-day window after his beginning practice date closing. They would have to place him on the 53-man roster or he’d remain on IR for the remainder of the year.

Ravaged by injuries at linebacker, the Ravens have relied on the combination of former practice squad members Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan as well as special-teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo in recent weeks to hold down the inside linebacker positions in the absence of Lewis, McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe. The Baltimore run defense ranks 26th in the league, and opposing offenses have had success throwing over the middle of the field as linebackers have struggled in coverage.

Even as his eventual return will be celebrated by many longtime Ravens fans, the question remains how effective Lewis can be in the postseason as he continues to build strength in his right upper arm, which understandably experienced atrophy after the surgical procedure.

“Ray’s looked great. It’s his triceps, so he’s going to be able to move around and look like Ray Lewis,” said Ellerbe following Friday’s practice. “We haven’t had any full-speed practices, so you can’t tell how his arm is when tackling and getting off blocks. But shape-wise, he’s in shape. If he could go right now, I feel he would go.”

Though only playing in six games, Lewis ranks fifth on the team with 57 tackles. However, he struggled to shed blockers early in the season and has shown declining ability in pass coverage over the last few seasons, making his accelerated return an uncertain one in terms of what exactly the Ravens will be getting from the future Hall of Fame linebacker when he’s back on the field.

With the Ravens needing a win to clinch the AFC North and a home playoff game, there’s no guarantee that Lewis will play another game in Baltimore since his future with the organization remains in some doubt.

Plenty of rumors have circulated about whether Lewis will retire after the season and he carries a $7.2 million salary cap number in 2013, which is a hefty figure for what would be a 38-year-old linebacker. The team would be forgiven from paying his $5.4 million base salary in 2013 should they release him and would save approximately $4.35 million on their 2013 cap when subtracting the accelerated bonus money that would count as dead weight against the cap.

Regardless of what happens after this season, Lewis’ return — whenever it occurs — will be a welcome sight for a team suffering a three-game losing streak late in the season and needing a spark. The defensive help wouldn’t hurt, either.

“I’d love to have him,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think it would be a great emotional lift, but more than that, we could use some bodies in there at linebacker.”

It appears the Ravens will need to wait a couple more weeks for that to become a possibility.

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Morning Reaction Picks and Comment – Week 16

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Luke Jones

Here are this weekend’s picks as The Morning Reaction will pick every NFL game this season.

Drew Forrester finished 10-6 last week while Luke Jones was 10-6 in Week 15. Forrester is 148-74 through 15 weeks and Jones is 141-81 overall. Official standings are only kept based on the NFL picks.

To hear their full explanations, click HERE.

Giants at Ravens: New York 41-23 (Drew), New York 27-21 (Luke)
Falcons at Lions:
Atlanta 35-23 (Drew), Atlanta 27-20 (Luke)
Bengals at Steelers:
Cincinnati 28-24 (Drew), Pittsburgh 24-20 (Luke)
Titans at Packers:
Green Bay 28-16 (Drew), Green Bay 28-13 (Luke)
Raiders at Panthers:
Carolina 23-6 (Drew), Carolina 21-10 (Luke)
Bills at Dolphins:
Miami 24-10 (Drew), Miami 23-14 (Luke)
Patriots at Jaguars:
New England 49-17 (Drew), New England 41-12 (Luke)
Colts at Chiefs:
Indianapolis 20-10 (Drew), Indianapolis 24-14 (Luke)
Saints at Cowboys:
New Orleans 34-24 (Drew), Dallas 31-27 (Luke)
Redskins at Eagles:
Washington 34-20 (Drew), Washington 31-17 (Luke)
Rams at Buccaneers:
Tampa Bay 20-13 (Drew), Tampa Bay 21-16 (Luke)
Chargers at Jets:
New York 24-20 (Drew), San Diego 21-20 (Luke)
Vikings at Texans:
Houston 27-17 (Drew), Houston 24-16 (Luke)
Browns at Broncos:
Denver 30-10 (Drew), Denver 31-14 (Luke)
Bears at Cardinals:
Chicago 17-13 (Drew), Chicago 20-14 (Luke)
49ers at Seahawks:
Seattle 28-27 (Drew), San Francisco 24-21 (Luke)

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Pees hoping two recovering stars give Ravens defense boost down final stretch

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Pees hoping two recovering stars give Ravens defense boost down final stretch

Posted on 20 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ranked 26th in yards allowed and ravaged by injuries, the Ravens defense is heading in the wrong direction after allowing 65 points over its last two games.

But could the late-season returns of linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis provide the emotional spark and improvement the defense needs to put the Ravens in better position for a postseason run? The pair could be on the field together for the first time all season against the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon, which would certainly provide a spiritual boost for a team in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

Of course, Suggs returned to action this past Sunday against Denver — two weeks removed from a torn right biceps — but it was difficult to recognize his presence aside from his familiar No. 55 jersey lining up at the rush linebacker spot. Clearly laboring as he employed a four-point stance to keep his body weight off his upper right arm, Suggs appeared tentative at several points and removed himself from the game on a few occasions while appearing to be in pain on the sideline.

He finished with only one tackle, and the performance has left more questions than answers about his impact for the rest of the season.

“He’s coming back. He’s not back full, but he’s back, and he’s playing hard,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think if you ask him, I don’t think he would tell you that he’s playing at 100 percent like he has, but he certainly is giving us a great effort and giving us what we need in there.”

Even before the biceps injury, Suggs wasn’t making his normal impact after a remarkable recovery from a partially-torn Achilles tendon in less than six months. In seven games this season, Suggs has 20 tackles and only two sacks.

Meanwhile, it was just a few weeks ago when many were wondering if Lewis truly deserved to be an every-down linebacker whenever he’d make his return from triceps surgery, but a season-ending injury to Jameel McClain and an ankle injury to Dannell Ellerbe has left the Ravens bare at the inside linebacker position as Josh Bynes, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Albert McClellan have manned the “Mike” and “Will” positions in the last two weeks.

The Ravens are not only hoping for the pick-me-up of Lewis’ impeccable on-field leadership, but they’re now desperate for him to bring an improved level of play to the middle of the field. With Baltimore electing to wait to place McClain on season-ending injured reserve, it’s apparent the organization is hoping to place Lewis on the 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Lewis is just nine weeks removed from surgery, an incredible fact considering the normal recovery time for such an injury is a minimum of four months.

“I’d love to have him. I think it would be a great emotional lift, but more than that, we could use some bodies in there at linebacker,” said Pees with a chuckle. “We’ll just have to wait and see whatever they say is a go. We’d love to have him back.”

The Ravens hope to get back Ellerbe and strong safety Bernard Pollard from injuries this week, but the latter’s status appears to be in doubt after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Pollard aggravated a rib injury in the Ravens’ Week 14 loss against Washington and hasn’t practiced ever since.

Only two defensive starters from Week 1 have played in every game this season — cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed.

“I think if anybody can be fully healthy throughout a season, it’s going to be a great team,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “And with us, we definitely had an injury bug this year, but we had guys step up and make some plays for us. And hopefully, we can get some guys back and see what we can do there.”

As is the case with Suggs, it remains to be seen how well Lewis can hold up physically after such an abbreviated recovery time following surgery. Amazingly, Lewis ranks fifth on the team with 57 tackles despite playing in only six games this season.

The coaching staff isn’t exactly sure where Lewis is at physically due to the light nature of practices, but Lewis’ mental prowess has kept him as sharp while he continues to rebuild the strength in his right upper arm. Whether that can translate to success on the field is the question as Lewis struggled to shed blockers early in the season and has shown declining ability in pass coverage over the last few seasons.

“At this time in the year, I don’t think there are very many teams out there hitting like you do in training camp,” Pees said. “So, you don’t necessarily see the physical part, but the mental part, it’s not going to leave you after 17 years [with] missing a couple of weeks.”

Third corner carousel

With 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith making his return from sports hernia surgery this past Sunday, it was assumed the Ravens had solidified their nickel package with the second-year defensive back playing on the outside opposite Cary Williams while Corey Graham slid inside to the nickel spot to cover slot receivers.

Instead, Pees used a combination of Smith, veteran Chris Johnson, and special-teams standout Chykie Brown as the extra cornerback against the Broncos. Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged on Monday that Smith didn’t show as much speed as they anticipated he would. Smith is just over a month removed from the surgical procedure.

As a result, Smith took only 12 defensive snaps. Johnson took part in 20 defensive plays and Brown was on the field for nine defensive snaps. It’s not a good problem to have with the Giants’ ninth-ranked passing game coming to Baltimore on Sunday, and Pees would like to sure up the role sooner rather than later.

“I’d just like to see someone take the bull by the horns and take the job,” Pees said. “We are just going to have to make that decision at game time on who that is going to be, and who that’s going to be during the course of the game. The good news is that you do have two or three guys there, but yes I would like to see someone step up and take it.”

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>

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The Reality Check Week 16 NFL Power Rankings

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The Reality Check Week 16 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 20 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Kansas City Chiefs (30)

We all knew they’d end up back here.

31. Arizona Cardinals (32)

Wha…what?

30. Oakland Raiders (31)

Don’t fail me now, Seabass.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (29)

They’ll finish the season lower.

28. Philadelphia Eagles (28)

LeSean McCoy is playing WHY?

27. Detroit Lions (25)

Stunning mess.

26. Cleveland Browns (24)

We knew it wouldn’t last.

25. Tennessee Titans (27)

But Jake Locker still stinks.

24. Buffalo Bills (23)

Hope they felt comfortable North of the Border.

23. San Diego Chargers (19)

Gave up?

22. St. Louis Rams (20)

They can still finish above .500.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17)

Completely fell apart.

20. New York Jets (18)

VICKMANIA!

19. Carolina Panthers (26)

They might be a year away.

18. Miami Dolphins (22)

Like Republicans, Fins fans want Bush back.

17. New Orleans Saints (21)

Did that whole Sean Payton thing ever get figured out?

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens would be wise to stop focusing on big picture for now

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Ravens would be wise to stop focusing on big picture for now

Posted on 19 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens know they’re struggling at the wrong time of the season.

A three-game losing streak, an ever-growing list of injuries, and problems on both sides of the ball have caused the karma of a 9-2 start to disintegrate into a growing sense that they’re backing into the playoffs with two difficult games remaining and a 9-5 record. A change at the offensive coordinator position has created an even greater perception that the Ravens are a team in disarray.

But coach John Harbaugh’s message has been consistent over the last few weeks. And the words focusing on the big picture have been echoed throughout the Baltimore locker room.

“We’re going to do everything we can do and fight like crazy to become the team that we’re capable of becoming,” coach John Harbaugh said. “And we’re not that team yet. It’s a long season, but all of our goals and all of our dreams are squarely in front of us. And that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Even with the troubles surrounding the Ravens, the head coach is right. Contrary to the beliefs of many fans and media alike, Baltimore’s season isn’t over nor beyond repair. The Packers of 2010 and last year’s Giants are prime examples of that, even if the Ravens aren’t destined for the same championship track when 2012 is all said and done.

However, the focus cannot be on the accomplishment of making the playoffs for the fifth straight year or looking ahead to building on last season’s disappointment in Foxborough. Complacency can be a dangerous trap for a team that’s been so close to their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl in two of the last four seasons. To simply dwell on what could still happen in January while struggles in December are apparent comes across as dismissive or even cavalier if you discuss those goals too much.

Cautious optimism that injured players might return is acceptable, but viewing the return of Ray Lewis as the ultimate fix or holding optimism that Terrell Suggs can put forth a superman-like performance with a torn biceps doesn’t help the rest of the players on the roster. It only deflects the current problems and how to remedy them.

The Ravens also shouldn’t dwell on their poor play over the last three weeks. It’s true they fumbled the possibility of securing a first-round bye, but a division title and the ever-important home playoff game are only one victory away.

“There’s not really much you can do about the past,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You have to just live in the present and move forward, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The present is Sunday’s meeting with the New York Giants, a team in worse position than the Ravens after losing four of their last six games to put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. For Baltimore, any discussions of the postseason or potentially resting starters in Week 17 or hoping to get injured starters back cloud what’s important for a team that should only be worrying about the now.

It’s about tabling the big picture and their biggest goals and dwelling on the simple task of winning one football game. Perhaps it’s channeling former head coach Brian Billick’s ban on using the word “playoffs” in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV season or even borrowing a page from the 2012 Orioles after manager Buck Showalter trained his players to compartmentalize each game and series while the outside world wondered if they’d make their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years.

Injured safety Bernard Pollard didn’t seem interested in discussing the big picture or the Ravens’ ultimate goals before Wednesday’s practice. In his second year in Baltimore, Pollard has never been afraid to tell it like it is and his comments suggested the Ravens might be a little too comfortable with their current position.

“Everybody’s talking about [how] we’re in the playoffs,” Pollard said. “Who cares? The way we’ve played, who cares about the playoffs. With the way we’ve played, that’s going to carry over into the playoffs. And we don’t want that to happen. We have to come together.”

Even if the Giants are faced with a slimmer margin for error, the Ravens have to recapture that mentality where they feel as though there isn’t a next week or a second chance.

With so many factors working against them in recent weeks, they’d be well served in simplifying their approach by blocking out the past and the future. If not, the supremely-talented but inconsistent Giants will be ready to serve up the type of experience the Denver Broncos provided last week in embarrassing the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

“If you think that team is going to come in and lay an egg, we have our hands full,” running back Ray Rice said. “This team won the Super Bowl last year. They have a lot at stake.”

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