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Flacco bashing by vocal minority of Ravens fans comes into perspective

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Flacco bashing by vocal minority of Ravens fans comes into perspective

Posted on 09 February 2012 by Luke Jones

In the final days of the Ravens’ 2011 season, it was difficult to say which was more exhausting: the vocal minority of fans bashing quarterback Joe Flacco or the increased amount of complaining about those select few.

(And to be clear, this commentary doesn’t mean Flacco is infallible and exempt from criticism, either. We’re talking about those who have made irrational suggestions such as benching the Baltimore starter and inserting the rookie Tyrod Taylor.)

But it’s certainly come into perspective this week if you’ve paid any attention to the New England area and the fallout of the Patriots’ 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.

It started with this scathing piece from Boston Globe writer Eric Wilbur in which all-world quarterback Tom Brady was labeled an “embarrassment” after the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years. And the vocal simpletons (see the comments section) have followed suit, declaring Brady as washed up and even going as far as suggesting the Patriots trade him for whatever value they can get and begin the next era of New England football.

Yes, a small portion of New England fans are suggesting they run one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history out of town. The same man who led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles in four years and threw for 39 touchdown passes and over 5,000 yards this season on his way to leading the Patriots to a 14-4 record and an AFC championship despite a woeful defense.

It certainly puts the extreme Flacco criticism into context, doesn’t it?

More than anything, the venomous thoughts toward a future Hall of Fame quarterback only prove this type of vocal minority of extreme detractors exist in every sports city in America. A certain segment of fans will never be satisfied no matter how successful their teams might be, as is evident in Boston where seven championships from the four major sports have been won over the last 11 years.

We all know someone (multiple people?) who refuses to be happy with his or her life no matter how many blessings they might have when they stop to think.

Why would the population of sports fans be any different?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to place my order for a Ryan Mallett Patriots jersey.

Retire, Ricky, retire

Though running back Ricky Williams’ retirement announcement was mildly surprising after proclaiming his enthusiasm for the 2012 season in the days following the AFC championship game, the Ravens shouldn’t — and won’t — be worked up by the veteran backup’s departure.

There are always at least five or six running backs of Williams’ ability at this stage of his career available in the free-agent market. Williams will be 35 years old by the start of the 2012 season, and there’s no guarantee he would have been able to duplicate his steady average of 4.1 yards per carry that he owned this past season. Anthony Allen will likely see an increased role, or at least an increased opportunity, to earn that role in training camp.

Whether it’s signing a veteran in the open market or looking to April’s draft, the Ravens will improve their depth at the running back position behind Ray Rice. Owner Steve Bisciotti has already said Rice will not be going anywhere despite the Pro Bowl back being set to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

It’s hard to imagine Williams’ retirement having any impact whatsoever on contract negotiations with Rice’s representation, and the Ravens will simply use the franchise tag on their feature back should they be unable to reach a long-term agreement by March 5.

However, Williams calling it a career does open the door for a farfetched but intriguing scenario to potentially play out with Rice. Let’s assume the two sides are unable to reach a long-term deal, Rice plays with the franchise tag in 2012, and the Ravens look to bolster their depth at running back in the middle rounds of the draft.

What would the Ravens do if they found a diamond in the rough with that draft pick, much in the same way they saw such potential in Rice after selecting him in the second round of the 2008 draft? Knowing the limited shelf life for running backs in the NFL, would they consider allowing Rice to walk the following season if this unnamed running back appeared capable of handling the starting job?

Again, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening, but Williams’ decision to walk away from the game forces the Ravens to explore other options at the position, and you never know what they might discover in the process.

Caldwell effect

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Ray Lewis gives us all some food for thought after loss in New England

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Ray Lewis gives us all some food for thought after loss in New England

Posted on 25 January 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

As much as the loss to the Patriots stung me and everyone else in the Baltimore purple tribe, believe it or not I left the stadium with some sort of inner peace that hasn’t allowed me to cry, bellyache or bemoan the efforts of this year’s team.

All of you know I’m in the locker room, asking questions, posting videos, texting and Tweeting and Facebooking all sorts of insights, observations, jokes and information from Baltimore Ravens’ games.

This was the last thing on my video reel after the game — before Drew Forrester and Luke Jones joined me on the field to recap the game and the missed Billy Cundiff field goal reenactment by our morning show host.

As Luke and I walked out of Gillette Stadium and through the purple confetti our final words were: “If Ray Lewis can find peace with this game 15 minutes after it’s over then maybe we should find a way as well.”

Watch this video. I think it might change your mood…it certainly changed ours!

 

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game – Ravens & Patriots

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game – Ravens & Patriots

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Danny Woodhead returns Billy Cundiff kickoff 41 yards to Pats’ 37 (3rd quarter)

4. Joe Flacco pass intended for Ed Dickson intercepted by Brandon Spikes (4th quarter)

3. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dennis Pitta on 4th & 6 incomplete (4th quarter)

2. Billy Cundiff misses 32 yard field goal wide left (4th quarter)

1. Sterling Moore breaks up Joe Flacco pass intended for Lee Evans (4th quarter)

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Your Monday Reality Check-Cameron Future Only Part of Postseason Agenda

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Your Monday Reality Check-Cameron Future Only Part of Postseason Agenda

Posted on 23 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

I’ve had the opportunity to make a number of radio appearances throughout the country during the last few weeks while the Baltimore Ravens marched along in the National Football League playoffs.

In virtually every conversation, I was asked a question about how the outcome of the next game could alter the future of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in Charm City.

It always felt a little strange to be asked about Cam Cameron. Usually I only hear Cam Cameron’s name when a listener/caller screams at me about him. It’s never in the form of a question.

After the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, it didn’t take 30 minutes for the screaming to start again. It was a bit odd considering there was really no way Cameron could be blamed for the loss in Foxborough.

The reality is that as the team’s offseason officially got underway, Cameron sits at the forefront. His future can only be labeled as “to be determined”, as his contract expires with the end of the season.

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ coaching staff are headed to Mobile, AL this week for scouting at the annual Senior Bowl. It would seem as though the team wouldn’t want the situation with Cameron to linger far into the offseason, especially if they ultimately decide not to retain Cameron after four playoff trips in four seasons and have to find a new coordinator without a likely replacement on staff.

(That’s not an endorsement for either decision. It’s just a fact. I’m actually indifferent towards the situation, as I believe any coordinator in 2012 would need more offensive talent to work with.)

The next pressing situation remains on offense. The team’s Most Valuable Player in 2012 (RB Ray Rice) becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at a time where NFL teams have been particularly unwilling to invest in long term deals for running backs. Also hitting unrestricted free agency is LG Ben Grubbs, who has never reached a Pro Bowl but has certainly played at a Pro Bowl level. (Monday update: Grubbs will in fact be making his first trip to Hawaii this season as a replacement for Patriots G Logan Mankins.)

There is a likelihood that the Franchise tag will come into play with one of the above players, as it did with DT Haloti Ngata last season before a long-term deal was reached.

DE Cory Redding, LB’s Jarret Johnson & Jameel McClain and S’s Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura highlight other Ravens who become Unrestricted Free Agents. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (who has publicly stated he would like to play another season) is also on the UFA list, as are OL Andre Gurode, TE Kris Wilson, DT Brandon McKinney and LB Edgar Jones.

(CB’s Cary Williams & Lardarius Webb as well as LB Dannell Ellerbe are restricted free agents, all are expected to return.)

Also on the list of Unrestricted Free Agents is C Matt Birk, who denied a CBS report earlier this month that he had already decided to retire at the end of the season. With no “center of the future” clearly on the roster, it may behoove the team to bring the big man from Harvard back for one more season if he’s interested.

While we await Birk’s decision about his future, future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis told reporters in New England he intends to return to Baltimore for a 17th season. S Ed Reed’s future isn’t quite as defined, as he did not speak to reporters after suffering his second AFC title game defeat. Nagging back and neck issues appeared to affect Reed’s play at the end of the season, but he came with big plays in both playoff games.

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How hard is it to make a 32-yard FG?

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How hard is it to make a 32-yard FG?

Posted on 22 January 2012 by Drew Forrester

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Lost opportunties could haunt Ravens after devastating FG miss

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Lost opportunties could haunt Ravens after devastating FG miss

Posted on 22 January 2012 by WNSTV

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Our Ravens-Patriots Slaps to the Head

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Our Ravens-Patriots Slaps to the Head

Posted on 22 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

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

To the surprise of some, there were no Pats to be given following the Ravens’ game Sunday. They fell 23-20 to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game to end their season.

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

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

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

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Terrell Suggs

4. Dannell Ellerbe

3. Michael Oher

2. John Harbaugh

1. Lee Evans (two slaps)

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 21 January 2012 by Luke Jones

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sixty minutes will decide whether the Ravens advance to Indianapolis or find themselves falling short for the fourth season in a row.

Standing in their way is the high-powered New England Patriots, winners of nine straight including last week’s 45-10 blowout of the Denver Broncos in the divisional round. The Ravens own a 1-6 all-time record against New England and are 1-4 in Foxborough.

However, that one victory came in the form of a 33-14 beatdown of the Patriots two years ago in the wild card round of the playoffs as Ray Rice ran for a playoff franchise-record 159 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. The performance handed New England its first home playoff defeat since 1978 as the Ravens forced quarterback Tom Brady to commit four turnovers.

What happened on that day doesn’t amount to much as far as what transpires at Gillette Stadium on Sunday – for example, the personnel has changed dramatically for the New England defense – but the victory does provide a psychological boost at a place where many teams are intimidated by the Patriots’ mystique.

The AFC championship features the ultimate contrast in styles as New England represents the new era of high-scoring, pass-happy offense while Baltimore still thrives on its strong defense to win ugly year in and year out.

Here’s what will happen in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon …

1. Needing to make Tom Brady as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket, Terrell Suggs will lead the charge with two sacks. For all the talk of sticking with the Patriots’ talented tight ends and the video-game production of Wes Welker the key to beating the New England offense is pressuring the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Ravens have done it effectively over their last three games against the Patriots, sacking Brady nine times. Suggs leads the charge for the pass rush and will need to come up big against New England left tackle Matt Light on Sunday. Suggs has been quiet over the last month, collecting only one sack over the last four games, but the Pro Bowl linebacker was a one-man wrecking crew in the 2010 postseason when he collected five sacks in two games. The 29-year-old has posted 10 sacks in his 10 career playoff games. The New England offensive line allowed 32 sacks in the regular season, but the unit is banged up with left guard Logan Mankins dealing with a knee issue and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer ailing with back and foot injuries. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has been masterful in finding the proper balance between sending extra defenders and dropping enough men into coverage, and he’ll need his best plan yet on Sunday against the most explosive offense in the AFC.

2. The Ravens will not be able to stop tight end Rob Gronkowski from making big plays, but Lardarius Webb will hold wide receiver Wes Welker in check. Analysts and fans have spent the better part of the week trying to figure out how the Baltimore defense will account for the 6-foot-6 Gronkowski. Pagano will call for bracketed coverage as much as possible and likely entrust strong safety Bernard Pollard to hold his own in one-on-one coverage in certain instances. However, it’s clear that few have had any luck against the second-year tight end who caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns in the regular season. In fairness, the Ravens have held their own against tight ends despite questionable pass-coverage ability for their linebackers, but Gronkowski’s combination of size and talent is something they haven’t seen all season. What could be the great equalizer in creating stops against the New England offense is Webb’s coverage against Wes Welker, who caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards this season. The third-year cornerback hasn’t allowed a touchdown pass all season and can play Welker when he lines up on the outside or from the slot since Webb moves inside for the nickel package. Even if the Ravens allow a couple touchdowns to Gronkowski, Webb’s coverage skills should keep Welker from going off against the secondary, which would be a major feather in the hat of the defense.

3. Whichever team fares better on third down will win on Sunday. It’s a simple thought, but the Ravens must limit the possessions of the New England offense has much as possible. To do that, they’ll need positive yardage on first and second down to set up third-and-manageable situations. Baltimore ranked seventh in third-down conversion percentage (42.4 percent) while the New England defense allowed conversions on third down at 43.1 percent of the time, ranking 28th in the NFL. Rice and tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will be critical in moving the chains on third down and keeping the Patriots off the field. On the flip side, the New England offense ranked fifth in third-down efficiency (45.9 percent), but the Ravens were second in the league in third-down defense with opponents converting only 32.1 percent of the time. Of course, the Patriots can score so quickly that third down isn’t even a factor on some drives, but the Ravens will be more meticulous with their opportunities while mixing in an occasional vertical shot against the Patriots’ secondary. An inordinate amount of turnovers one way or the other could always negate the significance of third-down conversions, but the team that can move the chains and force punts will likely raise the Lamar Hunt trophy at the end of the afternoon.

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Friday practice update; details emerging for AFC championship in Foxborough

Posted on 20 January 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Conducting their final workout of the week before departing for Foxborough on Saturday, the Ravens once again had all players present during the portion of practice open to the media.

Safety Ed Reed (left ankle) was the only player listed on Thursday’s injury report as a limited participant. The veteran is expected to play without any limitation against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs eliminated any doubt of him being tight for the conference championship game, taking a microphone and singing in front of a camera as he walked on the indoor practice field. There’s never a dull moment with the 29-year-old pass rusher.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler will sing the national anthem at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Not to be outdone in the celebrity department, the Ravens have announced that Orioles legend Cal Ripken will serve as the team’s honorary captain in Foxborough.

“Cal is a true Baltimore hero,” Ravens team president Dick Cass said to the team’s official website. “He is a great representative of both the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore Ravens.”

Ripken was also a guest of owner Steve Bisciotti when the Ravens defeated New England, 33-14, in the postseason two years ago.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Al Riveron. Sunday’s forecast is calling for temperatures in the low 30s, but it appears potential snowfall earlier in the weekend will not be an issue for the game.

 

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With Patriots standing in way, Ravens embracing familiar role as underdog

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With Patriots standing in way, Ravens embracing familiar role as underdog

Posted on 17 January 2012 by Luke Jones

Depending on who you talk to this week, the Ravens are a very good football team only 60 minutes of strong play away from going to the Super Bowl or an inconsistent group unable to get out of its own way as it prepares to take on the almighty New England Patriots in Foxborough.

Those sharing the latter thought continue to doubt quarterback Joe Flacco, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and the team in general. Even safety Ed Reed spouted off about Flacco and the offense’s uneven performance against the second-ranked Houston defense in the divisional round, which was not only a purposeless act for his team but is sure to add fuel to the critics’ fire this week.

Baltimore faces the immense challenge of traveling to Gillette Stadium to best a Patriots team that hasn’t lost since before Veterans Day. New England has been held below 30 points only once in its last eight games while the Ravens’ offensive attack has only reached the 30-point plateau one time over its last nine contests.

Yes, the Ravens are the underdogs this Sunday. From fans and media to even within the locker room, the pressure to play their best game of the season — to give themselves their optimum chance to win — is coming from a variety of sources.

And that’s just fine in their minds.

“We like being the underdog,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “We’re used to it. I think we handle it better. Psychologically, I don’t really know why, but I think we do. Should we be? I don’t know. Obviously, it’s their place, they are the No. 1 seed, they have earned it, they are one of the top offenses in the league. They deserve to be the top team, but I like being [the underdog].”

Though their 33-14 win over the Patriots in the playoffs two years ago doesn’t mean much in terms of breaking down the play on the field this Sunday, it does provide a psychological boost as the Ravens once again prepare to head on the road for the playoffs.

There is no team in the NFL better equipped to win a road playoff game than the Ravens, who have won four in seven postseason games away from M&T Bank Stadium over the last four years. Meanwhile, the Patriots have reaped the benefits of home playoff games but were knocked out of the postseason in their home stadium in each of the last two seasons.

The Ravens’ veterans and young players alike know what to expect on the road in January.

“It helps, just by the fact that we’ve done it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Most of our team has been there before, and then those young guys can relate to the older guys, and the older guys can share some wisdom. But it’s not going to impact necessarily this game, except to the extent that our guys have been there before and it’s certainly not going to be anything new for them. And that’s a good thing.”

While naysayers point to two disappointing losses in Pittsburgh and a blowout defeat to Indianapolis when mentioning the Ravens’ postseason track record under Harbaugh, his teams have also shown the ability to win games in which few gave them a chance. In Harbaugh’s first season, the Ravens knocked off the top-seeded Tennessee Titans in the divisional round and followed it up the next season with a surprising blowout of the Patriots.

The Ravens play better with a chip on their shoulder when they know few believe they can get the job done. There’s no question the veterans in the locker room will point out that the Patriots didn’t defeat a team with a winning record all season despite being crowned the clear favorite on Sunday.

And while the media has swooned over the Patriots’ explosive offense, the Ravens will remind everyone their defense finished in the top four in every significant statistical category this season.

A win on Sunday will likely require the Ravens’ best performance of the season, but their 6-1 record against teams that finished with a winning record in 2011 provides plenty of evidence that they’re more than capable of getting the job done.

Baltimore will need to sustain drives, score touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone, and play a turnover-free game — or close to it — to win a contest in the neighborhood of 31-27. It’s not the easiest task on paper, especially against an offense that scored 513 points in the regular season and a much-maligned New England defense that finished a respectable 15th in points allowed.

But every time you think you’ve sentenced the Ravens’ to failure due to their flaws and write them off, they do something to surprise you, much as they did two years ago in Foxborough when they sent the Patriots home early after barely qualifying for the playoffs the week before.

It’s rarely easy on the eyes, but just ask Green Bay or New Orleans if style points really matter in January.

“I always say there is a right way to do things, there is a wrong way to do things, and there is just the Ravens’ way of doing things,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said following Sunday’s win over the Texans. “It wasn’t pretty, but we’re not really a pretty team.”

And the Ravens are comfortable in that position, with everyone counting them out.

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