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Live from Westminster: Injuries mount on offensive line

Posted on 16 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. – After receiving some well-deserved time off since the preseason opener last week, the Ravens were back on the practice field Monday morning but saw several players go down with injuries.

Offensive lineman David Hale was carted off the field with an apparent chest/rib injury after a collision with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata during linemen drills in the latter portion of practice. Ngata sat out the remainder of practice with a left arm issue, but the injury did not appear to be serious.

Oniel Cousins also walked off the field gingerly with a member of the training staff and did not return. Earlier in pratice, he had a scuffle with linebacker Jameel McClain, but there was no word whether the injury was a result of the fight.

With Jared Gaither out another two to three weeks with a small tear in his back, Cousins is the “logical choice” to take his place at right tackle, according to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. With Cousins leaving the field, his replacement was Tony Moll, who only returned to practice on Saturday after a concussion sidelined him for two weeks.

“I don’t think you’re ever comfortable [with your offensive line],” Camerson said about the uncertainty with the first unit. “You really aren’t, because you know you’re one or two [lost] players away from really having to rebuild something.”

Others not practicing included offensive linemen Matt Birk (elbow) and Daniel Sanders (arm), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), and defensive backs Marcus Paschal (leg) and Chris Carr (hamstring). Carr has not practiced since making a surprise appearance against the Panthers on Thursday night.

Linebacker Tavares Gooden was limited for the second straight practice as he deals with back soreness after taking an awkward hit from the side in the first preseason game. The third-year backer sported a red mesh top over his jersey and did not partake in any live contact in the morning session.

Check back right here (time-stamped below) for updates throughout the day and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison, Jerry Rosburg, Dawan Landry, Lardarius Webb, and Cary Williams as well as Thyrl Nelson’s conversation with Mark Clayton immediately following the morning practice. As always, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates straight from the field in Westminster!

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1:45 p.m. — Monday was another big day for the kickers as Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff were perfect on all attempts.

Cundiff connected for a long 58-yard field goal but also hit from 20, 38, 46, and 52 yards. Graham was 4-for-4 and made kicks from 20, 38, 46, and 52 yards. Cundiff is currently kicking with the first field goal unit, but it appears both kickers are strongly in contention for the job after only one preseason game.

The inside linebacker competition has heated up after a disappointing showing by Jameel McClain against Carolina. Dannell Ellerbe appears to have closed the gap as he, McClain, and a limited Tavares Gooden (see above) took reps next to Ray Lewis and the starting defense.

1:35 p.m. — Cornerback Lardarius Webb continues to rehab his surgically-repair ACL after suffering the injury late last season. The second-year play has been doing agility and conditioning work for most of training camp but still doesn’t have a timetable for his return to the practice field.

“No time limit,” he said. “We’re coming. We don’t want everybody to know [when] I am coming back.”

When pressed whether he would return to action before the preseason ended, Webb indicated he preferred taking extra time to insure the knee is ready for games that actually matter.

“I’m hoping it’s not [returning in the preseason],” Webb said. “For what? I’m still like seven months [removed from the injury]. We still have a lot of work to do. We have to make sure it’s right before I come back on.”

Webb remains on the active physically unable to perform list along with safety Ed Reed (hip), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps), and running back Matt Lawrence (knee). If Webb starts the season on the reserve PUP list, he would miss the first six weeks of the regular season.

When he returns to action, Webb is expected to contend for a starting spot at cornerback, a position at which the Ravens are extremely thin after the loss of Domonique Foxworth at the start of training camp.

“I think with an ACL, every time you work [the knee], afterwords, you might have a little soreness, but it’s always going to be soreness,” Webb said. “It’s not the knee; it’s just soreness from work. But no, it feels great.”

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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).

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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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Live from Westminster: Ravens agree to 3-year deal with “Mount” Cody

Posted on 26 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — Good afternoon from the Best Western in Westminster as the time has finally come for the Ravens to report for training camp and begin preparation for the 2010 season. Rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will trickle in throughout the day with their first workout scheduled for Tuesday morning at 8:45 a.m.

We’ll hear from coach John Harbaugh at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon as we hope to get an update on the condition of rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle who is hospitalized after suffering a fall in Austin, Texas on Thursday night. Kindle and fellow second-round pick Terrence Cody remain unsigned, as only six of the 32 players from the second round have inked contracts with their respective teams as of Monday morning.

In addition to our live reports every hour (on the :30s) on AM 1570 WNST (and streaming live on the web at WNST.net), check right here for our daily “Live from Westminster” blog and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from McDaniel College throughout the summer. As always, please remember to join the WNST Text Service to have training camp news sent directly to your mobile device.

All updated information will be time-stamped below as we’ll let you know when news breaks and the big names arrive here in Westminster.

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1:15 p.m. — We had a chance to catch up with rookie defensive tackle Arthur Jones a little bit ago. Head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net to hear his thoughts on his first NFL training camp.

12:50 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you already know the Ravens have come to terms on a three-year deal with defensive tackle Cody, leaving only Kindle unsigned.

“Mount” Cody is on his way to Westminster and will sign his deal with the Ravens and be ready to go for Tuesday morning’s first workout.

12:38 p.m. — I can gladly report that Joe Flacco has arrived safely at the Best Western in Westminster and is ready to go for training camp.

12:00 p.m. — We have a Haruki Nakamura sighting in Westminster.

A healthy Nakamura really boosts the special teams and adds depth to a beat-up secondary to begin training camp.

11:45 a.m. — Ravens fifth-round pick Arthur Jones has checked into the Best Western as the players are beginning to trickle in just in time for lunch.

Imagine that.

10:50 a.m. — Just caught up with new quarterback coach—and former head coach of the Washington Redskins—Jim Zorn. He was having some internet trouble here at the Best Western to which I replied my MacBook Pro was running just fine.

Of course, I just jinxed myself for the duration of training camp.

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Live from Owings Mills: Gaither doesn’t practice on Day 2 of minicamp

Posted on 08 May 2010 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Good afternoon from 1 Winning Drive as the Baltimore Ravens have concluded Day 2 of their first minicamp. The biggest news to come out of Owings Mills this afternoon is the status of tackle Jared Gaither.

After it became official—at least as official as it gets for early May—that Michael Oher was shifting to left tackle and Gaither to the right side, Gaither was absent from practice on Saturday due to an undisclosed injury. Gaither was not present in the locker room for the media availability following practice, so the status of the fourth-year player remains in question.  There was no mention of any potential injury following Friday’s practice.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would not discuss any specifics of the injury, but that’s nothing new with the Baltimore coaching staff.

“I don’t know that it’s any one thing,” Cameron said. “I think it’s just maybe a series of things. I don’t want to say any one specific play [that it happened].”

How’s that for dancing around a question?

Cameron was also complimentary of Oniel Cousins, who took Gaither’s place at the starting right tackle position on Saturday.

Of course, speculation persists about the possibility of Gaither being traded. The team linked most recently with Gaither is the Buffalo Bills, as reports have come out this week regarding their interest in the Ravens tackle.

**Be sure to head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison, Jerry Rosburg, Terrence Cody, and Paul Kruger at WNST.net!**

— Rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody spoke to reporters after practice and reiterated his excitement in joining the vaunted Baltimore defense, led by Ray Lewis.

“I’m getting a lot of positive feedback [from Lewis],” Cody said. “We have a lot of fun meetings and stuff. When I make a good play and help him out, he’s happy and I’m happy.”

With his weight and conditioning clearly being a concern, Cody said the team is happy with his current weight, and the goal is still for him to be between 330 and 335 pounds for the season.

— In weight-related news on the opposite end of the spectrum, Paul Kruger talked about the adjustment he’s facing in gaining weight for his shift to defensive end. Kruger looks noticeably bigger after bulking up to 275 pounds from the 260 at which he played in his rookie  season.

“It’s like wearing a backpack of rocks,” Kruger said. “My body’s not used to this weight. I’m still trying to adjust at this weight and running around. In the weight room I feel fine, I feel stronger and everything, but when we get on the field and start practicing, that’s when I can definitely notice a difference.”

— Rookie offensive tackle Ramon Harewood was carted off the field during practice and did not return. He’s expected to miss three or four weeks with a right knee injury.

“Obviously, we hope for the best,” said Cameron, who did not have an update on the sixth-round pick when he spoke to the media after practice.

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Ravens 2010 Offseason – To Spend or Not To Spend?

Posted on 13 February 2010 by Alex Thomas

As the 2010 NFL offseason moves forward, the Baltimore Ravens, like the other 31 teams in the NFL, are looking to improve their team through the free agent market.

With an uncapped year looming, free agency as we know it has been turned on its ear. Over 200 players who were originally slated to be Unrestricted Free Agents are now Restricted Free Agents under the current collective bargaining agreement. Obviously, this could hamper the Ravens’ ability to address their needs through the free agent market.

Sure, owners may use this uncapped year to rid themselves of some big salaries, but the Ravens are not in a position to go out and get one of those big name/big dollar free agents.

For example, if you think the Ravens are going to sign Julius Peppers, I have a purple unicorn that I’ll sell you on the cheap.

For starters, let’s all agree that the Ravens have three main areas of concern: wide receiver, tight end, and a defensive upgrade (either a pass rusher or a defensive back).

It’s no secret that the Ravens’ secondary struggled at times last year. Sometimes coverages were blown, but many times mistakes in the front seven (i.e. lack of a pass rush) left corners and safeties vulnerable. If the Ravens add another pass rusher to complement Suggs, that would take a lot of pressure off of the defensive backs to have to cover receivers for long periods of time.

And if you go back and look at the tape, especially toward the end of the season, the Ravens secondary made some significant improvements in every facet of the game. Greg Mattison and the coaching staff did a better job of scheming and making mid-game adjustments, and the players themselves put forth a better overall effort as far as tackling and coverage. Frankly, they just looked more focused.

But most importantly, they improved as a unit despite the slew of injuries. I guess the emergence of Lardarius Webb certainly didn’t hurt either.

This may be unpopular in some circles, but the DB position is probably not the Ravens’ main concern in this year’s free agent market.

And it shouldn’t be.

Defensive back talent is at a premium in the league, and teams tend to overpay for tenured veterans at that position (see also the Dominique Foxworth signing last year). The Ravens should choose to address that position in the draft, and probably will not do so until the later rounds.

The Ravens should also choose to address the tight end position in the upcoming draft instead of the free agent market. This year’s wide receiver class is not as deep as it has been in years past, and the Ravens are more likely to get a game-changing tight end at #25 than a top-notch wide receiver at that draft spot. Dez Bryant won’t fall that far, and after him, I wouldn’t waste a first-round pick on Golden Tate and the like.

As far as pass rushers go, it would be nice to have Julius Peppers on the roster.

It would also be nice if I didn’t have to pay taxes.

Peppers is simply out of the Ravens price range and is an unrealistic option at this point.

Richard Seymour? Pass. Too old.

Jason Taylor? Pass. See above.

Kyle Vanden Bosch? Eh…tempting. But he’s 31 and his stats took a dive this past year. Maybe due to injury, but maybe he’s entering the November of his career. Pass.

Aaron Kampman would be a good pick up…two years ago. His recently torn ACL makes him a liability.

If I were Ozzie Newsome, I would make sure that I re-sign Justin Bannan and try to address this position in the draft as well. Penn State’s Jared Ordick could still be there at #25.

The current free agent wide receiver list looks like a Christmas wish list if you’re a Ravens fan. But we have to look at the big picture here.

Miles Austin? Vincent Jackson? Too pricey. Both will probably end up re-signing with their current teams.

Brandon Marshall? A wonderful talent, but a locker room cancer. I like to call him T.O. Jr. for short, mainly because B.M. doesn’t really register appropriate with most people.

All of the previously listed free agents  just don’t fit the mold for what the Ravens need. Whether it’s a financial matter or a matter of having the proper personnel in place, the cupboard looks bare in the free agency market for the Ravens at these positions.

Except for Malcom Floyd…yeah, the other tall athletic guy from the Chargers.

He fits the profile of what the Ravens are looking for: young, tall, athletic, and fast. And he won’t be nearly as expensive as his counterpart Jackson.

Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

The Sun’s Mike Preston wrote a great column on Malcom Floyd a few days ago, and I agree with him. Floyd fits the “right player, right price” model that has worked so well for the Ravens over the past decade.

At the end of the day, this is all just speculation. There isn’t a potion or tonic to magically fix all of the Ravens’ problems over night, or over one off-season for that matter. And nobody has a crystal ball that can tell us exactly how the draft will shake out, despite what Todd McShay and Mel Kiper may think.

But, it’s certainly fun to talk about. If nothing else, the pending uncapped year will give us something to think about besides the weather forecast.

At least until pitchers and catchers report.

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Terps tame Wolfpack 88-64, pull into 1st place tie in ACC

Posted on 23 January 2010 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Despite holding a 41-33 lead over NC State at the half, one had the sense Maryland was not satisfied with an eight-point advantage over the Wolfpack despite completely controlling the tempo of the first half.

The Terps responded with their most impressive half of the season, outscoring the Wolfpack 47-31 on 66.7 percent shooting in the second half and displaying a feverish intensity in an 88-64 rout at the Comcast Center. The win, coupled with a Virginia loss to Wake Forest earlier in the day, lands Maryland (13-5, 3-1 ACC) in a first-place tie with the Cavaliers in the ACC through the quarter pole of the schedule.

Greivis Vasquez exploded for 17 points in the second half after primarily looking to involve his teammates in the first half of play. The senior also did fine work in helping freshman forward Jordan Williams double-team Tracy Smith on several occasions, as the Maryland big man limited the Pack’s leading scorer to six points in the first half.

“I was just trying to get everyone involved and be a good leader and good point guard,” Vasquez said about his first-half effort. “[In the] second half, my mentality was a little different [scoring-wise].”

The Wolfpack could not match Maryland’s defensive intensity, shooting just 27.8 percent from the field in the second half and generally being outhustled by the Terps. Maryland repeatedly dove for loose balls throughout the evening, even drawing pronounced cheers from Ravens coach John Harbaugh (attending the game with owner Steve Bisciotti and coordinators Cam Cameron and Greg Mattison) on one occasion.

“What you try to preach is if the ball is in the paint, you’ve got to go get it,” said coach Gary Williams, coaching in his 1,000th career game.

Vasquez led the Terps with 19 points while Landon Milbourne scored 18 and Sean Mosley chipped in 13, getting to the line a game-high 13 times (8-for-13).

With Vasquez not looking for his shot in the first half, reserve guard Cliff Tucker took advantage of opportunities, coming off the bench to score nine points before the break and 11 for the game. Tucker’s continued improvement gives Maryland a dangerous threat off the bench that contributes on both ends of the floor. An improved attitude and effort during practice has pushed Tucker into his coach’s good graces and led to more minutes for the junior.

Although the Terps were clearly the better team on paper entering Saturday night’s game, they could not afford to allow Sidney Lowe’s team to build on the confidence gained from its upset over Duke on Wednesday night. Any lingering good feelings for the Wolfpack were squashed by Maryland’s dominant second-half performance.

“We talked at halftime about overcoming adversity and that just because they had their run, we couldn’t let them take over the game,” Tucker said. “We came out and wanted to put it away in the first five minutes [of the second half], and that’s what we did.”

Through the first quarter of the ACC schedule, parity reigns supreme as 10 of the 12 teams hold at least two losses, with Virginia (3-1) and the Terps being the only one-loss teams.

While Maryland has not faced the cream of the crop in the early part of the ACC schedule (Duke, Clemson, and Georgia Tech are my best guesses, but who can with this season?), the Terps are playing their best basketball of the season, having won eight of their last 10 and five of their last six. Only a narrow 85-83 overtime loss at Wake Forest has kept Maryland from an undefeated record in ACC play.

“We can’t get too happy, and we can’t get too low,” Vasquez said. “We’ve got to be in the middle. We’ve got to continue to finish strong and work hard, just like in practice.”

No one really knows just how well Maryland stacks up with the rest of the ACC, but it’s hard to argue with the Terps’ chances at this point. Next up will be Miami (15-4, 1-4 ACC) who comes to College Park to close out a three-game homestand for the Terps on Tuesday night.

“We have 12 [conference games] to play, so we just look at Miami and we’ll prepare just like we did for NC State,” Williams said. “We will be ready to go when we play on Tuesday, and we’ll take it from there.”

– Maryland’s win over NC State was its sixth in a row against the Wolfpack. The Terps’ longest streak against State is seven, a streak that extended from Jan. 29, 1983 to Feb. 27, 1985. The 24-point win is Maryland’s largest over an ACC opponent since a 91-52 victory over Clemson on Feb. 25, 2003.

– At 3-1, the Terps are off to their best start in the ACC since 2002-03.

– After six Terps reached double figures against Longwood on Tuesday, Maryland had four players reach double digits against NC State (Vasquez, Milbourne, Mosley, and Tucker).

– The Wolfpack had averaged 82.0 ppg over its previous three games, all against ranked ACC opponents, but the Maryland defense surrendered just 64 points in the impressive win. The Terps held NC State to just two fast-break points.

– Milbourne scored in double figures for the eighth straight game. The senior forward went 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.

Check out the box score right here and the live blog below.

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8:00 p.m. — As I said in my pregame thoughts, the Terps were clearly the better team on paper, but you have to go out on the floor and take care of business against a team riding high after a big win. And that’s exactly what Maryland did tonight.

Final score: Maryland 88, NC State 64

Back in a little bit with my post-game wrap-up.

7:58 p.m. — David Pearman and Ersin Levent are set to check in. Typing that always gives me a fuzzy feeling inside, and it has nothing to do with any kind of man-crush before you ask questions.

7:54 p.m. — Gregory goes to the line for two and sinks them both. Maryland now leads by 25 points.

James Padgett has checked in for the Terps as has DeShawn Painter for the Wolfpack.

7:51 p.m. — Vasquez with an ill-advised, long 3-ball, and it’s good. Why not? The senior gives a shoulder shimmy just to add style points. He now has 17 points in the second half despite being in foul trouble. A tremendous performance from the senior.

We’ve reached the final media timeout of the second half with Maryland blowing NC State right out of the Comcast Center, 82-59 with 3:26 remaining.

7:49 p.m. — Tucket hits the jumper to push the lead up to 22 points. In limited minutes, the reserve guard has 11 points and has played with plenty of confidence. Definitely a good sign for the Terps as they get into the meat of the ACC schedule.

7:47 p.m. — Mosley finds Gregory inside, and the junior forward scores.

On the other end, the Terps cannot control the glass, allowing State to grab two offensive boards and Smith to finish the possession with a bucket.

Mosley with a tremendous bounce pass to Bowie who scores plus one. Just a pretty play right there.

7:45 p.m. — To say that Gary Williams didn’t like that call would be an understatement, don’t you think?

7:44 p.m. — Vasquez just picked up the offensive foul, his fourth, and he’ll go to the bench.

Mosley picks up the foul, sending Horner to the line for two shots. The senior hits a pair to give him four points on a very quiet night.

7:39 p.m. — We’ve reached the under-8 media timeout with the Terps in completely control of this one with 7:58 remaining. Maryland leads the Pack, 72-51.

7:37 p.m. — Hayes with the give to Milbourne who goes up and underneath for the reverse layup, giving the Terps a 19-point lead. With 8:25 remaining, the Wolfpack need to make a run soon if it wants a chance to come back in this one.

Howell goes to the line for two and misses them both. That won’t get it done.

The Terps work it up the floor, and Vasquez scores with the left hand. Maryland leads by 21 points at 72-51. Timeout, NC State.

7:33 p.m. — You can tell Lowe told his team to work the ball inside to Smith at halftime. The forward is barely keeping his team in it in the second half, scoring eight points already.

7:31 p.m. — You have to be impressed with the Terps’ energy tonight after this team has been accused by many—including me—of coming out flat in several big games this season. Diving for loose balls has been a pretty regular scene tonight, and you could tell Gary Williams appreciated the effort on that last possession.

7:30 p.m. — Making up for some earlier misses, Mosley drains them both, and the Terps lead by 18 points.

Williams goes up to defend the Smith shot and appears to block the shot but catches some contact, drawing his second foul of the evening. Smith makes them both for the Pack.

7:27 p.m. — Mosley again takes the ball to the hole and is fouled. He’ll go to the line for two more after the media timeout.

Maryland leads North Carolina State with 11:42 remaining in the second half, 61-45.

7:25 p.m. — Mosley has clearly shown in the last two games that he appears fully-recovered from the ankle sprain sustained on Christmas night. However, he’s struggling from the charity stripe tonight, shooting just 4-for-9.

7:23 p.m. — Milbourne drains another jumper, and Maryland is just dominating the second half to this point.

However, Howell scores inside to quiet the crowd momentarily.

To answer, Vasquez scores AGAIN. He has 10 points in the first seven minutes of the second half.

7:22 p.m. — Off the in-bounds play, Hayes finds a wide-open Vasquez who drains the 3-pointer from the corner. The senior from Caracas, Venezuela is absolutely on fire out of the gate here in the second half as he now has 10 points in the game.

7:21 p.m. — Vasquez checks back in after a very brief breather, and Milbourne hits the jumper, giving him 14 in the game.

On the other end, Williams picks up his first roul, sending Howell to the line for two shots. The big freshman cannot hit the first but converts the second to make it a 13-point game.

7:18 p.m. — Mosley can only hit 1-of-2 from the line. That’s his third trip to the line tonight in which he’s made the first but come up short on the second.

7:16 p.m. — Mosley with a great head fake and draws the foul on the jumper. We’ve reached the first media timeout of the second half with 15:58 to go in this one. Maryland leads the Wolfpack, 51-38, and Mosley will go to the line for two.

7:14 p.m. — After a relatively quiet first half, Vasquez is really starting to pick it up as he just scored on the runner. He has five points in the first four minutes of the half.

Milbourne picks up the foul inside, sending Smith to the line for two, and the junior hits them both.

Mosley cans the three on the other end, and Maryland is red-hot to begin the half.

7:13 p.m. — Vasquez just picked up his third foul. The senior will have to be careful as we’ve just started the second half.

Following the miss, Vasquez dribbles down court the other way, pulls up, and drills the triple. Maryland’s up by 13 points, and it’s danger time for the Wolfpack.

Wood hits a 3-pointer of his own for NC State, a big shot for Sidney Lowe’s team.

7:11 p.m. — Williams continues to do a fine job guarding Smith as he stood his ground and forced a harmless shot attempt from the Pack’s leading scorer.

Milbourne scores on the other end, and the Maryland lead is up to 10.

7:09 p.m. — State gets the ball to begin the second half, and Gonzalez is way off with the long attempt, barely hitting the rim.

Milbourne is whistled for the travel on the Terps’ first possession of the second half.

7:06 p.m. — Both teams are back on the floor, and we’re moments away from the start of the second half.

Maryland needs to continue to work the ball inside for high-percentage shots. Jordan Williams and Milbourne have been very effective in the paint, as the pair combined for 18 points and eight rebounds in the first half.

6:56 p.m. — The Terps frontcourt—mainly Jordan Williams—has done a fine job guarding Tracy Smith in the paint. The Wolfpack’s leading scorer has only six points at the half.

6:53 p.m. — Be sure to check out the halftime stats right here at WNST.net.

6:52 p.m. — An absolutely silly foul by Degand with 2.3 seconds left. It will give Hayes two shots. He makes them both.

Gonzalez throws up a shot from beyond half-court and it goes in and out. Wow, that was very close.

We’ve reached the end of the first half with Maryland controlling the tempo for most of the way. The Terps lead the Wolfpack at the break, 41-33.

6:50 p.m. — Tracy Smith grabs the offensive board and scores inside for the Pack. Maryland has done a nice job of controlling the glass, but that trip down the court will not make Gary Williams very happy.

Hayes draws the foul with 11.8 seconds to go and goes to the line for 1-and-1. The senior guard drills them both to make it 39-33.

6:49 p.m. — The Terps cannot connect on several opportunities in the paint (sure looked like some contact on Mosley’s second shot), but Milbourne draws the foul and will go to the line for two.

The senior forward hits a pair of freebies to build the lead to seven points as Maryland will press.

Richard Howell gets the ball in the low post and scores inside plus the foul. The foul is on Vasquez, his second of the night. Hayes will come in to prevent Vasquez from picking up a third foul in the final minute of the half.

6:45 p.m. — Gonzalez hits the trey, and suddenly the Wolfpack are within five points of the Terps.NC State is on a modest 5-0 run with 2:07 remaining in the half.

6:43 p.m. — Tucker cannot complete the 3-point play, and Tracy Smith finds room inside and scores for the Pack.

On the next possession, Milbourne cannot hit the 3-ball. You’d love to see the Terps finish the half strong and build a double-digit at the break.

6:41 pm. — Tucker has checked back into the game as Vasquez hits the baseline jumper to grow the lead back to eight. The Terps force the turnover and Milbourne finds the streaking Tucker going to the basket. The reverse layup is good, and the foul! Tucker is having a monster night with nine points already in limited minutes.

Maryland leads by 10 as we’ve reached the final media timeout of the half. The Terps lead NC State, 33-23 with 3:47 remaining.

6:37 p.m. — Vasquez with a gorgeous pass to Milbourne in transition, and the senior forward finishes the lay-in.

A possession later, Williams gets another bucket inside. The Terps continue to get opportunities in the paint and the freshman big man has eight points in the first half.

6:34 p.m. — Mosley goes to the line and connects on the first but can’t hit the second.

Vasquez picks up the foul as he cannot turn around in transition. I’d say Williams just “challenged” Scott Wood’s jumper as it looked like he was trying to shoot at a 6-foot basket.

6:30 p.m. — After a beautiful drive, Hayes has to finish that layup.

Richard Howell hits the jumper with Dino Gregory right in his face.

The Terps push it hard up the floor as Mosley draws the foul inside. We’ve reached the under-8 timeout with Maryland continuing to lead the way, 24-18 with 7:55 remaining in the first half.

6:27 p.m. — Hayes with a nice feed inside to Williams who just checked back into the game. He has been an absolute force in the early stages of this one.

State turns it over again and looks lost in its half-court offense.

6:26 p.m. — State is having SERIOUS difficulty against the Maryland defense as it was unable to create anything out of the half-court set. Unfortunately, Milbourne cannot hit the jumper on the other end.

Following a State bucket, Tucker hits another jumper from the foul line. He has seven points already. This Maryland team is very dangerous if it can get that kind of production out of Tucker off the bench.

6:23 p.m. — The Terps lead NC State, 20-12, at the second media timeout with 11:57 remaining. You have to be happy with the quick start and an opportunity to pull into a first-place tie in the ACC standings.

6:21 p.m. — Tucker gets his hands on an errant pass, leading to a wide-open look for Eric Hayes, and the senior connects! Comcast is on its feet!

Following another Pack turnover, the Terps push it up the floor but turn it over themselves. The Terps are definitely playing with the serious energy I called for going into this one.

6:19 p.m. — Tracy Smith gets on the board for the Wolfpack with Williams helping out defensively on the other side of the court. Milbourne answers on the other end with the jumper.

Following the miss, Tucker hits the 3-ball to put the Terps up, 17-10. The junior continues to show an impressive shot from beyond the arc in recent weeks. Timeout, Sidney Lowe.

6:16 p.m. — John Harbaugh was just introduced during the last timeout to a massive ovation here in College Park. I heard just a few jeers from obvious Redskins fans, but who cares about them?

6:14 p.m. — Cliff Tucker has checked into the game as Gary Williams seems to be more confident in going to the junior guard than he was earlier in the season and in the past. Tucker simply needs to produce when give the opportunities.

We’ve reached our first media timeout of the evening with Maryland and NC State deadlocked at 8-8.

6:13 p.m. — Wood picks up the foul for NC State, sending Mosley to the foul line. The Baltimore native hits 1-of-2 from the charity stripe.

Williams challenges the shot on the other end, forcing an air ball and grabbing another board.

6:10 p.m. — Mosley misses the jumper from the foul line, but Williams pulls down the offensive board and puts it in. The freshman continues to impress and show more aggression.

On the other end, Horner hits the basket to tie it at 5.

Jordan Williams with ANOTHER bucket for the Terps. He’s off to a strong start, and the Comcast crowd loves it.

6:09 p.m. — With the shot clock winding down, Javier Gonzalez forces up a three and it’s an air ball. Thirty-five second violation.

The Terps work the ball up quickly with Jordan Williams unable to finish the layup, but Mosley is there to clean it up plus the foul! The sophomore hits the freebie to complete the 3-point play, and we’re tied.

NC State has trouble getting the ball in-bounds and must use a 30-second timeout.

6:07 p.m. — Maryland comes out playing man-to-man with Jordan Williams drawing the key assignment of guarding Tracy Smith in the paint. Following an offensive rebound for the Wolfpack, Degand hits a triple for the first points of the evening.

Milbourne cannot hit the jump hook in the paint.

6:00 p.m. — Just a reminder to follow Glenn Clark’s updates on Twitter (@WNST) throughout the game.

5:57 p.m. — You can certainly tell the spring semester is about to get underway. After an empty “Wall” on Tuesday night against Longwood (granted, the competition was less than stellar), the students are back in full force for this ACC matchup.

5:54 p.m. — With Virginia trailing by double digits with a minute remaining in Winston-Salem, the Terps can move into a tie for first place with a victory over the Wolfpack this evening.

5:51 p.m. — Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

NC State
G Javier Gonzalez
G Farnold Degand
F Scott Wood
F Tracy Smith
F Dennis Horner

Maryland
G Eric Hayes
G Greivis Vasquez
G Sean Mosley
F Landon Milbourne
F Jordan Williams

5:48 p.m. — Adding to the list of celebrities in attendance tonight, former Maryland Terp and MLB pitcher Eric Milton is here and was just recognized by the university.

5:43 p.m. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are in attendance for tonight’s game. I’m guessing owner Steve Bisciotti had few problems hooking up his coordinators with tickets for this one.

5:40 p.m. — Tonight’s game marks the 145th meeting between the Wolfpack and the Terps with the overall series tied at 72 wins apiece. Maryland has won 15 of the past 20 meetings and the last five in a row.

5:35 p.m. — Maryland has just taken the floor for pre-game warmups sporting the gold uniforms that seemingly became a staple down the stretch last season after the huge overtime win against North Carolina. I cannot say I’m a big fan of the look, but if it brings a win tonight, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

5:30 p.m. — Happy Saturday from the Comcast Center as the Wolfpack of NC State (13-6, 2-3 ACC) come to College Park for a nationally-televised game against the Terrapins (12-5, 2-1 ACC) at 6:00 p.m.

The Terps resume their ACC schedule after what amounted to a glorified scrimmage against Longwood on Tuesday, destroying the Lancers by a score of 106-55 and seeing six players reach double-digit scoring. Maryland currently sits in second place in the conference and would move into a tie with Virginia for first place with a win and a Cavaliers’ loss to Wake Forest this afternoon. The Cavs are getting absolutely pasted in Winston-Salem as I type this, so the Terps simply need to hold up their end of the bargain.

It’s clear the ACC’s picture grows murkier by the week with the massive struggle of North Carolina and Duke currently holding a 3-2 conference record. While Maryland has yet to secure that “wow” victory in the young season, the Terps certainly find themselves in the mix at the quarter pole.

While the Wolfpack was a consensus choice to finish in the bottom third of the ACC entering the season, Sidney Lowe’s squad upset Duke on Wednesday and lost a close 73-70 battle to Clemson last Saturday. Maryland clearly holds the edge on paper and on the sideline with Gary Williams matching up against Lowe, but the Terps have to start fast to prevent NC State from carrying over the good feeling it created against the Blue Devils.

NC State is led by junior forward Tracy Smith who averages 17.2 points per game and 8.6 rebounds while senior forward Dennis Horner (12.9 ppg) provides additional production in the frontcourt. Point guard Javier Gonzalez leads the Wolfpack half-court offense, averaging 4.7 assists per game and shooting 38 percent from 3-point range.

Tonight’s game is nationally-televised on ESPN2 with Mike Patrick and Maryland great Len Elmore providing the call.

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (1/21/10)

Posted on 21 January 2010 by Jack McManus

9:47-

Sean Salisbury is the next guest. Salisbury agrees with Drew that Harbaugh deserves a contract extenstion. Drew next tells Salisbury that he went 0-4 in picking games last weekend. Sailsbury talks about how badly the San Diego Chargers failed to live up to expectations. He states that although he knew the Jets would keep the game close, the final result shocked him. Salisbury next moves on to the topic of resting players at the end of the season. He would play his players all 16 games. If the team is good enough they will have a first round bye to rest.

john

9:43-

Jerry in Timonium calls in to give his opinion on John Harbaugh’s contract. He does not think the team should give the coach a contract extension yet. He explains that the team has regressed this season and Harbaugh inherited a very talented team. Jerry is also not happy with the hiring of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator.

9:25-

Drew next takes his cheat shot. He calls out the lack of opinion in the local market. He explains that there are no longer articles in the paper that express an opinion. He would like to see articles that approved or disapproved of John Harbaugh after two seasons.

9:10-

Phil Stern makes an appearance. Drew informs him that he and Glenn will not be attending the game today because a large number of middle schoolers will be there. This is because they’re heckling may not be appropriate.

8:54-

Cheap Shots From the Bleachers is next up. Glenn kicks off the segment by taking a cheap shot at the Buffalo Bills hiring Chan Gailey as head coach. Glenn explains the problem is that the Bills are not allowed to talk to coaches who are still in the playoffs. He states that teams need a coach before the Senior Bowl. The NFL must change something so that teams can hire the best option as coach.

8:46-

Jay in Riderwood also wants to discuss horse racing. He and Drew talk about the different possibilities for owners and locations.

8:36-

Steve from Homeland calls in to talk about the money the Orioles have given Luke Scott. He explains that a number of power hitters who play below average defense can step into the lineup and put up Scott’s numbers.

8:31-

Steve in Pimlico is the next caller. He states that a project in the state of Maryland has never been done right. Drew also comments on the fact that it is very difficult to reach the state’s leaders about the issue of horse racing.

8:25-

Ed in Park Heights calls in and compliments the station on their music selection. He also wants to comment on the political impact on horse racing. He states that public leaders are too concerned with their own wants.

7:49-

Ross Pospisil next joins us. Pospisil is a Navy linebacker who just finished his senior season. He is currently preparing for the NFL by participating in the East-West Shrine Game. Pospisil talks about how good the experience has been for him. He also talks about his decision to go to Navy. He explains that he did not plan on going to a service academy until late in high school. The Army-Navy game holds very special significance for those who have ever played in it Pospisil explains.

7:40-

Bill Herrion, coach of the New Hampshire Wildcats joins Drew this morning. His team will face off against UMBC tonight. He talks about his team’s struggles away from home. He points out that when the Wildcats are the home team they are 6-1. He also mentions the strong defense the team plays. Despite this fact, New Hampshire has posted a modest record of 6-10 this season.

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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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FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS ON THE PLAY!

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Packers 27 Ravens 14 (THE FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS Game)

Posted on 08 December 2009 by Derek Arnold

FLAGSFLAGSFLAGSFLAGS ON THE PLAY!

Holy crap.

Ho. Lee. Crap.

No recap of last night’s game would be complete without mentioning the officiating, so let’s just get that out of the way first. As Ravens fans, we of course have the reputation of blaming the refs every time we lose. I’m not blaming them in any way for last night’s loss. But if anyone disagrees that that nationally-televised display of officiating ineptitude was not the strongest argument yet for the case that the NFL needs to make their referees full-time employees, they also probably think Tiger Woods should be nominated for “Husband of the Year.”

There were 310 penalty yards racked up between the two teams, the second most in a single game in NFL HISTORY (Tampa Bay vs. Seattle, October 1976)! Looking at the replays, MOST of the pass interference flags (on both teams) were probably warranted – the calls on Dominique Foxworth and Derrick Mason WERE NOT, however. There comes a point, though, late in the season in a heated battle between two teams jockeying for playoff spots, where these zebras just need to let the players decide the game. I’m not going to sit here and “complain,” per se, about the P.I. call on Green Bay’s Tramon Williams in the end zone with 9:52 to play, considering it SHOULD HAVE helped my team get back in the game (more on that later), but the unbiased football observer in me wishes the official would keep the flag in his pocket in that case. Either Demetrius Williams comes down with the ball or he doesn’t – if he doesn’t, then too bad. EAT THE FLAG!

I caught a show on the NFL Network in between college football games Saturday night, called “Greatest Fourth Quarters.” They showed the fourth quarters (obviously) of three games from about the 1992-1997 time frame. In each, there were calls that, nowadays, would have drawn red challenge flags from the coaches. This was before the days of replay, however. In each case, the zebras huddled up, talked about the questionable play, and in each case, GOT IT RIGHT. That’s right, the officials used to be able to correctly do their jobs without the aid of instant replay. In 2009, the goofs in the striped shirts can’t even seem to get it right WITH the replay.

Perhaps the refs were held more accountable back then? Maybe they were required to dedicate more time to their craft? Or maybe they just tried harder than they do now, when they know they have that little hood to save them if need be.

I don’t know the answer, but I thought it was very fitting that, after watching those officials from a time long past do their jobs impeccably, I was then subjected to the yellow flag storm of Monday Night.

The inconsistency is the worst part. Like all of you, I’ve watched a ton of football this year. I suspect you’ll agree that the discrepancies seen between what one official versus the next considers “pass interference” to be is mind boggling.

Jon Gruden pointed out during the telecast that it was as if the officials had one hand in their pocket whenever Aaron Rodgers put the ball up in the air, waiting for any slight indication of ANYTHING that could be interpreted as P.I. By the end of the game, it was obvious that the same could have been said when Joe Flacco threw the ball.

Entering the game, the Packers and Ravens were the #1 and #2 most penalized teams in the NFL, and it was obvious that their reputations preceded them. That’s not the way it should work. Each game…no, each PLAY…needs to be judged in and of itself, not based on some preconceived notion that the official has about a particular player or team being “prone to committing a penalty” in that situation.

Please, Mr. Goodell – quit wasting your time with stupid initiatives like playing in Europe and expanding the season, and address an issue that plagues the league EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Make the referees full-time employees.

Now, about that game…

Basically, the Ravens just are not a very good football team right now. Although they frittered away some games earlier in the year that they very easily could have won, after 12 games 6-6 seems like exactly where they deserve to be. They are a mediocre team with a struggling quarterback, ineffective running game, non-existent pass rush, laundry list of injuries, and below average coaching.

Joe Flacco, as many have already pointed out, played as poorly as he has in his two seasons in purple. Despite looking like his injured ankle had finally improved to the point that he could move around when needed (his 16 yards rushing were his most since Week 1), his throws still sailed and/or floated, and his decision making was horrendous at times.

More on Joe in this weeks “Did Not Play Like a Raven,” I’m afraid.

The announcement, about an hour before kickoff, that Ed Reed would not be playing, put the kibosh on just about any good feelings that I had going into this one. There weren’t many to begin with, but without #20 back there, Aaron Rodgers seemed likely to have an even bigger field day in store. The defense, however, didn’t play terribly. They forced three Packer turnovers (including one on an interception by Reed’s replacement, Tom Zbikowski) that kept the game from being the total blowout that it probably could have been.

Unfortunately, their lack of pass rush was on full display for all the football world to see. Even Matthew Stafford probably isn’t very worried going into next week’s game. Trevor Pryce’s sack of Rodgers in the 2nd quarter was the Ravens first since the Cleveland game. It was the only one of the entire contest though, as the Ravens now have just ONE quarterback sack in their last TWELVE quarters of play. Greg Mattison can’t seem to figure out when to blitz and when not to (um…no blitz on 3rd and 7 on our own 16? Come on, Man!), and when he does, the Ravens still can’t get any pressure. Their blitzes were picked up easily by Green Bay’s offensive line and backs all night long. “Anemic” is too soft a word for the pass rush at this point.

The Ravens held Packer running back Ryan Grant to just 2.2 yards per carry, but Rodgers hurt them scrambling, picking up 30 yards on 4 totes. Tight end Jermichael Finley proved way too much for Zbikowski and the Ravens’ poor-covering linebackers to handle (side note: every LB, CB, and S on the Ravens’ roster should watch A.J. Hawk on Flacco’s 3rd pick, and get an idea of how to LOOK FOR THE BALL in coverage), as he led the Packers with 7 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Two “Again”s:

  • Lardarius Webb played well, both on kick returns and in coverage.
  • Dominique Foxworth was awful. That whiff on Donald Driver’s touchdown had to have sent Chris McAlister falling off his barstool in laughter somewhere on Bourbon Street.

The offense was, again, inept for the first 30 minutes, as they got shut out. The slow starts are pretty much expected at this point. If it weren’t for the defense setting them up twice with short fields on turnovers, they may have gotten shut out for the entire 60 minutes.

The offensive line, especially tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither, have taken HUGE steps back since shutting out Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and then James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley for the first half of the Steeler game. Over the last six quarters, Joe Flacco has been absolutely running for his life. Inside, there is no movement in the running game, and Ben Grubbs probably had his worst game as a pro last night. Without holes, even Mighty Mouse Ray Rice isn’t going to go far.

It would have been nice to see some of Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain, who could have at least pushed the pile if there weren’t any holes. I was screaming for him all game, but apparently he just wasn’t in Cam Cameron’s “game plan,” as I’m sure he’ll tell us when questioned about it. Nor was the no-huddle offense, despite it seemingly being the only thing that provides any sort of spark these days. The insistence on giving Willis McGahee the ball at the goalline is also head-scratch inducing, even if he did get in once.

LET’S SEE SOME PAIN TRAIN!

As far as John “Andy Reid Jr.” Harbaugh’s clock management, it is just laughable (and Mike Tirico actually WAS laughing at the Ravens’ “hurry up” efforts at the end of the game). The Ravens had zero sense of urgency when they got the ball back with under two minutes to play – but that just mirrored their play through the 58 minutes leading up to that. They were slow in and out of the huddle all night, wasted timeouts on defense and in the red zone, and overall seemed to be playing like the game was untimed.

I have no idea what to make of Harbaugh’s clock management. It defies logic at times, and it only seems to get worse.

It was an ugly, ugly game. Sure, the Ravens were within 3 points in the second half, and had the chance to pull within a field goal one other time – but let’s be honest: they had no business being in this one. Just like they really have no business being in the AFC Playoff discussion.

Hey, at least beating up on the Lions should be fun next week, amirite?

Um…Am I right?

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Ravens vs. Packers

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Ravens (6-5) @ Packers (7-4)

Posted on 07 December 2009 by Derek Arnold

Ravens vs. Packers

Ravens vs. Packers Stats

The Ravens roll into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for a Monday Night contest against the Packers here in Week 13. Sunday’s NFL action was good news-bad news as far as the Ravens’ playoff hopes are concerned. Losing were the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans, all of whom are nipping at the Ravens heels in the “in the hunt” category. However, the wins by Denver and Jacksonville will help them keep the Ravens at arms-length for the Wild Card slots for now, even if the purple can win in Green Bay. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are suddenly both 6-6 as well, thanks to wins over New England and Buffalo, respectively.

In short, the Ravens need a win to keep pace.

That win will be no small feat, I’m afraid.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 6th-ranked offense will provide quite a challenge for the Ravens’ defense. Despite being ranked #9 overall, Greg Mattison’s unit, as we Ravens fans know, can be exploited for big plays. They had the advantage of the raucous purple crowd in keeping Peyton Manning in check two weeks ago, and Pittsburgh’s inability to squeak out more than 17 points last Sunday may unfortunately be due more to Steelers’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ idiocy moreso than great play by Ray Lewis & Co.

Rodgers is no Dennis Dixon. The second-year starter has thrown an incredible 22 touchdowns to go along with just 5 interceptions (3 of which came in a loss to Tampa in Week 9), and his 104.9 quarterback rating trails only Brett Favre and Drew Brees. He has the kind of weapons on the outside that are sure to give the Ravens’ mediocre secondary fits all night, with Donald Driver (53 rec, 845 yards, 5 TD) and Greg Jennings (47, 722, 3). Unless Dominique Foxworth had some sort of breakthrough in the film room and practice this week (not to mention picking up some less-slippery cleats), we’re in trouble, B’More. Lardarius Webb has been a pleasant surprise at corner, but that still leaves at least three or four other guys in purple chasing green jerseys around Lambeau. Given the Ravens’ linebackers struggles in coverage this season, Rodgers may also find plenty of his tight ends, Donald Lee (30, 224, 1), and Jermichael Finley (27, 339, 1).

Further complicating things is the fact that the Ravens still can’t pressure quarterbacks consistently. They haven’t registered a sack in over eight full quarters, since the end of the Cleveland game. Terrell Suggs is not likely to play, so no help is coming from his end. Whatever Antwan Barnes did to tick off John Harbaugh, it’s about time for Johnny to get over it, as the Ravens are going to have to get after Rodgers to have a snowball’s chance.

If there is one potential bright spot, it’s that Rodgers has never had the pleasure of throwing into a secondary that has Ed Reed patrolling center field. A big game from Fast Eddie would certainly help things, though Rodgers is likely to be fresh off 10 straight days of having “Don’t throw to 20” beaten into his head.

Things don’t get any easier when the Ravens have the ball. The Packers entered Week 13 as the number 1 overall defense in the NFL (the above chart reflects the New York Jets having taken over the top spot after allowing something like 180 yards to Buffalo last Thursday night). They are fourth in the league with 18 interceptions, with the seven of veteran cornerback Charles Woodson leading the way. Woodson is likely to match up with Derrick Mason Monday Night, and he has the ability to completely neutralize Joe Flacco’s favorite target.

Flacco had his best game to date against Pittsburgh last week, so hopefully he is starting to get a better grasp of the 3-4 in his sophomore season. Still, Joe is struggling in recent weeks, and some injury-related poor mechanics keep showing up as his passes sail and float far more than we are used to. The ankle/foot is likely going to persist through the season, unfortunately, so Flacco and the offense need to adjust accordingly.

The combination of a strong, ball-hawking secondary, along with Flacco’s recent struggles could mean that there is no better time than the present for Cam Cameron to rediscover the 3-headed rushing attack of 2008.

Yeah, I know: new year, new team, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Nonetheless, circumstances may dictate a return to old-school Ravens football. If necessity is the mother of creation, now is the time for Cameron to create some more yards on the ground. We saw a glimpse last week, as Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain picked up 28 yards on 4 carries, his most since the Denver game, before bruising some ribs. “Mighty Mouse” Ray Rice will continue to get the bulk of the load, as he should, but as the Ravens enter December with their quarterback nicked up and their defense struggling to get pressure and force turnovers, McClain and Willis McGahee should see more work. Keeping the ball out of Rodgers’ hands as much as possible will be crucial on Monday.

Rookie defensive tackle B.J. Raji is a space eater in the Packers’ #4 rush defense, and Matt Birk, Ben Grubbs, and the recently promoted Marshal Yanda will have their hands full opening up lanes for the monster to get through, no matter the number of heads Cam decides to put on it.

I was hoping for a blizzard in Wisconsin Monday Night. Some strong winds and snow could do wonders for the Ravens’ secondary’s ability to handle the Green Bay receiving corps. However, the current forecast calls for just 4-6 mph winds and a 10% chance of precipitation, along with temperatures in the low 20’s.

The Pack are coming off a 10-day layoff after a Thanksgiving Day thrashing of the hapless Lions. Basically, another game against a team that just had a bye week.

But hey, maybe the Pack will suffer a letdown from not having played in a “real” football game since November 22 against San Francisco?

Also, the Packers are 0-2 against purple teams this season, so maybe they’ll confuse us with a third match-up against the Vikings.

Alright, enough fishing.

There’s really no way to be realistically optimistic about this one. If the Ravens can put together a complete game against a strong team like Green Bay and pick up their first ever win at Lambeau, they will announce themselves as a force to be reckoned with down the stretch. Otherwise, it’s back into the 6-6 AFC quagmire with them, and a bunch of must-wins to round out the Holiday season.

The latter seems the likely scenario, although I hope I’m wrong and Glenn Clark is right.

Packers 27 Ravens 16

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