Tag Archive | "heinz field"

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“January Joe” needs to arrive early for playoff-hopeful Ravens

Posted on 22 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One gift tops the list of goodies that the Ravens hope to find under their Christmas tree on Sunday.

It would be the early arrival of “January Joe” for their AFC North showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That postseason version of Joe Flacco would go a long way in helping Baltimore secure its first AFC North division title since 2012 while also washing away much memory of a trying season.

The issues with the league’s 18th-ranked offense run deeper than the play of the ninth-year quarterback, but the near-certainty of Flacco reaching the 4,000-yard passing mark for the first time — an elusive landmark his critics have regularly used against him over the years — does not mask his struggles. Starting all 14 games in his return from last year’s ACL injury, Flacco ranks 27th in the NFL at just 6.54 yards per attempt and is 25th with an 84.8 passer rating.

Asked about the 2008 first-round pick being on the verge of setting a career high for pass attempts, head coach John Harbaugh declined to assess his quarterback’s play, instead focusing on the task of winning at Heinz Field for the third straight time.

“I respect everything about what he does and how he does it, how he competes and everything like that,” Harbaugh said. “The other stuff [and] the big-picture questions are really for another time. I’m just excited to go play the game on Sunday. I know Joe is and everybody is. We’re preparing and planning on going and playing our best football.”

With the Baltimore defense likely to be without No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, Flacco will need to be at his best to trade blows with Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a dangerous Steelers passing game that ranks fifth in the NFL. It’s a story similar to what the Ravens faced in road losses at Dallas and New England earlier this year, but the stakes are much higher now.

In case you’ve forgotten what “January Joe” can do, Flacco has thrown 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his last 10 postseason games dating back to the 2010 season. Sunday is as close as it gets to a playoff game — especially if Miami beats Buffalo on Saturday to make it a win-or-bust proposition on Christmas Day — so why wouldn’t the Ravens hope the postseason version of Flacco comes early?

The good news is that the 31-year-old has done it before at Heinz Field, throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in Baltimore’s last postseason win over the Steelers two years ago. Counting that playoff victory, the Ravens have won six of their last seven games against their bitter rival with Flacco throwing nine touchdowns to three interceptions in the six contests in which he played.

Win or lose, history tells us the environment won’t be too big for him and the Ravens. The Steelers look like the better team at this point and are carrying a five-game winning streak into Sunday’s game, but you have to wonder how much Baltimore is in their heads after winning four straight in the series and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett even beating them last December.

Counting the playoffs, the Ravens hold a respectable 5-6 record at Heinz Field in the Harbaugh-Flacco era.

“You picture going into a place and playing in front of 70,000 people that hate you,” Flacco said. “That is what makes it fun. … There are not too many feelings in this world that are better than winning an NFL football game. That probably gets amplified a little bit when you get to silence a crowd.”

Of course, what’s happened in the past doesn’t guarantee success on Sunday. After all, this is a Ravens offense that’s dealt with numerous problems, ranging from play-calling issues and injuries along the offensive line to an up-and-down running game and uneven play at wide receiver and tight end. Flacco’s 13 interceptions are the second-highest total of his career, and he’s been criticized for poor footwork and checking down too frequently in lieu of looking to push the ball down the field.

The Ravens are also facing a Pittsburgh defense that’s improved since the first half of the season, allowing just 14 points per game over its last five contests. The Pittsburgh secondary is relying on a pair of rookies — first-round cornerback Artie Burns and second-round safety and University of Maryland product Sean Davis — but the two have steadily played better as the season has progressed.

This Baltimore offense does have more going for it now than it did for much of the year with a healthier offensive line that’s played better in recent weeks and a running game that produced a season-high 151 yards against Philadelphia last Sunday. Not a single offensive player has missed a practice this week for an injury-related reason, either.

A 38-point outburst and four-touchdown performance from Flacco against Miami three weeks ago showed what this offense is capable of doing when firing on all cylinders, but the peaks have been rare and the valleys all the more frustrating. The Ravens haven’t won a game away from M&T Bank Stadium in three months and their veteran quarterback has posted an ugly 75.7 passer rating on the road this season, making trips to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to conclude the season an unsettling proposition.

“It is tough to look back at the whole thing, but we have hit our bumps here and there,” Flacco said. “But I think we are starting to hit a stride. When you come out here and watch our practices, you can tell we are starting to hit a stride. This second half of the season, it is coming together with some of the new guys and our offensive line play and myself.”

If the Ravens offense is ever truly going to come together, now is the time.

And the return of “January Joe” needs to be part of the equation.

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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 01 October 2015 by Luke Jones

If the Ravens were desperate before their Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, how do you define their state of mind after the first 0-3 start in the 20-year history of the franchise?

Traveling to Pittsburgh on a short week is always challenging, but the Ravens are fighting themselves as much as anything else as they enter October without a win under their belts. However, the absence of Ben Roethlisberger on the enemy side offers hope as Baltimore tries to earn a road win on a Thursday night playing against veteran backup Mike Vick.

With four players — tight end Crockett Gillmore, left tackle Eugene Monroe, defensive end Chris Canty, and wide receiver Breshad Perriman — already declared out on Wednesday, the Ravens didn’t have too many decisions to make for their inactive list, but cornerback Rashaan Melvin was deactivated after struggling mightily in his season debut against the Bengals last week. The recently-acquired Will Davis will see his first action with the Ravens after being acquired from Miami for a 2016 seventh-round pick on Sept. 21.

Veteran outside linebacker Jason Babin will also make his 2015 debut after being inactive for his first two games with the Ravens. Baltimore hopes the 35-year-old rush specialist can boost a pass rush that hasn’t found consistency since the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs in the season opener.

In addition to being without Roethlisberger, the Steelers are missing second-year inside linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Cortez Allen, two absences that will hurt the NFL’s 19th-ranked pass defense.

These teams are meeting for the 39th time in the regular season with the Ravens trailing 17-21 and 7-12 in Pittsburgh. However, the Ravens have won two of the three contests against the Steelers last season, culminating with a 30-17 win at Heinz Field in the first round of the playoffs.

The forecast in Pittsburgh calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 50s with a very tiny chance for precipitation and winds up to 10 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Referee Clete Blakeman and his crew will officiate Sunday’s game.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with white pants while Pittsburgh dons its black tops with yellow pants.

Here are Thursday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Breshad Perriman
CB Tray Walker
CB Rashaan Melvin
OT Eugene Monroe
DT Christo Bilukidi
TE Crockett Gillmore
DE Chris Canty

PITTSBURGH
QB Ben Roethlisberger
LB Ryan Shazier
NT Daniel McCullers
TE Matt Spaeth
CB Cortez Allen
TE Jesse James
LB Anthony Chickillo

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 30 September 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to be two teams moving in opposite directions, but a single injury altered that thinking on Sunday.

A knee injury to Ben Roethlisberger not only puts the Steelers (2-1) in a holding pattern for at least the next few weeks while trying to survive with backup Michael Vick at the helm, but it gives the winless Ravens hope that they can go to Heinz Field on a short week and potentially steal their first victory of 2015. Of course, it won’t be easy for Baltimore with starting tight end Crockett Gillmore, starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, starting defensive end Chris Canty, and rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman all ruled out for Thursday night.

Searching for answers and knowing only three NFL teams have rebounded from an 0-3 start to make the NFL playoffs since 1990, the Ravens’ biggest enemy at this point might be themselves as a season full of high expectations has instead started in nightmare fashion for John Harbaugh’s team. It’s officially uncharted territory for a team that had never started 0-3 in franchise history and has made the playoffs in six of the last seven years.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Pittsburgh for the 39th time in their regular-season history as they own a 17-21 mark. The teams split a pair of games at Heinz Field last season, but Baltimore prevailed 30-17 over the Steelers in a wild-card playoff game last January.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 5-2 in Thursday night primetime games under Harbaugh …

1. Pittsburgh will control the tempo of the game by handing the ball to Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams a combined 35 times. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley isn’t going to allow Vick to take many chances, leaving plenty of opportunities for these running backs. The Ravens rank fourth in the league allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, but the Steelers will spread out the defense to create just enough room for Bell and Williams to keep Vick in manageable down-and-distance situations.

2. Maxx Williams will catch his first touchdown and provide the Ravens with another threat behind Steve Smith. Considering how many issues the Pittsburgh defense has had with tight ends so far, Gillmore’s absence couldn’t have come at a worse time, but Williams will find room against linebackers who are poor in pass coverage. The bigger question will be how he and fellow rookie Nick Boyle fare as blockers with the Ravens desperately needing to get their struggling running game in order.

3. Brandon Williams will pick up his first sack of the season and create problems in the Pittsburgh backfield. There have been few bright spots on the Ravens’ 26th-ranked scoring defense, but Williams has been a force and the unit’s best player. With Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey out, the third-year nose tackle should dominate Cody Wallace by collecting his first quarterback takedown as well as a few other tackles for a loss to force more Pittsburgh runs to the perimeter on Thursday night.

4. Antonio Brown will still collect 100 yards receiving and a touchdown without Roethlisberger throwing to him. The Steelers likely won’t have Brown running as many downfield routes, but they will use bubble screens and other ways to get the ball to the playmaker in open space to put pressure on tacklers. It will be interesting to see if Dean Pees elects to have Jimmy Smith shadow Brown, but the Ravens better be ready to give him help against one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.

5. Vick will manage the game effectively while the Ravens lack the “it” factor to do what it takes in a 24-16 loss. I fully expect a Harbaugh-coached team to compete in this one and I’m tempted to pick the Ravens to win with Roethlisberger out, but last week was the game in which they needed to pull themselves off the mat and they still couldn’t do it. Many have cited Baltimore’s 5-1 record against Pittsburgh when Roethlisberger hasn’t played, but two active defensive players — Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan — took part in that last win in 2012, a game Brown also missed. The defense will be a little better than the last two weeks and the offense will find ways to move the ball, but the recurring theme of not being good enough in the fourth quarter will cost Baltimore again in a close one.

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Turning out the lights in Pittsburgh…

Posted on 04 January 2015 by WNSTV

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Ravens set to take on Pittsburgh in first round of playoffs Saturday

Posted on 28 December 2014 by Luke Jones

One of the best rivalries in the NFL will be renewed for Wild Card weekend as the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to take on the AFC North champion Steelers in the first round of the 2014 playoffs.

After prevailing 27-17 over Cincinnati, the Steelers clinched the No. 3 seed in the AFC and will host Baltimore on Saturday night. It will mark the fourth time these bitter rivals have met in postseason history with the Steelers owning a 3-0 record with all three coming at Heinz Field.

The Ravens and Steelers split the regular-season series with Baltimore prevailing 26-6 at home in Week 2 and Pittsburgh earning a blowout 43-23 win in Pittsburgh in Week 9. In that contest, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for six touchdown passes against a vulnerable Ravens secondary that’s struggled throughout the season.

One of the developing stories of the first-round matchup will be the health of Pro Bowl selection Le’Veon Bell, who left Sunday night’s game with a hyperextended right knee and did not return. The Steelers running back will need to recover on a short week in order to play in his team’s first postseason game since 2011.

The game will be televised on NBC with an 8:15 p.m. kickoff.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Steelers

Posted on 22 October 2013 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’ 19-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Bernard Pierce tackled by Lawrence Timmons and Steve McLendon for one yard loss on 3rd & 1 (1st quarter)

You cannot start a 3rd & 1 run five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Oy.

4. Lamar Woodley sacks Joe Flacco for 10 yard loss on 3rd & 8 from Pittsburgh 34 (2nd quarter)

It would have been a long field goal attempt, but I’d rather that than a punt.

3. William Gay breaks up Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones on 3rd & 12 (3rd quarter)

Man did that one really bother me watching the film again Monday. Very close to six.

2. Elvis Dumervil called for unnecessary roughness after Jerricho Cotchery 7 yard catch from Ben Roethlisberger (3rd quarter)

From 2nd & 17 to an eight minute drive.

1. Vince Williams recovers Justin Tucker onside kick attempt, Tucker flagged for illegal touching (4th quarter)

The decision was questionable. The execution was putrid.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Assessing Ravens at bye with WNST crew in Pittsburgh

Posted on 20 October 2013 by WNSTV

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 20 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

The Ravens fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-16 Sunday at Heinz Field, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I 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/coaches after each game.

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

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Joe Flacco

4. Jeromy Miles

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Haloti Ngata

1. Elvis Dumervil (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens: Offense and defense both get blame in 3-point loss at Pittsburgh

Posted on 20 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

Tough loss.

At the worst time.

And, like the one last week against Green Bay, it was there for the taking.

Sunday’s 19-16 loss in Pittsburgh – against a mediocre-at-best Steelers team – will sting for a lot longer than the 45-minute flight home later tonight.

The Ravens are in unfamiliar territory now, dropping two straight games heading into the bye and sitting at 3-4 as the halfway point of the season approaches.

John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs and the rest of the men in purple have their work cut out for the next ten weeks or so, that’s for certain.

Once again on Sunday, the Ravens offense failed to do anything for the first 50 minutes of the game.

Then, like last week against the Packers, they suddenly came to life with a championship-type-drive late in the 4th quarter to knot the game at 16-16.

Unfortunately, it was also “just like last week” for the defense, who surrendered a huge throw to Jermichael Finley late in the Packers game that sealed their fate and allowed 39 yards in the final two minutes of Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh to put the Steelers in position to nail the game-winning field goal.

That’s been the story of the last two weeks, in particular, and most of the season, really.

Offense:  not very good for most of the game, comes to life late.

Defense: decent for most of the game, runs out of gas late and gives up a huge drive.

In fairness to Baltimore’s offense on Sunday, do you know how many possessions they had in 60 minutes of football?

Think about it for a second — in four quarters against the Steelers, how many offensive series’ did Flacco have at his disposal?

Ready?

SEVEN.

They had seven offensive possessions in four quarters and scored on four of them; three FG’s and a TD.

The reason they only had seven?  For starters, they gave one of them away with a third-quarter onsides kick attempt that wasn’t all that bad of an idea, honestly.  They just needed better execution, which means, basically, that Jeromy Miles can’t be offside on the play.  Even though Justin Tucker was flagged for touching the ball before it went ten yards, Miles was flagged for offsides, which would have negated the play had it been successful.

And the bigger reason why they only had seven offensive possessions?  The Ravens defense just can’t get the other team off the field without yielding a 12-play, 10-minute drive of some sort.

Pittsburgh, too, only had seven offensive series’ on Sunday, but not once did they go 3-and-out.  In fact, five of their seven offensive possessions were eight plays or more.

On the final drive, Baltimore just couldn’t get a defensive stop when they needed it.  Just like last week against Green Bay.

The back-breaker of the whole affair wasn’t even an offensive or defensive play.  After the Ravens had tied the game with 1:58 to play, Emmanuel Sanders promptly took the ball six yards deep in his end zone and ran it back out to his own 37 yard line, scampering past the Ravens’ kick-coverage contain player who was supposed to seal the sideline but failed to do so.  Starting in decent position, Ben Roethlisberger connected on three big passing plays and before you could blink, Shaun Suisham was lining up for the game-winner from 42 yards out.

In review, at the seven game mark, the biggest issue continues to be the team’s offense.  Even with the no-huddle effort on Sunday, they looked lethargic and lacking the big play explosiveness you would expect from a unit with a QB who can throw it sixty yards like you and I can throw it twenty.  They ran the ball for 82 yards, which looks like an improvement over recent weeks, but still have lots of work to do in that department between now and New Year’s.

Defensively, the Steelers penetrated the Ravens front seven time and time again with their own hard-nosed running style and Roethlisberger was his typical, scrambling self, finding receivers who had created enough separation to get the ball buzzed into them in tight quarters.

Baltimore’s defense, while decent enough “stats wise” this season, just isn’t adept enough at getting opposing offenses off the field quickly.  Case in point on Sunday:  the Steelers punted the ball one time all afternoon.

So, it’s back to the drawing board for Harbaugh and his coaching staff.  The biggest benefit for the Ravens?  They haven’t yet played the division leading Bengals, so they’ll have two swipes at them between now and their 16th game.

That said, if the offense can’t play better in the first 50 minutes and if the defense can’t play better in the final 10 minutes, those two showdowns with Cincinnati might not matter at all.

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Ray Rice: “We’ve got to get better”

Posted on 20 October 2013 by WNSTV

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