Tag Archive | "Jets"

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Nine Ravens players absent from practice on Wednesday

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already dealing with a litany of injuries, the Ravens added starting quarterback Joe Flacco to the list as they continued preparations for their Week 7 meeting with the New York Jets.

The 31-year-old signal-caller was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he deals with a right shoulder injury. He played all 83 snaps in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, but the veteran appeared to be banged up in the post-game locker room after the game.

Flacco said he did not feel any discomfort during the game and only felt “a little something” in the post-game locker room on Sunday.

“We’re just going to see how the thing goes during the week,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a chance to play. I don’t know what the percentage is. No one gave me a percentage on it. I believe he has a legitimate chance to play.”

The Ravens were also without wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and cornerbacks Shareece Wright (thigh) and Jerraud Powers (groin) on Wednesday.

Harbaugh said Monday that Suggs and Yanda are unlikely to play until after next week’s bye, but he didn’t rule out the former trying to play against the Jets if his arm were to improve.

“Last time he [tore his other biceps], he played the game after the first game,” Harbaugh said. “If he comes up and says he can play, then we’ll put him out there. He’s not a long-term deal, either.”

The good news for Baltimore was the presence of cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion), who was practicing with a red non-contact vest over his jersey. His limited participation would mean he’s reached the penultimate step in the concussion protocol before being cleared to return to full action.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace (ribs) and Breshad Perriman were also practicing with red vests during the open portion of practice, but they were not listed on the injury report.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) were both present and working during practice, a good sign for their availability against the Jets. Stanley was a full participant in practice for the first time since Week 3 while Wagner wasn’t even listed on Wednesday’s report.

As expected, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Asa Jackson were both practicing. Taliaferro has begun his 21-day practice window after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list while Jackson is currently on the practice squad and could be an option for depth with the current injuries in the secondary.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially named Geno Smith their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling mightily in the midst of a 1-5 start.

Left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (knee), and defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) were absent from Wednesday’s practice for New York.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Nick Mangold (knee), OL Brent Qvale (neck), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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Five questions about the Ravens’ 2016 schedule

Posted on 15 April 2016 by Luke Jones

The 2016 schedule is officially set for the Ravens and below are five questions to ponder:

1. What will the Ravens’ record be at the bye?

I’ll abstain from predicting Baltimore’s record when the draft hasn’t even taken place yet, but it is interesting to note that six of the Ravens’ first seven games will come against non-playoff teams from a year ago. However, this is a bit deceiving as the New York Jets finished with a 10-6 record in 2015 and the Oakland Raiders may have the best young roster in the league after adding even more talent this offseason.

Still, I’m not sure I’ll like the Ravens’ chances of getting to the playoffs if they’re anything less than 5-2 by the time they hit their Week 8 bye, especially when they play road games at New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in a four-week span to close the regular season.

2. Has a team ever played back-to-back road games at the same venue?

We’ve seen Week 17 opponents meet in the first round of the playoffs in the same stadium, but I’m curious to know how many times a team has played road games against the New York Giants and the New York Jets in consecutive weeks. At least the Ravens should be very familiar with MetLife Stadium by around 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 23.

No, I’m not interested enough to do the research to find out if and when it’s happened before, but I’d gladly thank you if you are willing to do the work.

3. What will the “Color Rush” uniforms look like for the Ravens-Browns game on Nov. 10?

The Color Rush uniforms we began seeing for Thursday games last year will return, so it will be interesting to see what that might look like for the Ravens. Truthfully, the all-black uniforms are no longer special at this point, so what about purple jerseys and purple pants for that nationally-televised game?

Let’s hope the mustard-colored pants from last year never see the light of day again.

Would Cleveland wear orange jerseys and orange pants to go with orange helmets or would the Browns sport an all-brown getup? Remembering how ugly their new uniforms looked last year, do we really want to know?

4. How do we feel about the Ravens playing in the afternoon on Christmas Day?

It’s probably just me being a whiny sportswriter — to be clear, I do love my job — but do we need multiple NFL games on Christmas? It was one thing for the Ravens to play on Christmas night 11 years ago, but an afternoon game is intrusive for many people wanting to celebrate the holiday with their families — in Pittsburgh or Baltimore.

Do you really want Aunt Edna bugging you about when you’re ever going to get married or have kids while you’re trying to watch Joe Flacco drive the Ravens the length of the field in the fourth quarter?

For Ravens fans unhappy about only having two prime-time games in 2016, this one practically counts as a third since it will be a nationally-televised game on NFL Network.

5. Why are the Ravens finishing the regular season in Cincinnati again?

Many are complaining about the Ravens now having 10 of their last 11 Monday night games on the road when they travel to New England on Dec. 12, but going to Paul Brown Stadium to conclude the regular season for the fifth time in six years is ridiculous.

Imagine the uproar if the Ravens had to go to Heinz Field for Week 17 every year. How irritated would Pittsburgh be to go to Baltimore or Cincinnati to conclude the season on an annual basis?

The Bengals’ losing past still resonates with many, but they’ve beaten the Ravens five straight times and are the only team in the AFC North to have made the playoffs in each of the last five years. The Monday night thing is quirky, but at least Baltimore has had plenty of prime-time home games over that time.

The Ravens shouldn’t have to go to Cincinnati for the final week every year.

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Braden Holtby, the NHL's 2nd star of the month for November, starts December off just as hot.

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Holtby Steals a Victory for the Caps at the Bell Centre

Posted on 03 December 2015 by Ed Frankovic

You’ll often hear hockey experts state the following: “goaltending is the great equalizer.”

No truer words could be spoken about Thursday night’s Caps-Habs tilt in Montreal where Braden Holtby was stellar once again making 33 saves to lead Washington to a 3-2 win at the Bell Centre. At the other end of the rink, the Canadiens Mike Condon only stopped 16 of 19 shots and looked tired as the game went on to let his club down in a contest they very much should have won, if not for the Holtbeast.

Montreal was speedy and on the loose pucks all night, while the Capitals looked rusty, sloppy, and downright lazy, at times, in the first two plus periods, especially the middle frame. At one point, the shots on goal were 24-7 for the Habs before a late second period Caps flurry, which included T.J. Oshie’s first goal of the game that Condon misplayed off of his arm and into the cage. Oshie would also get the game winner deflecting home a Karl Alzner point shot with 11:43 remaining. T.J. now has eight goals on the season.

Washington opened the scoring at 2:26 after Holtby made a big early save and the Caps Brooks Laich worked hard on the boards and fed Tom Wilson with the puck in the slot. “Willy” fired it short side with a sweet wrister. Wilson continues to improve and he now has his only two goals this season in the last two games. #43 is doing a super job killing penalties and other parts of the 21 year olds game continue to develop. He is becoming more and more of a factor for Washington and that is very important. He’s a big body that can skate and hit and that is something many teams simply do not have.

Overall though, the Capitals did not play well. They turned the puck over repeatedly and much of that had to do with their positioning and effort. Their gaps between the forwards and the defensemen were too large making the passing lanes longer and tougher to navigate. In addition, they far too often tried diagonal and sometimes blind passes, which is a big no-no coming out of your own zone. Repeatedly, offensive zone shots were passed up for low percentage passes. That was disappointing given that the Caps caught a break facing Condon instead of 2014-15 Hart Trophy winner, Carey Price, who is out for six weeks with a knee injury. The Caps should have been shooting more and even with Oshie’s fluky up in the air and off of the goalies arm tally, Washington still didn’t realize that more pucks to the net were needed.

Overall the shot attempts were 73-43 for Montreal and shots on goal were 35-19. The Habs were far superior in this one in terms of chances and puck possession.

Fortunately Holtby was in the zone again and the only tallies he allowed were a Lars Eller stuff in front right after the Habs power play expired and a shorthanded breakaway goal by Brian Flynn. Max Pacioretty, the Habs captain and best forward, had nine shots on goal, many of them quality, but the Holtbeast had his number on this night.

On the positive side, the Capitals did play a super final seven plus minutes once again with a third period lead. They dominated that final portion and drew a power play with 1:53 remaining. That might have been trouble given that the Habs third period game tying tally came while the Caps were with the man advantage, but Coach Barry Trotz made sure to have two defensemen on the points and Washington outworked the Canadiens along the walls to close this one out. In fact, the only shot on goal Montreal had over the last 6:30 was an 81 footer from Pacioretty with 2:28 remaining. The Caps were like sharks in blood infested waters, they sensed they were on the verge of stealing a win and they did all of the right things down the stretch to close it out.

This was the Capitals sixth straight victory and Holtby’s career high eighth consecutive win. The Caps are now a stunning 18-5-1 and have retaken over first place in the Metropolitan Division. The New York Rangers also have 37 points, but the Caps have three games in hand and one more regulation or overtime win (ROW).

So in this streak, two of the victories have been total Holtby highway robberies, the Edmonton shutout on November 23rd and this one in hallowed Montreal on December 3rd. #70’s numbers over his eight game winning streak are amazing, a 1.88 goals against average and a .936 save percentage (h/t to Ben Raby). Those are some super figures and Holtby is clearly in the upper echelon of NHL goalies.

He won this game tonight and once again his teammates owe him dinner. Perhaps they oblige on Friday night in Winnipeg, where the Caps will take on the Jets on Saturday afternoon in a 3 pm matinee?

Notes: Alex Ovechkin had an assist on the game winning tally and was also on for the second Caps tally. However, he was one of the guilty parties on the Habs shorthanded game tying goal. Ovi only had 1 shot on goal and four overall shot attempts. That is way down for the Gr8…Montreal won the faceoff battle, 32-24. Nicklas Backstrom (1 assist) was 10-10…Matt Niskanen led the Caps in ice time with 25:59. P.K. Subban led the Habs with 26:44…Brooks Orpik missed his 10th straight game with a lower body injury, although he has been skating and is along for this two game Canadian road trip.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov dangles and dazzles again in another Caps victory.

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Kuznetsov Mystifies Winnipeg in Caps 5-3 Win

Posted on 25 November 2015 by Ed Frankovic

Evgeny Kuznetsov continues to put NHL teams on notice with his ability to make sensational plays when the game seems to matter most.

In a contest where the Caps played sluggish, at times, the star in the making took over a 3-3 hockey game to deliver a goal and an assist over the last 24 minutes and allow the Caps to win their third straight tilt, 5-3, at the Verizon Center.

Kuznetsov, who had an assist on Justin Williams’ tally that opened the scoring to notch another three point night, now has 8 goals and 16 assists in 21 games to lead the Capitals in scoring with 24 points.

Dmitry Orlov had the winning tally late in period two after Kuzya circled the Winnipeg zone confusing the Jets defense. #92, after a lap and a quarter around the offensive zone, dropped the biscuit to #9 in the middle of the ice just inside the blue line and Orlov hammered another one home with Williams screening the Jets keeper, Michael Hutchinson (29 saves). That’s three goals in three games for Orlov, who was superb on this night. Kuznetsov then sealed the deal with a nice forecheck on overrated Winnipeg defensemen Dustin Byfuglien. That allowed Marcus Johansson to gather the puck and send Kuzya in all alone on Hutchinson and the Russian beat him five hole on the backhand. At that point, it would have been very appropriate for the Caps in game entertainment crew to blast the famed INXS song, “Mystify,” because that is what Kuznetsov did to the Jets on this night.

Braden Holtby (23 saves) gave up three goals, two of them were on grade A opportunities in the slot and the third he had no chance on, Mathieu Perreault’s power play tally that tied the game at three, because Blake Wheeler was standing directly in front of him. The Caps defense needed to do a better job of boxing out there or getting out and blocking that shot.

Recently the Capitals have been really strong at closing out games, a big part of which is due to their depth. Coach Barry Trotz can keep coming at you with four lines and three defensive pairs and eventually the opponent wears down. For the first seven minutes in period three it did not look like that would be the case in this one, but then Washington took over dominating the play over the last 13 minutes. In that stretch Kuznetsov provided the insurance tally and it was the Capitals relentless forecheck, cycle game, and physical play in the offensive zone that broke Winnipeg’s will. In fact, from the 13:40 mark of the third period until just 24 seconds remaining, the Jets only had TWO shots on goal. Now that is shutting a club down and displaying a killer instinct, something the Caps have been trying to build this season. They are well on their way to having that, from what I’ve seen in these first 21 games.

Overall, the Caps held the Jets to 26 shots on goal while they had 34 themselves. In shot attempts, the Capitals had the edge there too, at 62-57. Winnipeg is a big team and presented issues for Washington on this night, but ultimately Trotz’ crew got their legs moving and took over a hockey game that looked like it could go either way for about 35 minutes. I continue to like the way this team is handling the last 25 minutes of hockey games by taking control, stifling their opponents, and getting victories.

This triumph pushes the Caps to 15-5-1 (31 points) and with the Rangers losing to Montreal on Thanksgiving Eve, Washington is only three points back of first place in the Metropolitan Division, with a game in hand.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was another solid victory and now the Capitals will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 5 pm on Friday to close out their five game home stand. The Bolts were in the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, so I expect the Caps to be pumped up to show Steve Yzerman’s team just how good Washington is this season.

Notes: Alex Ovechkin notched his 11th goal of the season on the power play late in period one. The Caps had two different man advantage situations in that frame and the Jets received two power plays in period two. Both teams went 1 for 2 with the man advantage. I thought referees Kelly Sutherland and Chris Rooney let a few other Jet infractions go, but that’s hockey…John Carlson had two assists and led the Caps in ice time with 23:57. Byfuglien played 27:51 for Winnipeg and he ran out of gas in period three. He was -2…the Capitals lost the face off battle, 31-23. Michael Latta was 1-6…the Gr8 had 15 shot attempts (8 SOG) and five hits to go with his PPG in 22:02 of ice time…Orlov had an assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s 8th goal of the season, that made it 3-2. Nate Schmidt made a great pass across the crease to feed #19 on the doorstep for a layup…Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Ravens assistant general manager DeCosta staying put

Posted on 01 January 2015 by Luke Jones

A new year brought an old refrain from Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.

He isn’t going anywhere.

According to an NFL Network report, DeCosta has turned down interview requests from the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears about their open general manager positions. The news comes as no shock as it’s well known that DeCosta is paid better than many general managers around the league and has publicly been referred to as the successor to longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome.

DeCosta’s wife is from the area, another factor that’s led to him having little interest in leaving the Ravens in the past.

The 43-year-old is considered one of the great personnel minds around the league and has regularly been pursued as a general manager candidate before turning away other teams in recent years. Previously serving as the organization’s director of college scouting and director of player personnel, DeCosta was formally promoted to the title of assistant general manager in 2012.

DeCosta joined the organization in 1996 after it relocated from Cleveland to Baltimore.

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Jets reportedly request interview with Ravens coordinator Kubiak

Posted on 30 December 2014 by Luke Jones

After leading the Ravens to their best offensive season in franchise history, first-year coordinator Gary Kubiak has already drawn interest from the New York Jets for their head coaching position.

The Jets fired head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik on Monday and have requested to interview Kubiak, according to an ESPN report. New York also seeked interviews with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Seattle assistant head coach Tom Cable, San Diego offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

The former Houston Texans head coach guided the Ravens to single-season franchise records in points scored (409) and total yards (5,838). Baltimore finished eighth in points scored and 12th in total yards during the 2014 regular season.

In eight years as Houston’s head coach, Kubiak accumulated a 61-64 record and guided the Texans to two AFC South titles.

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Contender or pretender: Sizing up the AFC wild-card race

Posted on 03 December 2013 by Luke Jones

For the Ravens and a number of other AFC teams who’ve plodded along with a .500 record or slightly worse through the first three quarters of the 2013 season, the final sprint is here in determining who will grab the coveted second wild-card spot as Kansas City is all but guaranteed the No. 5 seed.

Of course, coach John Harbaugh and his team still hold hope that their Week 17 meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals will provide an opportunity to play for the AFC North title, but the Ravens will need their division counterpart to slip up to reduce the deficit to just one game entering that final contest at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 29. In the meantime, the Ravens simply must focus on winning games and securing their current grip on the No. 6 seed in the AFC as their 6-6 record equals the Dolphins — and an Oct. 6 victory over Miami gives them the tie-breaking nod.

Following this Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings that concludes the current three-game homestand, the Ravens have the most difficult path of any of the wild-card contenders over the final three weeks in playing three teams projected to land in the postseason. Baltimore figures to need to win three of its final four games in the final month for a good chance to maintain its grip on the No. 6 seed, meaning the Ravens will likely need to win two of three against Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati and only the Patriots game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 16.

The Ravens’ 6-4 conference record stacks up well with the rest of the field, but the outcome of their two remaining AFC games will loom large should they find themselves in a number of tie-breaking situations.

Here’s a look at the rest of the field as I determine who the contenders and the pretenders are:

MIAMI (6-6) – CONTENDER
Conference record: 5-3
Remaining schedule: at Pittsburgh, New England, at Buffalo, New York Jets
Skinny: It would have been unsurprising to see the Dolphins fold in November with the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin situation hanging over their heads, but Miami has rebounded from an embarrassing loss to Tampa Bay to win two of its last three. The Dolphins are in the best position to challenge the Ravens mathematically, but their next two games will make or break them as they go to Heinz Field before playing the Patriots at home. Just one win over the Steelers or New England would put incredible heat on the Ravens over the final two weeks against difficult opponents. Of course, the Dolphins’ Week 5 loss to Baltimore continues to doom them if those two teams finish tied for the No. 6 spot with no one else in the mix.

TENNESSEE (5-7) – PRETENDER
Conference record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: at Denver, Arizona, at Jacksonville, Houston
Skinny: Their current record and remaining schedule still suggest the Titans have a slim chance, but the season-ending injury to quarterback Jake Locker last month and two losses to a vulnerable Indianapolis team in their last three games have all but sealed their fate. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing well before an awful performance this past Sunday, but the next two games figure to be the final nails in the coffin to the Titans’ playoff hopes. Tennessee started fast this season, but only two wins since the start of October clearly scream pretender in an already-mediocre field.

PITTSBURGH (5-7) – CONTENDER
Conference record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: Miami, Cincinnati, at Green Bay, Cleveland
Skinny: Many eulogized the Steelers’ season following the Thanksgiving night result, but Pittsburgh could still be the biggest threat in the wild-card race with three remaining home games. A normally-intimidating trip to Lambeau Field in Week 16 to take on the Packers could also be easier should Aaron Rodgers be shut down for the rest of the season as some are speculating. A Steelers win over the Bengals in Week 15 would help the Ravens in their quest for the division title, but Baltimore’s season split with Pittsburgh creates a more complicated tiebreaker that could come down to division record or even record in common games. Perhaps more than anything else, Ravens fans begrudgingly know it’s never a good idea to count out Ben Roethlisberger, meaning the Steelers still have a shot.

SAN DIEGO (5-7) – PRETENDER
Conference record: 3-6
Remaining schedule: New York Giants, at Denver, Oakland, Kansas City
Skinny: The Chargers’ home loss to Cincinnati on Sunday not only failed to do the Ravens any favors in the AFC North race but landed Mike McCoy’s team in the pretender category. San Diego has arguably looked better than any of the other wild-card contenders — the Ravens included — when playing at its best, but inconsistency has once again plagued the Chargers as it seems to annually. They have three remaining home games, but the Chargers have already lost three games at Qualcomm Stadium and are just as likely to lay an egg against the Giants or the Raiders than to pull off an upset over the Broncos or the Chiefs. Their abysmal conference record won’t do them any favors in a tie-breaking scenario, so San Diego’s only real hope is to run the table.

NEW YORK (5-7) – PRETENDER
Conference record: 2-7
Remaining schedule: Oakland, at Carolina, Cleveland, at Miami
Skinny: Only two weeks ago we were talking about the Jets holding the No. 6 spot in the conference, but they’ve crashed and burned since then with a road loss to the Ravens and an embarrassing home defeat to Miami by 20 points this past Sunday. Their quarterback situation is the worst of any of the teams still vying for a wild-card spot as Geno Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since before Halloween. The Jets’ remaining schedule isn’t awful, but they appear far more likely to lose their four remaining games than to go on a run necessary to land the No. 6 seed. New York was still better than many expected this year, but a dysfunctional offense has finally sunk the Jets after some impressive wins earlier in the season.

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Ravens must continue to come up “big” in push for playoffs

Posted on 24 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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BALTIMORE — The third quarter of Sunday’s 19-3 win over the New York Jets was following a predictable pattern for a Ravens offense that hasn’t put together a 60-minute performance all season.

After moving the ball with some success in the first half with three drives of 50 or more yards — all resulting in field goals — and 212 yards, the Ravens had gained just 15 yards on 11 plays after halftime as the third quarter was winding down. Faced with a first-and-5 from their own 34, quarterback Joe Flacco ran a play-action fake to running back Ray Rice before heaving a bomb to wide receiver Jacoby Jones with a stiff wind at the quarteback’s back.

Sprinting behind 35-year-old Jets free safety Ed Reed, Jones reined in the pass for a 66-yard touchdown that not only gave the Ravens a 16-point lead but also represented something they’d been missing this year. Flacco’s strike to Jones was the Ravens’ first touchdown all season on a pass thrown more than 20 yards in the air, a reality that would have seemed absurd a year ago when Baltimore’s vertical passing game was arguably the most dangerous in the NFL.

“It was probably the play of the game for us,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The ball got up there and got caught in the wind. If you saw it, it was being pushed that way. I thought once it got up in the air and the wind got it, I didn’t think Jacoby [Jones] was going to be able to get it. He shifted into another gear and he went and got that ball — just an amazing play. And then for him to reach out and catch it and keep his balance, just a tremendous, athletic play.”

Sunday’s offensive performance was far from exceptional as the Ravens failed to score more than 20 points in a game for the sixth straight time, and the offense provided what we’ve come to expect over the first 11 games of the 2013 season. The Ravens had little success on the ground in averaging just 2.2 yards per carry against the Jets’ top-ranked rush defense, but the 66-yard touchdown strike to Jones followed an earlier 60-yard bomb to Torrey Smith and offered a glimpse of how the Ravens must operate in order to stack enough wins down the stretch to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Just as the defense forced three turnovers and Jones provided 146 return yards in the special-teams department, the Ravens need more big plays in all three phases of the game and finally received a couple from their passing attack in disposing of the Jets at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

Flacco dismissed the idea of feeling a sense of relief in connecting on a deep-ball score, but more offensive explosions will give the Ravens a better chance against quality opponents remaining on the schedule.

“I don’t think it was that kind of feeling,” Flacco said. “It was just like, ‘Yes, we got a touchdown. We have 19 points now.’ It wasn’t anything like, ‘Oh, I’ve been looking for that,’ or ‘We haven’t done that in a while.’ That wasn’t why; that didn’t creep in at all. It was really just excitement because it was a tight game, we hadn’t put the ball in the end zone yet, and we were able to do it right there.”

The Ravens have played tight games all season, with all but two prior to Sunday’s win being decided by eight or fewer points. And the absence of big plays in the passing game is a factor in explaining why an offense that struggles to consistently sustain drives hasn’t been able to put the Ravens over the top this season.

Injuries to Jones and Deonte Thompson zapped the Ravens of speed to put on the opposite side of the formation to Smith early in the season, enabling defenses to bracket coverage and shade a deep safety to one side of the field. The absence of a consistent running game and receiving threats over the intermediate middle portion of the field — specifically due to the trade of slot receiver Anquan Boldin and the injury to tight end Dennis Pitta — have allowed safeties to remain deep in coverage. Other times, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and Flacco haven’t even appeared committed to trying to throw deep.

But the vertical passing game reemerged Sunday as the deep strikes to Smith and Jones led directly to 10 points and a win to move the Ravens closer to the .500 mark with Pittsburgh coming to town Thanksgiving night for a contest with major playoff implications. Another deep strike or two would go a long way in loosening up the league’s eighth-ranked passing game on Thursday night.

“That was huge for our offense,” said Smith, whose reception early in the second quarter set up the Ravens’ second field goal of the game and gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. “It’s not that we’re depending on it, but it always helps to get chunks of yardage like that. When we get those kinds of days going, it’s usually good for our offense.”

The Ravens were dependent on the deep ball last season as Flacco completed 28 of 82 passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air for nine touchdowns and no interceptions. The sixth-year quarterback entered Sunday having gone just 10-for-50 in that department for no touchdowns and five interceptions in the first 10 games of the season.

As Flacco has mentioned several times this season when asked what has happened to the vertical passing game, low-percentage throws aren’t easy to complete and perhaps the lack of success this season has been as much about a market correction from last year’s success than anything else. But the Ravens offense isn’t equipped to drive up and down the field with the better offenses in the league.

Sunday provided a reasonable blueprint for the Ravens in their bid to advance to the postseason in a muddled AFC wild-card race. A turnover-making defense, strong special teams, and an offense able to strike on a couple big plays led to an easy win over the Jets, the team that entered Week 12 as the No. 6 seed in the division.

The Ravens offense hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain all year for a variety of reasons, but some home-run passes mixed in with their weekly struggles might provide enough to make the final five weeks of the season interesting.

“It’s the rhythm of the game, the timing,” said Jones in describing why the vertical passing game has been absent. “Sometimes, we’ll be in a certain part of the game where what they’re giving is what [we’ll] take. And we try to connect, and it will be off, and the rhythm and timing will be off. But today, we were on point.”

The 5-6 Ravens will have no choice but to be on point for the rest of the season.

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Ravens-Jets: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 24 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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BALTIMORE — It’s rare to find a game with playoff implications between two teams lacking a winning record, but that’s exactly where the Ravens and Jets find themselves in the muddled AFC wild-card picture in late November.

The 5-5 Jets come to Baltimore currently holding the No. 6 seed in the conference by way of a tiebreaker over the Miami Dolphins, but a Ravens win would pull them even with the Jets and Baltimore already holds a head-to-head tiebreaker against Miami with the Week 5 win over the Dolphins. Of course, the Ravens view the start of a three-game homestand as a golden opportunity to not only climb back to and above the .500 mark but to solidify their chances of advancing to the postseason for a sixth consecutive season under coach John Harbaugh.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee) will play after being listed as questionable and being deemed a game-time decision on Friday. The Pro Bowl nose tackle went through a pre-game warmup with defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, firing out of a three-point stance several times to test the explosiveness and stability of his left knee.

It will be interesting to see how the Ravens handle his workload considering he logged only one practice this week and another game awaits in just four days with the Steelers coming to town Thanksgiving night.

As we learned Saturday, tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) remains on injured reserve with the designation to return after the Ravens elected not to place him on the 53-man roster for Sunday’s meeting with the Jets. Pitta practiced all week, but the organization wants to take its time in determining that Pitta is healthy and ready to return to live-game action.

As expected, cornerback Lardarius Webb (abs) and inside linebacker Daryl Smith (hamstring) are active and will start despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week. Neither player’s status was really in doubt after they practiced on a limited basis all week.

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) is active for the first time since Week 3, which might be a sign of the Ravens emphasizing the short passing game with the high winds expected throughout the game. Fellow receiver Deonte Thompson is inactive for Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, the Jets will be without top receiver Jeremy Kerley (elbow), who was ruled out on Saturday after initially being listed as doubtful against the Ravens.

For the third straight game in which the Ravens have been involved, high winds will be a factor as temperatures are only expected to rise to the mid-30s. Winds will be as high as 26 miles per hour, but at least the Ravens should be used to such conditions after the brutal weather in Chicago last week.

Sunday marks the ninth time the Ravens and the Jets have met in the regular season with Baltimore holding an impressive 7-1 record in the all-time series. The Ravens have won seven straight while New York has never beaten them in Baltimore and last won a game over the Ravens in 1997.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with black pants while the Jets will don white tops with white pants on Sunday afternoon.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Jeff Triplette.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Asa Jackson
S Omar Brown
RB Bernard Scott
OL Ryan Jensen
WR Deonte Thompson
LB John Simon
DT Brandon Williams

NEW YORK
QB David Garrard
WR Jeremy Kerley
RB Alex Green
LB Garrett McIntyre
G Will Campbell
T Ben Ijalana
OL Oday Aboushi

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

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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 23 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The term “must-win” is used liberally in professional sports, but the Ravens have reached that reality with a 4-6 record and an opportunity to knock off the AFC’s current No. 6 seed-leading New York Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Baltimore will play the first of three consecutive home games against beatable opponents in an effort to not only move to the positive side of the .500 mark but slide into position to grab a sixth straight playoff berth under head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the Jets are trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010 under head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

Both teams have obvious flaws but remain in the mix for the postseason in a pool of eight teams that are either 5-5 or 4-6 entering Week 12. The Ravens and Jets will be meeting for the ninth time in the regular season with Baltimore holding a 7-1 advantage and a seven-game winning streak in the all-time series.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens look to improve to 5-6 before a short week leading into a Thanksgiving night game against Pittsburgh …

1. Facing the stingiest run defense in the NFL, the Ravens will struggle to average 3.0 yards per carry on Sunday. A 174-yard performance by the Baltimore running game in Chicago was an encouraging sign but came against the league’s 31st-ranked run defense in sloppy conditions. The rushing attack will need to be graded on a curve against a Jets defense allowing just 2.9 yards per carry, the lowest mark in the NFL since the 2007 Ravens. The goal will be to gain just enough yardage to keep New York honest, which will allow the Ravens to run play-action over the course of the game. Running back Ray Rice said it best earlier in the week in saying they must be willing to take what the Jets defense is allowing, whether it’s two yards or the opportunity to pick up 20. Center Gino Gradkowski and left guard A.Q. Shipley turned in strong performances with their run blocking last week, but the Jets defensive line will be a very difficult matchup on what’s expected to be a windy day.

2. Quarterback Joe Flacco will throw for 275 yards for the first time since Week 6. The Ravens will be involved in a game with wind being a factor for the third consecutive week, which would appear to favor the Jets given the strength of their run defense and running game. However, Flacco will be facing a pass defense that ranks 23rd in the league and felt the need to pick up the 35-year-old Ed Reed to stabilize the free safety spot. There’s no disputing that Flacco has played poorly since the Ravens’ Week 8 bye, but he will be needed to make plays on Sunday as the Jets have been vulnerable to giving up the big play this season, allowing 33 passes of 20 or more yards. The Baltimore quarterback will have to wait at least one more game for the return of tight end Dennis Pitta, but Flacco talked this week about the need for the Ravens to let loose in how they play and the Jets defense hasn’t been nearly as effective on the road, giving up an average of 33 points per game on the road.

3. Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson will collect 1 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble. Ryan has a sterling reputation for putting his best defensive players in position to thrive, and Wilkerson has blossomed into the face of the New York defense, collecting eight sacks and 53 tackles in a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman and Ryan like to move Wilkerson around on the defensive line, which will be a problem for a unit that’s struggled to call out proper protection assignments this season. Even if the Ravens manage to gain respectable yardage on the ground, the Jets will still attempt to tee off on Flacco with a pass rush facing an offensive line that’s given up 33 sacks this season. An ability to protect the football will be a critical factor in determining the outcome of Sunday’s game and Flacco will cough up a fumble when Wilkerson breaks free for a sack against shaky pass blocking.

4. The Baltimore defense will wreak havoc on rookie quarterback Geno Smith, forcing three turnovers. The Jets have been forced to lean heavily on their eighth-ranked running game while the rookie has failed to record a passer rating higher than 71.9 in any of his last five games and will be without top receiver Jeremy Kerley. As long as the Ravens don’t revert to the struggles they experienced earlier in the season when their run defense allowed 140 or more rushing yards in three of four games, the Jets won’t do enough on the ground to avoid putting the ball in Smith’s hands. The Ravens will need to turn in a defensive performance similar to the one against Cincinnati when they forced Andy Dalton into turning it over three times. Smith has thrown 16 interceptions and has lost four fumbles, which is a recipe for disaster playing at M&T Bank Stadium where the Ravens have allowed just under 13 points per game in four contests this season.

5. In a defensive struggle with touchdowns at a premium, experience at quarterback and the home-field advantage give the Ravens a 19-12 victory. Both the Ravens and Jets have experienced their share of struggles on the road as New York is 1-4 away from MetLife Stadium and the Ravens are 1-5 in that department, but Baltimore is 3-1 at home this year and has played sparking defense at M&T Bank Stadium. In a game featuring two above-average defenses but flawed offensive attacks, I’ll give the nod to the home team with the veteran quarterback in a low-scoring game. The Jets simply make too many mistakes and haven’t forced turnovers of their own all season, a trend that will continue on Sunday as the Ravens win a close one to put themselves in better position in a muddled wild-card race. An uphill path remains for the Ravens to reach postseason play, but tie-breaking wins over the Jets and Miami Dolphins could prove useful down the line if more wins are to follow one on Sunday.

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