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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 28 December 2013 by Luke Jones

No strangers to entering Week 17 with work to do to make it to the postseason, the Ravens have never entered the final game needing a win and help from other teams under John Harbaugh as they try to beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

A win would give Baltimore its sixth straight winning season under Harbaugh, but the Ravens would also need a loss by either Miami or San Diego to extend their season into January and give them a chance to defend their Super Bowl title. Of course, Baltimore’s playoff chances wouldn’t completely vanish with a loss, but losses by Miami, San Diego, and Pittsburgh would be required to land the Ravens in the postseason with an 8-8 record.

Even though the Bengals wrapped up the AFC North championship with a win and Baltimore’s loss to New England last Sunday, the Ravens won the first meeting between these teams earlier this season by forcing three turnovers and taking advantage of 134 yards in penalties committed by Cincinnati. The Bengals have been a different team at home this year as they are 7-0 and have scored more than 40 points in each of their last four contests at Paul Brown Stadium.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet to conclude the regular season for the fourth straight year — the last three in Cincinnati — and for the 36th time overall in the last 18 years. The Ravens have won five of the last six against Cincinnati and lead the overall series by a 20-15 margin, but the Bengals are 10-7 against Baltimore playing at home.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens hope to win and receive help to advance to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season …

1. Torrey Smith eclipses 100 receiving yards for the first time since Oct. 6 to set the single-season franchise record for receiving yards. The third-year wideout looked to be on his way to the Pro Bowl after collecting at least 85 receiving yards in each of his first five games, but he’s hit that mark only once since then as he and quarterback Joe Flacco just haven’t looked to be on the same page. Teams have used plenty of single-high safeties shading him to take away the deep ball, but the Ravens haven’t been able to take advantage on the opposite side. However, the speedy Jacoby Jones has been a bigger factor recently and tight end Dennis Pitta is now in the picture, which will allow Smith to recapture his early-season success with a long catch and his first 100-yard game since Oct. 6 to break Michael Jackson’s team record of 1,201 receiving yards set in 1996.

2. Flacco will show improved mobility, but his left knee will still be an issue as the Bengals bring plenty of inside pressure to collect four sacks. Nothing went well against New England last week, but the sixth-year quarterback must play at a much higher level for the Ravens to have a good chance to beat Cincinnati on the road. Once again wearing a brace this week, Flacco showed better mobility in the second half against New England, but Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is notorious for bringing pressure up the middle, an area where the Baltimore offensive line has struggled mightily all year. Flacco played poorly against Cincinnati earlier in the year — two interceptions and only 3.9 yards per passing attempt — and will fare better than that, but he will be under duress too much against the league’s fifth-ranked defense on Sunday afternoon.

3. Giovani Bernard will run for a touchdown and catch another as a matchup problem against the Ravens defense. Trying to contain Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is always the top priority when you play the Bengals, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees and his unit must be mindful of the rookie Bernard, who had 22 touches for 97 total yards in Week 10 and is very dangerous in open space. The Ravens have struggled against shifty running backs such as Reggie Bush, Le’Veon Bell, and Matt Forte this season and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will try to find Bernard underneath often with the status of tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert in doubt due to injuries. With rain potentially in the forecast for Sunday, Dalton will use Bernard in a way similar to Flacco finding running back Ray Rice earlier in his career, and the rookie will have a big day.

4. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs combine for three sacks, but the Baltimore defense is unable to force turnovers like it did when these teams met in early November. This pass-rushing duo has failed to make the same impact down the stretch as in the first half, but Dumervil’s best game of the year came against the Bengals when he collected three sacks lining up primarily against Andre Smith and Suggs will no longer be lining up against nemesis Andrew Whitworth, who has moved inside to left guard due to injuries. The Ravens must harass Dalton as they did in November when they pressured him into throwing three interceptions, but the Bengals haven’t turned it over at home — going plus-eight in turnovers in seven home games — and the third-year quarterback will be smart with the football knowing his team is playing a below-average offense.

5. The Ravens will battle, but a tired group that’s been poor on the road all year will fall 27-19 to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The history of the Harbaugh era tells you the Ravens will figure out some way to win this game against a superior team and receive the necessary help to sneak into the playoffs, but nothing lasts forever and Baltimore’s poor performance last week smelled of fatigue and being overmatched. The Ravens received some good fortune during their four-game winning streak, but the same issues were there with a below-average offense lacking a running game and a defense that plays well overall but doesn’t force turnovers or consistently finish games. They have the pride to compete with the Bengals, but a season that included too much mediocrity, a 4-6 start, and a 2-5 road record entering Sunday ends with the Ravens staying home in January.

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Ravens hoping tough mystique resurfaces in Cincinnati

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Ravens hoping tough mystique resurfaces in Cincinnati

Posted on 26 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens say they’ve turned the page from their embarrassing loss to New England last Sunday, but the truth is staring them right in the face.

In addition to their playoff hopes taking a hit, their pride was significantly wounded by the Patriots, who beat them up for 60 minutes at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens simply aren’t used to losing games of that significance in that manner under head coach John Harbaugh, making you wonder how they’ll respond in traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a must-win game on Sunday.

This year marks the fourth consecutive time Baltimore will conclude the regular season against the Bengals, who clinched the AFC North title and their third consecutive playoff berth with a win over Minnesota in Week 16. The Ravens will finish their 16-game schedule at Paul Brown Stadium for the third straight year, but the stakes have never been quite like this.

After beating Cincinnati in a 20-17 overtime final in Baltimore earlier this season, the Ravens hope their familiarity and winning mystique will be major assets in trying to top the Bengals while hoping that either Miami or San Diego will fall to give them the No. 6 seed and a sixth consecutive trip to the postseason. However, the Bengals still have eyes on a first-round bye if they can dispose of the Ravens and receive some help from Buffalo against the Patriots.

“We’re used to these guys. They’re a good defense,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “They have been for a few years now. It’s always a good test to play a division opponent, especially in their place. They have a lot to play for; we have a lot to play for. It’s going to be a good game, a good test.”

A good test, indeed, as the Bengals are 7-0 at home on the season and have scored more than 40 points in each of their last four home games. In contrast, Baltimore has scored more than 20 points on the road just twice this season on the way to posting a 2-5 away record.

The Ravens must fight the urge to watch the scoreboard while facing the daunting task of slowing the league’s 10th-ranked offense and moving the ball against the NFL’s fifth-best defense in yards allowed. Given the Bengals’ long history of losing and the Ravens’ great success against them — winning five of the last six meetings — there are reasons to be optimistic that the Ravens will find a way as they often have with their backs against the wall, but it’s still difficult to eliminate the bad taste from last Sunday.

The hard-nosed and winning pedigree that had so many labeling the Ravens as the team no one would want to face in the AFC playoffs just a week ago now appears to be in grave doubt. Losing their grip on a direct path to the postseason, the Ravens can only focus on beating the Bengals on the road like they did two years ago to clinch a division title and first-round bye.

Nothing else really matters if they can’t handle their own business.

“The guys know the scenarios. They’re not living in a vacuum,” Harbaugh said. “They understand what else has to happen. But our job and our task as one single-minded purpose is to win the next game.”

As much as the Ravens will point to their track record in big games, that history came with more-talented teams than this year’s version. Major offensive deficiencies coupled with a good — but not elite — defense won’t breed confidence in being able to defeat one of the AFC’s best teams who has been unbeatable at home this season.

Faced with the prospects of needing a win in the final week of the season for the first time since 2009 to make the playoffs — though that team didn’t need other help that season — the Ravens hope their long-term history repeats itself and their swagger against the Bengals in a critical game will resurface. But the sting of last Sunday is difficult to shake, no matter what the Ravens tell you.

“We take pride in being battle-tested,” running back Ray Rice said. “Last week was last week. If I know this group that’s going to show up Sunday, the group is going to fight until the last whistle until it’s all over. Hopefully, it’s good enough to take care of business.”

Rice out to prove himself next year

The Ravens have rushed for 90 or more yards in three straight games for the first time all season, but their running game won’t avoid a few dubious franchise records for ineptitude.

In addition to their current 3.1 yards per carry average being on pace to shatter the franchise-worst 3.4 mark set in 2006, the Ravens would need to run for 308 yards against the Bengals just to equal the franchise-low 1,589 rushing yards gained in 1997. Running behind an ineffective offensive line all season, three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice has gained 645 yards on the ground, his lowest total since his rookie year when he was part of a three-headed attack that included Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee.

A Week 2 hip injury has also hobbled Rice for much of the season, robbing him of his once-dangerous elusiveness. However, the sixth-year back has taken consolation in only missing one game this season despite his poor production.

“From a personal standpoint, [it's] understanding that I played through a lot this year,” Rice said. “I’m just going to get back out there and battle and not worry about what I’ve got to do statistically week-in and week-out. Statistically, I put all of that stuff aside, but personally, I’m glad I was able to overcome some things.”

Rice has heard the doubts and questions about whether he’s reached the downside of his career as he’s averaging 3.1 yards per carry and only 5.6 yards per reception — both career lows — but he’s already vowed to return in 2014 to erase those thoughts.

Averaging just under 4.1 yards per carry over the last three weeks, Rice is now battling a mild quadriceps injury he says is unrelated to the hip flexor strain suffered in Week 2.

“Everything has been great, even for some of the people who say that you lost a step,” said Rice, who reiterated he’s still focused on the remainder of this season. “It’s different when you have an injury that controls things that you’re normally good at doing. I had to battle that this year. I’ll make sure I come back in the best shape, bigger, faster, stronger — whatever you want to call it — to prove myself again that I can still be a premier running back in the NFL.”

The Bengals are allowing 99.8 yards per game on the ground and rank sixth in the NFL in rush defense.

Pees complimentary of Bengals personnel

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Ravens release estimated injury report for Christmas Day

Posted on 25 December 2013 by Luke Jones

After rearranging their practice schedule to give players the day off on Christmas, the Ravens released an estimated injury report for Wednesday with a Week 17 meeting against the Cincinnati Bengals looming.

Defensive tackle Arthur Jones (concussion), center Gino Gradkowski (knee), and cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring) were listed as non-participants. Jones wasn’t present for the viewing portion of Tuesday’s practice as he must go through the NFL’s concussion protocol after leaving Sunday’s loss to New England in the fourth quarter.

Running back Ray Rice (thigh), wide receiver Torrey Smith (hamstring), and linebackers Elvis Dumervil (ankle) and Albert McClellan (neck) were estimated to be limited on Wednesday. Neither Rice nor Smith practiced on Tuesday, and McClellan missed his first game of the season this past Sunday due to a neck injury sustained against Detroit in Week 15.

Though it could have been a simple oversight, the Ravens did not list quarterback Joe Flacco on Wednesday’s report. He confirmed Tuesday that he would once again wear a brace to protect his left knee after he suffered a mild sprain of his medial collateral ligament on Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, the Bengals listed linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion), tight end Tyler Eifert (neck), cornerback Terence Newman (knee), and defensive tackle Devon Still (back) as non-participants on Wednesday.

The Ravens will return to work on Thursday with their three coordinators scheduled to talk at the podium with reporters.

Here is Wednesday’s estimated injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: C Gino Gradkowski (knee), CB Asa Jackson (thigh), DT Arthur Jones (concussion)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (ankle), LB Albert McClellan (neck), RB Ray Rice (thigh), WR Torrey Smith (thigh)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Vontaze Burfict (concussion), TE Tyler Eifert (neck), CB Terence Newman (knee), TE Alex Smith (concussion), DT Devon Still (back)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (ankle), LB Vincent Rey (ankle), OT Andre Smith (ankle)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

Posted on 24 December 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’ 41-7 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dennis Pitta incomplete on 4th & 10 (4th quarter)

The “ender”.

4. Jimmy Smith called for 34 yard pass interference after Tom Brady pass intended for Julian Edelman incomplete (1st quarter)

Got everything started. 

3. Logan Ryan breaks up Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones on 4th & 3 (3rd quarter)

Questionable decision, more questionable execution.

2. Logan Ryan intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones after Dont’a Hightower tip (1st quarter)

Didn’t take long to make it 14-0. 

1. Ray Rice runs for no gain on 4th & 1 (3rd quarter)

There was no (realistic) coming back from this. 

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Pitta’s impact slow to be felt in Ravens offense

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Pitta’s impact slow to be felt in Ravens offense

Posted on 24 December 2013 by Luke Jones

The mere sight of Dennis Pitta returning to the field less than four months after a horrific hip injury was a victory itself, but the Ravens had visions of the tight end providing their underwhelming offense a major boost.

Pitta provided exactly that in his 2013 debut against Minnesota on Dec. 8, catching six passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, but his impact hasn’t been felt in the two games since in which the Ravens have been held to just one touchdown. The fourth-year tight end has caught only six passes for 58 yards over the last two contests when Baltimore failed to score a touchdown in the win over Detroit and only produced seven points in the 41-7 loss to New England.

It’s fair to assume that Pitta is still working his way back into the flow of the offense after such a long layoff, but opponents aren’t taking much pity as he faced bracketed coverage against the Lions and a physical brand of play from the Patriots. Often being held up at the line of scrimmage, Pitta managed just four receptions for 34 yards on seven targets against the New England defense and saw a slighly-errant Flacco pass go through his hands for an interception in the third quarter.

“Whenever he was aligned within striking range of the box, the defensive ends came out and took shots at him,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think they were hitting him pretty much every opportunity within five yards on crossing routes and things like that. They did quite a bit to keep him under control.”

Entering training camp with expectations of an increased role following the offseason trade of Anquan Boldin, Pitta has been missed by quarterback Joe Flacco in the league’s 19th-ranked passing game. However, it’s clear the Ravens have tried to bring him along slowly as he’s played in just over 42 percent of the Ravens’ offensive snaps in his three games, down from last year when he took part in roughly 60 percent of plays.

When he has been on the field, Pitta has seen more extensive time in the slot than in the past with 67 of his 79 total routes run from that position, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s a dramatic increase from last season when the pass-catching tight end ran only 64.6 percent of his routes from the slot position when Boldin was still a major presence at that spot.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the Ravens with using Pitta so far this season has been too much predictability as a pass play has been called on 88 percent of his snaps. Pitta is certainly not known for his ability as a run blocker, but calling such a high number of passing plays eliminates the anticipated advantage of defenses not stacking the box against the run because of the need to account for him in the middle intermediate portion of the passing game.

Pitta is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, which further complicates the aftermath of his hip injury. The 28-year-old has alleviated concerns about being healthy enough to resume his NFL career, but the Ravens haven’t been able to truly gauge whether he can be a bigger slot threat in a way similar to what Boldin provided. And Pitta certainly hasn’t been able to use this season to show he belongs among the elite tight ends and cash in with a hefty contract.

It will be interesting to see how the offseason plays out as the Ravens clearly want Pitta back but will be working with limited cap resources and will have other positions of need to address. Should general manager Ozzie Newsome and Pitta’s agent Justin Schulman not be able to reach a long-term agreement, the Ravens could use the franchise tag, which is projected to be a reasonable $6.8 million for tight ends in 2014.

Players and their agents are often unhappy to receive the tag, but this situation might be unique with Pitta not having much of an opportunity to create a big market for himself after his 2012 season in which he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. A one-year contract might be the perfect way for the Ravens to assess the tight end’s true worth and for Pitta to have another year to try to elevate his value for next offseason.

For now, however, the Ravens will continue to work Pitta back into the offense in hopes of winning Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals and advancing to the postseason for a sixth consecutive season.

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Justin Tucker as Ravens MVP?  Sure…after all, who else could it be?

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Justin Tucker as Ravens MVP? Sure…after all, who else could it be?

Posted on 24 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Not that it matters, because it’s nothing more than a side-note in a player’s media guide biography, but Justin Tucker won the Ravens MVP award on Monday afternoon.

That shouldn’t be too startling if you’ve followed the Ravens through the first fifteen weeks of the 2013 season.  After all, Tucker has actually been the only “regular” on the team who has played above the bar of excellence typically reserved for players who earn MVP status.

Oddly enough, voting for Tucker for team MVP (as I did, admittedly, when the media ballots were distributed last week) was just as much a vote of deduction than anything else.

The other candidates were the three Smith’s — Jimmy, Daryl and Torrey, plus quarterback Joe Flacco.

None of those five came close to duplicating the overall excellence of Justin Tucker this season.

Now, if you’re one of those people who thinks it’s absurd for the team’s kicker to be the Most Valuable Player of the team, I’ll agree with you on that point.

Yes, I voted for Tucker.  I told you that already.

But, voting for the guy and also acknowledging it’s weird to have the kicker be the team’s MVP are entirely possible when you look at what transpired this season.

In short:  The Ravens offense stunk in 2013.

That eliminates Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith from the discussion.

And, while the defensive Smith’s were solid, neither of them came close to establishing the overall consistency of Tucker.

I don’t know that Jimmy Smith or Daryl Smith won any games for John Harbaugh’s team.

Justin Tucker did.

And, when you’re 8-7 and still have a puncher’s chance of making the post-season, the kicker who made the difference in four of those victories deserves the nod as the team MVP.

Sad?

Sure.

The kicker sure as hell isn’t the MVP in Denver, Kansas City, Seattle, Carolina or Cincinnati.

Flacco is the lightning bolt topic when it comes to the Tucker verdict in Baltimore, because he’s the $60 million man and much was expected from him after holding up both the Lombardi and MVP trophy at last February’s Super Bowl in New Orleans.

The real truth about his 2013 campaign?  It’s been average, at best.  Some would say he’s been less than average; some would counter and say with what he’s had to work with, Flacco has been better than average.

Mix all the opinions together, look at the team’s record and Flacco’s numbers and you get:  Average.

Now, were there issues outside of Flacco’s area of responsibility?

Lack of pass blockers to protect him?  You bet.

No running game to help support his arm?  Absolutely.

Wide receiving group still short a quality contributor – or two?  Yes, indeed.

Injury to Pitta a tough pill to swallow?  Of course.

But, 19 interceptions don’t lie.

It’s one thing if Flacco doesn’t produce a 30 TD, 4,000 yard season given the limits I listed above, combined with the anticipated “Super Bowl hangover” that nearly every veteran has likely experienced to some degree in 2013.

But, he hasn’t even reached 20 TD’s yet.  And he’ll need 280 yards passing at Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon to eclipse the 4,000 yard mark for the first time ever.

Not only has he thrown the ball to the other team nineteen times, and, yes, not all 19 of those are completely “on” Flacco, — a handful of the pics were deflections or balls that should have been caught by his receivers — but he’s also fumbled it eight times, with two of those recovered by the opposition.

(Please see next page)

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Tucker selected as 2013 Ravens’ team MVP

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Tucker selected as 2013 Ravens’ team MVP

Posted on 23 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In a season in which the Ravens have stumbled offensively far too often, they’ve leaned on Justin Tucker to provide points and to even win games on several occasions.

The second-year kicker was recognized by the local media as the team’s 2013 Most Valuable Player, becoming the first special-teams performer to win the award since it was introduced in 2003. The highlight for Tucker’s 2013 campaign came in Week 15 in Detroit when he booted six field goals and a franchise-record 61-yarder in the final minute to give the Ravens an 18-16 victory.

For the season, Tucker is 35-for-38 and can eclipse Matt Stover’s team record for field goals in a season with one in Cincinnati on Sunday. His remarkable streak of 33 consecutive field goals without a miss came to an end on Sunday when he misfired from 37 yards, leaving him three field goals shy of Stover’s franchise record.

Tucker has already become one of the NFL’s best kickers in just his second year after being signed as a free agent from the University of Texas in the spring of 2012 and beating out incumbent Billy Cundiff for the job. As a rookie, he went 30-for-33 and made the game-winning 47-yard field goal in double overtime in the Ravens’ divisional round win over Denver.

“He’s a year older, he’s a year better, [and] he’s a year ahead in terms of technique and perfecting his craft and all those kinds of things,” coach John Harbaugh said earlier in December. “But there are still a lot of things he needs to work on. He’d be the first to tell you that. There are a lot of kicks he doesn’t have in his tool bag yet. But the main kick he’s got in his tool bag is kicking it straight when it’s a field goal — in all kinds of conditions — and that’s a pretty important one.”

The selection of a specialist as the team MVP is a reflection of the lack of a great candidate this season as the Ravens have gone 8-7, but Tucker’s 15 field goals over the recent four-game winning streak — the Ravens scored only five touchdowns during the stretch — and four games in which he kicked four or more field goals are too difficult to overlook in assessing his value. Of Baltimore’s eight wins this year, four have come by a field goal or less and Tucker connected on a field goal from at least 46 yards in each of those victories.

He also has made six field goals from 50 yards or more this season.

Tucker was the winner over four other finalists: quarterback Joe Flacco, cornerback Jimmy Smith, linebacker Daryl Smith, and wide receiver Torrey Smith. Those four have played well for stretches of the season, but it would be difficult to argue that any showed the same level of consistency as Tucker, who missed two field goal tries in Week 2 and didn’t miss again until Sunday’s attempt sailed wide left in the 41-7 loss to New England.

In addition to awarding Tucker the team MVP, the local media tabbed Flacco as the annual Good Guy Award winner, which is given to the player considered to be most cooperative with reporters during the season. Flacco’s blunt honesty, which hasn’t always been received well by outsiders and those within the organization, has been refreshing for reporters throughout the season.

Considering he is one of the biggest stars on the team, the quarterback has remained approachable in the locker room in addition to his weekly podium session and is usually willing to answer a quick question or to simply chat casually with reporters.

Torrey Smith, tight end Ed Dickson, defensive end Chris Canty, and safety James Ihedigbo were the other candidates nominated for the Media Good Guy award.

Harbaugh admits fourth-quarter mistake

In what was just one of several questionable coaching decisions over the course of a miserable 41-7 defeat to New England on Sunday, Harbaugh sent Tucker into the game early in the fourth quarter for a 37-yard field goal try with the Ravens trailing 20-0.

Tucker missed the attempt, but the Ravens didn’t stand to benefit much from the conversion as they still would have trailed by three possessions with 14:19 remaining. Asked about it following the game, Harbaugh erroneously suggested that the kick would have created a two-score deficit and then admitted he wanted to revisit the game situation.

Asked again when he met with the media for his Monday press conference, Harbaugh wished he had a mulligan for the fourth-quarter situation.

“If I had to do that one again, I would have gone for that,” Harbaugh said. “I’d have gone for all four of [fourth-down situations], looking back on it. We had just gone for the one previous to that that was on the 4-yard line with a foot to go [late in the third quarter]. Obviously, this is fourth-and-five on the 20-yard line. It’s a little bit different and, during the flow of the game, I think I felt differently about it at the time. Looking back on it, I would agree with anybody that feels like we should have gone for it.”

The Ravens were 0-for-3 on fourth-down attempts in the second half.

Injury updates

It was apparent to observers that Flacco’s left knee injury impacted his play in some way during a two-interception performance against New England.

Harbaugh acknowledged that reality by connecting it to the big picture of few players being fully healthy after the first 15 games of the regular season. Flacco wore a bulky brace on his left knee and struggled to move comfortably in the pocket, especially in the first half, after he was diagnosed with a mild medial collateral ligament last week.

“I can’t think of one player who is 100 percent who has played,” Harbaugh said. “Joe has played every single play the whole season. He’s definitely not 100 percent on that knee. But to say how much or to what degree is just impossible to say. I think he fought through it, he gutted it out, he battled, and that’s what you do this time of year. And that’s what makes Joe who he is. He’s a tough, hard-nosed competitor. We appreciate that about him.”

The head coach did not address any other injuries specifically, only stating that no player has been ruled out for Sunday’s regular-season finale in which the Ravens need a win and a loss by either Miami or San Diego to secure the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

Defensive tackle Arthur Jones sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss, but the Ravens did not officially report any other injuries following the game. Linebacker Daryl Smith (heel) and wide receiver Marlon Brown (hip) both missed time with injuries but returned to the game.

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Flacco’s play biggest concern in blowout loss to New England

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Flacco’s play biggest concern in blowout loss to New England

Posted on 23 December 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — There’s little to say that isn’t stating the obvious after the Ravens were steamrolled by the New England Patriots in a 41-7 home defeat on Sunday.

They were outplayed, outcoached, and overwhelmed in suffering the franchise’s worst home loss ever and the worst defeat of the John Harbaugh era, losing control of their path to a postseason spot in the process. But there’s no sense in harping on any of it with Baltimore still having a chance to advance to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year with a win and either a loss by Miami or San Diego next Sunday.

“[Stuff] happens. That’s all I can say,” Suggs said. “We have to move on to next week. We can still get in. … You will have to look at the tape. Actually, you could burn the tape. It’s not even worth looking at.”

The truth is Sunday didn’t really teach us anything about the 2013 Ravens that we didn’t already know other than Week 16 being a horrendous day at the office. Sure, a four-game winning streak sparked conversation of the Ravens being the most dangerous team that no AFC team wants to play in January, but their deficiencies were still present. And as alarming as the loss was with such high stakes involved in Sunday’s game, it still only counts as one in the overall standings.

In summing up the first 15 games of the season, the Ravens have received good fortune, suffered a little bad luck, and shown a whole lot of mediocrity. They have a below-average offense, a good but not elite defense, and a Pro Bowl-worthy kicker who missed his first field goal on Sunday since mid-September.

There’s no one-size-fits-all way of how it looks over the course of 16 weeks, but those realities will generally add up to a record right around the .500 mark for most NFL teams in any given season. And it’s right where the 8-7 Ravens stand entering the regular-season finale.

But the biggest concern from Sunday’s humbling loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots was the play of quarterback Joe Flacco. The sixth-year signal-caller was hardly the only problem, but the state of his left knee and the impact it had on his play against the Patriots raises the biggest red flag for the Ravens’ chances of going to Cincinnati and winning next Sunday.

In fact, nothing else really matters if Flacco can’t play at a higher level.

The quarterback said after the game that it wasn’t a major issue, of course.

“I probably didn’t have the same burst, but I felt good,” said Flacco when asked about playing with a bulky knee brace. “I felt like I could move on it and run on it and do all kinds of things. It held up really well.”

Of course, Flacco isn’t about to make any excuses for his two-interception performance as the Ravens could only manage one fourth-quarter touchdown, a 1-yard sneak by the quarterback in the fourth quarter. It’s impossible to put a percentage on how much Flacco’s knee may have impacted his play as he made some poor decisions, including a fourth-down incompletion intended for a double-covered Jacoby Jones while both Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta were open on the opening drive of the second half.

Still, it was obvious — especially in the first half — that Flacco was uncomfortable, unable to move effectively in and out of the pocket as he has in recent weeks when he’s used his legs to make plays as both a rusher and a passer. On no play was it more evident than a first-quarter dropback when he stepped cautiously on his left leg before falling to the turf untouched for a sack.

Only Flacco knows how much his knee — and protecting it — was on his mind, but he did appear to move with more confidence as the game progressed. The Ravens can only hope that was a sign of better things to come next week with their playoff lives on the line.

The Patriots got to Flacco in the pocket — sacking him four times — and confused him as he tried to find receivers downfield. When he did, there were errant throws, drops, and a lack of timing with his pass-catching targets too often.

“They played a lot of zone, passing things off, and didn’t let us get any of the chunk shots on them,” Flacco said. “The check-downs were there, but we just didn’t do it enough. We didn’t play well enough and convert first downs. We ran the ball well but just couldn’t convert the first downs that we needed to.”

When the Ravens began the season 4-6, it was clear their fate would depend on how well Flacco would play in the final six weeks and the quarterback responded with his best football of the year over a four-game winning streak that came to a screeching halt Sunday. However, you now wonder if the helmet shot to Flacco’s left knee delivered by Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy last Monday may have thwarted the Ravens’ best chance of squeaking into the playoffs.

Make no mistake, Sunday’s loss was a team effort as the Ravens were humbled in the season’s final game at M&T Bank Stadium, a place where they typically play their best. But a similar-looking Flacco showing up in Cincinnati will likely spell doom for the Ravens next week.

The Bengals haven’t lost a game at Paul Brown Stadium all season and are still fighting for the No. 2 seed in the conference, meaning they have plenty to play for despite clinching the AFC North title on Sunday. The Ravens have too much pride not to bounce back with a better showing, but they need Flacco at his best — or, at least, close to it — to have a good chance to win before turning their eyes to the scoreboard for help.

“We’ve got to go in there and win. That was pretty much going to be the case no matter what, so that’s what we’ve got to do,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to play a lot better than we did today to go in there and win. They play very well at home, obviously. It’s a big challenge for us, but I feel like we’re up to it.”

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 22 December 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 New England Patriots 41-7 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, 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. Lardarius Webb

4. Jimmy Smith

3. Michael Oher

2. John Harbaugh

1. Joe Flacco (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Flacco: “My knee felt great”

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Flacco: “My knee felt great”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by WNSTV

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