Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"

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Ravens nominated for “Never Say Never Moment of the Year”

Posted on 05 January 2014 by WNST Staff

NFL ANNOUNCES NOMINEES FOR GMC NEVER SAY NEVER MOMENT OF THE YEAR

Fans To Vote For Winner On NFL.com/GMC

The National Football League today announced the five finalists for the 2013 GMC NEVER SAY NEVER MOMENT OF THE YEAR. The “GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year” is the best moment or play of the year that represents determination and perseverance.

2013 GMC NEVER SAY NEVER MOMENT OF THE YEAR FINALISTS

Wk 5 Manning, Thomas, Broncos outlast Cowboys in thrilling finish
Wk 10 Newton, Kuechly, Panthers rally to prevail in defensive struggle
Wk 12 Brady, Patriots overcome 24-point deficit, win in OT
Wk 14 Ravens survive frantic final minutes vs. Vikings
Wk 17 Rodgers’ fourth-down TD to Cobb puts Packers in playoffs

Fans can vote for one of these five moments on www.nfl.com/gmc through Thursday, January 23 to determine the 2013 GMC NEVER SAY NEVER MOMENT OF THE YEAR.

The winner will be presented the 2013 GMC NEVER SAY NEVER MOMENT OF THE YEAR award in New York City at the “3rd
Annual NFL Honors” awards show, a two-hour primetime special to air nationally on February 1 on FOX, the night before Super Bowl XLVIII.

The five finalists were selected among 17 of the most memorable GMC Never Say Never Moments during the 2013 NFL season. Each week the NFL selected three nominees for the moments of the week in which the fans voted for the winner on NFL.com/GMC.

“GMC is proud to honor the determination and perseverance demonstrated by these finalists with the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year Award,” said Sandra Moore, Director of GMC Advertising and Sales Promotions.

“These characteristics are demonstrated every day by GMC’s engineers creating the best trucks and SUVs for our customers, and the ‘Never Say Never’ attitude is exactly what we put into every detail of our vehicles.”

In addition to voting for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year, fans may also visit www.gmc.com/nfl to enter for a chance to win the GMC Never Say Never NFL Fan Experience, which includes: trips to the 2014 Scouting Combine, the 2014 NFL Draft, a 2014 regular season game of choice, Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, a GMC vehicle of choice, and more.

A closer look at the nominees:

Wk 5: Peyton Manning, Julius Thomas, Broncos outlast Cowboys in thrilling finish:
PEYTON MANNING helped the Denver Broncos overcome a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter, and again by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, to earn a thrilling 51-48 win on the road against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. In the game, Manning threw four touchdown passes, two to wide receiver JULIUS THOMAS, and added another on a run. During the record-setting game, the Broncos and Cowboys combined for 1,039 yards of total offense which is tied for the second-highest scoring game since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Linebacker DANNY TREVATHAN’S interception of a TONY ROMO pass set up MATT PRATER’S game-winning field goal and assured that the Broncos would remain unbeaten.

Wk 10: Panthers rally to prevail in defensive struggle:
CAM NEWTON and the Carolina Panthers survived a defensive struggle in San Francisco to collect their fifth consecutive win. The Panthers rallied from nine down to earn a huge 10-9 road win against the San Francisco 49ers. Running back DEANGELO WILLIAMS’ touchdown brought Carolina to within 9-7 of San Francisco, and GRAHAM GANO’S 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter put the Panthers ahead. However, it was the stingy Panthers defense led by linebacker LUKE KUECHLY, who finished the game with 11 tackles and a sack, that made sure the narrow one-point lead held up. The Panthers twice shut down COLIN KAEPERNICK on last-ditch, late-game drives, including an interception from DRAYTON FLORENCE to seal the win.

Wk 12: Brady, Patriots overcome 24-point deficit, win in OT:
Down 24-0 at halftime, quarterback TOM BRADY guided a second-half comeback that forced overtime, where the New England Patriots eventually won, 34-31. The Patriots lost fumbles on their first three possessions as the Broncos built a 24-0 lead in the first half. However, the Patriots rallied, scoring on their first five possessions of the second half to erase the deficit. After Broncos quarterback PEYTON MANNING threw a touchdown pass to receiver DEMARYIUS THOMAS late in the fourth quarter to tie the score and ultimately force overtime, the Patriots took advantage of a fortunate bounce of a punt that hit a Broncos player and was recovered by NATE EBNER at the Broncos’ 13-yard line. Kicker STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 34-31 overtime win.

Wk 14: Ravens survive frantic final minutes vs. Vikings:
Quarterback JOE FLACCO threw a touchdown pass to rookie receiver MARLON BROWN with four seconds left to cap a frenzied final two minutes and lift the Baltimore Ravens to a thrilling 29-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Despite playing in a snowstorm, the Ravens and Vikings combined for five touchdowns in the game’s final 125 seconds. The Flacco-to-Brown score finished a five-play, 80-yard drive that eclipsed all but four of the game’s final 45 seconds. The Ravens’ rally also included a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by JACOBY JONES.

Wk 17: Rodgers’ fourth-down TD puts Packers in playoffs:
Facing a fourth-and-8 at the Chicago Bears’ 48-yard line with 38 seconds remaining, Green Bay Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS hit receiver RANDALL COBB for a 48-yard touchdown play that helped the Packers capture the NFC North crown. Rodgers had missed seven games with a broken collarbone and Cobb had missed the previous 10 games with a knee injury.

For more information on the 2013 GMC NEVER SAY NEVER MOMENT OF THE YEAR, visit www.nfl.com/gmc.

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SP FBN BENGALS RAVENS

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Ravens Need A Leader

Posted on 05 January 2014 by Tom Federline

The City of Baltimore and Ravens fans were spoiled. We have been spoiled since the Ravens came to town and Game One of September 1996. The guy that secured the middle linebacker position and posed as a motivational speaker for 17 seasons, spoiled us. You are not going to replace a Ray Lewis in one year. You are not going to replace a Ray Lewis in two years. Ray can be replaced, everyone is replaceable. It’s a matter of who and how the team adapts to their approach. What seperates leaders from the average person is communication, passion and the ability to reach a performance level that 99% of the population simply cannot attain. There just aren’t that many Ray Lewis’ out there. So Ravens don’t lose him.

Now Ray-Ray wasn’t running solo in providing the leadership role on the field. He had a little help along the way. How about starting with Art Modell. Then how about some other notable teammates; Jonathan Ogden, Matt Stover, Micheal McCrary, Ed Reed, Matt Birk, Derek Mason, etc. Feel free to add to the list. Did anyone see any consistent leadership qualities from any current Raven on the field this year? How about the sidelines? How about up in the Owners Suite? The Ravens use to have leaders, they all gone.

Week by week it became more apparent – no one was going to step up and take the reigns Ray Lewis had left on the wagon. You would think at the very least, the coach would attempt to take command. Yeah right. You would think at the very least, the rewarded 20 million dollar per year quarterback, would step up into that role. Flacco is a winner, he is not a leader. You would think that in the year following a championship season, there would be player candidates graciously accepting a move into that role. Yeah right. Most of the Ravens games this past year were embarassing. The Ravens finished 8 – 8 and in my book, they should have been 3 – 13. Nice way to follow up a Super Bowl win, huh?

Did they actually, beat any team this year? I can think of one. And really up unitl 2:30 left in the first half, that game was typically sloppy and up for grabs. The Ravens finished that game by beating the Houston Texans, Game 3 of the season, 30 – 9. Luckily, I was there to witness it. It just so happened Ray Lewis was in the house, also. It was Ray Lewis Day – he was getting inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor. Hmmmmm, convincing win with Ray in the house – interesting. The Ravens were a mediocre to poor team this year. After getting fed up watching the Ravens ineptness, I would turn the station and witness the majority of other NFL teams actually moving the ball with confidence and wondering to myself – Why can’t the Ravens do that?

The Ravens year of 2013 was definately a ride of “Good Times/Bad Times” – Led Zepplin). 2013 started off “Good”, but ended up “Bad”. The Super Bowl Run/Ray Lewis’ last ride, was better than good – it was awesome. The 2013 regular season was challenging to watch. They were lucky to survive without losing face. Actually they did lose face, right out of the gates – Game 1 vs. Denver. The season was a bust. Thirty-three minutes of the Texans game and two minutes five seconds of a Vikings snow game. The rest, was a waste of time. There were some positives: Justin Tucker, Marlon Brown, Justin Tucker, Daryl Smith, Justin Tucker, Jacoby Jones, Justin…..ok, dig the reoccuring theme? The kicker was as close as the Ravens got to a Leader.

Ok, you win the Super Bowl and the team gets dismantled. So who do you rely on? Front office? Yes, do your job and replenish. Coaches? Yes, that should go without saying. Did any of that happen? No. The Front office blows it, recogmize and correct next year. The Coach doesn’t step up – that’s a big problem. The guy who rode Rays coat-tails, did not step up. When Flacco did not step up, when Suggs did not step up, when Rice did not step up, somebody had to and nobody did. Come on, John Horribaugh, you maybe paid the least compared to star players, but it is your job to at least get those overpaid steroid boys to show up and perform.

The Ravens need a leader or two on the field and they need a leader on the sidelines. Right now, they have neither. Gut checks are in order, (along with a revamped offensive line). Candidates: Defense – Elam. Offense – it has to be Flack Nut. Coaching? – I’m not a John Horribaugh fan, never have been. Can the Ravens get his brother Jim? Now there’s a coach in my book.

We were spoiled. The only game the Ravens actually WON, Ray Lewis was in the house. Hmm???? Hey Ray, whatcha ya gonna do when you get done playing TV analyst? Let’s start out with Director of Player personnel and Motivational Speaker, then linebackers coach and Inspirational speaker, then defensive coordinator and Motivational speaker. Then by that time, hopefully you would have mentored somebody to take over the reigns. Who knows? There just may come a day, when Ray Lewis on the sideline again. If not on the sideline, get him under a lifelong contract as part of the organization. Front office….. step up! Nobody else did.
T-minus 53 days until O’s first Spring Training Game.

D.I.Y.
Fedman

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

Posted on 31 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 would be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule…except this time there is no next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dennis Pitta in endzone incomplete (1st quarter)

After Dalton’s second interception…an opportunity to go up 10-0. 

4. Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones in endzone incomplete (1st quarter)

After Dalton’s first interception…an opportunity to go up 7-0.

3. Matt Elam drops would-be Andy Dalton interception on pass intended for Dane Sanzenbacher (4th quarter)

After the Bengals went up 24-17, the last hope to keep it a one possession game.

2. AJ Green 53 yard touchdown catch from Andy Dalton (1st quarter)

Everything turned here.

1. Chris Crocker intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Torrey Smith after Michael Johnson tip (4th quarter)

Essentially ended things. 

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Fanfare perhaps dimmed, but no doubting Flacco as “Local Sportsperson of the Year”

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Fanfare perhaps dimmed, but no doubting Flacco as “Local Sportsperson of the Year”

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

After leading the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl title in 12 years with a brilliant 11 touchdown, zero interception performance in the playoffs, quarterback Joe Flacco was a near unanimous choice as WNST’s annual “Local Sportsperson of the Year” for 2013.

This probably would have been a more exciting announcement had we made it in April or May. Charm City sports fans are well aware of the up and down 2013 season Flacco had that ended with the team missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season-making the conversation leading up to the award perhaps a bit more interesting than it should have been considering exactly what Flacco accomplished in the first five weeks of calendar 2013.

It actually even lead to a bit of a surprise in WNST voting, as one WNST voter voted for Orioles 1B Chris Davis instead of voting for Joe Flacco. That voter will explain their decision in the coming days, but was the reason why Flacco was only a “near” unanimous choice instead of a completely unanimous choice.

For the rest of the WNST voters, the decision was quite simple. Here is a reminder of the criteria for our yearly honor.

First, the person must be local. They must be an athlete, coach or front office member for a pro, college or high school team in the state of Maryland. Individual sport athletes who represent the state of Maryland also qualify.

Second, the person must stand out from other people over the course of the 12 calendar months. The accomplishments of that individual must be comparable to if not greater than the accomplishments of others in the area.

And finally, that person’s year must stand out from other years during their tenure/career in the area.

It’s fairly simple criteria that has guided the choice made each year. Flacco joins Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps (2008), Morgan State basketball coach Todd Bozeman (2009), Former Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez (2010), Towson football coach Rob Ambrose (2011) and Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (2012) as winners of the award. Flacco is the first Baltimore Raven to receive the honor since inception.

Flacco beat out fellow finalists Davis, Stevenson lacrosse coach Paul Cantabene, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Towson RB Terrance West in claiming the title.

In the first few years of WNST determining a “Local Sportsperson of the Year”, D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction host Drew Forrester said something about a particular vote that has resonated in years that followed in making the decision. Forrester identified who he was voting for and then said “he made more people smile this year than anyone else.”

It was that thought process that made the choice of Flacco fairly easy to most at WNST. For all of the accomplishments of the other finalists-Cantabene guiding a team to the first national championship in ANY sport in school history, Davis crushing a team record 53 home runs, West crushing the record for most records broken in a single season (Editor’s note: that might not be factual. It just certainly feels that way)-none did more for the city of Baltimore than the quarterback did to start the year.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens first step to improving in 2014: A new offensive coordinator

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Ravens first step to improving in 2014: A new offensive coordinator

Posted on 30 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Anyone who has followed my on-air ramblings or blogging efforts over the years will attest to the fact that I’m not the knee-jerk “fire the coach” guy when something goes wrong in a season.

The Ravens went 8-8 in 2013 for a variety of reasons, many of which are connected more to player performance than anything a coach or coaches did or didn’t do.

In fact, I can think of five players right off the top of my head that deserve to be fired based on their production in 2013, but their contract status and league salary cap rules make that fundamentally unwise.

As we begin the inevitable discourse on what went wrong with the defending champions, let’s remember from the start they lost twelve key performers from the team that beat the 49′ers in last February’s Super Bowl.  Twelve.  That’s a lot of quality to lose in one fell swoop, even if several of them were getting long in the tooth and dreaming of greener pastures.

It’s a quarterback’s league and the guy behind center in Baltimore threw 22 interceptions in sixteen games.  That’s not going to cut it.  I wrote my Joe Flacco piece last week.  You can read it here.  I’m certainly not saying he was the reason why the team failed to make the playoffs in 2013.  But, I also know he was much closer to being the reason why they missed it than he was the reason why they almost made it.  His stock took a hit in ’13.

The team’s offensive line was dismal most of the season.  The running game was a dud.  One of the team’s top receiving threats broke his hip in the first padded practice of training camp.

The Ravens’ defense wasn’t terrible — and in some cases, they were really good — but they gave up a lot of yardage in big chunks and were less than reliable in the 4th quarter throughout the sixteen week regular season.

Make no mistake about it, though.  This 2013 season will go down as the one when the Ravens offense completely fizzled.

Now, settle in for my idea of how to fix it.

Ready?

The Ravens need to make a change at Offensive Coordinator.  Yes, a firing of a coach.

It’s not completely “that simple”, of course, because Joe Flacco needs to play better, Marshal Yanda needs to play better, Ray Rice needs to play better, Torrey Smith needs to play better and so on and so on.

What we just saw, though, for sixteen weeks, was about as boring, pedestrian and unimaginative as it could possibly get from a team in the best football league in the world.

The coaches and minds behind the scenes in the NFL are supposed to be the best-of-the-best.  The cream of the crop.  What the Ravens exhibited on offense in 2013 was far from “cream of the crop” stuff.  It was dreadful.

And, because you can’t fire all the players and start over next August, the guy who runs the offense has to go.  Along with a lot of others who have had their fingerprints on the offensive blueprint in Baltimore over the last couple of years.

The Bengals used that Andy-Dalton-fake-to-the-running-back-quarterback-keeper play to absolute perfection three times during Sunday’s 34-17 win over Baltimore.  The Ravens didn’t use a play like that once the entire season.

Before you tell me Flacco is Flacco and no one can come in and teach him anything, let me remind you what just transpired in Pittsburgh this season.  Todd Haley showed up in 2012 as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, took a year to figure out what changes he thought they needed, then spent nearly four months this past off-season convincing Ben Roethlisberger he needed to shave a second or two off his snap-to-throw time in order to get the ball out more quickly and avoid taking the kind of punishment he’s known to take while running around with the ball in his hand.

Roethlisberger gave in, took to the new philosophy, and had one of his best seasons ever in 2013.

The Ravens need that sort of interjection in their offense.

They need someone to come in and say, “This needs an overhaul and I’m just the mechanic to do it.”

The quarterback might get offended at hearing that.  The running back might not like hearing it, either.  Hell, the head coach might not even be all that thrilled to hear it.

That said, it’s the truth.

The Ravens need a completely new offensive structure.  They need better players, for starters, particularly on the offensive line.  There’s no question about that.  None at all.  They can either add better players and improve or do what the Orioles do every off-season and add scrubs and/or no one and lose.

But, once they add those players, they need a new voice running the offense.

Jim Caldwell had sixteen games to convince everyone he’s the man for the job, long-term.  Unless I’m really off-base here, I don’t think he did anything to prove he should be the team’s offensive coordinator next season.

The quarterback might not like that, but, like Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Joe Flacco will need to come to grips with the fact that he still has room to improve his game despite owning a Super Bowl ring and MVP trophy.

Privately this past season, some Ravens officials were concerned with Flacco’s attitude, particularly as it related to his public comments about the wildcat offense and the insertion of Tyrod Taylor for a handful of plays against the Jets in November.

While he’s not a malcontent by any means, Flacco can also be set in his ways to the point that he becomes unwilling to consider other options that could benefit the team.

With a new offensive coordinator in town – especially one who shows up and says, “I’m here to make Flacco better” – the stage would be set for a showdown of sorts between the quarterback who signed a $120 million contract last spring and the new voice who says, “Yeah, and then you went 8-8 after that…let’s get back to work and make you really good again.”

Rob Chudzinski was a name the Ravens talked about back in 2008 when they started evaluating head coach candidates and they thought of him mainly because of his offensive acumen.  He’s expected to be fired as the Browns’ head coach after just one season as their head honcho.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens renew their interest in him if, in fact, a change is made with Jim Caldwell.

If Jim Schwartz gets fired in Detroit, Lions’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan might be looking for a new gig.  He’s had the luxury of coaching one of the game’s most dynamic weapons in Calvin Johnson, but Linehan is a respected offensive mind throughout the NFL.

I’m not campaigning for either of those men and I haven’t seen someone at Owings Mills creating a “reserved parking spot” sign for either of them.  But, let’s just say I didn’t pick those two names out of a hat, either.

There are lots of other names to consider, of course, and the Ravens are known as one of the best “hiring organizations” in the NFL.

And, for all I know, they’re going to keep Jim Caldwell on board.

After what I saw for sixteen weeks this season, I don’t know how they can possibly do that, but I also know coaches around the league are hesitant to make huge changes in their coaching staff unless something really goes terribly wrong.

Well…2013 came and went for the Ravens and, offensively, it went “terribly wrong”.

Time for a change.

Let’s get back to work.

 

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We’re announcing “Local Sportsperson of the Year” Tuesday. Here are the finalists.

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We’re announcing “Local Sportsperson of the Year” Tuesday. Here are the finalists.

Posted on 30 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

We’ll make our annual “Local Sportsperson of the Year” announcement Tuesday here at WNST. The announcement is scheduled for 3pm Tuesday on “The Reality Check” here on AM1570 WNST.net.

We discussed a slew of names for Local Sportsperson of the Year this year. Here is a reminder of our previous winners.

2008-Michael Phelps
2009-Todd Bozeman
2010-Greivis Vasquez
2011-Rob Ambrose
2012-Buck Showalter

We discussed a number of names for “Local Sportsperson of the Year” in 2013. As a reminder, there are only three qualifications when it comes to the award.

First, the person must be local. They must be an athlete, coach or front office member for a pro, college or high school team in the state of Maryland. Individual sport athletes who represent the state of Maryland also qualify.

Second, the person must stand out from other people over the course of the 12 calendar months. The accomplishments of that individual must be comparable to if not greater than the accomplishments of others in the area.

And finally, that person’s year must stand out from other years during their tenure/career in the area.

Here are our five finalists for 2013 in alphabetical order by last name.

Paul Cantabene (Stevenson Lacrosse Coach)

Cantabene guided the Mustangs to the Division III National Championship, the first national championship of any kind in school history. Cantabene has steadily built the program as a major national power since his arrival in Owings Mills and has himself become a very hot commodity in the world of college lacrosse coaching. Cantabene is not a native Baltimorean but is about as close as can be, having coached at Johns Hopkins, Towson and Maryland after finishing his playing career at Loyola.

Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles 1B)

Davis finished third in AL MVP voting in 2013 and was named “Most Valuable Oriole” by local media after a remarkable season that saw him break Brady Anderson’s club single season home run record with 53. Davis was far from a one trick pony, adding 42 doubles to hit .286 with a .370 on base percentage and added 138 RBI. Davis also played a high level of defense in his first full season at first base, helping the Orioles to a winning record for a second straight season.

Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens QB)

While Flacco’s (and the Ravens’) 2013 season sputtered following the signing of a long-term contract extension, it cannot be forgotten how Calendar 2013 began. Flacco’s remarkable 11 touchdown, zero interception postseason run ended with the quarterback claiming Super Bowl XLVII honors and bringing Charm City their first championship in over a decade. Despite Flacco’s underwhelming numbers, he was still a finalist for Most Valuable Raven in the 2013 season and came up with a number of spectacular throws during the season.

John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens Head Coach)

The conversation surrounding Flacco must also include Harbaugh, who deftly guided the Ravens to that Super Bowl title. Harbaugh’s run of reaching the playoffs in every season as head coach ended in 2013, but the calendar year began with the coach finishing his finest season since replacing Brian Billick.

Terrance West (Towson RB)

West is the only native Baltimorean to be named a finalist in 2013, leading the Tigers to the NCAA FCS Championship Game January 4. West seemingly smashed every school record in the process, being named All-American, CAA Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award-FCS’ equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. The junior back is Baltimore through and through, having attended Northwestern High School and growing up watching and rooting for the Baltimore Ravens.

(Other candidates who were considered for this year’s honor included Ravens K Justin Tucker, Orioles 3B Manny Machado, UMBC soccer coach Pete Caringi, University of Maryland midfielder/Tewaaraton Trophy winner Katie Schwarzmann, Former St. Frances basketball player Tevon Saddler and more.)

Who do you think should receive the annual WNST honor? We’ll make the announcement Tuesday afternoon.

-G

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Ravens now look to future after not being good enough in 2013

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Ravens now look to future after not being good enough in 2013

Posted on 29 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Head coach John Harbaugh said it all in the aftermath of a 34-17 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday that resulted in the Ravens missing the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Despite reaching the pinnacle of the NFL last February in winning their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, the Ravens simply weren’t good enough a year later.

“We’re not ever going to be content with not making the playoffs,” Harbaugh said. “That’s just not something that’s going to be OK with any of us.”

Harbaugh is right, and it’s the Ravens’ vast success over the last five years that’s cultivated such an appropriate mindset. It’s easy and fair to be disappointed, but the Ravens gave this city a terrific run that included five straight playoff appearances, three AFC Championship appearances, and a Super Bowl title. History has proven over and over that you can’t be great every year and no run of success will last forever.

General manager Ozzie Newsome, Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco, and others have built a great deal of equity for fans to remain confident that the Ravens will be back in 2014 and beyond, but this winter brings a critical offseason with many issues to address. A proven track record is invaluable, but the NFL is a results-driven endeavor and Baltimore didn’t meet its own high standards laid out in recent years.

Season-long issues once again reared their head Sunday as a poor offense doomed the Ravens in Cincinnati. An overwhelmed offensive line was unable to handle the Bengals’ pressure, the running game was a non-factor, wide receivers were unable to gain separation, and a hobbled Flacco made poor decisions and couldn’t connect on deep balls throughout the day.

Defensively, the Ravens were able to force four turnovers but also allowed nearly 400 yards of offense and 27 points — the Bengals’ final touchdown came on an interception returned for a touchdown. The Baltimore defense was an above-average unit this season but gave up big plays and long drives at critical junctures, failing to be the game-changing unit Newsome envisioned when he allocated most of his available cap space to upgrading that side of the ball this past offseason.

So, what do the Ravens need to change, improve, and address this winter?

The heavy lifting will be done by Newsome, who didn’t have a good offseason this past winter in trading away veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin and failing to improve the offense around Flacco. The injury to tight end Dennis Pitta couldn’t be predicted, but the failure to address the receiver position in the wake of Boldin’s departure was a mistake. Philosophically, the Ravens turned away from what won them a Super Bowl last February in sacrificing offense for defense and the former suffered dramatically because of it.

Newsome will also be dealing with a tight salary cap that includes a projected $70.9 million in space devoted to just six players: defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($16 million), Flacco ($14.8 million), linebacker Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million), cornerback Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million), running back Ray Rice ($8.75 million), and right guard Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million). Barring any restructuring of the other contracts, only the release of Suggs would provide substantial cap relief as he’s scheduled to receive a $7.8 million base salary in the final year of his current deal.

That could spell the end of Suggs’ 11-year run in Baltimore unless Newsome and the Ravens try to work out a short-term extension that gives the veteran some upfront money and a lower cap figure for 2014. Suggs finished the year with 10 sacks but collected only one in his final eight games and made very little impact down the stretch.

The Ravens must address an offensive line that includes two free-agent tackles (Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher) and second-year center Gino Gradkowski, who struggled immensely in his first year as a starter. It’s unlikely that Oher will return, but Baltimore would surely like to retain Monroe after giving up two 2014 draft picks to acquire him from Jacksonville earlier in the season. They could then look to the draft to address the right tackle position or consider moving Kelechi Osemele back to the position where he played during most of his rookie year and look at guard prospects.

Improving the offensive line would go a long way in fixing a running game that was the worst in franchise history, though questions will remain about Rice’s future as a feature back.

Tight end Dennis Pitta will be an unrestricted free agent and gauging his value in the open market will be difficult after he missed most of the season with a serious hip injury, making the franchise tag a possibility to keep him in Baltimore for another season. Jacoby Jones will also hit the open market, and the Ravens must decide whether the value of his big-play ability as a returner is worth a new contract despite his shortcomings as a wideout.

The Ravens need more offensive play-makers as Torrey Smith wasn’t as productive in the second half of the season and Rice battled through injuries and ineffectiveness in the worst campaign of his career. Flacco’s underwhelming 2013 performance suggests he isn’t the rare quarterback who can dramatically elevate the play of lesser talent around him.

On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Arthur Jones, linebacker Daryl Smith, strong safety James Ihedigbo, and cornerback Corey Graham are all scheduled to become free agents. Each is a capable player that makes a defense better, but younger and cheaper alternatives will be preferred in most cases with much work to do on the other side of the ball and little available cap space.

The Ravens will need to take a look at a pass rush that was ineffective down the stretch as well as the safety position where defensive coordinator Dean Pees was essentially forced to play two strong safeties — Ihedigbo and rookie Matt Elam — in the starting secondary. However, Newsome and the Ravens can’t make the same mistake they did this past year in focusing too much on the defense while allowing the offense to suffer.

As for coaching, Harbaugh has his flaws when it comes to time management and in-game decisions that must be assessed internally, but his track record speaks for itself after missing the playoffs for the first time in his six-year run with the Ravens. The addition of run-game coordinator Juan Castillo did not work with the Ravens finishing last in the NFL in yards per carry, so it will be interesting to see if the former Eagles offensive line coach quietly parts ways with the organization this winter.

Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell deserves plenty of credit for his role in jump-starting the Ravens offense when he took over for Cam Cameron last December, but his calls this season too often lacked imagination in trying to overcome personnel deficiencies and the red-zone offense was another major deficiency. It’s worth noting that Caldwell had never been an offensive coordinator prior to his late-season promotion in 2012, so you wonder if the Ravens will — and should — at least take a look at the possibility of adding another strong offensive mind to the equation if not making a change at coordinator altogether.

It won’t be an easy offseason as Harbaugh, Flacco, and a number of others face the reality of not being good enough to play in January for the first time. It’s uncharted territory for the head coach and quarterback, and it will be interesting to see how the pair responds in overcoming that failure.

Sunday marked the official end of the Ravens’ reign as Super Bowl champions as well as a five-year run of success that may never be seen again in Baltimore. They battled all season, but the Ravens just weren’t good enough to overcome their many weaknesses and ran out of gas in their final two games against better opponents.

Nothing lasts forever, but a strong nucleus is in place to rebound in 2014 and beyond.

And Ravens fans can take satisfaction in that simple truth while coping with the unfamiliar disappointment of a quiet January and an uncertain offseason to follow.

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 29 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. (Tim Horsey filled in for Ryan this past week.)

The Ravens fell to the Cincinnati Bengals , meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Tim 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. AQ Shipley

4. Haloti Ngata

3. Marshal Yanda

2. Joe Flacco

1. Terrell Suggs (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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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

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