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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Saturday

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Saturday

Posted on 09 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made a mostly-pleasant habit of traveling to Foxborough in January to take on the New England Patriots.

The latest chapter in this underrated rivalry will be written Saturday with Baltimore eyeing its fourth trip to the AFC Championship game under head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed Patriots are seeking their first championship in a decade with 37-year-old quarterback Tom Brady not getting any younger.

Joe Flacco will try to continue an impeccable postseason run in which he’s thrown 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions over his last nine playoff games. The seventh-year signal-caller has thrown 13 touchdowns without an interception in leading the Ravens to wins in their last five postseason contests.

Who will win on Saturday?

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It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Patriots meet for the fourth time ever in the playoffs — all have been in Foxborough — with Baltimore holding a 2-1 edge. New England leads the all-time regular-season series by a 7-1 margin despite the Ravens’ postseason success at Gillette Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to hand New England another loss in the postseason …

1. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will be chased by Will Hill most of the day while catching a touchdown and posting 100 receiving yards. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will throw the kitchen sink at New England in trying to cover the All-Pro tight end, but Hill will draw most of the responsibility with little success. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound safety did an admirable job in holding New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham to six catches for 47 yards in late November, but Gronkowski has played at a different level than anyone at his position this year and is more physical. Brady will go to him early and often to try to offset a Baltimore pass rush bearing down on him.

2. Three of the Ravens’ sacks against Brady will come from inside pressure. Four has been the magic number for the Ravens as they’ve collected at least four sacks in their last eight wins and are 0-4 when failing to reach the plateau over that stretch. Brady was sacked just 21 times this year, but his quick release was a bigger factor in that statistic than an offensive line that’s been shaky in pass protection this year. The Ravens will exploit rookie center Bryan Stork and guards Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell with A-gap blitzing as well as the presence of Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, and Timmy Jernigan in passing situations. Inside pressure will force Brady backward and give Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil time to reach him off the edges.

3. Steve Smith will have a quiet game, but Torrey Smith will catch a touchdown and fetch a key pass interference call. Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis is expected to match up against Steve Smith, which will spell trouble for the veteran wideout as Revis will match the 35-year-old’s physicality with press coverage. This will leave the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner against Torrey Smith in a matchup that could determine the outcome of the game. The Maryland product will be challenged by Browner’s physicality, but the former Seattle defensive back is prone to penalties, drawing 15 flags in nine games in the regular season. The speedy fourth-year wideout draws pass interference calls as well as anyone and will fetch a big one inside the red zone in addition to catching a first-half touchdown.

4. Brady will pass for more yards, but Flacco will throw more touchdown passes. The Patriots will try to establish the run with their extensive collection of running backs, but they won’t find much room against the league’s fourth-ranked run defense, meaning the ball will be in their franchise quarterback’s hands all day. Brady will make amends for his 56.8 passer rating in his three previous playoff games against the Ravens, but Baltimore will clamp down inside the red zone. In contrast, the Ravens will find enough running room to keep Justin Forsett involved, and Flacco will have another efficient game like he did in Pittsburgh with 220 yards and two touchdowns to put his team in position to grab a victory in the fourth quarter.

5. Justin Tucker will kick the game-winning field goal to give the Ravens a 24-23 win. New England was the better team this season, but Baltimore has history on its side and — more importantly – the right tools to match up with the Patriots. If the Ravens are able to pressure Brady inside and out, it will make up for potential problems in the secondary and allow the Baltimore offense to keep up as it deals with an improved Patriots defense. This game could go either way, but it’s getting to the point where you just can’t pick against Flacco in the playoffs until someone finally cools him off. The Ravens won’t be scared playing in familiar Foxborough, and they’ll find a way to win there once again in January.

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Snap Counts

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Baltimore Ravens – Snap Counts vs Steelers

Posted on 08 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Here is a break down of the snap count of every offensive and defensive player, in the Ravens’ win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Offense:

57 – LT James Hurst – he played the whole game, and struggled mightily vs James Harrison

57 – LG Kelechi Osemele – had some problems in pass protection, but was an absolute mauler in the run game

57 – C Jeremy Zuttah – got pushed back in to Joe Flacco time and time again. He has to do better against the Patriots

57 – RG John Urshel – graded out well overall. Had a better night pass blocking than run blocking

57 – RT Marshal Yanda – best offensive lineman in the league. Pass blocked well and was a road grader in the run game

57 – QB Joe Flacco – threw 2 TDs, managed the offense well, and didn’t turn the ball over. “January Joe.”

54 – TE Owen Daniels – struggled with pass blocking, but was a factor in the passing game; caught 4 for 70 yards

50 – RB Justin Forsett – didn’t have a great running night running the ball, lost a fumble, but capably blocked blitzing LBs from the A gaps

40 – WR Torrey Smith – caught an 11 yard TD pass from Flacco; missed a certain TD when he didn’t drag his foot in the end zone

39 – TE Crockett Gillmore – caught a 21 yard TD from Flacco; blocked whistle to whistle

35 – WR Steve Smith – made a couple of tough catches in traffic; caught 5 for 101 yards

25 – WR Kamar Aiken – caught just 1 pass for 4 yards

20 – FB Kyle Juszczyk – caught 2 for 16 yards

13 – WR Marlon Brown – caught 1 for 9 yards

5 – WR Jacoby Jones – caught 1 for 9 yards

4 – RB Bernard Pierce – just 1 rushing attempt but it was good for a 5 yard TD

Defense:

76 – ILB Daryl Smith – save for the TD pass given up to Antonio Brown, he was stout vs the pass as well as the run

75 – CB Lardarius Webb – he was targeted a lot by Roethlisberger, and had an ok game overall

74 – ILB CJ Mosley – was solid vs the run but struggled in pass coverage

72 – FS Will Hill – was solid vs the run and even better vs the pass; defended well all night long

66 – CB  Rashaan Melvin – did a really good job in pass coverage, came up in run support

56 – OLB Terrell Suggs – stopped the run, pressured the QB, didn’t get a sack, but got a sick interception

52 – DT Haloti Ngata – looked fresh all game long, collapsed the pocket and applied pressure up the middle, got one sack

49 – SS – Darian Stewart – played one of his best games all season; got the game ending pick

47 – OLB Elvis Dumervil – applied great pressure from the edge consistently; ended up with 2 sacks

46 – OLB Pernell McPhee – had an outstanding game overall; was a force vs the run, and hit the QB a few times

39 – OLB Courtney Upshaw – did a great job setting the edge as usual; defended the pass well

31 – NT Brandon Williams – no one is going to move him backwards; applied consistent pressure through the A gaps; 1 sack

31 – DE Chris Canty – stopped the run and pressured the QB on numerous occassions

31 – CB Anthony Levine – the converted safety struggled in pass coverage; it was clear Roethlisberger was looking for him

29 – FS Jeromy Miles – solid game overall, but had a couple of lapses in pass coverage

29 – CB Matt Elam – yes, the SS played corner most of the night, and played the position well overall; was strong in pass coverage

13 – DE DeAngelo Tyson – was brought in on obvious passing downs; did not have a good night, did not apply pressure

11 – DE Lawrence Guy – did a solid job defending the run in his limited action on the field

6 – CB Antone Cason – came is when Melvin was shaken up; let up a catch during Melvin’s short absence

2 – ILB Albert McClellan – was only in for two plays; obviously not enough field time to analyze performance

1- SS Brynden Trawick – same as McClellan

Special Team notes – Justin Tucker was lights out as usual. The 52 yarder was particularly special, as you don’t see too many successful field goals at Heinz Field over 50 yards. Sam Koch had a good night – save for the blocked punt which was due to blocking assignment breakdowns. He was also directionally kicking it away from Antonio Brown, and that factored in as well. Jacoby Jones did not have a good night. He lost his footing and slipped during his first kick off return, and seemed tentative after that. Michael Campanaro had a couple of fair catches on punt returns. Hope his hamstring has healed to the point where he could be a factor vs the Patriots

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Ravens kicker Tucker named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month

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Ravens kicker Tucker named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker continued a strong 2014 season by being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November.

The third-year kicker connected on all seven of his field goal attempts, including a 55-yard try in the Monday night win over New Orleans on Nov. 24. Tucker kicked four field goals in last Sunday’s loss to San Diego.

The 2013 Pro Bowl selection is 25-for-28 on the season with his only misses coming from 55 or more yards away. He currently ranks as the NFL’s all-time most accurate kicker (100 attempts minimum) with a 91.2 percent success rate and has connected on 59 of his last 60 attempts from under 55 yards.

The 25-year-old was also named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after making the game-winning field goal in Cleveland in Week 3.

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Tucker highest rated Ravens in EA Sports’ Madden 15

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Tucker highest rated Ravens in EA Sports’ Madden 15

Posted on 04 August 2014 by WNST Staff

EA Sports unveiled the player ratings for their upcoming “Madden 15″ release Monday. Thanks to BaltimoreRavens.com for compiling the ratings in an easy to digest photo…


The highest overall rated Raven is kicker Justin Tucker (93), with guard Marshal Yanda and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata just behind (92 each). The only other players rated in the 90′s are cornerback Lardarius Webb and linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, who all received ratings of 90.

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Ravens looking to extend contract of Pro Bowl kicker Tucker

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Ravens looking to extend contract of Pro Bowl kicker Tucker

Posted on 27 June 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made no secrets about their desire to sign the likes of Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith, and Jimmy Smith to long-term contracts, but Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker has been added to that list.

In an interview with the team’s official website, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens would like to sign the third-year kicker to a new deal as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. An undrafted free agent from the University of Texas, Tucker signed a three-year, $1.44 million contract in 2012 and is scheduled to become a restricted free agent after the season.

Tucker was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2013 after going 30-for-33 on field goal attempts, including a 6-for-6 effort and a franchise record 61-yard field goal to win the Week 15 game against the Detroit Lions. He also made 33 consecutive field goals at one point during the season, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.

Newsome confirmed the Ravens are also trying to extend two fourth-year players, cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith, who have both expressed a desire to remain with the team that drafted them in 2011.

“We’re trying to get these done,” Newsome said, “but we haven’t yet.”

Newsome also reiterated a desire to sign Ngata to an extension as he is signed through the 2015 season but carries a $16 million salary cap figure in each of the final two years of his deal, leaving many to ponder his future beyond this year.

The Ravens were able to sign fellow veteran Terrell Suggs earlier in the offseason to a four-year extension that runs through the 2018 season, lowering his 2014 cap number from $12.4 million to $7.8 million in the process.

“We wanted two things from these contracts,” Newsome told the team’s official website. “The first is to create some cap room and the other is to try and make sure these two players remained Ravens forever. We got ‘Sizzle’ done, and we’re still hopeful with Haloti.”

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Tucker only Raven named to PFWA All-NFL Team

Posted on 13 January 2014 by WNST Staff

THREE PLAYERS FROM KANSAS CITY AND FIVE REPEAT SELECTIONS LEAD 2013 PRO FOOTBALL WRITERS OF AMERICA ALL-NFL TEAM; ALL-AFC AND ALL-NFC TEAMS ALSO ANNOUNCED

The Kansas City Chiefs placed a league-high three players – running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and punt returner Dexter McCluster – on the 2013 All-NFL team, chosen in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).

Five players repeated from the PFWA’s 2012 All-NFL team: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, and two players from the Seattle Seahawks, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. Johnson is a member of the PFWA’s All-NFL team for the third consecutive season, the longest current streak.

Manning was voted All-NFL by the PFWA for the seventh time in his career and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas earned his fourth career All-NFL honor. A total of 17 players, including Minnesota Vikings rookie kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson, were first-time All-NFL honorees.

Nine clubs – the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Seattle and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – each had two players on the All-NFL team. In all, 16 clubs are represented among the 27 players honored.

The PFWA also announced the All-AFC and All-NFC teams. The Chiefs led all AFC teams with seven All-AFC selections, while the Browns had five All-AFC honorees. The Seahawks led all NFC clubs with four All-NFC selections, while the Panthers, Eagles and San Francisco 49ers each had three All-NFC honorees.

2013 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM
Offense
QB – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
RB – Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs; LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
WR – Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns ; Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
TE – Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
C – Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers
G – Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles; Louis Vasquez, Denver Broncos
T – Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers; Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

Defense

DE – Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams; J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
DT – Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
OLB – Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts
MLB – Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
CB – Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks; Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
S – Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs; Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

Special Teams

PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
P – Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
PR – Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals

2013 PFWA ALL-AFC TEAM
Offense
QB – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
RB – Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs; Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
WR – Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers; Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
TE – Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
C – Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns
G – Logan Mankins, New England Patriots; Louis Vasquez, Denver Broncos
T – Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs; Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

Defense

DE – Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins; J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
DT – Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans; Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs
OLB – Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs; Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts
MLB – Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals
CB – Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins; Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
S – Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs; Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers

Special Teams

PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
P – Brandon Fields, Miami Dolphins
KR – Quintin Demps, Kansas City Chiefs
PR – Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Matthew Slater, New England Patriots

2013 PFWA ALL-NFC TEAM
Offense
QB – Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
RB – Matt Forte, Chicago Bears; LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
WR – Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions; Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
TE – Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
C – Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers
G – Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles; Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers
T – Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles; Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers

Defense

DE – Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers; Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
DT – Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
OLB – Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco 49ers; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MLB – Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
CB – Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals; Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
S – Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks; Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers

Special Teams

PK – Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks
P – Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams
KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
PR – Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
ST – Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals

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Tucker, three other Ravens selected to this year’s Pro Bowl

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Tucker, three other Ravens selected to this year’s Pro Bowl

Posted on 27 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Even if the Ravens’ playoff fate won’t be decided until Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, they will be represented by four players at this year’s Pro Bowl.

Kicker Justin Tucker, linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and right guard Marshal Yanda were all chosen for this year’s game with Tucker being the only first-time selection of the group. Suggs becomes a six-time selection while his defensive teammate Ngata receives a Pro Bowl honor for the fifth straight season. Yanda earns his third straight Pro Bowl nod to help cement his status as one of the better right guards in the NFL over the last few seasons.

Fullback Vonta Leach was deemed a first alternate while return specialist Jacoby Jones was named a third alternate after both were selected as Pro Bowl players last season.

Tucker earns his first trip to the Pro Bowl after a phenomenal sophomore season in which he was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player by the local media. The University of Texas product has gone 35-for-38 on field goal attempts this season, which included a 6-for-6 effort and a franchise-record 61-yarder to beat the Detroit Lions in the final minute in Week 15.

His 35 field goals entering Week 17 have tied Ravens Ring of Honor member Matt Stover for the franchise’s single-season record. He was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November and has twice taken away AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors this season.

“What an incredible honor it is to be recognized like this by the players, coaches and fans of the NFL,” Tucker said in a team statement. “I am truly blessed to represent such a world-class organization, the Baltimore Ravens, and all of our fans who make up ‘Ravens Nation.’ I will forever be thankful to the Ravens for giving me a chance to come in and compete for a job after going undrafted last year.”

Suggs, Ngata, and Yanda haven’t had banner 2013 seasons compared to their high standard set over the years, but reputation is often a major factor with the voting comprised of coaches, players, and fans from around the league.

Collecting nine sacks in the first eight games of the 2013 season, Suggs looked like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate at the midway point, but a six-game sack drought slowed his pace considerably. His 10 sacks this season gave him double digits in that category for the fifth time in his 11-year career while he has continued to play strong against the run.

“This is awesome, and I have to thank God for blessing me again,” Suggs said. “I also have to thank the most amazing fans in the world for voting. I can’t thank them enough. I also want thank coach Harbaugh and my teammates for the constant push, and I must give a special credit to [linebackers coach Ted] Monachino for the outstanding coaching. But most of all, I have to thank my brother, Haloti Ngata, for being a great teammate and an even better friend.”

After being shifted to nose tackle this season, Ngata has collected 45 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks while anchoring the middle of a Baltimore defensive line that ranks ninth in the NFL against the run.

Ngata hasn’t shown the same dominance in recent years that he did earlier in his career, but he’s remained healthier this season than he had in the past two years when he still received Pro Bowl honors.

“I’ve been blessed with so much, and I’m very thankful to be recognized as one of the NFL’s top players,” Ngata said. “I’m also thankful for my teammates and coaches who have helped me get there.”

Yanda missed spring organized team activities and most of training camp while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but the 2007 third-round pick still received Pro Bowl recognition. His play hasn’t been as consistent as it was in the 2011 and 2012 seasons when he established himself as one of the best right guards in the league, but Yanda was one of the only dependable members of an offensive line that’s struggled with the running game averaging a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry.

Few players on the 8-7 Ravens deserved serious Pro Bowl consideration, but inside linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith were two names often mentioned as deserving of recognition. However, neither was named as much as an alternate.

This marks the eighth consecutive year that four Ravens players have been selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

The Pro Bowl will follow a new format this year in which the teams will not be divided by conference. Players will be entered into a pool and teams will be chosen by captains and Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice during the first Pro Bowl draft held on Jan. 22.

In fact, the change may have helped Tucker receive his Pro Bowl selection as Denver’s Matt Prater was also chosen, meaning the game will have two AFC kickers. Prater is 23-for-24 on field goal tries and made an NFL-record 64-yard field goal this year.

The 2014 Pro Bowl will be played in Honolulu on Jan. 26.

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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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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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