Tag Archive | "Matt Cassel"

Wacky finish…yes, referee aided…yes — but Ravens saved their season on Sunday

Tags: , , , , ,

Wacky finish…yes, referee aided…yes — but Ravens saved their season on Sunday

Posted on 08 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Championship teams figure out a way to win those games like the one the Ravens stole from the Vikings on Sunday in snowy Baltimore.

Bad teams like the Vikings – whose star player might have thrown in the towel in the 2nd quarter – produce all kinds of comical ways to lose in a 16-game season.  They’ll never author a laugher quite as side-splitting as the one they choked away on Sunday in a 29-26 loss to the Ravens.

The Ravens improved to 7-6 on the season and remained firmly in the AFC playoff race by pulling off a miracle — not once, but twice — at M&T Bank Stadium, getting great assistance from the referees along the way in one of those “better to be lucky than good” kind of outcomes.  The refs somehow upheld an early fumble by Minnesota that clearly wasn’t a fumble to anyone with eyes and then, on the game’s final drive, a pass interference penalty that was certainly ticky-tack went Baltimore’s way, paving a snowy path to the end zone with four ticks left on the clock.

It wasn’t just a miracle.  It was a season-saver, potentially.

If the Ravens somehow wiggle their way into post-season and then beat a team or two in January to earn a trip to the AFC title game, they’ll look back at the final minute of the game against the Vikings and say, “We were dead…the season was over…but we didn’t give up.  And something good happened.”

That something good was their $60 million quarterback, who refused to give in late in the 4th quarter when the Ravens looked all but cooked after a Minnesota TD put them up 12-7.

Flacco led the Ravens downfield late in the contest and connected with long-lost pal Dennis Pitta on a 1-yard TD throw that everyone ASSUMED would be good enough for the win.

But, the Vikings connected on a TD of their own, then Jacoby Jones ran the ensuing kick-off back while the Minnesota kicker played two-hand touch with him along the sidelines.

Over now, right?

Wrong.

Cordarrelle Patterson burned the entire Ravens defensive backfield with a catch and run that gave the visitors yet another lead.

Then, it was up to Flacco to earn his money.

And, he did.

Granted, the Ravens got a fairly soft pass interference call on an interception that would have sealed the game, but no one said the referees were flawless.

With four seconds left, the Super Bowl MVP found Marlon Brown in the end zone and the Ravens were winners.

Somehow.

They didn’t deserve it, honestly.

Anyone watching the game would admit they were vastly outplayed by the Vikings.

The Baltimore defense got shredded like cheese in the prep room at Chipotle in the final two minutes.

But, these games reveal a team’s character.

The Ravens have heart.  They showed that a few weeks back against Cincinnati and again on Thanksgiving night when the Steelers came to town and left with their feelings hurt.

The Vikings have nothing under the hood.  When you give up three touchdowns in the final two minutes of a football game, you’re a choker, plain and simple.

Speaking of “nothing under the hood”, I saw the replay about five times while I was in the press box and then again another ten times on the DVR when I got home from the game and I don’t see how Adrian Peterson got injured that seriously in the second quarter.  He looked a lot like an Italian soccer player rolling around on the ground and grabbing his leg.  I’m not saying he threw in the towel — but it might have been an underhanded toss, at the very least.  He looked disinterested all game, if you ask me.

It was lucky, no doubt.

Anyone who says it wasn’t isn’t really being honest with themselves.

But that Ravens win over the Vikings on Sunday showed why they’re a championship organization.

They’ll fight you until the end.

And if you can’t take their last punch, you’re losing.

 

Comments (9)

Ravens-Vikings: Five predictions for Sunday

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Vikings: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 07 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Concluding a critical three-game homestand while also currently holding the No. 6 seed in the AFC, the Ravens welcome the Minnesota Vikings to town for a game they know they should — and must — win.

Three games against projected playoff teams await to conclude the regular season, so the Ravens have no room for a letdown against 3-8-1 Minneesota in their penultimate game of the year at M&T Bank Stadium. Of course, a forecast of a wintry mix Sunday could create some interesting playing conditions for both teams.

Sunday will mark the 2013 season debut for Dennis Pitta, who was activated from injured reserve on Saturday afternoon. The Ravens hope the fourth-year tight end will be able to knock off enough rust against the Vikings to make him a difference-maker starting next week in a Monday night game at Detroit.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil is unlikely to play after being listed as doubtful with an ankle injury. However, the Vikings’ propensity for leaning on their running game already made it likely that second-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw would see increased playing time on Sunday.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens have the opportunity to move above the .500 mark for the first time since early October. The all-time series against the Vikings is tied 2-2, but Minnesota won the last meeting between these teams in 2009, a 33-31 final at the Metrodome.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens look for their first three-game winning streak of the season …

1. Pitta won’t see more than 20 snaps against the Vikings, but he’ll catch a red-zone touchdown to give the Ravens a much-needed lift. The fourth-year tight end will likely see a limited number of snaps as the Ravens wait to see how he responds to live contact, but a good week of practice allowed the organization to pull the trigger to activate him. The Ravens put together six scoring drives in last week’s win over Pittsburgh, but the offense is 1-for-8 inside the red zone over the last two games, a mark that must improve in the final quarter of the season. Pitta caught 10 touchdowns inside the red zone in 2011 and 2012 and will rein in his first of 2013 to boost the league’s 24th-ranked red-zone offense and build more optimism for the big three-game stretch to conclude the regular season.

2. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will become the second player this season to reach the century mark on the ground against Baltimore. Every opponent knows exactly what it needs to do against the Vikings, but stacking the box with eight defenders hasn’t prevented Peterson from leading the league with 1,208 rushing yards. The 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player averages 3.1 yards after contact per attempt, meaning gang tackling is a must against such a physical runner. The key for the Ravens will be to contain Peterson enough to prevent a big day and force them to pass the football more than they’d like, something Chicago couldn’t do in an overtime loss last week. Baltimore will do a better job than the Bears, but he’ll still hit triple digits against the Ravens, joining Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy as the only other back to accomplish that against the Ravens this season.

3. The Baltimore secondary will intercept quarterback Matt Cassel twice to set up the Ravens offense on a short field. The Vikings have had major issues at quarterback all year, so the absence of starter Christian Ponder won’t make a major difference with the Ravens actually being more familiar with Cassel. Likely using a single-high safety extensively with safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam taking turns playing closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, the Ravens will depend on Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb to be strong in coverage. Minnesota has some capable weapons in Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jerome Simpson at wide receiver, but that’s been true all season with the Vikings still ranking 25th in passing offense. Cassel will be forced to make some throws playing from behind, and the Ravens will be waiting to cash in on his mistakes.

4. Bernard Pierce will gain more rushing yards than Ray Rice in another timeshare of carries on Sunday. Coach John Harbaugh downplayed Pierce receiving nine carries to just 12 for Rice against the Steelers, but the more-physical Pierce averaged 3.9 yards per carry compared to 2.7 for Rice on Thanksgiving. With the possibility of snow collecting on the turf, it will be interesting to see how both teams fare, but Pierce simply looked more explosive against the Steelers and deserved an increased portion of the workload. Aside from a strong day against a run-challenged Chicago defense a few weeks ago, Rice hasn’t been himself all season while Pierce appears to be healthier now than he was early on. Rice will still get plenty of opportunities — and likely more carries — but Pierce will be more productive.

5. Wintry conditions could make things interesting, but the Ravens will dispose of an inferior team with a 24-13 win over Minnesota. It only takes one or two fluke plays in snowy weather to completely change the outcome of the game, but the Ravens have more experience and have played in plenty of poor weather this season, giving them the edge in that department. The Baltimore offense isn’t equipped to blow out anybody, but the Ravens have moved the ball better in recent weeks and quarterback Joe Flacco has arguably played his best football of the season over the last two games. Winning the turnover battle and improved efficiency in the red zone will add up to a relatively comfortable two-possession win for the Ravens as they’ll turn their sights toward a very difficult three-game stretch to try to secure a playoff spot in the AFC.

 

Comments (5)

Peterson first of big names Ravens must stop in final month

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Peterson first of big names Ravens must stop in final month

Posted on 04 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even if they’re fortunate enough to only play him once every four years, the Ravens are fully aware of the greatness of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

In fact, Peterson is only the first of several of the NFL’s best the Ravens must stop over the final month of the season to advance to the postseason for the sixth consecutive season under coach John Harbaugh.

Next week, the Ravens take on Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, the undisputed best wide receiver on the planet today. The week after, it’s one of the best quarterbacks in league history in Tom Brady. And if the Ravens can get past the first three while remaining upright in terms of their postseason fate, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green awaits in the regular-season finale.

No sweat, right?

But the Ravens can only focus on Peterson and Minnesota for now with all discussion of Sunday’s game centered around stopping the five-time Pro Bowl running back and 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player. Peterson leads the league with 1,208 rushing yards after collecting more than 2,000 on the ground last year coming off a torn ACL at the end of the 2011 season.

“What’s his nickname, ‘All Day?’” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “The man runs hard all day. It’s going to be interesting. It’s definitely a challenge for us, and we’re really looking forward to it. We’ll have to see what’s up on Sunday.”

Only a handful of defensive players remain on the roster from the last time the Ravens took on Peterson and the Vikings at the Metrodome in 2009, but the memory of the 6-foot-1, 217-yard back rushing for 143 yards on 22 carries was a difficult one for a defense that prides itself on stopping the run. Baltimore has allowed over 100 rushing yards in six of its 12 games, but only one of those contests resulted in an individual century-mark rusher as Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards in Week 6.

Aside from a four-week stretch earlier this season when the Ravens allowed 140 or more rushing yards three times — against Buffalo, the Packers, and Pittsburgh — the run defense has been strong, ranking sixth in the league by allowing 100.1 rushing yards per game. Dean Pees’ unit has allowed only 3.7 yards per carry, but the Ravens haven’t faced a back with Peterson’s incredibly rare combination of speed, size, toughness, and agility.

In addition to following gap assignments and simply staying home to protect against cutbacks, the common theme expressed by the Ravens Wednesday was the need to gang-tackle to neutralize Peterson’s ability to shed defenders. According to Pro Football Focus, he leads the league with 801 yards after contact, which is over 200 more than second-place Marshawn Lynch of Seattle.

“Everybody has to tackle. You have to have a whole defensive effort,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “Everybody needs to run to the ball. One guy doesn’t usually bring him down. He’s one of those backs that can change the game on any play.”

The numbers support that sentiment as Peterson is averaging 3.1 yards per attempt after contact this season; the Ravens’ struggling running game collects only 2.9 yards overall per carry.

As if his reputation for being a bruising running back that breaks tackles wasn’t enough, Peterson is also tied for second in the NFL with eight runs of 20 or more yards. Suggs recalled a 58-yard run Peterson collected in the Vikings’ 33-31 win in 2009 and how scary it can be to see him find the second and third levels of the defense.

“It’s not a good scene when you’re behind [No.] 28,” Suggs said. “You just hope you’ve got somebody fast enough on the team to catch the guy. But if you keep him in front of you, then you’ve got a good chance of containing him.”

Of course, even with Peterson, the Vikings are 3-8-1 and possess the league’s 25th-ranked passing game as the quarterbacking trio of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and Josh Freeman have been unable to generate any consistency through the air. The Vikings’ passing game ineptitude has allowed teams to put eight men in the box far too often, making it likely that safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam will take turns playing close to the line of scrimmage in an effort to slow the intimidating back.

Such defensive looks make it even more impressive that Peterson is leading the league in rushing for the second straight year with not much help behind him in terms of a passing game.

With Ponder not expected to start while recovering from a concussion, the Ravens will likely see Cassel under center, a signal-caller they harassed incessantly in a 2010 wild-card victory against Kansas City. Baltimore is saying all the right things about the Vikings’ talented trio of wide receivers in former Packer Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, but the numbers suggest that a huge day from Peterson is the Vikings’ only realistic hope for an upset on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

“He’s a threat every time he touches the ball, so we’ll have our hands full,” Harbaugh said. “But it just can’t be that. You can’t sleep on the rest of their talent. They’ve got a number of very good tight ends that can make plays. They’ve got a number of very talented receivers that can make plays. They are a fully complemented offense talent-wise.”

The key word is containment as Peterson has only been held under 75 rushing yards four times this season. The Vikings running back is too talented not to get his yards, but the Ravens must prevent him from going off like he did last week against the Bears for over 200 rushing yards in an overtime win.

The overall Week 14 competition is underwhelming for the Ravens as they begin the final quarter of the season on Sunday, but Peterson is just the first of several big names that lie in their path to the postseason.

It doesn’t get any easier after that with Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati looming after that.

“Isn’t that everybody’s motivation? You get the chance to go up against the best,” linebacker Jameel McClain said. “We get the opportunity this week to go up against one of the best running backs, and then the week after that, we get a chance [against] one of the better receivers in the league. It’s everybody’s motivation to come and bring their ‘A’ game. We wouldn’t be in this game if we weren’t trying to compete with the best.”

Comments (0)

The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Chiefs

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Chiefs

Posted on 09 October 2012 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’ 9-6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Dustin Colquitt 34 yard punt from Baltimore 43 (2nd quarter)

4. Cary Williams intercepts Matt Cassel at Baltimore 22 (3rd quarter)

3. Brady Quinn TD pass to Dwayne Bowe nullified by Dexter McCluster offensive pass interference (4th quarter)

2. Joe Flacco 16 yard run on 3rd & 15 (4th quarter)

1. Matt Cassel aborted. Ryan Lilja fumble recovered by Ed Reed, returned 13 yards to KC 12 (3rd quarter)

Comments (0)