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Morning After: Undefeated Ravens now will play role of favorite in AFC

Posted on 21 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s hard to write these old-man “analysis” columns for the “morning newspaper” after I’ve been talking and Twittering and Facebooking and basically “analyzing” the game from every perspective imaginable literally every moment of the game.

(If you’re not following us on your mobile device during the game on Sunday, you’re missing the best “team” analysis of the games as the situations happen. God, I love the internet in 2009!)

But before I spend all day Monday flying back from San Diego and inevitably talking to more Ravens fans about the game on the airplane, I suppose I must sum it all by saying this: Sunday’s win has solidified Baltimore’s role as a leader of the AFC pack for a Super Bowl championship this year.

I haven’t looked, but I guarantee you that the Ravens will be No. 1 on many “power ranking” or “Fine Fifteens” all across the internet today and all week.

Sure, the Ravens 31-26 win at Qualcomm Stadium exposed some of the deficiencies of the team in the secondary, but it also showed the resiliency of the unit and their ability to make a play 3,000 miles from home with the game on the line and the home crowd on their edge of their seats anticipating a hocus-pocus victory.

Ray Lewis, with a play he even called the greatest of his career, made sure that the Ravens were not making the long flight home as losers.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldY2pInMyR4[/youtube]

It wasn’t a pretty effort on Sunday in San Diego, but beating division leaders on the road never is scored on beauty. It’s scored on guts, and the Ravens have that in abundance as their play the past two weeks has illustrated. The Ravens of 2009 have a lot of fourth quarter fight in them and they’ll need in throughout the long season.

It’s still quite early in the season but the Ravens have fended off two attacks and you’d like to think that with Cleveland en route to M&T Bank Stadium this weekend, the team should be 3-0 heading to New England for another showdown with an AFC favorite on the road where Lewis, Flacco and company will be tested under the glare of the national spotlight.

It’s impossible to discuss Sunday’s game in San Diego without pointing how bad the secondary looked in the victory. Prior to his concussion, Fabian Washington struggled mightily and Dominique Foxworth might’ve looked even worse. The big play was the bane of John Harbaugh’s existence yesterday as Philip Rivers threw for 436 yards with a handful of big plays and breakdowns that I don’t need to itemize here. The first touchdown when Darren Sproles was running toward Arizona was such a colossal meltdown that I couldn’t even figure out who to blame!

“We need to get better,” was Harbaugh’s postgame message and it will certainly be heard in the meeting room of Greg Mattison all week in preparation for the Browns.

You can’t give up that kind of yardage in big chunks and continue to win in the NFL.

But for now, we’ll consider yesterday’s many faux paus and defensive breakdowns a blip on the radar and hope that the pass rush will also be more effective vs. some of the lesser lights of the league. Brady Quinn should not be throwing the ball around like a sandlot game this week. At least we hope…

And despite Flacco’s late interception across the middle of the field deep into enemy territory yesterday, it hasn’t taken me long to become almost spoiled by his confidence, leadership and ability to be very consistent in the passing attack.

I’m confident that Flacco will continue to emerge as the reason the Ravens win games, not the guy who throws interceptions late on the road to open the door for the home team.

The running game will continue to be a weapon as Willis McGahee emerged yesterday as a factor and sometimes it seems like we just forget he’s even on the team. His 79 hard-earned yards yesterday were a huge factor in the win but Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain will be heard from plenty over the next 14 weeks.

It wasn’t a pretty victory – the stat sheet here will bear that out – but it was a major morale booster in a lot of ways and has certainly awakened the fans, the organization and the players to just where Ray Lewis stands in 2009 – 15 years into a Hall of Fame career.

With the game on the line, with enemy fans foaming at the mouth for a victory and with people always questioning how much tread is left on No. 52’s tires, he manages a way to shut us all up – again!

I walked from one end of the tiny, cramped locker room at Jack Murphy Stadium yesterday to the other and I couldn’t find a veteran player who said he’d ever seen a bigger play at more crucial moment of a football game than Lewis’ gap-shooting assault on Darren Sproles on fourth down with the game on the line.

Here’s what Trevor Pryce thought:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW5RTKCOzSQ&feature=channel_page[/youtube]

Sure, the secondary needs work. Sure, it’s only Week 2 and talk of being undefeated is premature.

But the Ravens are in first place and they’ve claimed a road victory over a team that is almost certainly headed for a division title in the AFC West.

The Ravens are Super Bowl contenders. The national media will throw the spotlight on the local boys this week.

Get ready for a wild ride this season.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q76uAYhdpA&feature=channel_page[/youtube]

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‘Twas The Night before the Ravens opener…

Posted on 12 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It kinda reminds me of Christmas Eve with anticipation. We’ve been waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and finally, football season is really here in Baltimore.

Wash away those ghosts of Troy Polamalu – the ones from the AFC Championship Game in January not the one from Thursday night – and let us begin a season anew.

First up, it’s the woeful Kansas City Chiefs. The general vibe around town all week has been one of supreme confidence. Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed began their Wednesday press conference with dancing. John Harbaugh has sounded confident. Joe Flacco seems like a veteran all of a sudden.

I’ve quizzed several Kansas City media members and I had a chance to watch parts of two of their preseason games (both without Matt Cassel). No one is brimming with confidence in the land of the red Chiefs and no one really expects them to win tomorrow.

The Vegas line started at 10 ½ and has now moved to 13 points. Even if Matt Cassel plays on Sunday – and that seems to be a sure bet given their backup options with Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle – the Chiefs are a team of nobodys and “who is thats” coming in to serve the purple patrons an Opening Day patsy.

The Ravens should win on Sunday. There should be no excuses.

The team has looked brilliant in virtually every facet of first-team play through four preseason games. They’ve almost made it look too easy, even without Terrell Suggs for long stretches.

Confidence is high. Tailgates are sizzling with Roma Sausage and cold beer. Even the weather looks to be strong – forecast is 78 degrees and zero chance of precipitation.

So, just how will the 2009 season go for the Ravens?

The fans are abuzz with talk of depth at the wide receiver position. The offensive line is trying to find some depth to open up holes for a running back-by-committee arrangement with Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice, who will probably be the leading rusher if they all stay healthy. And the health and productivity of Todd Heap is certainly a question mark.

But, offensively, it feels like Flacco will be asked to do more and looks more than capable of stepping up to that challenge.

Defensively, the eyes will always be on Ray Lewis, who is fighting Father Time with every season. Consider that he’s now survived two years longer than Jon Ogden and the likes of Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, Chris McAlister, Duane Starks – who all entered the league after No. 52 – all seems to be done in the NFL. Lewis was considered a surefire Hall of Famer five years ago is now continuing to pile on his own legacy.

What kind of a year will it be for Lewis?

And Ed Reed, who has had neck issues and certainly doesn’t appear set for a long, long career given his style of play and reckless abandon and penchant for physical contact?

Terrell Suggs appeared injured during most of camp but quieted all questions for me in the Atlanta game, when he looked dominant and healthy.

The secondary will have a fresh look with Dominique Foxworth and Fabian Washington mixing it up with Frank Walker, who has to earn a little more confidence from the purple crowd and probably will vs. Kansas City.

The defensive line appears to be the strength of the defense, led by Haloti Ngata who had a mysterious injury appear earlier this week.

Questions and more questions. We’ll have 16 weeks of this marathon.

The answers begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Bring on the season. Bring on the Chiefs. Bring on the roadtrips!

My prediction: Ravens go 12-4 and win the Super Bowl.

Baltimore 31, Kansas City 13

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Live from Brawl-minster: Ravens get chippy in heat, Harbs cancels p.m. practice

Posted on 08 August 2009 by Luke Jones

1:47 p.m. — As fans continue to wonder about the status of Terrell Suggs and Samari Rolle, Harbaugh is not providing much clarity on either player.

“No, nothing really new on that.  They’re both just rehabbing, and that’s where we’re at.”

Suggs injured his heel on Sunday, and Rolle is the only player remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

1:41 p.m. — Harbaugh did not seem upset nor surprised with the morning practice skirmish.  He simply reiterated his preference for the battles in between the whistles.

“We’ve had a lot of scuffles before the whistle gets blown, I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said.  “Those are the scuffles we’re most interested in.  The other ones are irrelevant.  We don’t mind them.  We don’t want them.  We don’t not want them.  We don’t care about them.  The ones before the whistle gets blown—those are the ones that matter.  Our guys have had plenty of those.”

Here are Harbaugh’s comments on the Michael Oher calf situation:

“It doesn’t look serious.  He pinched it, as Bill [Tessendorf] put [the injury report] in there.  It may be a little bit of a calf sprain.  It will be a rehab issue for a little while.”

12:32 p.m. — A few reminders if you’re planning on heading out to Westminster in the next few days.

This afternoon’s practice has been cancelled.  The next practice will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 p.m.  It is open to the public.

Monday morning’s practice is CLOSED to the general public.  The team will have an open practice at 2:45 p.m.

Monday morning’s practice will be open to the media, so WNST.net will have all of the Ravens updates you want and need.

12:30 p.m. — Brendon Ayanbadejo was working out on the other field during practice.  He’s still recovering from a sprained toe.

Suggs walked out to the field for the final moments of practice, wearing sneakers and still limping slightly.

12:27 p.m. — We saw our daily long touchdown to Justin Harper this morning, as Troy Smith threw a deep one to the second-year receiver.  Harper beat Evan Oglesby on the play.

While Harbaugh is pleased with Harper’s ability to stretch the field, he still wants more consistency out of the 6-3 receiver.  He wants Harper to make the tough catches in traffic, an area in which he’s struggled.

12:24 p.m. — Ray Rice continues to show great moves in the open field.  This morning, Rice caught a pass in the flat and put a tremendous move on Jason Phillips, leaving the rookie in the dust.  Rice continues to get the majority of the first-team reps at running back, but McGahee is still right behind him.

McGahee was seen with an ice pack on his left knee yesterday morning, but he was back out there today with no apparent problems.

12:21 p.m. — Tight end L.J. Smith appears to be finding his way in the Ravens’ offense.  He caught several passes today and seems to be regaining his speed after tweaking a hamstring at the beginning of training camp.

If healthy, Heap and Smith have the potential to be a pretty formidable duo at tight end, a major help to Flacco with the uncertainty at the wide receiver position.

12:16 p.m. — As previously reported, it was an ugly day offensively.  Dropped passes and interceptions were the story of the morning before the big fight.  In addition to Walker, Chris Carr also picked off Flacco.

Despite the rough morning, Flacco did have some nice throws including a nice 17-yard out pattern to Marcus Smith (who was playing Mason’s position with the starting offense) and a long, beautiful touchdown to Smith later in practice.  Considering Smith has had a quiet starting to training camp, it was good for him to make some plays this morning.

12:14 p.m. — Cornerback Frank Walker had another good day, breaking up several passes and picking off Joe Flacco during 11-on-11 drills.  Walker is the most physical corner on the roster and has the ability to play bump-and-run coverage, unlike most of the Ravens’ cover corners.

12:09 p.m. — It was an “over 30″ day off for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, and Matt Birk.

Harbaugh gave a few injury updates after practice.  Oniel Cousins sustained a sprained left ankle, but the head coach said he should return soon.  Terrell Suggs (heel) and Samari Rolle (shoulder/neck) continue to rehab their respective injuries, but Harbaugh did not update when the two will return.

Oher suffered a right calf strain or “pinch” as Harbaugh described it.  The coach did not seem concerned about the injury, but Oher did not return to practice.

12:03 p.m. — It was a difficult day for Gano, but his morning ended in triumph.  After missing kicks from 35, 48, and 53 yards, Gano had a 36-yard attempt with the afternoon off riding on it.  The rookie kicker hit it, and Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice to reward his team for all of its hard work.

Gano’s leg was tired today, according to Harbaugh.  He came up short from 53 yards, a distance he had easily been making throughout training camp.

Gano did make field goals from 43, 47, and 51 in addition to his 36-yarder at the end of practice.

10:49 a.m. — John Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice today in his post-practice comments. More to come…

10:38 a.m. — Well, we had our first skirmish/melee of training camp in the heat this morning as the offense and defense knocked heads in a team-wide shove-around (apparently started by Paul Kruger and Joe Reitz) with various players involved, including Chris Chester, Jameel McClain & Jared Gaither. It’s hard to say what caused it, but the defense was shoving the offense around pretty good for the second day in a row.

Other morning notes: Michael Oher had a right calf cramp and left practice early. In general, the offense was sloppy and unproductive through much of the morning practice, in front of the usual large weekend crowd here in Westminster. Lots of dropped passes and interceptions.

Perhaps the fight helped matters. After the mini-brawl, the offense looked more focused and was more productive.

Tavares Gooden got limited reps early but didn’t participate later in practice. Jared Gaither was back and took plenty of live reps.

Graham Gano struggled early in the practice (plenty were talking about Matt Stover) but he hit a 36-yarder to end the morning session.

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So lemme guess: you skipped the Pro Bowl again?

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So lemme guess: you skipped the Pro Bowl again?

Posted on 09 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I spent the afternoon yesterday at Sylvia’s house in Parkville watching the Pro Bowl, eating chicken wings and pizza and drinking Miller Lite. Honestly, I’m glad we did make a date to watch the game with her many Ravens buddies and waiting for a random big play from a guy in a purple helmet or to get a look at the many Ravens staffers donning Don Ho-style red Hawaiian flowered print shirts. The entire coaching staff from John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron right on down looked like Peter Schmuck at Camden Yards on a summer night.

But the Pro Bowl sucks even when you’re with people you like in a really cool basement (Sylvia won our “Miller Lite Purple Palace” contest last month). We all know that. Vanilla defenses. Lots of “no shows,” including our own Ed Reed. Even the quarterbacks stunk yesterday, with everyone from Peyton Manning to Kerry Collins to Drew Brees to Kurt Warner throwing these wobbling dying duck passes all over the Honolulu turf. Brendon Ayanbejdo played more base defense in the Pro Bowl yesterday than he did during the entire NFL season. LeRon McClain missed at one shot at the endzone and got in on his second chance. Terrell Suggs and Ray Ray looked regal in their red jerseys making a few random tackles and missing others.

And there’s no doubt about it: NO ONE wants to get hurt. Everytime Ray Lewis went toward the ball we were all holding our breath and he STILL might wind up on the Steelers in six weeks for all we know? Or, this might’ve been the final time he strapped on a purple chinstrap. That thought definitely crossed my mind.

Next year, the Pro Bowl will move back to the mainland for the first time in more than a generation, and will be played the week before the Super Bowl in Miami, which will probably allow me to attend. But what’s to see when you actually watch the game?

Guys kinda going through the motions. The NFL marketing its various “Pro Bowl official game jerseys.” And all of the stars in one place at one time in a game that should probably be changed to a flag football game. Even the announcers kinda make fun of how the game is an “exhibition” that borders on a joke as far as a competition goes.

It was a great chance to honor our “Miller Lite Purple Palace” winner and talk football. All of Sylvia’s friends were buzzed up about all the same stuff all of the WNST listeners have on their minds.
Sylvia's Purple Crew

What’s going to happen with Ray Lewis?

Are the Terps going to make the tournament?

The Orioles are going to suck again.

But there’s something poignant and “final” about seeing the last snap of the football season and knowing we have to wait until August for the next round of crappy football that doesn’t matter and until after Labor Day for the first meaningful games again.

Today, the offseason begins in the NFL. The combine is next weekend in Indianapolis. The owners meetings happen in late March. The 2009 schedule will be released in early April. And then cometh the draft, which is one of my favorite weekends and events of the year.

Hang in there. We’ll try to make sense of the offseason and the Terps and Gary Williams and of course, we’ll be following the Orioles with the only objective coverage in the marketplace.

I’ll chat with you more at 2 p.m. today with a major announcement.
Nestor and Sylvia

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WNST sets a “pre-game” pep rally & party for South Florida on Saturday

Posted on 01 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Hopefully by now you’ve heard about our infamous Super Bowl party at Whiskey’s Joe oh those many years ago before Super Bowl XXXV, so it’s with great pleasure that we announce the official WNST “Pre-Game Purple Pep Rally” in South Florida. We will be hanging on Saturday from 4:30 through the evening to watch the two NFL games at Joe’s distant cousin — ALABAMA JOE’S in Lake Worth, Fla. — on Lantana Road. It’s between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale just north of Boca Raton. It’s less than a mile from I-95.

There are so many connections here that we almost HAD to have a little South Florida celebration. The place is a bit of a Shrine to the Crimson Tide, but its slogan is: “If sports were a religion…this place would be a church!” Now, how can you not want to hang at a place like that, right? It’s has some other Baltimore connections as well as the “Tide” lineage of Ozzie Newsome, Phil Savage, Le’Ron McClain, etc. all the way down the line.

Directions to Alabama Joe’s are here. There’s also a menu full of really good-looking food on the site.

We’ll be announcing drink specials plus extra goodies (including a charity purple shooter!) here at WNST.net over the next 48 hours but many, many folks have emailed me about throwing an event in South Florida and this one made perfect sense. On game day, I’m sure we’ll just be roaming the lots in our sandals looking for free beer.

We’ll be shooting cool wnsTV videos to send home to the friends as well.

If you are staying in South Beach or Hollywood, we’d love to have you make the 45-minute-ish drive north on Saturday afternoon. If you’re already in the West Palm-Jupiter-Vero Beach area, it’s a pretty short drive as well. It’s as “centrally” located as a South Florida place can be.

I also know that Bobby Nyk is throwing a party on beach earlier in the day at Toucan’s in Hollywood. (He’s in Chile…I’m not kidding!) So I don’t have all of the details but I will get those out as well. It’s a small, cool little beach bar and here’s some video from the last Miami trip you can see it by clicking here.

All the relative links with directions and stuff is on the Alabama Joe’s official site here.

More to come…but if you’re going to be in South Florida or have a loved one or friend down there, tell ‘em to drop by anytime after 4:30…

One more to see on that road – and chances are my wife and I will be rolling in there as well is Riggins Crab House on the same road. This is a “Maryland Crab House” in South Florida. Sounds like I might need to order a dozen on Saturday afternoon before hitting Alabama Joe’s for the barbeque and shrimp and grits!

Riggins is an interesting place because they ALWAYS have a billboard on the center field fence for the Orioles spring training games. I’ve been seeing that sign for 15 years and I’ve never been in the place. But I’m going to on Saturday! The website is awesome, a full video of the place! Good stuff…

Like I said…more to come…but we’ve got a pretty good joint to throw a South Florida purple party!

Please don’t drink and drive in South Florida. We want to keep everyone safe for the big game!

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Ravens Win is One Great Christmas Present

Posted on 21 December 2008 by Ed Frankovic

So I am up here for the weekend in the Great White North so I haven’t been able to do my usual calling around to my Ravens cohorts to chat about the HUGE win in Dallas last night but my Canadian friends up here, who are big NFL fans, think that the Ravens win last night was the biggest for the franchise since the Super Bowl win, and I have to agree.  What do you think?

To go into Texas Stadium on the last game in that building and smash the Cowboys in the mouth, and that is what the Ravens did, in a CRITICAL game for the purple and black should silence all critics of this football team. Last week I wrote that the Steelers loss really hurt and that our Ravens faced a tall order having to beat pretty much the pre-season Super Bowl favorites in their back yard with their season in the balance as well as ours (although the Cowboys got some big help today and still can make the playoffs if they win in Philly next week). I didn’t think the Ravens would win on Saturday but did blog that the Cowboys were beatable. I also wrote last week that I was proud of this team and this week obviously I am even prouder. Who expected 10-5 and one winnable game away from making the playoffs this year? Certainly not me. Clearly the players and coaches have all come together and learned to overcome adversity, primarily injuries, for the first time in several seasons for this organization. There is lots of credit to go around so to start naming players or coaches would be unfair because this has really been a TEAM effort and to see this football team REALLY pull together, arguably for the first time since 2000, is great. This is a special group with a mix of veterans who might feel that their Super Bowl window is closing due to father time and several young players who seem to have no fear and just want to go out and play with passion. This has been one fun season.

As for some analysis of Saturday’s game. I think the Ravens won the game in the first half with their defense. The only points the Cowboys scored in that half were a gift from the Ravens offense. After that early touchdown Tony Romo and the Dallas offense were totally frustrated by the Baltimore defense until very late in the game and the entire Ravens team fed off of the defense’s outstanding play and gained confidence that they could win the game as it progressed. Romo never really looked comfortable and it wasn’t until late in the game that he was able to start picking on a badly banged up and not real strong secondary. Credit also needs to go to our rookie QB, Joe Flacco, who made a bad decision holding onto the ball too long on his early fumble, but once again, the seemingly unflappable #5 shook that turnover off and played a very good game from that point on. Derek Mason also continues to amaze me at how he can continue playing with one arm. On his TD he ran his route with his left arm seemingly dangling from his body yet managed to break free and gather in the most crucial TD of the game that made it, 16-7, Ravens.

So how many of you thought that this game was going to play out like last Sunday’s Steerlers loss or the early Titans loss where the Ravens let a lead slip away late in the game? I know I could feel it coming once or twice but luckily the players did not let it happen again and we have to give credit to the Ravens offense for answering the bell and throwing a daggar into the hearts of the Cowboys seemingly every time Dalls tried to pull off a late comeback. I have been a big critic of Willis MacGahee this season but obviously he stepped up and made a huge play at a huge time when the Ravens needed it most. Let’s hope Willis can stay healthy and help this offense in the playoffs because Flacco, Mason, and Le’Ron McClain are going to need it.

After today’s play, it now looks like the Ravens are going to play either Miami or New England in the first round if they beat Jacksonville on Sunday. Also, if the Ravens do manage to win that game they will not face Pittsburgh because Ben Roethlisberger laid an egg in Tennesse today in a 31-14 loss to the Titans giving Jeff Fisher and his crew the #1 seed in the AFC. So the only way the Ravens and Steelers can meet for round three this season would be the AFC Championship Game. I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself but let’s hope it comes to that because I sure would like another shot at those guys. Can anyone say “The third time is a charm?” But step #1 is Jacksonville and I have confidence in John Harbaugh’s team to focus solely on that this week and bring on Festivus for the rest of us.

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Ravens beat Dallas 33-24, throw a purple party in Dallas

Posted on 21 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s become a joke amongst the local media, calling the Ravens “mighty men.” It’s John Harbaugh’s favorite “term of endearment” and corny catch phrase for his team. Tonight in Dallas, they were indeed mighty men, dropping the vaunted Cowboys like a bad habit at home on their special night and the hyper-emotional closing of Texas Stadium. The Ravens were impressive in dispatching the local stars, 33-24 to urinate on the biggest party in the biggest state in the swan song of the state’s greatest icon on a brutally cold evening.

Tonight, the real “stars” were wearing the purple helmets with the B’s. Strangely enough, it was punter Sam Koch who not only did his thing booting the ball effectively all night (including a 61-yarder) but it was the trick draw play on a field goal fake that stole the show and changed the momentum of the game. Really, who in the world was expecting that? A brass balls move if there ever was one by Harbaugh and the crew.

If this team makes noise in January, they’ll look back on this bounce back from that Pittsburgh fiasco and see the huge emotional breakthroughs. They finally beat a quality opponent on the road. The sheer willpower to persevere amidst an avalanche of injuries speak volumes about their “mighty men” status. The training room looked like an infirmary after the game, with Derrick Mason not being able to lift his arms, with Samari Rolle banged up, with Willie Andeson and Todd Heap hobbling. And while Fabian Washington gritted out a start, the team played the whole game without Ray Rice, who was an injury scratch. So, in came Willis McGahee, whose 77-yard scamper for an apparent “icing” touchdown was only topped minutes later — after Tony Romo led the Cowboys back down the field for an answer on a Ravens’ defense that has been leaky lately – by Le’Ron McClain’s 82-yard bolt to truly put the game out of reach. The final numbers were downright gaudy: McClain was 22 for 139 yards and McGahee finished with just eight carries but 108 yards and team rushing total was a whopping 266 yards and the Cowboys defense will look at the two fourth-quarter runs as busted plays that cost them their season.

For the local fans, it was morgue like, an evening of horrors from the home team on a night when it was all set up for the Ravens to be a “homecoming” pansy for the legends of Cowboys’ past and a night of civic remembrance and celebration. No doubt the Ravens players were inspired when informed that Jerry Jones PERSONALLY, HAND-PICKED the Ravens as his final opponent in Texas Stadium. (That’s a FACT by the way. Jones insisted on having the Ravens because when he looked at the schedule the Ravens were the weakest team on the slate. Perhaps he should’ve chosen Cincinnati?)

After the game Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs screamed all sorts of stuff about it into the NFL Films cameras and the postgame was filled with notions that the Ravens are the new Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL. But at 10-5 with a chance to ice a playoff berth against Jacksonville at home next weekend, it has been the most unlikely of seasons for the purple. Next Sunday will be OUR civic celebration for the 2008 Ravens, our final home game and a chance to send the Ravens on the road in style for an unexpected Festivus.

What a ride…Enoy the videos. I enjoyed making them.

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14 Points To Ponder…

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

Now why would I pick “14 points” as the title of today’s return of the wildly popular “Points to Ponder” blog?

14 points?  Hmmm…why 14 points?

Could it be the FOURTEEN POINT MARGIN OF VICTORY the Ravens put on the Redskins last night?  lol

Yes, I think it is.

Read away, comment if you like…

1. I really think this new Orioles off-season philosophy might be a stroke-of-genius.  Let’s not call ANY free agents and act as if we don’t want anyone at all.  Maybe that will make the players (and their agents) say, “Hey, I thought Baltimore had a lot of money this off-season…why haven’t they made contact with us? Let’s call THEM and see what they’re up to.”  Could just be the kind of outside-the-box thinking that takes the O’s right to the top.

2. Oklahoma 38 – Florida 30.  And yes, the best two teams are playing in the BCS title game.

3. Is this guy any relation?  I just saw on the wire that the Knicks signed shooting guard Plaxico Burress to a a minimum three-year and a half year sentence contract.

4. Harrison Frazar shot 59 in the 4th round of Q-School on the PGA Tour on Saturday.  On a real course…and playing for his 2009 livelihood.  The last guy to post 59 at that place (La Quinta) was David Duval.  Remember him?  He was a player way back when.

5. The AFC playoff race is pretty wild.  In for sure:  Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Denver and the Ravens.  Wild card: New England and Indianapolis.  Miami has a very favorable schedule.  They could win out too.  I think there’s a decent chance that an 11-5 team is going to MISS the post-season.  Holy cow.

6. I wrote this a month ago in a “bets I’d make” blog and I’ll say it again:  Tennessee and the NY Giants will NOT meet in the Super Bowl.  I’d bet on it right now.  I’d bet you $500, in fact…if I had a betting addiction, which I’ll bet you a grand that I don’t.

7. I also said this recently and will continue to make this my “early-bird 2009 prediction”.  Rex Ryan will be the head coach in San Diego next season.

8. Pretty smart move from Andy Reid a few weeks back when he benched Donovan McNabb for the second half in Baltimore, huh?  What a dummy.  If they miss the playoffs by a game, Reid will be raked over the coals for sitting his Hall-Of-Very-Good quarterback in a 10-7 game for a scrub who is still looking for his first big win in the NFL.  I’d take McNabb on my team any day.

9. Here’s an O’s update for you:  ________________________________.  

10. Right now, here are my top 3 Ravens’ MVP candidates at the 13-game mark.  3. Derrick Mason    2. Ray Lewis    1. Joe Flacco  -  But Le’Ron McClain and Ed Reed are both working their way up the charts.

11. Local college hoops power rankings:  5. Coppin St.    4. Loyola     3. Morgan St.     2. UMBC      1. Towson

12. Speaking of college basketball, contrary to what you might have read in yesterday’s edition of The Sun, the final score of the Towson-Hofstra game on Saturday night was 90-79 in favor of the Pride…not 90-70. That’s what you get, I guess, when you don’t send a reporter to the facility to actually COVER the game the way it deserves to be covered.

13. Chris Cosh leaving MD football saved Ralph a “tough talk”.  Let’s hope Debbie Yow isn’t preparing for one of those with “The Fridge” sometime in the next couple of years.

14. I’m guessing that Rob Ambrose (currently at UConn) gets the Towson University football coach job.

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The Lorenzo Neal effect

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Jason Jubb

This is my first blog here at ‘NST.  But, if you’ve listened to the “Sunday Morning Blitz” with Rex Snider and me (10am-12pm on WNST), then you are well aware that I am a bit of a number cruncher. If you haven’t heard us on Sunday, you should make it a point to do so !!!!

 

In this introductory blog, I’m going to examine what I will call the “Lorenzo Neal effect.”  It’s somewhat difficult to quantify how good a fullback actually is since he rarely has the opportunity to accumulate personal stats. Therefore, the next best thing is to look at the runner behind him and their production. Keep in mind, I am only looking at running back production, and at this time I’m leaving out the importance of pass protection, which is equally important to a productive offense.

 

From 1997-2007, Lorenzo Neal played on 5 teams and in each and every season, he was the blocking force in front of a 1,000 yard rusher. The list includes Adrian Murrell, Warrick Dunn, Eddie George, Corey Dillon, and Ladainian Tomlinson.  Pretty impressive, huh?  You bet.

 

We know these backs were very productive with Neal paving the road ahead of them.  But what happened when he left for another team?  The evidence of his true value is reflected in the production of these same players in a “Post-Neal” era.

 

Adrian Murrell gets tossed from the equation since he is the only player who left for another team the same year as Neal left.

 

In 1998, Warrick Dunn ran for 1026 yards (4.2 avg), with Neal.  A year later, in 1999, Dunn’s production was reduced to 616 yards (3.2 avg.), without Neal sharing the backfield.  As a result, Dunn, a smaller finesse back, played in 15 games and began to lose many of his carries to a more effective Mike Alstott.

 

In 1999, Neal went to Tennessee to block for Eddie George, who was already a Pro-Bowler.  George rushed for 1304 yards (4.1 avg, career high) in 1999, and had his best year as a 5th year pro in 2000, with 1509 yards (3.7 avg) and 14 TD’s. In 2001, when Neal left town, Eddie George started 16 games but only totaled 939 yards with a dismal 3.0 yard average.

 

In 2001, Neal joined Cincinnati and supported the ground game of Corey Dillon, who averaged over 4 yards per carry and 1300 yards over two seasons.  While these numbers were on par with what Dillon had done in previous campaigns, his production dipped upon Neal’s eventual departure.  In 2003, without Neal, Dillon started 11 games and collected just 541 yards, which led to his way out of Cincinnati.

 

The San Diego Chargers brought Neal aboard in 2003, to lead the way for Ladainian Tomlinson, who already had two standout years under his belt. With Neal leading the way for five seasons, Tomlinson averaged 1546 yards and 18 TD’s, at an outstanding 4.7 yards, per carry. Going into 2008, LT2 showed no signs of slowing down.  But, the Chargers opted to let Neal go, in favor of younger players, such as Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester. After 13 games, Tomlinson is on a pace for 1089 yards and has his lowest YPC average (3.7), since his rookie season. Note, his rookie season was also without Lorenzo Neal.

 

In 2008, the Ravens picked up Neal in mid-August, due to his relationship with Cam Cameron, from their San Diego days. Unfortunately, the streak of 11 straight years blocking for a 1000 yard rusher appears to be over for Neal, as the Ravens have adopted a TEAM concept with three backs sharing carries.

 

But, it seems fitting that a “team player” such as Neal, who often flies under the radar should lose that streak in such a manner. That being said, it is hard to ignore the impact he has had as the Ravens are currently third in rushing yards, which is up from 16th in 2007.

 

Ironically, the Ravens are led by Le’Ron McClain, who was only given the opportunity to carry the ball 8 times, last season. The question is what happens when Neal leaves? Let’s just hope he has another productive season or two left in him before we have to find out.

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Beating the Redskins in Baltimore…is anything better?

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Let’s start by stating the obvious: any win over the Washington Redskins is a great win, especially when you only get that opportunity every four years. With so much at stake after the Steelers wild comeback over Dallas (the tailgate was essentially a giant, frigid outdoor viewing party), it became more of a playoff game for the Ravens and they answered the bell on Sunday night with a resounding 24-10 win over their weaker rivals from the D.C. beltway.

Of course, the real playoff game comes this Sunday when the Steelers come to town for another huge game that will dictate whether the Ravens are “just” a playoff team or whether they’re built to win in January. A loss, and the playoffs are in peril and they’ll need to claw and scratch just to get in and go on the road for the month. A win over Pittsburgh here, and the Ravens can legitimately start talking about a first-round bye.

What a long, crazy, unexpected season this has been. Last night was an “instant classic,” a legendary memory, both good and bad. Beating the Redskins like dogs might be the most fun you can have as a Ravens fan but the sheer volume of burgundy and gold that made its way into our stadium was disgusting. And the weather was absolutely bone-chilling.

For those of you who didn’t attend, it was by far the coldest game in Ravens history, our own personal Ice Bowl. With the wind, it was brutal — so cold that the crowds started heading for the exits at halftime and some of us couldn’t blame them. It’s been almost three decades of waiting for the Redskins to return to Baltimore and I honestly didn’t enjoy the whipping as much as I thought I would just because I was a giant block of ice by the second quarter.

As I peered around at everyone in my section and the missing seats around the stadium, I think most people were thinking what I was: “Just get this game over with so I can go someplace warm!”

Lots of observations:

It’s pretty apparent what kind of amazing season Ed Reed is having. He’s a ballhawk, setting up quarterbacks, following their eyes and when the ball is thrown down the middle he is always in the right place. He is a tip-ball master. It’s uncanny, really. Let’s not forget that three months ago in Westminster there were organization-wide concerns that he’d never set foot on the field in 2008. The first six weeks of the season, he played with one arm and avoided contact on most plays. And after last night’s stellar game, many in the local media were talking MVP (or at least defensive MVP) accolades for No. 20.

Needless to say, virtually everyone in the locker room had something to say about Ed Reed here on wnsTV.

Ray Lewis played another “throwback” game last night. He was all over the field, sideline to sideline and was robbed of a fumble recovery on the sack of Jason Campbell that was whistled too soon. Had that call gone the Ravens’ way, the game might’ve been over much earlier given the momentum at that point.

Joe Flacco continues to impress anyone who watches this team. We keep waiting for the rookie mistakes, the confusion, the errors. Since the Indianapolis meltdown, the team is 7-1 and that must be credited to Flacco, who has truly been “Joe Cool.”

And the patchwork Ravens offensive line keeps changing parts but not outcomes. Flacco has managed to avoid major hits, even scrambling when needed and the line has been tenacious.

You gotta love the Ravens’ two midgets in the secondary, Corey Ivy and Jim Leonhard are truly unsung heroes on this 2008 team. They both made some big plays and vicious tackles against the Redskins, but if you ever meet them you’ll be shocked at how small they are. They’re truly “normal” sized guys and in my 13 years of going through the Ravens locker room there haven’t many like them. Maybe Jermaine Lewis and B.J. Sams would be in the club but not many more. Just amazing the heart these guys show being on the field with the giants. It’s inspirational, really, because you know they’ve been told all of their lives that they were too small to play in the NFL.

When the game got tight late in the 3rd quarter, the running back situation and atrophy became a factor and Le’Ron McClain once again emerged as a force late in the game. No one wants to tackle him in the 4th quarter when he’s running downhill. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice were both dinged up and their status will be a daily story in Owings Mills this week as the preparation for Pittsburgh week begins.

Overall, it’s been a dreamy kinda season. There’s no “tell all” explanation for why this team is 9-4 in a year when most “experts” in their own building would’ve been delighted with 8-8. And the notion that when the schedule came out in April we’d be sitting here with a chance for a first-round bye in January  as we put up holiday lights – well, it’s impressive and exciting for the whole city and anyone who is Ravens onlooker.

So out come the Festivus lights and the possibility of January fun!

We are still looking for entries to our “Miller Lite Purple Palace” promotion where you can win tickets to the Green Bay roadtrip next fall and a visit from the WNST crew if you have the coolest Ravens set up in your home.

A purple basement?

A dedicated room for all things Festivus, with autographs, pictures, memories?

A purple holiday set up under the tree? Or maybe the whole TREE is purple?

Maybe your friends or relatives need to know about the contest as well?

Send your pictures and/or your videos. We’re entering the final week of the contest. Click here for more details.

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