Tag Archive | "Mike Tomlin"

Five days later, I have to give credit to…of all people…Mike Tomlin

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Five days later, I have to give credit to…of all people…Mike Tomlin

Posted on 07 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

Since the Steelers rarely beat the Ravens anymore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Baltimoreans – ahem, me included – can’t get past that smelly home loss to the Black and Gold last Sunday.

It’s still hard to stomach.

The Ravens lost to Charlie Brown Batch.

Or did they?

Did someone else actually do more damage than Batch?

Well, after kicking Pittsburgh’s coach in the family jewels on Monday with THIS BLOG about his bush-league treatment of John Harbaugh in the post-game handshake, you’re going to be surprised by what you read next.

Mike Tomlin beat the Ravens on Sunday.

And do you know how he beat them?  By letting it leak out last Wednesday that Ben Roethlisberger was OUT and Charlie Batch was IN for Sunday’s game in Baltimore.

Think about it — why on earth wouldn’t Tomlin have tried to keep that a secret last week, like every other coach in the league would have done?  Wouldn’t nearly every other coach in the NFL think to himself: “I’ll keep this quarterback thing up in the air and make the Ravens think all week that Roethlisberger might be able to play.”?  Answer: Yes.  Every coach would.

But Tomlin went the other way and allowed word to get out right away that Big Ben was OUT and the old man was in.

Why? Because he knew once word got out that Batch was playing, anyone and everyone – including the 53 players on the Baltimore roster – assumed there was no way in hell Pittsburgh was winning.

And, as my late, great Mom used to say:  ”When you assume, you only wind up making an ass out of “u” and me.”

Insert your own punch line here.

We all assumed – and some of you probably even invested in that assumption…if you know what I mean – there was no way the Ravens would lose at home to Charlie Batch.

Stroke of genius by Mike Tomlin.

Stroke. of. genius.

Can’t believe I’ve been forced to write that this morning, but it’s my final thought relative to the 23-20 Steelers win in Baltimore last Sunday.

I’m putting the game behind me now and getting focused on the Redskins.

Mike Tomlin, you got us last week.

Don’t get used to it, though.  We’ll be watching you more closely next time.

Both before AND after the game.

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The Steelers manned-up on Sunday…too bad Mike Tomlin didn’t do the same thing

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The Steelers manned-up on Sunday…too bad Mike Tomlin didn’t do the same thing

Posted on 03 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

Mike Tomlin owes John Harbaugh an apology.  Or, at the very least, an explanation.

More on that later.

I’ve championed John Harbaugh’s cause here in Baltimore because I think he’s a very good football coach.  His record, here, does all the speaking that needs to be done.  Coaches are paid to do one thing: win games.  John has done that since arriving in Baltimore in 2008.

That said, I have occasionally nitpicked at Harbaugh for things like an “unnecessary” fake field goal against the Raiders a month ago or the 2-pointer against the Steelers on opening day, 2011, when Baltimore was already pounding the Steelers but felt justified in having Sam Koch dash into the end zone on a fake extra-point to make a blow out even more of a blow out.  There was also the time-out at the end of a meaningless pre-season game against the Chiefs a couple of years ago…one that Todd Haley chirped about during the post-game greeting at midfield.

John Harbaugh has had a moment or two where I thought he was bordering on showing-up-the-other-team and I’ve never been afraid to make those assessments on the radio because I always take pride in calling it as I see it, even if that means being critical of my hometown football or baseball team.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been right in doing so, either.  In the days following the fake-field-goal-for-a-TD gainst the Raiders, I bought into John’s way of thinking, even though initially I said it looked bad to forego an easy field goal and tack on another four points “just because”.  In the end, Harbaugh was right when he said, “Look, if you’re going to basically set up your defense to give us a free run at a touchdown, we’re going to take it and that’s that.”  Truth?  He was right, even if it meant I had to change my stance on it from my original reaction on Sunday.

But, again, before some unsophisticated goof stumbles in here and starts blabbing about how I’m a homer and I’m just pissed the Ravens lost to the Steelers and all that other Who Struck John?, I’ll remind any and all of you that I simply call it like it is — and sometimes that means I’ve had to take issue with something our own coach has done.

Let’s get back to the Tomlin apology-thing I referenced in the opening sentence.

In his five years in Baltimore, John Harbaugh has never once pulled a bush-league stunt like Mike Tomlin produced on Sunday evening after his Steelers edged the Ravens in Baltimore, 23-20.

Coaches are, in my humble opinion, the most special people in all of sports.  I’ve said that for a long time now and the more I’m around them, the more I know I’m right.  We throw the word “elite” around all the time when we talk about quarterbacks in the NFL, but the truth of the matter is that there are six of them in the league right now who are of that caliber and the only way to earn that label is by winning a title.  It’s different for coaches.  NFL head coaches are all elite when you take into account their responsibility, work ethic and dedication to preparation.  All 32 men who run NFL teams are, literally, elite human beings.

Unlike the players, who shower, answer a text message or 23, and then head off to Washington DC to party after a home game, the men who coach in the NFL are bound to their job in a 24/7 fashion that I’m confident none of us – including me – could handle with the same grace and dignity.

And that includes Mike Tomlin, he of a Super Bowl ring and a massive amount of respect-appeal from around the NFL.

Mike Tomlin is one helluva football coach.  I’ve said and written that a lot over the last five years.

But he committed the most unprofessional of sins on Sunday when he disrespectfully brushed past Harbaugh at midfield as the losing coach stuck out his hand to offer well wishes.

Yes, Tomlin’s right hand connected with Harbaugh’s.

But his eyes didn’t.

For reasons only Mike Tomlin can explain, he eschewed the proper protocol on Sunday night and did his best to avoid any personal interaction with the Ravens coach as the two met at midfield.

Now would be the time for you to check out THE VIDEO OF THE HANDSHAKE for yourself, so you know exactly what transpired.

It was unprofessional.

Bush league.

And, honestly, surprising.

I expected more from Tomlin, truth be known.

Here’s what I know as fact:

Harbaugh has a great amount of professional respect for Mike Tomlin.  Without mailing him a Christmas card or anything sappy like that, the Ravens coach has admired the way Tomlin has kept the Steelers together this season with their depleted offensive line, a broken down running game and the loss of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

That was going to be John’s brief post-game message to Mike Tomlin on Sunday night, win or lose.

Unfortunately for Harbaugh, he had to man-up as the losing coach.

John’s offering would be simple but a high compliment for his rival: “Hey, congratulations.  You’ve done one helluva job with your team, Mike.  Nicely done.  Good luck the rest of the way.”

Soup to nuts, it would have taken four seconds, five if you count the friendly pat on the rump as Tomlin turns to head to the locker room.

That’s what Harbaugh intended to say to Tomlin on Sunday.

(Please see next page)

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An open letter to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

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An open letter to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

Hey coach, I hope this finds you well and preparing to enjoy a wonderful Holiday season with your family and friends in Pittsburgh.

(Actually, while I think you’re a helluva football coach, I have to admit I giggled my ass off last Sunday watching you squirm your way through that press conference in Cleveland after your football team lost to the lowly Browns.  So, for obvious reasons, I’d probably rather you not be well.  If that makes me a bad guy, so be it.  I do, though, hope you have a great Holiday season.  I’m a Ravens fan, not a Grinch.)

Based on the whispers coming out of Pittsburgh about Ben Roethlisberger, it appears as if you’re going to have him back for this Sunday’s big game in Baltimore.  What a warrior that guy is, huh coach?  A month ago on a Monday night, he suffered some whacky rib and shoulder injury that could have killed him if he would have reached for the remote control the wrong way and now, suddenly, he’s going to risk life and limb to play against the Ravens?  Holy canoli. I’m impressed.

(Are you guys nuts Coach?  Why would you risk the best player on your team for one game?  You know you’re getting your ass kicked down here on Sunday no matter who stands behind center.  I realize you have to paint the best picture you can for your team, but in your heart of hearts, you’ve seen this play out over the last couple of years and you know for sure it’s going to play out down here again this Sunday.  Your team can’t beat the Ravens.  You’re going to get your feelings hurt, Roethlisberger or not.)

We have a lot of respect for the Steelers here in Baltimore, Coach.  We know as long as you guys have a pulse, you’re always capable of pulling off one, two, three or even four wins in a row and then somehow weaving your way through the pile of post-season teams to return to the Super Bowl.  Truth be known, we’d rather NOT see your team in the playoffs if we could pick and choose our playoff opponent.  Somehow, you always seem to nip us in the end when the chips are down in January.

(As S.E. Hinton once wrote (she’s a she, by the way, in case you didn’t know), “That was then, this is now”.  Yeah, we respect the Steelers here, but the Ravens are now the kings of the AFC North and your team is chasing our team.  With Roethlisberger at quarterback – and getting assistance from the refs like you usually do – the Steelers always have a puncher’s chance of beating anyone.  Without Roethlisberger, you’d be hard pressed to win the SEC.  And if it comes to pass that you’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, you’ll be one and done without a home game, so we won’t see you in this post-season anyway.)

Go ahead and throw caution to the wind, Coach.  Tape Big Ben up and bring him down here on Sunday.  Your team has a much better chance of winning that way.  And, as you know, the standings are such that you really are in “must-win” territory these days.  You don’t have a choice, I suppose.  You have to go with Roethlisberger.

(Don’t be a dummy, Mike.  Leave Roethlisberger on the bench and let Charlie Batch be the QB of record in a 30-10 loss.  No one will blame you.  You can talk about “not risking a career” and “we have faith in Charlie” and “injuries are part of the game” and everyone in Pittsburgh will understand.  If you go with Ben, you’re getting your asses kicked here.  If you go with Batch, you’re getting your asses kicked here.  Do you see the similarity?)

Finally, I wasn’t around last Sunday.  How’d you guys do against the Browns?

(I know what happened in Cleveland.  hehe)

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Tomlin’s 3rd quarter gaffe paves way for huge Ravens win in Pittsburgh

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Tomlin’s 3rd quarter gaffe paves way for huge Ravens win in Pittsburgh

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

If you’ve been a regular listener to The Morning Reaction over the years, you know by now one of my personal sports adages is “the other team tries, too”.

After watching Sunday night’s 13-10 Ravens win in Pittsburgh, I need to add a small note to the end of that phrase — “and sometimes they DON’T try.”

That’s what happened on Sunday night when Mike Tomlin – with his team gouging the Ravens defense for five yards a carry all night – decided to sissy-out and kick a field goal rather than go for it on 4th and 2 from the Baltimore four yard line late in the 3rd quarter.

“Sometimes they DON’T try…”

Really, Mike?  Your running game was trampling the Ravens for the most part.  Your quarterback was literally hanging on for dear life with each hit he took.  And your defense – coupled with another unimaginative Ravens offensive effort – was doing a great job of shutting the door and keeping Baltimore close.

4th and 2 and you kick a field goal to make it 13-10?  Lame-ass coaching, that’s what that was.  As soon as I saw the Steelers line up for the field goal, I said, “This is a horrible decision…they won’t get this close to scoring again tonight.”

And I was right.  It WAS a horrible decision and they didn’t get anywhere near the red zone for the remainder of the night.

Of course, the national TV guys didn’t say a word about Tomlin’s horrible decision.  They mumbled something about the game being “a bloodbath” and “a nailbiter, as always” and forgot to mention that the Pittsburgh coach just handed the game to John Harbaugh and Company.

Here in Baltimore, we’ll gladly take it, as it helped pave the way for an ultra critical Ravens road win and a seemingly safe 2-game lead over the Steelers with six games to play in the regular season.

There’s another famous saying that goes like this:  NEVER look a gift horse in the mouth.

And Sunday’s win in Pittsburgh was a gift horse, what with Byron Leftwich lumbering around and Mike Tomlin playing safe with the game – and maybe his team’s season – on the line.

Three weeks ago in New York, Tomlin gambled with a crazy fake field goal on the Giants six yard line in a game Pittsburgh would eventually win despite the unsuccessful fake attempt.  And that was with his 2-time champion quarterback at the helm, not a stiff like Leftwich.

Sunday night, with red zone trips about as rare as a 5-game winning streak from the Pirates, Tomlin played it safe and kicked a field goal when two yards could have paved the way to a 14-13 lead and, perhaps, a shocking win.

Just like the referees helping the Ravens beat New England earlier this year…and Jason Garrett and Tony Romo aiding in a Baltimore win over Dallas…and Pat Shurmer forgetting to coach in a squeaker-of-a-win in Cleveland, the Ravens will no doubt take Sunday night’s win and head back to Baltimore with a smile on their face.

Hey, a win in Pittsburgh is a win, no matter how you do it.

Even if it takes the Steelers coach losing his man-card to get the job done, you smile at the end and say, “We’ll take it.”

Thanks Mike Tomlin.

We needed that.

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Let’s Back Our Way Into the 15-7-0

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Let’s Back Our Way Into the 15-7-0

Posted on 02 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

You know how it works. 15 positive football observations, 7 “not so” positive football observations and one “oh no” moment from outside the world of football.

(As a reminder, we don’t do Baltimore Ravens analysis here. We do PLENTY of that elsewhere. This is about the rest of the world of football.)

15 Positive Observations…

1. Matt Flynn may have just earned himself a boatload of money Sunday.

Perhaps Flynn’s success had much more to do with the Green Bay Packers’ scheme & wide receivers and even the Detroit Lions’ less than exceptional defense than the former LSU quarterback himself. But as he enters free agency, Flynn may have just made himself a viable option for teams that won’t enter 2012 with Andrew Luck on their roster.

Of course, 80 of his 480 yards and one of his five touchdowns came on this play to Ryan Grant. I’m pretty sure Ryan Chell could have made this throw…

The Packers can sit back and wait to find out who they’ll play in the divisional round while the Lions get to visit the Superdome next weekend. But I’d say it’s pretty much a toss-up as to who has the more difficult road ahead.

In an unrelated story, the Packers went with Pat Lee as their kick returner for the New Year’s Day game. He did something stupid…

And one more-here’s Packers LB Brad Jones handling a fan who ran out onto Lambeau Field…

2. The New England Patriots scored 49 unanswered points Sunday. I’m not really sure how to follow that up.

Much like the Fins a week earlier, the Buffalo Bills worked Charm City into a lather with hopes of ruining the Pats’ run to the Number 1 seed. Also much like the Fins, the Bills for some reason must have thought New England would quit when they fell behind early. But after spotting the Bills 21 points, the Patriots would go on to score the next 49.

But they can’t possibly win the AFC of course because their defense isn’t good enough.

Right.

You’ll see a lot of funny things in 2012. I’ll go ahead and guess that there won’t be many funnier than this Drayton Florence flop…

Also of note in this game was Bills WR Stevie Johnson, who exposed a “Happy New Year” message on an undershirt after scoring a touchdown…

It’s a shame Tom Brady didn’t have a “Happy 28 Point Beatdown” undershirt to respond with. For a semi-decent receiver, Johnson is about a full-fledged clown.

3. I still have no idea why he’s headed to Arkansas State, but Gus Malzahn made the Chick-Fil-A Bowl a lot of fun to watch.

Before departing his Offensive Coordinator gig at Auburn, Malzahn pulled out a bunch of tricks (including a Statue of Liberty Play of all things) to help beat Virginia in the Georgia Dome…

Elsewhere on New Year’s Eve Levi LaVallee and Robbie Maddison were doing extreme sport jumping of some sort on ESPN that may or may not have been amazing. None of us really know and none of us really bothered to watch. But technically it happened!

How did I spend my NYE you ask? At a place I can’t name because they aren’t a sponsor. They ARE however the home of Sweet Potato Tots and the “Billy Goat’s Gruff”…

It was a 14 out of 10.

4. There’s something about David Akers throwing a touchdown that I really enjoy.

I’d show you video of the play, but it’s not available on YouTube. Instead, those of you who REALLY wanna see it can check it out here and the rest of you can look at this picture of Elsa Hosk. We’ll all meet back at the local saloon.

The San Francisco 49ers clinched the #2 seed in the NFC thanks to their win over the St. Louis Rams. In Baltimore, we just want to say Thank You again. We can’t really say it enough.

The Rams will fire Steve Spagnuolo according to reports. Also according to reports, it will be cold this week.

5. Credit Gary Kubiak for not kicking an extra point Sunday. Now it’s time to go win a Wild Card playoff game.

The Houston Texans didn’t need to beat the Tennessee Titans Sunday for any tangible reason. They didn’t, thanks to Kubiak’s decision to go for 2 late (a decision that backfired after a Joel Dreessen false start and a snap sailed over the head of QB Jake Delhomme-who replaced a banged up T.J. Yates). Let’s take a look at the video board…

Earlier in the game, Bryan Braman made an awesome play…

The Texans host the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the postseason. If they win, the Texans visit M&T Bank Stadium in the divisional round. I would think most of us would be pretty happy with that matchup, especially considering the Steelers could be another option.

6. Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope is probably the best receiver you didn’t talk about this season.

Here’s video of the Aggies’ win over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. You voted it “the video I’m least likely to watch this week” in an informal poll I just took…

Here was Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald’s reaction when he found out I was going to show the highlights of the game…

7. For as much as we laughed at them this season, the Philadelphia Eagles look capable of being dangerous in 2012.

Of course, that’s the only if Michael Vick stays healthy…and we all know that’s a significant “if.”

The highlight of the day in Philly happened well before Philly kicked the tar out of the Washington Redskins. It happened when Skins OC Kyle Shanahan tried to pump his team up before the game. It was HILARIOUS…

Kyle Shanahan makes Cam Cameron look popular.

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Flacco sacked SD

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Ravens Not Ready For Show

Posted on 20 December 2011 by Tom Federline

As of this date, the Baltimore Ravens are NOT an elite NFL team ready to make a run for the Super Bowl. Here are my picks for the best teams in the league at the moment: Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. And the latter may not even make it into the playoffs with even a wild card shot. Did you here Chris Colinsworth prior to the game Sunday night? “If the Ravens take care of business and beat the Chargers we will see them in Indy.”  Well Christopher, even though you seem to have a handle on the Ravens more than 95% of the rest your challenged sports announcing peers - Newsflash – The Ravens need a few lessons on how to take care of business and they will not find it from their coaches.

Which team was embarrassed more this past Sunday? Tennesse Titans (loss to Indy Irsays)? GB Packers (loss to Chiefs)? NY Giants (loss to Redskins)?  Or the Ravens (thumping by SD Chargers)? Carzy week in the NFL, huh gang? I have to go with Ravens. Another prime time loss, a potential statement maker for a playoff run, thwarted by another “chump”  performance instead of “champ” performance. I sound like a broken record and it pains me to say it again…….The Ravens have the talent, they do NOT have the coaches.

Can we trade John Horribaugh for his brother Jim Harbaugh? Can we just switch them and hope nobody notices? After last nights outcome, who would get the better Christmas present from Ravens fans? In my book, we saw the Coach of the Year, after last nights gift. You go JIM Harbaugh. You have been entered into my “Old School – Coaches Hall of Fame”. Love your passion and you are doing well with Mike Singletarys team. Speaking of last night, what was Rapelsberger doing in that game? Thank you Mike Tomlin. Keep playing him! The Ravens fans may receive two Christmas gifts even before that day gets here. Steelers keep pace with Ravens with loss to 49ers and the Squeelers lose Rothlesbergers for playoffs. Even though, with wht I believe was a stupid move last night Mike Tomlin, would you come coach the Ravens? Must fire Camera Cameron though. Probably your first move anyway. You are a leader.

The Ravens are not ready. Only way they are making it, is if Camera and Horribaugh get out of their way. Let Ray Ray coach the Defense and let Flacco/Birk/Boldin run the offense. Let Them Play -  the kids are alright – they have the talent. Flacco can run that offense! I only saw three positive moments Sunday night: 1. Ray Jr. 21 yard first play scamper. 2. Boldin 34 yard 3rd down conversion same first drive. 3. Anquan Boldin wearing an Orioles ball cap during introductions. To many negatives to mention. Have the Ravens lost their place kicker? Right there, is another major pothole on road to Indy. Yes, there are two more games left. Should they win those two? You’re darn right. Will they win those two? No idea. Are they champs or chumps? We have seen both.

They are better than “chumps”. I believe that they know that. For those that know me, brace yourself for this one………Hey Bisciotti – get Brian Billick back here for a motivational speech! Are you still paying  him? Let Ray Ray run the show – we all know his philosophy and motivational skills - “I’ll Take You There” (Staple Singers). I think I may need to go out and get some purple kool-aid. Because right now – I see two more losses – one at Cincy and the other if they get the Squeelers for a third time. 

A story is in the making for a Baltimore Super Bowl in Indianapolis. That is almost to good to be true. It would make for a nice sports filled January and February. But right now, the Ravens need an identity and they need it quick. Where’s the purple juice? How about Purple Gatorade? I like the grape Gatorade. How about grape soda? Remember Grape Nehi’s? Man, they were good. Start serving it out at the Palace. Oh and for good measure, crank the Staple Singers.

Merry Christmas gang. Breathe deep. Hug those that are close with passion.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Pittsburgh playing coy with injured linebackers for Ravens game?

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Pittsburgh playing coy with injured linebackers for Ravens game?

Posted on 01 November 2011 by Luke Jones

Having dealt with their own barrage of injuries through the first seven games of the season, the Ravens won’t take any pity on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ health woes at the linebacker position.

But they will likely be left guessing over who exactly will be on the field when they travel to Heinz Field to take on their bitter rival Sunday night for part two of the 2011 edition of the best rivalry in the NFL.

The Steelers’ second-ranked defense — ranking only behind Baltimore — has been decimated by injuries to its talented group of linebackers.

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Four-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison has missed the last four games with an orbital bone fracture in his face while inside linebacker James Farrior missed Sunday’s game against New England with a calf injury. A third starting linebacker fell during the Steelers’ impressive win over the Patriots when LaMarr Woodley sustained a hamstring injury in the third quarter of their 25-17 win over the Patriots.

A Tuesday report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Woodley will not play against the Ravens and could possibly be out until after the Steelers’ bye on Nov. 20. However, Woodley said on his Twitter page he’s not willing to throw in the towel for the Baltimore game just yet.

“Everybody counting me out … don’t count me out yet,” said Woodley, whose nine sacks have helped fill the void left by Harrison in the Pittsburgh pass rush. “Big game on Sunday.”

The information on Harrison has been even more conflicting, with his agent declaring him ready to return against the Ravens before the 33-year-old linebacker said otherwise on his Twitter page. Harrison has been cleared to practice, but the veteran said he will not be able to play on Sunday night.

“He has been cleared to practice and that is where we are,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “We will reevaluate the situation at some point later in the week and let that be our guide in terms of potential participation. But, right now, I just want to be clear that he has been cleared to practice.”

Tomlin also said Farrior will practice on a limited basis on Wednesday despite the Post-Gazette reporting the 36-year-old would miss a month with the calf injury.

Though it appears likely that all three will be unavailable against the Ravens, the gamesmanship already being exhibited will force the Baltimore offensive line to prepare for the Steeelers’ pair of dominating pass rushers in Harrison and Woodley. In the decisive 35-7 win over the Steelers in the season opener on Sept. 11, the Ravens limited Pittsburgh to one sack and ran for 170 yards in the blowout.

With Harrison being out for the last month, the Steelers have been forced to shift inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to the outside. Veteran Larry Foote and rookie Chris Carter have played larger roles than anticipated with Farrior and Woodley now sidelined with ailments.

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Rating the Ravens after Baltimore’s 35-7 victory over Steelers

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Rating the Ravens after Baltimore’s 35-7 victory over Steelers

Posted on 12 September 2011 by Ryan Chell

The 2011 season opener could not have gone any better for the Baltimore Ravens.

Not only did they get a divisional win-they earned it against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. They kicked the living crap out of the defending AFC Champions, 35-7, and left the Steelers leaving Baltimore with their tails firmly entrenched between their legs.

The win may feel like a Super Bowl victory to Raven nation, and while it certainly puts the momentum in the AFC North in the Ravens’ corner for now, no win in the NFL is perfect. Every coach-especially John Harbaugh-will tell you that.

But boy, did it feel like it.

John Harbaugh (Rob Carr-Getty Images)

Quarterback-”B”-Joe Flacco finished Sunday’s contest 17-29 for 224 yards and three touchdowns-one to Ray Rice,  Anquan Boldin, and Ed Dickson respectively. Flacco’s 27-yard pass to Boldin on the Ravens’ first drive of the game-the third play-could not have been in a better position over the outstretched arms of Steelers CB Bryant McFadden, and his 18-yard pass to Dickson after the Steelers’ third turnover at the start of the third quarter essentially was the nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh.

However, Flacco wasn’t perfect. He had several balls thrown at Lee Evans that were nowhere near the receiver and sailed out of his reach. And for a quarterback who wasn’t sacked-let alone touched-till the start of the fourth quarter, Flacco often dumped the ball on the check down way too quickly when he could have waited for a play downfield to develop.

But no turnovers on Flacco’s part combined with three touchdown passes and getting the monkey off his back? Okay in my book.

Running Back-”A”-The only reason why this isn’t a perfect A+ is because the Ravens interior running game still had its issues running up the middle against the Steelers. But that’s expected-especially against the likes of NT Casey Hampton. But what wasn’t expected was Ray Rice having this kind of success against a stout Steelers front seven. Rice became the first running back since-well, himself-to rush for 100 yards against Pittsburgh, and he did so with all the help in the world from FB Vonta Leach, T Bryant McKinnie, and guard Ben Grubbs.

Ray Rice (courtesty of Rob Carr-Getty Images)

And it didn’t take long. Rice made his impact from the start on the first play of the game, rushing for 36 yards behind Leach and McKinnie. He finished with 149 total yards of offense and two scores. Leach made his presence known in his first regular season game as a Raven, delivering punishing blocks on the opposing linebackers. Ricky Williams had a quiet but impressive 63 carries on 12 touches in his Raven debut, showing that he still has gas left in the tank.

Wide Receiver/Tight End-”B-”-Anquan Boldin was the only wide receiver to catch a pass  and finished with 74 yards on four catches and the opening touchdown. Ed Dickson had a spectacular debut in his first game as a starter in 2011, catching five balls for 59 yards and a score. He had a 34-yard grab negated by a hold on Bryant McKinnie, but it looks as if Dickson and Pitta’s job Sunday could easily put the nightmare of not having Todd Heap anymore to rest. Lee Evans played decoy all game long, but they need him and second-rounder Torrey Smith to produce something should opposing defenses key on Boldin and Dickson.

Offensive Line-”A”-The same reasoning behind the almost-perfect score for the running backs-the offensive line was outstanding Sunday, but some penalties and not having the best day running up the middle prevent them from the 100% grade. But Flacco stayed completely upright till the fourth quarter and they gave the fourth-year man all day to throw. Birk, Grubbs, and McKinnie were all called for holding in the game, and those mental mistakes can be disastrous sometimes.

Defensive Line-”A+”-The Ravens sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times-three of them coming from Terrell Suggs. Suggs also forced two fumbles. The Ravens have made it clear that they intend to have Suggs rush the passer first and foremost now as opposed to sending him out in coverage. It doesn’t make use of his skills if they don’t. Suggs said of Big Ben after the game, “God can have his soul, but his ass is mine.

Haloti Ngata continued his case toward earning a long-term deal from owner Steve Bisciotti by forcing a fumble of Rashard Mendenhall as well as batting a ball up in the air that linebacker Ray Lewis came down with for one of the Ravens three interceptions.

Linebackers-”B+”-Ray Lewis of course leads this unit, and he finished with seven tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. Other than Jarret Johnson’s half sack and his batted ball that led to an INT, this unit was pretty quiet on the day depending upon if you count Suggs as DE or a LB. With the Steelers trailing big, Roethlisberger found guys like Mike Wallace and Hines Ward in the holes left by the linebackers, so their coverage skills may have to improve week-by-week.

Secondary-”A-”-Ed Reed-on his birthday-had two interceptions and could have very well had a third. Not only was Reed’s ball-hawking skills on full display, he appeared to be flying toward the ball-carrier and making solid tackles. Reed for the last several years has battled neck and shoulder injuries, and it appeared like Sunday, he was healthy for the first time in a long while. Lardarius Webb led the team in tackles with 11, and Cary Williams also had a solid game starting at corner back.

Special Teams-”A”-K Billy Cundiff was 2-for-2 in field goals with his longest coming from 30 yards out. Four of his seven kickoffs went in the end zone for a touchback. Sam Koch had five punts averaging 41 yards. And you have to give the special teams credit when they score a 2-point conversion…especially from the punter!

Agree with my grading? Disagree? Call into “The Reality Check” 2-6PM EST with Glenn Clark, tweet me @WNST or @Ryan Chell87, or comment below! Would love to hear from you! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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With beatdown of Steelers, monkey is off Ravens’ backs

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With beatdown of Steelers, monkey is off Ravens’ backs

Posted on 11 September 2011 by Peter Dilutis

Tom Brady and the Patriots used to play the role for Peyton Manning and the Colts.

The Celtics used to play the role for Lebron James.

And until September 11, 2011, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers played the role for Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh.

The role of the monkey on their respective backs.

Goodbyeeeee monkey!

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No one around Baltimore would admit it. Everyone wanted to believe that the Ravens would win their season opening game against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.

But until we actually saw it play out in front of our eyes on a glorious afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, was there any reason to expect the Ravens to clear their biggest hurdle since John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco arrived in town some four seasons ago?

Think about it. The Ravens were 2-6 against the Steelers coming into Sunday. Their two wins, one in 2009 and one in 2010, were against Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch led Steelers teams.

And as all Ravens fans know, Big Ben and his Steelers have sent the Ravens home from the playoffs two of the past three seasons.

In those eight games, Joe Flacco has struggled mightily. Harbaugh has been out-coached. Cam Cameron went vanilla. The defense gave up big plays at the worst times.

Yes, the Steelers were the monkey on the backs of everyone in the Ravens organization.

All of that is erased with Sunday’s win. Long gone is the pain of those heartbreaking playoff losses in 2008 and 2010. Say goodbye to the notion that Joe Flacco can’t perform well against the Steel Curtain, or the thought that Cam Cameron is afraid to open it up against Dick LeBeau’s defense.

That’s all in the past.

What an afternoon this was for Ravens fans. Rather than a competitive football game, Baltimore football fans were treated to a 60 minute party filled with both relief and joy. It’s as though the monkey was placed in the middle of M&T Bank Stadium while 70 thousand passionate purple fans took turns bashing its head in with a bat.

Yes, it was that good. It almost had to be this good. If this current group of players and coaches were going to erase the demons that the Steelers have created over the past three seasons, this win had to be extraordinary.

If this organization was going to fully move on from their complete meltdown last January, this couldn’t have been just a mellow, 20-17 statement. It had to be a smackdown of epic proportions.

And the Baltimore Ravens delivered.

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Ravens crush Steelers, 35-7 – Here’s how it happened

Posted on 11 September 2011 by Drew Forrester

Now that was an ass kicking.

Here’s how the whole thing unfolded, as the Ravens pounded the Steelers, 35-7 on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.

I’ll throw out 7 key points of the contest.  It happened like this:

1.  Message sent — After last January’s playoff collapse in Pittsburgh, the Ravens needed a win – badly – in this one to at least erase some of the stink that probably still resonates in their locker room.  Ummmm…stink erased.  Big time.  This one might not be enough to make guys completely forget about that playoff ouster, but it was a great way to start 2011.  It’s one thing to pull out a 20-17 win by the skin of your teeth.  It’s another thing to win 35-7 and completely embarrass the Steelers.  It’s only one game out of 16, but this was a real message-sender from the Ravens.

2.  Offensive line dominance — Bryant McKinnie’s performance was sensational.  At one point in the 4th quarter, Larry Foote tried his luck on McKinnie and the big man simply slapped him in the head and knocked him to the ground.  Foote got up, gestured over to the sideline as if to say “we need a change here” and jogged off the field.  No one else had any luck on McKinnie either.  And his presence and terrific play made Michael Oher’s day that much easier, as Oher handled his affairs extremely well and looked much more comfortable on the right side.

3.  Pressure the QB, Ravens! — I said all off-season that the way to beat the Steelers – and virtually anyone else in the league – is to put quality pressure on the opposing quarterback.  The Ravens did that and then some on Sunday, forcing 7 turnovers and making Ben Roethlisberger look like a hybrid of Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright.  Terrell Suggs was a wrecking machine, as was Haloti Ngata – and both of them took advantage of terrific line stuffing play from 2nd year lineman Terrence Cody.  If the Ravens get that kind of pressure all season, they’ll be awfully tough to beat week-in and week-out.

4.  Dickson and Pitta contribute — For one day at least, the folks in Baltimore forgot about Todd-what’s-his-name?  Both Ed Dickson (TD catch) and Dennis Pitta had big afternoons and it was clear that the Steelers didn’t expect either of those players to make an impact in the throwing game.  With Evans and Boldin, the Ravens have two high quality wide-outs, but coverage on those two often leaves the tight end open for short yardage completions and that’s what happened on Sunday as the Steelers keyed on the two stars and left Dickson and Pitta to themselves.

5. Where are the Flacco haters now? — While Flacco’s completion percentage (58.6%) was well below his career average, the three TD passes were a thing of beauty.  Futhermore, Flacco beat Roethlisberger – finally – and also took a James Harrison sack and looked none the worse for wear.  It was a big day for Joe.  He, like some others, needed a performance like that to put the January playoff loss out of his head.

6.  Put the game away — Up 21-7 at half, the Ravens came out and put the game away within 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter, creating an early turnover followed by a TD pass to Dickson that made it 29-7.  Last year’s team would have won this game 24-21.  This year’s team?  Well, it was only one game, but there was no sign of a collapse in Baltimore on Sunday.

7.  Even in a win, there are always questions and observations. Here are a few of those that I made during the game itself:

>   Is Cary Williams going to play 10 yards off of his man all season?  Once the Steelers figured out Williams was vulnerable in one-on-one situations, they put the speedy Mike Wallace on him and Wallace tortured poor Williams.  I hope Cary Williams is better than he showed on Sunday.

>  On 3rd and 2 in the 2nd quarter, the Ravens tried to throw the ball for a first down.  Huh?  Why not go with Ray Rice behind Vonta Leach there and plow away for two yards and continue the drive?  I didn’t get that play call at all.

>  Can someone explain why Jimmy Smith – the team’s #1 draft pick and, we assume, the starting cornerback on Sunday – was on the kickoff coverage team to start the game?  Smith was injured on that play and didn’t return.  I didn’t get that at all…why have him in there?

>  Why the fake extra-point and Sam Koch run?  I understand if it’s on, you want to use it.  But in game #1?  In the 3rd quarter?  Wouldn’t that play be better served for storage until it was REALLY important?  Helluva play, mind you.  I’m just not sure it needed to be unwrapped like that in the opener.

>  What happened to Torrey Smith?

DREW’S RAVENS MVP OF WEEK #1:  Bryant McKinnie

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