Tag Archive | "Monday Night Football"

Top 10 Local Sports Moments of 2010

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Top 10 Local Sports Moments of 2010

Posted on 28 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

These were selected by….Glenn Clark. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention: Orioles sign Miguel Tejada, Maryland names Kevin Anderson Athletic Director, Navy pounds Notre Dame at Meadowlands, Ravens beat Jets on Monday Night Football, Maryland field hockey wins National Championship, Shogun Fights II & III come to 1st Mariner Arena, John Tillman hired as Maryland lacrosse coach, Ravens sign T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Trice Capra reaches 3rd round of U.S. Open, Terrapins hold off Midshipmen in Labor Day thriller at M&T Bank Stadium, Cliff Tucker buries Georgia Tech with incredible buzzer beater

10. Danny O’Brien breaks out as Maryland tops NC State

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz6qO2a5nRI[/youtube]

Maybe the “moment” should be O’Brien getting his first start against Florida International. Unfortunately, no one was at Byrd Stadium that day and even fewer were watching on ESPN3.com.

Maybe the “moment” should be Maryland’s battle against Florida State in College Park where O’Brien nearly beat the Seminoles and gave the Terrapins a chance to play in the ACC Championship Game. But the Terps lost that game.

So I’ll stick with the season closer. It was an epic breakout performance from a freshman quarterback that offered hope to Maryland fans that change had come.

Of course, change was really STILL to come.

9. Ravens trade for Anquan Boldin

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itI56uxrbeU[/youtube]

If you actually go to the page for that YouTube video, you’ll find multiple Super Bowl related comments.

That was the immediate feeling when the Ravens traded two NFL Draft picks to the Arizona Cardinals for Boldin. Since that time, the Boldin deal has looked…well…not quite as overwhelming. But it doesn’t change the moment.

In that moment, the Ravens became the “Offseason Champs”, an honor the Washington Redskins had owned for years.

The difference? The Ravens till have a chance to be the REAL champs as well.

8. Baltimore Grand Prix officially announced

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ntu-FrV9ufY[/youtube]

Look, I’M not a fan of the IndyCar Series myself. Well, other than Danica Patrick anyway.

And I have NO IDEA how many folks in Baltimore could EVER tell you who Will Power or Dario Franchitti were.

But if the Baltimore Grand Prix raises as much money for the city as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Governor Martin O’Malley say it will, this could be a MAJOR moment for this area.

7. The return of the Preakness infield

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHLL8YQmCoA[/youtube]

After the “miserable failure” (my own words, folks) that was the 2009 Preakness “Infieldfest” event, the Maryland Jockey Club hit a home run in 2010.

Pimlico’s infield was covered in people thanks to a $20 “All you can drink” ticket that replaced the previous BYOB experience and an awesome musical combination or O.A.R. and Zac Brown Band (which was LIGHT YEARS better than ZZ Top and Buckcherry the previous year).

It was an awesome event. Hopefully there will be another one.

By the way, does anyone remember who won the Preakness this year?

(Edit from GMC: It was Lookin at Lucky. I ALMOST had to go to Wikipedia to jog my memory.)

6. Duke beats Virginia in lacrosse Final Four

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3g2YHrYETk[/youtube]

Maybe Notre Dame’s improbable run to the National Championship Game or the Blue Devils’ thrilling Memorial Day win over the Fighting Irish were bigger stories; but the Saturday showdown between the Cavaliers and Devils was absolutely EPIC.

The impact of Yeardley Love’s murder added to the buildup surrounding the game, as Cavs coach Dom Starsia was reminded of George Huguely’s name throughout the NCAA Tournament. Also adding to the buildup was the presence of the final class of “Super Seniors” from Duke, as the NCAA granted all Duke players an extra year of eligibility following the scandal that rocked the Durham campus in 2006.

The game was even better than the incredible buildup. Max Quinzani’s game winner with 13 seconds left finished off what had been one of the more incredible quarters of lacrosse ever seen in Charm City.

This will be the only entry on the list that doesn’t involve a local team. It was good enough that it doesn’t matter.

5. Orioles hire Buck Showalter

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

When I gave my “Local Sports Person of the Year” vote to Buck Showalter, I said his hiring represented the first real “hope” Birds fans had experienced since the 2005 campaign, when the team reached the All-Star Game still leading the American League Wild Card race.

What happened with the O’s down the stretch (a 34-23 finish under Showalter) means little if the team does not build upon it. But the hope that came with the incredible finish was that the team COULD build upon it.

We’ll see.

But it certainly doesn’t change the level of excitement that came with Showalter’s hiring and incredible two month run. If things truly turn around for the Orioles, it will be marked as the actual moment of change.

4. Joe Flacco finds TJ Houshmandzadeh to beat Steelers in Pittsburgh

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

I’m pretty sure my column that day said it all.

The Ravens were ABSOLUTELY on their way to another crushing loss at Heinz Field; and I wasn’t going to believe it wouldn’t end that way until the moment Houshmandzadeh hauled in the Flacco TD toss.

The Ravens QB had never lead his team from behind to win in the final two minutes of regulation.

That changed.

Had the Ravens held on to finish the sweep of the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium; the win would have meant even more.

3. Maryland beats Duke to (essentially) clinch ACC regular season title

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiIW27uR56s[/youtube]

As I stated when he was voted “Local Sports Person of the Year”, this was the defining moment for Greivis Vasquez.

Beating good teams at Comcast Center has been somewhat commonplace for the Terps in the Gary Williams era. In fact, Maryland had knocked off North Carolina in College Park just a season earlier. (Both the 2009 Tar Heels and this year’s Blue Devils would go on to win the NCAA Championship.)

Yet somehow, this particular win over a good team was more satisfying. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was Senior Night for Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that the win would ultimately prove to be the difference as the Terps would split the ACC regular season title.

More than anything, it probably had everything to do with the fact that it was Duke.

Wins ALWAYS feel better when they come against Duke.

2. Ravens go to Foxborough, beat New England Patriots in AFC playoffs

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MwFU4xYzV4[/youtube]

If it had been a round (or definitely two rounds) later, this would have been a slam dunk #1 on the list. Unfortunately, the flat performance in a divisional round loss to the Indianapolis Colts a week later took some of the excitement out of the win at Gillette Stadium.

That being said, the emotions of a dominant win over a Bill Belichick/Tom Brady lead team on the road won’t be forgotten for some time.

It was even more emotional when the story of Matthew Costello (son of WMAR anchor Jamie Costello) giving Cam Cameron the play call for Ray Rice’s opening play TD came out.

It was a huge win and an awesome feeling. It’s just a shame it didn’t extend towards the Super Bowl.

1. Reggie Holmes breaks Morgan State’s all-time scoring record in win over Coppin State

I was there for #2, #3 and #4. This was better.

morgan

The emotions inside Hill Field House were incredible.

It was Senior Night, the final home game for star guard Reggie Holmes.

Holmes was announced as MEAC Player of the Year. Kevin Thompson was announced as MEAC Defensive Player of the Year. Dewayne Jackson was announced as MEAC Freshman of the Year. Todd Bozeman was announced as MEAC Coach of the Year.

Holmes’ entire neighborhood (Cherry Hill) was in the stands…and actually rushed the floor PREGAME. The game started more than an hour late.

Holmes needed 33 points to break Marvin “The Eraser” Webster’s Bears career scoring record. He scored 36 in a blowout win.

It was incredible.

It represented everything that makes college basketball in Baltimore great. It represented everything that makes Baltimore sports great.

It was the best moment of the year.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Football in December and Flashbacks

Posted on 21 December 2010 by Tom Federline

Last night I revisited the late 70′s. Whoa, brace yourself. It was nothing I had really planned. It was not a result of ingesting some mind altering substances attempting to reinact my youth. It was just a set of circumstances that hit within about an hours time span………and it was cool! Earlier in the day I had heard there were people standing outside in a snowstorm up in Minneapolis, Minnesota waiting  to buy general admission tickets to the Bears/Vikings MNF game later that evening. The game as you may know, was moved due to the previous weeks snow-dome collapse at the Metrodome. I’m thinking - cool, snow-ice game, football outside the way it is supposed to be played, NFL game from a college campus, fans already getting primed for tailgating………this may have potential.  

In addition to the outdoors from Minnesota MNF match-up, my musical interest was peaked, when I was notified that it was Alan Parsons birthday (62). Whoa – step back – Alan Parsons Project? “I-Robot” album from 1977? Yes, I still have it on vinyl, I still have a turntable. I have a set of Bose speakers………and I’m going to blast it! And I did, all of side one, yes a side of an album…….of which, 3 of the 5 songs were hits. The crackling, the hissing, the needle riding the record as if it were boat floating in rough seas. It was scary, but cool. I had remembered every lyric from probably 30 years ago. Therein lied the flashbacks of many a night cranking tunes on my Fischer – Stereophonic – am/fmradio, turntable and 8-track player – all in one console with detaching speakers. Very nice, the album side is over, the needle rises and magically remembers to put itself back from whence it came. Ahhhh yes, here it comes……the good old days.

I turn on the pregame for MNF to see highlights of Minnesotans(?), clearing the stadium of snow during the week, trying to get the field ready for play. ESPN follows by plugging a reunion event that night honoring 50 years of Viking football.  Appearances from Alan Page, Carl Eller, Chuck Foreman, etc. and yes Bud Grant is still kicking. Then they show some players whining about the frozen field, announcers stating there is no heating system under the field and how are the players going to react, what shoes should they wear, is it fair, it’s to cold, bs, bs, bs. Making me sick. Then they play an audio interview with Carl Eller – ” Weather shouldn’t matter. Go out and play the game like men.” It was beautiful. A throwback game, on a Monday Night. I was getting pumped and it wasn’t even a Ravens game.

Then it gets better, “Brett Favre is going to play”. Uh-oh, now the possibility exists that we finally may see, the ”just don’t know when to quit guys (on and off the field)”, last game. It’s 9 degrees wind chill, it’s snowing, there’s snow/ice balls being flung from the stands ……..and footballs “iron man” is going to give it another shot. For the first time in 29 years, there is outside football in Minnesota. The first sign I see in the stands is “This is MN Football”! Nutball fans frozen (on the outside), all dressed up in Viking garb, Purple Santas roaming the stadium, fans who’s face you can barely see but you can see their breathe. Yeah baby -  I’m back in the 70′s. Alan Parsons, Alan Page and MNF outside in December………I’m a happy flash backing camper.

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers stadium is about 80% full and sounded like it was rocking. Favre is in the pre-game huddle with his teammates, they have it miked up – “Help an old man go out in style”. Pretty cool, although Brett – the odds are against you. Well darned if he didn’t take those Vikings down the field and score a TD on the first drive. You see the recognizable Favre celebration. Then that was about it. The Bears settled in and started to dominate. And by the end of first quarter, Favre was still standing. Well it didn’t take long after that and a rookie named Wooton gets the first sack of his career – slamming Favre’s shoulder and head into the ground. Favre isn’t moving, I’m like –  that’s it, maybe that’s it for the old workhorse. He gets up with help, walks off extremely groggy, on his own accord and you kind of just know the Swan Song is over. At least the game was over at that point. The Bears went on to roll.

Will Favre finally “Breakdown” – (Alan Parsons Project) and retire from the game? We can only hope so. What I can hope for, is another unexpected night of fond flashbacks – Good music on the turntable, sports on the television reminding me of years gone by and the Orioles finishing above .500 – annually. Had to get a Birds plug in there. Have a Merry Christmas and make the best of the Holiday.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Live From Owings Mills: Heap Still Out As Ravens Begin Preparations For Saints

Posted on 15 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens returned to work Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills. It was the first time they gathered since a 34-28 overtime win over the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, and marked the first opportunity to prepare for this coming Sunday’s Week 15 showdown with the New Orleans Saints at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens got a late start Wednesday, not practicing until 3:30pm as they recovered from their contest less than 48 hours earlier. The team held a light practice that resembled a walkthrough, players did not wear pads or helmets.

TE Todd Heap (hamstring) missed practice again, he has not participated since being hurt in the first quarter of the team’s Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday he was “hopeful” Heap could be available for Sunday’s game.

S Tom Zbikowski (back) and WR Derrick Mason (ankle) were both on the field during practice, but were listed as not participating.

CB Fabian Washington (thigh) returned to practice after missing Monday night’s game. He and LB Tavares Gooden (calf) were listed as full participants.

Four players did not practice Wednesday for the Saints. DT Remi Ayodele (ankle), DT Anthony Hargrove (knee), WR Courtney Roby (head) and TE David Thomas (knee) were listed as having not participated.

OT Jermon Bushrod (Towson University) was listed as a limited participant Wednesday with an ankle injury. Other Saints who were limited Wednesday were RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), S Malcolm Jenkins (rib), TE Jeremy Shockey (groin) and LB Jonathan Vilma (quad).

CB Tracy Porter (shoulder) and OT Zach Strief (knee) were listed as full participants.

ROSTER MOVE: The Ravens announced a roster move Wednesday, adding OT Andre Ramsey to the practice squad.

Ramsey replaces OT Colin Brown, who was signed to the Buffalo Bills’ active roster this week. Ramsey previously spent time on the practice squad with the Bills and New York Jets. He is in his second season out of Ball State.

This is the second time in as many weeks the Ravens have had to make a practice squad adjustment. Last week CB Prince Miller was signed off the practice squad by the Detroit Lions. The Ravens replaced him with CB Danny Gorrer.

FIRST HONOR FOR REED
: KR/WR David Reed was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Wednesday. It was the first such honor for the rookie from Utah.

Reed had a 103 yard kick return touchdown in the team’s win Monday at Reliant Stadium, the first TD of his NFL career. He finished Monday’s game with 233 kick return yards. Reed is averaging 29.9 yards on 20 returns this season.

Reed became the first Ravens player to nab the honor since Punter Sam Koch in Week 16 of the 2008 season.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Mason, S Ed Reed, LB Terrell Suggs and DT Haloti Ngata NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Saints coach Sean Payton & QB Drew Brees held conference calls with Charm City reporters Wednesday, those chats are available in the Audio Vault as well……The Ravens have reached the finals of the “Ravens Cornhole Federation” tournament in their locker room this season. Flacco is facing Koch in a Best of 5 Championship series. Koch won the first two matches of the series Wednesday, and was the choice of Harbaugh to win the final. Koch is scheduled to talk about it with Drew Forrester Thursday at 7:10am on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday morning at 1 Winning Drive. QB Joe Flacco, LB Ray Lewis and RB Ray Rice are expected to meet with the media following Thursday’s practice

-G

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens…On A Wednesday

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens…On A Wednesday

Posted on 15 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

Here are our Top 7 Baltimore Ravens from their Monday Night Football 34-28 overtime win over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Top 7…

7. Lardarius Webb

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05: Corner back Lardarius Webb  of the Baltimore Ravens returns a kick against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Pittsburgh won 13-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

6. David Reed

Baltimore Ravens David Reed is tripped up by St. Louis Rams Chris Chamberlain (57) in the first quarter of pre-season play at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on September 2, 2010.  UPI/BIll Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

5. Joe Flacco

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13: Quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens throws over the Houston Texans defense at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

4. Cory Redding

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 10: Cory Redding  of the Baltimore Ravens defends against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Players wore pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Ravens defeated the Broncos 31-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

3. Sam Koch

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05: Punter Sam Koch  of the Baltimore Ravens punts the ball to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

2. Derrick Mason

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13: Wide receiver Derrick Mason  of the Baltimore Ravens scores his second toudhdown of the quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

1. Josh Wilson

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13: Cornerback Josh Wilson  of the Baltimore Ravens intercepts Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans for the winning touchdown in overtime as Derrick Ward  of the Houston Texans watches at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Drew Forrester’s Top 7…

7. Tavares Gooden

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 11:  Tavares Gooden #56 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a play against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on October 11, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Bengals defeated the Ravens 17-14. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

6. Terrell Suggs

Baltimore Ravens Terrell Suggs celebrates a defensive stop against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 5, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

5. Anquan Boldin

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05: Wide receiver Anquan Boldin  of the Baltimore Ravens catches a pass to score a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

4. Derrick Mason

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13: Wide receiver Derrick Mason  of the Baltimore Ravens scores in the first half against the Houston Texans as linebacker Kevin Bentley  and Troy Nolan  of the Houston Texans are late defending at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

3. Joe Flacco

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after tossing a touchdown reception against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

2. Sam Koch

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 5:   Sam Koch #4 of the Baltimore Ravens moves to punt the ball during the game against the Tennessee Titans on October 5, 2008 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

1. Josh Wilson

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13: Cornerback Josh Wilson  of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates intercepting a pass from Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans in overtime at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

SEASON TOTALS:

Glenn:
27. Ed Dickson (1 point)
27. Jarret Johnson (1 point)
24. David Reed (2 points)
24. Willis McGahee (2 points)
24. Le’Ron McClain (2 points)

21. Marshal Yanda (3 points)
21. Kelly Gregg (3 points)
21. Chris Carr (3 points)
18. TJ Houshmandzadeh (4 points)
18. Terrence Cody (4 points)
18. Ben Grubbs (4 points)
16. Lardarius Webb (5 points)
16. Michael Oher (5 points)

14. Cory Redding (9 points)
14. Dawan Landry (9 points)
13. Josh Wilson (10 points)
12. Ed Reed (11 points)
9. Sam Koch (12 points)
9. Billy Cundiff (12 points)
9. Fabian Washington (12 points)
8. Todd Heap (15 points)

7. Terrell Suggs (23 points)
6. Derrick Mason (24 points)
5. Ray Lewis (26 points)
4. Haloti Ngata (28 points)
3. Ray Rice (37 points)
2. Anquan Boldin (46 points)
1. Joe Flacco (58 points)

Drew:
29. Jason Phillips (1 point)
25. TJ Houshmandzadeh (2 points)
25. Jameel McClain (2 points)
25. Brandon McKinney (2 points)
25. Dannell Ellerbe (2 points)
22. Tavares Gooden (3 points)
22. Willis McGahee (3 points)
22. Cory Redding (3 points)
21. Marshal Yanda (4 points)

19. Le’Ron McClain (5 points)
19. Michael Oher (5 points)
16. Lardarius Webb (6 points)
16. Terrence Cody (6 points)
16. Fabian Washington (6 points)
14. Dawan Landry (7 points)
14. Ed Reed (7 points)
11. Josh Wilson (8 points)
11. Jarret Johnson (8 points)
11. Todd Heap (8 points)
10. Chris Carr (9 points)
9. Sam Koch (11 points)
8. Billy Cundiff (12 points)
7. Derrick Mason (18 points)
6. Haloti Ngata (22 points)

5. Ray Lewis (32 points)
4. Ray Rice (33 points)
2. Anquan Boldin (34 points)
2. Terrell Suggs (34 points)
1. Joe Flacco (58 points)

If you missed the explanation of why these players made the list on “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday on AM1570 WNST, hit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Ravens Post Crucial Victory in Houston…Even If It Felt Like Crushing Defeat

Posted on 14 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

HOUSTON, TX — The Baltimore Ravens (9-4) were effective or better in nearly every aspect of their 34-28 overtime win over the Houston Texans (5-8) Monday night at Reliant Stadium.

The offense put points up early, scoring an unlikely 21 points in the first half.

The defense was effective despite giving up two 21-point leads, as they rebounded and Josh Wilson returned a Matt Schaub interception for 12 yards for to seal the deal.

The special teams unit got not only more good football from kicker Billy Cundiff (three more touchbacks) and punter Sam Koch (five of seven punts left the Texans inside their own 20 yard line-including a crucial 58 yard bomb in overtime), but they finally broke through with a 103 yard touchdown from kick returner David Reed.

It was the type of game the Ravens needed after a heartbreaking 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 13.

Really…it was. Of course, we all know it doesn’t exactly feel that way.

The Ravens may have controlled play for the first 31:15 of their win over the only AFC South opponent they’ll face this season; but the Texans’ ability to get back into the game and force overtime will leave an uncomfortable feeling throughout Charm City, including the building at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills.

After breaking the game open with Reed’s kickoff return to open the 2nd half, the Ravens failed not only to score another point; but tallied just five first downs the rest of the way. In the same time frame, the Texans managed to rack up 401 yards of total offense and 22 points.

It was a crucial victory for a team trying to lock up at least an AFC Wild Card berth, with the AFC North still very much in the balance.

The win does move the Ravens ahead of the Jets for the fifth-seed in the AFC Playoffs.

The type of crucial victory that will be discussed as if it were one of the more devastating losses in the history of the franchise.

The type of victory that leaves a fanbase asking themselves 14 weeks into a season “is this team really any good?”

The answer of course remains the same. We just simply don’t know.

The reality is that fans are probably-at best-concerned.

“Concerned is probably a good word word” said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh following the win. “Do we have things that we’re worried about? Do we have things we have to work on? Absolutely.”

It’s hard to find a balance between what wasn’t far from being the most painful collapse in franchise history and a victory that guarantees a third straight winning season and leaves the Ravens two games ahead in the race for the playoffs with only three games to play.

The Ravens are clearly a very good team, even if took a heroic TD return from CB Josh Wilson on an overtime interception throw from Matt Schaub to escape the Lone Star State with a victory. Teams don’t get to 9-4 without being very good.

But for a very good team, they have a number of problems. The pass protection was practically brutal, allowing five Texans sacks (and eight TFL’s altogether). OT Michael Oher admitted after the game “I’m hurting my team. I gotta get it done.”

The pass rush was also practically non-existent in the second half, although Harbaugh admitted post-game the team purposely didn’t go after Schaub out of respect for the Texans’ offensive play-makers.

Of the Texans’ 401 yards after halftime, 242 came via the air. After getting sacks from LB Terrell Suggs and DE Cory Redding in the first half, the Ravens failed to put Schaub in the turf again.

And the play-calling? Once again suspect.

Not only will defensive coordinator Greg Mattison be criticized for choosing to not rush Schaub late, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will face fire for his decision to again throw the ball with the lead in a 3rd and short situation late in the game. (This time there was 2:58 left and the Ravens were on the Texans’ 44. The play resulted in a Flacco incompletion, which in fairness wasn’t quite as bad as the Troy Polamalu sack and strip the week before.)

When I asked RB Ray Rice what he had hoped the call was going to be, he made his feelings known.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT1-sZU1kGE[/youtube]

“I wanted to run it. I’m just being honest with you. I’ve never been a guy to question anything, but on 3rd and 1-I want the ball.”

Not exactly dissent, but not ringing support either.

Despite all of the concerns, the Ravens are still in very good position to reach the playoffs. But it isn’t exactly an easy road. After returning home from Houston, the Ravens will have a short week to prepare for a visit from the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints Sunday. The Saints just happen to find themselves in the thick of their own playoff race in the NFC South.

Anyone feeling comfortable about Sunday’s game?

There’s one Raven in particular who either isn’t as concerned as the rest of the city of Baltimore…or is at least doing a great job of hiding it.

“Keep giving me W’s” said future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis. “You can’t ask for (anything) else.”

There was a collective sigh of relief in the Ravens locker room following their Monday Night Football escape. And if they keep posting wins, it won’t matter if they give up 22 point leads in the second half of every game.

But after the team finishes exhaling, they’ll have to get back to work. They have a long way to go to prove they’re a championship caliber football team.

-G

Hear from Harbaugh, Lewis, Suggs, Flacco, Rice, Wilson, Oher and WR Derrick Mason following the Ravens win in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

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Live From Owings Mills: Emotional Cam Cameron Says “That Was a Heck of a Blow the Other Night…But it Wasn’t a Fatal Blow”

Posted on 10 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-4) returned to practice Friday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for their Monday Night Football showdown with the Houston Texans (5-7) at Reliant Stadium.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron met with the media Friday for the first time since coming under fire for questionable decisions at the end the team’s Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

“There’s nothing that’s been said that I wouldn’t have already said” said Cameron. “You just didn’t get to me first.”

Cameron was specifically criticized for calling a pass play on 2nd & 5 late in the 4th quarter. The play resulted in Steelers safety Troy Polamalu sacking Ravens QB Joe Flacco and causing a fumble. The fumble was recovered by Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley inside the Ravens’ 10 yard line, setting up the Steelers’ game-winning touchdown pass.

“You’re looking at the guy responsible (for the result)” said Cameron. “There was a flaw in that protection…that I did not catch for some reason. In 25+ years, I’ve never seen that happen. It showed up at the worst time it possibly could have. It’s my job to catch that flaw, and that flaw has been corrected.”

Cameron also defended the play call in general.

“I think football is way beyond running and throwing. It’s executing the run, executing the pass. This is 2010. That’s just the way it is. You call a run, you execute it. You call a pass, you execute it. It’s about execution. That’s the thing we have to remember.”

Cameron made sure to state his belief that the team could bounce back from the tough loss.

“That was a heck of a blow the other night, I get that. But it wasn’t a fatal blow. The confidence I have starting with Joe (Flacco) all the way through this offense ain’t changing. You can look at it however you want to look at it. When we come off that field, we’re going to give our players a chance to have won the game for us, and I trust these guys. It didn’t work out the other night, but it’s going to work out a lot more than it isn’t.

PRACTICE REPORT: TE Todd Heap missed practice again Friday as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury suffered in the team’s  loss to the Steelers. Heap is not expected to be available Monday night.

CB Fabian Washington (thigh) did not participate in Friday’s practice either. His status is not believed to be in jeopardy for Monday night. CB Lardarius Webb (thigh) was a limited participant, FB Le’Ron McClain (ankle) was a full participant.

The Texans have ruled TE Garrett Graham (hamstring) out for Monday’s game. WR Andre Johnson (ankle) and DE Mario Williams (groin) were limited participants in practice Friday.

LB Xavier Adibi (hamstring), G Mike Brisiel (shoulder) LB Brian Cushing (knee), TE Owen Daniels (hamstring), TE Joel Dreessen (ribs), CB Glover Quin (hand), QB Matt Schaub (knee) and OT Eric Winston (shoulder) were all full participants in Texans practice Friday.

NOTES: Hear from Cameron, Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison, Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg and S Ed Reed now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……FB Jason McKie joined Drew Forrester Friday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……According to Weather.com/The Weather Channel, temperatures are expected to between 40 and 50 degrees Monday night in Houston, the Texans are planning to keep the roof open at Reliant Stadium……The Ravens will return to practice Saturday at 1 Winning Drive. Head Coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with the media following Saturday’s practice

-G

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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Live From Owings Mills: Ray Lewis Says Ravens Will Help Pay Jameel McClain’s Fine

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-4) returned to work Thursday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for their Monday Night Football showdown with the Houston Texans (9-3) at Reliant Stadium.

LB Ray Lewis was asked Thursday about the $40,000 fine the NFL handed down to fellow LB Jameel McClain for a hit on Steelers TE Heath Miller in the team’s Week 13 loss to Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium.

“I told him I might try to help him” said Lewis. “But that’s a rough one.”

Lewis defended McClain’s play.

“When I saw the hit, I’m like ‘good hit’” said the future Hall of Famer. “From there (in) the next two days you hear $40,000 and you’re like ‘Wow. For real? For a hit?’”

Lewis said Ravens teammates would pitch in to help McClain pay the fine.

“$40,000 is $40,000; so we can do what we gotta do whatever we can do for him to definitely help him out.”

Lewis seemed convinced that nothing will change the NFL’s policy for levying major fines for devastating hits.

“They’re gonna do it regardless, and that’s what’s frustrating. It’s gonna happen. I think guys just gotta keep moving on because they have a plan in play right now and they’re gonna execute it from what they’ve shown. It doesn’t matter what you say, it doesn’t matter what you try to do. If you deal with it long enough, you’re gonna drive yourself crazy. Play the game, have fun and hopefully those things don’t come your way.”

PRACTICE REPORT: TE Todd Heap (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday. He was forced to leave the Ravens’ Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium in the first quarter. Heap is not expected to be available Monday night.

All other Ravens were on the practice field Thursday and are expected to be available Monday night. CB Fabian Washington (thigh) was a limited participant, FB Le’Ron McClain (ankle) was a full participant.

The Texans released a lengthy injury report Thursday. TE Garrett Graham (hamstring), WR Andre Johnson (ankle) and DE Mario Williams (groin) did not participate in practice.

LB Xavier Adibi (hamstring), G Mike Brisiel (shoulder), LB Brian Cushing (knee), TE Owen Daniels (hamstring), TE Joel Dreesen (ribs), CB Glover Quin (hand), QB Matt Schaub (knee) and OT Eric Winston (shoulder) were all full participants.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Lewis, QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice and CB Chris Carr now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……TE Ed Dickson joined Drew Forrester Thursday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well. FB Jason McKie is scheduled to join Forrester Friday morning at 7:15…..The Texans have announced that they will wear red uniforms Monday night as part of a “Battle Red” promotion……The Ravens will return to practice Friday. Coordinators Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Jerry Rosburg are expected to meet with the media

-G

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Live from Owings Mills: Jameel McClain to Appeal $40k Fine

Posted on 08 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-4) returned to 1 Winning Drive Wednesday, getting an extra day of practice ahead of their Monday Night Football showdown with the Houston Texans (5-7) at Reliant Stadium.

LB Jameel McClain informed members of the media Wednesday that he was going to appeal the $40,000 fine handed down to him by the NFL Monday. The league fined McClain for a hit on Steelers TE Heath Miller in a Week 13 loss to Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium.

In a letter to McClain, the league said McClain “unnecessarily struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area.” The league determined McClain was in violation of Rule 12, Section 2. Article 8 of Rule 12, Section 2 in the NFL rule includes the following bylaw…

“(g) if the initial force of the contact by a defender’s helmet (including facemask), forearm, or shoulder is to the head or neck area of a defenseless player.”

“It’s a man going to try to make a play” McClain explained to reporters Wednesday. “I was within the strikezone, I was going the way that I was taught to proceed in the game throughout my whole life. If I let off on that play and he catches the ball and possibly streaks down the field for possibly 50 yards then it’s a different story what we’re talking about.”

McClain said he had not yet met with his agent to discuss the appeal process, and he said he didn’t expect to change the way he plays.

“You gotta play this game physical, you gotta play this game fast. I’m not out there trying to hurt (anybody).”

DT Haloti Ngata declined to comment Wednesday about the $15,000 fine the league gave him for a hit on QB Ben Roethlisberger in the loss to the Steelers.

HEAP “DAY TO DAY”: TE Todd Heap said his injured hamstring had “gotten better” since leaving the Sunday Night Football game during the team’s first offensive possession.

Head Coach John Harbaugh had expressed initially that Heap’s chances didn’t “look good” for Monday night’s game, but then said Tuesday on his weekly radio show that there was an “outside chance” Heap could see the field.

“We’re taking it day to day right now” said Heap. “We’ll see where it is come gametime.”

Heap appeared to be walking without a noticeable limp Wednesday, but told reporters he had not yet attempted to run or take part in football activity. Heap said he was relieved the injury wasn’t as significant as it appeared it could have been.

“It could have been worse. You never know with a hamstring injury what the timeframe is. Hopefully it’s sooner than later. My goal right is just to get out there as quickly as possible. We’ve got this stretch run we’re trying to make, all of these games are important for us. That’s my main focus, just trying to get on the field and help the team as soon as I can.

If Heap does miss Monday night’s game, rookie TE Ed Dickson is expected to start in his place. Dickson said Wednesday he’s been taking the majority of snaps with the first team offense in practice this week.

Dickson does not lack confidence in his ability to play when on the field.

“I know I’m gonna get a couple more rocks this week” said Dickson. “I came in like I was ready to play. I’m a competitor. I’m going to continue to grow and get better.”

NOTES: Hear from now J. McClain, Heap, Dickson, WR Derrick Mason, WR Anquan Boldin, DT Kelly Gregg and FB Le’Ron McClain NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Dickson is scheduled to join Drew Forrester Thursday at 7:15am on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST……Bill Leavy’s crew will officiate Monday night’s game……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday, with Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco, LB Ray Lewis, RB Ray Rice and others expected to meet the media. Wednesday’s practice was not open to the media, nor was an Injury Report released Wednesday

-G

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A Tale of Two Johns: Like Cooper Had to Beat Michigan, Harbaugh Has to Beat Steelers

Posted on 08 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

2-5 isn’t quite 2-10-1.

That being said, 2-5 might not be a totally fair representation.

Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has learned a tough lesson this week following his team’s heartbreaking 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.

In Baltimore-much like in Columbus, Ohio-fans simply won’t accept rivalry losses.

John Cooper was a tremendous college football coach. During a head coaching career at Tulsa, Arizona State, and Ohio State that spanned from 1977-2000; Cooper posted a 192-84-6 record and tallied nine conference championships.

Cooper was the head coach of the Buckeyes from 1988-2000. He went 111-43-4 during that span, claiming three Big Ten titles. Cooper guided the Buckeyes to bowl appearances in 11 of his 13 seasons and finished with a losing record only once-his first season in Columbus. Cooper counted wins in both the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl during his time as the Buckeyes’ head man, and played in bowl games on New Year’s Day or later an impressive nine times.

Cooper had incredible success as the Head Coach at Ohio State. The type of success that might have earned him the right to determine his own fate. “Might have” if not for one glaring problem.

2-10-1.

As head man in Columbus, Cooper’s Buckeyes posted just a 2-10-1 record against the Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State’s biggest rival.

It wasn’t just that Cooper’s teams struggled in their regular season finale against the opponent alumni and fans despised the most. The bigger problem was that Ohio State’s battles with Michigan regularly determined the final outcome for the Buckeyes’ season.

In 1993, Ohio State entered the Michigan game with a 9-0-1 record, but a 28-0 loss in Ann Arbor cost them an outright conference title. In 1995, Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George lead the Buckeyes back to Ann Arbor with an undefeated record and national title dreams. After a 31-23 defeat, the Buckeyes were sent to the Citrus Bowl instead.

1996 provided the greatest heartbreak for the Buckeyes in the John Cooper era, as they entered the Michigan game again undefeated and ranked #2 in the country. The Buckeyes had a 9-0 lead at halftime against Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines, but ultimately fell 13-9 at home.

OSU would eventually win another game against Michigan under Cooper in 1998, but they never posted back to back wins in the series under his guide. Cooper was fired following an 8-4 campaign in 2000. While academic and off-field troubles surrounding the program played a role in his firing, his record against Michigan ultimately played a major role.

In fact, when new coach Jim Tressel took over in Columbus he made a point to put special emphasis on the Michigan rivalry. After the former Youngstown State head coach was hired by the Buckeyes, he made a memorable halftime speech at a Ohio State-Michigan basketball game, according to ESPN.com…

“I can assure you that you will be proud of our young people, in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the football field.”

Following Sunday’s loss, Harbaugh now holds a 2-5 record against the Ravens’ heated AFC North rivals, including the 2009 AFC Championship Game.

(Every Ravens fan knows that both of Harbaugh’s wins in the rivalry came in games where Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was not on the field. That’s why the 2-5 record may not be such a fair representation.)

In 2008, Harbaugh’s second loss to the Steelers cost the Ravens a shot at the division title and forced them to hit the road in the playoffs. After a hard fought divisional round win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Ravens appeared flat when they hit the field for the conference title game at Heinz Field. Harbaugh’s third loss to the Steelers cost the Ravens a trip to Tampa Bay to face the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

(Harbaugh’s first loss to the Steelers-a Week 4 Monday Night Football defeat early in 2008-was also a loss that could have earned the Ravens home field advantage had they won the game. Week 4 losses just don’t tend to be quite as agonizing as losses in Week 15.)

Harbaugh’s fourth loss to the Steelers wasn’t quite as crushing. Despite losing in the Steel City in late 2009, the Ravens held on to earn a Wild Card playoff berth via a tiebreaker after the teams finished with matching 9-7 records.

Harbaugh’s fifth loss in the series shapes up to be as crushing if not more than any of the others. Had the Ravens held on for a Week 13 win over the Steelers, they would have controlled their own destiny (and actually held a one game margin of error) to win the division, receive a first round bye and host a playoff game in the divisional round.

The Ravens were a home win over the Steelers away from having a significantly clearer path to Dallas and a chance to again play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy this season.

We know now that the path isn’t so clear.

Had Sunday’s loss been to the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns, it would have been difficult for fans to stomach. Sunday’s loss was particularly costly, and it would have left a dark cloud hanging over Charm City no matter who the opponent had been.

Yet because it was a rivalry loss, because it was the Steelers, there is simply no doubt that the black cloud left by the defeat remains darker than anything that came from fires on The Block or in Mt. Vernon.

(As an aside, does anyone see symbolism in the fact that the city has dealt with multiple REAL black clouds after a Steelers loss?)

The fact is, this fanbase CANNOT stomach losses to the Steelers, especially not losses of such magnitude. Losses hurt, but losses to the Steelers are absolute gut punches.

As Drew Forrester and I opined last week on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, this city doesn’t look at a Ravens loss to the Steelers as a NFL loss. The city tends to look at such losses as a loss to the city of Pittsburgh in general. There’s a natural feeling that it wasn’t a football team that won on Sunday night, but instead the entire Western Pennsylvania area.

It leads to frustration, pain and anger. As I wrote immediately following Sunday night’s game, the ability for fans to be rational goes completely out the window after a loss to the Steelers.

Harbaugh found that out Tuesday night during his radio show on WBAL.

A caller to the show questioned Harbaugh on the job status of DL Coach Clarence Brooks, one of the more respected assistants on the Ravens’ staff.

Harbaugh didn’t handle the question well, chiming back “Clarence Brooks does a great job. We will fight our tails off. If that’s not enough, then find another team to root for” according to the National Football Post.

It wasn’t the only time Harbaugh lost his cool during the show. Again according to NFP, Harbaugh also explained at one point: “if you’re not proud of this football team, then you don’t know football.”

Harbaugh probably didn’t handle the questions the best way he could have. There’s no doubt that his frustration reflected poorly with the fans who were listening, even if his answers were fair.

But the problem wasn’t the response. The problem was the result.

Ravens fans are NEVER going to be accepting of losses to the Steelers.

When the Ravens lose to the Steelers, the fanbase is going to respond poorly. This won’t be the last time a John Harbaugh-coached Ravens team plays the Steelers with major AFC North or overall playoff ramifications. In fact, the majority of the games the two teams will play against each other will be played with a lot on the line.

While college football and the NFL aren’t similar in many ways, this is an area where the rivalry is much like Ohio State-Michigan.

It isn’t just a rivalry because the two teams (or fanbases) don’t like each other. Ole Miss and Mississippi State don’t like each other, but their games rarely mean much of anything in the SEC. Ravens-Steelers games regularly mean a lot in the AFC.

The comparison is something John Harbaugh should really understand. John went to Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. His father (Jack Harbaugh) was an assistant under Bo Schembechler at Michigan. His brother (Jim Harbaugh) was a quarterback for the Maize and Blue. (Jim’s teams were 3-1 against Ohio State.) Ohio State-Michigan is in John Harbaugh’s blood.

In that way, Harbaugh probably understands well what happened to Cooper at Ohio State. Hopefully that understanding can be transcendent.

If John Harbaugh is going to succeed as the Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, he is going to HAVE to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There’s just no getting around that.

Harbaugh is not in jeopardy of being run out of town like Cooper was at Ohio State.

I repeat, Harbaugh’s job is NOT in jeopardy. Certainly not at this point anyway.

But if he’s going to succeed here long-term, he’s going to HAVE to beat the Steelers. If not, a few annoying calls to a radio show will turn into general discontent, and eventually a much more vitriolic fanbase.

That’s what happened to Cooper in Columbus.

Harbaugh doesn’t have to win EVERY game against the Steelers. Since taking over at Ohio State, Tressel has gone 9-1 against the rival Wolverines, which isn’t a realistic expectation for Harbaugh against the Steelers.

But he has to start winning SOME meaningful games against the Steelers, or the Ravens won’t accomplish the things they need to for Harbaugh to be successful as a Head Coach.

And if 2-5 is a pace that continues for Harbaugh against the Steelers, Harbaugh’s story will likely have a similar ending as Cooper’s.

-G

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