Tag Archive | "New Orleans Saints"

Former Towson and Saints OT Jermon Bushrod on return to area: “If the situation ever presented itself, you have to be open to it”

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Former Towson and Saints OT Jermon Bushrod on return to area: “If the situation ever presented itself, you have to be open to it”

Posted on 24 February 2011 by Ryan Chell

When Ravens tackle Jared Gaither missed the 2010 season with a back injury, the former Maryland Terps’ absence left a glaring hole on the Baltimore offensive line and forced the coaching staff  out of position and out of their comfort zones.

And with Gaither’s upcoming free agent status-combined with the inconsistency on the part of current left tackle Michael Oher-the Ravens could be in need of another bookend tackle to fill that role in order to adequately protect quarterback Joe Flacco.

Why not replace Gaither-who combined with his injury, high bargaining price to return, and attitude issues-with another local college alumni who went on to bigger and better things in the NFL?

That of course would be former Towson Tigers tackle Jermon Bushrod, who also is scheduled to be a free agent given the owners and players agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by March 4th.

Bushrod-who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Towson-has been a starter for the Saints the last two seasons.

That includes the 2009 Super Bowl run for the Saints in which Jermon replaced former first-round pick Jamaal Brown and he protected the blind side for All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees on their way to the franchise’s first ever championship.

Jermon Bushrod

He started 14 games for the Saints that year, and his stellar play not only made the Saints offensive line better-he made the expensive and off-injured Brown expendable.

In his four years as a Saint, he has grown right along with the franchise, as a guy playing at the 1-AA level improved at the same time Coach Sean Payton grew as a head coach and the franchise changed from a perennial loser to the elite of the NFC.

“He’s a tough coach to play for,” Bushrod told Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” this week. “But I love every bit of it. What he’s demanding along with his level of cooperation is something I’ve never been around ever in my football career. You’ve got to love playing for a guy like him.”

He picked up right where he left off in 2010, and proving that he can be a top-of-the-line offensive tackle in the NFL might give him a big payday when the time comes for him to hit free agency.

Maybe that price will come from his “hometown”(he’s from Virginia) team in the Baltimore Ravens.

Jermon Bushrod

Bushrod-after his freshman redshirt-was a four year starter for the Towson Tigers and made All-Conference three of the four years. His final season at Towson, he was an integral part of the Tigers’ 7-4 season and over the course of his collegiate career, he started 38 straight games.

“If the situation ever presented itself,” Bushrod said. “You definitely have to be open to it. That would be kind of a neat experience being home. If the situation comes, than that’s something we’re going to have to deal with.”

But Bushrod said he’s going to give the Saints the benefit of the doubt. Not only are they the team that drafted him out of college and they were his first taste of the NFL, but he felt like he grew on to New Orleans and the family he gained winning the Super Bowl last season.

“I get the vibe they still want me here,” Bushrod said. “That’s something they have to work out on their end, and I’m definitely looking forward to talking with them again.”

But he also does understand that the money side of the NFL sometimes doesn’t allow players to stay where they desire, and it could turn out to be a business decision as to his NFL future.

“Everything is a process especially in this business,” Bushrod said. “You just have to kind of have to let everything sort itself out. This is definitely a new experience for me. But I’m taking it in stride and just enjoying the moment while catching up with my family and friends in this crazy time.”

WNST wouldn’t mind seeing Bushrod in black and purple next season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Ravens play a prime part in very “hairy” NFL weekend …..

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Rex Snider

If you look back on the totality of this past weekend’s games, I think it’s pretty easy to detect the obvious: every round of the NFL playoffs will present some unpredictable circumstances, as well as some very quirky results …..

Many of us thought 3 of 4 visiting teams would win their respective matchups. But, did we think the New Orleans Saints, as the most resounding favorite (-10.5 points) in NFL history, would be the sole “road loser?”

If I presented the following circumstances: the Indianapolis Colts are losing by one point, they’re driving inside the Jets 30 yard line with less than one minute remaining …. would you predict a Manning win or loss?

If you knew 2 running backs would rush for 100+ yards, and the weekend’s matchups featured names like Ray Rice, Joseph Addai, LaSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and LaDanian Tomlinson, would you ever imagine that Marshawn Lynch and James Starks would be those guys?

A pretty telling factor …. Michael Vick’s last win was the week before Christmas, when he was being mentioned in the same breath with Tom Brady, for NFL MVP honors.

Does the respective, opposing defense matter? Well …. the Philadelphia Eagles averaged 28 points, per game, during the regular season and the Seattle Seahawks averaged just 19 points, per contest. Which team is still alive?

After a steady December of witnessing snowy, icy games across the midwest and northeast, the first two weeks of January have not been impacted by inclement weather, at all.

Did you ever imagine Joe Flacco and Dan Marino would be mentioned in the same sentence? That’s right, they’re the only quarterbacks to win 36 games in their first 3 seasons. With a win in Pittsburgh, Flacco will stand alone on this record.

Ten years ago, Brandon Stokley caught a touchdown pass in the Ravens Super Bowl victory. Did any of us think he would catch another touchdown, a decade later? He did it Saturday – in Seattle’s win.
Speaking of touchdown receptions …. Anquan Boldin went more than a month (5 weeks) without one. The troubling streak ended yesterday – let’s hope he can have two consecutive games with TD catches for the first time since October 17th and 24th.

With this weekend’s wins by the Ravens and Jets, both AFC wildcard teams advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs, in consecutive seasons, for the first time (2010 & 2011).

Yesterday’s win also yielded John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco as the only HEAD COACH and QUARTERBACK to win playoff games in their first 3 NFL seasons.

On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks won their 8th game of the season. Their opponent, the New Orleans Saints, won their 8th game of the season, a mere 44 days earlier …. on Thanksgiving Day !!!!

Speaking of those Seahawks, it will be impossible for them to finish with a winning record, UNLESS they win the Super Bowl. That’s correct, if they lose the Super Bowl, they’ll finish the season 10-10 overall.

And finally …..

On a weekend when Matt Ryan debuts as one of Gillette’s new “clean shaven” models, Joe Flacco grew a beard. Who says Joe doesn’t want to be different?

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Ravens get “victimized” in NFL’s playoff mess …..

Posted on 03 January 2011 by Rex Snider

As we collect ourselves on this first day of business, in 2011, I’m certain the bigwigs within the National Football League’s power structure realize they have a great deal of BUSINESS to do beyond the final whistle in Super Bowl XLV.

Yeah, yeah, the most pressing issues revolve around the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Players Association and ownership. But, other problems and dilemmas also need some clear and concise attention.

When the NFL’s Competition Committee convenes, this spring, I really hope they take a sobering look at the process of seeding playoff teams. Specifically, they need to address alternatives to the traditional mode of slotting teams with priority to divisional winners, followed by wildcard entries.

Better and more appealing prospects exist …..

Why not toss this current system aside and rank the six teams, per conference, by overall record?

It certainly makes more sense, and it truly rewards WINNING (even in the later stages of the season) to hinge overall records on respective playoff positioning. If you’re a traditionalist or simply someone who resists change, just consider the upcoming slate of matchups.

Of the four games scheduled for next weekend, three contests will be hosted by teams with inferior records to the visitors. Yep, given the Ravens are one of the so-called “victims”, I’ll assume this is the point where my detractors lob a few “kool-aid bombs”.

Think again …..

There is hardly any situation more unfair than seeing the defending Super Bowl Champions traveling 2100 miles to play a postseason matchup with a team that bears a losing record. The Seattle Seahawks won the putrid NFC-West, so they’ll host the wildcard-winning New Orleans Saints.

It doesn’t matter that Seattle finished a dismal 7-9, while New Orleans achieved an 11-5 overall record, right? Oh, and the head-to-head matchup? New Orleans smoked ‘em by 18 points, with a 37-19 thrashing.

The Saints had a better season than the Seahawks and they’re clearly a much more talented team. In fact, they’re favored by 10.5 points, in next week’s game. That’s a freaking touchdown and field goal !!!!

Yet, the Saints will board a plane and head to Seattle, because the LOSING record of the Seahawks was good enough to capture a divisional title.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, they too, had a better record than their hosts, the Kansas City Chiefs. Although, in devout honesty, both teams had stellar seasons. The Ravens had a couple more wins than the Chiefs, amidst a tougher schedule …..

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens sign veteran long snapper; Ravens tight ends return to practice

Posted on 29 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

Ravens sign long-snapper

The uncertainty regarding who would fill the void left by the injury to long snapper Morgan Cox Sunday versus the Browns was ended Wednesday at Owings Mills during John Harbaugh’s press conference, as Harbaugh was immediately asked who would take over for Cox.

The team signed Kevin Houser, a tenth-year veteran out of Ohio State, was brought to Owings Mills last night for a physical. The news broke Wednesday that he had signed with the club, and he was already hard at work working with kicker Billy Cundiff on his rapport with his new teammate in practice that afternoon.

Houser was drafted in the seventh round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and spent nine seasons in New Orleans. At one point, he had been the longest-tenured Saint several season ago and he was the veteran presence the Ravens said they were looking for.

“He’s a veteran guy, and he did real well in the workout yesterday, and we’ll see how well he does today in practice,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

There were specific things Coach Harbaugh-a former special teams coach in his own right-that he expected out of the ideal candidate to replace Morgan Cox.

“You look at how he does with protection, how he handles the movement, and stuff that goes along with protection,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You look at his anchor a little bit in case they try and bull rush him in there. There’s some things you work with that’s similar to pass protection with offensive lineman…. the ability to recover off the snap, get his head up, and how he handles some of the calls and the different things we do with our protection.

The Ravens also brought in veterans Bryan Pittman, Ethan Albright, and Jake Ingram but none of them seemed to fit with what the Ravens wanted to do.

Pittman didn’t even pass the physical, Harbaugh said.

Morgan Cox left Sunday’s game versus the Browns with a torn ACL and a damaged MCL and will be lost for the year. He played the remainder of Sunday’s game with the injury but was lost on punt and kick coverage.

Cox had played at a solid level this season and the team was looking for a guy to pick up right where Cox left off.

“These guys have been around. Most protections are very similar in the NFL. That’s why we really wanted a veteran. Those guys understand the schemes and they’ve done the techniques and they should be ready to plug right in.

Wednesday’s Practice: We fully expected Wednesday that the only Ravens not to be present at practice  were safety Tom Zbikowski, who is out with a back injury, and LB Tavares Gooden who still is hurting with a  separated shoulder on his left side.

With Zbikowski’s injury continuing to linger, he could be placed on IR soon to keep a healthy roster spot in place going into the playoffs.

But joining Zbikowski and Gooden who did not participate in practice were center Matt Birk who has shown up on the injury report in the past with a knee injury, and a curious scratch was LB Prescott Burgess, who normally would have made his mark during the special teams part of practice.

He was listed on the injury report because of illness, and over the last several weeks we have seen several Ravens players miss practice due the contagious flu bug floating around the Ravens locker room.

However, both tight ends Dennis Pitta(concussion) and Todd Heap(thigh/hamstring) were present during the open session of practice that the media were able to witness. Heap did most of his work off to the side just wearing sweats.

Kick return was the main focus of special teams practice and Jalen Parmele took all the drills at returning kicks with David Reed(concussion) still on the mends.

Reed was present at practice but did not participate in the drills. He was listed as limited in drills on the Ravens’ Wednesday injury report.

Five Ravens Named to Pro Bowl:

Yesterday’s Pro Bowl announcement came down last night and the AFC Roster will be represented by five Baltimore Ravens, but no offensive players from the Ravens will be going to Hawaii the week before the Super Bowl.

Linebacker Ray Lewis, LB/DE Terrell Suggs, DT Haloti Ngata, S Ed Reed, and kicker Billy Cundiff all have been named to the Pro Bowl, with the list being announced Tuesday night.

Ray Lewis will be going to his twelfth Pro Bowl trip. Suggs will be going to his fourth, and Reed will be going to his seventh in his nine-year career. Ngata is going for the second straight year.

But Cundiff will be going for the first time in his career, which should be a tremendous honor for a kicker who joined the team only a year ago as a band-aid to a struggling position.

It was the media’s first opportunity to catch up with the players since the announcement at practice, and in reality, the team still said that the honors are secondary to Cincinnati on Sunday and their path through the playoffs towards eventually getting to Dallas.

“It’s bitter sweet,” Suggs said. “It’s good to be recongized not only by other coaches and other players amongst the other teams and the fans. It’s good. It’s really good. Don’t get me wrong.”

“But we still want the Lombardi. I’ve been to Hawaii. This will be my fourth time. But I really would love to play in the Super Bowl.”

This is the first year the Pro Bowl will be played the week BEFORE the Super Bowl instead of after the big game. The Super Bowl participants will miss the annual all-star game.

“It really didn’t mean too much,” quarterback Joe Flacco said, who was named a third alternate to the AFC quarterback position. “I think that if you’re a Pro-Bowl guy, you are and an alternate is an alternate.”

“I’m not real worried about that,” Flacco continued.  “The Pro Bowl is the Pro Bowl, and I’m focused on playing good football games and coming in looking at the tape and having my coaches say, “Yeah, you played a hell of a game today’ and me feeling the same way.

Other alternates included guard Ben Grubbs, FB Le’Ron McClain, and punter Sam Koch. They were named as second alternates, and the third alternates were Flacco and Michael Oher.

Fourth alternates were Ray Rice, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and safety Dawan Landry.

Probably the biggest snub of them all-at least according to the Ravens-was Koch not getting to the Pro Bowl.

“But Sam Koch, for sure, has had a Pro Bowl year. Some of the things Sam does are unrecognized by the voters sometime. He doesn’t have a huge gross average, but he kicks directionally, he puts it out of bounds 40, 45 yards on a pretty regular basis. The pooch punting has been phenomenal. I would say he is deserving,” Harbaugh noted.

Suggs even wore Koch’s white jersey out to practice as a sign of respect toward his teammate on special teams.

Preparing for the Bengals

Make no mistake. Despite the team’s playoff’s goals, the focus of the team was on Cincinnati alone on Sunday.

The Bengals-despite their 4-11 mark-come in winners of two straight games and winners of their last three decisions against the Baltimore Ravens, including a 15-10 victory in Week 2 of this season with Mike Nugent hitting five field goals.

The Ravens understand the need to finish the regular season strong going into the playoffs no matter where they go.

“Defensively, I’ve got to tell my defense to keep doing what we’re doing,” Lewis said. “In the last game where we lost, we gave up five field goals. They didn’t get in our end zone. Any time you can play at that high of a level coming home, now it’s our time to finish it off.”

They also see the Bengals as a challenge despite the less-than-stellar record, especially given their recent slide and struggles against Cincinnati.

“It seems like they’re always dangerous when they play us,” Harbaugh said. “When you watch them on tape, it does not look like a team that’s not a winning team. On tape, they look like a winning football team.”

“We know how good these guys are. We’ve played them enough. We understand what they’re about, and it’s going to be one of those AFC North kind of games.”

One guy definitely looking for a rebound game is quarterback Joe Flacco, who in Week 2, had probably his worst game of the season, completing 17-of-39 passes for for 154 yards for one touchdown while throwing four costly interceptions.

“I think we put that behind us pretty quickly,” Flacco said. “We’ve moved on and had a pretty good season.”

Since that game, Flacco has really rebounded well, throwing 24 TDs while only throwing four interceptions. But his coach still felt like that game in particular was not the thing that changed Flacco for the better. He always had it in him to take care of the football, said Harbaugh.

“Joe’s been about good ball security here for three years,” Harbaugh said. “So, I don’t think that there was an epiphany that now it’s important. Obviously, that cost us in that game. Joe realizes that. I think it’s one of Joe’s strengths anyway.”

There are four different scenarios that could play out after Sunday’s contest versus the Bengals. The Ravens have guaranteed themselves at least the fifth-seed in the playoffs and depending upon the results on Sunday, the Ravens could either be headed to Jacksonville, Kansas City, and most likely Indianapolis.

And if the Steelers were to lose to Cleveland, the Ravens would earn the second seed in the playoffs and have a first-round bye.

The Ravens said that while taking care of their own business against the Bengals is their primary goal, they did admit that it will be tough to not be looking at the scoreboard when it comes to the Pittsburgh-Cleveland result going on at the same time.

“When the score comes up, I’m sure all of us are going to take a look,” John Harbaugh said. “And we’re going to know by the crowd’s reaction. So I don’t have a problem with that. We’re going to play the game. We have all the focus on Cincinnati.”

“It’s hard not to watch it,” Ray Lewis said. “But we do understand that we need to take care of our business. If we don’t care of our business, none of that matters.”

Tune into WNST as we continue to follow the Ravens through the 2010 season finale! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Five Ravens Named to AFC Pro Bowl Roster

Posted on 28 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

Five Baltimore Ravens were amongst the players named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster Tuesday.

LB Ray Lewis (12th selection), S Ed Reed (7th), LB Terrell Suggs (4th), DT Haloti Ngata (2nd) and K Billy Cundiff (1st) were all selected to participate in the NFL’s annual All-Star Game. Lewis, Reed and Ngata were selected as starters.

“Wow, No. 12 feels like No. 1,” Lewis said via a team press release. “Every year is a different year, and you prepare each offseason for one year at a time. I tell my teammates that I am going to train to be a Pro Bowl player that season, and my focus paid off again this season. This never gets old. This is the greatest honor ever, because this is from the fans, the coaches and your peers. You can never take anything for granted, and I never take this for granted. I am blessed with great teammates, and I wouldn’t be here without them. I feel this is a team award.”

“This is awesome,” Suggs added in the same press release. “The only thing that would be better than this is a Super Bowl. It has been a long few years, and to come back and be recognized by your peers is amazing. This is something you can’t do by yourself; it takes a unit. I have to thank my teammates, especially the defense – and particularly Haloti [Ngata] – for pushing me to do the little extra things when I didn’t want to.”

Cundiff was selected to his first Pro Bowl barely more than a year removed from being unemployed.

“I am humbled, as this is such a great honor,” Cundiff said in the press release. “This is the result of having great teammates and coaches surrounding you. The rapport that (Punter) Sam [Koch] and (LS) Morgan [Cox] and I developed during training camp was invaluable this season. I worked my butt off to prove to our coaches that they made the right choice, and hopefully, this gives them a little gratification.”

“This is a testament to Billy’s hard work and determination,” Ravens assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg added in the press release. “Billy has shown incredible perseverance throughout his career, and he has always remained dedicated to becoming a great kicker in the NFL. I believe that the other players in this league not only respect what he has done, but also how he has done it.  He never lost faith in himself, and he continued to improve.  He is richly deserving of this honor, as is his wife, Nicole, who has been tremendously supportive.”

The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played January 30 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI. Should the Ravens make it to Super Bowl XLV (which is one week later in Arlington, TX), players would not participate in the Pro Bowl game.

A number of Ravens players were also selected as Pro Bowl alternates.

Koch, FB Le’Ron McClain and G Ben Grubbs were named 1st alternates. QB Joe Flacco and OT Michael Oher were named 3rd alternates. WR Anquan Boldin, RB Ray Rice and S Dawan Landry were named 4th alternates.

“I’m happy for those who made it,” Ravens executive vice president and general manager Ozzie Newsome said in the press release. “I’m also pleased for the alternates who get to know that players and coaches around the league think highly of them. Plus, it gives them something to shoot for.”

Only the Atlanta Falcons (7) and New England Patriots (6) had more players named to the Pro Bowl than the Ravens. The Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys also had five players named Pro Bowlers.

Former Ravens who were selected to the Pro Bowl included Falcons FB Ovie Mughelli (1st selection) and Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison (4th selection).

TEAM CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO LONG SNAPPERS: During his weekly radio show Tuesday night on WBAL, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens were set to choose between two of the long snappers who tried out at the 1 Winning Drive facility in Owings Mills.

The Ravens selection will replace Cox, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in the team’s Week 16 win over the Cleveland Browns.

National Football Post reported late Tuesday the choice will be between former Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints LS Kevin Houser and former Houston Texans LS Bryan Pittman.

Former Washington Redskins LS Ethan Albright and former Patriots LS Jake Ingram were also amongst those who reportedly tried out.

NOTES
: Cox joined Drew Forrester Tuesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, hear that chat now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……WR Donte’ Stallworth met with reporters Tuesday after being selected as the team’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient last week. “It [winning the award] means a lot, especially with this being my first year on the team, said Stallworth. “It lets me know that I have made some kind of impact on these guys in the locker room. I’ve always been a person of integrity and tried to always do the right things. It means that people see that that’s the kind of person that I am once they get to know me”……Former Ravens/current Redskins DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Former Maryland Terrapins/current Oakland Raiders LB Eric Barton were announced Tuesday as Ed Block Courage Award winners for their respective teams……The Ravens will return to practice Wednesday; Harbaugh, Lewis, Flacco and Rice are amongst the players expected to meet with the media

-G

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Rating the Ravens against the New Orleans Saints

Posted on 21 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens defeated the Super Bowl Champs in the New Orleans Saints 30-24 Sunday in impressive faction and with a team in the Ravens fighting for a playoff spot and still having an opportunity to win the AFC North, the Ravens may have put together one of their more complete games of the year when it comes to game-planning against a superior opponent.

Rex Snider and I sat down in studio Monday afternoon to “Rate the Ravens” in every position and facet of the game and based on their results Sunday versus the Saints. The scale was out of 5 stars, with five being a perfect score and 1 being the lowest star possible.

Disagree with us? Think we’re dead on? Give us a call at 410-481-1570 2-6PM!

Quaterback:

Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes Sunday, but other than that, Flacco wasn’t asked to do much else(10-20, 172 yards). I hate to say he was asked to manage the game, because to me that would insinuate that had the Ravens needed Flacco to win the game he would have coughed it up and cost Baltimore the victory. He continues his impressive numbers at home (13 TDs, 1 INT), and while Dickson made a play with yards-after-the-catch to get in the end zone for his first touchdown pass, Flacco couldn’t have put his second touchdown pass to Rice in a better spot.

Ryan’s Rating:3.5 out of 5

Rex’s Rating:3 out of 5

Running backs:

It was the Ray Rice show on Sunday, and for good reason. As well as having that touchdown grab for Rice, he went over 100 yards rushing for only the second time this season( the other being against Denver in the home blowout earlier in the year). He finished with 223 total yards of offense, two touchdowns, and his day was highlighted not only by a long run of 50 yards but for also rushing for over 1,000 yards on the season. The only reason why I didn’t give it a perfect grade is because of fullback Le’Ron McClain’s bone-headed drop near the goal line which cost the Ravens a touchdown.

Ryan’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Rex’s Rating:5 out of 5

Receivers:

Much like Flacco, the receivers took a seat Sunday. Besides Dickson and Rice, no other receiver had more than one catch. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was forced out of a touchdown in the back of the end zone, and it’s nice to see Baltimore winning this game-otherwise Anquan Boldin (1 catch, 2 yards) might be throwing a fit.

Ryan’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Rex’s Rating:2 out of 5

Offensive Line:

Why did I give the Ravens’ line four stars on Sunday? For one, they told Oniel Cousins that the game started at 4PM and put him no where near the starting lineup. They did give up three Flacco sacks, but other than that there were no costly sacks or fumbles, and whenever Rice carries the ball 31 times for a season-high 153 yards, you’re doing something right. Give the offensive line credit for sustaining drives and keeping Drew Brees where he belongs-on the bench.

Ryan’s Rating:4 out of 5

Rex’s Rating:3 stars out of 5

Defensive Line:

Haloti Ngata caused a ton of disruption up the middle, including batting the pass that Cory Redding intercepted for his first ever interception( he would have had one earlier in the year had it not been for Ray Lewis’ greedy nature). Terrell Suggs got his 11th sack of the season and stripped Drew Brees of the ball, causing a fumble.

Ryan’s Rating: 4 out of 5

Rex’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Linebackers:

Jarret Johnson had seven tackles, including two for a loss and like Suggs he also had a sack. Dannell Ellerbe proved something to John Harbaugh by registering a sack of his own and providing quality play out of the nickel package letting Ray Lewis take a breather. Tavares Gooden-while not showing up in the box score-hurried Brees multiple times and was key in allowing the Saints to only rush for 27 total yards.

Ryan’s Rating: 4/5

Rex’s Rating:3.5/5

Secondary:

I’ll give the unit credit here. They had a lot to chew on going up against one of the three elite quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees. The lineman intercepted him once, and they also fell into a bit of bad luck when Lance Moore came down with a fourth quarter, toe-dragging touchdown off a deflected pass. They did have no answer for the tight ends in Jimmy Graham or Jeremy Shockey, and Brees finished the day 29-49, 267 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT. The unit was also aided by several big drops by the Saints receivers. Could have been better but the Ravens did enough to win.

Ryan’s Rating:3.5

Rex’s Rating: 3.5

Special Teams:

This unit still continues to be the strength of the team. Billy Cundiff is on his way toward becoming the NFL record holder in touch backs, and he also knocked in three field goals. Sam Koch had two punts downed inside the 20-yard line and RB/KR Jalen Parmele had a nice return after David Reed left with a concussion.

Ryan’s Rating: 5 out of 5

Rex’s Rating: 5 out of 5

Coaching Staff:

The offense ran the ball when they realized the Saints weakness was stopping the run and the defense did enough to contain a potent passing attack with Drew Brees at the helm. Winning at home is important and they didn’t let the opportunity to win a game and later capitalize off a future Steelers loss to the Jets. Some more mis-management with timeouts was an issue in the second half, but ultimately it didn’t become too much of an issue.

Ryan’s Rating: 4 out of 5

Rex’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tavares Gooden on Sunday’s game plan versus Saints: “I haven’t blitzed this much all year”

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Tavares Gooden on Sunday’s game plan versus Saints: “I haven’t blitzed this much all year”

Posted on 21 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

This past weekend, there has been a lot of talk concerning Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’ inspirational speech to the team and if that was the fuel behind Baltimore’s 30-24 victory over the world champion New Orleans Saints Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

And while linebacker Tavares Gooden-who joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Monday-said that his Miami Hurricane brother was a big part of their motivation on Sunday, Gooden ultimately said that the credit should go to the coaching staff for drawing up the perfect game plan to stop Drew Brees and the Saints.

“We had a game plan, and we stuck with it. The win was the result of that,” Gooden told Forrester.

Over the last several weeks in the Ravens’ struggles against their division rivals in Pittsburgh and a near-upset on the road against Houston, the Ravens have failed to show any kind of true identity and continued to move away from their brand of football-i.e. “Playing like a Raven”-and that ultimately showed in the frustration of  Ravens players and the coaches alike in the following week leading up to  Sunday.

“We all felt as a staff and players on this team that we weren’t being ourselves. We had to get back to ourselves,” Gooden noted.

Gooden, despite not showing up in the box score defensively on Sunday, was included in several of the blitz packages Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison drew up against All-Pro QB Drew Brees and was also a key component on special teams in trying to limit the return skills of one Reggie Bush.

Reggie Bush

Gooden received a ton of post-game accolades from his teammates and coaches, and when asked about that, Gooden threw the respect right back toward his coaches that he said put him in the best situations possible to succeed.

And he felt like Sunday was just another step in his progression toward becoming another elite part of this Ravens defense.

“It’s just a blessing from God,” Gooden said,  “just having an opportunity to have my name called yesterday. It felt pretty good, and when Coach Mattison was calling those calls, I was licking my chops and opening my eyes like, ‘I haven’t blitzed this much all year’.”

Brees said post-game that at times he saw things out of the Ravens defense that he had not seen before on tape or in preparation.

Gooden replied to that saying that they did nothing different on Sunday; it was just he and several other Ravens players taking to heart what the coaches had drawn up, working on it fully in the week leading up, and having a little extra motivation on and off the field to play good football.

“I really took it to my own in the off-season to work on that stuff, and yesterday Coach Mattison let me go. All the stuff I was working on in practice, I just took it to the game. It felt great. It felt smooth.”

Gooden said the scheme was a lot easier than what it appeared to be.

“I was just running off of Double J’s block or running off Haloti cause they’re are going to double-team those guys. Little guys like me with a lot of speed are going to shoot through the hole and make a play. I give it all up to coaching. We had a great gameplan and we stuck with it, and it worked.”

Gooden said it right there. It was an all-around team win that originated at the top with preparation from  head coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and was executed perfectly by the Ravens players.

Gooden  told Forrester that this is a win that can definitely mean something to the team’s confidence with the final two games of the year coming up.

“I think that was a great team win, and I know that’s going to help us out in the future so that we can know we can beat teams like that in the playoffs because we have a great team chemistry.”

“And with it being the Super Bowl guys from last year, it gives us momentum,” Gooden said of the win. “It gives us something to fight for knowing that we can beat teams like that. We can go into the playoffs thinking that we’re going to win a championship because we can beat championship teams.”

The Ravens’ last two games against divisional opponents in Cleveland and Cincinnati are in essence playoff games, and with Baltimore still in the mix for not only a playoff spot but for the AFC North title with Pittsburgh, the next two games being in a playoff-like scenario are going to get the team geared up for potential football in January, says Gooden.

“I think that gives us confidence to go to our next game. With these last couple of games we’re playing, we want to win every game because that’s what you want to do in the NFL.”

“But let’s prep for the playoffs. We always say this is a playoff game, and if you have that mentality, that’s your practice for when the playoffs come. And then you know what kind of pressure you’re going to be under, and you know what kind of team you have. Right now, we’re playing great team ball and that’s what enabling us to make these plays.”

“I’m telling you how we’re thinking. These are playoff games. If we lose, we’re out. That’s how we’re thinking right now. We’ve got to get these next two. Let’s keep going. We’ve got to win it all, and that’s our thought process.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens through the 2010 season into the playoffs! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore sports!

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Josh Wilson Interception return stops the bleeding after loss to Steelers

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Josh Wilson Interception return stops the bleeding after loss to Steelers

Posted on 14 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu made a play in last week’s 13-10 victory over the Ravens that was a topic of discussion throughout the week.

He made a play that may have guaranteed the Steelers the AFC North Division, and it was a play that hit the Baltimore Ravens and their fan base hard leading up to the Monday night game against the Houston Texans last night.

It along with a questionable play-call on fourth down and the lack of a blocking assignment on Polamalu caused that topic to be the elephant in the room last week.

There had been question marks concerning the coaching staff of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, John Harbaugh, and Greg Mattison, but last Sunday’s loss to the Steelers opened the floodgates regarding their decisions on the field.

A loss to the dreaded Steelers may have hurt more than it would in a similar situation to the Bucs, but the Ravens  may have been one of the only 8-4 teams in the league  hitting the panic button.

And we saw the ship continue to draw water in Monday’s 34-28 overtime win over the Texans, as  Mattison’s defense allowed the Texans to come back from two 20-point-plus deficits.

Cameron’s play calling came into question once again as he decided to pass on a critical third-and-short with 2:58 left in the fourth quarter that not only stopped the clock but the pass fell incomplete and the Ravens were forced to punt.

The Texans then went 90+ yards for a second straight drive to tie the game, and if we’re still looking at this still in a sinking ship perspective, let’s just say the women and kids were in the lifeboats ready to sail away to safety.

Overtime came, and things looked dire as the Ravens immediately punted to the Texans and sure enough, deja vu appeared to be in the works again as the unstoppable Texans offense was going to have the ball and have to go 90-yards again.

And the way the Ravens defense looked, you would have guessed that the Texans would have marched down the field again to win the game and send the Ravens home packing and licking their wounds.

“Concerned is probably a good word,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “They were closing the gap and I was concerned that they were going to tie it up and they did.”

But a third time was a charm as the Texans were backed up near their own end zone, and Haloti Ngata and Jarret Johnson provided enough pressure up the middle for Texans QB Matt Schaub to throw a pass intended for Kevin Walter on an out-route on the left-hand side.

Josh Wilson said he just saw the ball, stepped in front of the pass and returned it 12 yards for the game-winning score.

Josh Wilson

“I still can’t believe that really happened,” Wilson said. “The quarterback threw it inside, and I said ‘this cant be happening’…then game over.”

“The hero of the game,”  Harbaugh replied. “He made a play in a critical situation on the road in overtime in December in a playoff hunt, and I think that’s the critical thing.”

“We really wanted to stop them, but they’re capable,” Wilson said of the Texans. “They’re a dynamic offense, and they’re capable of putting up points and getting yards. Unfortunately that’s what happened at the end of the game, but I don’t care. We won.”

The win may not seem like it, but it does put the Ravens ahead of the Jets for the fifth-seed in the AFC Playoffs and guarantees the Ravens their third consecutive winning season under John Harbaugh.

And if the Ravens had ended up losing to the Texans in blow-up fashion Monday night and then have the 10-3 Saints coming in Sunday, I think the Ravens’ panic button would be firmly pressed down and the frustration would loom over Baltimore for a second straight week in a row.

It may have been too late in the season to make changes in the coaching staff or personnel-wise, but dissension and frustration may have blossomed in Owings Mills.

And while the Ravens have some things to fix against another potent team in the World Champion New Orleans Saints, escaping with a win is a lot better than riding a two-game losing streak.

“We’ve got nine wins, and we move forward from here,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got the world champs coming in, and we’re going to be playing them on a short week, so it’s going to be tough.”

It is another conference win for the Ravens, and let’s hope this is a sign of the Ravens putting some things together and riding the momentum through the final three weeks of the season as opposed to the devastating slide the team would have been had the Ravens lost to Houston Monday night.

“It’s all about winning,” Wilson said. “That’s all we care about at the end of the day.  Did we win or did we lose? It doesn’t matter what the score is as long as we keep winning, cause if we win out, to me, we’re Super Bowl Champs.”

They have some things to work out with the coaching decisions, the scheme, and the personnel, but it’s always better fixing those things after a win as opposed to blaming each other after a loss.

We’ll just have to see if all the water has been removed from the boat and the holes have been fixed or if they are just delaying the inevitable.

“Finding a way to win in overtime is big for us,” Harbaugh said. “This football team has lost a lot of close games bysome crazy situations…but our guys overcame a tough situation and found a way to win. Really in December, that’s really what matters.”

“Do we have things that we’re worried about? Do we have things that we have to work on? Absolutely. But at this point in time in the season you are what you are and you have to find a way to win.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we follow the Ravens through the 2010 NFL season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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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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Ravens add FB Jason McKie, waive S Ken Hamlin

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Ravens add FB Jason McKie, waive S Ken Hamlin

Posted on 30 November 2010 by Ryan Chell

Jason McKie

The Ravens added former Saints, Bears, and Cowboys FB Jason McKie and waived safety Ken Hamlin Tuesday afternoon in wake of the concerns regarding the injury to Pro Bowl FB Le’Ron McClain.

The Ravens added McKie, 30, because the injury that McClain suffered Sunday versus Tampa Bay-a sprained right ankle-could be one that lingers for several weeks, and the Ravens reached out to the veteran fullback with a need on Sunday in a big divisional game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night.

When McClain left Sunday’s game versus the Bucs, the Ravens were forced to use the two tight end set often with rookie tight end Dennis Pitta also being used as an H-back.

With the Steelers’ bruising run defense, the Ravens coaching staff felt like they needed a physical, veteran needed to clear the running lane for running back Ray Rice.

The ninth-year man out of Temple should fill that void or at least be able to fill the role until McClain is healthy.

McKie recently spent this pre-season with the New Orleans Saints and saw action in three games with the World Champs before being waived.

Last season, he started 11 games for the Chicago Bears and appeared in all 16 games. He spent seven years in a Bears uniform after being signed as a rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys out of Temple.

He has played in a total of 88 games and has started 47 of them. He has 29 rushes in his career for 84 yards as well as 68 receptions for 364 yards as well as three receiving scores.

And for Ken Hamlin, he played in seven games for the Ravens after being with the Cowboys last year.

This marks the second time Hamlin has been waived this year. The first time came when the team re-activated Cary Williams when he returned from his two-game suspension.

He then returned when the team had a roster spot to fill when the team released DE Trevor Pryce and he signed with Rex Ryan’s New York Jets.

The irony of that situation? Hamlin was re-signed the week before the Ravens played the Steelers in Week 4.

Now he is cut before the second game against the Steelers in Week 13.

But once McClain is healthy, and the team only needs one fullback on the roster, Hamlin could very well be back in a Raven uniform once again this year given his special teams prowess.

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens throughout the 2010 season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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