Tag Archive | "new york giants"

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In year after character concerns with 2010 draft picks, Ravens take another leap of faith in Colorado CB Jimmy Smith

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

The big saying around the Baltimore area when it comes to Ravens fans and the personnel decisions regarding the team is “In Ozzie We Trust”.

Well, with the Ravens selecting Colorado CB Jimmy Smith Thursday night with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft-after letting the Kansas City Chiefs move ahead of them-it goes to show you that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will take all the advice he will hear regarding a player, but when it comes time to make the final decision and turn the card in, Ozzie’s the one to make the call.

Smith was the third corner back taken off the board behind LSU’s Patrick Peterson who went fifth overall to the Arizona Cardinals and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara who went to the Giants at pick #19.

And it could be said that Smith may be the best corner out of the three, but other factors dropped his stock when it came down to draft day.

Numerous draft experts had the Ravens picking  Smith, the 6′ 2”, 210-pound CB out of Colorado, but leading up to the draft, early impressions out of the Ravens front office and scouting department was that given Smith’s issues off the field-including the likes of citations for underage-drinking, marijuana usage and more, that would cause the Ravens to go elsewhere.

He was arrested twice in Boulder, Colorado for possession charges and failed a drug test in 2007.

He was said to have had a drinking problem and has been caught with marijuana in his early college days.

I imagine this being the scene in the Ravens war room as time slowly clicked away as  Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, coach John Harbaugh, and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz were all fighting over who to take or what to do with the 26th pick.

However, a four year player for the Buffaloes, he is said though to have taken on a more mature role as an upperclassmen the last two seasons.

“I went to college and I made some mistakes,” Smith told NFLDraftScout.com. “”I was a young player who mistakes. But I grew as a person.”

He has stayed off the police blotters since that 2007 season, and during his junior and senior years at Boulder, he only allowed 11 completions in man-to-man coverage and began to get the “Nnamdi Asomugha treatment” as teams began to avoid throwing his way.

Still, Smith will be yet another question mark taken by the Ravens in consecutive drafts-with last year’s first pick in linebacker Sergio Kindle proving that he too was a concern given his demeanor off the football field when it came to alcohol abuse.

This also combined with several high draft picks in recent years not producing on the field including DT Terrence Cody and DE/LB Paul Kruger could be heating up the seat that Ozzie Newsome is sitting in right now.

Could it be time to wonder if the magic dust is wearing off “The Wizard of Oz?”

Plus, given the Ravens’ position with both Wisconsin tackles Gabe Carimi and hybrid Temple DL Muhammed Wilkerson on the board-both positions of need for Baltimore, one must wonder why a team that has several good-not great-corners on the roster decided to go that route.

Don’t forget. Domonique Foxworth is coming back healthy from a torn ACL, and  Josh Wilson, Lardarius Webb and Chris Carr played well when pressed into duty last season. Even Fabian Washington could be in the mix as well should he be brought back on the team, although that appears unlikely.

And while Smith will automatically help a CB group that only nabbed seven interceptions last season, the Ravens did only record 27 sacks a team, with close to a third of those coming from one man, Terrell Suggs (11).

Again, going back to Ozzie Newsome’s mantra over his tenure in Baltimore-it has always been to “take the best player available.”

And while Smith may have been a Top-10 talent on the football field, are his character issues something that is going to pop up yet again-much like a former Raven first-round pick malcontent in Chris Mcalister?

Only time will tell. And Ozzie-you do have the 2nd round to make it up to doubters like myself.And I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume Sergio Kindle was a bump in the road.

And hey, look at the bright side. If Smith does get in trouble again and has to hold a press conference, at least we’ll be granted an audience to one like this…

WNST has you covered as we welcome your newest Ravens to Baltimore! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Who’s the “Face” of the NFL Lockout?

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Who’s the “Face” of the NFL Lockout?

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Remember when Jerry Jones was a new and maverick owner, taken to task by the NFL for his creative approach to maximizing team revenues outside of the league’s oppressive and collective marketing practices? In a “Rip Van Winkle” kind of way it feels like I’ve suddenly woke up to find Jones’ maverick model now par for the NFL course, but also to find Jones himself looked to as part of the league’s “old guard”. As the league’s owners have elected to opt out of the previous collective bargaining agreement citing increased expenses associated with stadiums etc. it’s tough not to turn a suspicious eye toward Jones and the billion dollar monument to his ego recently constructed in Dallas.

Indeed, Jones along with Bob Kraft in New England and the joint venture between the Jets and Giants in New York have wasted no opportunity to remind us of the great expenses incurred by each of those teams in building their new stadiums. Now it seems that they are leading the charge to recoup some of the money they so generously fronted, and are attempting to do it at the players’ expense. This however seems to be an argument almost exclusive to the aforementioned teams, and maybe a handful of others.

 

It’s probably fair to guess that for every owner who has reached deep and spared no expense in building facilities, there are probably two more enjoying cushy downtown real estate along with naming rights to their stadiums under farcical leasing terms subsidized largely by taxpayers. Stadium expenses for those teams, if anything, likely amount to the payback of loans taken out against property largely gifted to the teams courtesy of their cities. How do we quantify their increased expenses for those teams in the face of exponential growth to the league’s revenue pool in an otherwise stagnant economy?

 

Maybe we simply concede that any time the teams who are already substantially out earning everyone else begin clamoring for ways to increase everyone’s margins and thereby close the gap between the league’s best and worst earning franchises, representatives of the latter would quite predictably jump aboard.

 

What’s even more fun to speculate about is how much of a role Jones (and his new building) has in the recently unearthed – and still unfolding – drama surrounding the Fiesta Bowl and the misappropriation of funds scandal. It should have been an easy guess that once that building was constructed, it would somehow find its way into the BCS picture. The drama now provided courtesy of the Fiesta Bowl investigation would seem to open the door for just such a happenstance.

 

As cynical sports fans, jaded by so many years of corruption and mismanagement in seemingly all sports, we might guess that the reason folks have found inequities around the Fiesta Bowl is simply because they bothered to look; and that if they bothered to look at the rest, they’d likely find a similar brand of misappropriation. For that matter, how many “fun” and “creative” bookkeeping practices would we find in the books of NFL owners if they were ever compelled to open them? Luckily for those in charge of the other BCS Bowls, Jones has only one building (and therefore one Bowl) to shop; and luckily for those in charge of the other NFL teams the maverick Jerry Jones is riding with them. They’ve seen what it’s like to oppose him too.

 

So as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith take care of all of the dirty work in the proverbial trenches of NFL labor, and player after player, owner after owner and agent after agent offer ridiculous sound bytes and summations of the proceedings, is Jerry Jones (and a small faction of similar minded owners) the driving force behind it? Is Jones the face of the lockout? Given his notorious ego, I’m not altogether sure he’d be unhappy about being the face anything, as long as it came with exposure.

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Former Ravens kicker and NFL player rep Matt Stover on current lockout: “I really feel strongly that they are going to have football this year”

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Former Ravens kicker and NFL player rep Matt Stover on current lockout: “I really feel strongly that they are going to have football this year”

Posted on 17 March 2011 by Ryan Chell

Longtime Ravens kicker Matt Stover recently made his official retirement known on “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester on Tuesday, and while it may not come as a surprise to those who follow the NFL-having seen Matt Stover kick numerous field goals for a team with a Baltimore-tie for 18 seasons.

Matt Stover

Still, Stover, 43, may have had some usefulness to a team this year not soley for his kicking prowess, but for his time served as a player representative defending his fellow players in labor talks with the NFL owners.

And despite age catching up to the eighth most accurate kicker in NFL history and fourth-highest scorer, Stover has still been keeping up with the labor issues facing today’s game especially given Friday’s lockout by the owners and decertification.

And he’s been through it before, he told “The Morning Reaction” host.

“Well I was a player rep for 18 years and two of those years were back in 1992 and 1993 when we were negotiating the new collective bargaining agreement under decertification,” Stover told Forrester,  “so I know exactly whats going on right now and what should be happening.

Stover said that decertification and putting the decision into the hands of the courts of where the NFL’s money is going  was the only way to fix the issue.

“It’s unfortunate the players had to go this direction with it but in order to get the owners to negotiate fairly it’s the only way,” Stover admitted.

He knows this firsthand having dealt with owners and NFL leadership in labor contracts. Stover has been a player rep every year he has been in the league for every franchise he suited up and kicked for in games.

Matt Stover

And while he will not be playing football in 2011 as he closes the book on his NFL career  to take care of his family and his relationship with God, Stover feels like he will be watching NFL games come September.

“I really feel strongly that they are going to have football this year,” he said. “I feel that the decertification-with the injunction that the NFL has on it-will not hold. I believe that they will be a group of decertified employees, and that there cannot be a lockout and I believe there will be footbal in 2011.”

But, Stover still admits that he doesn’t want to see the owners take advantage of the players for yet another set of years, and ultimately given his position now as a retired NFL player, he definitely wants to make sure he, his family, and his fellow retirees are also taken for down the road when it comes to benefits and health care.

“I always think there is room in the collective bargaining agreement to negotiate for better benefits for retired players,” Stover said. “I really do.”

But, Stover did say that the system right now is being exploited not only by the owners, but greedy players as well who may not have served the time or have been through the abuse of a 20-year career like veterans in Matt Stover.

Whoever eventually handles that department is going to have to sometimes be brash with their decisions on how much money goes to one NFL player, says Stover.

In essence, the system needs fixing.

“In every negotiation since 1993, 1998, 2006, we always went back and helped players,” Stover replied. “We were always fair…I was on the benefit committee when we were trying to help these guys out and it became such an extensive way to go about it, and some of these guys you may realize too only played three or four years and they want to be made whole on there pension plan.”

Stover said in any business you need a long-standing tenure with a place of employment to earn benefits, and he thinks the NFL should hold similar standards.

“In reality when you look at the course of any employement it takes people 20 to 25 years to get any kind of pension and it’s just one of those systems that so many people may qualify for that we have to be very careful for how we fund the pension plan or it will be broke in no time…it’s underfunded as we speak in the NFL.”

And even as a retired player, he still has his ex-teammates in Baltimore and Indianapolis-where he almost got another Super Bowl ring-in mind.

Stover spent 13 seasons in a Ravens uniform and came over from the Browns when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore.

He made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2000 during the Ravens Super Bowl run, and ultimately was the driving force behind the Baltimore offense that went five games without scoring an offensive touchdown yet won two of those games thanks to Stover’s leg.

But, Stover doesn’t want any of the limelight. That’s not his style. Never was. It was the same way when he was ushered out of Baltimore by the new coaching staff under a new regime.

“I have been very quiet, and the reason for that is that last year I wanted just to step away. I didn’t want to be any attention drawn on me by the Ravens and  to have them not worry about me again.”

And he couldn’t be happier for a guy in Pro-Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff, who brought stability to a position that the Ravens took advantage of for years in Stover when it came to consistency.

“What it really comes down to for Billy is a couple of things,” Stover said of his replacement. “He had the passion, and he had the heart to do it.  He wanted to be the best and he just resolved himself to do it.”

And Stover’s departure and professionalism about it allowed him to do so.

“I love my guys on the team. I love the organization, I just felt like It was good to go rogue, good to go solo, to be silent,” Stover said.

And while Stover may want to fade into anonymity, it’s not going to happen. Eventually, Stover will make it into the Ravens Ring of Honor, and who knows…he could have the numbers for a Canton calling.

Stover was honored by the attribution.

“Just to be considered by you and the public to be thought of as a Hall of Famer is gratifying to me  knowing that I had an effect on a team,” Stover said.  “I was able to do my job well, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

“If the Hall of Fame came around would I be happy; absolutely, the goal to get [there] isn’t one of my goals, but it is something that could happen. If you look at my numbers there has not been a kicker out there who has been able to do what I do with the statistics and the environment I kicked in.  But at the same point and time it comes down to the effect I had on my team.”

Either way, Stover is happy with his career and still hopes to make the NFL better even from an outside persepctive regardless if he is invited back full circle in any form.

“If that never happens I have no regrets, none what so ever.”

WNST thanks Matt Stover for joining us to talk NFL labor! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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One-hit wonders in sports

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One-hit wonders in sports

Posted on 18 February 2011 by Ryan Chell

This afternoon on…well…”The Afternoon Drive”, Rex Snider and I went over a list of our Top 5 “One-Hit Wonders” in sports. I had a list of ten…and actually more…to throw in there and I figured I might as well share it with you all.

I had a tough time putting them in order, so by all means this is no where close to any particular order. I tried my best but I figured if they’re a one-hit wonder, who cares where they’re ranked? Aren’t they all incredibly lucky?

1. Joe Namath, quarterback, New York Jets

Joe Namath

Broadway Joe. A guy we love to hate here in Baltimore. Why? Because of that lucky Super Bowl III victory, and his guarantee about it. He was the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in the then modern era in 1967, and just because of one guarantee over the Colts in Super Bowl III , he became the first ever media-loved quarterback and rides his way into the Hall of Fame.

But he Why is this guy in Canton? He owns a career 65.5 career passer rating, and he only threw 173 TDs to 220 INTs. After Super Bowl III, he spent nine more years in the league but only won 35 games. He took the Jets to one more repeat playoff appearance in 1969-and lost it.

Rex Snider put the 1968 New York Jets on the team on his list because as a team, the Jets only made the playoffs 6 times between 1969-1997-the year Bill Parcells took over at the helm-and began putting the pieces together.

2. 1969 New York Mets

In the movie, “Oh, God” starring George Burns and John Denver, Burns-playing the role of God, said that the last miracle he ever performed was the 1969 New York Mets.

And it continued the trend of the Baltimore losing to New York for another season.

The Mets-in only their eighth season in the league-finished with their first winning season and ultimately defeated the Orioles in five games, winning 4-1.

In fact, the biggest part of that team, Tom Seaver (25-7, 2.21 ERA, 208 K), only got there because the Mets had been that bad for that long.

That ’69 Orioles team was considered by many to be one of the best teams in baseball history, but the Mets completed the upset.

After that season though, the Mets necessarily didn’t return to the mediocrity they experienced before 1969, but they lost in 1973 in the World Series to the Oakland Athletics 4-3( on top of that they only finished 82-79 that season).

It would then take another 13 years for former Oriole Davey Johnson then brought the Miracle Mets back to the Promised Land in 1986, and the on the verge of being eliminated, something happened that gave them another World Series…

Bill Buckner

3. Buster Douglas

Buster Douglas

Buster Douglas went up against the then-undefeated Mike Tyson on February 11th, 1990 in Tokyo, Japan as the two fought for the outright Heavyweight Boxing Title of the World. Everyone expected Tyson-then at the time 37-0 with 33 knockouts-to wipe the floor with Douglas (29-4-1, 19 KO)-so much so that only one Vegas casino took odds for the fight.

And they had Douglas winning at 35-to-1 odds.

The match was designed to be a preliminary bout for Tyson before then facing off against fellow undefeated contender Evander Holyfield, who was in attendance for Tyson-Douglas to fight.

Douglas-who in the weeks leading up to the fight had lost his mother and sickness around his family, but that did not deter him in the fight. In fact, it probably motivated him. He came out aggressive in the match, and for the first time in his career, pushed Tyson to the ropes. Tyson’s own team didn’t even see it coming, as they didn’t bring along necessarily equipment to tend Tyson’s wounds between matches.

Tyson fought back and actually made Douglas hit the floor in the eighth round-ultimately reaching a count of nine before getting back up-and over the next two rounds, Douglas continued to beat down on a battered Tyson.

In the tenth round, in a famous scene, Douglas hit Tyson and sent him to the floor for the first time in Tyson’s boxing career. Tyson fumbled for his mouthpiece, and put it in with part of it hanging out of his mouth. He was in no condition to continue, and Buster Douglas was named heavyweight champion of the world.

He held the title for eight months before Holyfield finished him off in three rounds. Douglas retired after the fight.

4. David Tyree

David Tyree was sixth-round draft choice by the New York Giants in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Syracuse.

He did make the Pro Bowl in 2005 as a special teams player, but up until the 2007 season his career numbers were a whopping 54 catches, for 650 yards and 4 TDs.

But his touchdown-and maybe the greatest catch in the history of the Super Bowl-maybe even the NFL as a whole…made Tyree a legend.

David Tyree

His catch on a 3rd-and-5 on the Giants 44-yard line, with New York needing a first-down to extend the drive, was caught on his helmet with headhunter Rodney Harrison in tow.

His play kept the drive alive for the Giants, as Eli Manning eventually found Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown, as New York upset the previously undefeated Patriots, 17-14.

Minus the fact that the Giants kept him around the following year just to repay him for his play in Super Bowl 42,  they immediately let him go after one season and that was it for Tyree.

He was with the Ravens during the 2009 season, appearing in 10 games for Baltimore but starting none.

And to think…if Mike Carey had blown the play dead, Tyree wouldn’t have made this list…and history…

5. 1980 United States hockey team

Do you believe in miracles?

Do you believe in miracles?

When most people remember this game between the Soviet Union and United States hockey teams, they think that this was the championship game. But it wasn’t. The eventual winner would be playing Finland for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

The US squad consisted of mostly collegiate and amateur hockey players, but coach Herb Brooks and his squad fought through a match that almost didn’t happen due to the international Cold War happening between the two nations.

The Russians at the time were considered to be the best hockey team in the world.

Even the New York Times wrote:

“Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments.”

But the United States did win. And then they beat Finland for the gold.

It made a career out of Al Michaels that’s for sure.

But they’re a one-hit wonder because the team didn’t even medal again in the Olympics until 2002.

Other considerations:

  • Brady Anderson (50 HRs in 1996 after never having more than 21 in a season, never had more than 24 after that season)
  • Brady Anderson

  • 1998 Atlanta Falcons (14-2 under Dan Reeves reaching Super Bowl XXXIII, losing to the Denver Broncos-team had only two seasons previous since 1996 with 10+ wins, never reached Super Bowl since)
  • Dirty Bird

  • 2000 Baltimore Ravens (Sorry Baltimore-had to put this one on there. Is this what the Ravens are on track for? I think the team will win another Super Bowl, but is it going to take a decade-plus in between them?)
  • Trent Dilfer

  • 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning (Won the Stanley Cup that year-a hockey team in sunny Florida? Haven’t won a playoff series since)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Don Larsen (pitched the only perfect game to occur in the World Series in Game 5 in 1956. Was the only such one in the playoffs until Roy Halladay’s no-hitter this past season versus Cincinnati. Why is that a one-hit wonder? Larsen’s career mark was 81-91 with a 3.78 ERA.
  • Don Larsen

  • Scott Mitchell (Had 32 TDs and 4,338 and a 92.3 passer rating for the Detroit Lions in 1995.  Never could repeat that success, including in Baltimore in 1999.
  • Scott Mitchell

  • Akili Smith (32 TDs, 11 INTs in only one season at Oregon, earning him the #3 pick in the draft by the Bengals. The rest is draft bust history.
    Akili Smith

  • John Paciorek (A ballplayer for the Houston Colt .45s in 1963-a late call up, he appeared in one game for Houston. On September 29th, 1963, Pacirorek went 3-for-3 at the plate hitting three singles, walking twice, and driving in three runs. He scored four times as well in the game. He never played again due to a back injury. Of the 20 major league baseball hitters with a 1.000 career batting average, he is the only one to have more than three at-bats.
  • John Paciorek

  • 1983 N.C. State basketball team (Not a bad team defeating both North Carolina-led by Michael Jordan and Ralph Sampson’s Virginia squad. But to then beat Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler’s Houston squad to win the National Championship-and on a last second broke play? And despite some success later on for the program under Jim Valvano and Herb Sendek, the Wolfpack have never been back on the national stage like they were in the late 70′s, early 80′s. Sidney Lowe-who now coaches the Wolfpack-was on this team and he could be fighting for his job down in Raleigh.

Got some more that I missed? Let I or Rex know below or on “The Afternoon Drive! 2-6PM, 410-481-1570!

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

 

The playoffs sure have a way of punishing perfection, or near perfection. I have relayed several times on air this week a conversation I had with a friend on the night before the Vikings played the Falcons in the 1998 playoffs. On that occasion, one of the sports news shows was touting Gary Anderson, who had been perfect to that point in the season, as automatic. To that, my friend opined that the 15-1 Vikings were sure to see their season end on a missed field goal. That it happened the next day, at the hands of the Falcons was still quite a surprise.

Last weekend saw Tom Brady enter the postseason on the NFL’s all-time streak of passes without an interception. An early interception set the stage for the Jets’ improbable win. Likewise, Ray Rice entered the post-season without a fumble all year. While his fumble on Saturday was hardly the pivotal moment in the Ravens’ season ending loss, it certainly contributed.

 

You could even throw in Brady’s ’07 Patriots who went unbeaten into the Super Bowl, while striking a fear in opponents that kept them reluctant to blitz. The Giants ended that run unceremoniously with constant pressure on Brady. We could also mention that last season’s Colts were perfect in the times that they were trying to win. They too failed to finish the deal.

 

If we apply that logic to the remaining match-ups, we might guess that the Jets would beat the Steelers by running right at them. While that doesn’t seem to be the textbook game plan for beating Pittsburgh, the Jets already rode that strategy to a degree of success in the regular season. Perhaps instead they’ll win by causing Ben Roethlisberger to melt down in the two-minute offense, as that seems to be the Steelers other inherent strength. If the Steelers hope to win, they might make it happen by attacking Darrelle Revis often, or by backing out of their stacked fronts and spreading the field defensively, by making the Jets run and move down the field methodically.

 

In the other match-up, the Packers might win by kicking to Devin Hester or by attacking Julius Peppers at the line of scrimmage. And the Bears’ best bet might be to stuff the box and stop the Packers improbably successful ground game, and put the game on Aaron Rodgers’ seemingly able shoulders.

 

If history has shown us anything, it may be that regular season trends are subject to change in a big way once the post-season rolls around. On the other side of the coin, the ’06 Colts found their only opportunity in the Manning era to hoist the Lombardi trophy only when their historically bad (even for Colts standards) run defense turned stout for their playoff run. Or what about the ’08 Cardinals who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way on the road in the regular season? They became road warriors in the playoffs.

 

From that perspective it may make a little more sense. That teams would try to beat the Colts by running at them was predictable, so the fact that they were ready for it should have been equally predictable. Once teams found themselves at a loss to do it however, they had no answer for Indy. Maybe the Jets strategy against the Patriots on Sunday only worked because it was so out of the realm of the typical Jets / Pats game plan. Maybe Brady struggled with the pressure in ’07 only because the copycat nature of the NFL had teams backing away from the pressure against New England from at least week 6 on. Once charged with dealing with it again, as late as in the Super Bowl, the Patriots simply weren’t ready. And perhaps teams in ’08 simply failed to take the Cardinals seriously, assuming travel alone would have taken a heavier toll on them than in did.

 

To that end, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky as fans that the Ravens with perhaps the NFL’s best ever defense in 2000, were still able to ride that defense through the post-season. To that I’ll offer this, I always found it curious that as dominant as that defense was, they never scored on their turnovers. In week 17, against the Jets, Chris McAllister had an interception return for a TD, and Jermaine Lewis returned 2 punts for TDs too. Those were (by my count) the only defensive or special teams TDs that the team scored all season. Of course once the playoffs began the defense made up for lost time, piling up TDs on their way to the title. Maybe that was their saving grace against a shift in trend.

 

This much I’d bet. These have been some of the most curious / interesting playoff games in recent memory. If you could hit the reset button and start back over from the beginning 10 times, you’d almost certainly get at least 6 different winners. As the conference title games get closer and closer, someone else’s luck (2 more in fact) is bound to change for the worst.

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The “BREAKOUT Athletes” of 2010 …..

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The “BREAKOUT Athletes” of 2010 …..

Posted on 23 December 2010 by Rex Snider

While I enjoy compiling these annual lists and rankings of performers, I also sense a bit of relief when making the transition from the BAD lists, to the GOOD lists. Fortunately for me, today marks the beginning of the positively-spirited rankings …..

We will begin with the BREAKOUT ATHLETES of 2010. Admittedly, this was a tough group to determine, as I was forced to eliminate names such as Danny Woodhead, Maurkice Pouncey, Jason Heyward, Jacoby Ford, Brandon Jennings and Rory McIlroy.

In developing this list, I employed some distinguishable criteria:

A) Athletes must be professional; no college or amateurs

B) BREAKOUT = reaching a lofty status never realized in prior seasons. For example, I would say Joey Votto is not a BREAKOUT athlete, because his 2009 statistics were similar to the 2010 numbers.

So, without further delay, here is my list of the BREAKOUT ATHLETES of 2010 …..
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10) Ryan Fitzpatrick – I will be the first to admit this guy was nowhere near the radar on my prospective quarterbacks for the 2010 Fantasy Football rankings. But, Fitzpatrick emerged as a legitimate NFL arm, this season.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills stands on the sidelines during the game against the New York Jets on October 18, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Bills defeated the Jets 16-13 in overtime. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The “Amish Rifleman” has delivered 23 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions, for nearly 3000 yards, in his first full season in a starting role. Fitzpatrick is one of those players who inspires the journeymen, as he’s finally realizing success and opportunity in his 6th NFL season.

I realize the Bills have a bad record, but they’ve played much better than the overall record reveals, and Fitzpatrick has undoubtedly been the driving force behind a team that hasn’t quit.
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9) Stephen Curry – this former NCAA single season scoring leader emerged onto the NBA scene during the 2009-2010 season and paid immediate dividends on the Golden State Warriors investment of the 7th overall pick, in the ’09 Draft.

Jan. 03, 2010: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry during an NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated Golden State 110-101.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Curry is quickly becoming one of the NBA’s youngest stars. He finished 2nd in “Rookie Of The Year” voting, while averaging 17.5 points per game in the ’09/10 season. And, he’s capitalizing on his early success by averaging 20.5 points per game, in the early stages of this ’10/11 season.

His younger brother, Seth, plays for the Duke Blue Devils, which means he’s already disliked by Terps fans.
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#8) Jose Bautista – I could’ve nabbed Bautista from the waiver wire many times during the 2010 Fantasy Baseball season. But, as the games slipped by and the homeruns mounted, I simply reasoned this “hot streak” would eventually come to an end.

Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista stretches before play against the Colorado Rockies during an interleague game at Coors Field on June 13, 2010 in Denver.     UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

Well, it didn’t. Jose Bautista finished off his 2010 season with 54 homers, 35 doubles and 124 RBI. These gaudy numbers easily dwarfed any prior season statistics for the Blue Jays slugger. Can he do it, again, in 2011? We shall see …..

I’m betting NO …. but, he’s proven me wrong before !!!!
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7) Neftali Feliz – along with Elvis Andrus, Feliz has helped Rangers fans to forget about a guy named Mark Teixeira. Both players arrived in exchange for the former Texas slugger, in 2007.

July 23, 2010 - Arlington, TEXAS, UNITED STATES - epa02259290 Texas Rangers closing pitcher Neftali Feliz against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ninth inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas, USA, 23 July 2010.

At 22, Feliz used the 2010 campaign to firmly establish himself as a premier closer, in Major League Baseball. The heralded rookie saved 40 games, while striking out 71 and walking 18, in just 69 innings.

I’ve got a distinct feeling we might be witnessing the next version of Mariano Rivera …..
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6) Peyton Hillis – I can imagine Ravens fans will remember Hillis’ breakout game for a long time, huh? In the 2010 home opener, Ray Lewis and company witnessed a bulldozing Hillis as he rushed for 144 yards with a perceived ease.

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 07: Running back Peyton Hillis  of the Cleveland Browns celebrates their victory over the New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 7, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Was it an aberration? Nah …. Hillis has seized his opportunity as Cleveland’s premier running back, while rushing for 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter.

It’s hard to believe the Broncos traded him for Brady Quinn – which is probably just another factor leading to Josh McDaniels’ firing, in Denver.

Top 5 – Next Page

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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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Where will the Ravens be in January?

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Where will the Ravens be in January?

Posted on 28 October 2010 by Rex Snider

Fast forward yourself a couple months to the week following Christmas. You will most likely be experiencing the typical holiday happenings – your kids are complaining about the things Santa did NOT leave under the tree …. your wife is counting down the days until school returns from the seasonal break …. and you’re simply trying to survive such an ordeal.

Oh yeah, and you’re also digesting the Ravens latest win, against the Cleveland Browns, in the final road game of the regular season. It will probably be a little tougher than most of us originally imagined, but beating the Browns will be a mandatory formality.

And, as certain as many parents are looking ahead to the second half of the school year, many of us are looking ahead to some pretty exciting circumstances …..

College football’s biggest bowl games are approaching …..

New Years festivities are being planned …..

Rex Snider is watching his new HAIR as it’s starting to grow …..
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And, the Ravens will be readying for the ultimate arrival of the Cincinnati Bengals in the season finale’ …..

Now, bring yourself back to this 28th day of October …..

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Edwin Mulitalo has second chance to re-live Ravens Super Bowl in celebration

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Edwin Mulitalo has second chance to re-live Ravens Super Bowl in celebration

Posted on 22 October 2010 by Ryan Chell

Edwin Mulitalo
Former Ravens guard Edwin Mulitalo didn’t have many regrets during his time in Baltimore.

He loved the team, he loved his teammates, and he loved Baltimore. Mulitalo is one of many players from the Super Bowl XXXV team that still continue to entrench themselves in the Baltimore area and community.

But one of his few regrets was in January 2001, when the Ravens reached Tampa and defeated the New York Giants, 34-7 to bring the Ravens their first ever Super Bowl and the first championship to Baltimore in 30 years.

Obviously he wasn’t disappointed with being there. He just kicks himself every day for not living it up in Tampa figuring the event would happen to him again.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Mulitalo-then a second year offensive lineman out of Arizona-said he didn’t take as much time to enjoy the festivities leading up to the game itself, something he told Rex Snider Wednesday that frustrates him to this day.

“I wish I could have soaked it in and enjoyed it more like some of the older guys did like Tony Siragusa and Mike McCrary,” Mulitalo said.

“I looked at them and said, ‘Man, they’re really enjoying this’. I was so uptight as a second-year guy that I was trying to focus.”

Mulitalo is currently residing in Utah and is the offensive line coach at Herriman High School in Utah, and while still following the Ravens, desperately hopes to coach one day at the college level-preferably in Utah for BYU, Weber State, Utah, or Utah State.

“Hopefully I can help one of those teams and move on from there,” the Ravens guard said.

Multialo was of course a key part in the running game that allowed rookie Jamal Lewis to rush for 1,364 and six scores. He along with franchise tackle Jonathan Odgen formed a solid duo on the left side of the Ravens offensive line for years until Mulitalo left to play for Detroit this last two years of his career in 2007-2008.

Mulitalo will be one of close to 35 Ravens

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Duane Starks ten years after INT return in Super Bowl XXXV: “the longest 49 yards of running ever”

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Duane Starks ten years after INT return in Super Bowl XXXV: “the longest 49 yards of running ever”

Posted on 20 October 2010 by Ryan Chell

On January 28, 2001, former Ravens corner back Duane Starks remembers clearly a particular play that would not only impact his life, but one of an entire city looking for a team to call “World Champions”.

That date of course was the day that the Baltimore Ravens, fresh off a 12-4 regular season and three playoff wins over the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, and the Oakland Raiders, earned the franchise’s first ever Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXV, winning of course by a score of 34-7 over the NFC Champion New York Giants.

It brought the city of Baltimore their first championship since 1983 with the Baltimore Orioles, and its first ever football title since 1970 when the Colts brought home the NFL title in Super Bowl V.

And of course, the play was Starks’ 49-yard interception return in that Super Bowl, one of four touchdowns and interceptions for the Ravens on the night.

This Sunday at halftime versus the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens will honor  30+members of the championship team, including the likes of quarterback Trent Dilfer, safety Rod Woodson, running back Jamal Lewis, and many others.

And while Duane Starks will not be in attendance Sunday, he said he will be their in spirit with his former teammates. He keeps in contact with most of his fellow champions.

“There’s a group of us that stay in touch,” Starks told Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat Wednesday.”I’m always in contact with Lional Dalton, Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, and all these guys, even Jermaine Lewis.”

Starks was drafted by the Ravens with the tenth overall pick in the 1998 draft out of Miami, and combined with Raven draft picks in former Hurricanes teammate Ray Lewis, Chris Mcalister, Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, Starks became a pivotal and key component to the best defense in NFL history when it came to points allowed in 2000.

And he not only was big in helping the team reach the Super Bowl, his interception of Giants quarterback Kerry Collins may have put the nail in the coffin for the Giants.

In his four years in Baltimore from 1998-2001, Starks grabbed 21 picks and was also a big run-stuffer from the secondary despite only measuring 5-10, 175 pounds.

In that Super Bowl, Collins would throw several interceptions to the likes of Chris Mcalister, Kim Herring, and Jamie Sharper was desperately trying to get his team back in the hunt after falling behind 10-0 with minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Collins took a three-step drop and immediately threw the ball to Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer. Starks, who had also grabbed a pick in the AFC Championship game against Oakland, stepped in front of the slant pass and took it back 49 yards for a the score, making it 17-0 in favor of Baltimore.

Duane Starks

Starks remembers the moment as clear as day.

“I intercept the ball and the first thing I was like, ‘just catch the ball’,” Starks told Thyrl.  “I caught the ball and after that as I’m running, I’m like ‘Please nobody clip. Nobody clip. No penalties. No penalties.’ It would have been sad to have a penalty there because the play happened so fast.”

“That was the longest 49 yards of running ever.”

Starks looked back as he crossed the Giants goal line to see if there were any flags on the play, but none came down.

Starks’ play not only put the Giants deeper in the hole, it also set off a series of plays that will rarely be seen again in Super Bowl history.

Following Starks’ interception return, the Ravens kicked off to the Giants, and Giants KR Ron Dixon returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.

It was a game now. For at least a few more seconds.

The Giants on the opposing kickoff kicked the ball to former Maryland Terp Jermaine Lewis, who matched Dixon’s return with an 84 yard return of his own.

It was the first time in NFL history that each team returned kickoffs in the Super Bowl, and the first time they had been done back-to-back. It also finished a period of three consecutive plays where a touchdown was scored in a span of just 30 seconds.

The Ravens nearly earned the only shutout in Super Bowl history, but they were able to bring Baltimore a world championship and came home to celebrate on the streets of Baltimore.

Starks, who will be unable to attend Sunday’s festivities due to a previous engagement, said he still calls Baltimore home and will remain in contact with the Ravens for the rest of his life.

‘I’m not going to be able to make it to Baltimore, but I’m always visiting Baltimore and going to the office. I hate that I’m going to miss this glorious occasion.”

Miss the interview with Duane? Check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for our interview with the former Ravens corner back and all our other interviews with the Super Bowl team! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Ravens Football!

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