Tag Archive | "oakland raiders"

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is sacked by Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata during the second half in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 13, 2010. The Ravens won the game 10-9. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

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Blog & Tackle: Week 1 NFL scoring struggles

Posted on 14 September 2010 by Chris Pika

If you thought the amount of scoring in the NFL’s Week 1 games was less than usual, you were right in a big way. A total of 21 teams scored less than 20 points in the 16 games — that number was the highest total of Week 1 sub-20-point team scoring since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, according to research through Pro-Football-Reference.com.

The 2010 teams under 20 points? Minnesota 9, New Orleans 14, Cleveland 14, Tampa Bay 17, Miami 15, Buffalo 16, Denver 17, Atlanta 9, Pittsburgh 15, Oakland 13, Carolina 18, Detroit 14, Chicago 19, Arizona 17, St. Louis 13, San Francisco 6, Dallas 7, Washington 13, Baltimore 10, New York Jets 9 and San Diego 14. The league, as a whole, averaged just 18.3 points per team in Week 1.

Here are the year-by-year teams scoring 19 points or less in Week 1 from 1970-2009 (via Pro-Football-Reference.com.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is sacked by Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata during the second half in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 13, 2010. The Ravens won the game 10-9. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The 21 teams was a far cry from last season’s Week 1 total of only 14 teams. In the decade of the 2000s, 153 teams scored under the 20-point mark in Week 1, an average of 15.3 per season. Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams and eight divisions in 2002 for 16 opening weekend games, the average was 15.25 per season from 2002-09.

There are a lot of factors at play in why this was the case in this particular opening weekend. Better defenses, weather issues and injuries to key players certainly played a part. But one other factor might also be in play.

The last time most clubs play their starters for an appreciable time in the preseason is Week 3. Most clubs hold out starters or play them very little (one or two series) in the final week in order to look at players fighting for the final spots during the remainder of the game.

It’s almost a bye week for the starters on both sides of the ball, since they will not face live competition for two weeks until the regular season starts. So, when the starters get back on the field in Week 1 of the regular season, the timing is off when it needs to be at its sharpest.

Here are the year-by-year totals of Week 1 teams at or under 19 points in the decade of the 2000s.

Total Teams Scoring 19 Points or Less in Week 1 (2000-09)
2009: 14
2008: 17
2007: 18
2006: 19
2005: 15
2004: 15
2003: 14
2002: 10
2001: 15
2000: 16

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Morgan Cox, New Ravens LS

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Let’s Hope You Never Hear New Ravens LS Morgan Cox’s Name Again

Posted on 27 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Morgan Cox, New Ravens LS
Morgan Cox is one of the newest members of the Baltimore Ravens, and you will know how good he is by NOT hearing his name on Sundays.

That is just the way the business works when it comes to long snappers.

“A good long snapper is one where no one knows his name,” Cox told Drew Forrester of “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday.

In a way, Cox wouldn’t have it any other way. When he explains his job to others, he usually just associates it with the other specialists on the team.

“If I’m explaining long snapping to someone, I usually associate it with the punter or the field goal kicker. The first question I ask is ‘Do you know what they do?’. That’s when I say ‘I send the ball to him’.”

Cox replaces Matt Katula, who was the Ravens primary long snapper for five seasons, ranging from 2005 to last year.

Katula was released August 13 after his injury concerns mounted by the coaching staff, on top of Katula showing some consistency issues at the end of last year.

Cox, a rookie out of the University of Tennessee, has already seen action in the first two preseason games long snapping to kickers Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff, as well as punter Sam Koch.

Sam Koch Ravens P

Cox told Forrester that he will always have the utmost amount of respect for Katula because he was such a friend, mentor, and professional during their time together.

“I have the utmost respect for Matt and the career he had here,” Cox said. “Certainly he helped me when I got here getting acclamated to the system. He was a great guy. He certainly had the opportunity to not be, but he was a good friend and hopefully we will remain friends after this.”

And if it was easy to get comfortable with Katula; now Cox has to be on the same page with the specialists on this team. So far, he has gotten a lot of feedback from a Pro-Bowl caliber punter in Koch.

“Sam has definitely told me, ‘I’ve had the same snap from Matt the past four years’, so it’s just one of the things I have to get used to.”

“He’s been great so far in adjusting the same way he’s been adjusting me to getting comfortable snapping to him and getting used to this whole new atmosphere.”

And Cox knows that he and the player he replaced in Matt Katula have different ways of approaching and doing their job.

“Matt’s and my snapping style are a lot different. He is more a gunslinger kind of guy and he throws it real hard especially on punts. He’s a little bit faster than I am, but just to a naked eye it’d be difficult to see. But on a stopwatch is when you would see it probably. But I try and make up for that as far as accurarcy goes and getting it right at the hip, that way Sam is walking right into it.”

Cox has also gotten close to the two competing kickers on the Ravens roster in former Bengal Shayne Graham and the incumbent kicker in Billy Cundiff. And while he will only be working with one of them in the next several weeks, he hopes that the Ravens would keep both of them as long as they can.

“They both have done a great job. Both guys are awesome guys. And I hope they can stick around.”

Sometimes, there is a lot of pressure on the long snapper to perform in a high=pressure kicking situation. But make no mistake-Cox should be able to handle the new pressure of the NFL; he played in a stadium in Neyland Stadium at “Rocky Top” that can hold over 100,000 people at one time.

“It was pretty cool being suurrounded by that much Orange. It is a sight to see. And playing for Coach [Phil] Fulmer and Coach [Lane] Kiffin was two different experiences that were both very fun and had a lot of energy.”

Cox said his last year with Kiffin, who recently jumped to USC to replace Pete Carroll and the ex-coach of the Oakland Raiders, really prepared him for the NFL.

“It was a fun year. I really enjoyed it. I got acclamated with a new punt system which actually helped me get into the pro-punt formation getting used to blocking in that system. That helped me a lot, and it was a new coaching staff with a different energy that had a lot of fun playing.”

But he made sure to not underestimate the NFL because if you do, you get run over-and you lose your job just like Katula did before him, and Joe Maese before Katula.

“There is a definite difference in speed, and concentration as far as special teams goes. The level of intensity has turned up as far as the NFL. When we get into the regular season, that’s the time when I’ll really feel the difference and the full gravity to where I am. But up till now, the preseason’s been great to get my experience, and understand where I am and where I want to go.”

Tune into WNST and continue reading WNST.net as we hope to never talk about Morgan Cox again! If we do, that means he is not doing his job! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Best Of The Best: My Top 20 QB’s

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Joe Giglio

Imagine you are in the ultimate football draft with only one goal for your football team: win the Super Bowl this year. How would you go about picking a quarterback to lead your troops into battle? Forget past, forget future, and only focus on the present. Who are the signal callers in the league right now that you would go to war with in order to win the ultimate prize?

Here are my Top 20 Quarterbacks heading into the 2010 season:

20. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders

Always liked the guy. Stuck in a rotten situation with rotten coaches in DC for years, yet his completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns went up every single year. Will be playing for his 2,000th offensive coordinator in the form of Hue Jackson this season in the Black Hole. Last season every Raider supporter (so…me) said that if that team had a decent QB they would have made the postseason. Well, Campbell is a decent QB. Should Raider fans start saving up for playoff tickets? Probably not, but it wouldn’t totally shock me.

19. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans

If I had one win one single game, Vince would probably be significantly higher on this list. He is dynamic at moments, but can also show how limited his skills as a passer are at others. His legs are clearly what make him a game breaker, but we’re going to have to get the touchdown-interception ratio better than 32-39 for a career before I truly want to build a team around him. He is still raw and has room to grown and learn, but the 2006 Rose Bowl wasn’t yesterday. It’s time for Vince to show if he is closer to growing into a Donovan McNabb or continuing on a path to becoming a Michael Vick (in terms of on the field only) clone.

18. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins

Yes, I know this is a guy that has only started 13 games in the NFL. Yes, I know that he had more INTs than TDs last season. Yes, I know he plays on a team with a conservative offensive approach, and many times, wasn’t even on the field in favor of the wildcat. Still, the guy can sling it. Big arm, big moxie, big game experience at Michigan. I wasn’t the biggest fan of him coming out of college because I thought he should have won bigger, which I guess can be a backhanded complement at his abilities. Miami has now given him Brandon Marshall to work with on the outside, and I expect Henne’s numbers, and Dolphin victories, to be on the rise in 2010.

17. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

Youth doesn’t scare me when ranking these guys. I don’t believe we can look at Sanchez as the sum of the parts, but rather evaluate him on how he finished the season. Early on in 2009 he looked in over his head, confused at times, and uncomfortable with dealing with the media after tough performances. As the season moved along, and the Jets started playing to his strengths, he was phenomenal. He “managed” the games, but also made a few plays in each of those victories down the stretch that either won the contest or sealed the deal. He throws on the run better than almost any QB in the league, is already respected in the locker room, and will only get better with a full camp as the starter.

16. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks

Still? When he is healthy, absolutely. Seattle is admittedly a tough team to predict, and there is a part of me that believes that Charlie Whitehurst will be the starter by the end of the season. But Hasselbeck can still lead an offense. Pete Carroll raved on The Shore Sports Report about the shape that Hasselbeck is in and the team leader that he is. Short, bald, and without a huge arm is no way to get legitimate recognition in today’s NFL, but at least he is getting some here.

15. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Put up or shut up. I am a big enough man to out myself as a Cutler guy, but even I could barely watch that 2009 debacle in the Windy City. From the 4 picks on opening night in Green Bay to the 0 TD, 5 INT stunt he pulled in San Fran on a Thursday Night we would all like to have back, Jay was a bust in the new city. Still, there is hope for a guy who looked destined for stardom during his early years in Denver. Mike Martz has arrived to run the offense, Chester Taylor is going to help shoulder the load in the backfield, and Julius Peppers should help keep Jay on the field. This is a make or break year for the entire Chicago franchise, led by the QB on this list with the potential for the biggest leap or possibly the biggest fall.

14. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals

I’m comfortable with my team going to war with anyone from Carson on up this list. It looked like this guy was destined for a perennial Top 5 spot on this list during his early days out of USC, but injuries to his knee and elbow, combined with a change in offensive philosophy, have changed the kind of numbers he puts up. Still, this is a guy that has never played a full season without completing at least 60% of his passes, and shouldn’t be evaluated on those last two windy and cold games against the Jets and their ferocious defense. Antonio Bryant, Jermaine Gresham, and Jordan Shipley were great additions to a receiving corps that desperately needed it.

13. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

Let the debate begin. I have people trying to convince me this is a Top 5 guy on a list list like this, and I’m not even willing to put him in the Top 10. I realize the kind of yards and rating this guy had last year, but I need to see more victories, less fumbles, and back to back healthy seasons. Don’t forget the knock on this guy was never his ability to throw it down the field, but rather in knack for being carted off it. Last year was the first time we saw him in all 16 games. Also, there is the fumbling issue and propensity for turnovers at the wrong time. That blown lead at home vs. Indianapolis is part of the reason I don’t trust this guy. This should be the year for him and the Texans to finally break through, but I’m not ready to believe quite yet.

12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

It’s not often that 9-7 can sell me on what a guy is made of, but it did here. I’ll admit that I don’t particularly care for Matt Ryan. I didn’t think he was great at Boston College, didn’t think he deserved the coronation for beating the Bears on a 10 yard post pass in his first game, and certainly didn’t agree with SI’s Peter King ranking him one of the Top 20 players in the sport after his rookie year. That being said, he showed he was a leader last season by coming back from turf toe when the playoffs we’re not a realistic possibility to lead his team to their first back to back winning seasons in franchise history. He’s on the rise…whether I like it or not.

11. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins

I still can’t believe that he was moved in division when Philly decided it was time for the divorce to become final. The city had it out for the guy from the moment Paul Tagliabue called his name in the 1999 Draft. He isn’t the player he once was, but that didn’t stop him from putting up his third best statistical season of his career last year. The last time Mike Shannahan inherited a QB that was 33 and without a ring on his finger was in 1995 out in Denver. That guy? John Elway. Denver never gave up on him and they celebrated together in 1997 and 1998. If history repeats itself, the only fans in the sport that won’t enjoy it will be those in Philadelphia.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it.

Coming tomorrow: The Top 10

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Troy Smith

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Troy Smith Given Vote of Confidence After Beck Trade; Isn’t Done Trying To Get Better

Posted on 06 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

With last week’s trade of John Beck to the Washington Redskins, this move leaves the Ravens with the three quarterbacks Baltimore is most likely going to take into the regular season.

Obviously, there is the starter, Joe Flacco, and the backup the Ravens signed in the off-season, ex-Rams starter Marc Bulger.

But the third quarterback on the roster; quarterback Troy Smith, may be the biggest question mark of them all, because a few weeks ago, he was the odds-on favorite to not make the team.

Troy Smith

Smith, who has at times played and behaved his way out of a starting job here in Baltimore, was relieved to still be a Raven for the time being, and he said his competing hard every day in training camp so far must have gave GM Ozzie Newsome notice to keep him on the payroll.

“I would never say it’s getting easier,” Smith told Thyrl Nelson on Thursday.  “You put so much into getting ready into camp. And you compete. Everybody does. Every position on the field, we’re competing. And it’s no where near getting easier. But I am more comfortable with the things going around here, and the understanding of the offense and the understanding of football in itself.”

Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2006, has made it known in the past-most recently in the 2010 offseason-that he has wanted a starting job and demanded a trade. His representation in the off-season said Smith would “crawl from Baltimore to Cleveland” to start for his hometown Browns.

But Smith did resign with the Ravens in the off-season, signing his tender sheet. For now, he continues to be patient and excited to be a Raven still.

“I think things are going to happen when its supposed to,” Smith told Nelson after when he would finally get that elusive starting gig in the NFL. “I think I landed here in Baltimore for a reason. And I got a chance to bond, and be with this group, this team, this organization, this city, and this state for a reason.”

“There’s no doubt to me that everything happens for a reason, and I definitely appreciate the love from my teammates, because they have my admiration going straight back to them. But things happen for a reason. But my time will come; I’m just patiently waiting.”

Smith is also studying. And right now, his professor has been new quarterbacks coach and ex-Redskins head coach Jim Zorn.

Jim Zorn

“He’s tremendous,” Smith said of the former Seahawk great. “You’re talking about one of the more tedious guys that learned a position. Not only learning it, but knowing exactly how to create and make a quarterback. And obviously him having success at this level means something also.  He has definitely helped me tremendously and I continue to learn from it.”

And while Smith has been learning a lot from Zorn; one thing that he has yet to run just in camp  was the famous “Suggs Package” that debuted in the October 2008 against the Oakland Raiders.

Suggs Package

“We haven’t had a chance to get into stuff like that. I’m sure Cam and the rest of the offensive staff will do a good job with preparing us and getting us ready for the select games we have coming up. That package was something that was coined and dubbed early, and we haven’t seen it since because we’re not a gimmick or a trick type offense.”

All-in-all, Smith is just trying to become as perfect a quarterback as he can be, whether it be for the Ravens or the next team he suits up for.

“We run and execute our plays and we have pride in what we do. As a quarterback, all we do is perfect the game plan, that’s it.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net for all your Ravens training camp news! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Fabian Washington

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Ravens Cornerback Fabian Washington Feeling Healthy in Camp; Already Being Tested By Raven Offense

Posted on 06 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Fabian Washington
With all the talk lately about the injuries and issues concerning the back end of the Ravens defense, Ravens corner back Fabian Washington said that things are all good.

Washington, entering his third season with the Ravens, is actively participating in camp and said that the team is doing its best in camp to learn how to best execute their offense and defense.

“The defense is playing good, and the offense is looking amazing at practice,” Washington told Thyrl Nelson after practice on Tuesday. “We’re just going to go out and control what we can control. We can’t control injuries at this point in the game. The next person just has to step up and do their best.”

Washington mentioned the injuries. But the way Washington talked about the issue; some would forget that Washington is one of those injury concerns, as he is one of two starting corners from last year coming off season-ending ACL tears.

Washington said the knee, which he tore in the 17-15 loss in Week 11 to the Colts, is holding up very well in camp.

“I’m holding up pretty good. I’m out here practicing once a day, going full speed in most of the drills. My knee is holding up in practice. I feel like all the hard work I did in the off-season is starting to pay off.”

Most ACL tears take more than a year to heal. But both he and Lardarius Webb are expected to be ready far ahead of schedule and ready to go in Week 1.

But with those injury concerns, including another ACL tear by starting corne rback Domonique Foxworth last week, the Ravens have stuck the infamous red jersey on Washington at times, just to make sure Washington is upright throughout the rest of camp going into the regular season.

“They tried to keep me safe,” Washington said. “We’ve had some misfortunes at the corner back position the last few years. We’re trying to stay safe and healthy as possible.”

If anything, the best way to get back into football shape-both physically and getting adapted to the speed of the game-has been being thrown out their against an up and coming Ravens offense on the fields at McDaniel.

Washington feels like with the added receivers GM Ozzie Newsome went out and got this year, like Anquan Boldin, the Ravens should be able to score some points this year.

Anquan Boldin

“You’ll see that in the preseason, definitely come Week 1,” Washington said.  “We’ve got some exciting guys. Everybody knows what Anquan can do. He’s been doing that years and years now.”

Washington, even on one good knee, is still one of the fastest guys on the team. But one guy right now who he has lined up against-in receiver Donte Stallworth-has really tired Washington out at times.

“We’ve got guys like Donte who are straight burners. The guy can run…I’ve seen it. I feel like if anybody can push me deep and  get me stretching my hamstring, he can run. He’s been doing that on a daily basis.”

Washington said that if something should happen to him or one of the other corners, he does feel like the guys around and behind him should still play well and the Ravens will be fine because of the hard work he and his teammate have put in so far.

“I think all of us are going to have to step up, like myself and Chris Carr. Lardarius is working his butt off on the side tyring to get healthy and be ready for Week1. We’ve got guys like Prince Miller coming along. Travis Fisher has been playing some good football. We just need to gel, come together and play our best ball.”

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Blog & Tackle: Purple Haze live chat at 3:30 today

Posted on 03 January 2010 by Chris Pika

Join us at 3:30 pm today to dissect the Ravens-Raiders game online in WNST.net’s Sunday Afternoon Purple Haze. News, polls, and most importantly, your comments make up the Haze from pregame until after the final play.

Nestor Aparicio will have pregame news and notes from the Oakland press box starting at 3:30 pm. Once the game starts at 4:15, all of your favorite WNST hosts and personalities, including Drew Forrester, Glenn Clark and other stars will chat with you, answer your questions and take a look at the NFL playoff picture — especially who the Ravens will play in the AFC playoffs if they beat the Raiders (either New England or Cincinnati).

Ravens-Raiders Sunday Afternoon Purple Haze

By the way, since I didn’t have a chance to do a “How I See It” column, here is my prediction for today’s game: Ravens 24, Raiders 10.

Tell your friends, fire up your laptop, and enjoy the Week 17 action in a new way with WNST in the Purple Haze. (And, if the Ravens make the playoffs, we’ll do this again next week during the Wild Card round).

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Blog & Tackle: Week 17 AFC clinching scenarios

Posted on 28 December 2009 by Chris Pika

We know that if the Ravens win, they are in the AFC playoff field for the second consecutive season. The New York Jets are in the same spot win and in. But in the interest of laying out all of the possibilities, here are the AFC clinching scenarios coming into the final week of play, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau and NFL.com.


Indianapolis — South division and home-field advantage.

San Diego — West division and first-round bye.

Cincinnati — North division.

New England — East division.



Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland, Buffalo, Tennessee.


Baltimore, the Jets, Denver, Pittsburgh and Houston can also make the playoffs if they tie this week with various other things happening. Jacksonville and Miami cannot make the playoffs with a tie.



Baltimore clinches a playoff spot:

1) BAL win



NY Jets clinch a playoff spot:

1) NYJ win



Denver clinches a playoff spot:

1) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

2) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

3) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + HOU win

4) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

5) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + HOU win

6) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss

7) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss

8.) PIT loss + BAL loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss

9) PIT loss + HOU loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss

10) MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie



Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot:

1) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie

2) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

3) PIT win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie



Houston clinches a playoff spot:

1) HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

2) HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

3) HOU win + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie



Jacksonville clinches a playoff spot:

1) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss

2) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + NYJ loss

3) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss

4) JAC win + PIT loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss

5) JAC win + NYJ loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + BAL loss



Miami clinches a playoff spot:

1) MIA win + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (12/1/09)

Posted on 01 December 2009 by Jack McManus

BREAKING NEWS: Ralph Friedgen will RETURN next season.


Charles Davis from Fox is up to chat with Drew. He begins by talking about the upsets in rivalry games this weekend. When it comes to instate rivalries, records often do not matter. No matter how much coaching is done, young players will look forward to the more meaningful games the week after. He next discusses the upcoming search for a coach at Notre Dame, now that Charlie Weis has officially been fired.

There has been a lot of discussion this morning about Mike Preston’s comment about Paul Kruger. Drew and Glenn discuss the role of race in the rooting interest for local fans. It is brought up that although Kelly Gregg is not a Pro Bowl player, you see many Gregg jerseys at M&T Bank Stadium each game.



Lomas Brown joins drew to talk some football. He starts off by talking about his Lions. He explains that Detroit recognizes the team’s improvement despite only having 2 wins. He states that the team still must learn to finish games more consistently. The city is united in support of Maryland-native Jim Schwartz as head coach. On the topic of the Monday Night Football game, Brown expresses how impressed he is with the Saints. He states that right now the Saints do not look like they will lose this season. Moving on the Ravens, Brown talks about the lack of fear the Ravens defense strikes into opponents this season. This has been a trend throughout the league. Parity has caused every team to compete week in and week out.


A caller brings up the Saints’ high-powered offense. Drew talks about the other strong offenses around the league. He points out that the Bengals have lost to the Raiders and scored only one offensive touchdown against the Browns since the loss of Cedric Benson.


Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times is on to talk about the Terps. He first discusses the future of head football coach Ralph Friedgen. He states that the longer the situation drags on the more Maryland’s recruiting will be impacted. Stevens also explains that even if Friedgen is fired, it will be difficult for Maryland to make a big-time coaching hire. The school is in the middle tier of the ACC at best.

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At long last, welcome back to the Unassisted Triple Play. You may have noticed my absence over the past several weeks. Probably you didn't, but I'll pretend that you did. Anyway, my inactivity has been largely the result of...

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And We’re Back

Posted on 30 November 2009 by Sam Angell

At long last, welcome back to the Unassisted Triple Play. You may have noticed my absence over the past several weeks. Probably you didn’t, but I’ll pretend that you did. Anyway, my inactivity has been largely the result of moving from Baltimore to Hartford, CT, where I now work in the sports information department at the University of Hartford, covering the men’s basketball team among other sports.

While I await my triumphant return to Baltimore to take on UMBC in an America East tilt on January 14, I’ve been keeping up with all the action from afar.


There was a moment last night when I thought to myself “a team that loses to a third-string quarterback has no business being in the playoffs. At least I won’t have to work myself up into an ulcer the rest of the season.”

Well, my health insurance at the new job just kicked in, so bring on the gastric acid!

I think any Ravens fan holding out hope for this season probably has a frame of mind similar to mine – the team hasn’t lost any games it shouldn’t have, and with the possible exception of the second Cincinnati game, they have been right in every game all year. Give me a second chance at the Patriots, the Colts, the Vikings…give me a third shot at the Bengals…I’ll take my chances.

That said, despite the fact that many fans and experts anticipated a Ravens blowout with Dennis Dixon in there, the Ravens needed a game like last night. They needed a do-or-die situation against the team they simply seemed incapable of getting over the hump against. They needed to prove that they aren’t seemingly the most snakebitten team in the history and get over the hump in one of those games. And they did it.

Now we know that Joe Flacco can win a game in the last five minutes if he has to. For all the greatness of his first 29 NFL games, he had yet to do that. A blowout would have been nice for our collective psyche, but going into last night, it didn’t matter if they won in overtime on a field goal or were resting the starters by halftime – it would just be one win, and they might very well need another one in Pittsburgh in late December to shore up a playoff berth.

That game will likely feature Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Chris Kemoetu, which has to be the hardest-to-spell trio on any inactive list in NFL history. The chances of the Ravens going into Pittsburgh and blowing the doors off the place are slim, but it is a strong bet that they will be in the game. If the Ravens find themselves down late in the game, they can look back at last night and know that they have a quarterback (and a running back) capable of moving the ball and getting them what they need to extend drives and seasons. If that hadn’t happened yesterday – even if the Ravens had won handily – that knowledge would not be in the back of their heads going up against the Super Bowl champs in a hostile environment. Now it is, and that will prove invaluable down the stretch for a team desperate to win and move on.

At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself for the sake of my health. In the meantime, Dennis is no Juan. And thank God we got the better half of the dynamic surveying duo.


With the Patriots and Saints underway tonight in one of the most hyped games of the season, and the Ravens and Steelers extending the best rivalry in the NFL right now with another classic last night, this week’s prime time games may end up bailing out the NFL for an embarrassment of a Thanksgiving opening course. Now, I won’t blame them for the clunker that Giants-Broncos ended up being. No one could have known that Eli was still more serious about his squash career than the Giants’ playoff hopes. But to pair the Cowboys with the Raiders, especially when the laughingstock that is the Detroit Lions had to be featured somewhere, was inexcusable.

The league has two teams locked into Thanksgiving every year. No one in their right mind could have counted on the Lions for a decent showing, even in a storied rivalry game. There’s only so much you can do with them, but that should have left the schedule makers pouring over the Cowboys’ home schedule trying to set up one of the best possible games for Thanksgiving.

So they look at who might be good coming into the season. in addition to their star-studded NFC East rivals, the Cowboys play Golden Boy Matt Ryan (who is no Chris Redman, mind you) and Philip, LT, and the Chargers in the Taj Mahal of football this season. So naturally, in the search for a marquee matchup, the NFL picked……..the Oakland Raiders?!

If the game on the field featured Jerry vs. Al in a tete-a-tete, then I could see it as fantastic holiday viewing. But that football game was more of a snorer than the tryptophan. Congratulations NFL, you’ve ruined Thanksgiving.

Of course, just like every other problem the NFL has experienced over the past 15 years, I’m sure they will find a way to Blame Baltimore. If the Ravens hadn’t ruined Jerry’s finale for Texas Stadium, maybe he wouldn’t have had to push for such a patsy on Thanksgiving. We knew that Le’Ron McClain was a power back. We didn’t know his footsteps would still be causing ripples eleven months later.


Normally I use this space for something irreverent and funny. Not today. Today I have something very serious to talk about with all of you. That, of course, was the mysterious disappearance of my Orioles and Ravens car magnets from my back bumper over the weekend. To whoever took them – assuming a Connecticut hoodlum reads random Baltimore sports blogs – I want them back. Put them back where you found them (the dirt outline of the “O” and the Ravens oval sticker are still there, so you should be able to do that no problem), and all will be forgiven. Otherwise, I will have you traced, and will send members of the UConn basketball team to steal your computer.

In the meantime, if any of my loyal readers have extra “O’s,” Ravens stickers, or any of the other things I’ve been missing from back home (Natty Boh, Berger cookies, Utz crab chips, Barry Glazer commercials, etc.), I would be forever in your debt.


No bigtime musicians born today, so today’s Happy Birthday goes to Simonetta Stefanelli, a.k.a. Apollonia from the Godfather. No one mastered the days of the week quite like her, and she still ranks in the top 50% of women drivers. And much like this blog, when she hit you with the thunderbolt, you were not going to forget it anytime soon.

Glad to be back everyone, talk to you all again soon.

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Blog & Tackle: How I see Ravens-Browns

Posted on 16 November 2009 by Chris Pika

The stars aligned for the Ravens on Sunday as the Steelers lost to the Bengals, throwing Pittsburgh into the Wild Card race with two meetings with Baltimore still to come.

All that’s left for the Ravens to do is get through tonight’s game at Cleveland to move into a group of 5-4 teams in the AFC with Jacksonville and Houston, just one game back of the Steelers and resurgent San Diego, which hold the two Wild Card spots as of now.

Join us for a special Monday Night Purple Haze at 8 pm ET. Nestor Aparicio and Glenn Clark will be in Cleveland to provide news and notes, and other WNST folks will add analysis. Click here to join in (If you don’t know what the Purple Haze is, check out the archives on that page to see what we do each and every week).

Monday night road games are some of the toughest on players in the NFL. If you are the Monday night home team, you could either stay at home in your own bed, or go to a hotel Sunday night and meet in your facility like a regular Monday would be on a normal week.

For the road team, the routine is fly to the city on Sunday, watch the late games, have meetings and dinner, then off to bed. Monday might might have more meetings, but the players are told to stay off their feet as much as possible, and it’s a long wait until the first buses leave for the stadium four hours before the game. It’s a lot of sitting and waiting to play.

A lot of that can lead to lethargic play, especially early in the game. Coaches have to monitor the energy level of themselves and the players to make sure they are in the right frame of mind when they get to the stadium.

Everyone knows Cleveland’s struggles. Some would say the Browns are a bad team. No team in the NFL is bad. Most of the 53 players on the Browns roster could play for other squads. It’s fair to say they are a struggling team, but they have a lot of pride, just as the Ravens do.

The Browns know the fan unrest, including a planned sit-out of the opening kickoff. Front-office troubles with the firing of George Kokinis have added to the misery. But the message from Eric Mangini to his team is a simple one. “We’re on national TV against a team that went to the AFC title game last year. We can ruin their season, and show the fans that we are better than our record. Have pride, and take the fight to the Ravens.”

The best way to beat a struggling team is to get up early and keep the foot on the gas for the entire 60 minutes. If the Browns score first, like Minnesota and Cincinnati have done to Baltimore in recent weeks, the pressure begins to grow. The longer they hang around, the more confidence they gain, and more any mistakes by the Ravens could be magnified. In short, the Ravens have to treat Cleveland like they would if it was Pittsburgh.

Hopefully the Ravens won’t look back at this game like Philadelphia (Oakland), Green Bay (Tampa Bay) and Denver (Washington) have in recent weeks. Beware of a wounded team in the spotlight. On to the breakdown:

Ravens offense: We’ve seen large doses of Ray Rice both running and catching the football as leads the team in rushing yards and receptions. Tonight would be perfect to get the ball into the hands of Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain as the stretch run begins. Get back to basics: run the ball and control the line of scrimmage. Efficient drives that get 7s, not 3s and continually wear down the Cleveland defense. Opponents lead the NFL in total runs at the Browns left (50 plays) and right guard (74) spots. Cleveland is in the bottom quarter of the league in yards allowed to runs to left end, left tackle, up the middle, right tackle and right end, and not far from that to left and right guard. You get the picture: run the ball effectively, especially to the outside.

When Flacco wants to pass the ball, he will be more effective on shorter throws. As Cleveland tries to shore up the run, they are susceptible to passes thrown between the secondary and the linemen. The Browns give up 7.8 yards on passes thrown short left (32nd in the NFL) and 9.3 yards on short middle (31st). But he will have to get the ball out quickly as Cleveland will try to blitz a bunch to help out a beleaguered secondary. Look for Todd Heap to find his way into that soft spot for big catches.

Ravens defense: Brady Quinn is back in as the Browns starter as Cleveland has to evaluate what they have in him going forward, especially with a top-five pick in next year’s draft looming. Does Mangini go the Vince Young route with him by throwing safe passes? Consider this: the Browns offense has failed to score a TD in the five games, and no Cleveland back has been in the end zone since last Nov. 17. Without decent playmakers for Quinn to go deep with against a Ravens secondary that has struggled at times, the Browns will have to try to run the ball. Jamal Lewis, who is expected to retire at the end of the season, will try to put together a huge effort against his former club.

Patience is the key for the Ravens. Stifle Lewis and put pressure on Quinn, who is completing close to 60 percent of his passes. Three-and-outs are boring to watch for the national TV audience, but we might see a lot of those from the Browns.

Special teams: Here is where the Ravens have to be careful. Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs is one of the best return men in the league (16.4 avg on punt returns and 27.7 average on kickoff returns). The Ravens need the field to be as long as possible each time the Browns get the ball. Containing Cribbs is a high priority for the Ravens. Baltimore has its own weapon on kick returns in Ladarius Webb, who is averaging 28.2 per return. He’ll have a chance to give the Ravens good field position at either the start of the game, or the second half, and hopefully not any time else.

PREDICTION: The goal here is to demoralize the Browns as soon as possible. Solid running that tires Cleveland up front will help that cause. Baltimore has to find the end zone, not kick field goals early. Cleveland could potentially go no-huddle with Quinn to quicken the pace and not allow the Ravens to catch their breath on defense. If Baltimore slows down Lewis and Cleveland sees a lot of third-and-long spots, the Ravens should grind out a victory that won’t be pretty, but effective to raise the record to 5-4. Ravens 24, Cleveland 10.

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