Tag Archive | "Peyton Manning"

Ravens-Broncos: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Broncos: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 12 January 2013 by Luke Jones

Few pundits have given them much of a chance, but the Baltimore Ravens have exuded a quiet confidence throughout the week as they travel to Denver to take on the No. 1 seed Broncos in Saturday’s AFC divisional round matchup.

The memory of a 34-17 beating suffered against these same Broncos in Baltimore last month has been a difficult one to erase, but the Ravens hope the return of five starters injured for that contest and the continued development of the offense under new coordinator Jim Caldwell will reverse those fortunes. Despite being a 10-point underdog, Baltimore aims to advance to the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row.

The Ravens are healthier than they’ve been at any point since the early stages of the season as the final injury report listed 17 players as probable for Saturday’s game. Offensive lineman Jah Reid was ruled out but was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Friday.

With Reid out for the wild-card game against Indianapolis, the Ravens made the long-awaited move to place veteran Bryant McKinnie in the starting lineup at left tackle while shifting Michael Oher to right tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele at left guard. Head coach John Harbaugh hopes the line shuffle will pay dividends again Saturday after the Denver defense pummeled Joe Flacco in Week 15, sacking him three times and hitting him nine times. It won’t be easy as Denver’s Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for 29 1/2 sacks, the highest total among any pass-rushing duo in the league.

In his final meeting against Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense hope to finally get the best of the future Hall of Fame quarterback after nine straight losses. Baltimore hasn’t won a game in Denver since the 2001 season, the same year in which the Ravens won their last contest against Manning.

It will be bitterly cold in Denver with temperatures not expected to even reach 20 degrees for the 4:30 p.m. ET start. And, of course, the high altitude has been a topic of discussion as the Ravens play a game in Denver for the first time since 2006.

Saturday’s referee will be Bill Vinovich.

Baltimore will be wearing white jerseys and black pants while Denver sports its orange tops with white pants.

The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series by a 5-4 margin and own the victory in the only playoff meeting between the clubs, a 21-3 final in Baltimore on Dec. 31, 2000. That was the same postseason in which the Ravens won their only NFL championship in Super Bowl XXXV.

Here are Saturday’s inactives …

BALTIMORE
WR David Reed
S Omar Brown
CB Chris Johnson
LB Adrian Hamilton
OL Ramon Harewood
WR Deonte Thompson
DT Bryan Hall

DENVER
QB Caleb Hanie
WR Andre Caldwell
CB Tracy Porter
FB Chris Gronkowski
TE Julius Thomas
OL C.J. Davis
NT Sealver Siliga

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the day as Nestor Aparicio brings live updates from Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.

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Ravens-Broncos: Five predictions for divisional round Saturday

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Ravens-Broncos: Five predictions for divisional round Saturday

Posted on 11 January 2013 by Luke Jones

The Baltimore Ravens haven’t beaten Peyton Manning in their last nine tries, a span covering more than 11 years, and will receive their latest opportunity in Saturday’s divisional round meeting with the Denver Broncos.

Embarrassed in their 34-17 home loss to Denver in Week 15, the Ravens are hellbent on showing they’re a much better team than the one shut out in the first half as the offense could generate nothing against the Broncos’ stout defense. However, the Broncos enter the postseason as the AFC’s No. 1 seed and haven’t lost a game since Oct. 7, finishing the regular season on a league-best 11-game winning streak.

Though the stakes aren’t quite as high as the two AFC championship games in which the Ravens have appeared under coach John Harbaugh, they might feel just as much urgency on Saturday knowing 37-year-old linebacker and spiritual leader Ray Lewis will retire after the season. The wave of emotion seemed to work in their favor in last week’s 24-9 wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis, but traveling to Denver to deal with the bitter cold and altitude is another challenge entirely as the Broncos possess the league’s fourth-ranked offense and second-ranked defense in terms of yardage.

The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series with Denver by a 5-4 margin and own a win in the only other playoff meeting against the Broncos, a 21-3 final in the franchise’s first postseason game on Dec. 31, 2000. However, the Ravens haven’t won a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High since 2001, which happens to be the same season in which they last secured a victory over Manning.

Baltimore is 1-3 in four games against the Broncos in Denver.

Here’s what to expect as the 11-6 Ravens attempt to secure their second consecutive AFC championship game appearance with an upset over the Broncos …

1. Ed Reed will secure an interception of Manning in what may be his final game with the Ravens. I incorrectly predicted the 34-year-old free safety would pick off Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, so I’ll go to the well one more time for the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year. The Ravens’ interest in retaining Reed’s services after the season appear lukewarm at best, and there’s no guarantee the chronically-injured defensive player will decide to play in 2013 anyway. Even so, with it being a cold and potentially snowy afternoon in Denver, Reed will capitalize on a rare mistake by Manning to force a takeaway to set the Ravens up on a short field. With dangerous targets Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker providing tough matchups against Baltimore cornerbacks, Reed will need to play his assignments to offer help over the top. Even so, the veteran is notorious for gambling and he knows Manning as well as any quarterback in the league.

2. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller will collect two sacks for the Broncos while Paul Kruger continues his hot streak with 1 1/2 sacks for the Ravens. The installation of veteran Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and the presence of right guard Marshal Yanda — who was inactive for the Week 15 loss — will help an offensive line that allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked three times and hit nine times by the Broncos last month. McKinnie will do a respectable job against defensive end Elvis Dumervil, but Miller is an absolute nightmare as he can line up on either edge or stunt from the strong-side linebacker position. Kruger will continue his best season as a professional and collect 1 1/2 sacks after picking up 2 1/2 against Indianapolis last week. The sobering thought is that Kruger is likely pricing himself beyond the Ravens’ budget with his strong finish to the 2012 season. They’ll enjoy his services for at least one more afternoon as he provides the most consistent heat on Manning with the banged-up Terrell Suggs virtually a non-factor these days.

3. Bernard Pierce finishes with more carries and more yards than Ray Rice as the Ravens try to find the edges more than you’d think against a fast Denver defense. The conventional wisdom is to run north and south against the speedy Broncos unit, but the numbers suggest otherwise as Denver has been stout against inside runs and vulnerable when running games have tried to run beyond the edges. The Broncos have allowed 3.76 yards per run behind left guard, 3.23 yards per run behind center, and 2.82 yards per run behind right guard. That last number is interesting with Yanda being the Ravens’ best offensive lineman. In the first meeting between the teams, the Ravens tried to run five plays behind veteran Bobbie Williams at the right guard spot and gained only nine yards. The Broncos have allowed 4.9 yards per carry around the left edge and 5.54 yards per carry to the right end. In terms of the workload for Pierce and Rice, the former’s ability to explode through running lanes and create yards after contact is the more appealing option against the league’s third-ranked run defense, but Rice will receive plenty of touches as well as offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will try to create mismatches for Rice to get the ball in open space as a receiver. Baltimore will exceed the measly 56 rushing yards gained against Denver on Dec. 16, but seeing them run for much more than 100 total would be very surprising. An effective running game would go a long way in keeping Manning off the field, so the Ravens will stick to the run even if only earning modest gains.

4. Flacco will receive better protection this time around, but he will have difficulty finding open receivers as he struggles to crack the 200-yard passing mark. The running game will be critical in determining how much time Flacco receives to throw as the Ravens are likely to use some play-action roll-outs and bootlegs to move the pocket and keep Miller and Dumervil honest in targeting the quarterback behind the offensive line. If Pierce and Rice are unable to gain positive yardage, the Broncos won’t respect the play fakes and the Baltimore quarterback will be unable to evade rushers when trying to throw on the move. Even if Flacco is able to receive more time, the question of whether Baltimore receivers can gain separation against Champ Bailey and Chris Harris remains to be seen. Anquan Boldin was held without a catch and Torrey Smith made one reception for 14 yards before leaving the first Denver game early in the second half with a concussion. Flacco will try to take shots downfield with Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside, but the Denver secondary has been exceptional all year, averaging a fifth-ranked 6.4 yards allowed per passing attempt. The Ravens will move the chains more effectively than they did in Week 15 — 1-for-12 on third down — but Flacco’s short-to-intermediate passes to tight end Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin will become more difficult over the course of the game unless they can connect on a deep ball or two to back up the secondary.

5. The Ravens will put forth a better showing than they did against Denver last month, but Manning and the Broncos will prove to be too much in a 27-17 final. The notion uttered by many this week that the Ravens have no shot against the Broncos is a silly one and wreaks of not paying attention to what happens around the NFL every week. The Broncos are the better team, but that doesn’t mean Baltimore isn’t capable of pulling off the upset, especially with a big return by Jones or a crucial turnover that goes in their favor. Despite their many critics, the Ravens are a good football team and should be commended for winning 11 games this season after the slew of injuries they suffered, particularly on the defensive side of the football. However, the Broncos are a great team and Manning will be too much to overcome as a Baltimore defense that will bend but not break for the first three quarters will wilt on a late touchdown drive to put this one out of reach. The Baltimore offense won’t be embarrassed like it was at M&T Bank Stadium last month, but the unit just won’t be productive enough against one of the best defensive units in the league. The Ravens’ season and the career of the future Hall of Fame Lewis will come to an end in Denver on Saturday.

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Other factors aside, upsetting Broncos begins and ends with Flacco

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Other factors aside, upsetting Broncos begins and ends with Flacco

Posted on 10 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s no secret that quarterback Joe Flacco can’t do it by himself if the Ravens are to pull off the upset against the No. 1 seed Denver Broncos in Saturday’s divisional round playoff at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Better pass protection, a more productive running game, and a stronger defensive effort in the second half against quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver offense are just a sampling of the goals the Ravens must accomplish to fare any better than they did in the humbling 34-17 defeat suffered at M&T Bank Stadium last month. But if Baltimore is to have any chance of advancing to the AFC championship game for the second consecutive year, the fifth-year quarterback must play like he did in last year’s conference-deciding game when he outperformed New England’s Tom Brady and was a Lee Evans catch away from sending the Ravens to their first Super Bowl since Jan. 2001.

All other factors aside, the ball will rest in Flacco’s hands at some critical juncture — if the Ravens are fortunate enough to play well in other phases of the game — and he will be counted upon to make a game-changing play.

Flacco did just that in the regular-season loss to Denver, but it was arguably the lowest moment of his career when tossing an interception to Broncos cornerback Chris Harris that was returned 98 yards for a touchdown to create a 17-0 deficit instead of a one-possession game at halftime on Dec. 16. The crucial turnover was Flacco’s second of the afternoon and finished a stretch of three straight games in which the quarterback had lost a fumble and thrown an interception.

The sight of him lying face down on the turf after trying to chase Harris the length of the field threatened to be the defining moment of the season for both him and the Ravens as they suffered their third consecutive loss that afternoon.

“Stuff like that happens sometimes, and believe me, I’m the last guy that wants it to happen,” Flacco said. “But you’ve got to go out there and keep your head up and play the game, and I think I did a great job of rebounding from that, and I think our whole team did. That’s why we are where we are right now.”

Flacco hasn’t thrown another interception since then, a span covering 92 attempts. He threw for 591 yards and four touchdowns in wins over the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts, the two real games the Ravens have played that sandwiched a cameo appearance by starters in the regular-season finale. Baltimore scored a combined 57 points in those victories and posted a combined 974 yards of offense, albeit against two defenses that hardly stack up to the Broncos’ formidable unit.

For the most part, the offense has looked more productive and crisp since new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s debut against Denver. The Ravens have shown a more consistent commitment to run the ball and have effectively moved the pocket, using play-action roll-outs and even the occasional bootleg to allow Flacco to throw the ball on the run.

Of course, the Ravens must run the ball effectively to make such calls feasible against the second-ranked Denver defense that includes the best pass-rushing duo in the league in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. The Broncos teed off on Flacco in their first meeting, hitting him nine times and collecting three sacks. Even the threat of moving Flacco around will make it more difficult for the Denver pass rush to find the same success on Saturday.

“It’s helped us because of the fact we should be able to move the pocket some, particularly with some of the elite pass rushers that we have been facing,” Caldwell said. “If they know your launch point, it’s going to be in the same spot all the time. That can make things a little rough for you.”

Trying to win a shootout against the second-highest scoring offense in the league would be a near-impossible task, so the Ravens must move the chains on third down to sustain drives and keep Manning off the field as much as possible. Baltimore went 0-for-9 on third down against Denver in the regular-season meeting before finally converting for the first time late in the third quarter when the Broncos had already built a 31-3 lead. The Ravens finished that ugly game going 1-for-12 in that department.

In limiting the Ravens to 41 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first half, Denver forced Flacco into third-and-long situations throughout the first half when the game was still undecided. Efficiency will be key in not just creating third-and-manageable chances but also in needing to score touchdowns when the Ravens are able to move the ball inside the red zone. Kicking field goals rarely gets the job done against quarterbacks and offenses the caliber of Manning and Denver.

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The Reality Check NFL Playoff Power Rankings

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The Reality Check NFL Playoff Power Rankings

Posted on 09 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

Ryan Chell & I ranked the best head coaches, quarterbacks and defenses left in the postseason, then ranked the teams left in order of likelihood to win Super Bowl XLVI.

It was a fun day Tuesday on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net. You really should be listening.

Head Coaches:

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

8. Gary Kubiak

7. Pete Carroll

6. Mike Smith

5. Jim Harbaugh

4. John Harbaugh

3. John Fox

2. Mike McCarthy

1. Bill Belichick

Ryan Chell’s Rankings…

8. Gary Kubiak

7. Pete Carroll

6. Mike Smith

5. Jim Harbaugh

4. John Fox

3. John Harbaugh

2. Mike McCarthy

1. Bill Belichick

(Quarterbacks on Page 2…)

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Why will this one be any different for Ravens against red-hot Denver?

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Why will this one be any different for Ravens against red-hot Denver?

Posted on 08 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have heard the doubts since the first hours following their wild-card playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.

The Broncos demolished them in a 34-17 final at M&T Bank Stadium less than four weeks ago, the worst home loss of the John Harbaugh era. The score really wasn’t even that close as Denver seemingly took its foot off the gas pedal after building a 31-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

Denver has a league-best 11-game winning streak and hasn’t lost a game since the Orioles were still playing postseason baseball in early October. Baltimore has been installed as a nine-point underdog by oddsmakers in Las Vegas.

How can the Ravens possibly expect a different result this time around as they travel to Sports Authority Field at Mile High on a short week to take on the mighty Broncos coming off a bye week?

The image of quarterback Joe Flacco throwing an interception returned 98 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Chris Harris right before halftime is just too much to shake, isn’t it?

“It doesn’t surprise me that nobody would really give us too much of a shot,” Flacco said. “They beat us up pretty good a couple weeks ago. I think you always have that little chip that you want to go out there and prove to people that you’re a good football team.”

The Ravens believe they are a better football team now than the one on display that day at M&T Bank Stadium as they were only six days removed from firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoting quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. Five key starters were missing from the lineup due to injury. And what could have been a one-possession game going into halftime — with the Ravens set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half — was dramatically transformed into a 17-0 deficit that broke the spirit of what was an inspired defensive effort against Peyton Manning in the first half.

So, as the rest of the country focuses on the deficiencies that were on full display in that embarrassing loss, the Ravens instead look ahead at Saturday’s opportunity while acknowledging how one play can dramatically change the tone — and outcome — of a football game.

“Everybody has an opinion. Whatever that opinion is, let them have it,” said linebacker Ray Lewis, who reminded reporters that the 2000 Ravens were underdogs through much of their run to Super Bowl XXXV. “One thing about it, the game has to be played. No matter what anybody says or who they feel is going to win, you have to play the game on [Saturday]. That’s the way we feel — let the game play out. Because at the end of the day, some people are going to be right and some people are going to be wrong.”

There’s no way to sugarcoat that the Ravens are the clear underdog in this one as the Broncos have dominated on both sides of the ball — ranked fourth in total offense and second in total defense during the regular season — over the last three months to enter the postseason as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Denver defense is led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who formed the best pass-rushing duo in the league with a combined 29 1/2 sacks this season. The Broncos battered Flacco to the tune of three sacks and nine quarterback hits in that first meeting.

Manning has played at an MVP-caliber level in throwing for 4,695 yards and 37 touchdowns this season, and wide receiver Eric Decker torched the Ravens with 133 receiving yards in that Week 15 win. The Ravens haven’t beaten a Manning-led team in 11 years as the future Hall of Fame quarterback has gotten the best of them over and over.

But a Baltimore defense without Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, and Bernard Pollard held the Broncos to 10 points in the first 29 minutes of play on Dec. 16, three coming after a Flacco fumble on the Ravens’ first drive to set up Denver at midfield. It was only after the backbreaking interception on a quick out intended for Anquan Boldin that an undermanned defense completely wilted in the second half.

Flacco and the rest of the offense know they must perform at a much higher level to give the Ravens any chance to pull off the upset in Denver. In Caldwell’s debut as offensive coordinator, Baltimore had a fumble, five three-and-outs, and an interception over its first seven drives.

Recently, the starting offense has looked much better in scoring 57 points in games against New York and Indianapolis that sandwiched the regular-season finale in Cincinnati that was a glorified preseason game. The Ravens also may have finally settled on their best offensive line this past Sunday with veteran Bryant McKinnie finally being inserted at left tackle with Michael Oher moving to the right side and rookie Kelechi Osemele shifting inside to left guard.

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Pierce’s physical style ideal fit for January football

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Pierce’s physical style ideal fit for January football

Posted on 07 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens pride themselves on being built for December and January when the elements sour and teams must rely more heavily on their running game.

But they may not have anticipated rookie running back Bernard Pierce carrying such a substantial workload as the third-round pick from Temple starred in Sunday’s wild-card playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. Pierce ran for 103 yards on 13 carries with 43 yards coming on one fourth-quarter run to set the Ravens up in the red zone before scoring their final touchdown.

According to Pro Football Focus, the rookie broke five tackles to average 3.77 yards after contact per attempt. In contrast, Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice gained 70 yards on 15 carries but broke only two tackles and gained 2.47 yards after contact per attempt.

However, the 22-year-old understudy remains grounded over his increasing role within the offense despite leading the Ravens in rushing in each of the last three games.

“Maybe two games — Ray didn’t play [much against Cincinnati in Week 17],” Pierce said. “But it’s a definite confidence booster, because I just want to be able to keep getting better week in and week out, and I’ve proven that to myself and everybody else.”

In wins over the New York Giants in Week 16 and Indianapolis on Sunday, the Ravens have used the running game to wear down the opposing front seven, with Pierce playing a major role in doing so. In his last five games, Pierce has rushed for 388 yards on 62 attempts, which is good for just under 6.3 yards per carry.

Over that same stretch, Rice has gained 341 yards on 74 carries, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt.

“We think we have two good guys that can play,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We like both of those guys in that situation. Bernard has earned the right to be in on those kind of situations. I like both of our backs a lot.”

While no one should question Rice’s standing in the offense, Pierce’s physical nature appears to be paying dividends against opposing fronts. Rice will continue to see plenty of touches both as a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield, but Pierce has shown the type of vision and power to warrant a heavy workload through the remainder of the postseason.

And with the thin air and cold temperature of Denver playing major roles in Saturday’s divisional meeting with the Denver Broncos, the Ravens will likely use a similar plan to the one used against the Giants and Colts when Rice and Pierce shared carries more evenly.

“The fact that the altitude is probably going to be a factor as far as guys who are carrying the ball getting gassed, those two guys are going to take care of each other,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something we’ve been building on.”

Mile High state of mind

Traveling to Denver for the first time in the Harbaugh era, the Ravens have examined every possibility in order to offset the challenge of playing at such a high altitude.

Unlike a regular West Coast trip when teams typically leave a day earlier than a normal trip, the Ravens will depart for Denver the evening before the game. Some studies indicate the human body typically has a 24-hour period before diving into an adaptation mode, which includes a thickening of the blood. Adjusting to a higher altitude typically takes three weeks or more, so leaving a day earlier than normal wouldn’t figure to offer any notable benefit, especially when it’s a shorter week to begin with.

“We have a plan for that. We’re going to go out there the night before,” Harbaugh said. “We feel like that’s the best way to do to try to stay within a 24-hour window in the altitude. We’ve got some other advice for our guys in order to take care of their bodies out there and be ready to go.”

There are only so many measures teams can take, but optimum conditioning will play a major role in dealing with the thin air at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

“I think our team is in very good shape,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’re physically going to be able to handle it.”

Infirmary report

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Playoff win over Indianapolis microcosm of Ravens’ 2012 season

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Playoff win over Indianapolis microcosm of Ravens’ 2012 season

Posted on 06 January 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — In many ways, the Ravens’ 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday was a reflection of their entire 2012 season.

The outcome and final stats looked better than they felt over the course of the game, particularly in the first half when the Baltimore offense sputtered and the defense reaffirmed its “bend but don’t break” mentality after being on the field for over 19 minutes prior to halftime. The Ravens ultimately set a franchise playoff record with 441 yards of total offense and registered eight plays of 20-or-more yards after leading by a narrow 10-6 margin after the first 30 minutes.

Quarterback Joe Flacco finished with 282 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 completions, setting a new team playoff record with a 125.6 passer rating, and wide receiver Anquan Boldin produced a Ravens’ playoff record 145 receiving yards on five catches.

The second-half performance is one we’ve seen before as Flacco and the Ravens looked every bit the part of an elite offense.

“We were very efficient on offense,” Harbaugh said. “We were averaging nine yards per play until we took a knee there at the end. We didn’t have as many plays as we would have liked to have, but we sure were having success with our plays.”

That efficiency was absent in the first half as Flacco went 5-for-12 for 108 yards and Boldin failed to register a catch on two targets. And the unit’s inability to sustain drives for portions of the first and second quarter could have spelled troubled for a tired defense against a better opponent, but the Ravens prevailed as they should have against the inexperienced Colts in Baltimore.

As maligned as the offense has been this year — coming to a climax with the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Dec. 10 — the numbers suggest it’s one of the best assembled in the 17-year history of the franchise. The Ravens set franchise records for most points (398), fewest turnovers (16), and most plays of 20-or-more yards (73) this season, but few would regard them as having a very productive offense.

Sunday’s up-and-down performance had a similar feel before the Ravens were able to pull away, but that’s been the story all season. Very little has come easy, even if Sunday marked the fifth margin of victory all season of more than one possession.

“It wasn’t as clean as we wanted it to be,” center Matt Birk said. “But, that’s what we do. We just kept fighting, we just kept plugging away.”

Perhaps Boldin said it best in explaining the Ravens’ approach in the first half, equating it to a heavyweight fighter feeling out his opponent in the early rounds.

The veteran wide receiver certainly helped in providing the knockout punch with an 18-yard touchdown catch with 9:14 remaining to put the Ravens up by two scores. Indianapolis had no answers for the savvy Boldin, making you wonder why Flacco and the Ravens didn’t call his number more frequently in the first half.

“We wanted to show them a couple looks and see what we got early,” Boldin said. “We kind of wanted to hold some things back until the second half. We got the looks we thought we were going to get.”

Sunday’s performance was good enough to dispose of Indianapolis, but the Ravens now face the daunting challenge of going to Denver to take on the Broncos, the team that demolished them in Baltimore less than a month ago. Denver hasn’t lost a game since the beginning of October and will be the clear favorite, and the Ravens haven’t exactly inspired confidence very often when playing away from M&T Bank Stadium.

A full 60 minutes resembling what we saw in the second half on Sunday will be a necessity in order for the Ravens to have any chance of pulling off an upset against Peyton Manning, the man who’s disposed of them twice in the postseason in the last seven years. There will be no time for feeling out the opposition or Manning and the Denver offense will jump ahead early and won’t look back.

Ray Lewis wasted no time in moving past his final game in Baltimore, eliminating any doubts of his ability to reboot emotionally after such a memorable day. The 37-year-old linebacker hopes this time around will be different against the Broncos with him and several others back and healthy for the rematch.

“I’ve already turned my iPad in to get Denver film now,” said Lewis, who finished with a team-high 13 tackles in his first game since Oct. 14. “It’s on to the next one. That’s one thing about being in this business for so long. Denver is going to be well-rested. We saw them earlier in the year, but now we get them again with all our guys back. We are really looking forward to it.”

We’ve waited all year to see the “real” Ravens show up, but Sunday is exactly what we’ve seen for much of the season. We witnessed a group capable of playing as well as anyone in the league in the second half, but mistakes and a lack of productivity allowed an inferior Colts team to hang around in the first half.

That won’t get the job done against the teams remaining in the postseason. The foot needs to be on the gas pedal from the opening kickoff next week.

The Ravens talked a good game following Sunday’s win, with several players embracing the opportunity to meet the Broncos again. You can only wonder if they’ll feel differently beginning at 4:30 p.m. next Saturday.

“[I'm] really looking forward to it,” Boldin said. “I was hoping we would get to them. So, they’ll see us next week.”

Which Ravens team will we see?

Will it be the offense that produced 253 yards of offense and the quarterback who threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns after halftime? Or will we see the sputtering unit we saw for much of the first half?

Can the defense offer enough resistance against Manning and the Denver offense to keep the Ravens in the game?

It’s difficult to forget the 34-17 beating they took just three weeks ago to Manning and the Broncos. Why would this time be any different, especially with Baltimore going on the road?

“We’ll make it different,” Boldin said.

Then, it’s time for the Ravens to show up for a full 60 minutes to prove it.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game-Ravens/Broncos

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game-Ravens/Broncos

Posted on 18 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Bernard Pierce 15 yard run negated by Matt Birk holding penalty (2nd quarter)

4. Rahim Moore recovers Joe Flacco fumble on 3rd & 1 forced by Justin Bannan (1st quarter)

3. Eric Decker 51 yard TD catch from Peyton Manning (3rd quarter)

2. Joe Flacco pass intended for Torrey Smith incomplete on 3rd & 10 (3rd quarter)

1. Chris Harris 98 yard TD return of Joe Flacco interception (2nd quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Ravens in full backpedal as goals still sit in front of them

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Ravens in full backpedal as goals still sit in front of them

Posted on 16 December 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It’s been the same message in each of the last three weeks as the Ravens licked their wounds in the locker room following a loss.

The words have become a broken record, however, for a team in the midst of its first three-game losing streak since Oct. 2009 after a humiliating 34-17 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. It was the Ravens’ worst loss at M&T Bank Stadium in over five years, and it leaves Baltimore in the same position it’s held since the beginning of December.

“Every goal that we have, starting with our first goal — which is to win the AFC North — is in front of us,” Harbaugh said. “It’s still there, and every dream that we have, which is the ultimate dream is still available to us. And that’s what you keep in mind. It’s a tough league for tough guys, and you have to find a way to put it behind you, improve, address the issues, own them and move on.”

Yes, their goals are still right in front of them – and a Pittsburgh loss to Dallas officially punched their fifth consecutive trip to the postseason Sunday evening — but it’s become painfully apparent the Ravens are backpedaling instead of moving forward. The dismissal of Cam Cameron and promotion of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell were supposed to pump new life into the Ravens offense, but Joe Flacco and the unit responded by scoring just 17 points, their lowest output at home all season.

An overwhelmingly undermanned defense put forth a respectable first-half effort of only 10 points allowed before Denver’s Chris Harris returned a Joe Flacco interception 98 yards for a touchdown just seconds before halftime to make it a 17-0 deficit at intermission. The Baltimore defense wilted in the second half, allowing 14 points in the first half of the third quarter that put the game out of reach.

Most players echoed Harbaugh’s words about their goals still being within reach — even if their body language and tone didn’t exactly inspire confidence — but safety Ed Reed expressed the sentiment most fans felt as M&T Bank Stadium emptied early in the fourth quarter with the Ravens trailing 31-3 entering the final 15 minutes. The 34-year-old included his own performance in describing what was an unacceptable effort in front of the home fans.

“I am embarrassed as a player to come out and perform the way we have,” Reed said. “You have weeks like that. We’re not the only team that lost today, and we still have two more games. But, as a Ravens nation, as a player, I am embarrassed for our city.”

Sunday was supposed to be the first game in a new era of football for Flacco after his turbulent relationship with Cameron was finally laid to rest. Instead, the quarterback turned in one of the worst moments of his career with a second of hesitation before throwing an inexplicable out route intended for Anquan Boldin that was jumped by Harris. It turned what should have been a one-possession game into a 17-point deficit.

No one knows if the Ravens would have mustered a better fight had the defensive score never taken place, but it’s difficult to envision this one turning into the most lopsided home loss of the Harbaugh era with such ease.

Just like his team, Flacco is moving in reverse when he needs to be at his best after committing two turnovers that led to 10 points. It was the fifth-year quarterback’s third straight game with two giveaways, and he’s fumbled once in each of them.

“We’ve just got to keep moving forward, keep our eye on the prize,” Flacco said. “Everything in this league is ‘what have you done for me lately,’ and we’ve got to continue to move forward and stay confident because nobody’s going to be too high on us except ourselves. We’ve got to go out there and seize whatever opportunities we have ahead of us.”

Even with the Ravens now guaranteed a playoff spot and still holding a one-game advantage over Cincinnati in the AFC North, it’s nearly impossible to feel encouraged by their chances as it pertains to the postseason. Five of the Ravens’ seven inactives on Sunday were starters and that’s not counting linebacker Ray Lewis, who remains on the injured reserve-designated to return list with a right triceps injury.

More names were added to the infirmary report on Sunday as wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Bernard Pierce sustained concussions, wide receiver Tandon Doss twisted his ankle, and linebacker Albert McClellan pushed his way through a hamstring injury. Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs played against the Broncos, but his impact was minimal as you continue to wonder what exactly he’ll bring to the table the rest of the way with a torn right biceps.

Just a few weeks ago, we labeled the Ravens resilient because of their ability to overcome their health woes, but you just wonder if they’ve finally hit the brick wall, especially with the loss of their best offensive lineman Marshal Yanda as the unit struggled immensely once again on Sunday.

“You have to do whatever you can to overcome it, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Harbaugh said. “Getting healthy is going to be important for us. That’s something that I think we are getting closer to doing. If we can get healthy and get strong down the stretch here, that will help us.”

Maybe the return of Lewis will spark a Ravens team that appeared flat and even disinterested at times on Sunday. Perhaps Suggs — who employed an unconventional four-point stance to keep his body weight off his right arm — will see more explosion return from his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon, even if now playing with only one good arm.

And maybe the light comes on for the Ravens offense with another week of adjusting to Caldwell at the helm.

None of those possibilities feel very likely right now as the Ravens continue to see their goals staring them in the face. They keep moving in the wrong direction instead of seizing what they feel is rightfully theirs.

They’re running out of time to avoid any outcome other than backing into the playoffs as a once-promising season continues to look like it’s slipping away. And it appears they don’t have a clue how to make things right as they were embarrassed on their home turf by an impressive Broncos team.

The Ravens look stuck in reverse as they see a division title still staring right at them, but they’re unable to grab it.

“All we need to do is get one win,” running back Ray Rice said. “There is no sugarcoating. We’re banged up a bunch. It’s late in the year. It’s not getting any easier. We either put it on our shoulders, get it fixed, or we’ll weed ourselves out like the other teams in the league.”

 

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Struggling Ravens find longtime foe Manning standing in way once again

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Struggling Ravens find longtime foe Manning standing in way once again

Posted on 13 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked to identify the most dangerous characteristic of Peyton Manning’s game, Ravens free safety Ed Reed smiled and didn’t have to think long about his answer.

After eight previous games against the current Denver Broncos quarterback who formerly starred in Indianapolis, Reed knew the truth all too well, at least in terms of how it relates to the Ravens’ lack of success against the future Hall of Fame signal caller.

“The most deadly part of Peyton is that he gets the ball every play,” said Reed, chuckling as he spoke about the quarterback he’s never beaten in his 11-year career.

The Ravens haven’t defeated a Manning-led team since 2001 when Rod Woodson and Tony Siragusa were elder statesmen in the Baltimore defense and Ray Lewis was a youthful 26 years old. Since beating Manning’s Colts on Dec. 2, 2001, they’ve lost eight straight to the incomparable quarterback, including two heartbreaking losses in the playoffs.

In his 10 career games against the Ravens, Manning is 8-2, throwing for 2,689 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. However, they haven’t faced him since a 20-3 playoff loss in January 2010.

Plenty has changed since the last time the Ravens played Manning as the 36-year-old has found a new home in Denver and is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season after undergoing spinal fusion surgery that sidelined him for the 2011 season, his final year with the Colts. Meanwhile, the Ravens have seen their vaunted defense take a nosedive this season amidst personnel losses and a slew of injuries.

They now face the prospects of trying to contain the league’s fourth-ranked offense to avoid their first three-game losing streak in over three years. The task won’t be easy as odds-makers have listed the Ravens as a home underdog for the first time since Nov. 22, 2009 — when they played the Manning-led Colts in what resulted in a 17-15 defeat.

Needing to win to keep their hopes for the No. 2 seed in the AFC alive, the Ravens will try to do something they last accomplished when only three players on the current roster — Ray Lewis, Bobbie Williams, and Matt Birk — were even in the NFL.

“Those are team wins and different teams, different players playing in those games,” Manning said about his long winning streak against Baltimore. “I really can’t speak much to the past. All I can speak to is this year, and it’s been such a different year for me – different team and what not.”

The transition has appeared seamless as Manning has passed for 3,812 yards and 30 touchdowns compared to only 10 interceptions. His 104.0 passer rating ranks fourth in the NFL, and Manning has completed 68.3 percent of his passes this season to lead all passers with at least 220 attempts this season.

It was only a few months ago when many wondered if Manning would ever be the same after undergoing four neck surgeries. And while he’s lost some zip on the more difficult throws a quarterback must make — such as the deep out route — his timing remains superb in working with wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (74 catches for 1,197 yards) and Eric Decker (64 receptions for 790 yards).

“He is still as accurate as ever,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “He still does a great job of controlling the tempo of the game, of his offense, which controls your defense. It’s his offense.”

The Baltimore secondary has struggled mightily in each of its last two games against Steelers backup Charlie Batch and Redskins rookie sensation Robert Griffin III as the Ravens have been forced to use the likes of Chykie Brown and Chris Johnson behind current starters Cary Williams and Corey Graham in the nickel package.

Second-year cornerback Jimmy Smith could make his return from sports hernia surgery this week, which would be a boost to their depth at corner, but Manning’s surgical precision and ability to make changes on the fly create the need for the Ravens to not only play tighter coverage but to also disguise what they’re doing as much as possible. It’s not an easy task for a unit currently relying on backups all over the field.

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