Tag Archive | "Peyton Manning"

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Here’s a tip from the top: Please don’t whine (again) this week as Ravens head to AFC title game

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Drew Forrester

Well, the Ravens did their part on Saturday in Denver.

Now, let’s see if the fans in Baltimore can follow suit and do their part this week.

I was watching Joel Osteen on Sunday morning and he delivered such a timely, connecting message for Baltimore football fans that I just had to write about it today.

It doesn’t hurt that I tried to get the same message through everyone’s thick heads last week, but now that the Ravens have disposed of the Broncos and are headed to the AFC title game, I figured I’d bring up Osteen’s message and weave it into something worth reading here at WNST.net.

Osteen’s theme on Sunday morning was “Don’t let someone else take your joy from you.”  He went on to ask that you stay focused on what’s important to you and what matters most and to not let others take away your joy and happiness.  His message related to God.  Mine relates to football.

Last week, a lot of you — so many, in fact, I became agitated at first and then, later, just embarrassed – spent a great deal of time complaining and bellyaching about the “Ravens don’t have a chance” angle most of the national media were focused on as the lead-up to the game in Denver.

I must have had 25 calls about it and four times that many e-mails.  Whining, moaning, complaining, fretting.  “I don’t understand why they’re not giving the Ravens more love…”

“I’m so fed up with the national media…why don’t they give us a chance? – waaaahh, waaaaaah, waaaaaah…”

“All I keep hearing about is Denver and Peyton and how Brady and Manning would be a great AFC title game, blah, blah, blah.”

SHUT UP ALREADY!!! I said to myself under my breath about a hundred times last week.

You could have done so much more with your time last week.  Rather than go on and on and on – and on and on and on – about how “no one likes the Ravens”, you could have walked your neighbor’s dog or washed your car or called an old friend just to shoot the breeze.

Instead, you called ME and just made a whining fool of yourself, complaining about something some guy wrote in Denver…or crying because Skip Bayless thinks “the Ravens don’t have a chance.”  Those people are paid to get you to watch, read, listen and react accordingly.

And, as I tried to tell you for five straight days last week – with the scoreboard supporting me on this Saturday night – the game will be played by the players and NOTHING anyone says or writes about it during the week before will have any bearing on the outcome.

Yet, you guys cried every single time you heard or read something disrespectful to the Ravens.

It was so unbecoming to hear it and read it over and over last week.  Like the teacher said in “Breakfast Club” — “I expected more from a varsity letterman.”

I expected more from you people last week.  Really, I did.

(Please see next page)

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Your Monday Reality Check: Hyperbole aside, line play why Ravens still riding

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

WNST.net Ravens insider Luke Jones joined us for “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” late Saturday night after the Baltimore Ravens’ unbelievable 38-35 2OT win over the Denver Broncos.

Emotions were high in the Zone Superstore Studios of WNST.net. It was hard to have a legitimate conversation. A group of us had gathered to sit and watch the game and just found ourselves shouting “no way” and “unreal” at the television as the Ravens delivered perhaps the most miraculous victory in franchise history.

It was hard to discuss anything beyond the emotion of the moment, the will of the football team, the observations related to the Ravens truly being a team of “destiny”.

Even Head Coach John Harbaugh was caught up in the moment, once again tying the success of a football team to a level of divine intervention in his postgame press conference.

(I have no idea if the Messiah has any interest in determining the outcomes of football games. Perhaps maybe he (she?) felt as though the Broncos had to pay a price for parting ways with the known prophet Tim Tebow in the offseason. And if the Ruler of the Universe really does have concern related to the pigskin, I would vastly prefer a divine preference for the Ravens myself.)

I wish I could tell you what Luke’s response was. More than 24 hours later, I don’t fully remember. What I believe I remember him saying was something about Joe Flacco and then more about the will of the football team. I’m completely in agreement, but it didn’t necessarily answer my question. I’m sort of glad for that.

There’s a well known joke that says “Joe Buck is to baseball what the Catholic Church is to sex. It’s okay that it’s happening just as long as no one is enjoying it.” I’m glad Luke didn’t ruin the beauty of the moment by going all “Nate Silver” and killing us with football nerd-dom. It’s much better that we had a full 24 hours to enjoy and celebrate perhaps the greatest non-Super Bowl win in franchise history before we returned to a more X’s and O’s based discussion of what happened for the Baltimore Ravens Saturday and what they’ll need to do to win moving forward.

(This is the part where you say, “that’s a nice set-up Glenn. You’re a real pro’s pro.”)

The Baltimore Ravens DID win Saturday because of their will. They DID win Saturday because they believed in each other and never lost hope. They DID win Saturday because they have tested veterans who simply refuse to give up or allow a beloved teammate to step into retirement without leaving every last ounce of effort they’re capable of giving on the field.

It’s not just hyperbole. There’s absolute truth to it. It’s just not the entire story. In fact, it’s not even close to the most important part of the story. We go to that stuff first because it’s more likely to get clicks. We’re not stupid.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Postcard from Denver: The Greatest Game I’ve Ever Seen

Posted on 12 January 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

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Ravens win and Flacco sticks a sock in the mouth of his detractors (shhhhhhh…)

Posted on 12 January 2013 by Drew Forrester

That should, finally, shut up everyone in town when it comes to Joe Flacco.

Thank.  God.

After a season of being raked over the coals – make that five seasons – by fans in Baltimore, the quarterback went into Denver and engineered an epic Ravens post-season victory on Saturday afternoon.  He only beat one of the game’s greatest field generals, in his arena, on the biggest stage possible.  The coup de grace, of course, was the 70 yard strike to Jacoby Jones with 0:31 left in the game that sent the contest to overtime.  A week ago in Baltimore, Joe out-dueled the NFL’s new Fair Haired Boy, Andrew Luck, and today he knocked off the guy that Luck replaced on the league’s Love Chart.

Read it – and weep if you’re a #5 hater:  Joe Flacco went to Denver and beat Peyton Manning.

I assume we’ll no longer be hearing from Flacco detractors, which is truly -golden-silence-to-my-ears.

And I’m also guessing that seals the deal on a new Flacco contract sometime over the next six weeks or so.

With the Ravens making their third AFC title game appearance in Flacco’s five-year career next Sunday, even his most ardent haters have to finally wave the white towel and hop on the bandwagon.

Let’s see now…in his first season with the team, the-then rookie went into Nashville and eliminated the top seed Titans.

In the 2009 season, it was a trip to Foxboro and a playoff win over Tom Brady.

There was a post-season road demolishing of Kansas City in 2010.

And then, today, it was Flacco beating Peyton Manning in his own building.  Another first seed eliminated.  Five seasons in the league and a playoff road win in four of them.

Other than a Super Bowl trip, what more could you possibly ask for from your quarterback, his coach, and the team?

There must be nothing more satisfying for Flacco than to shut up the experts in town who kept saying he couldn’t play a lick or that he wasn’t worth “the big money” he was expected to get at the end of this season.  But, he hasn’t talked much about it, because Joe knows the truth.  Words don’t mean jack.  Winning games is all that matters — and that’s basically all he’s done since showing up in Baltimore back in 2008.

Flacco is keenly aware that plenty of people around town have questioned him over the years.  And, as a competitor, there’s no doubt he’s taking particular joy from proving himself RIGHT and proving everyone else WRONG.

With one more win, the Ravens will head to the Super Bowl in New Orleans and Joe Flacco will be their quarterback.  That’s all that’s left on his “Next To Do” list.  Once he gets there, the goal changes, naturally, but for now — coming up — he’s one win away from playing in the biggest game the league can offer.

I’m just so happy that we won’t have to hear from the anti-Flacco crowd anymore…finally, finally, finally – their ship has sailed.


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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 …

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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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