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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Thyrl Nelson


The Ravens improved to 2-1 on the season yesterday with a one-sided, 30-9 win over the Houston Texans. After the way that the Texans handled the Ravens last season, there were a number of reasons to be concerned beforehand. Truth be told, I had a much worse feeling about what might happen against Houston than I did before the beat down the Ravens suffered in Denver in Week1. Hindsight however is 20/20, so here’s a quick rundown of what we know now after the Ravens latest victory:

5. Justin Tucker is Back on Track

…for now at least. Maybe it was the reception that Billy Cundiff received from the Ravens faithful last week that had Tucker out of sorts. Maybe it was just the presence of Cundiff in the building that infected Tucker’s right foot last Sunday. Regardless, Tucker made enough big kicks in his rookie year to have some equity built up with fans. That equity though wouldn’t have lasted through too many 0-for-2 performances like he had last week vs. Cleveland, especially if those misses began to cost the Ravens games.

While concern over the kicking game was mild at most, it was nice to see Tucker get back on track with a 3-for-3 game against the Texans, hitting from 28, 45 and 43 yards. Even though the two from 40+ came in late, low leverage situations, any concerns fans had about the Ravens kicking game can be shelved…for now.

4. Dirty Birds

After struggling with penalties last year, the Ravens still appear to have some work to do in that regard. The 2013 Ravens have 20 penalties for 181 yards through 3 games, including 10 for 87 yards in yesterday’s affair. Despite their most penalized performance of the season vs. Houston, the Ravens still managed to win the “penalty battle” as the Texans racked up 14 for 113 yards.

3. Cheering for Laundry

On the day that Ed Reed returned to Baltimore as a member of a new team, and Ray Lewis returned to be honored by the Ravens, it was the guys who suited up in their places that stole the show. James Ihedigbo picked up 9 tackles, 2 for a loss along with 2 defended passes and simply seemed to be everywhere while covering Ed Reed’s old spot. Daryl Smith, playing in Ray Lewis’ former domain plucked a Matt Schaub pass away from a waiting Owen Daniels, and at a time where the Ravens offense was struggling to make hay, made some on his own, hustling it 37 yards to pay dirt.

For all of the Ravens off-season pick-ups, Daryl Smith might have been the least heralded. He was grabbed on the same day the Ravens visited the White House and his signing went basically under the radar. If he continues to play like he did on Sunday, he could be the team’s most impactful addition. It’s also pretty encouraging that his big play came defending a tight end, which has been an issue for the Ravens of late.  

2. Doss is a Boss

What more can you say about a guy who was shown the door by the team when they pared down to their final 53 men, only to come back with an emphatic impact? Life out of football, brief as it may have been, seems to have brought out the best in Tandon Doss who is making the most out of his second chance with the Ravens. Maybe in the coming weeks Doss can become more a part of the Ravens passing game, and finally show fans those hands we heard so much about from the team about throughout his first 2 seasons. It’s not like the Ravens offense couldn’t use a pair of hands that they can trust between the hash marks.

1. Who Says Joe Flacco Can’t Act?

While Joe Flacco’s increased, post-Super Bowl public profile has led to some pretty clunky performances as a pitchman in various commercials, Flacco’s acting skills were on full display yesterday. After last season’s debacle at the hands of the Texans, JJ Watt and the rest of the Houston pass rush broke the huddle with their ears pinned back more often than not on Sunday. Flacco used that aggression against the Texans inducing 5 encroachment or defensive offsides penalties on the anxious Texans defense.

Elsewhere in the AFC North

The Bengals picked up a big win and remain tied with the Ravens at 2-1 atop the division. For now at least, it’s shaping up to be an interesting battle between these 2 for the division. They’ll meet again in Week 17 this year, maybe with something actually on the line this time.

The Steelers looked really bad to start against the Bears on Sunday night, but showed some real resilience closing the gap from 24-3 to 27-23. It looked like Pittsburgh had really found their resolve in the face of an 0-3 start. In the end though, their comeback attempt was little more than a chance for Ben Roethlisberger to cough up the ball in a late critical situation…it’s kind of their thing.

Leave it to the Browns to all but announce that they’re going into full tank mode by trading RB Trent Richardson and skipping right over Jason Campbell on the depth chart to 3rd stringer Brian Hoyer to replace injured starter Brandon Weeden, and then pick up a win on Sunday. There are even reports that the Browns are shopping receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Of course the Browns can’t even tank right. If they had only known that the best way to win was to actually try to lose, they could have saved themselves and their fans years of heartache.

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Schedule-Gate 2013: Ravens Win…Fans Whine

Posted on 25 March 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

Lets’ face it, when it comes to generating bad PR, the Orioles haven’t needed any help for a long time; but whether deserved or not, with a helping hand from NBC, Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens and Roger Goodell, the O’s are unfairly taking the brunt of the criticism for the fallout from Schedule-Gate 2013.

It’s a topic that’s been discussed ad nauseum for the better part of the last couple of weeks, and now that it’s been resolved (or at least decided) I’m going to take one last lick at this dead horse before we put it to bed…until the beginning of September that is, when we’re sure to dig it back up and beat it to death all over again.


For now, it’s time for Ravens fans to let go of the “woe is us” and realize that this couldn’t have worked out any better for the team.


In the Harbaugh era, and to some degree before it, there are two giant hammers that the Ravens have wielded consistently. The Ravens have been near impossible to beat at home, and are undefeated when they’ve had extra rest or opportunity to prepare for an opponent. There’s no need to swing both of those hammers at the same time, and all Schedule-Gate has done is prevented the Ravens from having to.


I get that fans want to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl win with the whole world watching; but what’s best for the team? It’s kind of laughable that those who consider themselves fans of the Ravens suddenly seem to be more interested in having center stage for themselves for one night in September, than they are in giving the Ravens their best opportunity at winning enough games to possibly make another Super Bowl run.


The Harbaugh era Ravens are 5-0 in opening games and 14-0 when having 10 or more days to prepare for an opponent (including openers). It’s probably also worth mentioning that 4 of those 5 opening game wins have been at home (so much for the “NFL is out to get us” angle). Now that it’s decided that the Ravens will open on the road, there are only 3 games that should be up for consideration for the NFL’s showcase. Not coincidentally, those games happen to be the Ravens 3 toughest looking road games as well (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Denver). Since there’s no avoiding having to play those games anyway, doing it in the first week of the season is ideal.


It’s better to get Peyton Manning and Wes Welker in the first game of the year, when they’re still trying to figure one another out, and probably more ideal to get in and out of Denver before the frost settles in. While it by no means insures the Ravens will win; it seems to give them their best chance to win. In fact, if we can get over our hurt feelings for long enough to think about the good of the team, ideally the Ravens would open in Denver, and then on the back of 10 days rest head to either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati, and then return to Baltimore for the home opener.


It’s also worth mentioning that opening on Thursday night has not always precluded teams from having to play another Thursday game in the same season. Given that the Ravens are defending Super Bowl champions, it would seem likely that they’ll get their maximum 5 prime time games, and that there’s a real possibility that they’ll have another Thursday game. Opening on Thursday, on the road would not only prevent the Ravens from having to be ready for Thursday night on 3 days rest, but would also virtually insure that if they did get a 2nd Thursday game it would be in Baltimore, with another (likely tough) opponent having to prepare and travel on short rest.


So if we’re keeping score at home, the NFL played the role of bully on behalf of NBC, and tried to impose themselves on the Orioles. The Orioles held their ground and as a result are stuck with a September 5th game that is sure to be a dog attendance-wise because it’s going up against the Ravens opener. The Ravens by opening on the road against a tough opponent will have a likely better chance to win a tough road game than they would otherwise, and may still get a Thursday home game with significant, inherent advantages built in. Someone remind me again why everyone is so mad at the Orioles over this. Oh yeah…it’s because we miss out on the chance to scream “look at us” to the football world while pounding our chests, right?


Sign me up, 10 times out of 10, for the schedule formula that gives the Ravens the best shot at being a playoff team, or a division winner, or a home playoff game host, or a bye week possessor. Frankly I’m shocked that Ravens fans are having such trouble grasping this one. I thought better of most of you.


Lastly, if the locker room somehow sees this as a slight, as fans clearly have, then it facilitates the mentality that has seemed to serve them so well lately. It’s Baltimore against the world as usual. If that works, so be it. But the Ravens are the winners in this mess; it’s just that some folks’ sensitivity won’t allow them to see it.




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Five days later, I have to give credit to…of all people…Mike Tomlin

Posted on 07 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

Since the Steelers rarely beat the Ravens anymore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Baltimoreans – ahem, me included – can’t get past that smelly home loss to the Black and Gold last Sunday.

It’s still hard to stomach.

The Ravens lost to Charlie Brown Batch.

Or did they?

Did someone else actually do more damage than Batch?

Well, after kicking Pittsburgh’s coach in the family jewels on Monday with THIS BLOG about his bush-league treatment of John Harbaugh in the post-game handshake, you’re going to be surprised by what you read next.

Mike Tomlin beat the Ravens on Sunday.

And do you know how he beat them?  By letting it leak out last Wednesday that Ben Roethlisberger was OUT and Charlie Batch was IN for Sunday’s game in Baltimore.

Think about it — why on earth wouldn’t Tomlin have tried to keep that a secret last week, like every other coach in the league would have done?  Wouldn’t nearly every other coach in the NFL think to himself: “I’ll keep this quarterback thing up in the air and make the Ravens think all week that Roethlisberger might be able to play.”?  Answer: Yes.  Every coach would.

But Tomlin went the other way and allowed word to get out right away that Big Ben was OUT and the old man was in.

Why? Because he knew once word got out that Batch was playing, anyone and everyone – including the 53 players on the Baltimore roster – assumed there was no way in hell Pittsburgh was winning.

And, as my late, great Mom used to say:  “When you assume, you only wind up making an ass out of “u” and me.”

Insert your own punch line here.

We all assumed – and some of you probably even invested in that assumption…if you know what I mean – there was no way the Ravens would lose at home to Charlie Batch.

Stroke of genius by Mike Tomlin.

Stroke. of. genius.

Can’t believe I’ve been forced to write that this morning, but it’s my final thought relative to the 23-20 Steelers win in Baltimore last Sunday.

I’m putting the game behind me now and getting focused on the Redskins.

Mike Tomlin, you got us last week.

Don’t get used to it, though.  We’ll be watching you more closely next time.

Both before AND after the game.

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The Steelers manned-up on Sunday…too bad Mike Tomlin didn’t do the same thing

Posted on 03 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

Mike Tomlin owes John Harbaugh an apology.  Or, at the very least, an explanation.

More on that later.

I’ve championed John Harbaugh’s cause here in Baltimore because I think he’s a very good football coach.  His record, here, does all the speaking that needs to be done.  Coaches are paid to do one thing: win games.  John has done that since arriving in Baltimore in 2008.

That said, I have occasionally nitpicked at Harbaugh for things like an “unnecessary” fake field goal against the Raiders a month ago or the 2-pointer against the Steelers on opening day, 2011, when Baltimore was already pounding the Steelers but felt justified in having Sam Koch dash into the end zone on a fake extra-point to make a blow out even more of a blow out.  There was also the time-out at the end of a meaningless pre-season game against the Chiefs a couple of years ago…one that Todd Haley chirped about during the post-game greeting at midfield.

John Harbaugh has had a moment or two where I thought he was bordering on showing-up-the-other-team and I’ve never been afraid to make those assessments on the radio because I always take pride in calling it as I see it, even if that means being critical of my hometown football or baseball team.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been right in doing so, either.  In the days following the fake-field-goal-for-a-TD gainst the Raiders, I bought into John’s way of thinking, even though initially I said it looked bad to forego an easy field goal and tack on another four points “just because”.  In the end, Harbaugh was right when he said, “Look, if you’re going to basically set up your defense to give us a free run at a touchdown, we’re going to take it and that’s that.”  Truth?  He was right, even if it meant I had to change my stance on it from my original reaction on Sunday.

But, again, before some unsophisticated goof stumbles in here and starts blabbing about how I’m a homer and I’m just pissed the Ravens lost to the Steelers and all that other Who Struck John?, I’ll remind any and all of you that I simply call it like it is — and sometimes that means I’ve had to take issue with something our own coach has done.

Let’s get back to the Tomlin apology-thing I referenced in the opening sentence.

In his five years in Baltimore, John Harbaugh has never once pulled a bush-league stunt like Mike Tomlin produced on Sunday evening after his Steelers edged the Ravens in Baltimore, 23-20.

Coaches are, in my humble opinion, the most special people in all of sports.  I’ve said that for a long time now and the more I’m around them, the more I know I’m right.  We throw the word “elite” around all the time when we talk about quarterbacks in the NFL, but the truth of the matter is that there are six of them in the league right now who are of that caliber and the only way to earn that label is by winning a title.  It’s different for coaches.  NFL head coaches are all elite when you take into account their responsibility, work ethic and dedication to preparation.  All 32 men who run NFL teams are, literally, elite human beings.

Unlike the players, who shower, answer a text message or 23, and then head off to Washington DC to party after a home game, the men who coach in the NFL are bound to their job in a 24/7 fashion that I’m confident none of us – including me – could handle with the same grace and dignity.

And that includes Mike Tomlin, he of a Super Bowl ring and a massive amount of respect-appeal from around the NFL.

Mike Tomlin is one helluva football coach.  I’ve said and written that a lot over the last five years.

But he committed the most unprofessional of sins on Sunday when he disrespectfully brushed past Harbaugh at midfield as the losing coach stuck out his hand to offer well wishes.

Yes, Tomlin’s right hand connected with Harbaugh’s.

But his eyes didn’t.

For reasons only Mike Tomlin can explain, he eschewed the proper protocol on Sunday night and did his best to avoid any personal interaction with the Ravens coach as the two met at midfield.

Now would be the time for you to check out THE VIDEO OF THE HANDSHAKE for yourself, so you know exactly what transpired.

It was unprofessional.

Bush league.

And, honestly, surprising.

I expected more from Tomlin, truth be known.

Here’s what I know as fact:

Harbaugh has a great amount of professional respect for Mike Tomlin.  Without mailing him a Christmas card or anything sappy like that, the Ravens coach has admired the way Tomlin has kept the Steelers together this season with their depleted offensive line, a broken down running game and the loss of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

That was going to be John’s brief post-game message to Mike Tomlin on Sunday night, win or lose.

Unfortunately for Harbaugh, he had to man-up as the losing coach.

John’s offering would be simple but a high compliment for his rival: “Hey, congratulations.  You’ve done one helluva job with your team, Mike.  Nicely done.  Good luck the rest of the way.”

Soup to nuts, it would have taken four seconds, five if you count the friendly pat on the rump as Tomlin turns to head to the locker room.

That’s what Harbaugh intended to say to Tomlin on Sunday.

(Please see next page)

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Ravens Loss is No Big Deal

Posted on 03 December 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

There’s plenty of blame to go around in the aftermath of the Ravens loss on Sunday at the hands of the Steelers, and I’m quite certain we’ll be assessing that blame and going over the shortcomings of the team for the majority of this week on the airwaves and blogosphere at WNST.net. In the grander scheme of things however, this should have been an easy outcome to predict. It can be simplified as easy as the following; the Ravens had little to play for on Sunday and the Steelers had everything to play for.

Knowing what we know about both of those teams, we should have known enough. Ravens and Steelers has been universally recognized as football’s best current rivalry and for some the best rivalry in sports period. That legacy didn’t begin with Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger; they just made it more interesting. For the last 12 years at least, through Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright and Jeff Blake and Troy Smith, through Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich, the Ravens vs. the Steelers has been, more often than not, a slugfest decided by a minimal number of points in the latest stages of the game. There was no reason to guess that this one would be any different.


A loss would have dropped the Steelers to 6-6 and put a serious damper on their playoff hopes. It wasn’t exactly do or die for Pittsburgh, but it’s about as close as it gets in week 13 of the NFL season. For the Ravens however, a win didn’t mean much. A win over the Steelers, coupled with a Bengals loss at San Diego would have cemented the AFC North for the Ravens, but for all intents and purposes the Ravens are the AFC North champions. Whether it became official in week 13 or has to wait until week 16 or 17, it’s near impossible to imagine the Ravens not winning the division.


A win on Sunday would have had the Ravens playing the Broncos in Week 15 with the second seed in the AFC and a first round bye in the balance. A loss on Sunday has still left the Ravens looking ahead to a week 15 showdown with the Broncos with the second seed in the AFC and a first round bye in the balance. All Sunday’s loss vs. the Steelers did for the Ravens was to delay their inevitable clinching of their own division, and to serve internal notice that there’s still work to be done.


The Steelers played like a team that needed desperately to win on Sunday; that’s because they were a team desperate to win on Sunday. Pittsburgh, coming off of two consecutive losses (in their own division no less) is left with no choice but to embrace the remainder of the season with a playoff caliber of urgency. The Ravens on the other hand had nothing really to gain from a win on Sunday, and they also played just that way. Assuming that the Texans can’t be caught, as I think most do, the Ravens could afford to lose one of their final 5 games and still hold onto their second spot in the AFC as long as that loss didn’t come against Denver. Now they’ve lost it and restored a sense of urgency (hopefully) to the remainder of the season.

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An open letter to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

Hey coach, I hope this finds you well and preparing to enjoy a wonderful Holiday season with your family and friends in Pittsburgh.

(Actually, while I think you’re a helluva football coach, I have to admit I giggled my ass off last Sunday watching you squirm your way through that press conference in Cleveland after your football team lost to the lowly Browns.  So, for obvious reasons, I’d probably rather you not be well.  If that makes me a bad guy, so be it.  I do, though, hope you have a great Holiday season.  I’m a Ravens fan, not a Grinch.)

Based on the whispers coming out of Pittsburgh about Ben Roethlisberger, it appears as if you’re going to have him back for this Sunday’s big game in Baltimore.  What a warrior that guy is, huh coach?  A month ago on a Monday night, he suffered some whacky rib and shoulder injury that could have killed him if he would have reached for the remote control the wrong way and now, suddenly, he’s going to risk life and limb to play against the Ravens?  Holy canoli. I’m impressed.

(Are you guys nuts Coach?  Why would you risk the best player on your team for one game?  You know you’re getting your ass kicked down here on Sunday no matter who stands behind center.  I realize you have to paint the best picture you can for your team, but in your heart of hearts, you’ve seen this play out over the last couple of years and you know for sure it’s going to play out down here again this Sunday.  Your team can’t beat the Ravens.  You’re going to get your feelings hurt, Roethlisberger or not.)

We have a lot of respect for the Steelers here in Baltimore, Coach.  We know as long as you guys have a pulse, you’re always capable of pulling off one, two, three or even four wins in a row and then somehow weaving your way through the pile of post-season teams to return to the Super Bowl.  Truth be known, we’d rather NOT see your team in the playoffs if we could pick and choose our playoff opponent.  Somehow, you always seem to nip us in the end when the chips are down in January.

(As S.E. Hinton once wrote (she’s a she, by the way, in case you didn’t know), “That was then, this is now”.  Yeah, we respect the Steelers here, but the Ravens are now the kings of the AFC North and your team is chasing our team.  With Roethlisberger at quarterback – and getting assistance from the refs like you usually do – the Steelers always have a puncher’s chance of beating anyone.  Without Roethlisberger, you’d be hard pressed to win the SEC.  And if it comes to pass that you’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, you’ll be one and done without a home game, so we won’t see you in this post-season anyway.)

Go ahead and throw caution to the wind, Coach.  Tape Big Ben up and bring him down here on Sunday.  Your team has a much better chance of winning that way.  And, as you know, the standings are such that you really are in “must-win” territory these days.  You don’t have a choice, I suppose.  You have to go with Roethlisberger.

(Don’t be a dummy, Mike.  Leave Roethlisberger on the bench and let Charlie Batch be the QB of record in a 30-10 loss.  No one will blame you.  You can talk about “not risking a career” and “we have faith in Charlie” and “injuries are part of the game” and everyone in Pittsburgh will understand.  If you go with Ben, you’re getting your asses kicked here.  If you go with Batch, you’re getting your asses kicked here.  Do you see the similarity?)

Finally, I wasn’t around last Sunday.  How’d you guys do against the Browns?

(I know what happened in Cleveland.  hehe)

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Ravens win in San Diego and I, now, officially believe in magic

Posted on 25 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

That does it.

I’m a believer.

You people can continue with your in-game rants about Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense.  I’ll just sit back for the rest of the season and watch them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on their way to New Orleans in early February.

I’m serious.  You can try and figure out a way to turn that win over the Chargers into a loss, but it’s not going to happen.  Bark about Cam Cameron all you want, but he’s the Offensive Coordinator of a team that’s 9-2.  Whine and complain about Joe Flacco until next Sunday when he dismantles that Steelers defense in a 27-10 win, but you’ll be whining about a quarterback who is 9-2 and headed to the playoffs for the 5th straight year.

You people can keep trying to convince yourself that this Ravens team stinks, but all you’re going to do is come out with egg on your face come January. Until today’s unlikely triumph over the Chargers, I was right there with you.  I was a complainer and a moaner and a “how can we keep winning like this?” goofball after all of those fluky wins over Kansas City and Cleveland and Dallas and even Pittsburgh last week, where the Ravens barely snuck past Fred Sanford at quarterback for the Steelers.

But after watching Sunday’s game in San Diego unfold, I’m going over to the dark side with John Harbaugh.

It was a win.

That’s it.

The coach will say that over and over on Monday in his press conference and I’ll just nod my head in agreement.

The Ravens pulled off a true miracle against the Chargers – the likes of which we’ve never seen – connecting on a 4th and 29 in the final two minutes of the game and later using a Justin Tucker field goal in overtime to win, 16-13.

It was the ultimate rabbit-out-of-the-hat-trick that you’d see from David Copperfield.

And it sold me for the rest of the season.

Somehow, someway, despite the lethargic road offense – again – Baltimore stayed alive long enough to let the Chargers defense collapse at just the right moment.  And when the Chargers whiffed on three tackle tries on that 4th and 29 play, the Ravens heartbeat pumped just enough blood into Joe Flacco and his wide receivers to tie the game, then win it in overtime after Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith made huge 3rd down grabs with the game on the line.

It was a miracle.

But it went the way we all wanted it.

(Please see next page)

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Tomlin’s 3rd quarter gaffe paves way for huge Ravens win in Pittsburgh

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

If you’ve been a regular listener to The Morning Reaction over the years, you know by now one of my personal sports adages is “the other team tries, too”.

After watching Sunday night’s 13-10 Ravens win in Pittsburgh, I need to add a small note to the end of that phrase — “and sometimes they DON’T try.”

That’s what happened on Sunday night when Mike Tomlin – with his team gouging the Ravens defense for five yards a carry all night – decided to sissy-out and kick a field goal rather than go for it on 4th and 2 from the Baltimore four yard line late in the 3rd quarter.

“Sometimes they DON’T try…”

Really, Mike?  Your running game was trampling the Ravens for the most part.  Your quarterback was literally hanging on for dear life with each hit he took.  And your defense – coupled with another unimaginative Ravens offensive effort – was doing a great job of shutting the door and keeping Baltimore close.

4th and 2 and you kick a field goal to make it 13-10?  Lame-ass coaching, that’s what that was.  As soon as I saw the Steelers line up for the field goal, I said, “This is a horrible decision…they won’t get this close to scoring again tonight.”

And I was right.  It WAS a horrible decision and they didn’t get anywhere near the red zone for the remainder of the night.

Of course, the national TV guys didn’t say a word about Tomlin’s horrible decision.  They mumbled something about the game being “a bloodbath” and “a nailbiter, as always” and forgot to mention that the Pittsburgh coach just handed the game to John Harbaugh and Company.

Here in Baltimore, we’ll gladly take it, as it helped pave the way for an ultra critical Ravens road win and a seemingly safe 2-game lead over the Steelers with six games to play in the regular season.

There’s another famous saying that goes like this:  NEVER look a gift horse in the mouth.

And Sunday’s win in Pittsburgh was a gift horse, what with Byron Leftwich lumbering around and Mike Tomlin playing safe with the game – and maybe his team’s season – on the line.

Three weeks ago in New York, Tomlin gambled with a crazy fake field goal on the Giants six yard line in a game Pittsburgh would eventually win despite the unsuccessful fake attempt.  And that was with his 2-time champion quarterback at the helm, not a stiff like Leftwich.

Sunday night, with red zone trips about as rare as a 5-game winning streak from the Pirates, Tomlin played it safe and kicked a field goal when two yards could have paved the way to a 14-13 lead and, perhaps, a shocking win.

Just like the referees helping the Ravens beat New England earlier this year…and Jason Garrett and Tony Romo aiding in a Baltimore win over Dallas…and Pat Shurmer forgetting to coach in a squeaker-of-a-win in Cleveland, the Ravens will no doubt take Sunday night’s win and head back to Baltimore with a smile on their face.

Hey, a win in Pittsburgh is a win, no matter how you do it.

Even if it takes the Steelers coach losing his man-card to get the job done, you smile at the end and say, “We’ll take it.”

Thanks Mike Tomlin.

We needed that.

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If Flacco and Cam want to shut everyone’s mouth, Sunday night is their big chance…

Posted on 13 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

“But when it matters, we play very well, no matter where we are.”

That quote came from Joe Flacco last Sunday in the aftermath of the win over Oakland when media members launched into “Steelers week” by asking the Ravens quarterback about his team’s lack of crispness on the road this season.

Flacco was referring to the fact that over the years, four before this one, his Ravens team has won some pretty significant games away from M&T Bank Stadium.  They’ve also won some big home games, too.

“But when it matters, we play very well, no matter where we are…”

Well, Joe, this Sunday night in Pittsburgh MATTERS.  A lot.

Both Flacco and his offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, are the weekly scapegoats anytime the Ravens either squeeze out a road win or lose on foreign turf.  Some weeks, honestly, that criticism is warranted.  Other weeks, it’s not.  But fans are fans…they grab hold of an issue and refuse to let it go.  Ray Rice only carried the ball 13 times last Sunday and Baltimore trounced Oakland.  I thought the Ravens couldn’t win – EVER – unless Rice touched it at least 25 times.  Right…

Let’s be fair, though.  And Joe and Cam both know this is true, even they don’t like to talk about it — and I don’t blame them for not wanting to.  The Ravens are a different offensive team away from Baltimore.  It’s been that way for a while now, give or take a an exception or two.  For some reason, they’re a keg of dynamite at home and a fizzled out firecracker on the road.  All of the offense gets blame for that – or should – but Flacco and Cam are the ones everybody picks on about the good at home/bad on the road formula.

Well, this Sunday night gives both of them a real chance to shut everyone’s piehole here in Baltimore.

“When it matters” is what Flacco said after the game on Sunday.

What he meant, of course, is this:  “Yeah, we’re not always hitting on all offensive cylinders every single Sunday, but if you’ve been paying attention, when the games are really important, we’re usually on point.”

And for the most part, he’s right.

Look, we all know every game matters when you only have 16 of them, but the game in Kansas City in October doesn’t matter nearly as much as the game in Pittsburgh in December.  The game in Philly in week #2 was important, but no one will confuse it for a game against the Steelers.

“When it matters, we play very well, no matter where we are…”

OK, Joe.  We believe you.

Now, show us one more time that it’s true.

And bring your offensive coordinator along and let him shove it up the backside of the Doubting Thomas’s in town.

One more thing…be ready to prove it again the following Sunday in San Diego.  And the following Sunday in Baltimore against the Steelers.

Oh, and the Giants and Broncos come to Baltimore in December.  Prove it then, too.

“When it matters…”

Sunday night in Pittsburgh matters.  Big time.

Let’s hope you’re right, Joe.

If you’re wrong, we’ll let you know about it.

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Without Big Ben, Steelers pose little threat to the Ravens…and I’m thrilled

Posted on 13 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

Let me get all of the “facts” out there first, so there’s no whining and complaining from Steelers fans in the comments section below.

I have always been a fan of Ben Roethlisberger.  Despite the fact that he plays for the Steelers, I’ve always been able to separate that from what kind of player he’s been since showing up in 2004.  I would take him on my team any day.  Much, much respect…

Now, I get to put on the other hat and offer some insight into what you’re going to see this Sunday night in Pittsburgh with Byron Leftwich at the helm instead of Roethlisberger.

A romp.

That’s what you’re going to see at Heinz Field on Sunday night.  The Ravens will pummel Pittsburgh and assume complete control of the AFC North with somewhere around a 27-10 walk-in-the-park.

Pittsburgh can’t win without Roethlisberger, in the same way the Ravens can’t win without Flacco.

It’s a shame Big Ben won’t play on Sunday.  Then again, it’s not a shame at all.


Yes, I am.

If we needed one game to settle our collective nerves about the Ravens and their on-again/off-again play on the road, this Sunday night was that game.  Had Baltimore gone into Heinz Field and disposed of Ben and Company 23-20 to flex their AFC muscles on the road, we’d all be able to say, “Finally…a truly good road performance against a high-caliber opponent.”

Instead, we’re going to see the Ravens clobber an undermanned Steelers team and be left to wonder, “What happens when we play a really good team in their stadium?”  The only team we’ve faced like that so far this year would be the Houston Texans and, well, never mind…

That said — I’ll take a Ravens win in Pittsburgh on Sunday no matter who plays for the Steelers.

Injuries are part of the game.  I say this often.  It’s not always the best team who works their way through the playoffs in January.  It’s usually the healthiest team.

The key for the Ravens from here to the regular season finish is simple:  Claim either the #1 or the #2 seed in the AFC.  Right now, at 7-2, Baltimore is in control of their own fate, but two triumphs over Pittsburgh would virtually clinch the one or two seed barring some other unforseen collapse in December.

Two triumphs over Pittsburgh are expected – meaning, SHOULD happen – if Roethlisberger isn’t behind center for the two Ravens-Steelers gamse.

And those two wins will help Baltimore secure home field in the post-season, which the Ravens desperately need if they want to go to New Orleans in February.

And I’m all for that…


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