Tag Archive | "Pittsburgh Steelers"

Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Lingering legends aside, Ray Rice might be the most popular and productive Raven today. One thing’s for sure…at $550K or so in the final season of his contract, Ray Rice is easily the Ravens best pound-for-pound bargain, and arguably the league’s best. One other thing that seems assured is that Rice is going to get paid. When, how much and where that happens however may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as it would seem.

This has been “the year of…” lots of things in the NFL, the year of the 5K quarterbacks, the year of the rookies, the year of the power forwards at tight end and the year of the disgruntled running back.

 

As running backs league wide from Chris Johnson to Frank Gore, from Matt Forte to Peyton Hillis have barked and in some cases dogged it (allegedly…and no pun intended) over their “contract to performance ratios”, Rice with arguably the strongest case of all has remained silent. Silent about the contract that is, on the field he has been anything but silent or dogged.

 

It’s been a running topic of conversation all season on the MobTown Sports Beat and everyone seems assured that Rice will be taken care of by the Ravens and some have speculated that there’s no reason Rice shouldn’t feel confident that the team will take care of him.

 

It’s all but 100% (in my mind at least) that Rice will be back next season, but under what circumstances and for how long are still debatable.

 

If you subscribe to the school of WWBBD (What would Bill Bellichick do?) the answer is to franchise Rice. Given Adrian Peterson’s new contract, the franchise tag will be a big number, but only for one season. Whether Rice would maintain his decorum for another season under similar (albeit more lucrative) circumstances to this one would remain to be seen as well.

 

In addition to Peterson’s contract, his injury will also likely factor heavily into the Ravens impending decision of whether to franchise Rice or to pay him long term money. Peterson’s injury is a not so subtle reminder of just how quickly a running back in particular can see his season (or even his career) ended. Having all of your eggs in that proverbial basket is a high-risk high reward proposition (as we learned in 2001 with Jamal Lewis’ injury).

 

The value of NFL running backs is on the decline, but the pay scale on the top end of the position is still rising. There are lots of Pro Bowl caliber and highly compensated running backs in the NFL watching the playoffs from home this season, and most of the league’s most productive offenses have plug and play backfields and use the running game as an afterthought for little more than window dressing it would seem at times.

 

Only one running back went in the first round of the last NFL draft and while still promising, Mark Ingram has done little to make teams sorry for passing on him. DeMarco Murray, taken on the second day of the draft was the league’s best rookie at the position.

 

One year prior, Ryan Matthews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best all went in the first round and all were summarily outperformed by undrafted rookies LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. An undrafted practice squad player from one season earlier led the league in rushing last season and the Packers marched through the Super Bowl after losing their bell-cow in Ryan Grant and replacing him with little known and lightly regarded James Starks.

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a look at my positional power rankings for the players and teams that are left in the playoffs. This year’s stats accounted for a lot but at the end of the day it’s my opinion on who I’d suit up today for the best chance at winning.

Quarterbacks

 

1 – Aaron Rodgers (GB)

2 – Drew Brees (NO)

3 – Tom Brady (NE)

4 – Eli Manning (NYG)

5 – Matthew Stafford (DET)

6 – Matt Ryan (ATL)

 

* I gave 6 here since the first 3 were fairly obvious (if not their respective places in that top 3)

 

 

Running Backs

 

1 – Ray Rice (BAL)

2 – Arian Foster (HOU)

3 – Michael Turner (ATL)

4 – Frank Gore (SF)

5 – Darren Sproles (NO)

 

 

Wide Receivers

 

1 – Calvin Johnson (DET)

2 – Andre Johnson (HOU)

3 – AJ Green (CIN)

4 – Victor Cruz (NYG)

5 – Wes Welker (NE)

6 – Roddy White (ATL)

7 – Greg Jennings (GB)

8 – Jordy Nelson (GB)

9 – Mike Wallace (PIT)

10 – Hakeem Nicks (NYG)

 

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Washington Redskins v Baltimore Ravens

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Don’t Believe the AFC North Hype…Yet

Posted on 03 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

 

Of all of the changes that the NFL has brought forth in the last couple of seasons, one that went without a great deal of notice has certainly had a profound impact so far. The line that teams have walked all too often in recent seasons after wrapping up playoff fortunes with games still remaining on their schedule has been too much of a story lately, but this year not so much. Whether a direct result of the decision to put divisional match-ups in the season’s final weeks or not it made for one of the most exciting final weeks of any NFL season in recent memory. Add “Goodell’s Grand Finale” to the once celebrated “Pete’s Parity” and you have the excitement that was week 17 of this NFL season.

The Ravens run through their own division unblemished is cause for celebration, and with 3 teams qualified for this year’s playoffs the AFC North is being hailed as the league’s best division. The Bengals are young and dangerous, and now stocked with picks courtesy of the Carson Palmer trade, the Browns are tough and physical and also stocked with picks courtesy of the Julio Jones trade and perhaps in better position than any team to trade into the first overall pick if the Colts should choose to shop it. And the Ravens and Steelers are simply the Ravens and Steelers. But before we proclaim the AFC North the class of the NFL, we should at least acknowledge that parity is more relative from division to division than league wide, and that the AFC North may simply be the most accomplished division in football because they had the easiest trek though the 2011 season.

 

You never can quite tell how teams will be from season to season in the NFL, but sometimes you can. While every year brings a fresh example of a team with no expectations suddenly becoming a force on the back of a few “minor” tweaks to the coaching staff, roster or approach, we should also acknowledge that those examples aren’t as plentiful as the attention that they get would suggest, and that more often than not we have a pretty good idea going into the season who’ll be good and who’ll struggle.

 

If you were picking a schedule for the Ravens or any AFC North team to have success in 2011, and charged with using the NFL formula of matching up against 1 whole division in the AFC and 1 in the NFC you probably would have picked the AFC South and the NFC West. Surely you would have picked the NFC West as maybe one or two teams in that less than mediocre division could have been expected to be competitive (as the 49ers became this year’s surprise team) but expecting the entire division to have a resurgence would have been unfathomable, as the division has been floundering for years now without improvement.

 

The AFC South would have looked almost equally ripe for the picking even before Peyton Manning was announced to be out for the season, and despite the Texans best attempts at representing the division respectably, injuries ultimately took their toll on them too.

 

Add the bottom dwelling Cleveland Brown to the mix and the formula was just right for the successes of the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. The Browns are scrappy and can’t be totally dismissed, but they did play their divisional schedule to the tune of 0-6 this season, serving up 2 wins each of cushion for the division’s other 3 teams.

 

In 2010 the NFC South had 3 double digit win teams. The Falcons won 13 games, the Saints won 11 and both made the playoffs and the Buccaneers picked up 10 wins and narrowly missed the playoffs while looking promising. They did so while matching up against the terrible NFC West, and an AFC North with 2 bottom dwellers in Cincinnati and Cleveland that offered up “easy” chances at racking up wins. The NFC South also had the floundering Panthers in 2010 who served up 6 wins to the rest of the division in struggling through a miserable campaign themselves.

 

This year the NFC South still looks relatively strong although slightly less promising beyond the top two as they were charged with matching up with an NFC North that was better than last year’s NFC West draw but also took advantage of this year’s weaker AFC South.

 

In 2008 the AFC East and NFC East both looked equally promising as both took advantage of similar scheduling “opportunities”.

 

Next year the AFC North will be afforded the opportunity to feast of the AFC West if they’re able to take advantage, and if the NFC is in the disarray that it appears to be in all of a sudden there too may lie an opportunity. While I won’t yet acknowledge the AFC North as football’s best division, the likelihood of them getting 3 teams into the playoffs again next season (especially if the Browns serve up another 6 wins) might look pretty good again. What they do once they’re there will determine which division is best.

 

 

 

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Friday Mud…please read responsibly

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Friday Mud…please read responsibly

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Drew Forrester

That’s it for 2011, huh?

Over already?

Wow, seems like just yesterday (or so) when I was in Sarasota with Glenn Clark, hunkered down in an outrageously posh satellite-trailer that served as a de facto media workroom in the parking lot of the Orioles spring training complex.  And that was March.

Here we are now, brushing up against January and preparing for (we hope) a Ravens Super Bowl run and, within 7 weeks if you can believe, discussion about pitchers and catchers as they prepare for yet another (losing) baseball season in Baltimore.

Time sure flies when you’re having fun.

Well, for five months a year, anyway.

I hope you all have a safe, enjoyable New Year’s weekend.  We’re obviously all going to be glued to the TV at 4:15 pm on Sunday to see the Ravens take on Cincinnati.

I assume you’ll be hungover.

I hope the Ravens aren’t.

Consider this edition of Friday Mud a tasty start to your holiday weekend.

And you don’t even need to drink a glass of warm milk two hours before you read it.

————————————————————————————————

>  Did you hear the great story about Oregon football player Mark Asper?  Wednesday night he and the Ducks were at a dinner as part of their Rose Bowl festivities and the father of one of Asper’s teammates started choking on a piece of meat.  Asper applied the Heimlich maneuver and dislodged the piece of meat and a health emergency was avoided because of his quick work.  Great story, huh? Anyway, several teams and colleges quickly sent along notes of congratulations and small gifts to show their appreciation for his life-saving work.  The San Diego Chargers sent a football signed by the entire team and a nice card with a personal message.  The Golden State Warriors also sent along a compliment-filled note and a team jersey with Asper and the number “1″ on the back.  The Red Sox provided a card with the words “Congrats on knowing the Heimlich, please USE THESE as often as you can in 2012.”

>  So…a listener from Timonium named Theresa reached out to me via e-mail last week and offered me a scathing keyboard-tongue-lashing about a few of the pictures I’ve posted recently here on Friday Mud.  “I can’t speak for everyone,” Theresa wrote, “but I’m appalled at your continued inclusion of those girls from Central Connecticut State as part of your Friday blog.  These are college girls — and they don’t deserve to be objectified in the manner that you’re doing it.  I respectfully ask that you stop including photos of those young women in your Friday blog.”  Well, I must be getting old…and soft…because I’m going to agree to not include any Central Connecticut volleyball players here.  Seriously. I’ll link a photo and I guarantee — in fact, DOUBLE guarantee, that it’s not a girl from Central Connecticut.  (I know what you’re thinking…”Drew, come on, we’re going to click on that photo and it’s going to be a girl from Central Connecticut.”)  Nope.  Not a chance.  Here you go Theresa, THIS RIGHT HERE is just for you.

>  Did you like the Ravens uniform combination last Sunday…the black pants and the purple top?  I gathered that a lot of folks didn’t like it.  I did.  You know what other color combination looks great, to me, anyway?  Royal blue and black.  For some reason, I’ve always thought those colors went great together.  Here, let me show you what it looks like and you tell me.  CHECK IT OUT and tell me…do you think it looks good?

>  Hey Theresa, you like apples?

>  I’d love to pick the Ravens to win this weekend.  Really, I would.  But I don’t trust them on the road.  Just when I get ready to type the words “I think the Ravens are going to win in Cincinnati”, I get visions of Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego in my brain.  Too many road stinkers for me…too many lay-up games turned losses for my liking.  Sorry — Bengals 24 – Ravens 10.  I hope to hell I’m wrong.

>  The Philadelphia police have been very concerned about female Flyers fans speeding recklessly as they enter Broad Street off of I-95 and approach the Wachovia Center.  They’ve even gone as far as placing THESE WARNING SIGNS up on the roads leading into the arena to give the female fans a chance to slow down.

>  There are two ways to identify a Steelers fan.  One is…they always wear a yellow top.  The other?  Well, as you can see RIGHT HERE, this guy is definitely a Steelers supporter.

>  OK, the time has come to unveil the two finalists for my “Top 10 Winners of Professional Sports ” in the last 20 years.  I’m doing this a little differently than originally intended.  I was going to just list my #2…and then the following week, the #1.  Instead, I’m going to reveal the final two — and you decide who you think is #2 and #1.  Obviously, just by the fact that he hasn’t been listed yet, Michael Jordan is one of the finalists.  What can you say about #23 (and #45 for a year)?  He’s just a great winner, period.  But is there someone else who MIGHT (and I say “might”) be a better winner than Jordan?  I think the answer to that is yes.  Maybe.  This man is a 3-time champion.  And a 9-time All-Star.  He won more games than anyone who ever played his sport. If you wonder whether or not this guy is a winner, you’ll want to take a look at his playoff stats — and then you’ll get it.  So, no more delay. You want a winner?  A great one?  RIGHT HERE he is, folks.  Don’t think he’s great?  CHECK OUT THE STATS.

>  I hear the Orioles had a big sale last week prior to the Holidays, where they put most of their merchandise and novelty items out for fans to buy as gifts.  A friend of mine went to the sale and sent me THIS PHOTO to prove he was at Camden Yards.  Yep, sure looks like an Orioles sale.

>  The Shoot Section (the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth)

I don’t want to go into all the details here — I’ll save that for Monday.  But starting next Monday, I’ll have a 4-part “interview” up at WNST.net that was conducted by a listener.  I think you’ll find it interesting.  We covered a lot of territory…my history with the Blast, my move to WNST, the Orioles, the Ravens, “the lawsuit” and much more.  I went into it a little apprehensive, because the person who interviewed me has been both a listener, reader and critic of mine over the years, but he handled it all fairly and I think you’ll enjoy the series next week and learn some behind the scenes things that maybe you don’t previously know.  It all starts on Monday at WNST.net.

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MobTown Sports Blog

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MobTown Sports Blog

Posted on 05 December 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a quick look ahead at the agenda for Monday on the MobTown Sports Beat:

 

Ravens Reaction

 

The Ravens are always on the table, especially on MSB Mondays. We’ll look back on the Ravens impressive and needed win over divisional rival Cleveland and have plenty of reaction.

 

A Nickel and a Nail

 

Five penny for your thought type topics of conversation and a nail for someone who deserves it.

 

#1 – BC-Mess or Oklahoma Statement

 

Despite an impressive thumping of the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State will be home watching the BCS title game like the rest of us. There’s little doubt that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the country, but do we really want to relive 9-6 snoozer that was the “game of the century” from just over a month ago? And how now can LSU lose a national title to Alabama after beating them on their own field in November and playing a much tougher out of conference schedule and the SEC title game? How much of this is due to the media’s inability to let go of their stated notion that Alabama was the best team in the country in the first place? Would LSU be getting this same opportunity if they had lost at home to Bama?

 

 

#2 – Tarheels are Baby Soft

 

They’re talented, there’s no doubt about that. The Tarheels are inordinately talented for a team in this the “one and done” era, the problem is that they seem to know it too. The juggernaut that Carolina looked to bring to the table after returning Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zellar and John Henson to fuse with the typical insurgence of Tarheel freshman talent so far has been anything but. After stumbling out of the gates last year only to turn it up for the stretch, Barnes looks to be making that his habit. Their talent will be enough to get them by on most nights, but when the real heat turns up, look for these Tarheels to wilt under the pressure like they did against Kentucky on Saturday. They appear poorly coached and at times altogether indifferent. Don’t believe the hype surrounding this Carolina team, as it appears that they themselves have already bought in too much.

 

#3 – NBA Free Agency to Begin on Monday?

 

Sort of at least…beginning on Monday it looks like teams will be free to at least make known their intentions and overtures to prospective free agents ahead of Friday’s projected final resolution in the lockout. Big men abound in free agency and no NBA team ever has enough of those. Greg Oden could be headed to the Heat, making him and them even more hated then each is already individually. Additionally, as “Big 3’s” are seemingly becoming en vogue, teams will be looking to fish or cut bait with a few marquee names that could quickly become trade fodder. Derron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard could all begin or end this season with new teams. And let’s not forget about Danny Ainge’s latest attempt to sabotage the Celtics. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of the Rajon Rondo trade rumors or their impact.

 

#4 – A.F.Seeding

 

The top end of the AFC all managed to hold serve on Sunday. Along with the Ravens win, the Steelers beat the Bengals 35-7, the Patriots beat the hapless Colts 31-24 and the Texans rallied behind TJ Yates for a 17-10 win over the fading Falcons, so the logjam continues at 9-3 atop the AFC.

 

Houston survived a tough opponent behind TJ Yates first start after losing Andre Johnson again mid-game in a scene eerily similar to the one that preceded his last hamstring injury and kept him out of action for several weeks, and Brian Cushing left early too. If it weren’t for bad luck, these Texans wouldn’t have any yet they still refuse to lose in this their ordained playoff season given the absence of Peyton Manning in the division.

 

The Raiders were blasted by the suddenly resurgent Dolphins 34-14 and coupled with another heroic Tim Tebow comeback effort, surrendered the top spot in the AFC West (by virtue of a tiebreaker) to Denver.

 

The Titans and Jets both picked up wins to pull even with Cincinnati in the race for the final wild card spot with the Bengalis still enjoying the benefit of the tiebreaker…for now.

 

#5 – Packers on a Roll

 

Green Bay survived its first real test of the season on Sunday when the Giants punched in a 2-point conversion to tie them with less than a minute remaining and one timeout for the Packers. We should have known on the kickoff that the Pack was about to do something special. Randall Cobb, who’s having a fine year, took a knee on the kickoff just a yard or so deep in the end zone, essentially conceding that taking time away from Aaron Rodgers and the offense, even a few seconds, would be unacceptable even for a return man adept at taking them to the house. Two plays later the Packers were in field goal range and the rest as they say was history.

 

If you’re giving me the Packers or the field today, I’ll still take the field but it’s getting tougher to do each week. You could argue that now isn’t the time to be playing your best football, but the Packers have been doing it since week 1 and still look to be improving. They’re much deeper than last year’s injury riddled bunch and now can count themselves battle tested too.

 

You’d almost like to get an L out of the way before the playoffs start, but if it’s going to happen for these Packers it looks like it’ll happen naturally, as they don’t seem to be slowing at all. Maybe the cursed Colts season has taught a lesson to anyone willing to take note, “embrace the 0, or the 0 will come get you”.

 

And the nail goes to the Ravens and Steve Bisciotti for their announcement to take their ball and go home, or more specifically to cancel indefinitely the Westminster training camp that had become engrained in the traditions of many a Ravens’ fan who can’t get to the stadium for actual games.

 

The move has money written all over it, in this immediate aftermath of the NFL lockout where we as a public were forced to endure the tug of war over an unfathomably fat cache of cash that we were all made too well aware of, that seems to be bad form.  The team will surely try to make it up to the fans somehow, but attempts will be feeble at best compared to the rite of passage that was Ravens training camp.

 

(While not a regular attendee at Ravens training camp myself, I certainly understand the loss that some are feeling. As a 38-year old Baltimore native, my only “real” memories of the Baltimore Colts began and ended with training camps at Goucher college)

 

It’s not lost on us, Mr. Bisciotti, that you’re the same guy who encouraged us to offset the season ticket price increase of a few years ago by selling our Patriots, Steelers and/or Colts tickets as they were doing very well on the secondary market. Clearly the real plight and point of view of the average fan is lost on the occupants of the owner’s box.

 

What’s not lost on Mr. Bisciotti is the ability to pass the buck, or more aptly to allow crap to roll downhill, as he did by calling it a football decision. By stating that the Ravens were a better football team when they practice at their Owings Mills facility the owner laid blame right at the coach’s feet even without saying quite that much.

 

The truth is, it’s hard to say whether the Ravens are better or worse when they don’t have a camp, as this is the first year without one and also a year anomalous in the annals of NFL history due to the lockout. Using this season, as a barometer to measure anything is pointless at best and more likely irresponsible.

 

I’ll agree that life is easier for the Ravens when they don’t have to pack up and move operations from Owings Mills to Westminster and back, but easy isn’t the road to NFL glory. Eight times per season the Ravens will have to pack up and prepare, at least in part, away from the castle, usually in makeshift conditions not ideally suited or built for the purpose of readying a team for a football game. That the Ravens have struggled in doing it this season may speak to the “preparation” they’d have gotten in camp, under similar conditions.

 

 The road to a Super Bowl is a tough one, and one that the Ravens took once already while holding camp in Westminster, and the team enjoys lots of cushy handouts and civic backrubs from fans who’ll never have the chance to set foot in the stadium for a game, to lock them out using the fortress that they in part financed is just wrong.

 

 

@ Me Back

 

3 random questions. Hit me with your answers on Twitter @Thyrl or @WNST, by email thyrl@wnst.net, or at 410-481-1570. Whatever you do, get back @ me.

 

@-1: Who are the top 5 on your #NFL rookie of the year ballot?

 

I’ll go Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, AJ Green, Torrey Smith & DeMarco Murray

 

@-2: Who would you seed 1-8 in a college football playoff?

 

Give me- #1 LSU, #2 Bama, #3 OK St., #4 Boise, #5 Stanford, #6 Arkansas, #7 Wisconsin, #8 Clemson/WVU play-in or Oregon if I have to pick 1.

 

@-3: Who looks the like the best college hoops team so far?

 

For me – Kentucky, Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse, Missouri…but there’s a lot of teams I haven’t seen yet and a bunch more I can’t wait to see again.

 

 

 

 

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Friday Mud is never “over the line!”

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Friday Mud is never “over the line!”

Posted on 02 December 2011 by Drew Forrester

December has arrived.

Another year nearly in the books.

But there’s still plenty of good stuff going on in these parts, starting with the big college football playoff game tomorrow at Johnny Unitas Stadium between Towson and Lehigh.  I’ll be there, for sure, and hope you will be, too.  I’ve followed Towson football for the better part of a decade now, so I’ve seen it all.  Lots of losses, some of them lopsided, and more than one or two moments where I said to myself, “What on earth am I doing coming over to here watch this debacle?”  But I stuck it out…because I like all of the local colleges, and I’ll get a mini-reward of sorts on Saturday when I get to witness the playoff game first hand.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Paul Hewitt in his initial visit to the Towson Center as he brings George Mason in to take on Towson Saturday evening.  If you’re going to the football game Saturday afternoon, keep your ticket stub in a safe place.  If you show it at the doors of the Towson Center, you get in the hoops game for free.

Sunday in Cleveland, the Ravens look to move to 9-3 against the Browns.  I won’t be there for that one.  I’m on a self-imposed refusal to visit Cleveland until the band RUSH is admitted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s probably not Cleveland’s fault, per-se, but someone has to be punished for quite possibly the great Hall-of-Fame oversight – sports, music, acting, etc. – in the history of the planet.  So…until RUSH gets in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, I will not set foot in the city of Cleveland.

All of this talk about the weekend reminds me…it’s time for Friday Mud.

—————————————————————————-

> The Orioles figure Dan Duquette is going to take them to the promised land.  I hope they’re right.  But I have a bad feeling they’re going to find out what we already know.  They’re going to FIND OUT THIS.

> After searching long and hard, I finally found two sexy female supporters of the Flyers.  I know what you’re thinking — “Come on Drew, we’ve seen this act before…you’re going to make us click on a picture of those two sexy Flyers fans and they’re going to both be dogs, literally.”  No, I’m not doing that, although I’ll admit it’s something I’ve done before.  You see, I’m turning over a new leaf.  I seriously have the girls who finished 1-2 in the recent “Miss Flyers” contest.  I do.  HERE IS THE GIRL who finished #2.  Go ahead, click on it.  You see, I’ve gone legit.  And if that little hottie was #2, what does #1 look like? SHE  LOOKS LIKE THIS.

> You knew that was coming.  And I know you laughed a little.

>  Glenn and I got into an interesting discussion on Thursday, tossing names back and forth of potential coaches at College Park in the event Maryland decides to jettison Randy Edsall.  I threw out three names and after much discussion, the guy I tabbed as a potential successor (and this is ALL just pie-in-the-sky-stuff, Edsall’s not going anywhere) for Edsall is THIS MAN right here, the current defensive coordinator at LSU, John Chavis.  Glenn went with THIS GUY.

>  I’m beginning to worry about the Ray Lewis toe injury.  Shouldn’t we at least be considering something dramatic for Lewis?  Maybe, even, toe replacement?  What?  You’ve never heard of toe replacement?  Yep, it’s happening everywhere now.  Hell, you want a toe…I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock.  Don’t believe me?  RIGHT HERE IS THE GUY who can get you the toe.  (NOTE: Language might not be safe for work or children)

> Capitals GM George McPhee called Dale Hunter last week while he was contemplating making a coaching change and asked Hunter to forward his resume’ over so he could share it with owner Ted Leonsis.  My spies down at the Verizon Center snagged the Hunter resume’ and I have it POSTED RIGHT HERE.  Hired.  On the spot.

>  My buddy Jerry Coleman – formerly of Fox 1370 – proves it…white men can jump, as HE SHOWS YOU RIGHT HERE.

>  It’s time for me to reveal #6 on my Top 10 “Winners” list over the last 20 years in professional team sports.  You’ll recall #10 was Drew Brees, #9 was Greg Maddux, #8 was Ray Lewis and #7 was Derek Jeter.  The man who is at #6 is a two-time champion and one of those once-in-a-generation athletes who defies the odds by not having the prototype skill set that is typically required from a player in his position.  This player actually fits the list to a tee, for he’s more of a winner than he is a great player.  Take him away from his team and they’re immediately a non-contender.  No sense in delaying it any further.  Number six on the list is a villain of ours in Baltimore, but the dude is a flat-out winner…period.  Introducing THIS MAN.

>  Gotta hand it to Dan Duquette.  He’s reportedly using some new and interesting tactics to woo potential big name free agents to Baltimore this winter.  In fact, his first move at the winter baseball meetings in Dallas was to give power-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder a night out on the Orioles team boat, SEEN RIGHT HERE…with all of the expenses for food, drink and boat captain picked up by the Orioles.  Nice touch, Dan.

>  Hey, if it works for Tim Tebow on the field, it might work for THIS GUY in his front lawn.  It’s worth a shot…

>  They’re gonna miss him coaching down in D.C.  Some folks thought he was over-rated, but I thought he was a guy who always got the best out of his players.  I like to remember him in the good times, LIKE THESE RIGHT HERE.

 

The shoot section (where I tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…)

I need to take a minute to give recognition to the folks who attended last Saturday’s Towson basketball game that featured a visit from President Barack Obama and his family.  I was concerned leading up to the game that a few non-Obama supporters might spoil the day with booing or catcalls or even protest signs of some sort.  On the contrary, every single person in the facility showed the President the respect he and his family deserved.  Whether or not you agree with the decisions he’s made and whether or not you approve of the job he’s done thus far, standing and applauding him as he enters a public building is the proper way to greet the person in charge of our country.  It was refreshing to see the 3,000 people in the Towson Center stand in unison and welcome him in and then, again, as he was leaving at the game’s conclusion.  It was a great day for Towson University…and an impressive one for the people who treated the President with the respect he should get.

 

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A look inside Thanksgiving feast of Ravens-49ers

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A look inside Thanksgiving feast of Ravens-49ers

Posted on 24 November 2011 by Chris Pika

One of the more-hyped games of the 2011 schedule once it came out in April is tonight’s Thanksgiving game in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium when the broithers Harbaugh meet as the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens (8 pm ET; NFL Network).

The 9-1 49ers have a stranglehold on the NFC West and can clinch the division with a victory and either a loss or tie by Seattle on Sunday or a tie and a Seattle loss.

The 7-3 Ravens lead the AFC North, and are tied for the AFC’s best record.

The combined 16-4 record (.800) of the two teams is tied for fourth-best between Thanksgiving Day combatants since 1970.

It will be Baltimore’s John vs. San Francisco’s Jim, and Jim, and according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who will help call the game with Brad Nessler, this matchup is one to watch:

When you combine the surprising success of San Francisco, along with Baltimore being pretty much where you expect them to be, we’ve got one of the best games of the season on Thursday night.

In a national teleconference to promote the game earlier this week, Jim mentioned how brotherly love goes out the window once competition is involved:

Leading up to this, John has talked freely and openly about football with me. Now, it’s more talking in code. I’m being serious. I can see there are limitations to what he’s telling me. I thought love had no boundaries, but now I see that it does.

— Jim Harbaugh, on football communication with John since the 2011 NFL schedule was announced

For John’s part, it is a continuation of competition that has gone on since they were kids:

We were in the same room for 16 years, and we had to draw a tape line. If you stepped across, there was a fight. The last time we fought, I was 27. He was the quarterback for the Bears. He got up to 6-4, 230 pounds. I was 195, something like that. He takes us on vacation to Florida, we’re on the beach, and we get into this wrestling match. It’s getting a little aggressive and works its way over to the water. He gets a shot in; I get a shot in. I’m starting to think maybe I can hang with the big little brother. Next, he grabs me in a headlock, picks me up, and slams me into three feet of water. My head is on the sand underneath the water. Of course, he’s not going to drown me, but I’m thinking maybe he’s snapped. My dad’s trying to pull him off, but he’s too strong. I’m going to drown. Before I died, he pulled me up. He didn’t do mouth-to-mouth; that would have been against the rules. I then realized I’m never going to fight my brother again. He’s too big.

— John Harbaugh on his brother

The first-ever coaching matchup between two brothers in NFL history is a testament to their father, Jack, himself a former college head coach:

Their father gave them a gift; by making them and teaching them how to compete. If we can instill competition in our kids, that’s all we want. We want them to go out in the world and compete.

— NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk on the relationship between Jack Harbaugh and his sons, Jim and John

Baltimore is coming off a 31-24 victory over AFC North rival Cincinnati at home last Sunday:

NOTE OF THE WEEK: SMITH SOARS

  • Ravens rookie WR Torrey Smith leads the NFL with a 20.3 yardsper-catch average (29 receptions for 590 yards).
  • Impressively, 4 of Smith’s 5 TD receptions have covered at least 25 yards (74, 41, 38, 26 and 18 yards), and he’s averaging a sensational 39.4 yards per TD catch.
  • Smith now owns the Ravens’ single-season (590) and single-game (165 vs. Cin. last week) records for receiving yards by a rookie.
  • Never before has a Ravens’ wideout posted dual 150-yard receiving games in a season (165 vs. Cin. and 152 at STL).
  • Smith also owns the top two receiving yards performances by a rookie in the NFL this season.
  • Smith’s 590 receiving yards this season rank second in the NFL among all rookies (635, Cincy’sA.J. Green).
  • Last week, Smith joined Ken Burrow (2 in 1971) and Randy Moss (3 in 1998) as the only rookies in NFL history to have multiple games with at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.

WEEK 12 QUICK HITS:

  • The Ravens have won 15 of their last 16 games at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is 24-5 at home under head coach John Harbaugh, tied (New England) for the NFL’s most home wins since 2008 (as of games played by 11/20).
  • The Ravens aim for their eighth consecutive win at home and sixth this season (5-0 in 2011).
  • Baltimore’s seven-game winning streak at home currently ranks as the NFL’s second longest (Green Bay is first at 10 games).
  • Baltimore aims to reach 8-3 for just the second time in team history (2010 season).

STOUT VS. NFC: Dating back to the 2008 campaign, when head coach John Harbaugh took over in Baltimore, the Ravens have posted a 10-5 record (.667) vs. the NFC, good for the fourth-best mark among AFC teams against the “other conference” during that span.

AFC’s BEST RECORDS VS. THE NFC
(since 2008)
1t. New England Patriots 12-2 .857
1t. Tennessee Titans 12-2 .857
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-4 .714
4. Baltimore Ravens 10-5 .667

San Francisco is working on an eight-game win streak, and beat NFC West rival Arizona 23-7 last Sunday at home:

WINNING WAYS: With the win last week vs. Arz. (11/20), head coach Jim Harbaugh became just the 3rd rookie head coach in franchise history to start his career with a 9-1 record.

  • The 49ers have won eight consecutive games, making Coach Harbaugh’s eight-game winning streak the fourth longest by a rookie head coach since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Jim Caldwell’s Colts won 14 in a row in 2009. Steve Mariucci’s 49ers won 11 in a row in 1997. Ted Marchibroda’s Colts won nine in a row in 1975. Bobby Ross’Chargers won seven straight in 1992.
  • With a 9-1 record to start 2011, the 49ers are tied for the 4th-best start since the team joined the NFL in 1950, behind 1984 (15-1); 1990 (13-1); 1997 (11-1); 1989 (9-1).
  • Harbaugh became the first rookie head coach in franchise history to inherit a team with a losing record and lead them to a 9-1 start in his first season.

GOLDEN NUGGETS:
A HOT START

  • With a 9-1 record to start 2011, the 49ers are tied for the 4th-best start since the team joined the NFL in 1950, behind 1984 (15-1); 1990 (13-1); 1997 (11-1); 1989 (9-1).

ROAD WARRIORS

  • With a 4-0 record on the road, the Niners join the Green Bay Packers as the only two teams in the NFL to remain undefeated away from home.

THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE

  • The 49ers have outscored their opponents 256-145. The +111 scoring differential ranks 2nd in the NFL.

A SHORT FIELD

  • The 49ers have started 25 drives in their opponents territory, ranking 1st in the NFL, and have scored 81 points on those drives, ranking 3rd in the NFL.

YOU WANNA START SOMETHING?

  • The 49ers average starting field position is at their own 33.1-yard line, ranking 1st in the NFL.

LONG WAY TO GO

  • The 49ers rank 1st in the NFL with an opponents average starting field position of the 24.3.

BRINGING IT BACK

  • The 49ers rank t-1st in the NFL with 7 PRs of 20+ yds, while ranking 2nd in the NFL with a KOR avg. of 28.0 yds.

POINTS HARD TO COME BY

  • The 49ers have allowed just 145 points on the season, ranking 1st in the NFL for the fewest points allowed.

SHORT AND TOUGH

  • The 49ers have allowed just 16 first downs on 3rd and less than 4 yds. (15 of 33 – 48.5 pct.), ranking 2nd in the NFL.

EFFICIENCY ON D

  • The 49ers defense has allowed opponents to score on just 24.0 pct. of their possessions, ranking 1st in the NFL.

STICKY FINGERS

  • The 49ers have only committed 9 turnovers on the year, ranking t-1st in the NFL for fewest turnovers (Houston – 9).

PRODUCTIVE ON FIRST

  • The 49ers offense has gained 4+ yds. on 52.2 pct. (142 of 272) of their first down plays, ranking 4th in the NFL.

THE COMEBACK TRAIL: Four, 4th quarter come-from-behind-win epitomizes the never quit attitude the 49ers embody this season. One player in particular can parallel his career to the theme, QBAlex Smith. Smith is now tied with NYG QB Eli Manning for the most comeback wins by an NFL QB this season.

Smith became just the second quarterback in franchise history to record 3, 4th qtr. comebacks on the road (QB Joe Montanta - 4 in 1989 and 3 in 1990).

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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A Little Purple Kool-Aid to Wash Down Your Disappointment

Posted on 14 November 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Clearly the Ravens have a myriad of issues still to work on as the season progresses if they hope to get to and ultimately win a Super Bowl. Clearly what we saw on the field against Seattle on Sunday was a far cry from elite football, and the Ravens will have to do much better. What’s not so clear at present, in the aftermath of another disappointing loss, but worth mentioning as well is that things aren’t nearly as bad as they looked on Sunday for these Ravens and that there’s plenty of time to iron out the negatives. Since the criticism of the Ravens will be plentiful and easy to come by this week, I offer instead 7 sips of the proverbial Purple Kool-Aid. It’s by no means an attempt to minimize the negative, just a reminder that there’s plenty still to be positive about.

Sip #1 – It’s Good (and hard) to Stay Humble – The NFL is a week-by-week proposition and while it’s generally necessary to play well throughout the season simply to get into the playoffs, it’s never great to be playing at your best in November. Those efforts, while encouraging at any time, are best saved for the playoffs. While adages like “taking them one at a time” and “any given Sunday” are espoused regularly in the NFL, the Ravens have lived it this season and sooner or later are bound to learn their lesson over it. It’s unlikely that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are sitting up nights in bed worrying about needing to get better, but they’ll have to (as impossible as that seems) if they hope to keep winning. This season has given these Ravens plenty of fodder for sleepless nights and hunger to improve.

Sip #2 – They’re Still a Work in Progress – Chemistry in football, and in particular between a quarterback and his receivers can take years to build. In order to win this season, the Ravens will have to do it on the fly. While words like crutch tend to paint a negative picture of what guys like Derrick Mason and Todd Heap meant to Flacco in the offense, gone now are the guys whom Flacco had a seemingly inherent understanding of where they’d be when things broke down. What’s left is a younger and more athletic group, but one full of either first or second year players in the offense with whom Flacco is still trying to assimilate. The addition of Lee Evans (if indeed it’s coming), with whom Flacco seemed to have a good sense of timing in the pre-season could mean exponential improvement in the receiving corps. His absence has provided opportunities for guys like Torrey Smith and LaQuann Williams to develop more quickly. While it’s tough to fathom from the stats sometimes, they’re getting better and more in sync every week.

Sip #3 – They Still Have 4 Home Games Left – If you’re buying the trend, the Ravens struggle on the road, and against bad teams. Four games left at home should provide them enough wins to earn passage to the playoffs. Their three remaining road games are against Cincinnati, Cleveland and San Diego. At least two of the three are tough to call bad, so the Ravens have that working for them too. They’ll have to avoid those road woes if they hope to get playoff games at home though. Hopefully they come out of Sunday’s loss with a better understanding of how important a divisional title and home games in the playoffs are.

Sip #4 – There Are No Bad Teams in the Playoffs – Maybe whoever gets in from the AFC West would qualify as bad, and as a wildcard, traveling there could be the Ravens worst nightmare. Generally though, it’s tough to take playoff games lightly or to underestimate post-season opponents. Once they get there the Ravens should have that working in their favor.

Sip #5 – Maybe they’re Keeping Ray Rice Fresh – Begrudge the number of touches he gets (or fails to get) if you like, but Ray Rice has taken a ton of wear and tear in his three plus, playoff extended NFL campaigns, and he’s not exactly your prototypical “between the tackles” type of runner. The Ravens of the last 2 seasons have been far too Rice-dependant. Not only does it put all of their eggs in one proverbial basket, but it also prevents the Ravens other offensive options from developing. If the Ravens need Rice to get 20+ touches to insure a win, they’d better be careful to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Doing so while also exploring other ways to generate offense could prove prudent in the long run while frustrating in a game like Sunday’s.

Sip #6 – Iron Sharpens Iron – And the NFL is full of iron. Say what you want about the also-rans that have upended the Ravens this season, but there’s no doubt they have talent. Pool all of the best talent from LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State (the nation’s 3 best college teams) this year and practice them together for a year, they’d still be no match for the winless Indianapolis Colts much less the Titans, Jags and/or Seahawks. Still those teams shouldn’t have been in their games with the Ravens. From here on out, the Ravens have been identified. They can play with anyone, and usually will. Teams with little else to play for will now be sure to give the Ravens their best shot. They’ll prepare and play like they expect to win and it’ll be up to the Ravens to remind them that they can’t. If the Ravens allow teams to continually hang around in games, they’ll continue to pay the price for it. Sooner or later they’ll learn from it.

Sip #7 – They Still Control Their Own Destiny – If the season ended today, the Ravens would be the 5th seed and a wildcard in the playoffs. Fortunately the season doesn’t end today and a simple win next week against Cincinnati would put the Ravens back in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the AFC. Climbing back into a tie with the Steelers and Texans over whom the Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreakers, and with New England if they win too by way of common opponents (one the Ravens would maintain as long as they beat the Colts). The Bengals are banged up, losing Leon Hall for the season and possibly AJ Green for a period of time too, and are ripe to be sent back to Earth; and there’s little chance the Ravens will be able to overlook them. Stop me though if you’ve heard that one before.

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Two days later — In Flacco vs. Fans, Joe delivers knockout blow

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Two days later — In Flacco vs. Fans, Joe delivers knockout blow

Posted on 08 November 2011 by Drew Forrester

Talk about punching your critics in the mouth.

Joe Flacco left his with a fat lip, bloodied and in need of stitches, in the aftermath of Sunday night’s thriller in Pittsburgh.

I guess that’s one way of handling the criticism, huh? Drive the team 92 yards in one of the most hostile environments in the league, against one of the NFL’s best defenses, and throw the game-winning strike to a rookie with eight seconds left in the game.

Do you need a towel for all that blood?

Despite being the only quarterback in the NFL to have won a playoff game in each of the last three seasons, Flacco saw the critic’s bandwagon swell this year as the Ravens paced their way to a 4-1 start before a disastrous night in Jacksonville gave the “told ya this guy stinks” fraternity more ammunition.

I wonder how full that fraternity’s belly is this morning, what with all that crow they stuffed in their mouths on Monday as they were forced to discuss Joe’s heroics on Sunday night?

Flacco, for one, privately enjoyed sticking it up his critic’s hind quarters. When asked about it after the game, Joe just meekly let out that “you know the answer but I’m not saying it” grin and said, “Anytime you win a game here, it’s good, because you know there were people who didn’t think you could do it.”

That’s as close to an “f-you” as you’ll ever get from Flacco, but it was good enough.

He knows the drill. He knows it all too well, in fact.

When the team wins and he plays well, he’ll get some credit for it.

When the team doesn’t win, he gets most of the blame.

That’s the way it is in New England, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Green Bay (except they don’t really lose anymore in Green Bay). And that’s the way it’s probably going to be in Baltimore too, because Flacco – in case you haven’t seen the stats since 2008 – has done a lot more winning than losing in his time in purple.

It’s fair to note, by the way, that the Ravens were privately concerned about Joe’s play in the Jacksonville and Tennessee losses, because he in no way resembled the same guy who performed so well against Pittsburgh in the season opener. But no one over in Owings Mills was EVER doubting Flacco’s long-term viability as the team’s franchise quarterback.

It’s always good to beat the Steelers, particularly in Pittsburgh.

And it’s always a joy to see someone face his critics head on and offer a quick jab to the mouth that reminds them once again who’s in charge.

It’s Joe Flacco’s football team.

Get your face cleaned up and enjoy the rest of the season.

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Rating the Ravens after 23-20 victory over Steelers

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Rating the Ravens after 23-20 victory over Steelers

Posted on 07 November 2011 by Ryan Chell

Two games ago, Joe Flacco was the goat of Baltimore.

For four plays in Sunday’s game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ravens fans were probably throwing Torrey Smith into that argument. He was a draft bust…no question about it.

Two weeks ago, there were fans calling for Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Cam Cameron had to go.This team was never going to achieve greatness-instead continuing to dissapoint against the likes of Tennessee and Jacksonville.

But that same amount of minutes later…things were entirely different as Flacco found Smith on a game-winning touchdown with just eight seconds left on the clock to not only get the monkey off both their backs, but also put up defining moments for both the fourth-year quarterback and his franchise trying to achieve superiority in the AFC.

Now, with only two losses in the conference, and the “elite” teams in the AFC-Buffalo, San Diego, New England, Pittsburgh all losing Sunday-the Ravens clearly are in great position to host games in the playoffs this year and make that trip to Indianapolis that much more easier.

There are those who said this day would never come.

What are they to say now?

Quarterback

This is a game-and a throw in particular-that could mean a lot for Joe Flacco’s career. Flacco finally got his first win in Pittsburgh against a Ben Roethlisberger-led Steeler team, and he was the reason behind it. You can’t say Ed Reed saved the day with a game-clinching interception return. You can’t say Ray Lewis made a saving tackle on fourth down to hold the Steelers. Ray Rice didn’t have an 80-yard run and didn’t carry the load for the Ravens offense.

Instead, Flacco found Torrey Smith and put a “W” in his team’s pocket while quarterbacking only the second Ravens team to sweep the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular season.

Give credit to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for putting faith in his quarterback. Given Flacco’s struggles against the Steelers in the past, he could have put his faith elsewhere.

But for the Ravens to convert 14 3rd-downs into a new set of downs-the most ever against a Steeler defense-and for Flacco to get 18 first downs with his arm-be clear with this.

Joe Flacco is a franchise quarterback. He may not be of the caliber of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, but Sunday proved he can win you games, and ones against caliber opponents.

Rating: A

Running Back

Ray Rice

This game could have been a lot different if Ray Rice’s 76-yard touchdown run was not negated by a holding call by eventual hero-Torrey Smith.

It was yet another big run by Ray Rice against the Steelers, who of course had a 36-yard run on his first touchdown against the Steelers Week 1.

But while Ray Rice is the gas that gets the Baltimore offense going, tonight just wasn’t his night to combust and shine.

Flacco was the star tonight, and that’s a good thing for an offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron who can feel confident in giving the ball to either of his backs.

Rating: B-

Wide Receivers

This unit goes along right with Joe Flacco, and while Torrey Smith’s 26-yard score may be the highlight of the night, you have to take into account what the man opposite Smith in Anquan Boldin did for Flacco.

Smith-Boldin

Boldin converted a catch into a first-down on all but one of his catches Sunday night, and four of them were on third or fourth down.

In fact, Smith’s game-saving touchdown may not have happened had it not been for Boldin’s catch on 4th and 1 at midfield, and his 11-yard catch on 3rd and 8 to put the Ravens at the Steeler 26.

Before the season, fans were crying sour milk over the losses of Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, saying that those two were the security blankets that Flacco would be lacking in 2011.

Those two have done nothing this year with their respective teams in New York/Houston and Arizona for Heap.

But Anquan Boldin had a field day against Ike Taylor, and a problem in 2010 for the Ravens was that Anquan Boldin didn’t get the ball enough. I think that problem might be remedied this year.

Give credit to LaQuan Williams for playing the third wide receiver role well (2 catches, 28 yards) and the guy that not a lot of people might not be talking about on Monday is tight end Dennis Pitta, who in his last two games has 11 catches for 90 yards.

Rating: A

Offensive Line

The Ravens have played their best football this year up front with Ben Grubbs at the left guard spot, and even with Grubbs not at 100 percent Sunday night, everyone on the Ravens offensive line played at a high level.

Bryant McKinnie returned to the dominant form that he experienced Week 1 against the Steelers, and did a fantastic job going up against a determined James Harrison on the other side.

Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda controlled the middle against a mammoth tackle in Casey Hampton, and rookie Jah Reid saw considerable playing time in a jumbo set package to protect Joe Flacco.

It’s a formation that the Ravens regularly run against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but given the time Flacco had Sunday night at times against a devastating pass rush, they may want to run it more regularly even against other teams.

It was a concern though for the unit to not punch it in on the goal line on their first possession, but the Ravens were lucky enough to not have those four points matter.

Rating: B+

Defensive Line

This was a rare night off for this unit only getting one sack of a beaten-up quarterback, but a performance tonight by this defensive line is one I will take, and the team won.

Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee split the team’s lonely sack, and they held Rashard Mendenhall to 52 yards on 13 carries. Mendenhall appeared to be getting some yards early on, and if the Steelers had taken an early lead, they could have controlled the tempo of the game with the running game.

Max Starks at the left tackle position for the Steelers may have been Pittsburgh’s Most Valuable Player doing a fantastic job of controlling Haloti Ngata and anyone else lining up against him.

Rating: B

Linebackers

Linebackers

If you have to pick one star unit for the Ravens defense, this is probably it. They patrolled the middle of the field against Roethlisberger and played okay defense against the short passing game of Heath Miller, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and others.

Suggs even stepped in front of a screen pass intended for Wallace, and the turnover led to the Ray Rice’s 4-yard score that put the Ravens up 16-6 with 6:09 left in the third quarter.

Jarret Johnson was second on the team in tackles with five, and Jameel McClain-often criticized for his poor pass coverage at times-had a decent game moving to the ball and clogging up the passing lanes.

Rating: B+

Secondary

The receiving corps of Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, and Heath Miller that the Steelers sent out Sunday night in my opinion could have been a matchup problem for Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb, but they rose to the occasion and didn’t allow the two speedy receivers to get behind them.

Roethlisberger’s lone touchdown pass to Mike Wallace came on a broken play where Roethlisberger did what he does best-make a throw on the run outside the pocket.

And take into account that Roethlisberger have seven seconds to make a throw.

If the Steelers offensive line gave Ben Roethlisberger seven seconds every time he dropped back, he would have won 7 championships as opposed to two.

And the pass wasn’t intended for Mike Wallace. It was intended for Brown.

But those things happen, and give credit to the Ravens for not giving Roethlisberger enough time at the end of the game to make that play.

Ed Reed played within himself and didn’t bite on any bad plays, and Bernard Pollard was very physical over the middle.

Rating: B

Special Teams

We said it earlier in the year.

When Sam Koch only has to punt twice in a game, you’re doing alright.

However, the guy not doing alright at this time is kicker Billy Cundiff, who in the off-season was paid by the Baltimore Ravens to be that franchise kicker worthy of making the big opportunity when it counted the most.

Cundiff was 3-of-4 with a long of 51 yards Sunday at Heinz Field, but what’s troublesome is his 40-yarder that he missed on the Ravens’ second drive of the game.

Billy Cundiff

It was a difficult kick going into the open end of the stadium in Pittsburgh, but Cundiff already has missed more field goals in 2011 (4) than he did all of last year in his Pro Bowl trip (3).

You can make excuses for the misses, but those are opportunities that could come back to haunt the Ravens in the playoffs should they have to make another trip to Heinz Field.

Lord willing…that doesn’t happen.

And if you’re David Reed, you can never fumble the ball on a kickoff.

Ever.

Rating: B

Like my analysis? Disagree? Comment below or call into “The Realtity Check” with Glenn Clark 410-481-1570 Monday! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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