Tag Archive | "Pittsburgh Steelers"

Hate to say it, but I will: Ravens can’t beat Big Ben in Pittsburgh

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Hate to say it, but I will: Ravens can’t beat Big Ben in Pittsburgh

Posted on 03 November 2011 by Drew Forrester

I’ll go ahead and be the bad guy.

The Ravens aren’t winning Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

They’d win if someone other than Ben Roethlisberger were playing quarterback for the Steelers.

But he’s playing.

And the Ravens can’t beat him at Heinz Field.

Last October when Charlie Batch was at the helm while Ben was suspended, I ran my mouth all week prior to the game and GUARANTEED that Baltimore wouldn’t lose to Batch in Pittsburgh. And they didn’t.

That was then. That was Batch. This is now. And he’s Roethlisberger. There’s a huge difference.

Sorry…I feel like I should probably “homer-up” and pick the Ravens to win just because it would anger me so much to see Pittsburgh win (again) up there.

But that’s not how I do things.

I call it like I see it. Or, at the very least, how I think I’m going to see it.

And I see Pittsburgh winning 20-16.

Roethlisberger will be the difference, as he almost always is when these teams meet in Pittsburgh.

I sure as hell hope I’m wrong.

But I can’t see the Ravens beating Big Ben up there on Sunday night.

Sorry…

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Baltimore Ravens Training Camp August 20, 2009

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Grubbs practices again, will be game-time decision for Sunday

Posted on 03 November 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ben Grubbs hasn’t seen action since the Ravens’ convincing 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the season opener.

And his chances of finally making his return — against those same Steelers — are improving as the starting left guard practiced on a limited basis for a second straight day on Thursday. Grubbs was working with the starting offensive line during the open portion of practice and appeared more active than the previous day.

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The Baltimore offensive line has struggled in his absence and has gone with veteran Andre Gurode, who had never played left guard in his 10-year NFL career, for the last five games.

“We’ll see,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “He is probably [going to] be a game-time decision. We’ll take Ben back at any point in time.”

The news was more concerning regarding defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who missed his second straight game with a thigh injury. However, the Pro Bowl lineman is expected to play against the Steelers on Sunday.

Return specialist David Reed returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday with a knee injury. He worked on a limited basis but is expected to return kicks on Sunday night.

There were no changes to the Steelers’ injury report as all three of their injured linebackers — James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and James Farrior — were listed as limited participants.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PRACTICE – LB Dannell Ellerbe (thigh), WR Lee Evans (ankle), DT Haloti Ngata (thigh)
LIMITED – RB Anthony Allen (thigh), C Matt Birk (neck), CB Chykie Brown (knee), CB Danny Gorrer (thigh), G Ben Grubbs (toe), WR/RS David Reed (knee)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PRACTICE – G Doug Legursky (toe), WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee)
LIMITED – LB James Farrior (calf), LB James Harrison (eye), T Jonathan Scott (ankle), WR Hines Ward (ankle), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)

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Week 9 MobTown $15.70 Prop Card

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Week 9 MobTown $15.70 Prop Card

Posted on 02 November 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

It’s back again and the rules are still simple. Submit your predictions to the questions below about the game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh on Sunday in the comments section and provide a valid email address. The winner gets the $15.70 jackpot and bragging rights. Congrats to Matt  for winning week 8, his 3rd win of the season. He donated his first two to WNST’s next charitable endeavor, now ongoing. Thanks to he and David Libonate for their generosity in donating their bounties.

 

1. Joe Flacco passing yards (over or under 199.5) – 1 pt.

 

2. Joe Flacco completion percentage (over or under 49.9) – 1 pt.

 

3. Ray Rice total yards from scrimmage (over or under 124.5) – 1 pt.

 

4. Torrey Smith receptions (over or under 3.5) – 1 pt.

 

5. Anquan Boldin receiving yards (over or under 99.5) – 1 pt.

 

6. Terrell Suggs sacks (over or under 1.25) – 1 pt.

 

7. Ed Reed interceptions (over or under 0.5) – 1 pt.

 

8. Baltimore defensive and/or special teams  TDs (over or under 0.5) – 1 pt.

 

9. Mike Wallace receiving yards (over or under 99.5)  – 1 pt.

 

10. Who wins the game? (Baltimore or Pittsburgh) - 1 pt.

 

11. Which player scores the first TD? (player’s name) – 5 pts.

 

12. (tie-breaker) Total points scored both teams combined

 

*Entries will not be published until after the results are tallied

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Two days later — Nothing matters now except beating Pittsburgh this Sunday

Posted on 01 November 2011 by Drew Forrester

That the Ravens struggled to beat the lowly Arizona Cardinals was a surprise to most of us, but in the aftermath of Sunday’s 30-27 thriller, the best thing to do is simply put it behind you and focus on something else much more important.

Joe Flacco beating Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh this Sunday.

That’s how it’s going to be viewed and, honestly, that’s the territory you’re in if you’re Flacco and you play in the AFC North and your first three seasons have been filled with losses at Heinz Field that have either ended your season or temporarily halted your drive to the playoffs.

Five Heinz Field visits for Flacco and four losses, with the only win coming against Charlie (Brown) Batch last October when Big Ben was suspended.

It should be noted, of course, that John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice also have the same record (1-4) as Flacco in those five trips to Pittsurgh since 2008.

It is, after all, a team game, and the Steelers have routinely had the Ravens’ number at Heinz Field in the John Harbaugh era.

But these days, the NFL game is mainly about your quarterback – as the Colts are proving week in and week out – and this Sunday’s affair will be won by one of the two guys behind center.

Which one?

I’m guessing Roethlisberger, simply because he’s done it time and time against the Ravens, but I sure as hell hope I’m wrong.

Roethlisberger is, of course, what we all want Joe Flacco to be.  He’s a gamer, a winner and a guy who doesn’t always look the part, but somehow usually winds up on top when the final whistle blows.  Yes, sort of like Flacco’s performance against the Cardinals on Sunday.  He wasn’t any good in the first half, but Flacco put the offense on his back in the final 30 minutes and made the throws that mattered in rallying his team from a 24-6 halftime deficit.  It was very Ben-esque.

That’s actually become a major part of the problem here in Baltimore as the fans go through their week-to-week evaluation of Flacco.  They want him to be something he’s not.  They’re asking for Joe to be Brady or Manning or Roethlisberger or Brees when, honestly, he’s not even Matt Schaub yet.  He can’t run from the numbers he’s posted this season to date – 8 TD’s, 6 INT’s and 7 fumbles.  Those look like something Bruce Gradkowski might post.  At the 7-game mark, those aren’t good for a starting quarterback who has taken every snap thus far. But he’s performed *well enough* in 4 of the team’s 5 wins to date and it’s safe to say that without him, Baltimore wouldn’t be 5-2.

But the seven games played are history and what’s next is what’s important now.

Beating Pittsburgh on Sunday in their building.

Last January as I walked across the bridge leaving Heinz Field and headed for the bus and a sorrow-filled 4 hour ride back to Baltimore, I went as far as to say that everything the Ravens would do in preparation for this 2011 season should be done with one thing in mind:  ”Does it help us beat the Steelers?”  Every player signing, every cut, every draft pick, every trade…every single player that puts purple on in 2011 should wear that jersey only after the front office has answered “yes!” to the question, “Does this guy help us beat Pittsburgh?”

If the Ravens go there and lay an egg on Sunday, it’s not the end of the world and AFC supremacy is still very much up for anyone to take.  For those of you keeping score at home, there was a playoff team LAST season that only scored one touchdown in 4 of their 16 regular season games.  Talk about an up-and-down offense.  In 25% of their games a season ago, that team only managed to reach the end zone one time.  Know who it was?  The team that won the Super Bowl.  Included in those four one-TD games was a 7-3 loss at Detroit in December, for those of you who don’t remember how the Packers 2010 season went on a week-to-week basis.  So if the Ravens don’t win on Sunday, it’s not like the season ends.

But if they do go to Pittsburgh and lose — and Roethlisberger once again outduels Flacco at Heinz Field — it will simply be a case of the same old-same old.  And it will serve as a stark reminder to the Ravens that the AFC North still goes through the Steel City, no matter what the opening day score in Baltimore might have suggested, and it’s largely controlled by the play of Roethlisberger, aka “The Ravens Killer”.

If the Ravens can’t win on Sunday in Pittsburgh, they’re just another team who can’t win a big game at Heinz Field.

And at some point soon, the Ravens and Flacco are going to have to shed that label if they want to be great.

The Steelers figured that in order to be great THIS season, they couldn’t let Tom Brady come in to their building and beat them this past Sunday.  New England lost.

If the Ravens truly have a great team — and Lord knows none of us REALLY knows which Ravens team will show up this Sunday – they’ll go in there and figure out a way to steal a win.  It might be 13-10 with Flacco managing an efficient passing game and Ray Rice churning out 94 yards on the ground.  Or it could be 27-21 with Flacco forced to take the offense downfield in an impressive 2-minute drive to end the game, similar to the manner in which he operated under pressure last October when his final minute TD throw to T.J. Houshmandzadeh gave the Ravens a win over Batch and Company.

A win is a win.

The Ravens need one this Sunday.

And so does Joe Flacco.

If he’s honestly going to work his way up the ladder of NFL quarterbacks and dance near that “elite” level, Joe has to handle the pressure of Sunday’s game and leave Heinz Field a winner.

It’s a quarterbacks league.

Your guy wins it for you.  Or the other guy wins it for them.

This one is on Flacco.  That’s a lot of pressure to put on the quarterback, but it’s the same pressure applied to Roethlisberger last Sunday when he welcomed Tom Brady into his stadium and walked away a winner 60 minutes later.

Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh will come down to Joe Flacco’s ability to rise to the occasion.

How will he handle it?

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 7: 2-3 (-130 pts)    season: 13-12 (-20 pts) 

 

Saints -14 @ Rams 

 

Lions -3 @ Broncos

 

Steelers +3 vs. Patriots

 

Browns +9 @ 49ers

 

Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 7: 2-2-1 (-10 pts)    season: 10-12-1 (-160 pts)

 

Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings

 

Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants

 

Bills -6 vs. Redskins

 

Bengals -3 @ Seahawks

 

Cowboys +3.5  @ Eagles

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 7: 1-2(-24 pts)    season 9-10-2 (-40 pts)

 

Titans -9 vs. Colts

 

Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans

 

Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals

  

Last week Total: 5-7-1  (-164 pts)     Season Total: 32-34-3 (-220 pts)

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Having had just over 24 hours to digest (and regurgitate) the Ravens loss to the Jaguars, here are my 7 points to ponder from the Ravens disappointing performance on Monday night in Jacksonville, a veritable touchdown of takeaways in honor of the Ravens lone TD in the game.

 

 

Point #1 – This might be the best defensive performance we’ve seen from these Ravens in a long time.

 

Unlike their turnover driven performances against Pittsburgh and the Jets, this was smash mouth, “punch you in the face” defense. The 12 points that the Jags scored in the game were tough to come by. Ray Rice’s 1st quarter fumble set the Jags up for a 51-yard field goal if they had simply kicked it immediately on 1st down, in hindsight not a bad idea. Instead the Jags, pulling out all the stops, drove to the 1-yard line and converted on a 4th and 2 in the process before Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled the ball back to the Ravens. The ensuing possession had Sam Koch punting from his own end zone. Again, if the Jags had kicked immediately on first down, the field goal attempt would have been 51-yards from the spot where the drive started. Three negative yards, a timeout and a tough decision later, Jack Del Rio and the Jags were kicking from 54-yards and taking a 3-0 lead.

 

The second field goal for Josh Scobee and company, another ambitious 54-yarder, came only after a Paul Kruger running into the kicker call negated a Jags punt and improved their field position as a result.

 

The Jags 3rd field goal was the result of their most impressive drive in the game, a drive 16 plays in duration and one that arguably should have ended at 5 plays with a punt if not for a terrible unnecessary roughness penalty on Bernard Pollard. Another stop for the Ravens at the 7-yard line was nullified by a Brendon Ayanbadejo penalty and ejection. The 3 points they yielded on that series was ultimately a relief despite it putting the margin at 2 scores, the 8 minutes and 30 seconds they spent getting there might have been an even bigger win for the Jags.

 

And of course the 4th filed goal came after the decision to try and onsides kick at 2:02 of the 4th quarter and was the result of a 4-yard drive.

 

At the end of the day it was a shutout caliber performance by the defense, spoiled by circumstance and bad luck.

 

 

Point #2 – The Ravens were in the shotgun way too much.

 

The Ravens officially ran 38 passing plays and just 12 running plays against the Jags. In the aftermath of the defeat, those numbers have been heavily criticized and deservedly so. In a game as close as that one was, that type of imbalance is all but inexcusable for a team of the Ravens offensive identity. That said, that’s life in the modern NFL, and had the Ravens won, no one would have batted an eye.

 

That Ray Rice only had 8 “touches” has been a bit overstated though as he also had 5 catches on 8 targets in the passing game. Furthermore down and distance have a lot to do with making running opportunities available and the fact that the Ravens offense only ran 25 plays in total in Monday’s first half, 8 of which were 3rd downs explains the imbalance somewhat.

 

What’s tough to explain from where I sit is why the Ravens felt compelled to tip their hands out of the running game as readily as they did on Monday.

 

By my unofficial count, the Ravens lined up 46 times on Monday either in the shotgun formation or with Flacco under center and intending to pass (this includes sacks and penalties). Of those 46 plays, 14 snaps under center were passes leaving 32 snaps from the shotgun.

 

On each of those shotgun snaps the Ravens seemed to go to silent counts with no cadence from Flacco at all. Instead, Marshal Yanda would watch for Flacco’s foot pump and then tap Matt Birk on the leg. Once Birk felt the tap, he’d rock back and snap in a predictable rhythm. I say predictable, but in fairness it appears the Jags got caught jumping offsides at least twice while trying to anticipate the snap. That said, that means there were 30 other plays where they conceivably timed it correctly. Surely this had something to do with the effectiveness the Jags were having with simple 4 and 5-man rushes.

 

That Jacksonville generates enough crowd noise to dictate the Ravens using a silent count in the shotgun is strange (especially after watching Matt Ryan direct the no huddle in Detroit last week). That Flacco is looking less and less like a quarterback during these scenarios is debatable in its impact perhaps, that the Ravens are essentially declaring that Ray Rice running the ball (a staple of the Ravens attack) is not an option and giving the defense a timing mechanism with which to start their jump at the line is absolutely baffling.

 

That Flacco looked so out of sorts when trying to direct a hurried offense when the Ravens needed him to may speak to the limited control he’s given of his offense pre-snap throughout the game.

 

 

Point #3 – Home field advantage may be more important than ever this year.

 

The Ravens have played 3 road games against 3 very bad teams and have looked good for exactly one quarter of one game. They’ve lost 2 road games to teams that had no business playing with them on paper, and while we all know that’s why they play the games, it’s un-Raven-like to say the least.

 

Your glass could easily be half empty or half full regarding the Ravens road successes and failures in the playoffs in the last 3 years and concerning the path that led them there and the missed opportunities to have games at home. If the Ravens are going to have a real shot this season in the playoffs, getting there will only be half the battle. These Ravens thrive on home cooking it seems.

 

 

Point #4 – This is not the same old offense.

 

It may be the same old result, but it’s not the same old offense. Don’t let your lingering frustration from the previous regime cloud your point of view. This isn’t even the same offense they had last year. Much less the Billick offense or the unbalanced run heavy (literally) attack of 2008. Call them crutches, call them security blankets, call them whatever you want, but Flacco knew where Mason and Heap were going to be all of the time it seemed. This new group…not so much.

 

The offensive line was an ambitious experiment to begin with putting 3 of 5 opening week starters in positions that they hadn’t even played in the pre-season together spoke to the possibility of tough sledding. The number of plug-ins necessitated by injuries on the line already only serves to perpetuate that problem. That the offensive line is struggling shouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe the bigger surprise should be how good they have looked at times. Either way they project to get better as time allows them to continue to evolve.

 

Anquan Boldin and two second year tight ends are the long tenured members of the receiving corps already, rookie LaQuan Williams seems to be playing more wide receiver as a rookie for the Ravens than he ever did as a collegiate for the Terps and Lee Evans has been a non-factor.

 

It stands to reason that this offense would struggle and will again, check back on them around week 13 or so, once the weather has changed, to see how well primed they are for the playoffs.

 

 

Point #5 – There’s lots of finger pointing going around.

 

Harbaugh pointing at Cundiff, Suggs pointing at Cam, the fans and the media joining Suggs in pointing at Cam and at Flacco too, everybody it seems blames somebody, and everybody just might be right. For a 4-2 team though this has to be at least a little bit unnerving.

 

This was a lot funnier when it was coming from the Jets locker room a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

Point #6 – You can’t blame apathy again.

 

When the Ravens lost to Tennessee apathy could have been to blame. Whether it was actually the case or not, it was easy for everyone to simply dismiss the loss as the Ravens were riding too high after a win against Pittsburgh or that the Ravens simply didn’t come to play. On the surface you might be tempted to say the same about Jacksonville, but it simply can’t be true.

 

As pointed out in Point #1, the Ravens defense did come to play. It was the defense that should have and could have been riding high and resting on their laurels, but they didn’t. It was the offense that failed to perform on Monday. The offense has been feeling the proverbial heat of criticism for weeks, and while folks were surely taking the Jags as a whole lightly, no one was discounting their defense. The Jags needed a big performance to have any chance against the Ravens on Monday; everyone knew that, including the Ravens.

 

Apathy may never be a legitimate excuse, here it absolutely wasn’t.

 

 

Point #7 – There are deep waters in the AFC North.

 

The sting of Monday’s loss was surely agitated by the fact that it represented a loss of first place in the division (at least mathematically) to the 5-2 Steelers. It also puts the Ravens in a tie with the surprisingly 4-2 Bengals and just a game ahead of the 3-3 Browns. This isn’t your dad’s AFC North it seems, and the 5 games the Ravens have left in the division are looking scarier by the minute.

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 4: 4-1 (290 pts)    season: 11-9 (110 pts) 

 

Chargers -2 @ Jets 

 

Texans +3 @ Titans

 

Steelers -3.5 @ Cardinals

 

Packers -9 @. Vikings

 

Ravens -7.5 @ Jaguars

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 4: 3-2 (40 pts)    season: 8-10 (-150 pts)

 

Redskins +2.5 @ Panthers

 

Browns -3 vs. Seahawks

 

Broncos +1.5 @ Dolphins

 

Raiders -4.5 vs. Chiefs

 

Saints -14 vs. Colts

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 4: 1-1-1 (-2 pts)    season 8-8-2 (-16 pts)

 

Buccaneers +1 vs. Bears (in London)

 

Lions -3.5 vs. Falcons

 

Cowboys -12.5 vs. Rams

  

Last week Total: 8-4-1 (328 pts)     Season Total: 27-27-2 (-56 pts)

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Andre Gurode: “I got the call from the Ravens, and it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me”

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Andre Gurode: “I got the call from the Ravens, and it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me”

Posted on 01 October 2011 by Ryan Chell

When the Ravens signed Andre Gurode a week before the start of the regular season, the move was meant to be a security blanket should incumbent center Matt Birk-who was coming off micro-fracture knee surgery in the preseason-not been healthy to start the opener against Pittsburgh.

The Ravens signed Gurode to a one year deal worth 3 million dollars, and the move turned out to be a blessing in disguise-but for reasons unexpected.

Birk returned from surgery healthy and ready to go, and it looked as if Gurode was going to be relegated to backup duty after being a full-time starter since 2003 with the Dallas Cowboys.

However, when Ravens left guard Ben Grubbs was diagnosed with a foot/ankle injury after Baltimore’s Week 1 victory against the Steelers-and his Week 2 replacement Mark LeVoir struggled in his place-Gurode got the nod to start at guard last week against the St. Louis Rams.

Andre Gurode

And while the Ravens were lucky to have brought him into Owings Mills, Gurode felt even more honored to have that respect thrown his way after his ugly divorce with Dallas after they cut him after nine seasons.

Gurode joined Luke Jones on “The Morning Reaction” Friday and said that he’s here to prove the Cowboys made the wrong decision thinking he was slow, overweight, and on the decline.

“My ending in Dallas…I didn’t know too much about it,” Gurode told Jones. “It was a situation where it was a contract issue, and they told me my services weren’t needed and I had to look elsewhere.”

That elsewhere was Baltimore. He also had interest from the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions according to reports.

“I got the chance to play with a great organization in the Baltimore Ravens,” Gurode said. “Everything has been absolutely beautiful here. I love the organization, love how everything is being run, and it’s just a great place to play.”

However, he had to make some sacrifices on his part in taking a backup role on the Ravens offensive line. He also had to show that he could still be versatile to Andy Moeller and John Harbaugh that they could trust him at another position other than center-just as he did filling in for Grubbs at LG last week against St. Louis.

Gurode-a six-time Pro-Bowler at center and two-time All-Pro-had not played guard since  2004. He admitted that it took getting adjusted to working with someone else snapping the ball next to him as opposed to him doing it himself.

“It has been difficult, but at the same time you need to do your best,” Gurode said. “Going from center to guard, you know you’re used to making calls, snapping the ball with your right hand, and then you find yourself getting comfortable..at the start of the play.”

To most, it would have been a struggle. But Gurode said his teammates and coaches made the switch one of the easiest adjustments he’s ever made.

“I have some great teammates,” said Gurode. “I have some great coaches. They helped me work through it, and each day-each week-I’ll keep getting better, and learn the offense a little better.”

Two Ravens he has really enjoyed working with are his fellow offensive lineman in Bryant McKinnie-who also joined the Ravens late in training camp-and a guy usually lining up across from Gurode in Cory Redding.

“It’s been real interesting because I’ve know Bryant for a little while too,” Gurode said of McKinnie-who also was selected in the 2002 NFL Draft. “There are times when I may not say the correct call or I may not know what’s going on.”

“So I’ll ask him what’s happening…I’m never prideful to ask for help.”

And if you think McKinnie and Gurode are tied, Redding and Gurode go back way farther.

The two were prep teammates at North Shore High School in Houston Texas, and despite Gurode making his way to Colorado for college and Redding becoming a Longhorn, the two re-united in the Ravens locker room almost by accident.

“When I walked into the locker room, I just wound up putting my bags next to a boarded-up locker really not paying attention to whose locker it was,” Gurode laughed. “No one else in the organization knew that Cory and I were teammates. It was very much a surprise to come back, and find my locker set up right next to his.”

He feels blessed to be re-united with a close friend of his in Redding, and considers it quite the honor going up against him in practice every day.

“We’ve been playing together for a very, very long time. It was really special to finally be on the same team…and playing for the same organization, so it was very much a special treat.”

And after Cory, Bryant, Ozzie Newsome, and John Harbaugh welcomed him in, the landslide continued.

He really feels like a Raven now and a member of a family more than ever.

“It was just a whole group effort on the team…just getting here, fitting in, and them accepting me. The rest has been playing out like it’s supposed to.”

WNST thanks Andre Gurode and hopes to continue seeing him making contributions on the field! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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MSB Monday Market Watch

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MSB Monday Market Watch

Posted on 19 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

5 On The Rise

#1 – Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox this weekend to close the gap in the AL Wild Card to 2 games with 10 games to go for each side. Whether the Sox can manage to hold off the Rays or not, they’re in trouble as injuries have taken another mighty toll on Boston this season. Still, after leading Tampa by 9 games as late as September 3rd, there will be no legitimate excuses for the Sox if they should somehow complete one of the worst late season collapses in modern baseball history.

 

If the Rays somehow find their way in, it’ll be to the chagrin of not just the Sox but of all of the AL teams who do make the playoffs too as the Rays formidable starting pitching has managed to keep them afloat as the bullpen and lineup have spent most of the year learning on the fly. Although it’s a small sample size, the Rays 11-4 record in their last 15 games suggests that they’re peaking at the right time.

 

Forecast: The schedule suggests that Boston is still in a pretty good place. Six of their 10 remaining games are on the road, but 3 of those and 7 overall of the last 10 are against Baltimore, against whom the Sox are 8-3 on the year. Their other 4 games are against the Yankees, who the Sox have owned to the tune of 11-4 so far this season. Tampa on the other hand has 6 of 10 games remaining at home and 7 of their remaining 10 against the Yankees, against whom they’re 5-6 on the season. Their other 3 games are against the Blue Jays, against whom they’re 10-5 so far.

 

With a magic number of 7 and 10 of their remaining 11 games against the Rays and Red Sox, the Yankees aren’t yet out of the woods either, igniting essentially 2 pennant races in the AL East when Yanks and Sox both appeared to be foregone conclusions just a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

#2 – The Atlantic Coast Conference – ACC fans have been waiting anxiously in the dark as the most recent round of Super-Conference manifest destinies began taking shape again. As all of the moves have seemingly been football driven, fans of the basketball first ACC sat hopefully expecting the conference to do it’s best to keep their 12-member alliance intact and maintain the status quo. Now it seems that the ACC may be on the fast track to becoming the nation’s first super conference as over the weekend news of the intents of both Syracuse and Pitt to join the ACC ranks began to spread.

 

At the very least, the 2 new members provide the conference with an insurance policy should the SEC come calling officially for Clemson and Florida State, but with UConn already rumored to be poised to follow, it seems but a mere formality that the ACC will add one more player to the mix and become an official Super-Conference with a giant TV network to follow. West Virginia, or on an outside shot South Carolina might be the best bets at #16.

 

Lost in the euphoria, but no less important this weekend, Miami upset #17 Ohio State, Clemson upset #21 Auburn and Maryland showed well (in the box score at least) against #18 West Virginia.

 

Forecast: So far so good it seems. Again, at the very least the ACC will be able to maintain 12 members should a couple succumb to the temptations of the SEC or some other budding Super-Conference and will be able to continue staging their own conference title games in football. At best, the ACC could win the race to 16 and become the first of likely many Super-Conferences. Keep in mind though that the most recent versions of ACC expansion didn’t exactly bring about the anticipated results or football credibility that seemed all but foregone at the time.

 

 

#3 – Cam Newton – The controversial Heisman trophy / National Championship winning quarterback turned controversial first round (first overall) draft pick of the Panthers unleashed his second straight 400+ yard passing performance en route to his second straight loss to begin his NFL career. Clearly he’d rather be winning and shining, but for now, he’s shining enough to have us all impressed, shocked and mesmerized. Shredding the suspect Cardinals defense in week 1 was impressive enough, that he was able to do it to the defending World Champs while keeping them against the ropes for most of the game after they had spent a week dissecting his tape is flat out amazing. If the youngster keeps playing like that, the wins will surely follow…as will more accolades.

 

Forecast: He’ll get a chance at the Jags next week and might be able to muster that elusive first win. After that, the schedule gets kind of hairy for a while. He’ll continue to sling it you can bet, and will learn some tough lessons along the way. The funniest thing may be that sooner or later teams will have to adjust to his ability to sling it all over the field, and when they do, Cam will get his chance to showcase the wheels that gained him so much notoriety last season at Auburn. It’s an unbelievable start to an NFL career, begging the simple question what will the kid do next?

 

 

#4 – Detroit Lions – The Lions picked up their second straight win to begin the season on Sunday and in so doing justified the faith of tons of pre-season prognosticators who thought the Lions to be on the rise. The interesting part of the Lions ascendance however is that so far it least it hasn’t been based on the brick wall that will be Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh when the rookie Fairley eventually gets onto the field; instead the Lions have been getting it done on offense with Matthew Stafford playing the part of polished veteran and Jahvid Best rebounding nicely from an injury plagued 2010.

 

Forecast: The Lions will have their work cut out for them in a contentious NFC North, and health has to be their biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball. When exactly the Lions official window might open is debatable, but for now they’re at least knocking on the door.

 

 

#5 – Robert Griffin III – He entered the season as a lightly regarded Heisman candidate from a lightly regarded Baylor program flying largely under the radar. He emerged from a week 1 shootout with TCU (on the back of 359 yards passing and 5 TD) as RG3 and at the forefront of the Heisman conversation. After a 15-day hiatus Griffin and the Bears returned to action on Sunday and RG3 backed up his performance with a 20 for 22 night for a modest 265 yards and 3 TD, while adding 78 yards on the ground for good measure.

 

Forecast: The Bears will be looking at the Big-12 portion of their schedule soon enough affording Griffin plenty of chances in the national spotlight. And while the Bears may not be able to hold their own against top notch foes (TCU would beg to differ) Griffin might, and the need to keep his foot on the gas could lead to some seriously gaudy numbers along the way.

 

 

5 On The Slide

 

#1 – Professional Boxing – The fact that Floyd “Money” Mayweather was fighting “Vicious” Victor Ortiz on Saturday night (for an outrageous pay-per-view price tag of $69.99) should be in and of itself another proverbial “black eye” for boxing. This is after all the 147 pound division, touted by most as boxing’s best, yet the best match-up they could muster on that night for the best boxer of his generation was a hard punching young southpaw just 2 years removed from quitting in the ring against a middling Marcos Maidana. That Floyd Mayweather has not yet fought Manny Pacquiao is an embarrassment to the sport of boxing and to the otherwise cleaned out by Mayweather 147-pound division. The action that took place in the ring…well that was kind of embarrassing too.

 

History will remember Floyd winning by a cheap shot, but that’s more likely as a result of our feelings about Floyd as a despicable human being than as a result of what actually happened in the ring on Saturday night. For 2 of the 3 full rounds Floyd landed easily and won decisively. In the middle round, Ortiz showed enough heart and offense to compel some to see it his way, but 2 of the 3 judges at ringside scored that one for Mayweather too. In the 4th Ortiz got aggressive, bullied Mayweather into a corner and then inexplicably charged him like a crazed bull with the crown of his head landing square in Mayweather’s face. That would be the fight’s only illegal shot, but not it’s last controversial one.

 

Immediately after butting Mayweather, as referee Joe Cortez attempted to step in and separate the fighters, Ortiz began apologizing to Mayweather. Ortiz hugged Mayweather and even kissed him on the cheek before being led to the center of the ring by Cortez to make the point deduction official. When the fighters got back together Ortiz again hugged Mayweather. Mayweather didn’t appear to reciprocate the hug and stood there arms out waiting to resume the action, which he did as soon as Ortiz backed away, landing a quick left followed by a crushing right that left Ortiz on the ground and unable to beat the count.

 

We’ll remember Mayweather’s cheap shot although his was legal, and forget too that he was dominating Ortiz in a way that suggested he’d end it sooner rather than later and that Mayweather may have been rightly enraged at Ortiz’ illegal and intentional head butt. What we won’t remember is a great fight or one that was worth the buy as neither was the case on Saturday.

 

Forecast: Mayweather will spend another year or so flaunting and burning (literally) the $25 million plus he made from this farce while we all wait anxiously for him to step in front of Pacquiao and into the beating that so many have been waiting to see him get. Mayweather will get paid again, likely beat Pacquiao too and continue to be a general A-hole. And we’ll keep giving him money.

 

 

#2 – Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens backed up their impressive week one domination over the Pittsburgh Steelers by being beaten in all three phases of the game by the Tennessee Titans and are now left to reevaluate their estimations of their own greatness.

 

Throughout the Harbaugh era these Ravens have been far too professional to overlook opponents, even when those opponents don’t seem to have much of a realistic chance at winning against them. Or maybe, as we look back at games like Carolina and Buffalo in 2010, perhaps Sunday was the first time that the Ravens paid the price for taking a second division caliber team lightly. Regardless, on Sunday the Ravens had their proverbial lunches eaten by the Titans and then were charged with cleaning up the scraps when their bully nemeses were through.

 

The Ravens will surely have to pick up those scraps quickly and put them to use against St. Louis as for now at least, the loss served to bring the Steelers back into a tie for the division lead (albeit only week 2). There are plenty of wins to be had on the Ravens schedule; the question may simply be whether the team is professional enough to go about collecting them.

 

Forecast: This should serve as the wake up call that a team as professional as these Ravens have been shouldn’t have needed in the first place. They’ll get St. Louis coming off of a short week before returning home for a slugfest with the Jets. The Steelers meanwhile get the Manning-less Colts next week.

 

 

#3 – Arian Foster – Last year’s improbable rushing champ started this season without the fullback who had cleared holes for him to run through last season and with company in the backfield in Ben Tate who the Texans envisioned as the starter before losing him to injury last year. He continued his trek by injuring his hamstring, calling fantasy owners concerned about his health for their own reasons sick, tweeted images of his MRI and proclaimed himself ready for week 1. He wasn’t.

 

Ben Tate though was, possibly compelling Foster to rush back to action this week against the Dolphins, where he rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries before re-aggravating the hamstring and coming out of the game for good. Ben Tate in the meantime has gone over the century mark on the ground in each of the Texans first 2 games and will likely remain a big part of the mix with or without Foster.

 

Forecast: The smart thing would seem to be to rest Foster until his hamstring issues are clearly behind him. More likely though, Foster, gamer that he is, will continue trying to rush himself back and struggle with the injury all season. Either way, Ben Tate seems to be a viable part of the running game for the foreseeable future and for now a better option than Foster.

 

 

#4 – Chiefs, Seahawks and Colts – The Manning-less Colts looked terrible again, this time at home against the Cleveland Browns. The already injury riddled Chiefs suffered another embarrassing defeat and in the process may have been hit with their worst injury so far, apparently losing Jamaal Charles for the season with an ACL injury. And the Seahawks although mostly healthy look like they may be the worst team in football without Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.

 

All three playoff teams from 2010 are off to 0-2 starts and looking like long shots to get back there.

 

Forecast: Count all three squarely in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.

 

 

#5 – The NBA Season – With each passing day, the likelihood of seeing an entire NBA season or any part of a season at all get bleaker and bleaker. The more concerning part, for the league and its fans, should probably be that no one really seems to care very much. Unlike the NFL lockout, which had us spinning and clamoring for updates daily, everyone seems resigned to the expectation that here simply won’t be an NBA this year. Folks were missing football despite the fact that we never actually missed any football at all. Judging by the attention or lack thereof to the NBA’s labor issues, basketball…we’ll see you when we see you.

 

Forecast: This isn’t getting better anytime soon. Check back in February.

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Ravens FB Vonta Leach on start to season: “It was good to go out there and get the jump on a divisional opponent”

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Ravens FB Vonta Leach on start to season: “It was good to go out there and get the jump on a divisional opponent”

Posted on 16 September 2011 by Ryan Chell

Vonta Leach

Vonta Leach has only been in a Ravens uniform for one time in a Baltimore-Pittsburgh grudge match, but his impact certainly showed in the Ravens’ 35-7 victory Sunday.

Leach was one of the integral pieces for running back Ray Rice rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown, and the Ravens rushing for a game-high 170 yards against Pittsburgh, and he joined Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” to talk about the win and his fellow backfield mate’s performance.

“You know Ray Rice obviously being a Pro-Bowl player even before I got here…he knows how the run the ball.”

While several of the Ravens this week are still reliving the win, Leach was all business and beating the Steelers seemed new to him with the lack of familiarity.

“It was good to go out there and get the jump on a divisional opponent,” Leach said. “You’re just glad to get the win on Sunday.”

But he feels like if he continues to have that familiarity with Rice and the rest of the offensive line, those wins are going to keep on coming.

“With McKinnie, Oher, Grubbs, Birk, Yanda, there are a lot of veterans up there,” Leach said. “Communication is key and we have a lot of stuff to communicate.”

“You always talk about plays in practice,” Leach continued. “Whether it’s on or off the practice field, we’re always talking.”

However, Leach had a little bit more to talk about the Ravens next opponent in the Tennessee Titans- a team he went up against twice a year when he was with the Houston Texans from 2006-2010. In a sense, he has been a good source for Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on how to best attack their defense.

“I’ve been telling the guys about some of the players they have on this team, and what they like to do,” Leach said. “I’m kind of familiar with them.”

He knows them-and their aggressive defensive line-all too well.

“They always have it coming with their front four,” Leach noted. “They like to get out there [and they] would blitz their safeties and stuff like that.  We just have to be ready still to protect Flacco and give him some time to get the ball off.”

The biggest concern on Leach’s part? Feeling too good about the Pittsbugh win and taking the Tennessee Titans for granted.

“From the best team to the worst team, every team has a lot of good players so week in and week out, it’s going to be a battle.”

WNST thanks Vonta Leach for joining us! Be sure to tune in to WNST Sunday for your Nasty Purple Pre & Post-Game Show two hours before and after Sunday vs. the Titans! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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