Tag Archive | "Pittsburgh"

Flacco: “Tomlin pulled my move!”

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Flacco: “Tomlin pulled my move!”

Posted on 29 November 2013 by WNSTV

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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 28 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The stakes are clear as the Ravens welcome the hated Pittsburgh Steelers to Baltimore for the 39th all-time meeting between the AFC North rivals.

A win puts John Harbaugh’s team in prime position to at least secure the No. 6 seed in the conference and advance to the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. However, a defeat all but ends Baltimore’s playoff hopes as it would give Pittsburgh a one-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker and force the Ravens to need to run the table over the final quarter of the season just to get to 9-7.

Of course, the Ravens will need to top quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who owns a 7-2 record against Baltimore in the Harbaugh era. The Ravens have never gotten the best of the veteran quarterback with the stakes at their highest late in the season.

Despite not activating tight end Dennis Pitta from injured reserve-designated to return, the Ravens find themselves in excellent shape physically as only reserve rookie safety Brynden Trawick (ankle) is inactive due to an injury. As expected, defensive end Chris Canty is active and will start after he was listed as probable with a shoulder injury.

Veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley is also active for the second straight week while second-year wideout Deonte Thompson will be inactive once again.

Meanwhile, the Steelers will be without two defensive starters as nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) are inactive. For Woodley, it’s his third straight missed game, but the Steelers have received strong play from outside linebacker Jason Worilds over the last few weeks.

Al Woods will start in place of McLendon at nose tackle while rookie Jarvis Jones will start for Woodley.

The Steelers lead the all-time regular-season series with a 20-15 advantage along with a 3-0 edge in postseason play. The Ravens are 8-9 in Baltimore against Pittsburgh and are trying to avoid a season sweep to their AFC North adversary, which would be the first since the 2008 season.

In the 13 meetings between these teams since 2008, 10 have been decided by four or fewer points and the last four games have each been decided by three in what’s been regarded by many as the best rivalry in the NFL.

Unlike the last three games in which the Ravens have played, Thursday’s game will not be complicated by high winds as the forecast for kickoff calls for temperatures in the mid-30s and winds only reaching three miles per hour.

Thursday night’s referee will be Clete Blakeman.

The Ravens will be wearing black jerseys and black pants while Pittsburgh dons its white tops with gold pants.

Here are Thursday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
S Brynden Trawick
S Omar Brown
RB Bernard Scott
OL Ryan Jensen
WR Deonte Thompson
LB John Simon
DT Brandon Williams

PITTSBURGH
OLB LaMarr Woodley
QB Landry Jones
WR Derek Moye
CB DeMarcus Van Dyke
TE Richard Gordon
ILB Stevenson Sylvester
NT Steve McLendon

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the afternoon for updates and analysis as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium throughout the night.

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Ravens don’t activate Pitta to play against Steelers

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Ravens don’t activate Pitta to play against Steelers

Posted on 28 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Ravens continue to take it slow with tight end Dennis Pitta after electing not to activate him by Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving night.

Pitta began practicing on Nov. 20 and was never considered a realistic possibility to play last Sunday against the New York Jets, but the organization had hoped in the weeks leading to the tight end’s return to the practice field that he’d be available to play against the AFC North rival Steelers. However, Pitta and coach John Harbaugh both expressed the need to take their time in evaluating how well the 2010 fourth-round pick’s hip holds up to the rigors of football-related activity and contact.

Harbaugh revealed little about Pitta’s status when he met with the media following Wednesday’s practice in Owings Mills and was asked whether he was nearing a return to game action..

“He’s closer — yes, he is,” Harbaugh said. “Dennis Pitta is closer.”

After Thursday’s game against the Steelers, the Ravens will not play again until Dec. 8 when they welcome the Minnesota Vikings to M&T Bank Stadium. Given the timing of Pitta’s return to practice, that Week 14 contest would seem like the logical date that he’ll play in a game barring any setbacks.

Pitta suffered a dislocated and fractured hip on July 27 but was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return in early September after the injury revealed no ligament or cartilage damage in the surrounding hip area.

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 28 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Though each team carries an underwhelming 5-6 record, playoff ramifications are high on Thanksgiving as the Ravens and Steelers meet for the 36th time in the regular season but the first time ever on a Thursday night.

A win pushes the Ravens closer toward the No. 6 spot in the AFC while a loss all but ends their season as they would likely need to win their remaining four games to have any chance of advancing to the postseason for the sixth straight time under head coach John Harbaugh.

The Ravens are healthier than they’ve been at any point this season as defensive end Chris Canty was the only starter on the injury report — listed as probable — while the Steelers will be without starting nose tackle Steve McLendon and are unlikely to have outside linebacker and sack leader LaMarr Woodley, who is doubtful with a calf injury. However, it appears Baltimore will likely need to wait at least one more week for the return of tight end Dennis Pitta.

It’s time to go on the record as the Steelers look for their first season sweep over Baltimore since the 2008 season and hold the 20-15 edge all-time in the regular season while also owning a 3-0 advantage in the postseason. The Ravens are 8-9 against Pittsburgh in Baltimore and have lost two of the last three played at M&T Bank Stadium. The last four meetings and nine of the last 11 regular-season contests between the Ravens and Steelers have each been decided by just three points.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens look to move to the .500 mark for the first time since mid-October …

1. Tyrod Taylor will see a few offensive snaps but will not line up under center as the wildcat discussion will calm considerably. Should the Ravens continue using the gimmick offense after Joe Flacco said Tuesday that he didn’t expect to see it much moving forward, the doubts of whether the quarterback and the coaching staff are on the same page will only get stronger. The truth is the wildcat attack isn’t going to be the difference-maker the Ravens need as opponents see it more and more, but there’s no reason Taylor can’t be used lining up as a wide receiver or even at running back on occasion. If the Steelers were forced to even spend as much as 20 or 30 minutes in a short week preparing for the possibility of the Ravens using the novelty offense, I suppose that’s an advantage for Baltimore, but it won’t dramatically alter the outcome of the game.

2. Neither team will run for more than 80 yards as Le’Veon Bell won’t duplicate his strong Week 7 performance. Pittsburgh used its own version of the wildcat in the first meeting of the season, which led to a season-high 141 yards on the ground for the league’s 30th-ranked running game. Meanwhile, the Ravens haven’t run effectively against anyone except Miami in Week 5 and the Bears two weeks ago, so it’s difficult to expect them to do much against even the Steelers’ 23rd-ranked run defense. After years of these rivals thriving on dominating defense and the running game, it’s clear that the 2013 versions of the Ravens and Steelers simply do not fit that profile. You’re much more likely to see 300-yard performances from either of the starting quarterbacks than to see a 100-yard day from either Bell or Ray Rice as the defenses will control the line of scrimmage.

3. Justin Tucker will miss his first field goal since Week 2. Anyone recall when the second-year kicker missed two tries in the home opener against Cleveland and was outperformed by former Raven Billy Cundiff? So much for any concerns of a sophomore slump as Tucker hasn’t missed a kick since, earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November and also the weekly honor after booting four field goals in last Sunday’s win over the Jets. Tucker’s streak of 22 consecutive field goals is tied for the second-longest streak in franchise history — Matt Stover’s 36 straight is the record mark — and he has been the Ravens’ most reliable player this season. Now, after heaping all that praise on the unflappable 24-year-old, Thursday seems like the time when he’ll finally miss a kick while booting two others successfully.

4. Flacco will throw for 230 yards and a touchdown, but the Ravens’ red-zone struggles will carry over from last week. What was lost through all the comments Flacco made about the wildcat and his disdain for lining up at the wide receiver position was the fact that the sixth-year quarterback played his best game since before the bye week this past Sunday. The Ravens will have a tougher time against Pittsburgh’s 10th-ranked pass defense than they did against the Jets’ vulnerable secondary, but the most encouraging development from their Week 12 win was the vertical connections to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Flacco will need to make big plays with his arm to best Ben Roethlisberger, and he will have a strong performance as he typically does in big games. However, the Ravens’ lack of consistent weapons will once again hurt in the red zone despite a touchdown to Smith.

5. The same movie will play out once again as the Ravens come up short in a big game against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in a 17-13 final. Baltimore has the advantage at home playing on a short week, but the Ravens have always failed against Pittsburgh when the stakes are high, and Thursday certainly qualifies in that regard. The Ravens are arguably playing their best football of the year after winning two of their last three games, but Pittsburgh has been even better in winning five of seven and Roethlisberger has outplayed Flacco over the last six weeks of the season. The Ravens hold the edge defensively over Pittsburgh’s aging defense, but the Steelers offense is markedly better than Baltimore’s, which will be the difference in this one. It will be a close game as it typically is between these AFC North rivals, but a late drive culminating with a Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Antonio Brown will be the difference as the Ravens’ playoff hopes are dealt a fatal blow.

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“The Reality Check” Week 13 NFL Power Rankings

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“The Reality Check” Week 13 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 28 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Houston Texans (Last Week 31)

Sumlin/Manziel 2014?

31. Atlanta Falcons (30)

Jadaveon Clowney would be a nice addition.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (32)

I really want to move them ahead of the Redskins but I’m not quite ready to do that.

29. Washington Redskins (28)

Absolutely pathetic.

28. Minnesota Vikings (27)

A tie is like kissing your sister and then remembering you’re still the Vikings.

27. Oakland Raiders (26)

But yet not far from the playoff race.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29)

Mike Glennon HAS to be your quarterback? Maybe?

25. Cleveland Browns (19)

They duped me. My apologies.

24. New York Giants (17)

There’s always next year.

23. Buffalo Bills (23)

Don’t drop because they were on a bye. Not because they’re good.

22. New York Jets (15)

I don’t care that they’re 5-6. They’re garbage. Absolute garbage.

21. Green Bay Packers (21)

The needed time to figure out even Matt Flynn is better than Steve Tolzien?

20. St. Louis Rams (24)

If they were in the AFC they’d run away with the 6th playoff spot.

19. Miami Dolphins (18)

At least they were competitive?

18. Tennessee Titans (25)

You struggle to believe it, but.

17. Baltimore Ravens (20)

One more win changes everything.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Roethlisberger standing in Ravens’ way once again

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Roethlisberger standing in Ravens’ way once again

Posted on 27 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — What needs to be said that hasn’t already been uttered to describe one of the NFL’s best rivalries of the last 15 years?

When the Ravens meet the Steelers at least twice per season, we use terms such as old school, throwback, and bloodbath to describe a series in which 11 of the 13 meetings between these AFC North teams in the John Harbaugh have been decided by one score or less, with points often at a premium in low-scoring defensive struggles.

Thursday’s meeting is the first since 1999 in which both the Ravens and Steelers sport losing records, but the stakes are much higher than respective 5-6 records normally indicate as the two are tied with four other teams for the sixth-best record in the AFC. The winner of Thursday’s game will be in prime position to grab the final wild-card spot in the conference while the loser will face the prospects of needing to run the table over the final quarter of the season for any hope of playing in January.

“If you aren’t ready for this game, then you have no business on either one of the two teams,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “I have a feeling both teams are preparing. We’re both getting ready, and we’ll you see you guys out there Thursday night.”

After winning their second Super Bowl title in the last 13 seasons and the first of the Harbaugh era last February, the Ravens hardly need validation for what they’ve accomplished — particularly since the start of the 2008 season — but they’ll also stare across the line of scrimmage at their toughest adversary as a red-hot Ben Roethlisberger once again stands in the way of their potential postseason path. Named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November, the 10th-year quarterback has dug Pittsburgh out of an 0-4 hole and has put them right back in the playoff picture.

The Ravens do appear to have the upper hand in hosting the Thanksgiving night game while the Steelers are playing their second road game in a five-day span, but the home team faces the harsh reality of knowing it’s never beaten Roethlisberger in a game when the stakes are at their highest.

Of course, Pittsburgh knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs in the 2008 and 2010 seasons. An early-December home loss to the Steelers in 2010 crushed the Ravens’ hopes of a division title and first-round bye and ultimately led to them playing at Heinz Field instead of M&T Bank Stadium a month later in the divisional round. December losses to the Steelers in 2008 and 2009 temporarily compromised the Ravens’ playoff standing before they recovered to earn a wild-card spot each time.

And while quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens exorcised some demons with a last-second comeback win at Heinz Field in 2011 to complete a season sweep, that early-November tilt didn’t exactly carry the weight of knowing their season was essentially over if they didn’t win like Thursday night’s game does.

History isn’t on the Ravens’ side when facing Roethlisberger in a big game, and the 31-year-old quarterback has thrown 14 touchdowns and five interceptions over the last seven games to lead the Steelers to five wins, leading many to believe Pittsburgh is the favorite among the six 5-6 teams to grab the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

“You can sing Ben’s praises,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve seen it firsthand. Any Baltimore fan understands what he can do. He can throw on time, he can get out of the pocket and run, he can get out of the pocket and extend plays downfield, and they build their offense around his skills. He’s been a great quarterback for many years.”

Roethlisberger’s relationship with Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has been strained as there were even rumors earlier this month about the quarterback potentially parting ways with the organization, but a three-game winning streak has calmed that discussion. Of course, an improved effort from Pittsburgh’s offensive line has helped as Roethlisberger has been sacked only once in his last two games.

That coupled with the Steelers successfully running a no-huddle offense will pose a challenge to the Ravens’ pass rush that is tied for the NFL lead with 37 sacks in 11 games. It’s one thing to put heat on the 241-pound quarterback in the pocket, but allowing him to escape pressure often leads to problems downfield as wide receivers such as Antonio Brown — who leads the NFL with 80 catches and the conference with 1,044 receiving yards — are trained to break off routes to take advantage of the veteran’s ability to improvise.

Roethlisberger’s ability to extend plays has frustrated the Ravens time after time in the past, including earlier this season when he directed a last-minute drive for a field goal in a 19-16 win at Heinz Field. In all, the Ravens are 5-8 against Pittsburgh in the Harbaugh-Flacco era, but that record falls to just 2-7 when Roethlisberger has started.

“He’s just great at loose plays, really,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “I think you guys see it all the time when he plays. He’s just hard to tackle, and then he’s just able to find some receivers and throw the ball. He’s just a great quarterback that way. We’ve just got to do a great job at trying to plaster those guys that are leaking out and get him down when we have the chance.”

It’s easier said than done as the Ravens will try to avoid the same movie playing once again as they hope to keep their playoff hopes alive. A loss to the Steelers would not only drop Baltimore a game behind in the quest for the No. 6 seed but would give Pittsburgh a tiebreaker advantage by way of a season sweep.

The great equalizer to Roethlisberger could be Suggs, who has gone three straight games without a sack after collecting at least one in seven of his first eight games this season. The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year has sacked the Steelers signal-caller a staggering 16 1/2 times in the regular season and playoffs combined, and the Ravens will undoubtedly be looking at him and fellow edge rusher Elvis Dumervil to put more heat on Roethlisberger than they did last month when they combined for only 1 1/2 sacks and two quarterback hits in the narrow defeat.

With the pass-rushing duo and the homefield advantage, the Ravens will try to do what they’ve never been able to do before — get the best of Roethlisberger when the chips are down late in the season.

Harbaugh and Flacco haven’t been able to do it.

Suggs and Ngata have come up empty every time as well.

Even future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed could never top the Steelers quarterback when they really needed to.

And the Steelers quarterback is in the midst of a hot streak with something to play for, making him even more dangerous than he was when the Ravens saw him six weeks ago.

“He has looked like he is getting back to being Ben,” Suggs said, “shaking guys off and making plays just when you think the play has broken down. I think that’s when he’s at his best — when he’s most comfortable.”

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Pitta “closer” to returning to action, Canty probable for Steelers game

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Pitta “closer” to returning to action, Canty probable for Steelers game

Posted on 27 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite facing the challenges of preparing for a short week, the Ravens couldn’t ask for a much better bill of health for their Thanksgiving night meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Defensive end Chris Canty (shoulder) was listed as probable after practicing on a limited basis all week and is the only Baltimore starter even listed on the injury report. Rookie safety Brynden Trawick was ruled out for Thursday’s game after suffering an ankle injury in the Week 12 win over the New York Jets last weekend and missing all three practices this week.

The only drama regarding the Ravens’ health picture is the status of tight end Dennis Pitta, who has now been practicing for a week in his return from a dislocated and fractured hip suffered on July 27. The Ravens must activate Pitta by 4 p.m. Thursday in order for him to play against the Steelers, but head coach John Harbaugh was tight-lipped regarding the fourth-year tight end’s status for Thursday night.

“He’s closer. Yes, he is,” Harbaugh said. “Dennis Pitta is closer [to returning].”

Pitta’s chances of returning for last Sunday’s game against the Jets were always considered extremely remote, but it remains to be seen whether the Ravens will activate him against their AFC North rival. Baltimore has wanted to see Pitta practice enough to not only get back into football shape but determine how strong his hip is in responding to the rigors of contact and being back on the field.

With the Ravens having a 10-day gap between the Steelers game and their next contest against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 8, Week 14 could be a more realistic target date for his return.

Meanwhile, the Steelers are unlikely to have outside linebacker Lamarr Woodley after he was listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game. He has missed Pittsburgh’s last two games with a calf injury and sat out Wednesday’s practice after working on a limited basis a day earlier.

The Steelers also ruled out starting nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) earlier in the week, but defensive end Brett Keisel is probable after missing the last two games with a foot injury.

Baltimore announced Wednesday that rookie defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore will not be activated from the non-football injury list after his three-week practice window expired. This ends the Notre Dame product’s season after he was drafted in the sixth round of April’s draft.

Lewis-Moore tore his ACL in the BCS national championship game against the University of Alabama last January.

The referee for Thursday’s game will be Clete Blakeman.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 30s with much calmer winds than the Ravens have dealt with in their previous three games.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: S Brynden Trawick (ankle)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (shoulder)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: DT Steve McLendon (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB LaMarr Woodley (calf)
PROBABLE: T Marcus Gilbert (ankle), DE Brett Keisel (foot), TE Heath Miller (NIR), S Troy Polamalu (NIR), LB Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring), S Shamarko Thomas (ankle)

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Picks and Comment – Week 13

Posted on 27 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Here are this weekend’s picks as The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will pick every NFL game and local college games this season.

Luke Jones finished Week 12 with a 5-8 record while Drew Forrester was 8-5 on his picks. Entering Week 13, Jones is 103-72 on the season while Forrester is 104-71. Official standings are based only on the NFL picks.

You can listen to Wednesday’s “Picks and Comment” segment HERE.

Steelers at Ravens: Baltimore 26-20 (Drew), Pittsburgh 17-13 (Luke)
Packers at Lions: Detroit 27-20 (Drew), Detroit 27-17 (Luke)
Raiders at Cowboys: Dallas 31-14 (Drew), Dallas 34-21 (Luke)
Titans at Colts: Tennessee 23-21 (Drew), Indianapolis 27-20 (Luke)
Jaguars at Browns: Cleveland 13-9 (Drew), Cleveland 17-10 (Luke)
Buccaneers at Panthers: Carolina 24-16 (Drew), Carolina 23-10 (Luke)
Bears at Vikings: Minnesota 33-16 (Drew), Minnesota 26-17 (Luke)
Patriots at Texans: New England 38-13 (Drew), New England 31-15 (Luke)
Cardinals at Eagles: Arizona 21-20 (Drew), Arizona 24-23 (Luke)
Dolphins at Jets: New York 24-17 (Drew), Miami 20-16 (Luke)
Broncos at Chiefs: Denver 34-20 (Drew), Denver 28-17 (Luke)
Falcons at Bills: Buffalo 20-13 (Drew), Atlanta 21-20 (Luke)
Rams at 49ers: San Francisco 27-12 (Drew), San Francisco 24-14 (Luke)
Bengals at Chargers: Cincinnati 30-27 (Drew), San Diego 31-24 (Luke)
Redskins at Giants: Washington 24-17 (Drew), New York 24-17 (Luke)
Saints at Seahawks: New Orleans 21-17 (Drew), Seattle 24-23 (Luke)
Maryland at NC State: Wolfpack 17-16 (Drew), Wolfpack 24-16 (Luke)

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Ravens light on injuries in short week to prepare for Steelers

Posted on 26 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite working on a short week in preparation for a Thanksgiving meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens appear to be as healthy as they’ve been all season with only two players on the injury report for a second straight day.

Defensive end Chris Canty (shoulder) was a limited participant for a second straight day after briefly leaving Sunday’s win over the New York Jets while rookie reserve safety Brynden Trawick continues to be sidelined by an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter of the Week 12 win.

The good news for the Ravens is the improving health of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who is no longer appearing on the injury report after dealing with a left knee injury for the better part of two weeks. The eighth-year defensive lineman made it through the Jets contest without any issues after being a game-time decision.

“It actually stayed loose throughout the game and it loosened up more, so it felt good,” Ngata said. “It was great to get back on the field, and our schedule is great this week for this game Thursday [with] a lot of mental [preparation] and just trying to get ready for the Pittsburgh game.”

Meanwhile, the Steelers are dealing with nagging injuries on the defensive side of the ball as nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) has already been ruled out and linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) was limited during Tuesday’s practice.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Brynden Trawick (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (shoulder)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: DT Steve McLendon (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB LaMarr Woodley (calf), T Marcus Gilbert (ankle), TE Heath Miller (non-injury related), S Troy Polamalu (non-injury related)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Brett Keisel (foot), S Shamarko Thomas (ankle), LB Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring)

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Flacco puts target on back by bashing wildcat offense

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Flacco puts target on back by bashing wildcat offense

Posted on 26 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — What began as a brief statement open for interpretation after Sunday’s win over the New York Jets transformed into a loud declaration from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco two days later.

He’s no supporter of the wildcat offense. In fact, the sixth-year quarterback and Super Bowl XLVII went as far as saying the gadget offense that includes backup Tyrod Taylor under center and Flacco lined up as a wide receiver makes the Ravens look like amateurs.

“I would say it’s probably not taking too much out of context,” said Flacco when asked to clarify his post-game comments from Sunday. “It is what it is. I don’t like that stuff. I think it makes you look like a high school offense. That’s just my opinion.”

Whether you agree with his outspokenness or not, Flacco firmly placed a target on his back Tuesday similar to the manner in which he proclaimed himself to be the best quarterback in the NFL in the spring of 2012. And it sent a clear message that he wants the Ravens’ fate to be on his shoulders as they approach Thursday’s meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers and beyond.

Entering Week 13 with a career-low 76.8 passer rating and a career-high 14 interceptions, Flacco hasn’t been at his best this year while dealing with the losses of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, inconsistent pass protection, and an abysmal running game. In fact, the decision to use Taylor for 12 offensive snaps — five at quarterback and seven at wide receiver — was a bigger indictment of the Ravens’ rushing attack and its expected difficulties against New York’s top-ranked run defense than anything directly related to Flacco.

But the quarterback believes novelties and gimmicks aren’t going to help the Ravens improve enough down the stretch to advance to the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. Of course, a 4-6 record entering last Sunday’s game made a fair argument for a need to try something different.

The pressure is now on Flacco to put his money where his mouth is in a way not dissimilar from his historic playoff performance last season that not only brought the Ravens their second NFL championship but earned him a lucrative payday.

“I don’t look at it as a slap in the face to me. It is what it is,” Flacco said. “I want as many chances as I can get behind [center]. I just don’t like that stuff in general. Me and Tyrod talk about it. It’s just interesting to me.

“I’m all for us doing things to get better, but we’re not going to be good if we just can’t get good at the basics of what we do 90 percent of the time. We’ve got to get good at those things or we’re not going to be good, no matter what. And I just want to make sure we’re focusing on getting good at those things.”

Flacco’s points are fair as there is plenty of evidence to support the Wildcat attack not being successful beyond a play here or there as Taylor’s 17-yard run provided a brief spark before the backup quarterback ultimately finished with seven yards on four carries. The dozen plays in which Taylor was involved didn’t appear to loosen up the Jets defense very much as the Ravens finished the day averaging 2.2 yards per carry on 31 rushes.

If the Ravens are impressed with Taylor’s speed and athleticism and want to see him involved with the offense, there are other ways to use him at wide receiver and even running back without moving the $120 million quarterback to the wide receiver position where offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is either risking injury or essentially playing with a man disadvantage before the ball is even snapped.

Whether Flacco’s comments come across as selfish or not are up to the individual, but the Ravens aren’t going to the playoffs by running gadget plays week in and week out. With their many deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball, they will sink or swim on Flacco’s arm.

And his comments Tuesday served as an indirect reminder of that.

“It’s definitely understandable, because Joe’s a great quarterback,” tight end Ed Dickson said. “It might take a little bit away from what he does well. Everybody’s not going to like it, but I can see both sides. I’m going to block if Joe’s out there and I’m going to block if Tyrod’s out there. I’m ready for both of them.”

It remains to be seen how much we’ll see Taylor involved in the offense moving forward as Flacco made it clear that he’s shared his thoughts with the coaching staff and said he doesn’t think we’ll see much of that approach in the future.

If it truly was a one-time shot against a tough run defense, the controversy will be forgotten as early as Thursday night, but a continued use of the gimmick offense could signal a bigger problem of Flacco and the coaching staff not being on the same page as the Ravens approach the final quarter of the season. Players in the locker room took the diplomatic approach when asked about Flacco’s defiant comments, taking what he said in stride.

“It’s not our everyday offense,” running back Ray Rice said. “It’s just something that gives teams a little bit something to prepare for and know that we have it in our arsenal. Look at what Pittsburgh did to us last game.”

Of course, it’s interesting to recall Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sharing his own thoughts about lining up at wide receiver for a handful of plays in the 19-16 win over the Ravens on Oct. 20, and he didn’t come across as a big fan of it.

Perhaps it’s a simple peek into the psyche of a franchise quarterback and a preference not to disrupt normal rhythm under center. Or, maybe established signal callers with Super Bowl rings are simply willing and able to voice their opinion when they feel something isn’t going to work.

“I’m not doing a single thing,” said Flacco when asked about his responsibilities when he lines up at wide receiver with Taylor at quarterback. “I’m not getting it. I’m not blocking. I’m not doing anything.”

Flacco drew a clear line in the sand on Tuesday by calling out the coaching staff and proclaiming he wasn’t OK with being anything but the man under center. His words were honest and bold, but they leave him wide open for criticism should he falter and the Ravens never find their stride in their quest to advance to the playoffs.

And while he has been far from the offense’s biggest problem during the 2013 season, the Ravens need to see more of what they got from Flacco on Sunday when he threw for 273 yards and turned in his best performance in several weeks.

“I’m the quarterback, I want to be behind the line of scrimmage, and I want to be taking the snaps,” Flacco said. “That’s really the only thing. And I don’t necessarily take it personally either in terms of our offense trying to get better. I just think it makes us look not like an NFL team.”

The Ravens need the 2012 playoff version of Flacco to emerge to avoid any urge to use such “high school” tactics in the offensive game plan and — more importantly — give them their best chance in their five remaining games.

And that assessment is as honest as Flacco was on Tuesday.

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