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Pees hoping two recovering stars give Ravens defense boost down final stretch

Posted on 20 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ranked 26th in yards allowed and ravaged by injuries, the Ravens defense is heading in the wrong direction after allowing 65 points over its last two games.

But could the late-season returns of linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis provide the emotional spark and improvement the defense needs to put the Ravens in better position for a postseason run? The pair could be on the field together for the first time all season against the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon, which would certainly provide a spiritual boost for a team in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

Of course, Suggs returned to action this past Sunday against Denver — two weeks removed from a torn right biceps — but it was difficult to recognize his presence aside from his familiar No. 55 jersey lining up at the rush linebacker spot. Clearly laboring as he employed a four-point stance to keep his body weight off his upper right arm, Suggs appeared tentative at several points and removed himself from the game on a few occasions while appearing to be in pain on the sideline.

He finished with only one tackle, and the performance has left more questions than answers about his impact for the rest of the season.

“He’s coming back. He’s not back full, but he’s back, and he’s playing hard,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think if you ask him, I don’t think he would tell you that he’s playing at 100 percent like he has, but he certainly is giving us a great effort and giving us what we need in there.”

Even before the biceps injury, Suggs wasn’t making his normal impact after a remarkable recovery from a partially-torn Achilles tendon in less than six months. In seven games this season, Suggs has 20 tackles and only two sacks.

Meanwhile, it was just a few weeks ago when many were wondering if Lewis truly deserved to be an every-down linebacker whenever he’d make his return from triceps surgery, but a season-ending injury to Jameel McClain and an ankle injury to Dannell Ellerbe has left the Ravens bare at the inside linebacker position as Josh Bynes, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Albert McClellan have manned the “Mike” and “Will” positions in the last two weeks.

The Ravens are not only hoping for the pick-me-up of Lewis’ impeccable on-field leadership, but they’re now desperate for him to bring an improved level of play to the middle of the field. With Baltimore electing to wait to place McClain on season-ending injured reserve, it’s apparent the organization is hoping to place Lewis on the 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Lewis is just nine weeks removed from surgery, an incredible fact considering the normal recovery time for such an injury is a minimum of four months.

“I’d love to have him. I think it would be a great emotional lift, but more than that, we could use some bodies in there at linebacker,” said Pees with a chuckle. “We’ll just have to wait and see whatever they say is a go. We’d love to have him back.”

The Ravens hope to get back Ellerbe and strong safety Bernard Pollard from injuries this week, but the latter’s status appears to be in doubt after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Pollard aggravated a rib injury in the Ravens’ Week 14 loss against Washington and hasn’t practiced ever since.

Only two defensive starters from Week 1 have played in every game this season — cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed.

“I think if anybody can be fully healthy throughout a season, it’s going to be a great team,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “And with us, we definitely had an injury bug this year, but we had guys step up and make some plays for us. And hopefully, we can get some guys back and see what we can do there.”

As is the case with Suggs, it remains to be seen how well Lewis can hold up physically after such an abbreviated recovery time following surgery. Amazingly, Lewis ranks fifth on the team with 57 tackles despite playing in only six games this season.

The coaching staff isn’t exactly sure where Lewis is at physically due to the light nature of practices, but Lewis’ mental prowess has kept him as sharp while he continues to rebuild the strength in his right upper arm. Whether that can translate to success on the field is the question as Lewis struggled to shed blockers early in the season and has shown declining ability in pass coverage over the last few seasons.

“At this time in the year, I don’t think there are very many teams out there hitting like you do in training camp,” Pees said. “So, you don’t necessarily see the physical part, but the mental part, it’s not going to leave you after 17 years [with] missing a couple of weeks.”

Third corner carousel

With 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith making his return from sports hernia surgery this past Sunday, it was assumed the Ravens had solidified their nickel package with the second-year defensive back playing on the outside opposite Cary Williams while Corey Graham slid inside to the nickel spot to cover slot receivers.

Instead, Pees used a combination of Smith, veteran Chris Johnson, and special-teams standout Chykie Brown as the extra cornerback against the Broncos. Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged on Monday that Smith didn’t show as much speed as they anticipated he would. Smith is just over a month removed from the surgical procedure.

As a result, Smith took only 12 defensive snaps. Johnson took part in 20 defensive plays and Brown was on the field for nine defensive snaps. It’s not a good problem to have with the Giants’ ninth-ranked passing game coming to Baltimore on Sunday, and Pees would like to sure up the role sooner rather than later.

“I’d just like to see someone take the bull by the horns and take the job,” Pees said. “We are just going to have to make that decision at game time on who that is going to be, and who that’s going to be during the course of the game. The good news is that you do have two or three guys there, but yes I would like to see someone step up and take it.”

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game – Ravens at Redskins

Posted on 11 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins Sunday at FedEx Field…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Chris Johnson called for pass interference on Kirk Cousins 3rd down pass intended for Pierre Garcon (4th quarter)

4. Kirk Cousins rushes for two point conversion (4th quarter)

3. David Reed recovery of Niles Paul kickoff return fumble caused by Courtney Upshaw overturned after replay (4th quarter)

2. London Fletcher intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Ray Rice, tipped by Barry Cofield (3rd quarter)

1. Richard Crawford returns Sam Koch punt 64 yards to Ravens’ 24 (Overtime)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game – Ravens/Raiders

Posted on 13 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 55-20 win over the Oakland Raiders Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Carson Palmer “sacked” by Paul Kruger for 4 yard loss on 4th & 1 (1st quarter)

4. Jacoby Jones 47 yard catch from Joe Flacco (2nd quarter)

3. Paul Kruger tips, intercepts pass intended for Derek Hagan (2nd quarter)

2. Ed Dickson 40 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 10 (1st quarter)

1. Ray Rice 7 yard touchdown run (2nd quarter)

(Ryan’s plays on Page 2…)

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Was Harbaugh running up score on fake FG for TD by Koch?

Posted on 11 November 2012 by WNSTV

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Raiders effort in Baltimore goes in the “Gutless Hall of Fame”

Posted on 11 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

As I sat in the press conference room waiting for Raiders coach Dennis Allen to address the media and explain the embarrassing effort from his team on Sunday in Baltimore, it suddenly dawned on me.

The Oakland defensive players – at least according to the logo I was seeing in front of me – are playing with a patch over their right eye.

No wonder they stink.

Honestly, it looked at times on Sunday like Oakland had a patch over BOTH eyes.

The Ravens won 55-20 on Sunday, but the story of the day was how putrid Oakland was from start to finish.

And the next time John Harbaugh’s team drops a tough one, or the next time they “only” beat a bad Cleveland team by 10 points on the road, I want you people to remember what you saw at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

I want you to remember what the Raiders looked like.

Remember it.

Because you would NEVER, EVER, EVER see a Ravens team throw in the towel like that.

Even when they got b-slapped in Houston a few weeks ago, Baltimore never once gave the appearance of throwing in the towel.  They got smashed by the Texans, yes, but they left with their dignity.

Oakland left the Baltimore stadium dressed in gowns.

So the next time the Ravens lose, or struggle to win, keep what you saw from the Raiders firmly planted in the back of your mind. There’s losing.  And then there’s getting your asses hammered because you just don’t have the guts to fight.

Gutless was the word to describe Oakland’s performance on Sunday.

And straight from the file of “the other team tries too”, it’s important to point out that the Ravens executed well in all three phases of the game on Sunday.  Joe Flacco was superb, his wide receivers nearly as good, and the Oakland defense simply wilted under a Baltimore attack that was dangerous both in the air and on the ground.  The tell-all of the game came late in the 2nd quarter when Darrius Heyward-Bey flicked away an attempted tackle by Ed Reed and scampered into the end zone to complete a 55-yard scoring play with 1:37 remaining to close the gap to 20-10.  Had the game gone like that to the locker room, who knows what might have happened in the final 30 minutes.  But Baltimore buzzed down the field with ease, upping their halftime lead to 27-10 when Ray Rice went in untouched from 7 yards out.  Sometimes people write “untouched” as a way of saying the player was hardly harrassed as he went by.  In this case, from 7 yards away, Rice absolutely waltzed in without a Raider defender putting a finger on him.  Credit Marshal Yanda with a great block…and LOL at the Oakland defense, who folded like a cheap suit right before the teams headed to the locker room.

The second half was full of fun and frolic…if you’re a Ravens fan.

Baltimore took all of 1:18 to score in the 3rd quarter, then later took advantage of a napping Raiders special teams unit to send holder Sam Koch into the end zone on a fake field goal from seven yards out.  It got better.  Jacoby Jones busted a kick-off return for a 105 yard score early in the 4th quarter to finalize the numbers at 55-20.

The Ravens did a lot of things right on Sunday.

But a shameful performance by the Raiders was the real story of the day, as they did something you’ve never seen a John Harbaugh-led team do.

The Raiders threw in the towel.

Somewhere, I imagine former Oakland owner Al Davis was heard screaming, “JUST TRY, BABY!”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 04 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. DeAngelo Tyson

4. Cary Williams

3. Sam Koch

2. Anquan Boldin

1. Ray Rice (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Chiefs “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 07 October 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 9-6 win over the Kansas City Chiefs…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Dennis Pitta

4. Paul Kruger

3. Justin Tucker

2. Cary Williams

1. Ray Rice (Pat on Both Cheeks)


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Sam Koch Says Ravens Not Thinking About How Last Season Ended

Posted on 18 April 2012 by WNST Audio

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billy-cundiff-miss

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest special teams needs

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Luke Jones

As the start of free agency moves closer and teams prepare for April’s draft, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

Earlier in the week, I looked at Baltimore’s biggest needs on offense as well as essentials for the defense. In the conclusion of a three-part series, we finally take a long at the often-forgotten but always-important phase of the game: special teams.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron undoubtedly receives the most criticism among the coaches on the Ravens staff, but special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg may deserve the most heat after a disappointing 2011 season. According to footballoutsiders.com, the Ravens’ special teams ranked 30th in the league in a percentage contrived from efficiency in field goals, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, and punt returns.

Looking from a more simplistic stance, Rosburg’s units struggled in both kickoff coverage (31st) and punt coverage (24th) and allowed three returns for touchdowns. In the return game, the Ravens ranked ninth in kickoff return average and 19th in punt return average, rarely getting a significant spark from either group as injuries and ineffectiveness forced them to shuffle returners in and out of the lineup.

Kicker Billy Cundiff converted only 75.7 percent of his field goal attempts, ranking 28th in the league. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker made only one of six attempts from 50 or more yards and was only 11-for-20 away from M&T Bank Stadium — where he was perfect on 17 attempts. And that’s not even taking into account his heartbreaking 32-yard miss in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game that would have sent the Ravens into overtime against New England.

If you’re looking for a bright spot, punter Sam Koch ranked 10th in punt average (46.5 yards) but 19th in net average, which was affected by the Ravens’ suspect coverage.

While it’s difficult to target a laundry list of special teams’ needs from a position-by-position standpoint — the units simply need to improve across the board — but two positions stand out this offseason.

1. Kicker

Before you get carried away, this isn’t the pitchfork mentality we’re talking about here. Cundiff isn’t going anywhere for now. However, his disappointing season topped off by the most devastating moment in the 16-year history of the franchise can’t be forgotten as the Ravens assess their special teams.

To their credit, the organization and Cundiff have handled the miss with as much dignity as can be expected, with no one publicly questioning whether the Ravens should have kept veteran Shayne Graham to kick in the postseason. It’s been a credit to coach John Harbaugh and the family atmosphere in the locker room.

But what everyone is thinking privately is a different story. In his defense, Cundiff battled a left calf injury late in the season, but it doesn’t excuse what was a very inconsistent year after signing a five-year contract last January. For a kicker without a proven track record beyond his Pro Bowl season a year ago, Cundiff may have reverted back to the inconsistent performer seen early in his career.

The Ravens need to bring in another kicker to seriously compete against Cundiff during the preseason. The organization will keep Cundiff for now in hopes of avoiding the situation in which they found themselves in 2009 after parting company with Matt Stover. Neither Steve Hauschka nor Graham Gano were fit for the job, forcing the Ravens to scramble during the regular season until they settled on Cundiff.

It needs to be a serious competition, whether the Ravens elect to find a rookie coming out of college such as Randy Bullock of Texas A&M or a veteran on the open market. Graham wasn’t good enough to win the competition against Cundiff two years ago and has struggled with long-distance kicks in recent years, so it makes little sense to bring him back for the competition.

Even if Cundiff performs admirably in the preseason and wins the battle, the Ravens and their fans simply won’t know whether he’s recovered from the disappointment in Foxborough until he finds himself in another late-game situation. It’s difficult to envision the Ravens ever fully trusting Cundiff again, but they’ll at least give him a chance in the preseason before moving on for good.

2. Kickoff-Punt Returner

The Ravens had 10 different players return kickoffs — three of those only returned squibs or pooch kicks —  in 2011 and never found stability at the position. Second-year return specialist David Reed was demoted after two fumbles on returns against the Seattle Seahawks and then tore his ACL when he finally earned another opportunity to handle kickoffs.

While Reed will certainly find himself in the mix if he proves healthy in recovering from the knee injury this offseason, the Ravens must look to add an impact returner, preferably someone who can handle both kickoffs and punts to allow Lardarius Webb to focus solely on his duties at cornerback. Field position is critical, and the return units rarely aided the Ravens offense in setting it up on a shorter field.

Of course, the new kickoff rule limited many returners across the league, but the Ravens cannot settle for a returner downing the ball in the end zone constantly as they did down the stretch with reserve safety Tom Zbikowski this past season.

The Ravens could look to the draft for a returner such as Arkansas receiver Joe Adams in the middle rounds, who could add depth in both areas. One name to keep an eye on in the preseason is receiver Phillip Livas, who was signed to the practice squad in the final weeks of the season. Though only 5-foot-8, Livas was a record-setting return man at Louisiana Tech and could be a sleeper to watch in the preseason.

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens of the Divisional Round

Posted on 17 January 2012 by Luke Jones

Below are our Tuesday Top 7 players in the Ravens’ 20-13 win over the Houston Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs. To hear our full explanations for our lists, click HERE.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 …

7) Billy Cundiff
Cundiff

6) Bernard Pollard
Pollard

5) Ray Lewis
Lewis

4) Anquan Boldin
Boldin

3) Sam Koch
Koch

2) Ed Reed
Reed

1) Lardarius Webb
Webb

Drew Forrester’s Top 7 …

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