Tag Archive | "San Francisco"

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Big plays — or lack thereof — hurting Ravens in 2015

Posted on 19 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Big plays — or the lack thereof — have plagued the Ravens in their nightmarish 1-5 start to 2015.

The league’s 27th-ranked pass defense allowed three pass plays of 50 or more yards in Sunday’s 25-20 loss to San Francisco, bringing the total surrendered for the season to six. In all, Baltimore has given up 12 pass plays of 30 or more yards despite facing a relatively pedestrian list of quarterbacks through the first six weeks of the regular season.

Head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees are beginning to sound like a broken record when discussing the pass defense, but there’s been no apparent improvement as the Ravens are in the midst of the worst start in the 20-year history of the franchise.

“If we stop giving up big plays, we’re playing very good defense,” Harbaugh said. “But that’s how it always works when you give up big plays. That’s where all the yards are. That’s how most of the yards are made in this league — by big plays.

“It’s hard to methodically go down the field every single series and execute perfectly. There’s no margin for error with that, so you have to be able to make big plays. If you can stop big plays, then you’re going to stop an offense.”

After saying only three of Pees’ calls in a total of 90 defensive snaps in last week’s loss to Cleveland were bad decisions, Harbaugh acknowledged a “scheme issue” that resulted in 49ers fullback Bruce Miller’s 52-yard catch late in the first quarter that led to a field goal. The Ravens were in a heavy run defense for a third-and-1 play when Colin Kaepernick connected with a wide-open Miller, a play Harbaugh credited as good scheming on the 49ers’ part.

The Baltimore coach said San Francisco’s other long pass plays — the 76-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and the 51-yard completion to Anquan Boldin — were results of poor coverage technique from cornerbacks Shareece Wright and Jimmy Smith, respectively.

“I didn’t have any problem with any of the [other] calls yesterday,” Harbaugh said, “but there are always calls that you’re going to look at and you’re going to say, ‘Hey, we could be better.’ You’re going to always try to find things that you could do better. There were no major issues with that yesterday.”

Opponents making big plays has been a theme in their five losses, but the Ravens have made very few big plays of their own, failing to recover a fumbled punt or to come away with two potential interceptions against San Francisco on Sunday. Baltimore ranks 30th in the NFL with just four takeaways in 2015 and hasn’t come away with one since the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati.

In the 20-year history of the franchise, the Ravens have had six or more takeaways in a single game seven times.

Meanwhile, the Ravens offense continued to struggle to push the ball down the field with only one pass play of 30 or more yards on Sunday — the 34-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith in the third quarter. Through six games, Flacco has completed seven passes of 30 or more yards and only one of 50 or more.

“Offensively, we need to start making some big plays,” Harbaugh said. “We need to scheme some big plays in. We need to attack some weaknesses in coverages a little bit better, and we need to make some of those plays. We need to make some catches, need to make some throws, need to make some runs, some run blocks. And we have to do a better job of finding those things for our guys, as well as a coaching staff.”

Timeout questions

Facing criticism for the use of two of his second-half timeouts in Sunday’s loss, Harbaugh defended his decisions a day later.

After a 17-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk to open the second half, the Ravens burned a timeout less than a minute into the third quarter because of a play call that was “going to be a disaster” on a first-and-10 at their own 37-yard line with San Francisco leading 16-6.

“We wanted to get a good play off there,” said Harbaugh, who did not consider taking a delay-of-game penalty in that situation. “A timeout is not always the most important thing, especially when you’re behind. Sometimes we want to keep drives alive. [When] you start backing yourself up with penalties, I think you’d be asking me that question.”

With the 49ers leading 19-13 early in the fourth quarter, Harbaugh elected to challenge the 51-yard completion to Boldin to the Baltimore 25.

Despite no visual evidence from camera replays that the play had a chance to be reversed, Harbaugh rolled the dice and ultimately lost his second timeout of the half when referee John Parry ruled the catch to stand. The 49ers scored a touchdown three plays later.

“I took a shot there, because it was a big play,” Harbaugh said. “You couldn’t get it on the [stadium video board]. We really didn’t have it on TV [in the booth]. I took a shot there, because it was a big play in the game. We thought we had a chance to win it, and we were hoping we could get it. We had nothing definitive, because we didn’t get much on TV, and we got nothing on the screen.”

No update on Lewis

Harbaugh had no news on starting safety Kendrick Lewis, who injured his left knee in the third quarter of Sunday’s game and didn’t return. Lewis exited the post-game locker room on crutches and was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday.

“I don’t have any updates on injuries, I apologize,” Harbaugh said. “I have been grinding away on [game] tape. I haven’t had a chance to get to that yet.”

James back to Houston

After being waived over the weekend to make room on the 53-man roster for running back Terrence Magee, cornerback Charles James was claimed by Houston on Monday.

The Ravens signed James to their practice squad in early September after he was waived by the Texans at the end of the preseason. The 5-foot-9 defensive back was promoted to the 53-man roster last week after spending more than a month on the practice squad.

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Ravens’ deficiencies at key positions costing them dearly

Posted on 19 October 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s too easy to criticize Shareece Wright after the Ravens’ 25-20 loss to San Francisco on Sunday.

The veteran cornerback had the debut from hell for his new team against his old one, twice being burned for touchdowns in pass coverage. But expecting any better from Wright after signing him off the street less than a week ago is akin to wondering why the car you picked out at the junkyard wouldn’t run without extensive work in the garage.

There was a reason Wright had been inactive four straight weeks for the 49ers before he was finally granted his release earlier this month. Despite being signed to a one-year, $3 million contract by San Francisco in March, Wright was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 103rd-best out of 108 cornerbacks to play at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps in 2014.

Head coach John Harbaugh was harsh in his assessment of Wright after the game, but the 5-foot-11 cornerback’s mere presence on the field Sunday was a damning indictment on the state of the 2015 Ravens. And it reflects general manager Ozzie Newsome’s failure to improve one of the most critical positions on the field for a second straight offseason.

Injuries are part of the story, but let’s not pretend that Lardarius Webb has played at a level near what the Ravens envisioned when signing him to a big contract more than three years ago. Will Davis flashed potential in two games before a season-ending knee injury, but he was only acquired when others such as Kyle Arrington and Rashaan Melvin already weren’t cutting it.

After a nightmarish 2014 at the cornerback position, Newsome signed the veteran Arrington — who hasn’t played well — and drafted Tray Walker from Texas Southern to address the problem. To think the fresh-off-the-street Wright was a better option than your fourth-round pick suggests you reached too far in drafting a project you can’t even trust as your No. 4 or No. 5 cornerback on the depth chart.

It doesn’t help that top cornerback Jimmy Smith has been slow to regain his pre-injury form and was burned for a 51-yard reception by the slow-footed Anquan Boldin that set up an eventual touchdown in the fourth quarter. Paid to be a shutdown corner in the offseason, Smith dropped a would-be interception in the first half with plenty of open field in front of him.

A pass rush too dependent on the blitz and suspect safety play — another position that’s struggled the last few years — haven’t done the cornerbacks any favors in 2015, but it’s a position that’s too important in this pass-happy era of the NFL to be this poor. Throwing Wright into such a meaningful role after only a few days to learn the defensive system and with no live-game action under his belt since the preseason was grasping at straws at best. The 49ers knew their former player’s weaknesses and didn’t hesitate to go after him while the Ravens left him on an island with no safety help on Torrey Smith’s 76-yard touchdown catch.

Of course, cornerback isn’t the only position of concern for the 1-5 Ravens as they continue to get little from any receiver not named Steve Smith, who caught seven passes for 137 yards and a touchdown but dropped two other throws in the end zone. Not a single wideout other than the veteran registered a catch in the first half on Sunday as the Baltimore offense started slowly and fell behind 16-3 early.

Kamar Aiken did catch a late fourth-quarter touchdown to make it a one-possession game, but watching Jeremy Ross and Chris Givens — two players who weren’t even with the Ravens in the preseason — playing late in the game again showed the failure that the offseason plan has been in replacing Torrey Smith.

Newsome and the Ravens could not envision first-round pick Breshad Perriman injuring his knee on the first day of training camp, but pushing all of their chips to the middle of the table on a rookie has blown up in their faces in 2015. Drafting Perriman wasn’t the real mistake; not having any semblance of a backup plan to stretch the field was the major error when you acknowledge the history of NFL first-round receivers who haven’t found immediate success on the field.

Watching Joe Flacco stand in the pocket time after time on Sunday — he amazingly wasn’t sacked once despite dropping back 53 times — with no one open to throw to was maddening. The quarterback needs to be better as he threw two inexcusable interceptions leading to six points for San Francisco, but how much can you really expect when he has exactly one reliable option who’s 36 and a collection of castoffs, undrafted free agents, and late-round picks to throw to?

Able to effectively run the ball and stop the run, the current Ravens may be built for success in past eras, but the passing game is more important than ever in today’s NFL. If you can’t throw the football, rush the passer, or play in coverage, you’re not going to win many games and that’s where the Ravens find themselves with only one victory in six weeks.

The problems run deeper — injuries, costly penalties, questionable play-calling on both sides of the ball, and poor clock management are among them — but not having enough talent at wide receiver or in the secondary is a major part of the story.

Before the 2015 season began, Baltimore lacked speed and playmakers on both sides of the ball.

And Wright had nothing to do with that.

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Ravens-49ers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 18 October 2015 by Luke Jones

With their pride already wounded after a 1-4 start to 2015, the Ravens’ bodies may feel even worse as five players were officially ruled out or doubtful and five starters were listed as questionable prior to their Week 6 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Baltimore received good news on Sunday afternoon, however, with wide receiver Steve Smith (back), running back Justin Forsett (ankle), outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) all being listed as active. How much each will be able to play remains to be seen as Forsett and Dumervil only returned to practice on Friday while Smith is returning to live-game action a little over two weeks after suffering multiple microfractures in his lower back.

Even with Forsett active, rookie Buck Allen would still figure to receive an increased workload, especially in wake of second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro being placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. Rookie free agent Terrence Magee was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday and will serve as the No. 3 running back while the recently-claimed Raheem Mostert was deactivated for Sunday’s game.

With five of their seven deactivated players dealing with injuries — including starting cornerback Lardarius Webb — the Ravens may have pushed the issue a little more with several of their banged-up starters who are less than 100 percent. Newly-signed cornerback Shareece Wright could see extensive playing time with Webb absent, Will Davis gone for the season, and nickel back Terrence Brooks (thumb) also out for Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, the 49ers officially deactivated veteran running back Reggie Bush with a calf injury, but No. 1 option Carlos Hyde (foot) was active for Sunday’s game. As expected, tight end Vernon Davis (knee) was also active and will make his return to the field after a two-game absence.

John Parry will be the referee for Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys and white pants while San Francisco dons its red tops with gold pants.

According to Weather.com, the forecast for San Clara, Calif. calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 60s with winds up to 14 miles per hour on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday marks the fifth regular-season meeting between the Ravens and the 49ers with Baltimore owning the 3-1 edge, which, of course, does not include the 34-31 victory in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens are also seeking their seventh straight win against NFC opponents.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

WR Darren Waller
WR Breshad Perriman
CB Lardarius Webb
S Terrence Brooks
RB Raheem Mostert
C Ryan Jensen
DL Chris Canty

WR Bruce Ellington
RB Reggie Bush
LB Gerald Hodges
G Brandon Thomas
OL Ian Silberman
NT Mike Purcell
LB Corey Lemonier

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Ravens-49ers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 17 October 2015 by Luke Jones

If we’re being honest, this space has become a punchline so far in 2015.

Incorrectly picking the final outcome of four of the Ravens’ first five games — including the last four in a row — doesn’t inspire confidence when trying to forecast Sunday’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, no one predicted Baltimore to be 1-4 for the first time in franchise history, either.

Only six of the 121 teams to begin a season with a 1-4 record have gone on to make the playoffs since 1990. For now, the Ravens are simply trying to win a game despite an extensive list of key players dealing with injuries.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the 49ers in a meaningful game for the first time since Super Bowl XLVII, which feels much longer than just three years ago for both teams. Counting the 34-31 win in New Orleans, Baltimore holds a 4-1 edge against the 49ers and the teams are tied 1-1 playing in San Francisco. Sunday will mark the Ravens’ first trip to Levi’s Stadium, the site of Super Bowl 50 in February.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens attempt to win their seventh consecutive game against an NFC opponent …

1. Torrey Smith will draw a long pass interference penalty and catch a touchdown against his former team. The 49ers have struggled in the passing game due to the inconsistency of Colin Kaepernick, but the Ravens don’t have a cornerback who can run with the fifth-year wideout since Jimmy Smith is still trying to regain his pre-surgery form with his foot. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to provide as much safety help as possible, but the University of Maryland product will catch a touchdown to exact some revenge after the Ravens made little effort to re-sign him in the offseason. The league’s 25th-ranked pass defense will also draw a flag trying to keep up with the speedster.

2. New Ravens cornerback Shareece Wright will see extensive time in the nickel package. With Lardarius Webb doubtful and Will Davis out for the year, Baltimore was trying to bring Wright up to speed as quickly as possible this week. Simplifying schemes might be the best idea for all members of the secondary considering how inconsistent the group has been with technique and coverage assignments. Unlike Kyle Arrington and Asa Jackson, Wright is viewed as more of an outside cornerback, which is something the Ravens need right now. Expectations shouldn’t be very high for Jimmy Smith’s high school teammate, but that’s no different than the rest of the group at this point.

3. Rookie Buck Allen will score his first NFL touchdown as he leads the Ravens in rushing. Even if Justin Forsett does play on Sunday, Baltimore promoting practice-squad member Terrence Magee doesn’t instill confidence that the veteran will have a full workload. Allen had struggled before breaking a 44-yard run against Cleveland, but the Ravens hope that’s the start of the fourth-rounder finding a groove. With No. 2 back Lorenzo Taliaferro done for the season, the Ravens need Allen to step up immediately and he will do that to some degree on Sunday. Against the league’s 17th-ranked run defense, the offensive line will open running lanes and Allen will build on what he did in Week 5.

4. Brandon Williams will collect another sack and three tackles for a loss. The third-year nose tackle has been Baltimore’s best defensive player by a wide margin in 2015 and will be going up against 49ers center Marcus Martin and right guard Jordan Devey, who have been liabilities in 2015. San Francisco wants to feed the ball to running back Carlos Hyde as much as possible, but Williams presence in the middle of the defensive line will make that a difficult proposition. If Ravens outside linebackers can contain the edges and prevent Kaepernick from taking off, Williams will provide plenty of heat in early-down situations and pick up his second sack of the season at some point.

5. Joe Flacco will bounce back from his 2015 fourth-quarter struggles to give the Ravens the edge in a 24-21 win. It’s easy to pick on the eighth-year quarterback for having the worst fourth-quarter passer rating in the NFL this season, but who has he been able to trust to throw to beyond Steve Smith, who hasn’t been out there for the fourth quarter the last two games? Flacco does need to be better in the final quarter, but he can’t do it by himself. The Ravens will take advantage going up against the league’s 31st-ranked defense to make enough plays late in the game to secure a victory. Am I confident in that prediction? You never are when you’re 1-4, but the 49ers are 1-4 and have looked much worse than the Ravens with three of their four losses being by double digits.

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With Forsett in question, Ravens promote Magee from practice squad

Posted on 17 October 2015 by Luke Jones

With starter Justin Forsett’s status in jeopardy due to an ankle injury, the Ravens promoted rookie running back Terrence Magee from the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s game against San Francisco.

To make room for Magee on the 53-man roster, Baltimore waived cornerback Charles James, who had been promoted from the practice squad earlier in the week.

Forsett practiced on a limited basis on Friday and was labeled a game-time decision by head coach John Harbaugh before being designated as questionable on the final injury report. However, the decision to promote Magee isn’t exactly an encouraging sign that the Ravens will have their 2014 Pro Bowl selection in the backfield.

With the Ravens off to a 1-4 start and No. 1 receiver Steve Smith nursing a back injury, the timing of Forsett’s injury couldn’t have been worse after he had rushed for a combined 271 yards in the last two games. The 30-year-old injured his ankle late in regulation of the Week 5 overtime loss to Cleveland.

“Hopefully, some more healing takes place,” Forsett said on Friday afternoon. “I think we’re going in the right direction, so hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”

Should Forsett not be able to play, the Ravens would be forced to depend on the rookie trio of Buck Allen, the recently-claimed Raheem Mostert, and Magee. Saturday marked the second time Magee had been signed to the 53-man roster since the end of the preseason, but the LSU product has seen action in just one game and has yet to play an offensive snap. Because of his familiarity with the offense, Magee would likely serve as the primary backup to Allen if Forsett can’t play.

Needless to say, the running back picture is less than ideal as No. 2 option Lorenzo Taliaferro was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week after undergoing foot surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury. Taliaferro had been listed as probable on the Week 5 injury report before being deactivated for the Cleveland game.

“It kind of took us by surprise there a little bit, but the foot had been bothering him,” Harbaugh said on Friday. “He tweaked it — maybe it was Oakland or one of those weeks in there — and sat out that week [and] then came back the next week and just wasn’t getting much better.

“We sent him to see the foot specialist; I believe it was Dr. [Robert] Anderson, and he just felt like the Lisfranc had reemerged from last year. They decided not to do surgery on it last year and just let it heal, and in some way, it kind of happened again. They decided to do the surgery right there.”

Taliaferro has played in just 16 games in his NFL career.

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Ravens list five starters as questionable for Sunday

Posted on 16 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Working out for the final time before traveling to California for Sunday’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens saw three Pro Bowl players return to practice before listing five total starters as questionable.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) were all listed as questionable after returning to practice on Friday. Forsett and Dumervil left Sunday’s loss to Cleveland with their respective ailments while Yanda has appeared on the injury report with an ankle issue for the last two weeks.

Head coach John Harbaugh suggested that Forsett and Dumervil would be game-time decisions against the 49ers.

“I feel good. I feel a lot better than I did earlier in the week,” Forsett said. “It’s been progressing every day. As far as Sunday, it’s still a work in progress. Hopefully, we get some more progress in the ankle coming up before that day.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (back) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) were listed as questionable after practicing for the third consecutive day, which would make one think the two are likely return to action in some form against the 49ers. However, Smith did not present an optimistic outlook regarding his Week 6 status a little over two weeks after suffering multiple microfractures in his back.

“To be honest, my expectancy of playing is very low,” Smith said after Friday’s practice. “I went out there Wednesday, it was alright. Thursday, tried to open up a little bit [and] couldn’t open up too much. I didn’t really go too much today, so I’m just trying to be smart. I’m not really sure what I’m really going to do.

“How I feel today, it doesn’t look like I can go as much as I would like to. I’m just trying to look at the long-term health.”

Five players were missing from Friday’s practice as cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), safety Terrence Brooks (thumb), wide receivers Darren Waller (concussion) and Breshad Perriman (knee), and defensive end Chris Canty (calf) were absent. Webb was listed as doubtful while the other four were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Of course, the Ravens are not only trying to fix their 25th-ranked pass defense, but they will be facing former teammates and talented 49ers receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Familiarity helps in preparing to match up, but that doesn’t make the challenge much easier for a group that’s struggled to stop anybody this season.

“You go up against Anquan, you’re in for a battle,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “He’s going to be physical. He’s going to be tough. He’s going to play hard. And if that ball is anywhere in his vicinity, he’s going to catch it. I still remember all those catches on the sideline at the Super Bowl that he probably shouldn’t have made.

“And Torrey can take the top off of anybody’s defense. We know what those guys are. We’re looking forward to it.”

John Parry will be the referee for Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium.

According to Weather.com, the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s with winds 10 to 20 miles per hour in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday afternoon.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

OUT: S Terrence Brooks (thumb), DE Chris Canty (calf), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), WR Darren Waller (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: CB Lardarius Webb (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (thigh), RB Justin Forsett (ankle), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), WR Chris Givens (ankle), WR Steve Smith (back), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
PROBABLE: LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

DOUBTFUL: RB Reggie Bush (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), TE Vernon Davis (knee), WR Bruce Ellington (calf), LB Eli Harold (knee), RB Carlos Hyde (foot), G Brandon Thomas (ankle)
PROBABLE: G Alex Boone (shoulder), LB Navarro Bowman (NIR), TE Vance McDonald (chest), OT Joe Staley (knee)

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Gillmore, S. Smith practice on limited basis for second straight day

Posted on 15 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to their Week 6 meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens appear set to welcome back their two most reliable pass-catchers.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (back) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) each practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day. Though Smith appeared to be less than 100 percent while running routes during the portion of practice open to media, his presence at consecutive workouts makes it more likely that he will attempt to play against the 49ers after suffering microfractures in his back just two weeks ago.

The Ravens were still missing a number of key players from Thursday’s practice as outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), running back Justin Forsett (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), safety Terrence Brooks (thumb), defensive end Chris Canty (calf), and wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Darren Waller (concussion) were all non-participants.

Inside linebacker Daryl Smith received a veteran day off as he typically does on Thursdays.

Wide receiver Chris Givens returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s workout with an ankle ailment.

Meanwhile, the 49ers saw a number of players return to practice on Thursday with only starting left tackle Joe Staley (knee) and backup running back Reggie Bush (calf) sitting out.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Terrence Brooks (thumb), DE Chris Canty (calf), LB Elvis Dumervil (thigh), RB Justin Forsett (ankle), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Darren Waller (concussion), CB Lardarius Webb (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), WR Chris Givens (ankle), WR Steve Smith (back)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Reggie Bush (calf), T Joe Staley (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Alex Boone (shoulder), LB Ahmad Brooks (non-injury, shoulder), TE Vernon Davis (knee), WR Bruce Ellington (calf), RB Carlos Hyde (foot), TE Vance McDonald (chest)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Navarro Bowman (non-injury)

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Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach Dean Pees watches warmups before the NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, won by the Patriots 23-20. (AP Photo/Robert E. Klein)

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Pees about Ravens defense: “We are our own worst enemy”

Posted on 15 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Four days after Cleveland accumulated more than 500 yards in its first road win over the Ravens since 2007, Dean Pees was in no mood to tip his cap to Josh McCown and the Browns offense.

In a monologue lasting nearly four minutes when responding to a simple question about the play of his safeties, the fourth-year coordinator cited the mistakes that continue to plague his entire 24th-ranked unit that’s allowing 27.4 points per game, on pace to be the second-worst mark in franchise history. It’s clear that Pees doesn’t think the opposition is causing Baltimore’s defensive woes.

“We are our own worst enemy,” Pees said. “It really, right now, is not about San Francisco, and it wasn’t about Cleveland. It’s about us. We just have to be consistent in what we do.”

Pees cited an example on Sunday in which the Ravens forced McCown to throw away a third-down pass on a specific blitz early in the game before the same player failed to run the same blitz correctly later in the game as the Browns once again failed to account for it. Such inconsistency has made it difficult for Pees to know which play calls to come back to later in games when the biggest stops need to be made.

At several points during his rant, Pees made it clear that it was the coaches’ responsibility to do a better job of making sure players are prepared, but he wasn’t absolving his defenders, either.

“We just have to keep harping on it and building on it,” Pees said. “It’s not a secret. It’s not a panic. It’s not, ‘OK, we have to change the scheme.’ It’s not [that] we have to do anything. We just have to learn to do the same things all the time.

“It’s all of our faults. It’s not just that guy’s fault. Somehow, as coaches, we just have to make it right. I know you guys can sense my frustration with it. It’s the same thing in coverage. We aren’t consistent [in the secondary]. They work well together. They’ll work well together. And then from one play [to the next] — even though they got the right call — they don’t work well together. It’s not only them, it’s everybody. It’s across the board.”

Players have repeatedly said — sometimes unprovoked — that the issues don’t stem from the overall schemes or Pees’ calls on game day, but they’ve repeatedly self-destructed at critical times, losing fourth-quarter leads in three of their four defeats this season. The Ravens are also tied for 26th in the NFL with 8.4 penalties per game while only four teams have racked up more penalty yardage.

Despite a slew of injuries and inexperienced players being asked to fill key roles, Pees doesn’t want to hear the excuses, particularly when it comes to drawing flags at the worst times. The lack of discipline has contributed to the Ravens ranking 31st in third-down defense with opponents converting 49.4 percent of the time.

“I’m tired [of] ‘young.’ We can also say, ‘This guy is out. That guy is out,'” Pees said. “I don’t care. It wasn’t that. If I thought it was that, then I’d say, ‘OK, it’s different.’ But we had so many opportunities in that game. We’re terrible on third down — because of us. If we [don’t] have a hands-to-the-face [penalty], we’re off the field in the red zone and they don’t have a touchdown [late in the third quarter], right? On third down-and-9, we get an interception [in the second quarter], and we’re setting the offense up on the 48-yard line. What do we get? Roughing the quarterback. It’s those things. We have to eliminate those things.”

Allen starting?

With starter Justin Forsett missing his second straight practice with an ankle injury on Thursday and No. 2 running back Lorenzo Taliaferro being placed on injured reserve with a foot injury, rookie Buck Allen could make his first NFL start against San Francisco on Sunday.

The fourth-round selection picked up the longest run of his career last Sunday with a 44-yard gain, an achievement on which he hopes to build if thrown into a starting role.

“It’s opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” Allen said. “I feel like my coaches did a great job preparing me for this moment. [Running backs coach Thomas Hammock] just preached being ready when your time is called.”

Allen is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but that mark is somewhat deceiving as he has gained only 3.2 yards per carry on his 25 other attempts beyond his 44-yard scamper against the Browns.

With the only other healthy options being the newly-claimed rookie Raheem Mostert and practice-squad member Terrence Magee, the Ravens will have no choice but to give Allen the ball if Forsett can’t play in Week 6.

“He’s running the ball better in terms of how he’s finishing and seeing the holes,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Allen. “He’s taking the opportunities to make plays when he gets a chance to do that. We’ve seen his pass protection improve, and his entire focus. He is taking the opportunity to seize the moment with the opportunities that he has had.”

“Special” prediction

Asked if there’s an extra challenge getting accustomed to the kicking conditions at Levi’s Stadium since the Ravens haven’t played a game there, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg answered with a bold proclamation — or good sense of humor? — despite Baltimore’s disappointing 1-4 start.

“We’ll take notes, and next time we go back there in February, we’ll be ready,” said Rosburg, smiling in reference to Super Bowl 50 being played there. “I said it!”

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Super Bowl memories couldn’t feel more distant for Ravens, 49ers

Posted on 15 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Walking through the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills on Wednesday, Joe Flacco noticed a televised replay of Super Bowl XLVII on NFL Network.

But the eighth-year quarterback and Most Valuable Player of that game says he doesn’t reminisce about the pinnacle of his career that night in New Orleans less than three years ago. These days, he and the Ravens are simply trying to turn around the worst start in the 20-year history of the franchise.

Sunday’s regular-season meeting with their opponent in that championship game, the San Francisco 49ers, isn’t creating much nostalgia, mostly because of the dramatic roster turnover since then. Just nine of the 46 Baltimore players active for Super Bowl XLVII are currently on the 53-man roster and only four were Super Bowl starters. In total, only 14 players remain who were with the organization then.

“It feels like so long ago,” Flacco said. “It’s disrespectful to even talk about it, because you have so many guys on this team that weren’t a part of it, and they’re trying to be a part of something great in the moment. I am, too. It doesn’t really cross my mind too often, and I think I like it that way.”

Of course, the dominant narrative leading into that Super Bowl was the meeting between John and Jim Harbaugh, but the latter is no longer in San Francisco despite leading the 49ers to three NFC championship games in his first three seasons. Jim Harbaugh now roams the sideline coaching the University of Michigan as the 49ers have slipped into a 1-4 hole under new head coach Jim Tomsula.

The Ravens coach dismissed any notion of it being personal against San Francisco and said he doesn’t have time to think back. Harbaugh and his staff are more consumed with trying to overcome a slew of injuries while also fixing the league’s 25th-ranked pass defense.

“It really doesn’t cross your mind,” said Harbaugh, who added that he hasn’t talked much with his brother as Jim prepares for his own big game against Michigan State this Saturday. “It’s a new challenge, new team, new year. That’s what you focus on.”

This season has also been a great challenge for the 1-4 49ers as they’ve looked even worse than the Ravens, owning the worst point differential (minus-65) in the NFL and losing three games by double-digit margins. Unlike the Ravens who have remained consistent at the top, the 49ers changed their infrastructure with Jim Harbaugh’s departure while experiencing a mass exodus of players this offseason that included abrupt retirements as well as free-agent departures.

Those wholesale changes have resulted in San Francisco having the league’s 29th-ranked offense and 31st-ranked defense through the first five weeks.

The most familiarity from Super Bowl XLVII that the Ravens will experience with the opposing side will be the two who used to be their own: wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. For a passing game lacking weapons and desperately hoping that the 36-year-old Steve Smith is ready to return, the former Ravens wideouts would sure look good in purple now.

But life goes on and the Ravens can at least take solace in knowing they came out on top on that memorable day.

“We had a lot of vets on both teams, too, so you’re always going to have to deal with [change] as well,” said Smith, who admitted he “cried like a baby” leaving the Ravens this past offseason. “I’m not surprised. Being on the other side, the other team, it’s different. It’s weird. We were walking out for the walk-through and they were playing the Super Bowl on the TV. And [49ers left tackle] Joe Staley, we were in the huddle, and he looks at me and was like, ‘You didn’t deserve that.’ We kind of talk trash about it every once in a while, but it’s definitely a sensitive subject.

“I’m still glad that I was on the winning side of that. But I think that change happens, and it’s about what you do next.”

“What’s next?” is the question for the Ravens as only six of the 121 NFL teams — just under five percent — to start 1-4 since 1990 have rebounded to make the playoffs. Regardless of how the next 11 regular-season games play out, Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome must identify which players will be key pieces moving forward.

The results haven’t been there in 2015, but the process of building the next championship team never stops. The Ravens made a difficult task look so easy over the first seven years of Harbaugh’s tenure, making the start of this season so surprising.

Stability at the top gives Baltimore the edge in rebounding more quickly than the team they’ll be playing Sunday as the 49ers were a laughingstock for much of the offseason. For now, both teams appear to be chasing ghosts.

“It’s tough to stay at that level. I think you see that consistently across the board,” Flacco said. “It’s just tough from year to year to keep that same team together and keep injuries down and all those things. It’s unfortunate that we’re both in the same situation right now, because I think we feel as though we have a better team. I’m sure they feel the same way.”

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Ron Barr reminisces on 49ers history

Posted on 14 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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