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Former Ravens kicker Hauschka facing hometown team in Super Bowl

Posted on 27 January 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

QUOTES FROM SEATTLE SEAHAWKS MEDIA DAY

KICKER STEVEN HAUSCHKA

(on why kickers are so good these days) “Because we grew up kicking. I started kicking at three years old, soccer balls that is. You learn how to train better. I think it’s just we’re more athletic, not me in particular, but some of the guys out there in the league are just really, really good athletes that just switched to kicking because they couldn’t make it as a quarterback or something.”

(on if he thinks punters have improved as much as place kickers have over recent years) “I think some of the punters have gotten really good, but as a whole, I don’t think they’re at the level of field goal kickers. I think there’s more put into the field goal at a younger age. I don’t think kids start learning to punt until a little later.

(on playing in the Super Bowl) “I love it. It’s the most exciting thing you can do in my profession. I’m just looking forward to the chance to win the game potentially for our team.”

(on what he was thinking while Seattle was losing to Green Bay in the NFC Championship game) “There were about five minutes there after Russ (quarterback Russell Wilson) threw his last interception we were talking on the sideline saying, ‘Man, this is the end, huh?’ To come back from that, there’s a time where I realized, ‘Man, I’m really bummed. I want to be in the Super Bowl.’ For those five minutes, I realized how much I actually want to play in this game and how excited I am about it. We’re playing on second life now, a second chance.”

(on if being back to the Super Bowl feels any different) “It’s cool. It does feel a little different having just been through it last year. Two long years back to back, but we know exactly what to expect. It’s nice, too, coming from New York where it’s freezing cold, and you’re looking out the window and it’s 20 degrees and blowing snow to being here where it’s sunny and a little clouds.”

(on if the warmer weather helps his kicking) “Yeah, the kicking weather is perfect here, and I think everybody on our team needed a little warm weather.”

(on if this Super Bowl is different being the defending champs) “Yeah, I think there are always those storylines, but at the end of the day, I think whoever plays the best football is going to win the game. That’s what I remember. The Patriots have had the last couple chances in the Super Bowl not going well for them. I’m sure they’ve got every bit of motivation to win this game too just like we do. There’s plenty of motivation on either side. That’s not going to be what wins it. It’s just who plays the better football that day.”

(on what’s like to be playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl being a Massachusetts native) “It’s fitting. It’s very fitting to play your childhood team in this game. I grew up rooting for the Patriots. When they won that first Super Bowl on (Adam) Vinatieri’s foot, that was the craziest thing. I can only imagine what it feels like as a Seahawks fan to watch that and see our first Super Bowl last year. I’m excited about it.”

(on New England being as good as anyone in football in the last 15 years compared to the teams that he grew up watching) “They’re incredible, what they’ve done with different players every year, too. There’s really only a couple key guys that have been there. It’s impressive. It shows you how important those key guys are and just the environment that they have there.”

(on who his favorite New England player was growing up) “(Adam) Vinatieri. I had a framed picture of him signed and stuff from the ‘Snow Bowl’ game. That was impressive.”

(on if kickers think about possibly winning the game) “You honestly don’t have to think much at all this week. It’s just your body knows what to do, and the key is just to go out there and let your body do what it wants to do. I know how to swing, and no mental thoughts are going to make me swing better right now.”

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Former Raven Hauschka goes from undrafted rookie to Super Bowl kicker

Posted on 28 January 2014 by WNST Staff

QUOTES FROM SEATTLE SEAHAWKS MEDIA DAY

KICKER STEVEN HAUSCHKA

(on if head coach Pete Carroll trusts him) “We always want to be in a position to succeed. Even though I could make that kick (in the NFC Championship), sometimes you just go off your gut instinct.”

(on if selfishness entered the decision to kick the NFC Championship field goal) “I’m not sure about that. I wasn’t thinking about that being selfish or unselfish. It was just the right decision to make at the time.”

(on if he would be more inclined to kick it in the Super Bowl) “No, it just depends on the situation and how I am feeling. How the wind is at that moment. I’m more in-tune with the wind than all of the fans, all of the media and all of the coaches, generally. I have a good idea of when I do want to kick and when I don’t want to kick. When it comes down to a toss-up like that, I’ll share my opinion with (Head) Coach (Pete Carroll) and then we’ll make a decision.”

(on if his background in neuroscience garners trust from Pete Carroll) “I never knew it would be such a good deal. I just thought it was the right decision for our team. Not that it is my call as a player, but I did want to weigh in on how I thought the wind was affecting that kick. In doing that, that probably did help the team.”

(on if he has reached out to Giants or Jets specialists about kicking at Metlife Stadium) “I’m going to reach out to (Giants P) Steve Weatherford this week. I have a pretty good idea of what is going on in there. I have played a couple of games there. We’ll get a practice in there on Wednesday. I’m not too worried about it.”

(on being an undrafted free agent and on how special this moment is for him) “It’s super cool. I’ll probably have a moment of realization after the season where it is like, ‘Wow, that was cool.’ But for right now, we are seriously just trying to focus as much as we can on the game. We are trying to enjoy it all, but at the same time, stick with your routines that you have been doing all season long. When you stick to your routine, then it puts your mind in a place to succeed.”

(on if he has any special preparation for this weekend) “No, the special thing is fighting human nature, because human nature makes you want to try harder. It makes you want to give a little bit extra. So, for us, we are trying to fight that and just keep everything normal like it is another game.”

(on playing together with Matt Prater in Denver) “It’s pretty cool. Matt is a great kicker. We’re friends off the field, the same with (P) Britton Colquitt. I spent about six to eight months on the Broncos and got to know both of them. I like the organization and I like both of them.”

(on the spotlight and potential for a kick to win the Super Bowl) “I’m just trying to treat it like another game. Kickers can always decide a game, whether it’s a preseason or a regular season game. I’m not going to do anything different. It sounds crazy, but I’m going to try to do the same thing that I do in a preseason game or a regular season game because that’s the mentality it takes.”

(on if there is any trash talking between him and Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt) “It hasn’t gotten to that point. We’re all good friends and both sides are happy someone is going to hold the Lombardi Trophy, at the end of the day. We’re all friends and we all like each other.”

(on the possibility of being the Super Bowl MVP) “It’s always a possibility. It’s not a goal by any means. I just want to have a good solid performance.”

(on if he has had a chance to enjoy New York since he arrived) “I grew up in Boston and have seen a lot of the sights here, just visiting since I was in high school. Not too much sightseeing, but a lot of my high school friends and college friends live here and work here. I went to dinner with them last night.”

(on thinking about going to dental school) “My mom was a dentist. My brother was a dentist. It just kind of seemed like a good career path. I was taking pre-med classes and ended up getting into dental school. Then there was a period where I was at NC State, and I was interviewing at dental schools, got into them, and I had to decide whether I was going to go to dental school next year or am I going to try to play in the NFL. It was pretty crazy, but I obviously chose the NFL.”

(on what his Mom and brother said about his decision) “They were proud. They were encouraging. They said (I) could always come back to dental school.”

(on his hard work in college taking premed courses and playing football) “You work hard there. You really learn how to manage your time. There’s no one pushing you along, helping you out. You have to do it all yourself. I’m fortunate to have grown up with that work ethic. I enjoyed my time there.”

(on if there is a difference between football intelligence and academic intelligence) “Yes. My first couple of years, I definitely over-analyzed things, maybe tried a little too hard with my mind, try to make up for some other things. I’ve learned now that the key now is to analyze these things but then you have to shut it off mentally. At the end of the day, athletes don’t analyze, they just go off their instincts and their trusts. That’s what I have learned.”

(on Seattle not having a championship team is almost 35 years and on how it feels to be so close) “The city is dying for it. You could feel it when we left to go to the airport and we had 30 minutes straight of fans lined up. They are hungry for a championship. They lost their Supersonics and they are hoping their Seahawks can pull it out.”

(on if he has ever played soccer) “Yes, I played soccer my whole life up until my sophomore year of college.”

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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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Boller

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (1-20)

Posted on 25 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number this week, I decided to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Some jersey numbers provide for good debate (Sam Adams or Jarret Johnson for No. 95?) while other integers provide quite the challenge to simply produce a warm body (Who was your favorite No. 46 to suit up for the Ravens?).

Some choices are obvious, others might anger you, and a few will make you say, “Who?” but let the debate begin.

1 Randall Cunningham (2001)

There was really no other choice here. Some Ravens fans are still hollering for Brian Billick to replace Elvis Grbac with the veteran backup.

2 Anthony Wright (2002-05)

No one will forget Wright tossing four touchdown passes to little-used receiver Marcus Robinson, as the journeyman quarterback engineered the greatest comeback in franchise history against the Seattle Seahawks in 2003.

3 Matt Stover (1996-2008)

Never mind the fact that he’s the only player to sport the number 3 in franchise history. There is actually a Stover tribute video on YouTube.

4 Sam Koch (2006-present)

With apologies to the current Ravens head coach’s brother Jim, who played quarterback for the Ravens in 1998, the current Ravens punter is the clear choice for No. 4.

5 Joe Flacco (2008-present)

The franchise quarterback won three playoff games in his first two seasons in the league. Not a bad start.

6 Steve Hauschka (2008-09)

Yes, I’m well aware of this…

The only other option here was J.R. Jenkins, the kickoff specialist in 2002. On second thought, Jenkins really got some distance on those kicks!

7 Kyle Boller (2003-08)

I realize most have already clicked back on their browser window after these last two picks, but the former Cal quarterback is still the franchise leader in total passing yards.
Boller
I’m not sure you were aware, but I once heard he could throw the football through the uprights. From the 50-yard line. On his knees.

8 Trent Dilfer (2000)

Flacco may be the toast of the town in 2010, but he has some work to do before making anyone forget about this guy.
Dilfer

9 Steve McNair (2006-07)

Many remember his poor playoff performance against Indianapolis in January 2007 and his miserable final season in Baltimore, but his arrival in 2006 helped orchestrate the best regular season record (13-3) in franchise history.

10 Eric Zeier (1996-98)

A punting performance by Kordell Stewart in 2004 and the brief hero-worship of Stoney Case in 1999 earn bizarre mentions here, but Zeier had six 100-plus quarterback rating performances and three 250-yard games in his three-year career in Baltimore. Height (listed at 6-foot-1) prevented the Georgia quarterback from getting a legitimate chance as the starter.

11 Jeff Blake (2002)

The former Bengal is the clear-cut choice here, but no one will forget him chuckling with Steelers coach Bill Cowher moments after tossing an interception in the end zone in the final seconds of a loss at Pittsburgh in 2002.

12 Vinny Testaverde (1996-97)

One of the most maligned quarterbacks in NFL history, Testaverde still owns the finest passing season in franchise history when he threw for 4,177 yards and 33 touchdowns in 1996.

Tony Banks gets consideration here with his five touchdown passes in the Ravens’ thrilling 39-36 comeback victory over Jacksonville in Week 2 of the 2000 season, a pivotal moment in the history of the franchise. Things fell apart quickly for Banks before eventually being replaced by Dilfer several weeks later.

13 Eron Riley* (2009-present)

Research indicated no player has worn No. 13 in the regular season for the Ravens. Riley wears the number on the preseason roster and was a member of the practice squad a year ago.

14 Wally Richardson (1997-98)

The pride of Happy Valley, Richardson was the third-string quarterback for two seasons and threw for one yard on two career attempts in the NFL.

15 Dave Zastudil (2002-05)

The front office took heat for drafting “The Weapon” in the fourth round of the 2002 draft, but Zastudil was a quality punter for four seasons before signing with the Browns.

16 Yamon Figurs (2007-08)

Tremendous speed that produced two touchdown returns his rookie season, but Figurs could never put it to use as a receiver.

17 David Tyree (2009)

Shayne Graham immediately takes this distinction if he makes the 53-man roster next month, but receiver Matt Willis (2007) was the only other option for this number. Besides, you may remember Tyree for something else a couple of years before his brief stop in Baltimore…

18 Elvis Grbac (2001)

Other than Boller a few years later, no player faced the wrath of Ravens fans quite like Grbac. The former Pro Bowl quarterback came to town with intense pressure to lead a repeat in 2001, but Grbac had no chance when Jamal Lewis was lost for the season after tearing his ACL early in training camp.
Grbac
He went down in flames against Pittsburgh in the playoffs and retired a few months later, but name a quarterback who would have won with Terry Allen and Jason Brookins as his feature backs that season.

19 Johnny Unitas*

Yes, I’m well aware Johnny U never played a down for the Ravens, but did you really think I could put this guy on the list?
Mitchell

20 Ed Reed (2002-present)

A nanosecond-long nod goes to the Super Bowl-winning safety Kim Herring, but Reed is the easiest choice among the numbers previously worn by other players. The ball-hawking safety is unquestionably one of the greatest free safeties in the history of the game.

Next up: Find out which member of the Ring of Honor didn’t make the cut as I reveal the greatest Ravens for Nos. 21-40.

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Ravens must play perfect game to win…

Posted on 05 January 2010 by mike3505

Drew pretty much stole my thunder on this subject earlier today, but I’m going to espouse my opinion anyway. In order for the Ravens to defeat the  Patriots on Sunday and advance to the Divisional Playoff round, they have to play, for all intents and purposes, a perfect game.

When you have a deck that that’s stacked against you…a very heavy home-field advantage, refs and a league that protect one of their golden boys like he’s made of platinum and glass, there is no room for error. By that I mean, everyone playing to the level that they’re capable of playing (no “off-games” allowed anymore, guys)..and perhaps more importantly, no dumb mistakes. No goofy laterals from Ed Reed, no footballs bouncing off helmets from Derrick Mason, no bush-league late hits from Haloti Ngata, no blocks in the back during a crucial runback..I think that you get the idea. I’m also, quite honestly, terrified at the idea of the game going down to the wire with the whole season riding on Billy Cundiff’s kicking foot. I will admit that he’s an upgrade over the departed Steve Hauschka, but he’s still nowhere near the caliber of kicker that the other playoff-caliber teams have.

I don’t want to be considered all doom and gloom on this, and no one will be screaming louder than me for the Ravens to knock that sickening smirk off of Belichick’s face, but considering the purple’s ability all year long to make the worst possible mistake at the worst possible time, you can’t help but wonder if they can overcome all of that on top of playing in the frigid tundra in Foxboro.

I sure hope that I’m wrong on this. Please, Ravens, make me eat my words.

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Blog & Tackle: How I see Ravens-Packers

Posted on 04 December 2009 by Chris Pika

How do the Ravens win two straight for the first time since the 3-0 start? How does Baltimore counteract the expected cold temperatures and possible snow in Lambeau Field? Can The Ravens’ slow down defensive demon Charles Woodson enough to win? Potential answers are here.

Last Sunday, the Ravens played the Steelers without either Ben Roethlisberger or Troy Polamalu, but Pittsburgh, behind unheralded QB Dennis Dixon, took the game into overtime where Baltimore finally prevailed. The Packers, meanwhile, systematically took apart Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

The Ravens know the Packers have Woodson trolling the defensive backfield when Joe Flacco throws the ball. But, Flacco is sailing some of his passes, a sign that he is not setting up properly on his feet to throw. So, his mobility is an issue. If the Ravens run, Woodson could move up into run coverage or blitz to force Flacco to make quick reads.

The Packers know that the Ravens defensive front will test a offensive line that was shredded for 41 sacks in the first nine games, but has held up with just three allowed in the last two games to San Francisco and Detroit.

So, Monday’s matchup has a pair of clubs fighting to stay in their respective Wild Card races. And it will come down to which team’s offensive line plays better. Here is the breakdown:

(Remember, we will host our weekly Purple Haze on Monday night, starting at 8 pm ET. Come in and join us. We’ll have news & notes from Lambeau Field, tweets from media at the game, and YOUR comments: Ravens-Packers WNST Purple Haze Live Football Chat)

Ravens offense: The Ravens finally scored a first half TD for the first time since Oct. 11. In fact, Baltimore scored the most first-half points since Week 3 vs. Cleveland. The Ravens will need early points this week, as it will be very cold (low 20s at night), and ball security on runs will a big key as the Packers lead the league with a +17 turnover margin. Baltimore will try to pound the ball often to make the game a test of wills.

The last two games, Baltimore has thrown more than run, but when the Ravens do run the ball, they will have to be better than the mid-3 yards per rush in the four games prior to Pittsburgh. If the Ravens can average 4.6 a rush, as they did last week, they have a good chance to win.

Many media are touting Woodson as a potential Defensive Player of the Year. He is as important to the Packers as Ray Lewis has been for the Ravens. Woodson has two sacks, seven interceptions and four forced fumbles, and is a punishing tackler.

Baltimore got away from the two-man game between Flacco and RB Ray Rice last week, as they tried to distribute the ball around more. WR Derrick Mason had 10 targeted passes thrown his way, the second straight week he had double digits in targets this season. WR Mark Clayton was targeted 10 times, his first double-digit game in that category since the New England game. On the other hand, TE Todd Heap has been targeted just twice each in the last two games, after four or more targets in eight of the previous nine games.

Rice is still the go-to guy in the Ravens offense, but Woodson’s presence, especially in the middle of the field, will have to be accounted for when Flacco looks for him on short tosses out of the backfield..

When Flacco throws, the Packers have allowed an NFL worst 20.1 yards per play on passes deep middle (15+ yards). Green Bay smothers passes thrown short right (less than 15 yards) averaging just 4.2 yards allowed. The Ravens can also run up the middle, as the Pack gives up 4.6 yards (22nd in the NFL).

Baltimore needs long drives to eat clock and batter the Packers defensive line. The Ravens were less predictable last week on first down, but weather conditions could force conservative calls from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Ravens defense: Lewis is still banged up, and thanks to an agressive defensive effort against Dixon in the first half, the Ravens were able to contain the Steelers passing game. In the second half, Baltimore pulled back as Dixon seemed to lock on his first receiver, and finally an interception in OT by Paul Kruger set up  the victory. This week, a much better QB with his weapons will test the secondary.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been under siege because of the O-line troubles. But, despite the battering, he has completed over 70 percent of his passes five times, including each of the last two games. He has 22 TDs against just five interceptions, three of which came in the loss to Tampa Bay.

Rodgers will take shots downfield against the Ravens. WR Donald Driver had seven catches (on 10 targets) for 142 yards last week against Detroit, while Greg Jennings has had three 100-yard receiving games. The Ravens have to keep an eye on TE Jermichael Finley, who had 42 yards on three receptions last week. The Packers rank in the top seven in the NFL on average gain on short passes in all directions (left-6.9, middle-8.7 and right-6.1), and are in the top 10 in average gain on 15+ yard throws to deep left (16.2) and right (12.8). Rodgers is second in the NFL in completions of 40+ yards (13). Veteran Ed Reed is expected to play on Monday night, and that would help the Ravens D in pass coverage.

Only twice this season have the Packers run more than they have thrown. RB Ryan Grant has 890 yards and five TDs, while Rodgers has 247 yards and three scores when he gets out of the pocket. The Ravens have had plenty of issues trying to defend plays on the edges this season, and the Packers could spread the field and force Lewis to make plays laterally. Rushing-wise, Green Bay has run the 7th-most plays to left end (45) and the third-most to right end (54) in the league.

Special teams: Both Baltimore and Green Bay are the among the most-penalized special teams units in the league, as the Packers are first in total special teams flags, and the Ravens are tied for fourth. Baltimore kickoff returner Lardarius Webb averages 27 yards per return, while Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson has a 25.5 average. Green Bay has a solid punt returner in Tramon Williams (10.4 per return). Mason Crosby is one of the top kickers in the league, while Billy Cundiff has been a very welcome addition at kicker for the Ravens, after the early struggles with Steve Hauschka.

PREDICTION: Despite the win over Pittsburgh, the Ravens have labored in recent weeks on offense. Green Bay traditionally becomes more of a run-based team when the weather turns cold, but the temptation to test the Ravens secondary might be too much for the Packers here. The Packers have two consecutive games of controlling the ball for 40+ minutes on offense. The Ravens looked very tired on defense in the second half against Pittsburgh in a physical game, and the tackling showed it. If Green Bay controls the line of scrimmage and the clock, the Ravens might be in catch-up mode much of the night. This might be a run-fest on both sides, but Rodgers has a better chance to find his passing playmakers than Flacco does when the time comes. The Ravens will give a strong fight, but will fall short. Packers 21, Ravens 17.

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Brown Baby 3

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Ravens 16 Browns 0 (THE GOOD THING IT WAS THE BROWNS GAME)

Posted on 17 November 2009 by Derek Arnold

Brown Baby 3

The Ravens were able to escape Cleveland with an ugly, ugly 16-0 shutout win over Cleveland High School the Browns for their first Monday Night victory in their last six tries. However, the effort put forth by the purple and black, especially on offense, wouldn’t be enough to win on most any other Sunday (or Monday or Thursday).

The ineptitude of the Cleveland Browns, who never advanced the ball past the Ravens’ 45-yard line on the night, approaches historic levels. After a shutout – a ROAD shutout at that – the impulse is there to laud the Ravens’ defense for pitching their first goose egg since shutting out the Steelers in Week 12 of 2006. But…man…Brady Quinn made Kyle Boller look like the guy the Ravens are set to face next week, and his receivers would just as soon deflect passes to the other team as pull them in and pick up some yardage. Somehow, it was the first time all year that they were kept off the scoreboard, but still…beating your chest about shutting out the Browns seems akin to bragging about how many toddlers you just punched in the face. (cough, Hiney Ward, cough)

After watching the epic Patriots-Colts game on Sunday night (for my money, the best game since the Pats-Giants Super Bowl), watching the Ravens and Browns flail about last night, especially for the first 30 scoreless minutes, was like watching the 85-lb Pasadena Bucs on a Saturday morning – it’s hard to believe the two games were part of the same league.

It was the first time so far in 2009 that an NFL game went to the half tied 0-0, and was just another in the long line of forgettable Ravens’ first halves. Joe Flacco’s “Joe Cool” persona is still apparent, but lately his first half performances make a nickname like “Joe Slow,” as in, slow start, seem more appropriate. As Glenn Clark points out, the Ravens’ last six first halves of play have resulted in 0, 0, 6, 3, 7, and 7 points, respectively.

The Ravens’ rhythm-less, identity-devoid offense has progressed from a minor annoyance, to a consistent concern, to a full blown crisis. To manage just 1 touchdown and 1 field goal, against the 32nd-ranked defense in the league, is sad, pathetic, inexcusable, and [insert-your-own-derogatory-adjective-here]. Cam Cameron, who had transformed his unit from one of the league’s most laughable to one that some were even describing as “explosive,” over his first season-plus in B’More, has seen his stock fall sharply, and last night may have very likely been a new low. Despite not turning the ball over, the Ravens managed only 9 offensive points (a blocked extra point kept it from being 10). Their seven punts tied a season high, and, despite running the ball on 36 of 58 snaps, time of possession was nearly a wash, at 31:32-28:28.

  • Ravens’ running backs averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.
  • The ONLY Ravens’ wide receiver to catch a pass was Derrick Mason, who hauled in 3 for 78 yards.
  • Flacco was sacked three more times, which now makes seven in the last two games, the total number of times he was taken down in the season’s first five contests.
  • And of course, young Steve “Wide Left” Hauschka did himself absolutely no favors, as he missed a chip shot 38 yard field goal that would have given the Ravens an early 3-0 lead, and had his second extra point attempt blocked by the Browns’ Shaun Rogers. The second year kicker is now just 9-13 on the season (10-15 career), and with Matt Stover coming to town in Irsay Blue this week, the kid is going to find himself none-too-welcome by many in his own home stadium Sunday afternoon.

The game was also rough on the Ravens from an injury standpoint. Second year safety and huge special teams contributor Haruki Nakamura had his ankle broken on the opening kickoff, and is likely to be placed on injured reserve. Haloti Ngata was again unable to go on his sore ankle, but should be ready for Indianapolis.

The larger concern is Terrell Suggs, who was injured on a cheap-shot low block by Brady Quinn on Chris Carr’s 3rd quarter interception. Quinn was flagged on the play, but 15 yards, especially in that game, is little condolence for a sprained knee to #55. Suggs left the game and did not return, and his status moving forward is currently unknown (Update: Reports say Suggs out 4-5 weeks. Craaaaaap). His absence did, however, open the door for the much called-for and enigmatic Paul Kruger to get the first game action of his career – he responded by picking up more penalty yards (5) than tackles (0).

There is no better time to pull the “a win is a win” card, for all involved – Ravens players, coaches, and staff, and certainly for us fans. As disgusting and uninspiring as it was, the 5-4 next to “Ravens” in the standings is the same this morning as it would have been after the 34-3 drubbing that most of us expected. B’More is tied with Jacksonville (?!) and Houston at just one full game behind Pittsburgh and San Diego for the AFC’s final playoff spot.

May we suggest that, like us, you spend the next six days convincing yourselves that it was all part of the plan – that the Ravens were simply keeping their true abilities close to the vest, only to unleash them in full force on the unsuspecting Colts (who likely turned this one off at halftime and laughed themselves to sleep). That fantasy may be crushed by the “horseshoe of reality,” in due time, but until then, keep the purple faith, won’t you?

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog(11/17/09)

Posted on 17 November 2009 by Jack McManus

9:32-

A caller brings up the struggles of the offensive line in the last few games. Drew believes that the team’s guards did not have good games last night. With matchups against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis coming up, the line needs to step up.

mathis

9:18-

A caller compares the Ravens offense to that of the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams rely on a small running back to carry much of the load. This could very well be due to John Harbaugh’s long tenure under Andy Reid. Drew thinks the team over-relies on Ray Rice. This makes that team too easy to plan for.

 rice

9:06-

Tommy Polley is now on with Drew to talk some football. Polley talks about his participation in games that are simply very boring, like the one last night. He moves on to the Ravens’ improved talking last night. You must take whatever you can from a game like that. Polley next talks about playing against Peyton Manning. He states that he learned that football is more of a mental game than it is a physical game.

polley

8:50-

Pete from Downtown is the next caller. He explains that the Ravens will not be prepared to play the Colts on Sunday. He blames this on the coaching. He thinks the team should protest the people coaching the team, similar to what the Browns did last night.

harbaugh 

8:36-

A caller points out the fact that the Ravens were out of timeouts halfway through the first quarter. Drew does not understand what the coaching staff was looking at on the early challenge.

8:23-

Merton now joins from way over in Indianapolis. He asks if the Baltimore fans heard the 50 million people turning their TVs off. He states that the Ravens do not belong on the same field as Peyton Manning and the Colts. He leaves us by telling Baltimore that the curse of Robert Irsay will not go away until the city builds a statue of him in front of the stadium.

8:19-

Another caller brings up the Ravens’ recent struggles. He believes that Marvin Lewis must have figured out how to defeat the Ravens. He explains that ever since the team’s first loss, every other team has taken the same strategy and it has been effective.

8:03-

A caller blames the fact that the Ravens struggle to start off games on the team’s struggles on 3rd down. In order to fix that the Ravens need to be more dedicated to running the football. Another caller supports this point. He hopes that the team will change the game plan. The use of different backs will hopefully catch their opponents by surprise.

7:43-

Another caller talks about how the Ravens got Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain more involved in the offense. Drew thinks that the team is still too predictable on offense by not utilizing these two players. Someone else calls in and agrees with this point. He states that other teams seem to mix up their running backs more effectively than the Ravens.

7:40-

A caller talks with Drew about the impact of last night’s game. Drew explains that the only way to take the game is as “a win is a win.” The caller states that the Ravens have had too much difficulty in the passing game right now.

7:30-

Glenn is joining us this morning to talk about the Ravens Browns game last night. He and drew discuss the kicking situation. Drew will not make any excuses for any kicker missing a field goal less than 40 yards. However, he does not think the team makes a change because of the short week. Glenn agrees, but states that at some point Steve Hauschka must prove he can make points.

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A Call to Harbs: Your Chance to Fix the Ravens

Posted on 10 November 2009 by Luke Jones

The sheer volume of opining, panicking, and lamenting jamming the airwaves, flooding inboxes, and littering message boards since 4:30 p.m. on Sunday has been impossible to escape if you’re a Ravens fan.

And it’s understandable with Sunday’s game clearly being one of the Ravens’ worst performances in recent memory.

Of course, the venting is part of the cathartic process of being a fan after a loss, but it ultimately does nothing to address the problem—or problems—and leaves you feeling helpless in the Ravens’ plight with a 4-4 record and two games behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

Ultimately, “it is what it is” for us observers.

In reality, the frustration and second-guessing displayed by us all is falling on deaf ears, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Who hasn’t made a bold proclamation—or several hundred—to their buddies but later felt relief that no one was really listening?

After all, I was convinced Peyton Manning would be the next Heath Shuler while Ryan Leaf would be the next John Elway, and we all know how that turned out.

Peyton Manning

So now that we’ve acknowledged our limitations and past gaffes in evaluating the NFL and its players, this is your chance to prove yourself once and for all.

The phone rings, and John Harbaugh is on the line asking for your astute opinion on the state of the Ravens. He doesn’t have time for personal attacks or whining; Harbaugh is looking for answers.

He’s willing to take three REALISTIC suggestions and implement them beginning in Cleveland on Monday night.

And the key word is REALISTIC.

Larry Bird and Kevin McHale are not—wait a second, wrong rant—Chris McAlister and Michael McCrary are not walking through that door. And if they did, their knees would be completely shot.

Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard say hello to the Charm City, but they’re perfectly content with Rex Ryan in the Big Apple. And the former defensive coordinator sends his regards, but his hands are too full with a rookie quarterback and the New York media to worry about the Ravens’ defensive woes.

Those Jets have long since taken off and aren’t coming back.

And like most of your kids’ Halloween candy, the deadline is long gone, so please spare us the trade proposals.

No matter how great they sound.

I don’t want to hear about officiating conspiracies either. It’s a defeatist attitude, and you’ll hear the same complaints in 31 other NFL cities. Well, maybe not Pittsburgh.

Steelers referees

Lastly, the Colts are more likely to return to Baltimore than Matt Stover is to play for the Ravens—at least until Adam Vinatieri returns from injury in a few weeks (How’d you like that middle-of-the-road remark? And no, I don’t think it will happen anyway).

So now that I’ve squashed 75 percent of the irrational suggestions running through our frustrated minds over the past 48 hours, you have THREE suggestions to offer to Harbaugh for the rest of the season.

And remember, Baltimore is counting on you.

No pressure, right?

I’ll go first.

1. A Nightmare on Russell Street

Yes, I know Paul Kruger does not play special teams.

I fully understand.

Harbaugh wants his reserves to be versatile, and it’s the perfect rationale when a team does not have any glaring deficiencies. However, the defense has struggled to pressure the quarterback from its base front, and Greg Mattison is reluctant to blitz due to a weak secondary—another issue entirely.

It’s clear Kruger is too small to take every snap as a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment and does not have the skill set to play as a stand-up linebacker at this point.

But this is the same player Jon Gruden described as playing like “Freddy Kruger” on draft day last spring.

Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ esteemed scouting department used a second-round selection on the defensive end from Utah, so it’s difficult to believe he cannot contribute to the pass rush in some form.

And don’t tell me it would be catastrophic to the team’s flexibility on special teams and other areas. This is the same team that carried two kickers on its roster for years. It’s not as though Danny Kight, J.R. Jenkins, or Wade Richey were contributing in more than one area during their days in Baltimore.

If we look at this from a different perspective, how many special teams players are consistently on the active 45-man roster on Sundays and fail to make any impact on offense or defense?  David Tyree, Prescott Burgess, and Demetrius Williams immediately come to mind.

In other words, there HAS to be a place for Kruger on a defense needing more pressure on the quarterback.

If even the threat of Kruger diverts a little attention away from a Terrell Suggs or a Trevor Pryce, it’s well worth it.

Let’s find out if the rookie can play.

2. Lost in Westminster

Speaking of Demetrius Williams, yes, he is still on the 53-man roster despite rumors of his abduction in Westminster back in August.

After a promising rookie season and two injury-riddled seasons in 2007 and 2008, Williams entered training camp as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Following the emergence of Kelley Washington and a nagging hamstring and knee that slowed him during the summer, the 6-foot-2 receiver has completely disappeared in Cam Cameron’s offense with the lone exception of a 17-yard catch in Minnesota.

But it became apparent during Sunday’s loss that Williams needs to have a presence in this offense.  With Joe Flacco trying to throw deep jump-balls to Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, wouldn’t it make more sense to send Williams (the only receiver with both size and speed on the roster) on one or two of those patterns?

Yes, a stiff breeze is as likely to injure the wideout as a strong safety, but keeping him healthy on the sideline serves no purpose to this football team either.

Williams is and should be the No. 4 receiver on the roster, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an option in the passing game, at the very least providing a bigger target in the vertical passing game.

If the coaching staff has no confidence in Williams, he should either be inactive every week (opening the door for Kruger) or off the roster entirely.

3. Waiting on Willis

Remember when Willis McGahee led the NFL in touchdowns after the first three weeks of the season with six?

It seems like an eternity ago.

It was clear Ray Rice had supplanted McGahee as the starting tailback heading into the season, but the veteran was entering the season healthy and revitalized after a rocky relationship with Harbaugh in 2008. McGahee was still figuring to be a major part of the running game.

Since carrying the ball 25 times in the first two weeks, McGahee has received 22 carries in the six games since. Unacceptable.

Rice is clearly having a tremendous season, but is it really what’s best for the team?

In the same way that Flacco could lead the league in passing yards if he threw on every down, is Rice producing such a large portion of the yards and being the only force in the backfield what’s best for the Ravens’ offense presently and moving forward?

With Rice putting up 732 total yards in the last five games, I’ll remind you that the Ravens are 1-4 during that stretch.

McGahee’s return to the game plan would serve two purpose for the Baltimore offense.

First, it would provide the Ravens with a legitimate threat to run between the tackles, something Rice does not provide. The 5-foot-8 back is more effective running from spread-out formations and getting into open space.

Two, it would improve the likelihood of Rice’s smaller frame holding up for the entire 16-game schedule. Though Rice carried the ball 380 times for Rutgers in 2007, that same durability cannot be guaranteed at the pro level. When you have another legitimate option at tailback, why take the risk in finding out?

McGahee needs to be more involved. No excuses.

***

If you’re sitting there thinking I didn’t address the secondary, kicker, or coaching questions, you’re absolutely right.

To be perfectly honestly, I’m not sure how to address the secondary at this point.

Do you blitz more, leaving your defense more susceptible to the big play, or play with more help in pass coverage, hoping for your front four to reach the quarterback eventually? Is rookie Lardarius Webb a better option than Fabian Washington?

As for the kicking job, would Mike Nugent or Billy Cundiff really be any better than Steve Hauschka?

Is Mattison in over his head, or is the talent holding this defense back?

All are questions for which I don’t have a definitive answer.

Remember, you only get THREE realistic suggestions.

Maybe that isn’t enough to fix the Ravens, but that’s all you’re getting.

Make them count.

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Bengals 17 Ravens 7 (The WHICH TEAM IS THE BUNGLES, AGAIN? Game)

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Derek Arnold

After a week in which they reassured us that the sky was, in fact, not falling, the Ravens pulled a complete 180 with their worst performance of the season in Cincinnati yesterday. It was the first of the Ravens’ 4 losses where they were absolutely, unquestionably, without a doubt, outplayed and outcoached for 60 minutes. The first of the four where you can’t look back, point to any one or two particular plays, and say, “yup, that was the one that lost it.” It was a flat-out, thorough butt-whipping at the hands of the “Don’t call us the Bungles.”

RiceTigers

To any Ravens fan watching, flashbacks to Minnesota in Week 5 were unavoidable, as the purple team came out as flat as could possibly be, on both sides of the ball, en route to digging themselves a quick 14-0 hole. There would be no late-game near-miracle comeback at Paul Brown Stadium though, even if there would be an all too familiar Steve Hauschka “wide left,” thrown in as a little salt on the wound. Even though the defense did buckle down after the Bengals’ first two drives (both touchdowns), allowing just a field goal for the final 47:26, you still came away from this one feeling like it was a steamrolling.

Where to begin?

On offense, Bengals’ defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer now has Cam Cameron’s number in 2009 the way that Dick Lebeau of the Steelers did in 2008 (yet to be seen if it carries over to this year). In six games against the rest of the league this year, the Ravens offense is averaging 30.8 points and 399 yards off offense per game. In two contests against Cincy, those numbers drop to 10.5 and 236. Against the “not Bengals,” Joe Flacco has thrown 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and compiled a passer rating of 100. But when the striped team lines up on the other side of the ball, his numbers have read a dismal 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and 59.2 rating.

That there are now not 1, but TWO teams in the division who seem to have figured out Cameron/Flacco is a bit unnerving.

As bad as Joe was yesterday, he got absolutely zero help from his offensive line, who need to take their share of the blame. The group that had played so solidly all season had their worst outing, as Flacco was under constant pressure and holding and false start flags were rampant. After allowing 12 sacks in 7 games, the Ravens gave up 4 to the Bengals, even without Antwan Odom. Three of these came on the final drive when they were able to tee off on Flacco, but the pressure was there all day. And, for his part, Joe needs to do a much better job of identifying his hot read and getting the ball out quickly when the blitz comes. Several times yesterday he had time to throw, but instead patted the ball and ended up on his butt.

Derrick Mason did absolutely nothing to back up his “nobody can cover me 1-on-1” talk leading up to the game, as he caught just 3 of the 13 balls thrown to him, for a measly 31 yards. Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington had only 1 catch apiece, as the Ravens converted just ONE OF TEN 3rd down opportunities. A terrible effort by all.

All except Ray Rice of course, who was the only thing even resembling a weapon the Ravens had all day. He finished the day with 8 catches for 87 yards and 12 carries for 48 and the team’s only score.

On defense, all the problems that seemed to have been corrected against Denver came flooding back in force against the Bengals. The pressure that was there from the front seven against Kyle Orton was nowhere to be found when Carson Palmer dropped back. The gap integrity that held the Broncos’ ground game in check was instead replaced with more gaping holes for Cedric Benson, who racked up 117 yards. The sure tackling that negated Denver’s short passing attack regressed to the tune of more arm tackling FAILs and inability to wrap up the ballcarrier (with the pleasant exception of Lardarius Webb).

The few times Greg Mattison did dial up the blitz, it was largely ineffective. They forced some early, errant throws from Palmer in the 2nd half, but during the game’s decisive opening quarter, ginger boy had all day and then some. Cincy was a disgusting 5/5 on 3rd downs on their two touchdown drives, which included an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 with the score 0-0, and an illegal contact call on Chris Carr that gave them another try despite an offensive holding flag being thrown on the play. Other critical mistakes on those two possessions included Fabian Washington dropping what should have been an easy interception on a deep pass and a pass interference flag on Dawan Landry negating a Ravens’ fumble recovery (because, despite interfering, Landry was STILL unable to keep Chad Ochocinco from making the catch…UN-AC-CEPT-AB-LE!)

Ed Reed’s strip of Ochocinco (for the 2nd straight game) could have made this one interesting, had he been able to take it to the house OR had the Ravens’ O been able to score a TD for the 2nd consecutive drive OR had Hauschka not CH-CH-CHOKED again, this time from only 38 yards and the middle of the field.

Of course, none of those things happened, but the Ravens really didn’t deserve this one anyway. Not in the least.

I’ll search in vain for a bright spot for this week’s “Play Like a Raven” feature, but it won’t be easy. This one was just bad all around.

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