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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the New England Patriots 41-7 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Lardarius Webb

4. Jimmy Smith

3. Michael Oher

2. John Harbaugh

1. Joe Flacco (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens-Lions: Five predictions for Monday night

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Ravens-Lions: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 15 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Playing on the road for the first time in nearly a month, the Ravens know exactly what’s at stake when they travel to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions on Monday night.

A three-game winning streak has pushed Baltimore above the .500 mark for the first time since October, but a 1-5 road record can’t be overlooked as the Ravens play two of their final three away from M&T Bank Stadium against first-place teams. And with Miami and San Diego also hanging around in the AFC wild-card picture, the margin for error is small.

The Ravens have the clear advantage with health as linebacker Elvis Dumervil was the only player of real consequence listed as questionable and the rush specialist is expected to make his return after missing last week’s game against Minnesota with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, the Lions have three starters listed as questionable or worse on the final injury report of the week.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens aim to improve to two games above .500 for the first time all season. Monday night marks the fourth time these teams have ever met with the Ravens holding a 2-1 all-time advantage. Detroit won the only meeting between the teams at Ford Field, a 35-17 final back in 2005.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to maintain their grip on the No. 6 seed in the conference playoff race …

1. Facing a banged-up and below-average secondary, Torrey Smith finds room down the field for a long touchdown. The Lions will be without starting cornerback Chris Houston and rookie backup Darius Slay while starting free safety Louis Delmas missed two practices this week with a knee injury, leaving Detroit’s 25th-ranked pass defense even more vulnerable than normal. Smith has been held to just nine receptions over the last three games, but the return of tight end Dennis Pitta and the recent emergence of Jacoby Jones alleviates the heavy attention he was facing earlier in the season. This will free him up to slip past the secondary for a deep touchdown on Monday night, which will put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his three-year career.

2. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson will go over 100 yards receiving and catch a touchdown over safety Matt Elam in deep coverage. The rookie’s comments questioning Johnson’s age and physicality earlier in the week were foolish, but the league’s best wideout was already motivated with the Lions fighting Chicago and Green Bay for the NFC North title. Elam has been a disappointment in pass coverage — recording just two pass breakups — as he’s played out of position all season and his small frame doesn’t play well against Johnson if he’s asked to provide help over the top. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has received most of the attention in terms of who will cover Johnson, but the Ravens rarely ever flip their corners and will likely try to offer as many different looks as they can in coverage. It won’t matter as Johnson will still get his yards and a score on Monday.

3. Linebacker Terrell Suggs will collect his first sack since Nov. 3, but the Ravens won’t generate much pressure on Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions have only allowed 15 sacks this season, which is a major reason why Stafford has remained healthy and is 24 yards shy of his third consecutive 4,000-yard season. Baltimore hasn’t collected a sack since Week 12, but blitzing will leave the defense vulnerable underneath against running back Reggie Bush coming out of the backfield, leaving defensive coordinator Dean Pees in a difficult position. Suggs will beat left tackle Riley Reiff for a sack in the first half and Dumervil’s return will help, but Stafford’s quick release and the Ravens’ concern with Bush and fellow back Joique Bell catching passes out of the backfield will lead to another week of underwhelming pressure.

4. Joe Flacco will roll out and move from the pocket by design to neutralize the Lions’ interior pressure to throw for 250 yards and two touchdowns. The presence of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is a major concern for the Ravens as Flacco will need time in the pocket to step up and go vertical to test a poor secondary. Even if right guard Marshal Yanda and center Gino Gradkowski can hold their own against Suh, Fairley is likely to give A.Q. Shipley fits, which will prompt offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to use designed roll-outs and waggles for Flacco to move outside the pocket. Flacco has shown that he can throw effectively on the run and Pitta’s presence will help in that regard with intermediate passes to move the chains. Detroit’s defensive line is too strong to try to play straight up in the passing game, so the Ravens will try to get Flacco in space behind the line of scrimmage.

5. Struggling at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Ravens can’t quite keep up in a 27-20 final to Detroit. Most attention has fallen on the likes of Johnson, Stafford, and Bush this week, but the Ravens’ running game and pass rush do not match up well against the Lions, which will be the difference in a game in which points could come liberally for both sides. Baltimore will not be able to find space against the league’s sixth-ranked run defense, putting everything on Flacco’s throwing arm, but the passing game just hasn’t had a consistent 60 minutes of play all season long and that will catch up with them late in a back-and-forth game. With the Ravens unable to pressure Stafford, the Lions will just be too tough to stop as a late score against a defense that’s been unable to finish will be the difference in an entertaining contest.

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Fourth-quarter Flacco coming up big for Ravens

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Fourth-quarter Flacco coming up big for Ravens

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Watching from afar, it would be easy to conclude Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t had a good 2013 season.

Already with a career-high 17 interceptions and on pace to post the lowest passer rating (77.0) of his six-year career, Flacco has clearly suffered from working with the league’s worst-ranked rushing attack in yards per carry (3.0) and a supporting cast that’s lacked tight end Dennis Pitta until this past Sunday. But his fourth-quarter performance has been the saving grace in the Ravens finding themselves with a 7-6 record and currently in position to be the AFC’s No. 6 seed in the postseason.

For the second straight season, Flacco’s highest passer rating (91.7) has come in the final 15 minutes of play as he’s thrown eight fourth-quarter touchdowns — twice the number he’s thrown in any other period. He’s completed 66.1 percent of his passes in the final quarter compared to just 57 percent in the first three quarters of play this season.

Unsurprisingly, the Ravens offense has also been its most productive in the final quarter by scoring 102 of its 278 points — just under 37 percent of their total output — in that 15-minute period. This past Sunday, Flacco orchestrated the 18th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime of his career, but he downplayed the significance of his strong performances when the stakes are at their highest on a weekly basis.

“I don’t know. We’ve put ourselves in a lot of situations in the fourth quarter to have to come back on teams and have to play well to win football games,” Flacco said. “We’ve probably spent a lot of time feeling games out, and then all the sudden gotten ourselves into situations where we just have to let it go and see what happens.”

That “let-it-rip” mentality seems to suit Flacco best as we saw throughout last season’s postseason run to the Super Bowl and again on Sunday when he went 7-for-10 for 91 yards and two touchdown passes on the final two offensive drives of the game against Minnesota. Prior to the nine-play, 64-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Pitta with 2:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, Flacco had only gone 21-for-40 for 154 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions.

His late-game success has also come while needing to trust unproven players this season without the likes of Pitta and former Ravens wideout Anquan Boldin in the picture. Other quarterbacks may have thought twice about going to rookie free agent Marlon Brown with the game — and the season — on the line Sunday, but Flacco went right to the 6-foot-5 University of Georgia product in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown with four seconds remaining.

“It’s just what you have to do. Marlon is a great player,” Flacco said. “I’m not thinking back there, ‘Who is in this position? Can I trust this guy?’ If I was thinking that – if that was going through my head – I’d have all the confidence in the world, and he’d be a guy that I’d pick out.”

This moxie gives the Ravens and their 29th-ranked offense a fighting chance to do what’s necessary down the stretch in their final three games to give themselves a great chance to keep the final playoff spot in the conference. Often criticized in the past for being unemotional on the sideline, Flacco’s ability to never get too high or low in the biggest moments is what has made him so effective over the years for the Ravens.

The task of facing three first-place teams in the final three weeks — two of them coming on the road — is a daunting one, but Sunday was the latest example of the Ravens seemingly being able to flip a switch and do what’s necessary to win — even if it’s not aesthetically pleasing.

“We’ve had so much experience in tight games and in big, meaningful games,” Flacco said. “When we do get in situations where we have to play well in crunch time, the situation isn’t too big for us. We’re able to relax and just play football as we always would. Whereas if you’re not in those situations a lot and you start to think about the consequences of what happens if you don’t do what you should do, that’s when the situation can get too big and can overwhelm some people.”

Suggs remembers 2005 Detroit fiasco

Only one player remains on the roster from the last time the Ravens traveled to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions back in 2005.

It was a forgettable and embarrassing day as Baltimore not only lost 35-17 to fall to 1-3 in what would eventually be a 6-10 season but set a franchise record for penalties — falling one shy of the NFL record — and had two players ejected on that October afternoon. One of those players was linebacker Terrell Suggs, who recollected when he was tossed for arguing a roughing the passer call by referee Mike Carey, who explained that Suggs acted with “malice in his heart.”

The 11th-year linebacker could speak with a sense of humor on Wednesday about what happened eight years earlier, but that doesn’t overshadow it being one of the more embarrassing days in franchise history.

“I remember the [21] penalties. Did I get thrown out of that game? I did get thrown out of that game,” said Suggs, who insisted that 2005 game won’t be on his mind Monday night. “I had a lot of ‘malice in my heart.’ I think I head-butted a ref. I remember one of our guys (defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu) hit the crowd with the ‘X-Pac’ [gesture] — you all know what that is. I remember [former Lions running back] Kevin Jones having an altercation — not like a physical one, but a football altercation with one of our safeties. It was an interesting day. But that was the past, and we don’t ever want to see that side of us again.”

Road woes or warriors?

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Dumervil on mend as Ravens set sights toward Detroit

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Dumervil on mend as Ravens set sights toward Detroit

Posted on 09 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILL, Md. — The Ravens escaped their win over the Minnesota Vikings without an extensive injury list, but veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley joins linebacker Elvis Dumervil as question marks for next Monday’s game in Detroit.

Stokley left the game with a concussion in a fourth quarter that featured an astonishing 42 points scored between the two teams. It is believed that he was injured catching a 2-yard pass on third down that set the Ravens up for the fourth-and-1 play in which fullback Vonta Leach was stuffed for no gain at the Minnesota 21 with 10:36 remaining.

The 37-year-old wideout missed seven games earlier this season while nursing a groin injury but returned to play in the last three games, catching four passes for 36 yards. Stokley has dealt with at least 14 concussions in his football career dating back to his high school days, which could complicate how quickly he’s able to return to the field.

“He’ll go through the concussion protocol,” coach John Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. “We’ll have to see how that shakes out. Unfortunately, he’s had a number of those in his career, so that could be problematic for us. We’ll have to see in the next 24 hours or so.”

Dumervil missed his first game of the season against Minnesota after he was unable to recover from a left ankle sprain suffered against Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night. The pass-rush specialist returned to play in that key AFC North game, leaving the Ravens optimistic that he’d be able to play against the Vikings.

However, his progress was slower than expected last week and the snowy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday likely made the Ravens’ decision to deactivate him even easier. The Baltimore defense has failed to collect a sack in each of the last two games, which is a disturbing trend with meetings against Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and New England’s Tom Brady coming up in the next two weeks.

“I think Elvis has a chance for next week,” Harbaugh said. “He looks pretty good [Monday]. It’s kind of a bruise in his ankle, so we’ll just have to see where he’s at. I was hopeful for him this week, so I’ll be more hopeful for him next week.”

By all accounts, tight end Dennis Pitta made it through Sunday’s game feeling no ill effects after returning to action for the first time since dislocating and fracturing his hip on July 27. Pitta finished with six catches for 48 yards and reined in a 1-yard touchdown pass with 2:05 remaining in the game.

The Ravens were so confident in Pitta’s ability to play extensively against Minnesota that they listed veteran Dallas Clark as inactive, but Harbaugh said the 34-year-old still fits into the team’s plans moving forward. Clark’s limited ability as a blocker and his lack of a special-teams role make him a difficult player to include among the 46 active players on game days, especially if the Ravens plan to emphasize the running game in a given matchup.

“Dallas is going to be a big part of what we’re doing going forward,” Harbaugh said. “It just depends on the game plan and how the offensive coaches decide to put that together.”

Pass rush MIA

Masked in the euphoria of Sunday’s miraculous 29-26 win over Minnesota was the fourth-quarter struggles of the defense and its inability to collect a sack for a second straight week after 19 straight contests with at least two.

Harbaugh expressed concern over his defense’s inability to finish games strongly, but he didn’t seem as concerned with the pass rush, citing the ability of Minneseota quarterback Matt Cassel and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger a week earlier to get the ball out quickly. Of course, the snowy conditions Sunday left a few inches of snow on the field, which also impacted the rush in a way similar to the sloppy conditions in Chicago last month.

“I don’t think it’s a product of what people are doing differently. They’re getting the ball out pretty quick,” Harbaugh said. “There haven’t been a lot of downfield-route-type things. We had some maximum protection yesterday, two backs, and those kinds of things where they try to throw it down the field. They were mostly throwing fades or they threw seams over the middle. Those balls come out pretty quick. Field conditions were a factor … more than anything else.”

The absence of Dumveril left more pass-rushing situations for second-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw on Sunday and fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs extended his streak of games without a sack to five. Suggs earned at least one sack in seven of the first eight games of the 2013 season but hasn’t collected one since.

Flacco gets taste of own medicine

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Peterson first of big names Ravens must stop in final month

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Peterson first of big names Ravens must stop in final month

Posted on 04 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even if they’re fortunate enough to only play him once every four years, the Ravens are fully aware of the greatness of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

In fact, Peterson is only the first of several of the NFL’s best the Ravens must stop over the final month of the season to advance to the postseason for the sixth consecutive season under coach John Harbaugh.

Next week, the Ravens take on Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, the undisputed best wide receiver on the planet today. The week after, it’s one of the best quarterbacks in league history in Tom Brady. And if the Ravens can get past the first three while remaining upright in terms of their postseason fate, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green awaits in the regular-season finale.

No sweat, right?

But the Ravens can only focus on Peterson and Minnesota for now with all discussion of Sunday’s game centered around stopping the five-time Pro Bowl running back and 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player. Peterson leads the league with 1,208 rushing yards after collecting more than 2,000 on the ground last year coming off a torn ACL at the end of the 2011 season.

“What’s his nickname, ‘All Day?’” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “The man runs hard all day. It’s going to be interesting. It’s definitely a challenge for us, and we’re really looking forward to it. We’ll have to see what’s up on Sunday.”

Only a handful of defensive players remain on the roster from the last time the Ravens took on Peterson and the Vikings at the Metrodome in 2009, but the memory of the 6-foot-1, 217-yard back rushing for 143 yards on 22 carries was a difficult one for a defense that prides itself on stopping the run. Baltimore has allowed over 100 rushing yards in six of its 12 games, but only one of those contests resulted in an individual century-mark rusher as Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards in Week 6.

Aside from a four-week stretch earlier this season when the Ravens allowed 140 or more rushing yards three times — against Buffalo, the Packers, and Pittsburgh — the run defense has been strong, ranking sixth in the league by allowing 100.1 rushing yards per game. Dean Pees’ unit has allowed only 3.7 yards per carry, but the Ravens haven’t faced a back with Peterson’s incredibly rare combination of speed, size, toughness, and agility.

In addition to following gap assignments and simply staying home to protect against cutbacks, the common theme expressed by the Ravens Wednesday was the need to gang-tackle to neutralize Peterson’s ability to shed defenders. According to Pro Football Focus, he leads the league with 801 yards after contact, which is over 200 more than second-place Marshawn Lynch of Seattle.

“Everybody has to tackle. You have to have a whole defensive effort,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “Everybody needs to run to the ball. One guy doesn’t usually bring him down. He’s one of those backs that can change the game on any play.”

The numbers support that sentiment as Peterson is averaging 3.1 yards per attempt after contact this season; the Ravens’ struggling running game collects only 2.9 yards overall per carry.

As if his reputation for being a bruising running back that breaks tackles wasn’t enough, Peterson is also tied for second in the NFL with eight runs of 20 or more yards. Suggs recalled a 58-yard run Peterson collected in the Vikings’ 33-31 win in 2009 and how scary it can be to see him find the second and third levels of the defense.

“It’s not a good scene when you’re behind [No.] 28,” Suggs said. “You just hope you’ve got somebody fast enough on the team to catch the guy. But if you keep him in front of you, then you’ve got a good chance of containing him.”

Of course, even with Peterson, the Vikings are 3-8-1 and possess the league’s 25th-ranked passing game as the quarterbacking trio of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and Josh Freeman have been unable to generate any consistency through the air. The Vikings’ passing game ineptitude has allowed teams to put eight men in the box far too often, making it likely that safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam will take turns playing close to the line of scrimmage in an effort to slow the intimidating back.

Such defensive looks make it even more impressive that Peterson is leading the league in rushing for the second straight year with not much help behind him in terms of a passing game.

With Ponder not expected to start while recovering from a concussion, the Ravens will likely see Cassel under center, a signal-caller they harassed incessantly in a 2010 wild-card victory against Kansas City. Baltimore is saying all the right things about the Vikings’ talented trio of wide receivers in former Packer Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, but the numbers suggest that a huge day from Peterson is the Vikings’ only realistic hope for an upset on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

“He’s a threat every time he touches the ball, so we’ll have our hands full,” Harbaugh said. “But it just can’t be that. You can’t sleep on the rest of their talent. They’ve got a number of very good tight ends that can make plays. They’ve got a number of very talented receivers that can make plays. They are a fully complemented offense talent-wise.”

The key word is containment as Peterson has only been held under 75 rushing yards four times this season. The Vikings running back is too talented not to get his yards, but the Ravens must prevent him from going off like he did last week against the Bears for over 200 rushing yards in an overtime win.

The overall Week 14 competition is underwhelming for the Ravens as they begin the final quarter of the season on Sunday, but Peterson is just the first of several big names that lie in their path to the postseason.

It doesn’t get any easier after that with Detroit, New England, and Cincinnati looming after that.

“Isn’t that everybody’s motivation? You get the chance to go up against the best,” linebacker Jameel McClain said. “We get the opportunity this week to go up against one of the best running backs, and then the week after that, we get a chance [against] one of the better receivers in the league. It’s everybody’s motivation to come and bring their ‘A’ game. We wouldn’t be in this game if we weren’t trying to compete with the best.”

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Stokley leaves game with sprained left knee

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

On the heels of their big 22-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving night, the Ravens will take advantage of the extra time off to rest and recover from a brutally physical game with their AFC North adversary.

A number of players left at different points in the action, but the most serious injury appeared to occur to veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who left the game late in the first half with a left knee sprain and did not occur. It was only Stokley’s second game back from a nagging groin injury that had hindered him since the end of September.

Coach John Harbaugh didn’t have any new information on Stokley’s status following the game.

“He has got a knee [injury],” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see about it Friday.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was shaken up on the violent goal-line collision with Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell late in the fourth quarter and was down on the field for a couple minutes before walking off on his own power. Harbaugh said the starting defensive back “should be OK” despite Smith appearing woozy as he walked to the sideline.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil suffered a left ankle injury late in the first half but returned to play after halftime.

Other players shaken up at different points during the game included wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and linebacker Terrell Suggs, but all three finished the game.

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Roethlisberger standing in Ravens’ way once again

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Roethlisberger standing in Ravens’ way once again

Posted on 27 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Ravens/Jets “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Jets “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 24 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 19-3 win over the New York Jets Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Chris Canty

4. Corey Graham

3. Daryl Smith

2. Joe Flacco

1. Jacoby Jones (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens loss in Chicago hurts more than any other so far in ’13

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Ravens loss in Chicago hurts more than any other so far in ’13

Posted on 18 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

Of the six losses so far in 2013, Sunday’s defeat in Chicago was the toughest.

It was the only one of the defeats where they had a chance to win at the buzzer…and failed.

Against Denver, a 17-14 halftime lead turned into a blowout when Peyton Manning and Company went nuts in the 3rd quarter.

In Buffalo, a last minute drive ended at midfield when Dallas Clark deflected a throw that was intercepted by Kiko Alonso of the Bills.

Green Bay salted the game-away with their own late-game drive and the Ravens never really even had a chance to go on the offensive down the stretch.

Pittsburgh parlayed a late kickoff return into a last second field goal to beat the Ravens.

And, in Cleveland, the Ravens trailed throughout and didn’t have much of a chance late in the 4th quarter.

That was not the case in Chicago on Sunday, though, as the Ravens drove the length of the field — aided by a huge personal foul penalty against the Bears — and moved the ball to the 5-yard with less than a minute to play.  Down by three, a Baltimore touchdown would have given John Harbaugh’s team a huge road win and put them in glorious position for an AFC wild card berth.

Three downs to get five yards.

Three downs to pick up fifteen friggin’ feet.

They couldn’t do it.

And that, more than anything else, is why the Ravens are a 4-6 team.

Yes, yes, yes, the Baltimore defense got gashed in overtime and gave up a huge 3rd down pitch-and-catch to Alshon Jeffery and a 43-yard game-breaker to Martellus Bennett on the next play to set-up the winning field goal.

That, though, was only made possible because the Baltimore offense couldn’t move the ball fifteen feet in three plays.

On first down at the five, the Ravens tried running the ball with Ray Rice.  He picked up three yards.

Now, you need just six feet — two yards — to win.

On second down, Rice tried going to his left and was bumped back a yard to the three.

And then, on third down, Gino Gradkowski’s bad snap fouled things up from the start and Flacco’s throw to Torrey Smith in the end zone was too high.

That’s how you turn winning into losing.

There were lots of bright spots on Sunday in Chicago.  The Ravens’ running game came back to life after a season-in-a-coma, taking advantage of a horrible Bears run defense to pile up 174 yards on the ground.  Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley both had their best days of the season at center and guard, respectively.  Chris Canty and Art Jones were studs defensively.  Dallas Clark made a couple of terrific catches, including a game-saver – potentially – on 4th and 4 on the final drive in regulation.

Unfortunately, the negatives narrowly outnumberd the positives, which is how the Ravens wound up losing 23-20.  Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were both no-shows on Sunday, although Dumervil finally did get his name mentioned late in the game when he picked up a personal foul penalty in the 4th quarter that helped extend a Chicago drive and keep the clock running for the home team.  Joe Flacco and Rice teamed up for a horrific 2nd quarter interception-for-return by the Bears, as the running back whiffed on a high-school level blocking assignment and Flacco then didn’t get the ball up and over Chicago’s David Bass, who did the tip-and-catch thing to perfection and scampered into the end zone for a 24-yard TD.  And, early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens inexplicably challenged an Alshon Jeffery catch that cost them a valuable time-out after the play was – not surprisingly – upheld after video review.

When you have a couple of more negatives than positives, that’s how you lose.

Honestly, the Ravens would have won this game a year ago.  Not because of heart or effort or anything like that.  You certainly can’t fault the team’s fight on Sunday in Chicago.  They battled like a defending champion is expected to battle.  But, a season ago, the Ravens would have reached the end-zone with twenty seconds left in the game.  How?  I don’t know.  They just would have.

This team is 4-6 for a reason.

They don’t do anything particularly well is probably the most logical reason, but the truth is they’re 4-6 because they can’t beat teams like the Bills, Browns and Bears.

The funniest part?  The Ravens are still very much in the AFC playoff race, along with about seven other teams.  At this point, a two game win streak over the next eleven days would put them at 6-6 and give them a legit shot at finishing the season on a strong note and securing a 6th straight playoff berth.

That said, there’s no guarantee the Ravens win two more games TOTAL, let alone two in a row at home over New York and Pittsburgh.

As we’ve seen over the first ten games, there’s no telling what this Ravens team is going to do from game-to-game, half-to-half, quarter-to-quarter and series-to-series.

They couldn’t even pick up five yards on Sunday when doing so would have won the game for them.

 

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Ravens missing four defensive starters during Thursday’s practice

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Ravens missing four defensive starters during Thursday’s practice

Posted on 14 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to an important showdown with the Chicago Bears this weekend, the Ravens were without four defensive starters during Thursday’s practice.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee), cornerback Lardarius Webb (groin), and inside linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) were all absent for the second straight day. Each played in last Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals, but Ngata and Smith both left the game at different points and were expected to be limited in practices this week.

Webb spoke to reporters in the locker room prior to Thursday’s workout and did not appear to be noticeably favoring an injury.

Defensive end Chris Canty (knee) was the only new absence on Thursday after he practiced and was not listed on the injury report a day earlier. Canty also addressed reporters prior to sitting out practice and gave no indication that he was dealing with an injury.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) and strong safety James Ihedigbo (toe) were both present and working after being listed as a limited participant on Wednesday’s injury report.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck) was added to the injury report as a limited participant.

Meanwhile, Chicago added starting tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle) to their injury report after he didn’t participate on Thursday.

Here is Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Haloti Ngata (knee), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), CB Lardarius Webb (groin), DE Chris Canty (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S James Ihedigbo (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (groin), LB Terrell Suggs (neck)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Bernard Pierce (toe/knee), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)

CHICAGO
OUT: LB Lance Briggs (shoulder), QB Jay Cutler (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LS Patrick Mannelly (calf), DE Shea McClellin (hamstring), DT Jeremiah Ratliff (groin), TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
LIMITED: T Jordan Mills (quad)

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