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My Ravens v. Steelers “Top 10 Most Memorable”

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My Ravens v. Steelers “Top 10 Most Memorable”

Posted on 06 November 2011 by Glenn Clark

I’m simply calling this my “Top 10 Most Memorable.” Not my “Top Ten Most Memorable Games” or my “Top Ten Most Memorable Moments”, just my “Top 10 Most Memorable” in the history of the Baltimore Ravens/Pittsburgh Steelers Rivalry…

10. Jamal2K (December 28, 2003-Ravens 13, Steelers 10 OT)

jamal

The game didn’t really end up meaning anything for either team, as the Ravens clinched the division earlier in the day with a Cincinnati Bengals loss. That said, the atmosphere remained electric for the Sunday Night Football matchup as Brian Billick stuck with his starters. RB Jamal Lewis fell short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record (live shots of Dickerson from ESPN during the broadcast actually added to the excitement), but he DID surpass the 2,000 yard mark and the Ravens claimed victory of their AFC North foe.

9. Ravens won’t defend (January 20, 2002 Steelers 27, Ravens 10)

2022

Despite an up and down 2001 season, there was still a feeling that once the Baltimore Ravens reached the playoffs, they’d somehow figure out a way to defend their Super Bowl XXXV crown. Kordell Stewart and Amos Zereoue did little against the Ravens defense, but three Elvis Grbac picks ensured the Ravens’ title hopes would be dashed at Heinz Field.

8. Flacco’s coming out party (September 29, 2008 Steelers 23, Ravens 20 OT)

After a surprising quick start to the 2008 season with first year head coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens entered their Monday Night Football showdown in the Steel City undefeated. They took a quick lead in the game, but some mistakes allowed the Steelers back into the game. The game would ultimately be won by the Steelers in overtime, but Ravens fans who made the trip felt good about the hopes for the coach and QB moving forward in the series.

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Rice, Suggs moving past Monday night controversy

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Rice, Suggs moving past Monday night controversy

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens returning to the practice field to begin preparations for the Arizona Cardinals on Wednesday, many were interested to learn if there would be any fallout from an unthinkable 12-7 loss in Jacksonville on Monday night.

Running back Ray Rice received only eight carries and 13 touches as the Ravens were held to just 146 total yards and an embarrassing 16 in the first half. Linebacker Terrell Suggs sparked controversy following the game for questioning offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for not getting the ball in the star running back’s hands more often.

Two days later, Rice made it clear he always wants the ball in order to help the offense, but expressed his desire to move past the disappointing loss.

“I definitely expect to be more involved,” Rice said. “My involvement with this offense hasn’t changed since the beginning of the season. I don’t want Cam and them to feel like they’ve got to force me the ball. I’m not that kind of guy. My carries come when the whole offense has success. I look forward to having that success.”

Suggs has drawn criticism for publicly questioning the coaching staff, but coach John Harbaugh agreed with the Pro Bowl defensive player’s comments when asked about it during his Tuesday press conference. While not backing down from his post-game comments, Suggs clarified his thoughts and shared the universal vision shared by all within the organization.

“There’s no big deal about it,” Suggs said. “We know we’re a great team. Like I said, we’re a great team when those guys are getting the ball. That’s what I meant. We’ve got to take our hats off to Jacksonville. They played a physical game and won the game, but we can’t give them any help. That’s what I meant about it.”

The most common theme expressed by those involved with the offensive side of the football has been execution, an area where Rice simply wants to have a bigger say reflecting in the number of times he’s able to touch the ball.

While the Ravens running back was ready to shift his focus to the Cardinals, he reiterated how important it was to learn from an abysmal experience in Jacksonville.

“We’re not to ignore the fact it happened,” Rice said. “We didn’t execute. It’s the same thing I’ve been talking about all the time. We didn’t execute. It’s us as the whole offense. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m begging for carries. At the same time, I do know when we’re getting first downs I touch the ball. We’ll get that as the week goes.”

‘Flag’ football

Safety Bernard Pollard said he has yet to receive a fine from the NFL for his penalized hit of Jaguars running back Deji Karim on the opening drive of the third quarter, which extended the Jacksonville drive and led to a field goal to make it a 9-0 deficit for the Ravens.

While Pollard made it clear he’s against malicious hits the head and understands the league’s intent to make the sport safer, he shared the same frustration expressed by countless defensive players around the NFL, who are contemplating where exactly they’re allowed to hit an offensive player.

“This is a sport that’s violent, so you can’t say, ‘Well, go get in a car crash, but be careful,’” Pollard said. “You can’t do that, so we all know and understand this is a car wreck every single play with guys. We know and understand how to take care of our bodies as far as what’s a violent shot and then what’s an unnecessary violent shot.”

Pollard suggested that the increasing number of penalties and fines for hits directed toward the chest — where he appeared to hit Karim with his shoulder — will lead to more hits directed at opponents’ knees, which will lead to even more injuries.

Linebacker Ray Lewis, who said he got a good look at the Pollard hit from his vantage point on the field, stated officials need to be held responsible for the calls they make and suggested the NFL consider using instant replay to review questionable hits.

“I just think every man needs to be held accountable for whatever call they make,” Lewis said. “If you review so many other plays, review that one, too. That’s so big in that game. And every man makes a mistake.”

Regardless of the impact the penalty had on the third-quarter drive, Pollard does not intend to change his hard-hitting, aggressive style of play, even if it means he’ll receive penalties in the future.

“Football is football,” Pollard said. “If you ask me to go do it again this Sunday, I’m doing the same thing, so they’re going to either keep flagging us or they’re going to have to do something about this rule.”

Heap homecoming

Sunday will mark the return of former Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who spent the first 10 years of his career in Baltimore before being cut in a salary cap move prior to the start of training camp. Always popular in Baltimore, Heap will undoubtedly receive a warm reception from the 71,000 gathered at M&T Bank Stadium as he steps foot on the field as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Joe Flacco expressed how critical Heap’s veteran presence was in his first three years, as the tight end was a reliable target inside the red zone and on third-down situations for the young quarterback.

“Anytime you have veteran guys around that you can get along with, and they trust you out there on the field, it makes things easier for a young quarterback,” Flacco said. “And Todd was one of those guys. He was a veteran guy who’s been around, played a lot of good football in his career and was able to trust in me when I was out there.”

While many former teammates will greet him prior to the game, the warm sentiment changes at kickoff.

“The love is always going to be there off the field,” said Lewis, who was teammates with Heap for 10 years. “Of course, once you put on a different-colored jersey, here we go again. If the ball comes his way and it just happens I’m there, I might tap him on his shoulder a little bit.”

It’s still undetermined whether Heap will actually be able to play after being sidelined for the last two games with a hamstring injury. The 11-year veteran was a limited participant for Arizona’s practice on Wednesday as the team will monitor his progress during the week.

“He’s real close,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said in a conference call with the Baltimore media, “but we have to make sure as this week progresses he can handle it — opening up and blocking and those things that we’re going to ask him to do. We’ve got to make sure his hamstring is in a position where he can do that.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Matt Birk, and Bernard Pollard right here.

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

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7 Disappointing Points from Ravens at Jacksonville

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Having had just over 24 hours to digest (and regurgitate) the Ravens loss to the Jaguars, here are my 7 points to ponder from the Ravens disappointing performance on Monday night in Jacksonville, a veritable touchdown of takeaways in honor of the Ravens lone TD in the game.

 

 

Point #1 – This might be the best defensive performance we’ve seen from these Ravens in a long time.

 

Unlike their turnover driven performances against Pittsburgh and the Jets, this was smash mouth, “punch you in the face” defense. The 12 points that the Jags scored in the game were tough to come by. Ray Rice’s 1st quarter fumble set the Jags up for a 51-yard field goal if they had simply kicked it immediately on 1st down, in hindsight not a bad idea. Instead the Jags, pulling out all the stops, drove to the 1-yard line and converted on a 4th and 2 in the process before Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled the ball back to the Ravens. The ensuing possession had Sam Koch punting from his own end zone. Again, if the Jags had kicked immediately on first down, the field goal attempt would have been 51-yards from the spot where the drive started. Three negative yards, a timeout and a tough decision later, Jack Del Rio and the Jags were kicking from 54-yards and taking a 3-0 lead.

 

The second field goal for Josh Scobee and company, another ambitious 54-yarder, came only after a Paul Kruger running into the kicker call negated a Jags punt and improved their field position as a result.

 

The Jags 3rd field goal was the result of their most impressive drive in the game, a drive 16 plays in duration and one that arguably should have ended at 5 plays with a punt if not for a terrible unnecessary roughness penalty on Bernard Pollard. Another stop for the Ravens at the 7-yard line was nullified by a Brendon Ayanbadejo penalty and ejection. The 3 points they yielded on that series was ultimately a relief despite it putting the margin at 2 scores, the 8 minutes and 30 seconds they spent getting there might have been an even bigger win for the Jags.

 

And of course the 4th filed goal came after the decision to try and onsides kick at 2:02 of the 4th quarter and was the result of a 4-yard drive.

 

At the end of the day it was a shutout caliber performance by the defense, spoiled by circumstance and bad luck.

 

 

Point #2 – The Ravens were in the shotgun way too much.

 

The Ravens officially ran 38 passing plays and just 12 running plays against the Jags. In the aftermath of the defeat, those numbers have been heavily criticized and deservedly so. In a game as close as that one was, that type of imbalance is all but inexcusable for a team of the Ravens offensive identity. That said, that’s life in the modern NFL, and had the Ravens won, no one would have batted an eye.

 

That Ray Rice only had 8 “touches” has been a bit overstated though as he also had 5 catches on 8 targets in the passing game. Furthermore down and distance have a lot to do with making running opportunities available and the fact that the Ravens offense only ran 25 plays in total in Monday’s first half, 8 of which were 3rd downs explains the imbalance somewhat.

 

What’s tough to explain from where I sit is why the Ravens felt compelled to tip their hands out of the running game as readily as they did on Monday.

 

By my unofficial count, the Ravens lined up 46 times on Monday either in the shotgun formation or with Flacco under center and intending to pass (this includes sacks and penalties). Of those 46 plays, 14 snaps under center were passes leaving 32 snaps from the shotgun.

 

On each of those shotgun snaps the Ravens seemed to go to silent counts with no cadence from Flacco at all. Instead, Marshal Yanda would watch for Flacco’s foot pump and then tap Matt Birk on the leg. Once Birk felt the tap, he’d rock back and snap in a predictable rhythm. I say predictable, but in fairness it appears the Jags got caught jumping offsides at least twice while trying to anticipate the snap. That said, that means there were 30 other plays where they conceivably timed it correctly. Surely this had something to do with the effectiveness the Jags were having with simple 4 and 5-man rushes.

 

That Jacksonville generates enough crowd noise to dictate the Ravens using a silent count in the shotgun is strange (especially after watching Matt Ryan direct the no huddle in Detroit last week). That Flacco is looking less and less like a quarterback during these scenarios is debatable in its impact perhaps, that the Ravens are essentially declaring that Ray Rice running the ball (a staple of the Ravens attack) is not an option and giving the defense a timing mechanism with which to start their jump at the line is absolutely baffling.

 

That Flacco looked so out of sorts when trying to direct a hurried offense when the Ravens needed him to may speak to the limited control he’s given of his offense pre-snap throughout the game.

 

 

Point #3 – Home field advantage may be more important than ever this year.

 

The Ravens have played 3 road games against 3 very bad teams and have looked good for exactly one quarter of one game. They’ve lost 2 road games to teams that had no business playing with them on paper, and while we all know that’s why they play the games, it’s un-Raven-like to say the least.

 

Your glass could easily be half empty or half full regarding the Ravens road successes and failures in the playoffs in the last 3 years and concerning the path that led them there and the missed opportunities to have games at home. If the Ravens are going to have a real shot this season in the playoffs, getting there will only be half the battle. These Ravens thrive on home cooking it seems.

 

 

Point #4 – This is not the same old offense.

 

It may be the same old result, but it’s not the same old offense. Don’t let your lingering frustration from the previous regime cloud your point of view. This isn’t even the same offense they had last year. Much less the Billick offense or the unbalanced run heavy (literally) attack of 2008. Call them crutches, call them security blankets, call them whatever you want, but Flacco knew where Mason and Heap were going to be all of the time it seemed. This new group…not so much.

 

The offensive line was an ambitious experiment to begin with putting 3 of 5 opening week starters in positions that they hadn’t even played in the pre-season together spoke to the possibility of tough sledding. The number of plug-ins necessitated by injuries on the line already only serves to perpetuate that problem. That the offensive line is struggling shouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe the bigger surprise should be how good they have looked at times. Either way they project to get better as time allows them to continue to evolve.

 

Anquan Boldin and two second year tight ends are the long tenured members of the receiving corps already, rookie LaQuan Williams seems to be playing more wide receiver as a rookie for the Ravens than he ever did as a collegiate for the Terps and Lee Evans has been a non-factor.

 

It stands to reason that this offense would struggle and will again, check back on them around week 13 or so, once the weather has changed, to see how well primed they are for the playoffs.

 

 

Point #5 – There’s lots of finger pointing going around.

 

Harbaugh pointing at Cundiff, Suggs pointing at Cam, the fans and the media joining Suggs in pointing at Cam and at Flacco too, everybody it seems blames somebody, and everybody just might be right. For a 4-2 team though this has to be at least a little bit unnerving.

 

This was a lot funnier when it was coming from the Jets locker room a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

Point #6 – You can’t blame apathy again.

 

When the Ravens lost to Tennessee apathy could have been to blame. Whether it was actually the case or not, it was easy for everyone to simply dismiss the loss as the Ravens were riding too high after a win against Pittsburgh or that the Ravens simply didn’t come to play. On the surface you might be tempted to say the same about Jacksonville, but it simply can’t be true.

 

As pointed out in Point #1, the Ravens defense did come to play. It was the defense that should have and could have been riding high and resting on their laurels, but they didn’t. It was the offense that failed to perform on Monday. The offense has been feeling the proverbial heat of criticism for weeks, and while folks were surely taking the Jags as a whole lightly, no one was discounting their defense. The Jags needed a big performance to have any chance against the Ravens on Monday; everyone knew that, including the Ravens.

 

Apathy may never be a legitimate excuse, here it absolutely wasn’t.

 

 

Point #7 – There are deep waters in the AFC North.

 

The sting of Monday’s loss was surely agitated by the fact that it represented a loss of first place in the division (at least mathematically) to the 5-2 Steelers. It also puts the Ravens in a tie with the surprisingly 4-2 Bengals and just a game ahead of the 3-3 Browns. This isn’t your dad’s AFC North it seems, and the 5 games the Ravens have left in the division are looking scarier by the minute.

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Ravens offense in familiar position trying to find itself

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Ravens offense in familiar position trying to find itself

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Luke Jones

It’s that time of year again.

Just as the foliage changes colors, the Ravens once again find themselves searching for their true identity on the offensive side of the football.

At 3-1 and sitting in first place in the AFC North after the Week 5 bye, it’s not as if the Ravens haven’t had their share of offensive success through the first quarter of the season. A balanced attack via the air and ground in a 35-7 stomping of Pittsburgh and a franchise-record 553-yard assault in St. Louis certainly support that notion.

Maintaining that success from week to week and, at times, quarter to quarter has been the problem. It’s a dilemma coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, and the Ravens are trying to solve as they currently rank 9th in rushing and 18th in passing in the NFL.

“We talked about it with our team [Monday], you know, what’s our identity?” Harbaugh said. “Well, our identity is a lot of things, but I think first and foremost, we’re going to attack people. And what does that mean? It means you attack people running the ball, you attack people throwing short, intermediate and deep. You attack people in pass protection, you attack people by putting everybody out.

“You’ve got to be able to do everything in the National Football League, so that you don’t become one-dimensional and they can’t take away something and leave you with nothing. And that’s what we’re searching for.”

Critics look to the up-and-down performance of quarterback Joe Flacco as a major factor in the offense’s inconsistency. After playing arguably the best game of his career in the season opener against the Steelers, Flacco followed it with a two-interception clunker in Tennessee. He then turned in a 389-yard passing day at St. Louis before completing just 10 of 31 passes — including two whole quarters without a completion — against the New York Jets.

With veteran Lee Evans missing two games with an ankle injury and three rookies trying to fill the void in complementing Anquan Boldin, Flacco has completed just 49.3 percent of his passes while tossing seven touchdown and three interceptions. The fourth-year quarterback has also struggled to adjust to life without veteran safety nets Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, who were released prior to training camp.

To make matters worse, Flacco’s rapport with Boldin has yet to blossom as many expected it would without the high-maintenance Mason in the picture. Boldin has just 15 catches and 222 yards with one touchdown in the first four games.

Despite the growing pains, Flacco has shown a better presence in the pocket and a more aggressive nature in the passing attack, according to Harbaugh.

“He’s doing a great job handling the protections, he’s making plays on the run, he’s making big plays at a record clip – especially for us, since we’ve been here [and] probably historically if you look at the Ravens, I would guess. That’s real. The big-play part of it is big for us.

“I think he’s playing well enough to be 3-1, and I think our offense is more explosive than it has been in the past thanks to Joe and the other guys. I think we can attack you in more ways than we have been able to recently. But, we’ve got to keep building on that; we’ve got to become more consistent. Obviously, the completion percentage, that’s going to have to come up; we’ve got to all work on that together. Those are all the things that we’re looking at, just like you guys are looking at.”

Cameron has once again come under fire for a questionable in-game feel for making adjustments, specifically when the Ravens failed to quicken their offensive tempo when trailing late in the second half against the Titans in Week 2 and when he continued to call passing plays against the New York Jets when Flacco was clearly out of sync in Week 4.

The seat will only get hotter for the offensive coordinator if the Ravens cannot quickly find a more consistent footing offensively.

In fact, the only consistent element of a hot-and-cold Baltimore offense has been Ray Rice, averaging 134.8 yards on 20.5 touches per game. The fourth-year back has been terrific on the ground and catching passes out of the backfield, leading the Ravens in receptions and receiving yards.

Whether you believe the Ravens should be the ground-and-pound, ball-control offense of their past in support of their dominating defense or an air-it-out, aggressive attack, Rice needs to touch the ball as much as possible every single week, regardless of the opponent.

Beyond that, we’re left asking ourselves what this team’s offensive identity really is — and should be.

It’s a familiar question, one even the Ravens are asking themselves at the quarter pole of the season.

“Who are the Ravens?” Harbaugh said. “What are we going to be about? What do we stand for? How are we going to play? What can the people and the fans in Baltimore and across the country expect from us and be proud of? That’s important. It’s a good time to kind of talk about that.”

All good questions. Ones that need to be answered quickly in a season with limitless possibilities.

What should the Ravens’ offensive identity be? What in-season changes would you make, if any? What factors have plagued the offense from taking the next step in its development? Leave your comments in the space below.

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Grading the Ravens’ veteran acquisitions at the quarter pole

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Grading the Ravens’ veteran acquisitions at the quarter pole

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Luke Jones

In the immediate aftermath of the lockout coming to an end in late July, the hammer fell on the Baltimore Ravens as we knew them from past seasons.

Gone were established veterans Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee in a wave of releases to create salary cap room. Key contributors such as Le’Ron McClain, Dawan Landry, Chris Chester, and Josh Wilson found homes in other NFL cities.

Fans panicked as general manager Ozzie Newsome worked methodically instead of snatching up any recognizable name from a market suddenly saturated with hundreds of veteran free agents. When the dust settled in time for the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens were not only younger but had a new batch of veteran acquisitions to aid in a potential Super Bowl run in 2011.

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With the Ravens entering the bye week at 3-1 and atop the AFC North, an overwhelming majority of those outside additions have provided positive returns through the quarter pole of the season.

Six noteworthy veterans were acquired in the preseason as I take a stab at grading them through the first four games of the season.

WR Lee Evans (8th year)
Skinny: Despite having rapidly developed a rapport with Joe Flacco after being acquired for a fourth-round pick on Aug. 12, Evans fell victim to a left ankle injury following the Ravens’ third preseason game against the Washington Redskins. His recovery has been slow and frustrating, prompting the Ravens to sit him down the last two games after lackluster play against Pittsburgh and Tennessee in the first two games. Evans has two receptions for 45 yards and has been unable to provide the vertical threat the Ravens envisioned when they brought him to Baltimore.
First quarter grade: INCOMPLETE

RB Ricky Williams (11th year)
Skinny: Signed to fill the role of McGahee, Williams has averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry, but the veteran has lost two fumbles on only 35 touches to hurt his overall grade. It’s a concerning stat with Williams viewed as a nice change of pace to Ray Rice and an option to receive carries late in games when the Ravens are trying to protect leads. Turning the ball over is the quickest way to allow the opponent back in the game. The former Miami Dolphin has yet to score a touchdown despite many speculating he would take away Rice’s carries at the goal line.
First quarter grade: C+

S Bernard Pollard (6th year)
Skinny: The former Houston Texan was signed to bring a physical presence in the secondary after Landry signed in Jacksonville. Though not particularly strong in coverage, Pollard has been tough against the run and is a talented blitzer from his strong safety position. Pollard has just six tackles and one pass breakup but has contributed on special teams. He received his first start against the Jets last Sunday night and graded out well, which was needed after normal starter Tom Zbikowski left the game with a concussion.
First quarter grade: B

G/C Andre Gurode (10th year)
Skinny: Signed a week before the start of the regular season, Gurode was a valuable insurance policy for veteran Matt Birk at center, but the Ravens have needed the former Dallas Cowboy at left guard with Ben Grubbs missing three games with a right toe injury. Despite never playing the position in his career, Gurode has provided strong run blocking over the last two games to help stabilize the left side of the line. With Grubbs expected back after the bye week, the question becomes whether Gurode returns to a reserve role or the Ravens consider eventually using the five-time Pro Bowler at center in an effort to upgrade the line — even with Birk’s solid play to this point. Either way, Gurode’s versatility on the interior has filled the void left behind by Chester, who signed with the Washington Redskins at the start of training camp.
First quarter grade: B+

OT Bryant McKinnie (10th year)
Skinny: The Ravens certainly raised eyebrows despite the intriguing payoff when they signed McKinnie, who had been released by the Minnesota Vikings after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds during the 134-day lockout. Past questions about his character and overall work ethic made it a risky proposition to insert McKinnie at left tackle and slide Michael Oher to the right side, but the former Miami Hurricane has been a welcome addition with both his play and attitude. After not taking part in any preseason games, McKinnie thoroughly dominated James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in the Ravens’ 35-7 season-opening win over the Steelers. His play hasn’t been quite as impressive since then, struggling mightily against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, but McKinnie has stepped into the second-most important position in football (behind the quarterback) and performed admirably despite an abbreviated training camp.
First quarter grade: B+

FB Vonta Leach (8th year)
Skinny: After putting up with fullback Le’Ron McClain’s campaigning for more touches over the past two seasons, the Ravens brought in a throwback, human car accident of a blocking back by signing Leach to a three-year deal. The former Houston Texan has been every bit the bruiser the Ravens thought he would be, opening paths for the eighth-best rushing attack in the NFL. Despite Leach having little interest in touching the football (three career carries in eight seasons), offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has kept opposing defenses honest by occasionally using the 260-pounder in the passing game. The fullback has caught five passes for 15 yards.
First quarter grade: A

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Ravens TE Dennis Pitta on preparation for Jets: “It comes down to those three hours we are going to be out on the field”

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Ravens TE Dennis Pitta on preparation for Jets: “It comes down to those three hours we are going to be out on the field”

Posted on 30 September 2011 by Ryan Chell

With the New York Jets coming into Baltimore Sunday night with former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan at the helm of the defense, points and scoring opportunities may be at a minimum for Joe Flacco, Cam Cameron, and the offense.

The Ravens play-makers-like Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice, and even the likes of Torrey Smith after his 3-TD performance Sunday versus St. Louis-are probably going to be focused on, so others are going to have to make contributions in the passing game.

One of those under-the-radar guys, but a player who is already making contributions in 2011-is Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, who along with teammate Ed Dickson have been given the task of replacing an institution in Todd Heap, and he joined Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” this week to talk about how he’s settling into a familiar offense with some new faces.

Including his own.

Dennis Pitta

“It’s really been a lot of fun,” Pitta said, “being a part of things and being able to contribute. I have a big role on special teams as well and it’s fun to be out there and competing with our guys.”

Pitta has seen action in all three games this year and started one. He has four catches for 69 yards, after catching one pass for one yard his rookie year in 2010.

He and Dixon both have had big shoes to fill in replacing the franchise’s best tight end in Todd Heap, but Pitta said they have handled the pressure well.

“This is a business where there is a ton of pressure,” Pitta said. “When it’s your turn to step up and the opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to perform and Ed and I knew that going into this year.”

But both tackled that adversity head on.

“We felt that pressure, but it’s all about being able to manage it and being confident in what you can do.”

And with playing time, he has gained confidence game-by-game. He has been an instrumental part in the Ravens’ two tight-end sets-not only making strides running routes but also protecting quarterback Joe Flacco along the line and helping to seal the edge for running back Ray Rice to run the football.

“You just have to continue to work hard and continue to prepare yourself as best you can,” the former BYU tight end said. “You know everyone has things to work on and I have things to work on…and I will continue to do so.”

Just getting more playing time with the first-team-let alone the reps in practice-have he and Flacco on the same page, he says.

“We have conversations everyday when we are practicing and when we are watching film,” Pitta said. “It’s about spending time with somebody and the repetition of running plays and catching balls from him.”

“That’s where that chemistry is developed…and it’s something that takes time.”

Facing the Jets defense Sunday night is even more reason for Flacco and Pitta to be on the same page as the quarterback may have to rely on his tight ends over the middle and in the short passing game.

“They are a lot like our defense,” Pitta told Clark. “You are going to see pressure from all over the field and all kinds of blitzes and some funky looks that a lot of other teams don’t do.”

Pitta said when it comes to pass-blocking-he’s made sure to do his homework this week with Rex Ryan’s elaborate blitzes coming his way.

“It’s just knowing how to adjust to it and how to pick up those blitzes and get the ball out of your hands quick and be able to run the ball and play physical,” Pitta explained.

Pitta said that it’s a copycat league, and all he really needs to do is look across the line of scrimmage to his own defenders and prepare accordingly to keep the Jets grounded.

“We saw it last year, and we see it every day against our defense,” Pitta laughed. “We should be well-prepared for it.”

And then a week’s worth of hard work is executed into 60 minutes of football.

“It comes down to those three hours we are going to be out on the field and deserving that win,” Pitta replied.

WNST thanks Dennis Pitta for joining “The Reality Check”! Be sure to tune into WNST Sunday for your “Nasty Purple Pre/Post Game Show with Glenn Clark! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Our Ravens-Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens-Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 12 September 2011 by Glenn Clark

On Sunday’s “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net, Ryan Chell and I introduced a new segment. It will be a segment you hear on the postgame show following every Baltimore Ravens game this season.

We call the segment “Pats on the Ass”, in celebration of the one motion every man participates in during an athletic competition. As men, we except the fact that there is no justifiable explanation for the “pat on the ass”, but we do it anyway. We follow up the pat on the ass by saying “good game” or “good play” in hopes of making the motion seem less uncomfortable.

We’re not bothering with any of that. We’re just celebrating manliness by offering pats on the ass to members of the team for special play in each game.

There are simple rules. Two offensive players get pats. Two defensive players get pats. An additional “Wild Card” gets a pat-it can be a special teams player, a coach or someone else from the team who deserves a pat for a special reason. One of the five receives a “pat on both cheeks”, it is our variation of a “Player of the Game” award.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” for the Ravens’ 35-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

Ryan Chell’s Pats…

Haloti Ngata

Don’t think Haloti Ngata deserves a pat on the ass? Perhaps we should ask Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dsLwPgWaQA[/youtube]

Ed Reed

Two interceptions at this point are pretty much just common for Reed. Perhaps Reed is more deserving for his hit on Steelers WR Hines Ward. I’m sorry there isn’t a better video on YouTube…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2HtB2VcgPE[/youtube]

Joe Flacco

flacco

17-29 for 224 yards and 3 TD’s. Nice day, but what does LaMarr Woodley think?

Bryant McKinnie

You know why Ray Rice had so much room in the video below? (Sorry there isn’t better video again.) Bryant McKinnie. If he got a bonus just for his weight, what does he get for actually playing well?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7O6ysWPURU[/youtube]

Chuck Pagano (two pats)

pagano

Hell of a way for your first game after replacing Greg Mattison to go, huh?

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Rating the Ravens after Baltimore’s 35-7 victory over Steelers

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Rating the Ravens after Baltimore’s 35-7 victory over Steelers

Posted on 12 September 2011 by Ryan Chell

The 2011 season opener could not have gone any better for the Baltimore Ravens.

Not only did they get a divisional win-they earned it against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. They kicked the living crap out of the defending AFC Champions, 35-7, and left the Steelers leaving Baltimore with their tails firmly entrenched between their legs.

The win may feel like a Super Bowl victory to Raven nation, and while it certainly puts the momentum in the AFC North in the Ravens’ corner for now, no win in the NFL is perfect. Every coach-especially John Harbaugh-will tell you that.

But boy, did it feel like it.

John Harbaugh (Rob Carr-Getty Images)

Quarterback-”B”-Joe Flacco finished Sunday’s contest 17-29 for 224 yards and three touchdowns-one to Ray Rice,  Anquan Boldin, and Ed Dickson respectively. Flacco’s 27-yard pass to Boldin on the Ravens’ first drive of the game-the third play-could not have been in a better position over the outstretched arms of Steelers CB Bryant McFadden, and his 18-yard pass to Dickson after the Steelers’ third turnover at the start of the third quarter essentially was the nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh.

However, Flacco wasn’t perfect. He had several balls thrown at Lee Evans that were nowhere near the receiver and sailed out of his reach. And for a quarterback who wasn’t sacked-let alone touched-till the start of the fourth quarter, Flacco often dumped the ball on the check down way too quickly when he could have waited for a play downfield to develop.

But no turnovers on Flacco’s part combined with three touchdown passes and getting the monkey off his back? Okay in my book.

Running Back-”A”-The only reason why this isn’t a perfect A+ is because the Ravens interior running game still had its issues running up the middle against the Steelers. But that’s expected-especially against the likes of NT Casey Hampton. But what wasn’t expected was Ray Rice having this kind of success against a stout Steelers front seven. Rice became the first running back since-well, himself-to rush for 100 yards against Pittsburgh, and he did so with all the help in the world from FB Vonta Leach, T Bryant McKinnie, and guard Ben Grubbs.

Ray Rice (courtesty of Rob Carr-Getty Images)

And it didn’t take long. Rice made his impact from the start on the first play of the game, rushing for 36 yards behind Leach and McKinnie. He finished with 149 total yards of offense and two scores. Leach made his presence known in his first regular season game as a Raven, delivering punishing blocks on the opposing linebackers. Ricky Williams had a quiet but impressive 63 carries on 12 touches in his Raven debut, showing that he still has gas left in the tank.

Wide Receiver/Tight End-”B-”-Anquan Boldin was the only wide receiver to catch a pass  and finished with 74 yards on four catches and the opening touchdown. Ed Dickson had a spectacular debut in his first game as a starter in 2011, catching five balls for 59 yards and a score. He had a 34-yard grab negated by a hold on Bryant McKinnie, but it looks as if Dickson and Pitta’s job Sunday could easily put the nightmare of not having Todd Heap anymore to rest. Lee Evans played decoy all game long, but they need him and second-rounder Torrey Smith to produce something should opposing defenses key on Boldin and Dickson.

Offensive Line-”A”-The same reasoning behind the almost-perfect score for the running backs-the offensive line was outstanding Sunday, but some penalties and not having the best day running up the middle prevent them from the 100% grade. But Flacco stayed completely upright till the fourth quarter and they gave the fourth-year man all day to throw. Birk, Grubbs, and McKinnie were all called for holding in the game, and those mental mistakes can be disastrous sometimes.

Defensive Line-”A+”-The Ravens sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times-three of them coming from Terrell Suggs. Suggs also forced two fumbles. The Ravens have made it clear that they intend to have Suggs rush the passer first and foremost now as opposed to sending him out in coverage. It doesn’t make use of his skills if they don’t. Suggs said of Big Ben after the game, “God can have his soul, but his ass is mine.

Haloti Ngata continued his case toward earning a long-term deal from owner Steve Bisciotti by forcing a fumble of Rashard Mendenhall as well as batting a ball up in the air that linebacker Ray Lewis came down with for one of the Ravens three interceptions.

Linebackers-”B+”-Ray Lewis of course leads this unit, and he finished with seven tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. Other than Jarret Johnson’s half sack and his batted ball that led to an INT, this unit was pretty quiet on the day depending upon if you count Suggs as DE or a LB. With the Steelers trailing big, Roethlisberger found guys like Mike Wallace and Hines Ward in the holes left by the linebackers, so their coverage skills may have to improve week-by-week.

Secondary-”A-”-Ed Reed-on his birthday-had two interceptions and could have very well had a third. Not only was Reed’s ball-hawking skills on full display, he appeared to be flying toward the ball-carrier and making solid tackles. Reed for the last several years has battled neck and shoulder injuries, and it appeared like Sunday, he was healthy for the first time in a long while. Lardarius Webb led the team in tackles with 11, and Cary Williams also had a solid game starting at corner back.

Special Teams-”A”-K Billy Cundiff was 2-for-2 in field goals with his longest coming from 30 yards out. Four of his seven kickoffs went in the end zone for a touchback. Sam Koch had five punts averaging 41 yards. And you have to give the special teams credit when they score a 2-point conversion…especially from the punter!

Agree with my grading? Disagree? Call into “The Reality Check” 2-6PM EST with Glenn Clark, tweet me @WNST or @Ryan Chell87, or comment below! Would love to hear from you! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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10 Ravens-Steelers Halftime Observations

Posted on 11 September 2011 by Glenn Clark

Here are ten observations about the first half of today’s Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium. A reminder that Ryan Chell and I will be back on the air for the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” following the conclusion of today’s game on AM1570 and WNST.net.

-Looks like David Reed was being honest when he told me players had been given the green light to bring kicks out of the end zone just as long as they were moving forward. There were a couple of touchbacks, but Lardarius Webb and Antonio Brown were certainly willing to bring the ball out even from fairly deep to significantly deep.

-So much for not being able to run on the Steelers defense, huh? Still no luck running up the middle, but running to the outside worked well.

-The first drive from Joe Flacco and Ray Rice was something to behold. I don’t know how much of that had to do with this being the first game of the season, but it was fun. It goes without saying that we’d like to see a few more quick hitters this year.

-Any more questions about why the Ravens were willing to let go of Todd Heap this offseason? The team continues to have high hopes for Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, who each made plays.

-For the most part, the Offensive Line has held up despite everything. The holding call on Bryant McKinnie was questionable (although I thought he was beat on the play) and Cam Cameron/Todd Washington/presumably Andy Moeller did a nice job in scheming and organizing help.

-It would be nice to see more from the receivers in general. Flacco was a bit early on the first play where he targeted Lee Evans (the second was a bit of a prayer along the sideline) and Torrey Smith has yet to be targeted. In general, this team will need to hit the receivers more for the offense to be dynamic. Some of this remains on Flacco, who continues to be quick to look for Rice and his tight ends.

-The run defense has certainly been an issue. The Steelers’ TD drive was built on nice runs by Rashard Mendenhall (and Isaac Redman). There were far too many second and short scenarios for Ben Roethlisberger and company during the drive.

-Cary Williams got lost in the back of the end zone on the Emmanuel Sanders touchdown, but otherwise had a very good first half. The reason everyone thinks he’s playing well is because for the most part he’s played well. He deserves credit. It wasn’t good to see Jimmy Smith pull up, but fortunately it doesn’t appear significant.

-Ed Reed made a very nice play on Hines Ward before the half, but you know he’ll be thinking about the dropped interception for awhile. When he’s giving his Hall of Fame speech in Canton years from now he’ll have probably forgotten about it however.

-Hard not to think about last year’s AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field with the Ravens ahead 21-7. Hopefully no one went into the locker room running their mouth the way a certain TJ Houshmandzadeh did in January.

We’ll be taking your calls (410-481-1570) after the game. Look forward to talking to you then. Hopefully things are still good then.

-G

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For Whatever Bad, Evans & Dickson Supplied Plenty Good in Ravens Win

Posted on 25 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — It’s not as if Baltimore Ravens fans were likely to forget former WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap.

The duo totaled 938 catches for 11,269 yards and 70 touchdowns during 16 combined seasons in Charm City.

Both were released before the start of Training Camp for salary cap reasons and found new homes. Mason with the New York Jets, Heap with the Arizona Cardinals.

They were great Baltimore Ravens and will never be forgotten.

With all of that said, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and company have to be pleased with the early returns they’ve seen from WR Lee Evans and TE Dickson; which could go a long way in helping the organization move past the Mason/Heap era.

Evans and Dickson each made contributions to the Ravens’ 34-31 preseason win over the Washington Redskins Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Dickson made three catches for 57 yards in the win, Evans added three catches for 60 yards-including an impressive field-stretching 35 yard touchdown strike from QB Joe Flacco.

Neither was the team’s leading receiver (WR Anquan Boldin grabbed five balls for 73 yards and a touchdown); but the contributions of each were significant in helping Flacco bounce back from an early interception which was returned by Skins CB DeAngelo Hall for a TD.

“I think we started off a little slow, obviously” said Flacco. “It took us a drive to kind of pick it up from there, and you don’t want to see that. But I think we responded pretty well. We responded well with two drives. We went down there and put the ball in the end zone three times tonight. We came out strong in the second half and finished off a drive, so I think we’ve got to be pretty happy with where we are.”

(Flacco finished the game 17/27 for 219 yards and two TD’s to go with that pick.)

The contributions of both are particularly noteworthy considering how quickly they had to adapt to new roles.

Dickson fell into the starting TE role just 31 days before the Redskins game; but did not begin practicing until August 13 due to a hamstring injury. Evans also began working with his new quarterback on August 13, just a day after being traded to Baltimore from the Buffalo Bills.

In less than two weeks, there is already a clear comfort level between Flacco and the two new starters.

“I think we’re still getting better” said Evans. “We’re still in Training Camp mode, but each day, we come out here and get better. We realize this is one of the last opportunities we’re going to have to tune-up, so we just want(ed) to come out here and try to put a good game together. I think we showed a lot of character early on after we were down, so that part of it was good.”

Seeing chemistry between the quarterback and Evans/Dickson in the third preseason game was especially critical considering Head Coach John Harbaugh is unlikely to want to play his starters in the team’s fourth preseason game next Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.

This will likely be the last time Flacco, Dickson and Evans work together in a game situation until the Ravens face a critical early test September 11th against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers back at M&T Bank Stadium.

It’s been a strange preseason for the trio (along with the rest of the National Football League), but they will not be granted any extra time to prepare. In roughly two weeks, they have to play one of the most important games they’ll play all season.

“We have a long ways to go before we get to that September 11 game” said Dickson. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to be ‘popping out of our skin’ so-to-say. That’s a quote of coach Harbaugh, which basically means we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got another two weeks to go before that game, but we’re going to try to get better every day.”

The good news is that they look to be clicking as the game approaches.

Not all offensive questions were answered in the victory. The Ravens struggled badly again along the offensive line, but they hope the impending returns of C Matt Birk (knee) and RG Marshal Yanda (back) will help; combined with a potential shift to RT for Michael Oher and the impending addition of free agent LT Bryant McKinnie.

Additionally, rookie receiver Torrey Smith (Maryland) did little to make fans breathe easier with two early drops. Smith was expected to be the team’s third receiver, but has struggled while on the field.

They’re far from perfect at this point, but they’ve taken big steps in the right direction in a short amount of time. Evans’ long TD haul was a sight for Ravens fans who have longed for a receiver who could truly extend the field. Dickson’s first half 30 yard grab was reminiscent of plays a younger Heap would make regularly on the same field.

Ravens fans won’t necessarily be without concern, but any lingering concerns about the team’s decision to let their veteran playmakers move on seem to be disappearing more and more each day.

Of course, it’s still the preseason.

-G

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