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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 28 December 2013 by Luke Jones

No strangers to entering Week 17 with work to do to make it to the postseason, the Ravens have never entered the final game needing a win and help from other teams under John Harbaugh as they try to beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

A win would give Baltimore its sixth straight winning season under Harbaugh, but the Ravens would also need a loss by either Miami or San Diego to extend their season into January and give them a chance to defend their Super Bowl title. Of course, Baltimore’s playoff chances wouldn’t completely vanish with a loss, but losses by Miami, San Diego, and Pittsburgh would be required to land the Ravens in the postseason with an 8-8 record.

Even though the Bengals wrapped up the AFC North championship with a win and Baltimore’s loss to New England last Sunday, the Ravens won the first meeting between these teams earlier this season by forcing three turnovers and taking advantage of 134 yards in penalties committed by Cincinnati. The Bengals have been a different team at home this year as they are 7-0 and have scored more than 40 points in each of their last four contests at Paul Brown Stadium.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet to conclude the regular season for the fourth straight year — the last three in Cincinnati — and for the 36th time overall in the last 18 years. The Ravens have won five of the last six against Cincinnati and lead the overall series by a 20-15 margin, but the Bengals are 10-7 against Baltimore playing at home.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens hope to win and receive help to advance to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season …

1. Torrey Smith eclipses 100 receiving yards for the first time since Oct. 6 to set the single-season franchise record for receiving yards. The third-year wideout looked to be on his way to the Pro Bowl after collecting at least 85 receiving yards in each of his first five games, but he’s hit that mark only once since then as he and quarterback Joe Flacco just haven’t looked to be on the same page. Teams have used plenty of single-high safeties shading him to take away the deep ball, but the Ravens haven’t been able to take advantage on the opposite side. However, the speedy Jacoby Jones has been a bigger factor recently and tight end Dennis Pitta is now in the picture, which will allow Smith to recapture his early-season success with a long catch and his first 100-yard game since Oct. 6 to break Michael Jackson’s team record of 1,201 receiving yards set in 1996.

2. Flacco will show improved mobility, but his left knee will still be an issue as the Bengals bring plenty of inside pressure to collect four sacks. Nothing went well against New England last week, but the sixth-year quarterback must play at a much higher level for the Ravens to have a good chance to beat Cincinnati on the road. Once again wearing a brace this week, Flacco showed better mobility in the second half against New England, but Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is notorious for bringing pressure up the middle, an area where the Baltimore offensive line has struggled mightily all year. Flacco played poorly against Cincinnati earlier in the year — two interceptions and only 3.9 yards per passing attempt — and will fare better than that, but he will be under duress too much against the league’s fifth-ranked defense on Sunday afternoon.

3. Giovani Bernard will run for a touchdown and catch another as a matchup problem against the Ravens defense. Trying to contain Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is always the top priority when you play the Bengals, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees and his unit must be mindful of the rookie Bernard, who had 22 touches for 97 total yards in Week 10 and is very dangerous in open space. The Ravens have struggled against shifty running backs such as Reggie Bush, Le’Veon Bell, and Matt Forte this season and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will try to find Bernard underneath often with the status of tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert in doubt due to injuries. With rain potentially in the forecast for Sunday, Dalton will use Bernard in a way similar to Flacco finding running back Ray Rice earlier in his career, and the rookie will have a big day.

4. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs combine for three sacks, but the Baltimore defense is unable to force turnovers like it did when these teams met in early November. This pass-rushing duo has failed to make the same impact down the stretch as in the first half, but Dumervil’s best game of the year came against the Bengals when he collected three sacks lining up primarily against Andre Smith and Suggs will no longer be lining up against nemesis Andrew Whitworth, who has moved inside to left guard due to injuries. The Ravens must harass Dalton as they did in November when they pressured him into throwing three interceptions, but the Bengals haven’t turned it over at home — going plus-eight in turnovers in seven home games — and the third-year quarterback will be smart with the football knowing his team is playing a below-average offense.

5. The Ravens will battle, but a tired group that’s been poor on the road all year will fall 27-19 to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The history of the Harbaugh era tells you the Ravens will figure out some way to win this game against a superior team and receive the necessary help to sneak into the playoffs, but nothing lasts forever and Baltimore’s poor performance last week smelled of fatigue and being overmatched. The Ravens received some good fortune during their four-game winning streak, but the same issues were there with a below-average offense lacking a running game and a defense that plays well overall but doesn’t force turnovers or consistently finish games. They have the pride to compete with the Bengals, but a season that included too much mediocrity, a 4-6 start, and a 2-5 road record entering Sunday ends with the Ravens staying home in January.

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Ravens list Art Jones, four others as questionable for Sunday’s game

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Ravens list Art Jones, four others as questionable for Sunday’s game

Posted on 27 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Making final preparations for a critical Week 17 meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens remain unsure if starting defensive tackle Arthur Jones will be available.

After missing practice all week while going through the NFL’s concussion protocol, Jones is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati. He sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to New England, but the fourth-year lineman has been present in the locker room this week while waiting for his symptoms to subside.

“He’s going through the protocol, and we’ll know more [Friday] afternoon,” coach John Harbaugh said prior to the final injury report being released. “He’s got another round of [tests] this afternoon.”

Jones missed two games in the 2011 season after suffering a concussion, which might explain his slower recovery from this latest occurrence. Should he not be able to play, second-year lineman DeAngelo Tyson would likely receive the bulk of Jones’ work at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot that lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard in the Ravens’ 3-4 base alignment.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring) was the only other player absent from Friday’s practice as the second-year defensive back is expected to miss his second straight game. He is listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

Running back Ray Rice (hip), wide receiver Torrey Smith (thigh), linebacker Elvis Dumervil (ankle), and center Gino Gradkowski (knee) were all listed as questionable after each participated in Friday’s practice on a limited basis. However, none are expected to be in any real danger of missing Sunday’s game.

Cincinnati has already ruled out starting cornerback Terence Newman (knee) and reserve defensive lineman Devon Still (back) while listing rookie tight end Tyler Eifert (neck) as doubtful for Sunday’s game. In addition to Eifert, veteran Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) was designated as questionable, leaving the Bengals in a precarious position should neither be able to play.

Starting inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (consussion) was listed as questionable, but the second-year defensive player practiced fully on Friday, a good indication that he will be cleared to play in Sunday’s game.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Scott Green, who officiated the Ravens’ Nov. 3 loss at Cleveland earlier this year.

Sunday’s forecast in Cincinnati calls for temperatures in the mid-40s with a 50-percent chance of rain showers. Winds will average around 12 miles per hour at Paul Brown Stadium.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (ankle), C Gradkowski (knee), DT Arthur Jones (concussion), RB Ray Rice (thigh), WR Torrey Smith (thigh)
PROBABLE: LB Albert McClellan (neck)

CINCINNATI
OUT: CB Terence Newman (knee), DT Devon Still (back)
DOUBTFUL: TE Tyler Eifert (neck)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Vontaze Burfict (concussion), TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring)
PROBABLE: DE Carlos Dunlap (illness), LB James Harrison (concussion), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (ankle), LB Vincent Rey (ankle), TE Alex Smith (concussion), OT Andrew Smith (ankle)

 

 

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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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temp120813_Week14_MBgame winner

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A Ravens Classic

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Tom Federline

Classic in the sense that the Ravens elevated the blood pressure of their fan base, yet once again. Classic in the sense that the Ravens offense was non-existent for 3-plus quarters, yet once again. Classic in the sense that it appeared they pulled off another win by just being one play better than their “challenged” opponent. The Ravens are a tough team to watch. They are not a team for the light-hearted. If you cannot handle roller-coaster rides, than you cannot handle being a Ravens fans. This past Sunday, the game was another classic of Ravens frustration. They finally put a drive together and went up 15-12 with 2:05 minutes left. At that point, I thought the game was won. And then…….the game turned into an NFL Classic.

The snow and inclement weather was cool. It was cold. It was wet. There was poor visibility. There was poor footing. The fans were “primed”. The environment was inviting for a Classic to surface. Then for about 58 minutes we watched over-paid grown men playing a neighborhood backyard football game in the snow. Ok, we’ll add poor officiating, by refs that have no real accountability. Best part about those 58 minutes, you could surf between multiple 1:00 games – and most of them had snow or “classic” football weather.

The Ravens contribution to football folklore did occur in those last 2 minutes and 5 seconds. But the elevated blood pressure started with that late 4th quarter TD drive and the ensuing 2-point conversion (Flacco to Torrey Smith). That score put the Ravens up by 3. Was anybody going to feel real comfortable with the Ravens being up by less than a field goal with time still on the clock? So bang, 2:05 left Ravens up 15-12 “We won!”, 1:27 left – Gerhart run up the middle, Minnesota Whiners up 19-15, RUKM – “We lost”, 1:16 left Savior Jacoby kickoff return Ravens up 22-19, RUKM – “We Won!”, 0:45 left #84 burns Ravens again on 79 yard screenplay, Minn Whiners up 26-22, 0:04 left Flacco to Marlon Brown draggin’ his feet in the snow on the endline – TD, Ravens up 29-26 RUKM – “We (may) have Won!” There’s 4 seconds left and the Minn Whiners still have a chance to score. Squibb kick/tackle/game over – relief – now, what just happened?

If you were there and stayed……..you have a story to pass on to your grandchildren. If you were home comfy and cozy on your couch…….you have a story to pass on to family and friends. If you were lucky enough to catch it at all…..you have a story to tell anybody. Quite an experience. Pretty cool. It was even cooler that they won.

I have not been a big Flacco fan this year. I like Flacco. Been supporting him since day one. Maybe it’s the contract. Maybe it’s me expecting to much. Whatever it is, he is the cat running the show and the show ain’t been pretty. I will give him kudos for maintaining his composure while projecting a “Cool, Calm, Collected” – (The Rolling Stones), demeanor. The Ravens and Baltimore experienced quite the rollercoaster ride of win, loss, win, loss, win. Total ride in real time, 10-15 minutes. Good calls, no calls, bad calls, screw all that. The boys on the field and game environment dictated those 10-15 minutes of “Classic” football.

Do the Ravens have a shot for the playoffs? Yes, mathematically they do. What does your heart tell you? My first reaction – no way, the Ravens are not a very good team. They can’t run the ball, they can’t block, they can’t blow anybody out, they can’t close and they’re really not that good against the no huddle. What they can do is, win 7 games so far and keep playoff hopes alive one more week. They are not a team of destiny, like last year. They are a team, that if they hang close enough, they do have play makers that can make something happen.

What’s next? At Lions, Patriots here (augh – I don’t even like typing that name) and then at Bengals. It’s going to be a tough road. My thoughts – beat (I mean whoop) that team from the Northeast, then I really don’t care how they end up. Denver with Peyton healthy, looking fairly formidable. And I like the 49er’s. Suggestion to MASN if they make this a Ravens Classic for viewing down the road; condense the first 55 minutes into 15, then let the last 5 minutes of the game play out. Then finish with those post game interviews. Jacoby Jones establishing himself as a “must” go to interviewee. Go Ravens.

D.I.Y.
Fedman

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Steelers

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Steelers

Posted on 03 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 22-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Thanksgiving night at M&T Bank Stadium…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Shaun Suisham tackled for 12 yard loss on aborted/fake field goal (2nd quarter)

The only “turnover” of the game. Went from three points one way to a short field (and three points) the other way.

4. Heath Miller ruled down at 1 yard line via replay after 20 yard catch from Ben Roethlisberger (4th quarter)

The Steelers were ultimately forced to run more clock and use a timeout after Miller was ruled to have not gotten in.

3. Torrey Smith 7 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco (1st quarter)

The Ravens’ only TD of the game came in a big early spot after a sack.

2. Torrey Smith 54 yard catch from Joe Flacco (1st quarter)

The Ravens didn’t go back to it much, but it was a huge statement early.

1. Chykie Brown defends Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders on two point conversion (4th quarter)

It wasn’t over until.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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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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The Tomlin sideline jig — big deal…or not? I’ll tell you why it’s “not”

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The Tomlin sideline jig — big deal…or not? I’ll tell you why it’s “not”

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

OK, I’ll go ahead and make my obligatory comment on Mike Tomlin and “Sideline-Gate” from Thursday night’s 22-20 Ravens win over Pittsburgh.

I don’t quite see it as the big deal that lots of folks in town are making it out to be.

Now — admittedly — as I tweeted during the game from the M&T Bank Stadium press box, had Pittsburgh somehow finagled their way to a comeback win last night, the Tomlin “play” would have been all anyone in the country was talking about today.

Thankfully, for a lot of reasons, it didn’t happen that way.

That said now, I can go back to my reaction on the whole thing:  It’s pretty much…………”meh”.

Why?

Because players intentionally violate the rules ALL THE TIME in the NFL.  Sometimes they’re penalized, sometimes they’re not.

In fact, earlier in the game, Pittsburgh’s supposed all-world cornerback Ike Taylor stopped an almost sure-fire touchdown by grabbing Torrey Smith’s arm and shoulder as #82 whizzed by him on a sharply run stop-and-go route down the same sideline of the Tomlin-quick-step.

On that occasion, actually, the referee threw a penalty flag on Taylor, so he was cited for his infraction.  But, smartly on Taylor’s part, the damage had been done.  His move kept the Ravens from scoring a touchdown.  The ensuing Justin Tucker field goal on the series resulted in the proverbial four-point swing.

How is Ike Taylor intentionally grabbing Torrey Smith to keep him from catching a touchdown pass any different than what Tomlin did?

To me, it’s not.

The most obvious part of the whole situation is that Tomlin’s dancing effort didn’t actually affect the result of the game.  Sure, it COULD have, but it didn’t.  Only in the disdain-filled Steelers-Ravens rivalry could a scene that didn’t alter the outcome be this discussed and debated.

Now, if you want to throw in a comment or two about how Mike Tomlin is the coach and, therefore, has a higher moral standard to uphold, I’d buy a few shares of stock in that argument.

Tomlin – or any coach in the league – shouldn’t be involved in a play like the one on Thursday night.

He’ll get fined by the NFL and rightfully so.

The REAL blame from Thursday’s “Sideline-Gate” should go to the referee crew.  There already IS a rule in place to cover things like the coaching stepping out on the field.  It’s called “a 15 yard penalty”.  The refs just didn’t apply the rules correctly on Thanksgiving night.

Some folks are clamoring for a Tomlin suspension — and I think that’s mainly home cooking from rabid Ravens fans who see black and yellow and turn into mean old wet hens during a late Saturday afternoon summer storm.

What Tomlin did was wrong.

And, WITHOUT QUESTION, the league needs to come up with a more penalizing rule – quickly – to strongly discourage any coach from being involved in a play like that in the future.  Should it result in an immediate ejection?  Maybe.  How about an automatic penalty of half the distance to the goal-line for any coach who steps on the sideline stripe?  Sure, perhaps.

Frankly, the referee TEN FEET BEHIND Tomlin on the sideline should have penalized him on the spot.

But, let’s not make it out to be anything other than it was:  An attempt to gain an edge.  And, in the end, it didn’t work because his team lost.

It’s the same thing, in my eyes, as Corey Graham clutching the left arm of Antonio Brown in the 4th quarter on a sideline throw and then NOT having a penalty flag thrown on the play.

It’s just football.

To borrow an old phrase familiar to the likes of Kentucky basketball, “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

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Flacco spells it out following big win over rival Pittsburgh

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Flacco spells it out following big win over rival Pittsburgh

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!)

BALTIMORE — Joe Flacco’s comments about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s controversial involvement during a long Jacoby Jones kick return will garner the attention in the aftermath of the Ravens’ 22-20 win over their AFC North rival.

But it was Flacco explaining why he appeared to be more animated than usual Thursday night that struck a chord as the Ravens not only improved to 6-6 to pull into the lead for the No. 6 spot in the AFC but eclipsed the 20-point mark in a game for the first time since Week 5. He wasn’t satisfied with one of the better offensive outputs of the season.

“I was just frustrated, mostly,” Flacco said. “There were so many opportunities out there for us to score points and just win big and put the game away. We didn’t do it, and we left [the Pittsburgh comeback] to happen. That’s just frustrating. When you’re not converting and scoring touchdowns, you’re hoping that doesn’t happen, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘Man, this is going to catch up to us.’”

It almost did catch up with them as the Ravens didn’t sew up the pivotal win until Ben Roethlisberger’s two-point conversion pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders fell incomplete with 1:03 remaining in the game. The 22-point outing was their fourth-highest total of the season, but it could have been much more as the Ravens were only 1-for-4 inside the red zone.

The offense put together five drives of 40 or more yards, which isn’t a feat to take lightly when you enter Week 13 as the league’s 30th-ranked offense and are tied for 24th in averaging 20.6 points per game. The production came with the defense not forcing a single turnover to set up the Ravens offense on a short field, though the offense did benefit from Jones’ 73-yard kickoff return that would have been a touchdown if not for Tomlin’s apparent interference along the sideline.

Their six scoring drives — one touchdown and five Justin Tucker field goals — were the most they’ve had since a win over the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 6.

They were 10-for-17 on third down after going 3-for-13 against the New York Jets a week earlier.

And Sam Koch punted only one time, besting his previous season low of three that was set in the first meeting with Pittsburgh.

It was progress — if even just a little.

“I thought we played pretty well tonight, to be honest with you,” Flacco said. “That’s why I was so frustrated. We did so many things really, really well and put ourselves in so many positions to put points on the board and put a lot on there tonight. Anytime you score 22 points, you basically kicked all field goals and you scored on a lot of drives. You didn’t punt the ball, you didn’t turn the ball over. We did so many things well. We were right there. That’s why I think it’s probably a little more animated and so frustrating, because we were just right there. You could taste it, and we just didn’t convert a lot.”

The predictable warts of the Baltimore offense surfaced over the course of 60 minutes as the running game was once again ineffective and several penalties — including three false starts by right tackle Michael Oher — made life more difficult. Flacco was also let down by a couple key drops as wide receiver Torrey Smith struggled to catch the ball consistently after a dominating opening drive in which he caught the Ravens’ only touchdown of the game.

After making headlines earlier this week about his disdain for the wildcat offense, Flacco turned in one of his best performances of the season, completing 24 of 35 passes for 251 yards and the 7-yard touchdown to Smith that followed a 54-yard strike earlier in the Ravens’ first series of the night. His footwork in and out of the pocket was exceptional as he bought himself time and eluded pressure on numerous occasions.

For the first time ever, Flacco and the Ravens got the best of Roethlisberger in a late-season game with major postseason ramifications.

And the sixth-year quarterback didn’t even have to line up at wide receiver a single time.

After so many weeks of needing to say the right things after abysmal offensive performances, Flacco wasn’t interested in patting his offensive teammates or himself on the back too much.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot,” Flacco said. “A couple of catches that we could have made, false starts. On the one that I remember, I rolled out right and tried to hit Torrey on the right side, but we had a guy wide open on the left sideline. We just didn’t get it picked up the right way — little stuff like that. The penalties, it’s not even stuff that you can fix in practice. We’ve just got to be a little better. I’ve probably got to have a little bit better rhythm with my cadence.”

Even with progress offensively that started last week with the reappearance of the vertical passing game — arguably the most critical offensive development of the season — the Ravens will continue to be impeded by their poor running game and inability to consistently use the middle of the field in the passing attack. The expected return of tight end Dennis Pitta for the Week 14 contest against the Minnesota Vikings should help but won’t suddenly transform the Baltimore offense into a top-10 unit.

The schedule also grows difficult after the Vikings game as the Ravens will play three teams projected to be in the playoffs — two of them on the road — to close out the regular season. Baltimore will desperately need to find a way to improve on its ugly 1-5 record away from M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens don’t have the luxury of resting on their laurels and getting comfortable, but if the last two weeks are any indication, their franchise quarterback is beginning to heat up at the right time after several sub-par performances following their Week 8 bye.

With a good — but not great — defense and a one-dimensional offense, the Ravens still don’t look the part of a serious playoff team despite their current standing as the AFC’s No. 6 seed. They’ll go as far as Flacco will take them, however, which means they can’t be slept on entirely.

Beating the Steelers in a game with their playoff lives on the line was a significant step in the right direction.

“It was kind of like a boxing match out there early on,” Flacco said. “There are definitely high emotions, and a lot that goes into this football game. It’s really because winning it means a lot, in terms of the grand scheme of things. We all understand that.”

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 29 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’ 22-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Thanksgiving night at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Bernard Pierce

 

4. James Ihedigbo

 

3. Lardarius Webb

 

2. Torrey Smith

1. Justin Tucker (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2….)

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 28 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Though each team carries an underwhelming 5-6 record, playoff ramifications are high on Thanksgiving as the Ravens and Steelers meet for the 36th time in the regular season but the first time ever on a Thursday night.

A win pushes the Ravens closer toward the No. 6 spot in the AFC while a loss all but ends their season as they would likely need to win their remaining four games to have any chance of advancing to the postseason for the sixth straight time under head coach John Harbaugh.

The Ravens are healthier than they’ve been at any point this season as defensive end Chris Canty was the only starter on the injury report — listed as probable — while the Steelers will be without starting nose tackle Steve McLendon and are unlikely to have outside linebacker and sack leader LaMarr Woodley, who is doubtful with a calf injury. However, it appears Baltimore will likely need to wait at least one more week for the return of tight end Dennis Pitta.

It’s time to go on the record as the Steelers look for their first season sweep over Baltimore since the 2008 season and hold the 20-15 edge all-time in the regular season while also owning a 3-0 advantage in the postseason. The Ravens are 8-9 against Pittsburgh in Baltimore and have lost two of the last three played at M&T Bank Stadium. The last four meetings and nine of the last 11 regular-season contests between the Ravens and Steelers have each been decided by just three points.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens look to move to the .500 mark for the first time since mid-October …

1. Tyrod Taylor will see a few offensive snaps but will not line up under center as the wildcat discussion will calm considerably. Should the Ravens continue using the gimmick offense after Joe Flacco said Tuesday that he didn’t expect to see it much moving forward, the doubts of whether the quarterback and the coaching staff are on the same page will only get stronger. The truth is the wildcat attack isn’t going to be the difference-maker the Ravens need as opponents see it more and more, but there’s no reason Taylor can’t be used lining up as a wide receiver or even at running back on occasion. If the Steelers were forced to even spend as much as 20 or 30 minutes in a short week preparing for the possibility of the Ravens using the novelty offense, I suppose that’s an advantage for Baltimore, but it won’t dramatically alter the outcome of the game.

2. Neither team will run for more than 80 yards as Le’Veon Bell won’t duplicate his strong Week 7 performance. Pittsburgh used its own version of the wildcat in the first meeting of the season, which led to a season-high 141 yards on the ground for the league’s 30th-ranked running game. Meanwhile, the Ravens haven’t run effectively against anyone except Miami in Week 5 and the Bears two weeks ago, so it’s difficult to expect them to do much against even the Steelers’ 23rd-ranked run defense. After years of these rivals thriving on dominating defense and the running game, it’s clear that the 2013 versions of the Ravens and Steelers simply do not fit that profile. You’re much more likely to see 300-yard performances from either of the starting quarterbacks than to see a 100-yard day from either Bell or Ray Rice as the defenses will control the line of scrimmage.

3. Justin Tucker will miss his first field goal since Week 2. Anyone recall when the second-year kicker missed two tries in the home opener against Cleveland and was outperformed by former Raven Billy Cundiff? So much for any concerns of a sophomore slump as Tucker hasn’t missed a kick since, earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November and also the weekly honor after booting four field goals in last Sunday’s win over the Jets. Tucker’s streak of 22 consecutive field goals is tied for the second-longest streak in franchise history — Matt Stover’s 36 straight is the record mark — and he has been the Ravens’ most reliable player this season. Now, after heaping all that praise on the unflappable 24-year-old, Thursday seems like the time when he’ll finally miss a kick while booting two others successfully.

4. Flacco will throw for 230 yards and a touchdown, but the Ravens’ red-zone struggles will carry over from last week. What was lost through all the comments Flacco made about the wildcat and his disdain for lining up at the wide receiver position was the fact that the sixth-year quarterback played his best game since before the bye week this past Sunday. The Ravens will have a tougher time against Pittsburgh’s 10th-ranked pass defense than they did against the Jets’ vulnerable secondary, but the most encouraging development from their Week 12 win was the vertical connections to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Flacco will need to make big plays with his arm to best Ben Roethlisberger, and he will have a strong performance as he typically does in big games. However, the Ravens’ lack of consistent weapons will once again hurt in the red zone despite a touchdown to Smith.

5. The same movie will play out once again as the Ravens come up short in a big game against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in a 17-13 final. Baltimore has the advantage at home playing on a short week, but the Ravens have always failed against Pittsburgh when the stakes are high, and Thursday certainly qualifies in that regard. The Ravens are arguably playing their best football of the year after winning two of their last three games, but Pittsburgh has been even better in winning five of seven and Roethlisberger has outplayed Flacco over the last six weeks of the season. The Ravens hold the edge defensively over Pittsburgh’s aging defense, but the Steelers offense is markedly better than Baltimore’s, which will be the difference in this one. It will be a close game as it typically is between these AFC North rivals, but a late drive culminating with a Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Antonio Brown will be the difference as the Ravens’ playoff hopes are dealt a fatal blow.

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