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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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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Jets

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Jets

Posted on 26 November 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’ 19-3 win over the New York Jets Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Geno Smith pass intended for Bilal Powell incomplete on 3rd and goal (1st quarter)

The Jets’ only real TD chance on the day but could have set things up to go the wrong way.  

4. Torrey Smith 60 yard catch from Joe Flacco (2nd quarter)

A “statement” play on a drive that only finished with a field goal…but didn’t need more. 

3. Justin Tucker 53 yard field goal GOOD (3rd quarter)

If he misses this, the Jets are in great shape in a close game. 

2. Corey Graham intercepts Geno Smith pass intended for David Nelson (3rd quarter)

The above GIF is of his second pick, his first set up the play that is Number 1.

1. Jacoby Jones 66 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco (3rd quarter)

The Jets would have never come back anyway, but this was certainly the “ender”.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens must continue to come up “big” in push for playoffs

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Ravens must continue to come up “big” in push for playoffs

Posted on 24 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 — The third quarter of Sunday’s 19-3 win over the New York Jets was following a predictable pattern for a Ravens offense that hasn’t put together a 60-minute performance all season.

After moving the ball with some success in the first half with three drives of 50 or more yards — all resulting in field goals — and 212 yards, the Ravens had gained just 15 yards on 11 plays after halftime as the third quarter was winding down. Faced with a first-and-5 from their own 34, quarterback Joe Flacco ran a play-action fake to running back Ray Rice before heaving a bomb to wide receiver Jacoby Jones with a stiff wind at the quarteback’s back.

Sprinting behind 35-year-old Jets free safety Ed Reed, Jones reined in the pass for a 66-yard touchdown that not only gave the Ravens a 16-point lead but also represented something they’d been missing this year. Flacco’s strike to Jones was the Ravens’ first touchdown all season on a pass thrown more than 20 yards in the air, a reality that would have seemed absurd a year ago when Baltimore’s vertical passing game was arguably the most dangerous in the NFL.

“It was probably the play of the game for us,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The ball got up there and got caught in the wind. If you saw it, it was being pushed that way. I thought once it got up in the air and the wind got it, I didn’t think Jacoby [Jones] was going to be able to get it. He shifted into another gear and he went and got that ball — just an amazing play. And then for him to reach out and catch it and keep his balance, just a tremendous, athletic play.”

Sunday’s offensive performance was far from exceptional as the Ravens failed to score more than 20 points in a game for the sixth straight time, and the offense provided what we’ve come to expect over the first 11 games of the 2013 season. The Ravens had little success on the ground in averaging just 2.2 yards per carry against the Jets’ top-ranked rush defense, but the 66-yard touchdown strike to Jones followed an earlier 60-yard bomb to Torrey Smith and offered a glimpse of how the Ravens must operate in order to stack enough wins down the stretch to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Just as the defense forced three turnovers and Jones provided 146 return yards in the special-teams department, the Ravens need more big plays in all three phases of the game and finally received a couple from their passing attack in disposing of the Jets at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

Flacco dismissed the idea of feeling a sense of relief in connecting on a deep-ball score, but more offensive explosions will give the Ravens a better chance against quality opponents remaining on the schedule.

“I don’t think it was that kind of feeling,” Flacco said. “It was just like, ‘Yes, we got a touchdown. We have 19 points now.’ It wasn’t anything like, ‘Oh, I’ve been looking for that,’ or ‘We haven’t done that in a while.’ That wasn’t why; that didn’t creep in at all. It was really just excitement because it was a tight game, we hadn’t put the ball in the end zone yet, and we were able to do it right there.”

The Ravens have played tight games all season, with all but two prior to Sunday’s win being decided by eight or fewer points. And the absence of big plays in the passing game is a factor in explaining why an offense that struggles to consistently sustain drives hasn’t been able to put the Ravens over the top this season.

Injuries to Jones and Deonte Thompson zapped the Ravens of speed to put on the opposite side of the formation to Smith early in the season, enabling defenses to bracket coverage and shade a deep safety to one side of the field. The absence of a consistent running game and receiving threats over the intermediate middle portion of the field — specifically due to the trade of slot receiver Anquan Boldin and the injury to tight end Dennis Pitta — have allowed safeties to remain deep in coverage. Other times, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and Flacco haven’t even appeared committed to trying to throw deep.

But the vertical passing game reemerged Sunday as the deep strikes to Smith and Jones led directly to 10 points and a win to move the Ravens closer to the .500 mark with Pittsburgh coming to town Thanksgiving night for a contest with major playoff implications. Another deep strike or two would go a long way in loosening up the league’s eighth-ranked passing game on Thursday night.

“That was huge for our offense,” said Smith, whose reception early in the second quarter set up the Ravens’ second field goal of the game and gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. “It’s not that we’re depending on it, but it always helps to get chunks of yardage like that. When we get those kinds of days going, it’s usually good for our offense.”

The Ravens were dependent on the deep ball last season as Flacco completed 28 of 82 passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air for nine touchdowns and no interceptions. The sixth-year quarterback entered Sunday having gone just 10-for-50 in that department for no touchdowns and five interceptions in the first 10 games of the season.

As Flacco has mentioned several times this season when asked what has happened to the vertical passing game, low-percentage throws aren’t easy to complete and perhaps the lack of success this season has been as much about a market correction from last year’s success than anything else. But the Ravens offense isn’t equipped to drive up and down the field with the better offenses in the league.

Sunday provided a reasonable blueprint for the Ravens in their bid to advance to the postseason in a muddled AFC wild-card race. A turnover-making defense, strong special teams, and an offense able to strike on a couple big plays led to an easy win over the Jets, the team that entered Week 12 as the No. 6 seed in the division.

The Ravens offense hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain all year for a variety of reasons, but some home-run passes mixed in with their weekly struggles might provide enough to make the final five weeks of the season interesting.

“It’s the rhythm of the game, the timing,” said Jones in describing why the vertical passing game has been absent. “Sometimes, we’ll be in a certain part of the game where what they’re giving is what [we’ll] take. And we try to connect, and it will be off, and the rhythm and timing will be off. But today, we were on point.”

The 5-6 Ravens will have no choice but to be on point for the rest of the season.

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Our Ravens/Jets “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Jets “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 24 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Chris Canty

4. Corey Graham

3. Daryl Smith

2. Joe Flacco

1. Jacoby Jones (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bears

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bears

Posted on 19 November 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’ 23-20 (OT) loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Joe Flacco pass intended for Tandon Doss on 3rd & 5 incomplete (Overtime)

In Chicago territory, a tough catch but one that has to be made.

4. Martellus Bennett 44 yard catch from Josh McCown to Ravens’ 22 (Overtime)

This was the “ender”.

3. Alshon Jeffery 14 yard catch from Josh McCown on 3rd & 9 (Overtime)

The Ravens’ 3rd down defense was pretty good during the game. But not here.

2. Joe Flacco pass intended for Torrey Smith on 3rd and goal incomplete after Gino Gradkowski fumble (4th quarter)

Bad plus bad usually equals bad. Ravens had a great chance to win.

1. David Bass 24 yard return TD of Joe Flacco interception intended for Vonta Leach (2nd quarter)

The obvious turning point of the entire game.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 10 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’ 20-17 (OT) win over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Ed Dickson

 

4. Justin Tucker

3. Torrey Smith

 

2. Elvis Dumervil

1. Lardarius Webb (Pat on Both Cheeks)

 

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 09 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Off to their worst start since the 2005 season, the 3-5 Ravens have never been in such a position in the John Harbaugh era as they meet the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals for the 35th time in franchise history.

Hoping their return to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time in nearly a month will snap a three-game losing streak, the Ravens trail the Bengals by 2 1/2 games in the AFC North and will see their playoff hopes on life support if they drop their third consecutive division game. However, Baltimore has won four of the last five meetings with Cincinnati as the Bengals are still chasing consistency with a talented and deep roster.

The Ravens listed five players as questionable on the final injury report of the week — four of them key defensive players — while Cincinnati will be without inside linebacker Rey Maualuga and will be playing its first game since the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins in Week 9.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens lead the all-time series with Cincinnati by a 19-15 margin and are 12-5 in Baltimore. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 6-4 against the Bengals, which includes a 4-1 record at M&T Bank Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their first game since Oct. 6 and move closer toward the .500 mark to begin the second half of the season …

1. Underused wide receiver Deonte Thompson will catch the first touchdown of his career. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s use of Thompson has been perplexing as the second-year wideout has been effective whenever afforded opportunities and has caught just over 64 percent of attempts on which he’s been targeted (nine of 14), the highest success rate of any wide receiver or tight end on the roster. Flacco has struggled in the vertical passing game this season, which was understandable early in the year, but the returns of Jacoby Jones and Thompson have given the Ravens adequate speed to complement No. 1 receiver Torrey Smith. It’s difficult to envision the offense being fixed due to an ineffective offensive line and an inadequate number of consistent weapons, but the Ravens need to throw caution to the wind in taking more deep shots. With Smith once again receiving the most attention, Thompson will slip free for a long score.

2. The absence of Atkins will not be an elixir for the Ravens’ inept running game. It’s true that the Cincinnati defense is more vulnerable after its recent rash of injuries, but the Baltimore running game has been effective for only 30 minutes — the second half of the Miami game in Week 5 — of the 480 total played this year. A poor offensive line is undersized at center and left guard and Ray Rice once again showed a lack of explosiveness last week in Cleveland despite his claims of finally being 100 percent healthy. Caldwell will likely explore further use of the pistol formation to give the Ravens more options in running the ball while working out of a three-wide, shotgun spread formation extensively, but expecting the Ravens to suddenly start running the ball effectively is based on hopes and dreams and nothing about their performance this season. It’s only common sense to assume the Ravens will average under 3.0 yards per carry and accumulate no more 70 or 80 rushing yards until they show otherwise.

3. A banged-up secondary won’t be able to handle the many Bengals weapons, allowing quarterback Andy Dalton to throw for two touchdowns and 250-plus yards. Everyone knows how dangerous Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is, but the emergence of fellow wide receiver Marvin Jones spells bad news for a secondary listing Jimmy Smith, Corey Graham, and James Ihedigbo as questionable for Sunday’s game. The Ravens’ 14th-ranked pass defense has been vulnerable to missed tackles and big plays, which doesn’t bode well against an offense with talented pass-catching options at receiver, tight end, and in the backfield with rookie Giovani Bernard. Cornerback Lardarius Webb will do a respectable job against Green when the Ravens shade safety help in his direction, but there isn’t enough quality coverage to go around in shutting down the league’s seventh-ranked passing attack, meaning the Ravens must pressure Dalton heavily to give themselves a good chance.

4. Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth will have another shutdown effort against linebacker Terrell Suggs. Browns tackle Joe Thomas receives all the accolades while Whitworth just made his first Pro Bowl last season, but the Bengals lineman has arguably given Suggs more trouble than any other blocker in his 11-year career. Of Suggs’ 7 1/2 career sacks against Cincinnati, only 2 1/2 have come since 2006 when Whitworth was drafted in the second round out of LSU. Without Whitworth playing in their last game, the Bengals gave up five sacks and Dalton turned the ball over four times as he was harassed all night. The Ravens will win on Sunday if they can repeat Miami’s performance in forcing the bad Dalton to come out, but that pressure will need to come from defenders who aren’t lined up against the Bengals left tackle. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to move Suggs around a bit, but big performances will need to come from Elvis Dumervil, Arthur Jones, and others.

5. With their backs against the wall even more than they were last week in Cleveland, the Ravens will fall short once again in a 27-20 final. In the history of the Harbaugh era, the Ravens have been able to rise to the occasion when they’ve needed it most in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Bengals have had success over the last couple years but still fight the trap of reverting to the “Bungles” from time to time. It might not be a must-win game for the Ravens in terms of the mathematics of the playoff race, but falling to 3-6 virtually ends their playoff hopes with five of their final seven games coming against teams with winning records. Those trends would lead you to believe the Ravens will find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against a team with more talent, but “that was then, this is now” as author S.E. Hinton would say. A familiar script of a slow start offensively coupled with a solid defensive effort void of game-changing plays will lead to another close defeat for the Ravens.

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Grading the 2013 Ravens at the bye week

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Grading the 2013 Ravens at the bye week

Posted on 25 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Growing pains were expected for the Ravens after losing a collection of starters from last season’s Super Bowl XLVII championship team, but a 3-4 start has left John Harbaugh’s team in “a state of emergency” in the words of linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Below the .500 mark this late in a season for the first time in the Harbaugh era, the Ravens know they must improve in a number of areas to advance to the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. However, the challenge will be finding the proper in-house solutions for a roster flawed at spots on each side of the ball.

Harbaugh and players alike have promised improvements while expressing confidence that they know what they need to do to turn around their season, but the proof will be in the results as Baltimore plays six of its remaining nine games against teams with winning records entering Week 8. Appearing to be in relatively decent shape from an injury standpoint, the Ravens hope to get standout tight end Dennis Pitta back next month, but the challenge will be remaining viable in the playoff race for Pitta’s return to have a chance to make a real impact.

While the Ravens regroup at the bye before returning to Owings Mills to continue preparations for the Cleveland Browns on Monday, it’s time to hand out first-half grades.

You can listen to The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction hand out grades at the bye week HERE.

QUARTERBACK: B-
Comments: A simple look at Joe Flacco’s statistics suggests the sixth-year quarterback is having a poor season, but even his harshest critics must acknowledge how much a poor offensive line, a lack of a running game, and few trusted receiving targets have hindered his productivity. Aside from a poor game in Buffalo in which Flacco threw a career-worst five interceptions, the Super Bowl MVP has played well considering how much is working against him this season. It’s fair to say Flacco has not been great and he hasn’t been able to noticeably elevate the level of play of his receivers and tight ends, but he’s the least of the Ravens’ problems on the offensive side of the ball.

RUNNING BACKS: C-
Comments: It’s been extremely difficult to assess the play of the running backs with the horrific performance of the offensive line, but both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce have appeared hesitant and need to show better vision in hitting running lanes — no matter how small they might be at this point. Both backs have been banged up physically, but you simply can’t give them a pass when the running game is averaging 2.8 yards per carry and neither has made an impact as a receiver out of the backfield. Fullback Vonta Leach has probably played the best of the three, but his strong ability as a blocker hasn’t paid off in terms of marked improvements in running the football.

WIDE RECEIVERS: C+
Comments: If you were grading based solely on low expectations entering the season, the wide receivers — thought to be the offense’s biggest question mark — could even qualify as a pleasant surprise in how they’ve performed. Torrey Smith has blossomed with 629 receiving yards to lead the NFL entering Week 8 despite consistently dealing with bracketed coverage and heavy attention. Undrafted rookie Marlon Brown and the previously-cut Tandon Doss have emerged as contributors in the absence of Jacoby Jones, who missed four games with a knee injury. Make no mistake, this is a below-average unit if you take away the talented and speedy Smith, but the production has been respectable based on the overall talent level, which was flawed from the start.

TIGHT ENDS: D+
Comments: Expectations for the tight end position went out the window after Pitta suffered a dislocated hip that required surgery on July 27, but Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark haven’t provided the consistency needed to throw the ball over the middle of the field. Dickson has been a huge disappointment (seven catches for 93 yards) after there was some hope that he could at least approach his 2011 production (54 catches for 528 yards and five touchdowns), but even Harbaugh acknowledged he’s not the same player that he was then. Clark has been more productive of late, but Flacco has had to target him 39 times to produce 23 receptions for 265 yards and the 34-year-old struggles to gain any consistent separation.

OFFENSIVE LINE: D
Comments: Whether focusing on run-game coordinator Juan Castillo’s zone blocking schemes, the play of second-year center Gino Gradkowski, or the performance of anyone else, it’s staggering to think how awful this group has been after there were expectations of it being one of the Ravens’ biggest strengths going into the season. The Ravens rank last in the NFL in yards per carry while the pass protection has been inconsistent at best as general manager Ozzie Newsome acquired former first-round pick Eugene Monroe from the Jaguars and jettisoned veteran Bryant McKinnie. Castillo and Gradkowski have been the biggest targets for blame, but even Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda hasn’t played close to his normal standards. Yanda and left guard Kelechi Osemele have both dealt with health concerns, but no one can be absolved over how poorly this unit has played all season.

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