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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Broncos

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Broncos

Posted on 10 September 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’ 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Chris Harris intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Brandon Stokey at Baltimore 24 (2nd quarter)

4. Demaryius Thomas 78 yard TD catch from Peyton Manning (4th quarter)

3. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dallas Clark incomplete on 3rd & 7 at Denver 7 (2nd quarter)

2. David Bruton blocks Sam Koch punt (3rd quarter)

1. Wes Welker 10 yard catch from Peyton Manning on 3rd & 9 (3rd quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

Posted on 22 January 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’ 28-13 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Nate Solder called for holding, negating Danny Woodhead 4 yard run on 3rd & 2 (3rd quarter)

4. Stephen Gostkowski 25 yard field goal after Patriots called third timeout (2nd quarter)

3. Tom Brady pass intended for Wes Welker incomplete on 3rd & 8 from Baltimore 34 (3rd quarter)

2. Dannell Ellerbe intercepts Tom Brady pass intended for Aaron Hernandez, tipped by Pernell McPhee (4th quarter)

1. Arthur Jones recovers Stevan Ridley fumble forced by Bernard Pollard (4th quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Welker’s wife apologizes for derogatory comments about Ray Lewis

Posted on 22 January 2013 by Luke Jones

Last year it was Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bündchen ranting after the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLVI loss to the New York Giants, but the wife of wide receiver Wes Welker may have topped her comments in trashing Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis following Sunday’s AFC Championship.

Anna Burns Welker took to Facebook to bash the future Hall of Fame linebacker following the Ravens’ 28-13 win over New England, citing Lewis having children with four different women and the events in Atlanta 13 years ago.

“Proud of my husband and the Pats,” she wrote. “By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis’ Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!”

Despite her claim, Lewis has never been married.

She apologized for those comments on Monday evening and has since deleted her original Facebook post. She is a former Miss Hooters International winner.

“I let the competitiveness of the game and the comments people were making about a team I dearly love get the best of me,” Welker’s wife said in a statement to Larry Brown Sports. “My actions were emotional and irrational and I sincerely apologize to Ray Lewis and anyone affected by my comment after yesterday’s game.

“It is such an accomplishment for any team to make it to the NFL playoffs, and the momentary frustration I felt should not overshadow the accomplishments of both of these amazing teams.”

Welker caught eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, but New England was shut out in the second half of Sunday night’s game. He will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Interestingly enough, it was Welker who took jabs at Rex Ryan over the Jets head coach’s foot fetish scandal two years ago.

Thankfully, we can now go back to talking about more important topics such as the Ravens preparing to play in their second Super Bowl in franchise history.

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Ravens hoping T. Smith continues big production against Patriots

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Ravens hoping T. Smith continues big production against Patriots

Posted on 17 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Much has been made about the acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib and the effect it’s had on the New England secondary, but you’ll forgive the Ravens and wide receiver Torrey Smith if they aren’t overly impressed.

Of course, Baltimore wouldn’t share such a sentiment publicly about the Patriots’ 29th-ranked pass defense, but a 38-35 victory over the Denver Broncos in which Smith shredded All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey for two long touchdowns won’t exactly cause you to fear New England’s underwhelming unit. Talib has provided a boost to New England’s defense, allowing the Patriots to move cornerback Devin McCourty to free safety, but they still struggle against the pass.

In two career games against the Patriots, Smith has caught nine passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His Week 3 performance in which he reined in two touchdowns less than 24 hours following the tragic death of his younger brother was one of the most inspiring efforts in the NFL this season.

“It’s not that there’s any difference against those guys,” Smith said. “I just play the game. I just happened to play well against them the past few times. It’s not like I have their number or anything. I just go out there and run our offense. I’ve been able to be OK against them – hopefully, it continues. But it’s going to be tough.”

During the regular season, the Patriots allowed a league-worst 74 passes of 20 yards or more, which should leave quarterback Joe Flacco licking his chops as the Ravens completed 62 passes of at least 20 yards and have repeatedly gone vertical in each of their two postseason wins this month.

Acquired for a fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay on Nov. 1, the mercurial Talib has stabilized the New England pass defense, but it’s difficult to imagine offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell shying away from the Patriots’ No. 1 corner after the Ravens went after Bailey repeatedly in the divisional round. In six regular-season games with New England, Talib made 19 tackles, broke up two passes, and intercepted one.

Labeled a “riverboat gambler” by Caldwell, Talib will likely be entrusted with slowing down Smith or Jacoby Jones in the vertical passing game, but the Ravens proved once again last Saturday that they won’t hesitate to attack any cornerback in the league.

“You don’t always go into a ballgame [with the thought] in mind that you are going to go after this guy or that guy,” Caldwell said. “You try to spread it around and look at what they do from a schematic standpoint and see where you can attack what best suits your offense. That’s kind of how we look at it more so than anything else.”

In other words, if Smith or Jones is matched up in single-man coverage against Talib with no safety help, you can bet Flacco will be ready to take a shot vertically.

Pees hiring hit man?

Asked how to make life uncomfortable for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees offered a humorous but candid suggestion about the man he watched closely in his days as a New England assistant to Bill Belichick.

“Hire Tonya Harding,” said Pees as he laughed. “If they were getting off the bus, I’d spray water outside the bus and hope it freezes. He is who he is. I went against him up there in practice for six years. He’s as competitive of a person as I’ve ever been around.”

In addition to trying to pressure Brady inside the pocket, Pees explained how critical it is to mix up coverages against New England’s many talented weapons, ranging from Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez to Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen out of the backfield.

Welker operates almost exclusively from the slot as he was targeted 125 times for 1,040 receiving yards from that position, according to Pro Football Focus. Cornerback Corey Graham will draw the daunting task of staying with Welker as the Ravens are expected to play the nickel package extensively, with Graham sliding inside as No. 3 cornerback Chykie Brown enters the game to play on the outside opposite Cary Williams.

“He is a very quick guy. He catches the ball well,” Graham said. “Brady is looking for him a lot, and he makes a lot of guys miss with fakes and things like that, so he is a complete receiver. I have my hands full in the slot, but I am up to the challenge.”

The Ravens will not have to deal with the matchup nightmare that is tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday after re-injuring his forearm against Houston last Sunday, but Hernandez also provides a unique blend of speed and athleticism at the position. Such an athlete at that position creates matchup problems as Pees must decide whether to use a linebacker such as Dannell Ellerbe or strong safety Bernard Pollard in coverage.

The answer will vary depending on the situation while facing a Hall of Fame quarterback, according to Pees.

“You can’t go in there and say, ‘The whole game, OK, I’m going to put a strong safety on this guy.’” Pees said. “That’s not going to take Brady very long to figure that one out, nor is it going to be the same if we end up putting a linebacker on him all the time. The key is to let them have to figure it out after the ball is snapped, who’s on him, and then you just can’t keep doing the same thing over and over with Tom, or he’ll gash you.”

Bouncing back from “special” kind of nightmare

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Brady standing in way of Ravens’ redemption run to Super Bowl

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Brady standing in way of Ravens’ redemption run to Super Bowl

Posted on 16 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have made no secret about their satisfaction in seeing the New England Patriots once again on the same stage in which they fell painfully short last January.

With few believing they could reach their second straight AFC Championship game after being left for dead just a few weeks ago, the Ravens are embracing the opportunity but also know the truth about Sunday’s game in Foxborough. The game they’ve worked toward over the last 12 months only has one acceptable outcome in their eyes.

“Nothing matters unless we’re going to win in New England this weekend,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Then we’re back to the same position we were in last year.”

As compelling as their run has been to watch, the same man is once again standing in the way of their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2000 season. While the Ravens were finally able to topple Peyton Manning, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady has goals of his own, mainly atoning for last year’s Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. The most successful quarterback of this generation, the 35-year-old hasn’t won a championship since the 2004 season and has twice fallen in the Super Bowl since then.

Leading the top-ranked offense in the NFL in yards and points scored, Brady will try to do what Manning couldn’t do in Denver last Saturday. And the Baltimore defense will try to pick up where it left off in the divisional round when it held Denver’s explosive offense to just seven points in the second half after the Broncos returned a kickoff for a touchdown to begin the third quarter.

Even with every reason to be confident, the Ravens know that Brady will be waiting and ready after the Patriots scored 41 points against a tough Houston defense last week.

“He is a smart guy. We all know that is the reason he is probably a Hall of Fame quarterback,” cornerback Corey Graham said. “He is smart with the ball. He makes great decisions. He looks for matchups, and we have to just go out there and make plays.”

The Ravens’ multiple-look defense has given Brady difficulty over the years compared to most units as the Patriots were held to just 23 points in last year’s AFC Championship. The New England offense fared better in the Ravens’ 31-30 win in Week 3, but Brady acknowledges how difficult it is to play against a unit led by Lewis and free safety Ed Reed. In five career regular-season games against the Ravens, Brady has thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions and has posted an 83.3 passer rating, a modest mark for such a decorated quarterback. He has posted worse ratings against only four other teams over the course of his 13-year career.

His playoff loss to the Ravens on Jan. 10, 2010 was the worst performance of his postseason career as he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the 33-14 final.

Of course, the Baltimore defense hasn’t been the dominating unit this year that it was for more than a decade, but the Ravens were able to create pressure and force Manning into mistakes in the second half as the Denver quarterback turned the ball over three times in defeat. Instead of their simple “bend, but don’t break” performance, the defense made countless big plays in the second half to keep Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense within striking distance.

“It’s not like you beat this team 50-0,” Brady said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s always a tight game, there’s tight coverage, there’s tight throws, there’s tough reads, because schematically they do quite a few things.”

The discussion last week centered around the countless chess matches between Lewis and Manning, but the Ravens’ battles against Brady have been just as compelling. New England won’t hesitate to use the no-huddle offense and quick snaps on occasion to catch the Ravens on their heels, especially after Baltimore played a total of 174 plays and 77:38 on defense over the last two weeks.

The Ravens take pride in disguising their schemes and changing up coverages, the latest example coming on Denver’s final offensive play when cornerback Corey Graham and Lewis flipped coverage on wide receiver Brandon Stokley and baited Manning into throwing a critical interception. However, New England will try to use similar tactics in hopes of creating a mismatch with its wide array of offensive weapons.

“They switch it up. When they make plays, they hurry up to the line, and they speed the game up on guys,” Graham said. “If you’re not ready, if you’re not prepared for it, it will catch you off guard. They have been catching a lot of guys off guard, a lot of guys not set up and prepared for the play.”

Even when the correct matchups are identified, defensive backs and linebackers must play disciplined as Brady will try to look off receivers and make defenders pay for the softer coverage they typically employ to prevent the big play. The Patriots also won’t hesitate to go against the grain such as when they sent backup Shane Vereen deep on a 33-yard touchdown out of the backfield against the Texans.

The Ravens’ best chance in slowing Brady is to make him uncomfortable in the pocket like they did to Manning in the second half in Denver, but even then, the task in the secondary is daunting against the likes of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field — an area in which the pass defense has been vulnerable all year. In many cases, the ball simply comes out too quickly to get to the veteran signal-caller when he employs three-step drops.

“We have to have great eyes. We can’t stare him down in the secondary,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “We have to be on our men. They have great receivers and running backs. We have to go out there and play our game.”

Unlike past seasons when playing the Patriots, the Ravens must also account for the New England running game as starter Stevan Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards this season. The offense is one-dimensional as it’s been in the past when you could simply count on Brady to throw it 50 times with an ineffective rush offense behind him.

The Ravens were clearly content in keeping plays in front of them against the Broncos, evident by using Reed and Pollard in two-deep coverage for much of the game, but it will be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Dean Pees dials up against New England. Brady attempted only 19 passes that traveled more than 30 yards in the air all season and lacks the deep threats that the Broncos possessed in both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but the Patriots are never afraid to change things up.

Baltimore is in store for another chess match, again playing one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. And while the Ravens have been described as a team on a mission, there’s no arguing that the Patriots are motivated to not only get back to the Super Bowl but to finish the job after last year’s narrow loss.

Even though the Ravens beat the Patriots in the postseason three years ago and were one end-zone catch away from doing it again last season, they also know Brady is 5-1 in conference title games. As was the case last week, it won’t be easy to survive and advance for the underdog Ravens.

“That does not scare us,” Pollard said. “We’re going to go out, and we want to outhit you and outplay you and we want to go to the Super Bowl.”

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Sunday night

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Sunday night

Posted on 22 September 2012 by Luke Jones

Here’s what will happen when the Ravens welcome the New England Patriots to M&T Bank Stadium for their seventh ever meeting in the regular season and a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game …

1. Torrey Smith breaks out from his quiet start with 85 receiving yards and his first touchdown of the season. After being targeted only eight times in the first two games, Smith will play a major part in opening up space for short and intermediate routes against New England’s Cover 2 defense. Quarterback Joe Flacco will look to connect with the second-year wideout on a deep ball early as he did in Week 1, but this will lead to room for Smith to show off his more diverse route-running ability. If the Ravens are truly committed to becoming more of a passing team, Smith needs to be more involved and it starts against the Patriots secondary after a difficult week against Philadelphia’s defensive backfield.

2. The Ravens make a concerted effort to get Ray Rice involved early, but the Patriots hold him to under 100 total yards. With critics still questioning offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s play-calling in short-yardage situations, it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens not feeding the ball to Rice early and often — on the ground or through the air — and New England will be expecting it. The Patriots are strong up the middle with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and were able to contain Rice last January by holding him to 67 yards on 21 carries and just one catch for 11 yards. New England shut down Tennessee’s Chris Johnson in Week 1 and they won’t allow Rice to be the one to beat them Sunday night.

3. New England won’t have tight end Aaron Hernandez, but Rob Gronkowski picks up the slack with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. The Ravens were woeful last week in attempting to cover Philadelphia tight end Brent Celek as linebackers lost him in coverage and defensive backs were too late in reacting to passing plays in front of them. That doesn’t bode well with arguably the best tight end in the NFL coming to town, and Gronkowski caught five passes for 87 yards in the AFC Championship last year despite injuring his ankle late in the third quarter. Even with strong safety Bernard Pollard healthy enough to play, the Ravens won’t be able to slow the 6-foot-6, 265-pound monster.

4. The no-huddle offense plays a major role for the Patriots as the Ravens can’t cycle personnel on and off the field and Tom Brady picks apart the pass defense. The New England offensive line has been suspect this season, so the Baltimore defense must take advantage in making Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. If the Patriots protect him, they’ll use more of their no-huddle attack, which prevents defensive coordinator Dean Pees from cycling in personnel to keep the front seven fresh — especially with Pernell McPhee and Paul Kruger dealing with nagging injuries — in hopes of creating a consistent pass rush. The short and intermediate passes to Gronkowski and wide receiver Wes Welker – mixed with a few longer balls to newcomer Brandon Lloyd – will wear down the Ravens in the second half. Even without Hernandez, there are just too many weapons for which to account without a consistent rush from the front four.

5. In a game that has more scoring than last January’s meeting in Foxborough, the more experienced New England offense is the difference in a 27-24 victory for the Patriots. Both offenses are going to score points in this one, but it’s still difficult to put faith in the Ravens winning a high-scoring game where they potentially have to match an opponent score for score. Flacco and the Baltimore offense gets back on track after their poor second half in Philadelphia, but the Patriots have an improved defense with the additions of pass-rusher Chandler Jones and strongside linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Making too much out of New England’s surprising loss to defensive-minded Arizona is unwise as the Patriots still possess a very dangerous offense that’s difficult to stop. The Ravens defense lacks the horses to slow them enough, and the improved offense won’t be able to keep up as the game is decided by a late touchdown. New England improves to 7-0 in the all-time regular-season series against Baltimore and the Ravens’ 11-game home winning streak in the regular season is snapped.

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