Blog & Tackle: These guys are good/Ravens review

September 16, 2007 | Chris Pika

Before a big day of pro football, including the Ravens hosting the Jets, my wife and I had a chance to see two rounds of the TOUR Championship in Atlanta on Friday and Saturday.

As a not-so-good golfer who enjoys playing the game for relaxation, the opportunity to see the top 30 players in the game was too much to pass up.

Rain in the area washed out half of Thursday’s opening round and forced the PGA Tour to move Friday’s second round from an afternoon start to an 8 a.m. wakeup call for those — including Tiger Woods — who had to finish their first round. The rest set off at 9 a.m. for the second round.

We got to the 12th tee at 7:45 a.m. and when Woods walked up to resume his round, he was greeted by 15 folks at the tee box. By the time he finished around 9:30, the crowd had swelled to a couple of thousand. Contrast to today when he started about 2:30 p.m. and several thousand were at the first tee to walked the entire way to see the best player in the world.

He didn’t disappoint as he saw strong challenges by several players in the field and wound up the day -19 for the tournament and in good position to win both the tourney and the inaugural FedEx Cup.

When you watch these guys close up — and we tried to see as many groups as possible during the two days out at East Lake — you realize how effortless their swings look and once they get the yardage from their caddies, they drop the ball almost always where they want it — especially on the approach shots. Nevermind the drives that took a lot of the course’s bunkers out of play for long hitters.

We saw a couple of holes for Zach Johnson. including his eagle putt at #15, on the way to a remarkable 60 — but even with the gargantuan effort — he is still six strokes behind Woods.

Like the commercial says, “These guys are good.”

On to football and the Ravens: A general statement I make each year is that the first week in the NFL should be looked at almost like a preseason game.

Four Ravens starters each on offense and defense started and played in the final preseason game in Atlanta. The full regular units for almost NFL clubs play the most in Week 3 of the preseason — and then for just over two quarters of action, so teams are a little rusty for the first game.

So, you are never as good or as bad as you look in the first regular season game because of the layoff. But, what does change that equation is the injury factor and the Ravens have plenty of questions in that department.

The Bengals got 17 of their 27 points off the six Baltimore turnovers. The scary thing that even with five turnovers total (before the final interception), the Ravens had a chance to tie the game and force overtime. QB Steve McNair seemed to be vulnerable a lot of the time as he was sacked twice for a total loss of 15 yards and was hurried a total of 10 times in 67 offensive snaps.

It was as hard-hitting an opener that I can remember watching. It seemed like there were more big hits than usual, which was not surprising considering the fact that the two clubs do not like each other. The Ravens are aging at key positions and these types of games do not help veteran players to recover quickly, especially with a short week to prepare for the next opponent.

As I said on the Rob Long Show on Friday, the Ravens will be much better in protecting the ball than they were on Monday night. Can the offense get on track or will the defense be asked to carry the day? This will be the overriding question, in my opinion, for a large part of the season for the Ravens.

The first game is not indicative of how the season will go overall for any team in the NFL, but common trends begin to show themselves in Week 2 — when players are no longer rusty and have taken hits in a live game that means something.

The Ravens will win the home opener over the Jets, but I think it will be more of a struggle for Baltimore than the Vegas “experts” think.