Tag Archive | "Chris McAlister"

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) reacts while holding a smartphone after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. The Ravens won 28-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Deadline passes as Ravens, Judon fail to strike long-term deal

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Luke Jones

Wednesday’s franchise tag deadline passed with the Ravens and outside linebacker Matthew Judon failing to reach an agreement on a long-term contract.

That means the 2019 Pro Bowl selection must play the upcoming season under the tag amount of $16.808 million and is scheduled to again become an unrestricted free agent next March. Both sides had been quiet about negotiations throughout the process with no indication that a deal was close.

The 28-year-old signed his franchise tender in late May, eliminating any real possibility of him holding out during training camp. Unlike fellow tagged edge rushers Shaq Barrett and Bud Dupree who filed grievances against their respective teams after being classified as linebackers, Judon was able to work out a compromise with the Ravens to split the difference between the linebacker ($15.828 million) and defensive end ($17.788) amounts. Earlier this offseason, the 6-foot-3, 261-pound linebacker said he was “blessed” to receive the tag, a more diplomatic stance than others prevented from hitting the open market.

“I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business and that they’ve kind of got a ‘bad-good’ problem to have,” Judon said last month. “We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can’t all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers. They have stuff that they have to address, and obviously, I have needs as well.”

Despite a career season in which Judon registered a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks and ranked fourth in the NFL with 33 quarterback hits, some have pointed to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy system as reason to question whether the 2016 fifth-round pick from Grand Valley State is worthy of being paid among the league’s elite pass rushers. Still, Judon was easily Baltimore’s best performer at outside linebacker last year after the free-agent departure of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs, and 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson is the only notable Ravens outside linebacker under contract beyond the upcoming season.

The climate for a long-term contract for Judon doesn’t figure to improve next offseason because of both the financial uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the pending free agency of Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who would be an obvious candidate for the franchise tag in the absence of a long-term extension. General manager Eric DeCosta must also weigh the long-term contract situations for 2019 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, and Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., all players working toward top-tier contracts at their respective positions in the near future.

As Judon alluded to in his recent comments, the Ravens simply may not be able to pay everyone.

With 28 1/2 sacks, seven forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and 185 tackles in 62 career games, Judon became the seventh player to receive the franchise tag in team history and will become the first to play out a season on the tag since Suggs in 2008. The Ravens awarded Suggs with a long-term contract the following summer and eventually reached long-term agreements with five of those previous six players who were tagged, the exception being interior offensive lineman Wally Williams after the 1998 season.

With Judon’s guaranteed salary now locked in barring a trade, the Ravens entered Wednesday with $8.886 million in salary cap space for the 2020 campaign.

Below is a history of how the Ravens have used the franchise tag in their 25 seasons:

1998 OL Wally Williams — played on a $3.062 million tag before signing a five-year, $18.5 million deal with New Orleans the following offseason
2003-04 CB Chris McAlister — signed a seven-year, $55 million extension in October 2004
2008-09 OLB Terrell Suggs — signed a six-year, $62.5 million extension in July 2009
2011 DT Haloti Ngata — signed a five-year, $61 million extension in Sept. 2011
2012 RB Ray Rice — signed a five-year, $35 million extension in July 2012
2016 K Justin Tucker — signed a four-year, $16.8 million extension in July 2016
2020 OLB Matthew Judon — will play on a $16.808 million tag and is scheduled for free agency in 2021

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Ravens regular-season moment No. 16: “That’s one that loosens your teeth”

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Luke Jones

Check out the No. 17 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

The Ravens looked like they might be the worst team in football.

After an offseason salary-cap purge in which general manager Ozzie Newsome bid farewell to multiple starters and a couple future Hall of Famers from the Super Bowl XXXV championship team, the 2002 season couldn’t have started much worse on and off the field.

The young Ravens suffered a season-opening 10-7 road loss to a Carolina Panthers team that had gone 1-15 the previous year. The offensive output certainly wasn’t encouraging in third-year quarterback and former third-round pick Chris Redman’s first NFL start.

A few days later, sadness overcame the city as Baltimore Colts legend and football icon Johnny Unitas died of a heart attack on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. With Redman wearing black high-tops to pay tribute to the fellow Louisville product who had taken an interest in his football career, the Ravens were thoroughly embarrassed in a 25-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 2, the only time in team history they’ve been shut out at home.

Coming out of an early Week 3 bye, the Ravens were set to host the undefeated Denver Broncos — who had already knocked off defending NFC champion St. Louis and won at San Francisco — on Monday Night Football. Despite clamoring for more media attention the previous two seasons, even most Ravens fans dreaded their 0-2 team being on a prime-time stage for the football world to mock and ridicule.

The second quarter indeed proved to be embarrassing — for the Broncos.

Redman threw a touchdown pass to Todd Heap to give Baltimore a 7-3 lead on the second play of the period. Rookie Ed Reed blocked a punt that led to a short Jamal Lewis touchdown run to make it 14-3. And after a Matt Stover field goal, Ray Lewis intercepted a Brian Griese pass to set up another Redman touchdown throw to Heap with 18 seconds left in the first half, making it 24-3 in favor of the Ravens.

But none of that compared to what happened moments later as longtime Denver kicker Jason Elam lined up to try a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. The attempt was well short and wide to the left as cornerback Chris McAlister fielded the kick in the end zone and initially played possum before taking off at his own goal line. With many not even realizing what was happening, McAlister sprinted down the sideline for a then-NFL-record 107 yards for a touchdown as over 69,000 shocked fans went bonkers.

Perhaps even more thrilling and memorable than the return itself, however, was the block delivered by Ray Lewis, who absolutely throttled Broncos linebacker Keith Burns at the 5-yard line. As the legendary John Madden so perfectly described it on the ABC broadcast, “That’s one that loosens your teeth!”

The monstrous hit symbolized the night for the shell-shocked Broncos as the Ravens earned their first win of the season in a 34-23 final, a game that also included Reed’s first career interception. The victory may not have been the harbinger of a magical 2002 turnaround, but it made clear the rebuilding Ravens were far from the NFL’s worst team as they’d go on to finish 7-9 in what was one of Brian Billick’s finest coaching jobs.

The incredible touchdown to close the half signaled better days were coming soon for a team with a very talented young core still intact, including the two men responsible for one of the most exhilarating plays in franchise history.

“That’s the way we practice it,” said McAlister about his record return after the game. “I watched and hung in the end zone and let my guys set up the wall. I got a hell of a block from Ray, and we went with the wall. All I saw was purple jerseys and green until I hit the end zone.”

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Historic outing puts Ravens in good position for defining stretch

Posted on 15 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Tennessee Titans waved the white flag early in their shutout loss to the Ravens on Sunday.

Perhaps it wasn’t as pronounced as when Chris McAlister claimed Eddie George “folded like a baby” after taking a big hit from Ray Lewis in an old AFC Central rivalry game that was once every bit as intense and nasty as what Baltimore-Pittsburgh would become, but the Titans running the ball on a third-and-10 play from their own 36 late in the second quarter said all you needed to know after the Ravens had already collected six sacks in the first half.

The score was just 14-0, but Tennessee wasn’t going to threaten the rest of the way, crossing midfield only once after intermission — to the Baltimore 49 — in a 21-0 final that included a franchise-record 11 sacks. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota never had a chance as he finished with fewer completions than the number of times he was sacked.

Yes, it was a historic single-game defensive performance by the Ravens, a team that’s no stranger to such feats over the last two decades. But playing defense in today’s offense-crazy NFL is a different animal than it was six or seven years ago, let alone trying to make modern-day comparisons to the gold standard that is the 2000 Ravens. For some context, only four teams in that Super Bowl XXXV season averaged 25 points per game whereas nearly half the league is doing that so far in 2018.

That’s not to say this year’s Ravens after just six games are anywhere close to being deserving of comparisons to that historic group or another handful of great Baltimore defenses, but the eye-popping numbers are tough to ignore. Consider that Sunday’s marquee showdown between New England and Kansas City featured a total of 83 points scored, six more than the Ravens have allowed all season. Early opponents Tennessee, Cleveland, Denver, and Buffalo may not be keeping defensive coordinators up at night, but the Ravens are surrendering only 12.8 points per game in a league in which only six other teams are allowing under 20 points per contest. Chicago is the only other team to surrender fewer than 100 points on the season, and the Bears have allowed 96 — in five games.

Baltimore still hasn’t surrendered a second-half touchdown despite playing four of its first six on the road, including the last three in a row. The Ravens defense has had only one truly bad half of football when it gave up 28 points to Cincinnati in a Thursday road game, which is always a difficult proposition.

Making the aforementioned numbers even more amazing is the fact that Wink Martindale’s defense has forced only six turnovers so far, meaning the Ravens have shut down opponents in a more “straight-up” fashion. Sunday was the 14th shutout in franchise history and the first not to feature a single takeaway, meaning there was never the need for a fumble recovery in the red zone or an end-zone interception as is usually the case to preserve a goose egg.

That will need to change with the real fun about to begin.

The Ravens will play four of their next five games at M&T Bank Stadium, but their next four opponents — New Orleans, at Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati — all rank in the top 15 in scoring offense with the Saints, Steelers, and Bengals each in the top seven. Week 7 features the No. 1 scoring offense against the top scoring defense in the league as future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and Super Bowl-winning coach Sean Payton have had an extra week to prepare for Martindale’s creative schemes.

The good news is the defense shouldn’t need to do it alone as the offense is much improved from recent years and ranks in the top 12 in most major categories. You can’t expect to entirely shut down a team like the Saints, of course, but what’s made the Ravens’ 4-2 start so encouraging is how much more balanced the performances have been. It will certainly mark the biggest test of the season to date.

John Harbaugh’s team finished its road-heavy start to the season on a high note Sunday with one of the greatest single-game defensive performances in team history. Victories in two of the next three games — a challenging but reasonable goal for a legitimate playoff team — would put the Ravens at 6-3 entering their bye. They’ve entered their bye week with a losing record in each of the last three seasons, ultimately leaving too little margin for error down the stretch each time. December trips to Atlanta, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Chargers will be easier to navigate if the Ravens are contending for a first-round bye rather than needing to be virtually perfect just to sneak into the tournament.

The Ravens have looked like a playoff team with an elite — and throwback — defense, an above-average offense, and an ability to hold their own on the road to give them their best start since 2014.

Now we’ll find out just how great this defense is and how truly serious the Ravens are as contenders.

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Rice reportedly to skip Ravens’ offseason workouts without new contract

Posted on 03 April 2012 by Luke Jones

With the start of the offseason workout program less than two weeks away, the Ravens apparently shouldn’t be expecting their Pro Bowl running back to surface in Owings Mills.

Ray Rice is not expected to report for offseason workouts without a new contract, according to a Scout.com report on Tuesday afternoon. The running back is not required to attend any organized team activities since he is not under contract.

He remained upbeat about his future with the team last season and during preliminary negotiations earlier this offseason before the Ravens placed the franchise tag on him in early March. The former Rutgers standout is scheduled to make $7.7 million under the franchise tender if the two sides are unable to reach a long-term agreement by July 15.

The 25-year-old was in New York City representing the Ravens as Nike revealed the NFL’s new uniforms for the 2012 season and told the Ravens’ official site he looked forward to attending offseason workouts before Tuesday’s report surfaced.

“If they want to get a deal done, we’ll get a deal done,” Rice said to the team’s official Twitter account.

Recent attempts to reach Rice’s agent Todd France have been unsuccessful.

The news is hardly surprising as countless players around the league who have been issued the franchise tag in the past have skipped OTAs. Should the mid-July deadline pass without a deal being struck, the real question will be whether Rice chooses to report for training camp in late July.

With veteran Ricky Williams having retired in February, the only running backs currently on the roster are 2011 seventh-round pick Anthony Allen and 2011 practice squad member Damien Berry.

Rice led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,068 on his way to being selected to his second Pro Bowl.

“I played out my contract, I outplayed my contract,” Rice told the team’s official site. “Staying patient is key, but I do think I’m due. I’m up for one.”

General manager Ozzie Newsome has stated his desire to sign Rice to a long-term contract on a few occasions despite many pundits suggesting the Ravens should simply allow Rice to play with the franchise tag in 2012. The Ravens have a proven track record of taking care of players who were given the designation after working out long-term contracts with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (2011), linebacker Terrell Suggs (2008 and 2009), and cornerback Chris McAlister (2003 and 2004) over the last decade.

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Ravens place franchise tag on Rice; make cuts of Evans, Carr official

Posted on 02 March 2012 by Luke Jones

After weeks of speculation, the Ravens have officially placed their franchise tag on running back Ray Rice less than two weeks before he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

After leading the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage and being named to his second Pro Bowl team, Rice will now be issued the franchise tender for running backs, reported to be $7.7 million in 2012. Playing out the final year of a four-year contract he signed as a second-round pick in 2008, Rice made only $550,000 in base salary as one of the best bargains in the league in 2011.

“Obviously, I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere,” Ray Rice said following the season. “But, it’s just one of those processes where you want to wait and see what happens, and hopefully me and the Ravens come to a great long-term deal. That’s the goal. I see myself here — I’m a Raven.”

Rice becomes only the fifth player in franchise history to receive the franchise tag, joining offensive lineman Wally Williams, cornerback Chris McAlister, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Of the previous four, only Williams failed to receive a long-term contract after receiving the designation. Given the short shelf life of running backs historically, some have suggested the Ravens should simply wait on a long-term extension for Rice and allow him to play with the tag in 2012, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has made his intentions clear when it comes to his star running back.

“We have used the franchise tag only so we can get a long-term deal,” Newsome said at the NFL rookie combine in Indianapolis last week. “We would like for Ray Rice to have a long career in Baltimore. If we have to franchise him, that would be the reason why.”

Newsome re-iterated that statement Friday.

“As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract. Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven. We’ve done this with other outstanding players through our history, including Haloti Ngata a year ago.”

The Ravens will have until July 15 to reach an agreement with Rice’s agent Todd France on a contract or Rice must play the 2012 season under the $7.7 million tender. Baltimore would have the option of using the tag again in 2013, but Rice’s 2012 salary would increase by 120 percent.

Throughout last season, Rice downplayed the significance of his expiring contract, acknowledging the business side of football and never questioning the Ravens’ commitment to him. The running back could elect to hold out during training camp if the sides fail to reach a long-term agreement in July, but history suggests the Ravens will take care of the 5-foot-8 back.

Rice has rushed for a minimum of 1,220 yards in each of the last three seasons and scored a career-high 15 touchdowns in 2011.

France and the Ravens held contract discussions in Indianapolis last weekend, but negotiations for both Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco — who has one year remaining on his deal — are expected to stretch into the late spring or summer before any potential deal is reached.

“The reality of it is those [deals] are going to take a little longer,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have a lot of contract conversations and different guys we’ll be talking to and even trying to get signed. Maybe even the draft will happen. Those guys will kind of overarch that whole process.

“Ultimately, I think we all believe that those two guys will be on the team for a long time.”

Ravens make cuts official

The Ravens also announced the cuts of wide receiver Lee Evans and cornerback Chris Carr, who was told Thursday about his release from the team.

The team is also prepared to release cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who missed most of last season while still recovering from a torn ACL suffered at the beginning of training camp in 2010, but the move has not been announced as of Friday afternoon.

Evans had a $5.61 million cap number for 2012, and was set to make $3.3 million in base salary and was scheduled to receive a $ 1 million roster bonus on March 18th if he remained with the club.

Evans, 30, battled an ankle injury all season after coming over in a preseason trade with the Buffalo Bills. He appeared in nine games and started two.

He caught four passes for 74 yards and, of course, faced criticism for his key drop in the Ravens 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

Carr was released one season into a four-year contract he signed last summer.

He was scheduled to receive $2.5 million in 2012.

Newsome said those two moves were difficult for him and team personnel to make.

“Each year, we have to make tough, difficult decisions to manage our roster,” Newsome said. “Chris Carr and Lee Evans were valuable Ravens, and both helped us get to the AFC Championship game and the brink of the Super Bowl last season with the way they played and the maturity they added to the locker room.”

However, Newsome said the door is not shut on either one to return to the club.

“As we talked about when we informed Chris and Lee of these moves, this does not close the door on them coming back to the Ravens.”

WNST.net’s Ryan Chell contributed to this report.

 

 

 

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Comparisons to 2000 Ravens premature, but this year’s defense could be exceptional

Posted on 06 October 2011 by Luke Jones

We just can’t help ourselves, can we?

After more than a decade of defensive excellence in Baltimore, we always compare the latest eye-popping Ravens defense to the platinum standard of that 2000 unit. It was that group, of course, that lifted a caretaker offense — rookie running back Jamal Lewis being the lone exception — to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship.

It was a once-in-a-generation defense, yet we refuse to acknowledge that type of group won’t come along again — even if we say otherwise.

We did it in 2003 when Ray Lewis led a young group of budding defensive stars to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking and an AFC North title.

It happened again in 2006 as the Ravens finished 13-3 and first overall in both points and yardage allowed, something the 2000 group wasn’t able to do.

And the similarities were examined between that championship group and the 2008 defense – ranked second overall behind only the Steelers — coached by Rex Ryan in his final year in Baltimore before taking his antics to the Big Apple.

It sure feels a lot like 2000, doesn’t it?

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It’s not surprising the whispers have already started about the 2011 edition of Ray Lewis and company after a 3-1 start in which the Ravens rank third overall in total defense, third against the run, tied for seventh against the pass, and first in the NFL with 14 takeaways. The pass rush is improved with 11 sacks already after posting a franchise-low 27 in 2010. The Baltimore defense has already set single-game franchise records when it forced seven turnovers against Pittsburgh in Week 1 and scored three defensive touchdowns against the Jets last Sunday night.

But, are we really going to start talking about comparisons to 2000 after only four games?

For the sake of the argument, comparing the two units through the first four games of the season — one small sample deserves another if we’re going to be fair — shows the championship group with the upper hand. The 2000 Ravens allowed fewer yards (996 to 1,138), gave up fewer points (55 to 57), and recorded two shutouts while this year’s defense has yet to post a goose egg for 60 minutes. However, this year’s 14 takeaways trumps the 10 forced by the 2000 group.

Those first four games in 2000 included two of the four largest point totals surrendered by that defense in the regular season, including the 36 scored by Jacksonville in a thrilling 39-36 shootout win in Week 2. This year’s Ravens have faced only one offense currently ranking in the top half of the league (Pittsburgh is ranked 13th), but the 2000 group faced only one top-10 offense (Jacksonville was seventh overall in 2000) through four games.

As fun as it is to draw comparisons between the known and the unknown, the reality is it’s too early to determine where the 2011 defense will even rank among the many good defenses in the 16-year history of the franchise, let alone talk about any potential similarity with one of the greatest units in NFL history. The only link between the two defenses is Ray Lewis, who depends far more on his intellect as a 36-year-old than he had to as a 25-year-old wrecking machine.

Moving beyond the statistics, Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 hybrid defense is far more similar to a Ryan-coached unit than Marvin Lewis’ record-setting defense from 11 years ago. The current unit relies on deception and blitzing to create pressure, disguising its intentions until the last possible minute. Lewis, on the other hand, largely played his 4-3 defense straight up, using a dominating front four that created pressure on the quarterback and a brick wall impenetrable for running backs.

And here is where we get to the largest discrepancy that should end any real discussion between the championship group and this year’s edition.

The secondaries.

Continue >>>

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The ‘fall’ of the Ravens defense started many Aprils ago

Posted on 17 November 2010 by Luke Jones

If you’ve been wearing out your Greg Mattison dartboard over the last several weeks, you’re probably not alone.

After all, the current Ravens defensive coordinator is solely responsible for the fall of a once-dominant unit all the way to 10th in the NFL, right?

(As an aside, how spoiled are we to be frustrated with a unit still better — statistically — than 22 other defenses in the league?)

From eliminating the submissive three-man rush to playing tighter, press coverage in the secondary, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, or Rex Ryan would be coaching this defense to the elite level it enjoyed over the last decade instead of the mortal status it currently holds.

If only it were that simple.

Placing blame on a few individuals is common practice (Mattison, maligned cornerback Fabian Washington, and, until recently, “overrated” linebacker Terrell Suggs are popular targets these days), but the defensive problems run far deeper.

Personnel issues, aging stars, a key injury (anyone remember Domonique Foxworth?), and — perhaps — coaching shortcomings have left the Ravens with an above-average defense pursuing ghosts of dominance on the M&T Bank Stadium turf.

Truth be told, the current deterioration of the Baltimore defense began years ago, even while the unit was enjoying perennial elite status.

Anyone who’s followed Ozzie Newsome’s 15 years in Baltimore knows organizational success begins and ends in April. Shrewd trades and a sprinkling of free-agent signings have contributed over the years, but the Ravens have traditionally made their money with the NFL Draft, especially on the defensive side of the football.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

And herein lies the problem with the current defense.

Since the Ravens drafted Suggs with the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Newsome has used only one first-round pick on a defensive player, tackle Haloti Ngata in 2006.

By no means is that an indictment of Newsome, director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, and the scouting department in Owings Mills. The Ravens had no choice but to address the offensive side of the football in hopes of reaching the pinnacle of the NFL.

If defense alone truly wins championships, the Ravens would have a showcase full of Vince Lombardi Trophies in the lobby at 1 Winning Drive, but Baltimore has fallen short with a number of elite defenses, all because of offensive units that couldn’t get out of their own way.

As a result, the team has used five of its last six first-round picks on offensive players, including quarterback Joe Flacco (2008) and current starting linemen Ben Grubbs (2007) and Michael Oher (2009). Meanwhile, the defense largely maintained the status quo, carrying the mantra of dominance for years.

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Perhaps seeing leaks last season, the front office emphasized defense in April, drafting Sergio Kindle from Texas and the mammoth Terrence Cody from Newsome’s alma mater of Alabama. Ultimately, a draft’s success cannot be gauged for a few years, but the short-term return has been negligible halfway through the 2010 season.

In fairness, if you could have predicted Kindle’s fall down two flights of stairs in late July, forget about running an NFL front office; I’m asking you for this weekend’s winning lottery numbers.

Cody, on the other hand, still has time to contribute in the short-term and has played better in the Ravens’ last two games after a slow start to his professional career.

But one draft was not going to fix a philosophical shift in recent years that focused on offense with defensive upgrades taking a backseat. A simple look at the defensive picks in the Ravens’ first three rounds since 2004 shows the underwhelming results (the round in which the player was selected is noted in parentheses):

2004: DE Dwan Edwards (2nd)
2005: LB Dan Cody (2nd)
2006: DT Haloti Ngata (1st), CB David Pittman (3rd)
2007: None
2008: LB Tavares Gooden (3rd), S Tom Zbikowski (3rd)
2009: DE Paul Kruger (2nd), CB Lardarius Webb (3rd)
2010: LB Sergio Kindle (2nd), DT Terrence Cody (2nd)

Far more alarming than the lack of first-round selections is the volume of players who failed to make an impact as higher selections. Dan Cody (injuries) and Pittman (ineffectiveness) barely made it on the field in their brief time in Baltimore, and it remains unknown whether Kindle will ever play again, let alone contribute at a high level.

Other players, such as Edwards before signing with Buffalo last offseason, Gooden, and Kruger, have been little more than role players, contributing at times but failing to make a significant impact, though recent draft picks deserve more time to develop.

In contrast, a look at the Ravens’ defensive selections in the first three rounds from 1996 to 2003 shows a much different picture:

1996: LB Ray Lewis (1st), CB DeRon Jenkins (2nd)
1997: LB Peter Boulware (1st), LB Jamie Sharper (2nd), S Kim Herring (2nd)
1998: CB Duane Starks (1st)
1999: CB Chris McAlister (1st)
2000: None
2001: CB Gary Baxter (2nd)
2002: S Ed Reed (1st), DE Anthony Weaver (2nd)
2003: LB Terrell Suggs (1st)

The number of players chosen is similar (11 defensive players chosen in eight years compared to the 10 defenders selected in the seven drafts since 2004), but every player on the latter list started multiple seasons — many of them at elite levels — except Jenkins, who was largely considered a bust in his four years with the Ravens. Of course, the six first-rounds selections paid the largest dividends, but their other picks made significant contributions as well.

Looking at their draft record since 2004 and comparing it to the franchise’s first eight years in Baltimore reveals that in addition to the front office using fewer first-round picks on defensive players, it hasn’t been nearly as successful finding defensive talent in the second and third rounds, especially at cornerback where the unit currently struggles.

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (21-40)

Posted on 26 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number this week, I decided to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Numbers 1 through 20 included greats such as Matt Stover and Ed Reed as well as lackluster selections such as David Tyree and Wally Richardson.

Part two (21-40) provides a few interesting debates with a few more selections of attrition.

21 Chris McAlister (1999-2008)

The paradoxical cornerback’s exit under the new regime of John Harbaugh was unfortunate, but there was no questioning McAlister’s talent when his mind was focused on football. The three-time Pro Bowl selection (2003-04, 2006) is the best cornerback in franchise history.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjj5OA1I5UU[/youtube]

McAlister will eventually be a part of the Ring of Honor, where he will become the second honoree to wear No. 21, but the only deserving one. Earnest Byner had a good NFL career in Cleveland (with the exception of “The Fumble”) and Washington, but he being the first member of the Ravens Ring of Honor is solely a product of Art Modell’s affection for the running back.

22 Duane Starks (1998-2001)

McAlister’s counterpart receives the nod in a close race with cornerback Samari Rolle. Starks lacked consistency in his four-year career with the Ravens, but his play reached new heights during the team’s postseason run that ended with the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa. Starks intercepted two passes in the AFC Championship and returned a Kerry Collins attempt the other way 49 yards for a touchdown in the Super Bowl (check out the 0:46 mark below).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW5vor6kZ4c[/youtube]

23 Willis McGahee (2007-present)

McGahee’s career in Baltimore has declined after a 1,200-yard season in 2007, but the veteran runner easily tops the list of players to wear the number, which includes Moe Williams, Jamaine Winborne, Earnest Hunter, and Dameon Hunter.

Though no longer a premier back, McGahee can take consolation in a certain moment in Oakland last season.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxTQAqB8Q0Q[/youtube]

24 Domonique Foxworth (2009-present)

Despite playing only one season with the Ravens so far (and missing his second with a torn ACL), Foxworth’s performance in 2009 trumps the likes of Corey Fuller, Donny Brady, Alvin Porter, and 2006 third-round bust David Pittman.

25 Chris Carr (2009-present)

Despite a number of players wearing the number, Chris Carr wins out over inadequate cornerbacks such as DeRon Jenkins, Evan Oglesby, and Clarence Love.

26 Rod Woodson (1998-2001)
Woodson

The veteran transitioned from cornerback to safety and earned three trips to the Pro Bowl during his four-year stay in Baltimore. Dawan Landry deserves a mention and Priest Holmes wore the number his rookie season, but Woodson is the unanimous choice here.

27 Ray Rice (2008-present)

Safety Stevon Moore was one of the few competent members of the Baltimore defense in the early years, but Rice’s breakout 2009 campaign makes him a slam-dunk choice for No. 27. Entering his third season, Rice hopes he can make the number as synonymous with Ravens football as No. 52 and 75.

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28 Gary Baxter (2001-04)

McAlister wore the number his rookie season and Tom Zbikowski is making a name for himself, but Baxter was a solid member of the Baltimore secondary before ditching the Ravens for Cleveland, where his career was essentially ruined by patella tendon tears in both knees in 2006.

29 Chester Taylor (2002-05)

Taylor was a dependable backup in 2004 and 2005 when Jamal Lewis’ body began breaking down. His performance eventually earned him a nice payday in Minnesota before the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson. Two players deserving posthumous recognition are safety Eric Turner and fullback Chuck Evans. Terry Allen also wore the number in the running back-starved season of 2001.

30 Obafemi Ayanbadejo (1999-2001)

With Eugene Daniel and Jamel White his only real competition, the man with probably the coolest name in the history of the franchise earns the honor despite spending the latter half of the Super Bowl season on Injured Reserve.

31 Jamal Lewis (2000-2006)

With a bruising style unlike any other, Lewis was an unstoppable force in 2003, rushing for 2,066 yards and a then-record 295 against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2. In his prime, Lewis was the type of runner defensive players were afraid to tackle. He is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuN3hN8j8L8&feature=PlayList&p=7FFF13B94FD79303&index=0&playnext=1[/youtube]

32 Sam Gash (2000-02)

The veteran fullback led the way for Lewis in his rookie season and is the most deserving of a group of backs that includes Musa Smith and Errict Rhett. Gash was the epitome of an “old-school” fullback.

33 Le’Ron McClain (2007-present)

Some will argue Priest Holmes as a deserving choice for this number—the first back to have a 1,000-yard season in team history in 1998—but McClain’s two Pro Bowl selections and improbable 2008 season in which he rushed for 902 yards earn him the honor.

McClain

McClain’s running style reminds you a little bit of Bam Morris, another back to wear the number in 1996 and 1997. Unlike the troubled Morris, however, McClain has managed to keep his nose clean, literally and figuratively.

34 Ovie Mughelli (2003-06)

Though he was a late bloomer in Baltimore, Mughelli grabs the brass ring with his only real competition being Jay Graham and current return man Jalen Parmele. The latter still has an opportunity to stake a claim in the future, but Graham’s injury-riddled career fell off a cliff after rushing for an amazing 154 yards in his first career start in 1997.

35 Corey Ivy (2006-08, 2009)

Despite his small stature at 5-foot-9, Ivy was a steady nickelback with the ability to blitz effectively. His standout moment with the Ravens came during a dominant 27-0 win over the Steelers in 2006 in which the defensive back grabbed an interception, sacked Ben Roethlisberger, and forced a fumble. Ivy edges Robert Bailey, the nickel during the 2000 season, and fullback Carwell Gardner (1996).

36 Jim Leonhard (2008)

B.J. Sams was a good return specialist for four seasons with the Ravens, but Leonhard personified the Ravens’ underdog season in 2008 in which they advanced to the AFC Championship game with a rookie head coach and quarterback.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQh3PngyyWw[/youtube]

The undersized safety’s play was a major asset in place of the injured Dawan Landry and earned him a nice contract with Rex Ryan and the New York Jets the following season.

37 Bennie Thompson (1996-1999)

Deion Sanders earned the most attention with his two-year stint in Baltimore, but Thompson was a special teams standout during the infancy of the franchise. Thompson played the game with the crazed demeanor needed to launch oneself into the wedge of the opposition’s return team. Thompson earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1998 for his special teams prowess.

38 James Trapp (1999-2002)

Despite being an ordained minister, Trapp is remembered most for being ejected from a game in 2002 after stomping on the head of Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress, a move many in Baltimore didn’t mind a bit. Trapp was a quality backup in the Ravens secondary for four seasons and edged out the likes of Antonio Langham, Mike Anderson, and Raymond Walls.

39 Alan Ricard (2000-05)

After much painful debate, I decided against Daren Stone, the culprit of one of the dumbest penalties in franchise history, as the all-time No. 39.
stone

Ricard was the lead blocker and a Pro Bowl alternate in Jamal Lewis’ record-breaking 2003 season and was a great fullback for several seasons.

40 Cory Ross (2006-07)

Though he wore the number for just one season (switching to No. 34 in 2007), Ross filled in for injured return specialist B.J. Sams during the latter portion of the 2006 season, which was enough to earn the distinction for a very insignificant number in team history.

Cory Ross

The deceased Kenyon Cotton and current bubble defensive back K.J. Gerard are the only other competitors in an underwhelming group of No. 40s.

Next up: For numbers 41 though 60, we’ll find who grabbed the honors for No. 46 and 48 (Impressive if you have names off the top of your head), and I’ll end the suspense surrounding the pick for No. 52. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with Lay Rewis.

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4th Day Of Christmas ....

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4th Day Of Christmas ….

Posted on 21 December 2009 by WNST Interns

Damn the snow !!!!

Damn the Chicago Bears Travel Secretary !!!!

Damn these lists of holiday gifts !!!!

I’m going broke, and my blogs are suffering. At this rate, my “12 Days Of Christmas” are gonna take about 3 weeks. I’m running behind schedule – but I’m dedicated to catch up. So, stay tuned – OFTEN.

Today, I’m handing out the special gift of HUMILITY.

That’s right, some folks need a sweet dose (or sour ….) of it, and I’m ensuring they receive a fair portion, as a Christmas gift.
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JOHN HARBAUGH
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I’ll admit it, I’ve been pretty hard on the Ravens Head Coach, throughout this 2009 season. I’m not being personally disparaging, I just think we’ve finally observed some consistencies (and inconsistencies) that suggest he has some work to do – on his coaching game …..

If he’s being honest with himself – and his players, I would think Coach Harbaugh has some serious soul searching on the front burner of his Monday evening. While he won’t publicly admit it, Harbaugh has a problem with Chris McAlister. Everyone suspects it.

I get the whole concept of exiling players, and sticking them on the equivalent of the “Island Of Misfit Toys.” Respect and honor are key with many coaches. And, Chris McAlister probably did a few things we’ll never know.

But, John Harbaugh might very well find himself at a humbling intersection, as we sit just 4 days from Christmas, and 6 days from a trip to Heinz Field. Who’s covering Santonio Holmes? How about Hines Ward? Umm, Mike Wallace? Did you consider Heath Miller?

Maybe, we should try this guy …..

I can’t fathom the thought of going forward with the in-house corps of cornerbacks. I know John Harbaugh is dedicated to the TEAM concept and “Playing Like A Raven.” Well, Coach, that goes for YOU, too.

There is a locker room full of guys who’ve busted their asses, since late July. What do they deserve? Lets start with giving them the best chance to win – even if it means sitting down with Chris McAlister and seeing if a short-term marriage is in the best interest of both halves.

Call Sean Payton …..

Ask him why he signed McAlister. Ask him why he cut him? Ask him if McAlister’s short tenure affected the team negatively.

Better yet, just look at the current RAVENS and ask yourself, “what do they deserve?”

Coach Harbaugh is being wished some humility – and a sobering vision, for Christmas.
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CHRIS McALISTER
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Yeah, dude, you’re not blameless in this standoff. In fact, I’m imagining you’re probably 95% at fault.

It’s quite easy for me to toss criticism at John Harbaugh – he’s expected to be the “bigger man” and lead by a professional decorum and example. And, he’s pretty much done that.

He hasn’t thrown you under the bus, publicly, one time. While it’s pretty obvious you guys haven’t exchanged Christmas cards, he’s been respectful of your image and public character, as far as the media and fans are concerned.

I would be interested in knowing if Chris McAlister has done anything to resurrect a sliver of his broken relationship with the Ravens Head Coach. He has the ties – he can get to him.

Where is Chris McAlister?

You should be appearing at any and every public service event. It’s CHRISTMAS ….. go find a cameraman, and hand out a turkey !!!!

Or a toy !!!!

Or some money !!!!

It’s all about perception, and it’s also about being humble. You did this. You caused the divorce. I’ve beat up John Harbaugh, because he hasn’t reconvened with your conflicted butt. You wanna play football?

What steps have you taken to mend the fence?

Chris McAlister needs the gift of humility, especially as he confronts a life that probably needs some straightening – beyond the football field.
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REX SNIDER

Well, I don’t think this has ever happened. Have I ever included myself, as a “sub-topic” of a blog?

I don’t think so.

But, I’m not immune to discerning treatment – especially as it regards a legitimate shortcoming. How do they say it ….. “if the shoe fits?”

I’ll be quite honest, and say I’m really disappointed in myself. While I appreciate this forum and virtual freedom to write (and say) about things desired, I also expect a responsibility from myself.

Yes, I expect more from ME.

For the past few weeks, I’ve seized numerous opportunities to pry on the personal life of Tiger and Elin Woods. While, I absolutely believe I haven’t been disparaging, I have walked into a couple’s “no go” zones.

I do think Tiger’s life is an open book. He’s a celebrity – and pitchman for commercial products. Thus, he’s accountable for a very public image. If he fails to uphold that image, he’ll be held to task.

But, his personal situation is not funny. It’s embarrassing and it’s sad. There are numerous victims in this situation – who can be further hurt by those with media credentials.

While I don’t think my past remarks infringe on Tiger’s family – a man’s family is none of my business. I’ll concentrate on being the best dad and husband, possible. And, leave Tiger and others to managing their own.

This is my humble wish for ME.
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The People Around Chris Henry

Chris Henry’s funeral is set for tomorrow. Many members of the NFL’s collective family are expected to travel to Gretna, Louisiana, to pay their final respects to the veteran wide receiver.

I’m certain we’ll see and hear and collection of poignant and touching remembrances. As with most funerals, I’m sure dry eyes will be hard to find. This is the way people grieve and it’s purely natural.

However, in the coming weeks and months, someone – ANYONE with a connection to the National Football League and Chris Henry must step forward and speak in sobering fashion about the often troubled young man. It’s the only way to truly learn from his brief, but interrupted life.

Will it be Chad Ochocinco? If he wants earn some credibilty beyond being pro football’s traveling circus, he should speak out. Tell the truth, Chad. Chris Henry made an awful lot of poor decisions – his latest discretion was life costing.

How about you, Roger Goodell? God knows you deal with poor behavior, front and center. If you speak honestly, it wouldn’t cheapen Chris Henry’s image or memory. If your goal is being productive, why not do it?

I think Roger Goodell has an obligation to talk about the game’s realities and risks. By all indications, Chris Henry was a very dysfunctional young man. The Bengals were managing his finances – like a parent oversees a kid’s allowance. Does this bother you, Mister Commissioner?

Perhaps, Marvin Lewis could address the conflicted and combustable topic known as “The Life & Times Of Chris Henry.” I realize Coach Lewis has a locker room to consider and his message would rely upon respecting the teacher/student principle.

Regardless, someone needs to be honest about Chris Henry and how he really lived his life. As with most deaths, surviving collegaues and friends are slathering Henry’s memory with compliments and testimonials …..

“He really turned his life around”

“He was on the right path”

“He hadn’t been in trouble in over a year”

Wow !!!! Is that the modern-day median line for good character? If people don’t get arrested, are they considered successful? I got a 14 year old daughter and I’m gonna expect much, much more from her.

Chris Henry hasn’t been in handcuffs for a substantial amount of time. I’m glad about that. But, he undoubtedly still had issues. He died after falling from a speeding pickup truck – during a domestic incident with his fiance’.

It’s December – it was 46 degrees, in Charlotte, on the afternoon Chris Henry died. And, he was shirtless in the back of a pickup truck. Yet, so many people want to convince us he was a changed man.

Consider this …..

If I handed you piece of paper, at the start of the 2009 NFL season – and asked you to write the names of the 5 players most likely to DIE within the next year, would Chris Henry be on that list? You’re damned right.

In a spur of the moment situation, Chris Henry made another poor decision. It was his worst decision, EVER. He is gone – and 3 children no longer have a dad.

It’s time for someone who really wants to change the image of the NFL to swallow some pride, humble up, and be honest about Chris Henry and the culture of many of the game’s players. That’s my wish for them.
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Rex Ryan

Admit it, seeing Rex Ryan’s swagger melt with each frustrating Jets loss is kinda comforting, right?

Where are the game balls for all those SUPER-JET fans, now?

Is Rex still leaving confidence-driven phone messages for season ticket holders? Or, is he making Mark Sanchez call the same people and apologize for wasting their hard earned money?

Back in September, Rex Ryan was being pimped around the Big Apple. He was the common fan’s hero. Yet, a short 3 months later, he’s being questioned and criticized by the same group of Gang-Green supporters.

From “toasted to roasted” …..

I think Rex Ryan is going to be very successful, in New York. But, he really needs a few spoonfuls of humility. The story should never, ever be about him. He’s the Head Coach, not the Head Star.

Rex needs to lighten up – he’s giving me a bad name …..

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Tony Banks and Scott Mitchell

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Ravens’ fight for playoff lives is nothing new

Posted on 17 December 2009 by Luke Jones

As the Baltimore Ravens continue to grapple for a postseason spot entering Week 15 (and here’s another great source for predicting your own playoff scenarios) against the Chicago Bears, the franchise finds itself in a familiar position.

While last season’s improbable run in John Harbaugh’s first season landed Baltimore in the AFC Championship, the franchise has found itself on the playoff bubble five other times in the last 11 years. Not counting the Super Bowl season of 2000 and a franchise-best regular season record of 13-3 in 2006 (the Ravens clinched a berth in Week 15 of both seasons), the Ravens’ playoff chances have always boiled down to the final week of the season.

Here’s a look back at the other “bubble” teams in the 14-year history of the Ravens, with some teams having more success than others down the stretch.

Tony Banks and Scott Mitchell
1999: 8-8 (2-1 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: Brian Billick’s first season as head coach saw the Ravens secure their first non-losing record. Despite starting the season third on the depth chart behind Scott Mitchell and Stoney Case, Tony Banks emerged as the starting quarterback by season’s end, leading the team to impressive wins over the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers (the Ravens’ first victory in Pittsburgh). A four-game winning streak kept the Ravens in the playoff hunt entering Week 17, but Baltimore fell to the Patriots in snowy Foxboro, 20-3. The strong second half was a precursor to a Super Bowl championship a season later, though Banks would find himself replaced by Trent Dilfer by mid-season. The soon-to-be record-breaking Baltimore defense finished second in the NFL in yards allowed.

What went wrong: Billick asked fans to take a “leap of faith” with the newly-signed—and much-maligned—Mitchell, and the experiment lasted all of 56 passing attempts and four interceptions in two losses to begin the season. The Ravens got off to a 4-7 start, too much to overcome despite the strong play of the defense and the emergence of Banks and new receiver Qadry Ismail down the stretch.

Terry Allen
2001: 10-6 (2-1 in final three weeks), Wild Card

Synopsis: Looking to defend their Super Bowl title by improving the offense, the Ravens replaced Dilfer with former Pro Bowl quarterback Elvis Grbac who struggled to win over his teammates and win games. Running back Jamal Lewis suffered a torn ACL in the first week of training camp, and the Ravens employed a committee of Terry Allen, Jason Brookins, and Moe Williams for the ground attack. Needing a win in Week 17 against the Vikings on a Monday night, the Ravens clinched a Wild Card spot with a 16-3 victory behind Allen’s 133 rushing yards and a bruising defensive performance.

What went right: While Ravens fans hold Grbac responsible for failing to repeat, the team literally had its legs cut out from under it with the loss of Lewis before the season started. While the defense could not match its record-setting numbers of a season earlier, it still finished second in yards allowed and fourth in points surrendered. Signed off the street during training camp, Allen provided an admirable effort with Brookins and Williams providing assistance. With Grbac struggling and fans clamoring for Randall Cunningham to replace him, Billick used the running game and the still-stellar defense to get into the playoffs and earn a road victory over the Dolphins in the first round before falling in Pittsburgh the next week, 27-10.

Jeff Blake
2002: 7-9 (1-2 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: In what was perhaps Billick’s best coaching job in his nine years as Ravens coach, the 2002 team managed to stay in the playoff hunt entering the final two weeks of the season despite saying goodbye to key veterans Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Tony Siragusa, and numerous others in the salary cap purge of the Super Bowl roster. The Ravens looked to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and got off to an 0-2 start before rebounding in a huge Monday night victory over the Broncos. Jamal Lewis returned from his lost 2001 season to rush for 1,327 yards, Todd Heap earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and linebacker Ed Hartwell and rookie safety Ed Reed led the defense after Ray Lewis went down with a shoulder injury early in the season. Back-to-back losses to the Browns and Steelers to close the season ended the Ravens’ improbable playoff hopes but could not devalue a very surprising season.

What went wrong: The team could not find consistency at the quarterback position with Chris Redman suffering a back injury and veteran Jeff Blake struggling with consistency. The loss of Lewis coupled with an inexperienced unit caused the defense to fall to 22nd in the NFL despite the encouraging development of several young players. Three out of four losses to end the season sealed the young team’s fate.

Jamal Lewis
2003: 10-6 (2-1 in final three weeks), AFC North champion

Synopsis: The Lewises reigned in 2003. While Ray Lewis earned his second Defensive Player of the Year award, the real story of the season was Jamal Lewis, who became just the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Lewis’ 295 rushing yards against the Browns in Week 2 set a new NFL record and created the identity for the Ravens’ offense. Rookie Kyle Boller struggled before going down with a quadriceps injury, and journeyman Anthony Wright took the reins of the offense. The team clinched the AFC North title in Week 17 when the Browns knocked off the Bengals earlier in the day, but the Ravens knocked off the Steelers in overtime for good measure. Baltimore would fall at home in the Wild Card round the following week when the Titans stifled Lewis and the running game.

What went right: Jamal Lewis’ historic season made up for an otherwise ineffective offense. The defense finished third overall and was led by Ray Lewis and emerging star Ed Reed. Eight players made the Pro Bowl including both Lewises, Reed, Heap, Jonathan Ogden, Adalius Thomas, Peter Boulware, and Chris McAlister. With the Ravens struggling at 5-5, Wright threw four touchdown passes to Marcus Robinson in an improbable 44-41 comeback win against the Seahawks to initiate a three-game winning streak. However, an ugly loss to Oakland in Week 15 forced the Ravens to win their final two games to clinch the North. Lewis was up to the challenge as he shredded the Browns again for 205 yards and eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark against the Steelers with 114 yards in the overtime win to conclude the regular season.

Kyle Boller
2004: 9-7 (1-2 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: Following the script from the previous season, the 2004 squad struggled with consistency, as Boller completed his first full season as the starting quarterback. Once again, the defense led the way with Reed earning the Defensive Player of the Year honor, keeping the award in the Charm City for the second year in a row. A three-game winning streak in the middle of the season put the Ravens at 7-3 and on the short track to the playoffs, but losing four of five down the stretch placed their playoffs hopes on life support at 8-7. Needing a victory over the Dolphins and three other teams to lose in Week 17, the Ravens held up their end of the bargain in a 30-23 victory but didn’t receive enough help to steal a postseason spot.

What went wrong: With Jamal Lewis facing the repercussions of federal drug-related charges and serving a two-game suspension during the season, the offense plummeted to 31st in the league. Boller showed flashes of promise but lacked any consistent receiving threat with Heap missing most of the season with an ankle injury. Even with the struggles on offense, the Ravens controlled their own destiny down the stretch but lost road games to the Patriots, Steelers, and Colts and suffered a heartbreaking loss at home to the Bengals over a five-game stretch. The Ravens’ inability to win any one of these games ultimately sealed their fate.

Le'Ron McClain
2008: 11-5 (2-1 in final three weeks), Wild Card

Synopsis: With a rookie coach and quarterback, the 2008 Ravens were viewed as a rebuilding team with little chance of making noise in the AFC. However, Harbaugh reunited a divided locker room, and Flacco played more like a grizzled veteran than a quarterback playing at Delaware a season earlier. The three-headed attack of Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice combined for over 2,000 rushing yards, and a veteran defense finished second overall. After struggling to a 2-3 start, the Ravens won nine of their last 11 games to clinch a Wild Card spot with a 27-7 victory over the Jaguars in Week 17.

What went right: Nearly every move the Ravens made turned to gold as they marched deep into the playoffs. After receiving only eight carries in his rookie season, McClain came out of nowhere to rush for 902 yards to lead the ground attack, taking the pressure off the rookie Flacco. After getting off to a slow start due to a lingering neck and shoulder condition, Reed completed one of the greatest defensive stretches in NFL history by intercepting eight passes and scoring two touchdowns over the season’s final six weeks. After losing to the Steelers at home due to a controversial Santonio Holmes touchdown, the Ravens needed to steal one on the road against the Cowboys. Instead, motivated by rumors that they were handpicked as an easy opponent in the Texas Stadium finale, the Ravens dominated the Cowboys in a 33-24 victory. With a Week 17 win that was more of a formality than a challenge, the Ravens entered the playoffs and won two road games before falling to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.

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