Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heartbreaker III

This story is getting old---and more heartbreaking. The Baltimore Ravens lost their third game in a row in a different fashion: a missed field goal at the buzzer by Steve Hauschka. The Ravens lost 33-31 to the Minnesota Vikings.

Granted, the Ravens defense was getting chewed up by all-time great Brett Favre. Favre threw three touchdown passes and played pitch and catch all day against over matched corners Frank Walker and Domonique Foxworth.

The Ravens have now fallen to 3-3 entering their bye week. The good news? Running back Ray Rice has become one of the best backs in the NFL leading the league in yards from scrimmage. Joe Flacco once again led the team down the field with a chance to win the game. Flacco threw two touchdowns and had 385 yards passing. The man is a star, ladies and gentleman.

The bad news? This Ravens defense is having issues. They can't cover, rush the passer, or stop anybody from scoring points. Well, Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln??? Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison really needs to figure some things out. Quite frankly, Dawan Landry is a shell of his former self, which is a shame because before he injured his spinal cord, he was developing into a very good strong safety. In no way am I suggesting Landry was a pro bowler in the making, but he didn't need to be. The Ravens miss current Jet Bart Scott. Scott was a terrific all-around football player. He could cover, rush the quarterback, and tackle with the best of them. The man played with an incredible amount of passion and heart. Tavares Gooden and Daniel Ellerbe have not filled his shoes quite yet. Do I believe they will? Yes, they are both very, very young. People don't remember that it took Scott four years to crack the starting line-up. Both Gooden and Ellerbe are in their second and rookie years, respectively, and both are under the age of 24. Give them time.

The Ravens need this bye week to get ready for the stretch run, and to get the defensive back on track. The Ravens need to win at least seven out of the next ten games to reserve a wild card spot. Can they? Why not? They went 9-2 last year. Am I being optimistic? Maybe. However, this team has heart and is run by a coach, gm, and owner who believe in doing things right by hard work. Obviously, Dan Snyder and Vinny "the village idiot" Cerrato are not members of the Raven fraternity.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Now that it's Wednesday, I'm able to come back to the blog and write another article. If I wrote the blog on Monday morning, I'd probably get fined by the league for blasting the officiating that has been going against the Ravens. Therefore, I even give myself a three day grace period! Now to the game....

The Baltimore Ravens lost another heartbreaker on Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals. Carson Palmer hit Reche Caldwell on a post pattern for a game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds left to lift the Bengals to 4-1, and first place in the AFC North.

The Bengals dominated this football game. The Raven offense looked like the offense under Brian Billick, and the defense allowed Cedric Benson to become the first rusher in 40 games to rush for over 100 yards against the Ravens.

The Ravens were lucky that Ed Reed reverted back to superman in the 2nd quarter, as he picked off a Palmer pass and returned it 52 yards for the games first touchdown just minutes after Joe Flacco threw an interception at the goal-line on the Ravens first drive. The offense really never recovered from that moment on.

In the fourth quarter, Flacco found Ray Rice for a 48 yard touchdown that showed Rice's strength and speed combination. With the game on the line minutes later, Flacco found Mark Clayton for what would have been a game-sealing touchdown pass. Unfortunately, the pass sailed over Clayton's head by a few yards, and the Ravens were again set up for heartbreak.

The Bengals drove 80 yards in 11 plays (aided by three defensive penalties) to win the game and make M & T Bank Stadium ghostly quiet. It was a bad loss for the Ravens because it was a division loss, and with a tough game coming up against Minnesota, a 3-3 start heading into the bye is entirely likely. The Ravens need to remember what they do best for these next few months: play good defense and let Flacco win the game. He has the ability to do it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

First Place Showdown

Who would've thought when the schedule came out in April that Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals would be for first place in the AFC North? I certainly looked at the game and marked down an easy "w." However, the sudden resurgence of the Bengals has made this a must-see game.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis as his team are riding a three game winning streak heading into Baltimore. Quarterback Carson Palmer is seemingly healthy again, and is making touchdown connections to wideout Chad Ochocinco that remind one of 2005. The Bengals even have a good running game (122 ypg) these days with Cedric Benson. However, it's the Bengals defense that is turning heads around the league.

On Wednesday night, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's wife died suddenly. Zimmer's wife was portrated on HBO's series "Hard Knocks" as a team favorite who made cookies for the defensive players. People will say the Bengals defensive players will now play even harder---don't buy into it. They will play hard no matter what. And it won't even matter.

The Ravens are simply too powerful on offense in 2009. They have too many options both running the football and throwing it. The offensive line will most likely be without left tackle Jared Gaither, but OT Michael Oher is more than capable at filling in for Gaither. In fact, some believe Oher is a better left tackle than Gaither already because of his extreme foot quickness. Oher will quickly be put to the test by Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom (Leading league in sacks with eight) and will need to protect quarterback Joe Flacco's blindside. Lineman Marshal Yanda will now step in at right tackle. There's no need to worry; Yanda is more than capable and has a nasty streak to him that is needed in an o-lineman. Injuries happen, and that's why you need offensive line depth. Listening to me, Dan Snyder? That statement was directed at you.


The Bengals aren't nearly as bad as they were last year, but they have won three straight games in the last seconds of games. They have played sloppy football, and can't seem to put games together. That trend will need to change if they want to have any hope of winning in a very hostile environment. Ravens cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth must be on their A games to handle Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry. I believe they will do just fine. The Ravens will continue to put numbers on the board, and I can see them pulling away in the fourth quarter to take first place.

Ravens 31 Bengals 17

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ravens Have it Bounce off their Chest

The Baltimore Ravens stormed into New England on Sunday at 1 pm with a 3-0 record. By 4:25 pm. their record was 3-1, and their hearts were broken. The Ravens dropped a thriller 27-21 as Joe Flacco's 4th down pass was dropped by Mark Clayton with 28 seconds remaining in the game. The drop quite possibly could have cost the Ravens a big-time win. It would have marked the second 4-0 start in the teams history, and loses a tie-breaking scenario with the Patriots in late December, which could result in the team heading back to Foxborough, Massachusetts in January.

Even in defeat, quarterback Joe Flacco announced to the rest of the NFL that he is a big-time player. He drove the Ravens down the field just as his counterpart Patriots QB Tom Brady would have deep the fourth quarter. The difference is Tom Brady has Randy Moss and Wes Welker to make the big catches for him. Heartbreak aside, it was a terrific game played at the highest level of football. Hey, when was the last time the Washington Redskins played a game like that? 1991? Don't even get me started on that joke of a franchise.

The Patriots got help from all angles. Two roughing the passer calls cost the Ravens 14 points. Curiously, when the Patriots hit Flacco late five times there were no calls. HMMMMM. Okay, sorry. Excuses aside. Even though the Ravens lost this game, they showed that they are every bit as good as the Patriots and can play with them anywhere. Keep in mind that the Patriots haven't lost in New England with Brady as QB since 2006. That's an incredible streak and record with a very talented team and coach.

The Ravens will look to unleash hell on the Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) on Sunday, which marks a pivotal game because the winner will grab full control and a one game lead in the AFC North. Who will kiss the baby in the the game Sunday? We'll find out at 4 pm on October 11. GAME ON

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots, Sunday 1 PM

You may have heard the term "getting over the hump" at some point in time of your sports watching career. This phrase refers to a team or organization that is not quite there yet. They have been fighting to get up to the top of the heap, but for whatever reason cannot quite seem to make it. Well, for the Baltimore Ravens, this game on Sunday is one of those "getting over the hump" games.

The New England Patriots (2-1) are the team of the 2000's. Behind mastermind head coach Bill Belicheck and future hall-of-fame quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots have won three Super Bowl championships in the last decade. Brady has already cemented his position as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, but you can bet he wants to win more championships; and he certainly wants to equal the four championships his childhood idol Joe Montana won with the San Francisco 49er's.

The Ravens (3-0) come into this game undefeated and looking to move to 4-0 for only the second time in franchise history. Head Coach John Harbaugh's team is 14-3 over the past 17 games (including playoffs) and are heading into this statement game riding high. Led by sophomore quarterback Joe Flacco (6 TD's, 2 INT's), the Ravens have the second ranked offense in the NFL at 430.3 yards per game. The Ravens have also averaged 34.3 points per game in three contests, which is also good for second in the league.

Flacco has thrown for 300 yards or more in two of the three games the team has played. Helping Flacco out has been the play of the offensive line. Led by center and wily vet Matt Birk, the young Ravens o-line has not only helped keep Flacco on his feet; but also has opened gaping holes for running backs Ray Rice (38 attempts, 192 yards, 1 TD) and Willis McGahee (32 attempts, 190 yards, 5 TD's). Most importantly, however, the Ravens are 8-4 on the road under Harbaugh. The Ravens won only seven games on the road between 2005-2007.

The Patriots have gotten off to a solid start. Their offense is averaging 20.0 points per game, and 395 yards per game. Pretty good, right? Not if you are the Patriots. This is the same team that went 18-1 in 2007 with their only loss coming to the New York Football Giants in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are used to scoring 30 or more points, and don't think for a second their offense is thrilled with scoring only 20 ppg so far this campaign.

Led by Brady, running back Fred Taylor (38 attempts, 176 yards, 2 TD's) and wide receiver Randy Moss (26 catches, 281 yards, 0 TD's) the Patriots will try and exploit the Ravens defense. Traditionally, the Ravens have been built on defense, but things are changing. Though the Ravens are still stout with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, their pass defense allowed 436 yards to San Diego two weeks ago.


The Ravens are to get over the hump. This bandwagon has been building for some time now, and Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh are trying to build something big in Baltimore. Are the Ravens the new Patriots? No, not even close. But they are ready and will take the next step by beating the Patriots in New England. The Ravens offense is simply clicking on too many cylinders, and they are on a mission. How will Randy Moss pay for the fines after the game? "Straight cash, Homie."

Ravens 31 Patriots 20