Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The End

Well, it's been a fun three years following the Ravens on this blog. I am not sure how many people even read it, but it was a good way for me to keep track of the team and write about football.

But I've decided to close this blog and funnel all my writings into my first blog, The Bad Oriole. It's a decision I'd been thinking about for a while, and after Saturday night's heartbreaking loss to the Steelers, it was fitting.

I don't know if I will ever be able to put down all my emotions and thoughts about that game into one comprehensive entry, so don't look for an analysis any time soon. The wound hasn't even begun to heal. Maybe I'll address it in a few months or weeks, but until then, I just need a break from all things football. I am sure many Ravens fans feel the same way.

So I hope you enjoyed this blog for the last three years and I hope you'll follow me at The Bad Oriole.

See you there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ravens/Steelers III

When the smoke clears, will the Ravens be victorious?

Well, the day has arrived.

The Ravens take on the Steelers this afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

All the shit talking, all the analysis and all the predictions that took place earlier this week don't mean a thing now. All that's left is the game to be played.

Am I nervous? Of course. These are the Steelers -- the Duke or Yankees of the NFL, where things seem to always go their way, especially late in games. They are just one of those teams. Hard to kill.

I am expecting another hard-fought, physical game, as are most fans and analysts. But for some reason I expect this game to get a little more out of hand than they have in the recent past. And if there is a lop-sided win, I believe it will be the Steelers winning and not the Ravens.

I would love a lop-sided win in Pittsburgh though. It would give my blood pressure a rest and it would be nice to see those Steeler fans heading for stadium exits early. It also eliminates the chances of a key turnovers or questionable penalty playing a part in the outcome. I'd hate to see something like that cost the Ravens the win today.

But it all comes down to execution. The Ravens need to protect the ball while being creative on offense. They can't expect to do the same things they've done against the Steelers and have greater success than they have. They need to be aggressive on offense, attack the Steelers secondary and maintain drives. Keep Ben Roethlisberger off the field and keep our defense rested. Have you noticed how much better our defense has played lately? That's because they have been on the sidelines a lot, staying rested.

Well, that's it. I really don't have anything else. I am already exhausted by this game and there are still seven hours until kick-off.

So until then, all I have to say is Let's go Ravens! Beat the Steelers!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ravens pound Chiefs, advance in playoffs

Oh no he didn't: Willis McGahee mocks the Chiefs chop after scoring a touchdown to put the Ravens ahead 30-7.

First it was the Dolphins, 27-9 in 2008. Then it was the Patriots, 33-14 in 2009.

And last Sunday, the Ravens continued their trend of making short work of their first-round opponent in the playoffs, beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-7.

It was also the first dominating win for the Ravens in 2010.

The Chiefs racked up only 160 yards of total offense, including just 70 yards passing for Matt Cassel, who also had 3 interceptions on the day. It was one of the worst statistical performances from a QB in playoff history. A stunning accomplishment, considering that Cassel had been one of the most efficient QB's in 2010, throwing just 7 interceptions all season.

Remember those second halves when the Ravens would go on autopilot and let their opponent creep back into the game? Not this time. The Chiefs managed drives of 43, -7, 1, 3, and -12 yards in the second half. Meanwhile, the Ravens totaled 184 second half yards and scored 20 points.

Joe Flacco, having performed poorly in five career playoff games, turned in his best postseason performance by far, throwing for 265 yards and two scores.

Todd Heap was a dominant force in the offense, catching 10 passes for 108 yards. Anquan Boldin, who had all but disappeared in the passing attack for the last month or so, caught 5 balls for 64 yards and a touchdown.

The rushing attack didn't boast gaudy numbers, but it got the job done on a day when the passing game was working well. Ray Rice lead the way with 17 carries and 57 yards while Willis McGahee fared better with 44 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

The defense took a while to reach the level they played at during the second half of the game, and for a little while, it looked like they were going to have trouble containing Chiefs stud RB, Jamaal Charles, who scampered for 82 yards and the Chiefs lone score. But the defense chomped down in the second half and kept Charles, as well as the entire Chiefs offense, in check. The Chiefs star WR Dwayne Bowe didn't even record a catch on the day.

So where do the Ravens go from here? I'll give you one guess.


Would you want it any other way?

Thankfully, the Ravens are pretty healthy and peaking at the right time. The Steelers have had the Ravens number with Ben Roethlisberger as QB, but the Ravens are still smarting after their tragic loss to the Steelers in Baltimore and are thirsty for revenge. And with Joe Flacco playing well, having gotten the "poor performance in a playoff game" monkey off his back, the sky's the limit for the Ravens, even with a daunting task ahead of them this weekend.

So, it's going to be an epic battle.

Ravens vs. Steelers III


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ravens beat Bengals to end season

Ray Rice lead the Ravens offense with 77 yards rushing and a touchdown.

The Ravens finished their season with a win over the Bengals this last weekend.

The win was basically the season in a nutshell: the Ravens did what they needed to do to win, but it wasn't pretty and it left fans feeling uneasy.

The Ravens beat the 4-12 Bengals by a score of 13-7. The Bengals, who were playing without Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson (you'll never be Ochocinco here, sorry Chad), had a chance to win the game at the end, needing a touchdown. Their drive stalled at the Ravens' 2-yard line.

Thankfully the Ravens have won the last two games they've played when their opponent had the ball with a chance to win the game. The first win came against the Saints two weeks ago. So at least they're closing out victories although you could say that they shouldn't be doing it in this fashion in the first place.

But I digress. The Ravens finished 12-4 which ties their second best season record, which came in 2000. The Ravens also beat a Carson Palmer-lead Bengals team for the first time since week 1 of the 2008 season. Thankfully it appears to be his last game as a Bengal. And with the win, the Ravens defense finished 3rd overall in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed.

But the offense has been the fans' bugaboo this season and it was again on Sunday. The offense mustered a paltry 199 yards against the Bengals defense. Flacco passed for only 125 yards and threw a pick. And the running game managed only 98 yards on the day.

Thankfully the defense held up their end of the bargain and played a solid game, forcing 5 turnovers on the day including 2 Carson Palmer interceptions. And thanks to the turnovers, the defense held the surprisingly effective Bengals offense to only one touchdown. Jerome Simpson had a big day to cap off what has been a monstrous few weeks for the former reserve WR, catching 12 balls for 123 yards and a touchdown. With the Ravens traveling to Kansas City for their first round playoff game, Dwayne Bowe must be licking his chops.

So can the Ravens beat the Chiefs? Sure...they can beat any team...as long as Cam Cameron is calling a good game plan and the offensive line can block for Flacco, who was sacked 4 times last Sunday and was the second most sacked QB in the NFL this season.

The Chiefs are a solid young team who may be a little out of their league at this point. They played a weak schedule which included the entire NFC West, where the 7-9 Seahawks won the division, and a last place schedule which included the Browns and Bills. However, they went 7-1 at home, same as the Ravens, and feature the best running game in the NFL. Matt Cassel, their protective QB, threw 27 touchdowns to only 7 picks. Their defense is solid, 11th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed.

But like what I said about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier in the season before they came to Baltimore, I have to believe that the talent and experience on the Ravens' roster gives them a big advantage over the Chiefs, who's average age is 25.3 compared to the Ravens, of 27.3. And while those may only be 2 years, they are mostly 2 years of playoff-caliber football, in which the Ravens have gone 3-2, all on the road.

So do the Ravens have a tall order ahead of them? Of course. Whenever you go on the road in the playoffs you're facing an uphill battle. But the Ravens are familiar with playing on the road and have done well over the last 2 seasons away from home.

And how the Ravens do in the playoffs will largely determine how people view the 2010 season. All season, the Ravens were waiting to reach their potential and it never happened for a variety of reasons. Finger pointing amongst the Ravens fanbase has been a hobby this season and I'm sure it will continue into the postseason. Much of it is deserved, but at times, the fans are demonstrating why they are on the sidelines and not being paid to call the shots.

I believe the Ravens will win in Kansas City, but all bets are off if they have to travel to New England or Pittsburgh. Sure, the Ravens should have won in New England earlier this season and did win in Pittsburgh, but the Patriots are in "take no prisoners" mode after losing to the Browns in week 9 and the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger back, who was suspended when the Ravens won in Pittsburgh earlier this season.

So it's looking like the 2010 season is headed for disappointment. But if it doesn't, it'll mean we're Super Bowl Champions. So fans should get used to that idea in the next few days.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ravens beat Browns, heading to playoffs

Ray Rice had another good game, rushing for 92 yards in the Ravens 20-10 win over the Browns.

On various Ravens message boards and sports talk shows, fans have been noticeably critical of the Ravens coaching staff this year, Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh in particular.

But the fact that cannot be argued is that Harbaugh and Cameron have taken the Ravens to the playoffs three years in a row. With a 20-10 win over the Browns in Cleveland, the Ravens clinched a playoff spot. It's looking like the #5 seed right now, but with a Steelers loss and a Ravens win over the Bengals this Sunday, the Ravens would find themselves with the #2 seed and a first round bye. And that would be about the time I kick myself for not buying playoff tickets.

So while there is plenty to be critical about when it comes to Harbaugh and Cameron, they have taken the Ravens to the post-season three times in a row -- something Brian Billick never did in his 9 years as Ravens head coach.

Yesterday, the Ravens relied on their bread and butter: their running game and creating turnovers.

Ray Rice rushed for 92 yards on 25 carries and the Ravens took away the ball from the Browns 4 times. And as the weather gets cold and the playoffs draw closer, it's about time that Cameron returned to the smashmouth football that has been the Ravens M.O the last decade.

Running the ball comes at the expense of the passing game, which us why Flacco threw for 102 yards yesterday. He chucked 2 more touchdowns and had a deep pass picked off. And while Flacco is capable of doing much more in this offense, these are the kinds of games we want to see him play.

Derrick Mason was the leading receiver, with 50 yards and a touchdown, while TJ Houshmandzadeh hauled in 4 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Anquan Boldin caught just 2 balls for 15 yards. You have to wonder when the Ravens are going to work in Boldin more, but if he's content playing the decoy role for Mason and Houshmandzadeh to flourish, it's OK with me.

The defense rose to the occasion. After allowing an early touchdown, the Ravens defense hunkered down and put the brakes on the Browns offense. They scored only three more points and turned the ball over a total of four times on the day. Peyton Hillis, who had shredded the Ravens defense earlier this season, was held to 35 yards on 12 carries.

So even though there is one more game left on the schedule (Bengals), the playoff scenario is pretty much locked up. If the Ravens win and the Steelers lose to the Browns, the Ravens will get the #2 seed and a first round bye. But otherwise, they are the #5 seed and most likely headed to Indianapolis to take on the Colts.


And it doesn't get any easier, with the road to Dallas likely going through Pittsburgh and New England.

But at least the Ravens have made the playoffs again, and we can have this discussion.

And that alone feels good.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ravens edge Saints

Ray Rice had a huge day, both on the ground and through the air.

While walking down the route 70 on-ramp to to get to the #40 QuickBus stop, Ben and I saw a bad omen. A Raven had been hit by a car and lay dead on the asphalt. A feeling of dread rushed through me. Was this a sign? Were the Ravens going to lose to the Saints?

Thankfully, that omen was proven false, as the Ravens snuck by the Saints, 30-24 in the kind of close game that the Ravens have made a habit out of losing this year.

Actually, the Ravens played what could be called their most solid game of the season. Cam Cameron went back to the Ravens bread and butter -- running the ball a whopping 39 times. That meant Ray Rice had a huge day, carrying 31 times for 153 yards and a score.

The ground game was running on all cylinders last Sunday, and the Ravens simply dared the Saints to stop them. But the Saints, thanks to some very poor tackling, could not.

Joe Flacco continued his streak of mistake-free football play, passing for just 172 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions on the day. He completed 50% of his passes, but on a day that Flacco wasn't asked to do much, he did what he had to do to win the game, completing several big passes to extend drives.

Just to show you how big a day Rice had, he lead receivers with 80 yards and another touchdown. And when Flacco only completes 10 passes, guys like Anquan Boldin (1 catch, 2 yards) and TJ Houshmandzadeh (2 catches, 15 yards) aren't going to have big days.

But the Ravens won, so everyone should be happy. Let's hope.

The defense played a solid game, and had the Saints not scored their final touchdown on a fluke catch, the game wouldn't have been as close as it was. But that said, the Ravens held the explosive Saints offense to just 269 yards of total offense, intercepted Drew Brees once and sacked him 3 times. They kept him flustered, which meant he had to get rid of the ball quick and missed out on what could have been potentially big gains.

The only question mark of the day came with 9 seconds left in the game when John Harbaugh opted to kick a field goal to put the Ravens up 30-24 instead of going for it on 4th and 1 and ending the game. Had the Saints been able to return the kick for a touchdown, the loss would have created a mob outside of M&T Bank Stadium after the game. Thankfully, it all worked out, but I didn't see the harm in going for it. Had they not converted, the Saints would have gotten the ball on their own 9-yard line, with 9 seconds left and no timeouts. And ironically, DeSean Jackson of the Eagles did the very thing that Ravens fans had feared would happen when the Ravens kicked off to the Saints. Jackson's punt return capped off a wild comeback win over the Giants.

Next week, the Ravens take on the Browns in Cleveland, where wins are never easy. And with a win, the Ravens clinch a playoff spot, their third playoff appearance in three years -- a team record.

And yet people want Harbaugh fired.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ravens survive Texans

That's right, Josh. The Ravens won by that much.

The Ravens almost gave away a game as well as their season in Houston last night in one of those wins that feels more like a loss.

The Ravens led 21-0 in the first quarter and 28-7 after David Reed's kick-off return for a touchdown at the start of the second half, but couldn't put the 5-8 Texans away. Instead, the defense looked the worst they've looked since 1996, allowing Matt Shaub and the Texans to put together drives of 99 and 95 yards to tie the game at 28-28 and force overtime.

The Ravens won the coin toss in OT, but were as hapless on offense as they'd been for the entire second half. After a short drive went nowhere to start overtime, the Ravens punted the ball to the Texans, thankfully pinning the Texans within their own 10-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Wilson picked off Shaub and took it to the house, ending the game and giving the Ravens a narrow escape.

Had the Ravens lost, they would have been 8-5 and a game in front of the Colts for the #6 seed. But thankfully, the Ravens were able to survive Houston and earned themselves the #5 seed, with the tie-breaker over the Jets, who are also 9-4.

However, with the hair-raising win, the Ravens don't look poised to make much noise in the playoffs. First and foremost, the defense was downright embarrassed last night. After turning in a dominant first half, they were absolutely torched in the second. They couldn't get off the field on third down, which resulted in the defense wearing down to the point of them almost not even being on the field at all.

The offense played the same kind of game. They moved the ball well through the air in the first half, scoring 3 touchdowns with relative ease before packing it in with 1:37 left in the second quarter. The offensive line really melted down in the second half, getting Flacco sacked a total of 6 times. They also failed to open substantial holes for Ray Rice to run through. Rice rushed for only 54 yards with a dismal 2.8 yard per carry average on the night. All signs for the Ravens offensive problems point to their inability to run the ball.

Joe Flacco played well, when he wasn't on his back, completing 22 of 33 passes for 235 yards and 2 touchdown passes. But his games are becoming repetitive. He plays well for a half while disappearing for the other half. Whether it's Flacco or Cameron to blame, something needs to be done to spark this offense because it's downright maddening to watch. And while Flacco isn't getting much time in the pocket to throw, he needs to be smarter under pressure and start throwing balls away to avoid costly sacks.

But Flacco deserves credit for his performance. He was responsible for 235 of the Ravens 253 total yards of offense. While many Ravens fans will surely be critical of Flacco after this game, it's important to remember that the Ravens won because of what Flacco did.

Derrick Mason had a great game, despite dropping a long pass in the first quarter that would have given him about 60 more yards on the night. He caught 6 balls for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ray Rice had the screen game working well last night, catching 8 passes for 66 yards. Meanwhile, Anquan Boldin had trouble getting going, catching 3 balls for a paltry 41 yards.

And so it comes down to this: Cam Cameron needs to start utilizing the talent he has on this offense. He has 4, count 'em, 4 all pro wide receivers...and he can't even devise a way to take advantage of something that would give other offensive coordinators wet dreams. He's been calling the same ho-hum offensive game plan all season, despite costing the team several games. He almost cost the team another game last night with his one-dimensional play calling. Has a 9-4 football team ever fired their offensive coordinator? I don't think anyone in the country would bat an eye lash if the Ravens were to do just that.

Meanwhile, John Harbaugh deserves his share of the blame, too. When his defense was getting beaten like they stole something, Harbaugh opted to keep two timeouts in his back pocket rather than give his defense some time to breathe while the Texans were mounting their epic drives. When the Texans scored their final touchdown to bring the score to 28-26 and took the field for a two point conversion, Harbaugh AGAIN failed to call a time out. Instead, the Texans were able to convert their two-point conversion and force overtime.

While the Ravens may be 9-4 and holding down the 5th playoff spot, they look like a team headed more for trouble than making noise in the playoffs. And with the New Orleans Saints coming to town this week, you might get your preview of what will happen to the Ravens if they do hang onto their playoff spot and make the postseason.

And it won't be pretty.