LETTERS 2 TL ~ ‘YOU NAILED IT!”

Lombardi's Way LETTERS 2 TL ~ ‘YOU NAILED IT!”

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BULLSEYE!
 
Hey Tony: 
 
You nailed it.  The key play in this game was the interception right before the half by Champ Bailey.  Mr. Bailey must have been salivating knowing "Air" McNair would be throwing it to this stiff.  In Clarence Moore’s defense, the ball was thrown to the left and low.  But the point is, what a lousy play call.  3 points before the half would have changed this game. 
 
The offense is non existent other than short throws down the middle of the field, no further than 20 yards deep.  McNair has no arm strength and sooner or later it had to catch up.  How many times did you cringe when McNair threw some out passes seeing the Denver defenders closing in rapidly on the ball?  Even beyond the poor arm strength and inaccurate throws, McNair made some decisions last night Boller never made on the three interceptions.  If only we could find someone with McNair’s toughness and willingness to hang in the pocket to the last second with Boller’s arm strength.  Enough of the negatives though, because we have a home game this weekend that is very winnable and 5-1 is not too darn bad.
 
Mark, Cockeysville MD 
 
Mark, 
 
Sunday is winnable but if they think win No. 5 will be achieved with the same lame running game, they’ll be in for a long afternoon.  They must keep Julius Peppers honest.  He’ll be lined up against Tony Pashos.  If the Ravens are forced to throw on second down too often, it could get ugly.
 
As for Clarence Moore, if I’m his position coach Mike Johnson, I’d tell him going in, “Look C-Moore, you’ve got two options on this play.  Make the catch or keep them from making the catch.  He did neither.
 
Here’s a player that can’t contribute on special teams, can’t go over the middle, can’t make a catch in traffic and is active about 50% of the time or less.  What value does he offer? 
 
And finally, McNair’s arm strength to borrow from Brian Billick, is what it is.  But there’s enough poise, pocket presence and play making ability in that man to make this offense work.  And he will eventually.  I just hope it isn’t too late when he does. 
 
I’m keeping the faith, 
 
TL 
 
DESPERATE ESPN
 
BRAVO TL!
 
I couldn’t have said it better. Your column in Lombardi’s Way hit the nail on the head AGAIN!  But like you said this is nothing new…a great defense and below par offense.  I’m not panicking because after all we are STILL in first place after 5 weeks.  It is obvious though that "two yards and a cloud of dust" Jamal isn’t getting it done!  It’s nothing personal JL its just business.
 
And this team after five weeks should be moving forward not back peddling.  Even if for only a game bring in Musa and Anderson.  It was clear last night that in the second half they were our spark.
 
One more thing…I was always under the assumption that the receivers had the advantage in bad weather…well apparently not ours!  Someone – and I have no idea who that would be, needs to introduce this offense to the forward pass.  Let’s try that Florida jump pass I saw against LSU on Saturday.
 
Finally what in the hell was with the half-an-hour interview with the Desperate Housewives actor?  What’s next William Hung (American Idol) singing the national anthem?
 
Keep the faith Ravens fans.  We will get ’em on Sunday!…………
 
JNO, Timonium
 
JNO,
 
What’s up with that monogram bro?  My Ravens decoder sniffed you out.  Does it mean Jamal = No Offense?
 
So far that is a big part of the Ravens’ problems.  If you think back to when Steve McNair was most effective, he had a solid running game spearheaded by Eddie George.  Eddie one day hit the running back wall and McNair wasn’t as effective until they found some youthful legs to spell George.  It’s time for that same thing to happen in B’more.  Musa needs to see the ball more and Brian Billick needs to do what he’s said – give the ball to the back with the hot hand.  A 2.9 yard/carry average isn’t a hot hand. 
 
Hey, if Teri Hatcher was in the ESPN booth, would it have made a difference?
 
The J-Train is low on coal,
 
TL
 
UNNECESSARILY NEGATIVE
 
TL,
 
After reading your post-Denver debacle column, I was negatively surprised by the "everything on offense sucks and it is everybody who is at fault" attitude. I have never liked Billick, his philosophy, his sugar-coating of everything, or his play-calling, but Billick has not been our problem this year; instead the lack of execution.
 
Anybody can second guess the play-calling. The shovel pass on the goal line? The decision to punt it on 4th and one?  The passes to Jamal Lewis?  The jump-ball to Clarence Moore?  The play-action to Heap?  I tend to think that all 5 decisions were correct, imaginative and had the element of surprise. They had the element of novelty and were unpredictable. Four out of these five decisions didn’t work out. Was it Billick’s or Fassel’s fault? They were not. With the game on the line your players should make plays.
 
One would argue that Moore and Lewis were unlikely to make plays in that environment. Only the night before we had watched Malcom Floyd burn the Steelers on an identical play. The difference was that McNair didn’t throw the ball at the place where only Moore could catch it. Everything else followed that. The pass to Jamal incorporated the element of surprise. How often have we seen FB’s with hands of stones catch these balls? The play-action to Heap, again a poorly thrown ball.
 
We could argue these calls all day but we can’t just want them only when they work. The play-calling has been good in my opinion; the execution has not. Should Billick start Jamal Lewis again? No. If McNair cannot execute simple play-action passes and we can’t run the ball, then is it Billick’s fault? It may be his responsibility but Billick doesn’t fumble or throw picks. The major problem at QB persists and that is Billick’s and Newsome’s responsibility… McNair does not seem to be the answer. But while we aren’t Al Saunders’s offensive juggernaut, the play-calling has been good given what the O-Line can and cannot do.
 
Yiannis Stasinopoulos
 
Yiannis,
 
Everyone on offense is at fault, coaches, head coach, etc.  Derrick Mason said it best: 
 
"It’s very, very disappointing. Whoever tries to sugarcoat it, they don’t need to be in this locker room, coaches included. All of us have to take the blame, head man included. It’s a problem, and we have to fix it as an offense, somehow, some way." 
 
Admitting it is the first step towards correcting it.
 
Billick and Fassel aren’t the problem.  They are just part of it.  You’ve pointed out four plays that go against the Ravens standard M.O.  But those plays aren’t exactly cutting edge.  It might look that way when compared to the Ravens offensive redundancy and unimaginative tendencies.  But in my opinion, they are just basic plays in most NFL playbooks. 
 
The Ravens don’t have to be an offensive dynamo.  They just need to be average if the Ravens are to carry their season into January and beyond.  Right now, they aren’t and all of them need to take a long look at the man in the mirror.
 
TL
 
DISTURBED IN B’MORE
 
Tony,
 
There were three disturbing things to me in the loss yesterday.  The first was a sense that the air went out of the defense during the fourth quarter, when they realized that our offense wasn’t getting it done.  It reminded me of letdowns in previous seasons.
 
The second was the fact that we couldn’t run the ball.  More particularly, that we couldn’t run the ball in cold, nasty weather; in other words, exactly the type of weather we’ll soon be playing in for the rest of the season.
 
It really is time that Brian Billick and Jim Fassel admit that the old Jamal Lewis is gone.  New Jamal is here, and it’s not pretty.  How many more times do we have to see guys in the secondary make one-on-one tackles to realize this?  How much longer will we just ignore the fact that we have a lead back with a 3 yd/carry average?
 
At some point in the game yesterday, Andersen had three consecutive pretty damn good runs.  So, what do our offensives genius’ do?  They pull him!
 
All of this isn’t to say that McNair played perfectly.  Obviously he didn’t, although I attribute the pick in the end zone to [that pansy] Moore [for] not fighting for the ball.
 
If there’s some good reason not to bench Jamal that isn’t apparent, I’m willing to listen.  But it looks more to me like Billick not wanting to change, lack of stones, or unwillingness to hurt Jamal’s feelings.
 
But there’s still plenty of time to mess this season up.  Plenty of tough games (including four with the Steelers and the Bengals) ahead.  As bad as the offense is now, what the hell happens if we have a major injury, as will almost surely happen before the season’s done?
 
The third was the comment by an offensive player (Mason I think) that they (the offense) just weren’t ready.  In part that’s a comment on the players, but mostly it’s a condemnation of the coaching staff.
 
Regards,
 
Bill Reid
 
Bill,
 
I’m afraid this season has a chance to do many things at this point none of which can predicted with any high degree of certainty.  The Ravens could go in the tank but there’s something about the single mindedness of purpose about the team this year that in my opinion makes that a long shot.
 
The team could also muddle through the season and perform much like it did for most of last year, winning at home and losing on the road.  And that could still get the Ravens into the playoffs.
 
They could also get this thing together and have consistent competency from the offense which in my opinion means just being average.  An average offense with the Ravens defense could make them dangerous.
 
I suppose the best thing we can all do is be happy that they are 4-1 and not worry too much as to how they got there.  Those games in the past shouldn’t affect the games going forward.  In 2000, the 21 consecutive quarters without a touchdown didn’t affect them once they got it together and became average offensively.
 
Finally, injuries are part of the NFL landscape.  You cross those bridges as they present themselves but you can’t worry about them until they do.
 
Break a leg,
 
TL
 
GRADES ARE IN
 
[After reading your post game recap], I give Tony Lombardi a grade of A+ on his accounting of what happened on the field Monday night.
 
I would like to see the offense incorporate the fullback, specifically Justin Green more in the offense for the following reasons: 
  1. The running game, specifically Jamal Lewis, would work much better operating out of the I-formation. If you change to Musa Smith or Mike Anderson, they would also be more effective.
  2. Todd Heap becomes a bigger weapon in the passing game as the fullback could be used to chip on the rushing linebacker or defensive end in lieu of Heap doing that.
  3. In 2000, Banks / Dilfer made extremely productive use of Obafemi Ayanbadejo as a pass receiver out of the backfield, i.e. this would provide one more weapon for Steve McNair and it [seems] that Justin Green has pass-catching skills.
  4. This offense was built to run the ball. That’s what we do. We have not been consistent running, so make a commitment to it, place special emphasis on it, and add another blocker to help move the ball.
I realize that Green doesn’t possess the same blocking skill as an Alan Ricard or a Sam Gash, but if need be, they could line Daniel Wilcox up at fullback.
 
This is all so obvious and simple to me, yet Jim Fassel keeps running the same crap week after week. If what I am hearing about the time it will take McNair to get completely comfortable with the offense, i.e. Drew Forrester reported that they are only using 60% of the playbook, why not simplify things by using the fullback in its traditional role? The running game gets better and then McNair will get better.
 
Does any of this make sense?
 
Eric in Columbia
 
Eric,
 
That makes perfect sense, particularly going into the game against the Panthers and Julius Peppers.  And I think that it’s important to throw out of the “I” as well.  The Ravens tendencies are so lopsided towards running when they send in Jamal with a fullback.  It’s time to use those tendencies in a productive way and trap defenses that have scouted them and rely upon those tendencies to attack the Ravens offense.
 
You also bring up a good point with your recollection of Ayanbadejo.  Justin Green fits that role better than Ovie Mughelli.
 
As for McNair, today I mentioned in my blog that the 12 year vet McNair struggles with a new offense yet rookie Matt Leinart seems to have jumped into the Cardinals playbook with all fours.
 
I agree that as the running game gets better so will McNair.  But given the Ravens predictable approach to establishing the run, I think they need to set up the run with the short passing game on first down with 3 and 5 step drops and waggles, perhaps to Peppers’ side with the assistance of some chipping.  They started that approach against Denver and I hope they don’t abandon it.  If it works, they can come back to the run first mentality after they firmly plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of opposing defensive coordinators.
 
Abr-abrcadabra,
 
TL
 
P.S. Thanks for the grade.  I wonder if Yiannis agrees…

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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