There’s nothing like a little home cooking when you’ve been on the road for a while. I didn’t realize until I read in fellow columnist Steve Hasler’s Ravens Report Card that the Ravens have not played a home game that counts since the Bears “blizzard game” on December 20, 2009. As many predicted, Joe Flacco got well in a hurry as he threw for over 250 yards, tossed 3 TDs to Anquan Boldin, and had no, repeat, NO interceptions.
Too bad I can’t be writing similarly nice things about the Ravens defense – particularly the run defense. When Baltimore broke out to a 14-3 lead, I thought this thing was in the can. Before the game, I didn’t know Peyton Hillis from Peyton Place. Now I do, as so do many NFL fantasy team owners. It’s been a long time since an NFL running back ripped off that many yards against the Ravens at home. Grudging respect is given here for the left side of the Browns offensive line.
However, it was mission-accomplished for the special teams, who did a great job keeping the ball out of Josh Cribbs hands. When he caught the ball, he was perfectly contained with solid tackles. When he didn’t, it was 6-7 yards deep in the end zone. They lead off my Studs and Duds for the week.
Special Teams: It seemed like Peyton Hillis, running roughshod over the Ravens defense, would win the game for the Browns, but it only seemed that way. In recent years, the key to a Browns victory always had the name of Josh Cribbs stenciled on it. The Ravens kicking game plan took Cribbs out of his game with deep kickoffs and penetrating punt coverage. In fact, Cribbs had better luck as a pass catcher than a kick/punt returner. It was a job well done on a dangerous returner.
Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin: As advertised, Joe got better in a hurry against the Browns pass defense, once he got that horrible opening play pass out of his system. He was efficient and spread the ball around, but he saved the finest for his new best friend, Anquan Boldin. Anquan abused Eric Wright even worse than he embarrassed Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson in the Jets game. In fact, Wright was no where near Boldin on his 3 TDs.
Defensive Line: It’s rare that one calls out the Ravens defensive line for a bad day, but the left side of the Browns offensive line took Haloti and the boys to the woodshed. Alex Mack, Eric Steinbach, and Joe Thomas played with All-Pro consistency. Plus there was little or no pass rush. If that doesn’t improve, it will kill us down the road against the Tom Brady’s of the NFL.
Dumb Penalties: John Harbaugh still has some work to do when it comes to the dumb stuff. I know Derrick Mason flipped the ball over his head in frustration after a Flacco pass fell near his feet, and I understand that Michael Oher was protecting Todd Heap when he went after Robaire Smith, but this was 20 yards of dumb, unnecessary penalties that, again, could really hurt the Ravens against stronger opponents.
Around the Ravens and Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets
· In the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Clown Master Kenny Mayne (to differentiate him from the real clowns we see on Sports Center) writes about a telephone conversation he had with Joe Flacco a few weeks ago. When the subject of Michael Oher and the movie, The Blind Side, came up, Joe noted that he met Michael’s mother in an elevator on a road trip in San Diego. In Flacco words, “She came up to me and said ‘Hi, I’m Michael Oher’s mom. I just want to let you know that you hold onto the ball too long.’ Then the elevator door opened and she left.”
Well !!! The woman knows her football!
· On Wednesday the Ravens cut Defensive Lineman Trevor Pryce. He was a loyal trooper and a good Raven. He didn’t stay unemployed long as the Jets signed him on Thursday. It’s true…. the New York Jets are becoming Baltimore Ravens North.
· Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb meet in Philadelphia on Sunday in game some have called a match between mentor and student. It will be broadcast across the country and has some interesting plot lines. Viewers want to see how badly McNabb will be booed in his return to Philly by some of the worst fans in the NFL, and others to see if McNabb can stick it to Andy Reid for trading him to a division rival and thus implying, “You’re washed up.”
Fran’s NFL Theatre of the Absurd
This chapter of NFL Theatre of the Absurd highlights the “team dinner” the Cowboys held on Monday night at Dallas’ Pappas Steakhouse. It seems rookie Dez Bryant was taking a few of his “Boys” out for dinner and things got a little out of hand. Because Bryant refused to carry the pads of fellow wide out Roy Williams during training camp, Williams showed up with a few extra teammates and stuck Bryant with his portion of the bill. Total tab: $54, 895. I’ve been to Pappas’ in Dallas and it’s not cheap, but there had to be some fancy eatin’ and drinkin’ going on that night. Some players walked out with corked bottles of wine that cost in excess of $900. Hey, I like wine too, but 9 bills a pop?
Look, I don’t want to go all socio-economic here in what’s basically a fun column, but the median home income in Texas is just under $42,000 and, despite what’s said in official circles, we’re still in a recession. Billionaire owners and millionaire players are about to go to the mattresses over a new labor contract that will ultimately be paid for by the networks and the fans, and these guys are spending $55 grand on a meal? Sorry, that’s not absurd, it’s obscene.
“It’s the Clash of the Titans; # 1 Defense versus # 2 Defense; Matter versus Antimatter” (where’s John Facenda, aka “Frozen Tundra,” when you need him? I can hear his intonations now….). I know the talk from Owings Mills is that Ray Rice will play, but, unless he visits Lourdes this week, I hope we don’t see him on the field. If he’s not right, there’s simply too much football left to risk a season-ending injury in Game 4. So I hope for the tandem of McGahee and the underused Le’Ron McClain to get some serious playing time. Haloti Ngata and the boys are seriously pissed after getting embarrassed by a 7th round draft pick last Sunday, so they’ll be looking to stop Rashard Mendenhall, which is something I think they’ll easily do.
Here’s my issue: It’s the quarterbacks and the o-lines. The Pitt line isn’t that good and the Ravens line has players out of position. Who can adapt the best? Joe Flacco and the Ravens stink in Pittsburgh. Flacco is 0-3 in his career at Heinz Field and has lousy stats. For us to win on Sunday Joe simply cannot make any dumb mistakes. The Ravens, as a team, have to play better. The only advantage the Ravens have is our defense versus Charlie Batch. We have to make him look like the retread, stop-gap quarterback he is. If we do it, we win. I want to say 3-2, but I know better. Let’s try…..
Ravens 13 Steelers 9