The win over the Panthers was nice, but hardly satisfying. The Ravens should have obliterated Carolina by 40 points. The Ravens started fast, played strong, and then went to sleep for the better part of 30 minutes, until somebody on the bench realized the Panthers were playing with live ammo. Then, in the space of 11 seconds, interception returns by Ed Reed/Dawan Landry and Ray Lewis took the Ravens up by 24. All of a sudden it’s a blowout.
Sorry, I’m not buying it. As a friend said to me while Ravens Roosters # 94 seated around us were cheering, it took plays by two veterans to make it look like a rout. It’s not for lack of talent, he added. Agreed. For once, just once this season, I’d like to see the Ravens start fast and keep their foot on the gas until the final whistle.
Maybe that’s not who this team is. Maybe it’s not in their DNA. Maybe this team is destined to grind it out every game. Prior to Carolina, the Ravens average winning margin was 7.3 points. So, the Panther’s game was a comparative blowout. But if you take away those two late picks, the Ravens’ margin of victory was well within their 2010 statistical average. We are what our record and stats say we are.
In spite of my bellyaching, the Ravens are starting to put a degree of separation between themselves and the rest of the playoff pretenders. Each division winner gets in. Two wild card teams make the show. Going into week 12, the Jets, Pats, Ravens, and Steelers are bunched at the top of their divisions. Other than the Steelers, the Ravens will not play a game against an AFC playoff contender (I’m counting the Texans out) for the remainder of the year. We have to make hay against the Bucs, the Browns, the Bengals, and the Texans. Win one of two games against the Saints and Steelers, we’re 12-4 and in the show – and maybe hosting a playoff game – or two. Let’s Do Studs and Duds.
Terrell Suggs: His sack on Sunday gave him 7.5 for the year and he’s on pace to surpass his career best of 12 sacks in his rookie year. I’m glad somebody on the defense is rushing the quarterback. So where’s his help?
Billy Cundiff is having a stellar year and is the MVP of the team in my book. He’s 17 for 20 in field goals, with two 49 yarders. His kickoffs continue to boom into the opponent’s end zone. Almost makes me forget Matt Stover. Almost.
Props to Derrick Mason for becoming the 13th player in NFL history to reach 900 receptions in his career. His numbers are a little down this year due to the presence of Anquan Boldin, but he’s still my Ubermensch.
The Ravens Fans who journeyed to Charlotte for the game. We heard you and saw you. Even the Charlotte media estimated that 40% of the crowd was wearing purple!
The Defense: This year’s defense is no where near the 2000 S.B. vintage. Not even close. The Panthers should not have scored a single point. Aging stars, gaps at key positions, and unimaginative coaching schemes are dragging this unit down. With near misses against the Clowns, the Buffaloes, and meltdowns at New England and Atlanta, the word is out: The Ravens’ defense is a Paper Tiger.
Around the Ravens and around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets
After Michael Vick’s spectacular performance two Monday’s ago against an undermanned and under-coached Redskins defense, the dog killer’s backers were flying out of the woodwork. Steve Young practically slobbered over himself talking about Vick’s play on ESPN. Michael Irvin, himself no stranger to hyperbole and controversy, said that Vick was the best quarterback in the league today and should be voted league MVP. Now. Hall of Fame material, too. I half expected Lotus Blossoms to start falling onto the set as Irvin was talking. But last Sunday, after facing a stronger and more focused Giants defense, Vick was a pedestrian 24 of 38 for 258 yards, 34 rushing yards, no TDs, and one turnover. The Giants lost, but they showed the rest of league how to get it done.
Wade Phillips compares his winning percentage to that of Tom Landry. I’m not making this up. PFT reported earlier this week that on a radio interview Wade stated, “We went 34-22, which is pretty good. I went out with the same winning percentage as Tom Landry, so I don’t feel bad about my head coaching career.” For those readers who are a too young to remember the ‘Plastic Man,’ here are Landry’s stats:
Won 2 Super Bowl titles (VI and XII), 5 NFC titles, 13 division titles, and compiled a 270-178-5 record, the 3rd most wins of all time for an NFL coach. His 20 career playoff wins are the most of any coach in NFL history.
Um, your turn, Wade.
The Purple and Black continue to play to the level of their competition, whether it’s better or worse. It has to be much better this week as the vastly improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers pay a visit to M&T Bank. Tampa, at 7-3, is locked in the best divisional race in the NFL, standing one game behind Atlanta and tied with New Orleans. The Bucs stand in the middle of the NFL pack for offense, but they’re ranked 6th in passing defense and 29th in rushing defense. Hmm. Some Rice-a-Roni with a little Willis and Le’Ron sprinkled in sounds like a good post-Thanksgiving recipe.
For the Ravens, there’s nothing like a little home cooking. They’re undefeated at home this year and haven’t lost a home game since November 2009 against the Colts. In fact, the Purple gang has lost only two home games since 2008. They won’t look past the Bucs, but for once I’d like to see the Ravens offense play to the weakness of the opponent’s defense (rushing). I’m probably asking too much. This will be closer than the 8 point Vegas spread, so I look for the Ravens to grind it out once more.
Ravens 24 Buccaneers 20
Note: All stats courtesy of NFL.com