FRAN THE FAN: Eating Crow Happily!

Street Talk FRAN THE FAN: Eating Crow Happily!

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This is the best column to write.  This is when the Ravens win and I have to sheepishly fess up and write that my predictions for the Saints game were dead wrong.  As I promised my Ravens friends I would do, I now state that I was happily wrong about the score, I was gleefully wrong about Drew Brees carving up the Ravens secondary, I was flat-iron wrong about the running game, and finally, I was dead wrong about the all-black uniforms which I privately thought would jinx the Ravens.  

On a cold and surprisingly blustery afternoon, before what reportedly was the 3rd largest crowd in M&T Bank history, the Purple and Black did it by going ‘Old School’ on the New Orleans Saints in a thrilling 30-24 win. 

Everybody, including me, has waited to see the Ravens take it to a quality team with a quality quarterback. 

Well, there’s nothing better than beating the defending Super Bowl champions in what was pretty much a must win for both teams. 

With the loss to the Ravens, and, barring a monumental New York Giants-like meltdown in the last two games by the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints are pretty much destined to be road warriors for the playoffs.  If the Ravens had lost, we would have been 9-5, out of the AFC North race, and forced to nervously watch the fortunes of the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars in their last two games.  Now we have a two game lead on both teams and the Ravens fortunes are squarely in their own hands as we finish up against two sub .500 teams. 

There was a fair sprinkling of Saints fans throughout the stadium and there was a lot of good-natured, humorous banter between the supporters of each team.  Whenever the Saints made a play or scored a touchdown, we could hear Saints fans behind us chant “Who Dat?”  Well, they found out as, after Cory Redding’s game-ending interception, we turned and chanted “We Dat!!” 

Sweet!!

For two teams that meet only every 4 years, the game was surprisingly chippy, with a lot of mouthing on both sides, pushing and shoving matches, and at least one questionable non-call by the officials on the Saints.  Late in the 3rd quarter, Joe Flacco was taken down for a sack and Saints defensive lineman Will Smith came in a bit late and appeared to knee Flacco in the head as Joe lay on the turf.  

I saw the reply later at home and Flacco was clearly down and it’s what Smith did with his knee that’s the issue.  It looked like it was planted squarely inside the helmet.  There was no flag and, when he came to the sideline, Joe lost his legendary “cool.”  You didn’t have to be a lip reader to understand what Flacco was saying to the officials.  Let’s just say there were some “Mighty F-bombs” sprinkled in his conversation. See for yourself.

Maybe what Derrick Mason said is true…Brady, Brees, and Manning get all the calls. 

The Flacco’s and the Vick’s of the NFL don’t.
 
 

Studs:

Ray Rice.  See Ray run.  See Ray catch.  See Ray embarrass the Saints defense.  Smash mouth football returns.  This may be the blueprint for the rest of the year as the Ravens finish up in cold, outdoor weather in Cleveland and Baltimore. 

Defense.  Big play defense is back.  Let’s face it, you can’t stop Drew Brees, you can only hope to contain him.  And the Ravens did just that.  When the game was on the line, Brees came up empty. He got his yardage and TDs, but the Ravens made the Saints one dimensional and forced them to try and win it on Brees’ arm as Reggie Bush and the Saints gained a grand total of 27 yards on the ground.

Play of the Game:  Not the game winner, but a testament to the skills and determination of Ray Rice.  It’s the catch and run in which he broke 7-8 tackles for a 32 yard gain.  Sure, some of that had to do with some atrocious Saints tackling, but it was fun to watch the replay in the stands together with fans around you as everyone counts off the misses…..”There’s one, there’s two, three, four, there’s five….”

Duds:

There are no duds when you beat the defending Super Bowl champions!

Around the Ravens and Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets

Besides the Ravens/Saints, there were other great matchups on Sunday and one was an epic meltdown for the ages. 

·         Channeling your inner Herman Edwards:  Recalling the Giants’ Joe Pisarcik fumble of 32 years ago against the Eagles at the old Meadowlands, the current Giants reenacted an epic relapse in, first losing a 21 point lead to Philadelphia, then punting to one of the most dangerous returners in the league, DeSean Jackson, who won the game with 65 yard TD return as time ran out.  The National Media is calling it the “Miracle in the New Meadowlands.”  The New York press is calling it “The Punt.”  The Mara family is calling Bill Cowher. 

·         Out, Damned Spot!:  The Detroit Lions removed the last remnants of the Matt Millen era by breaking their road losing streak of 26 games after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-20 in overtime.   26 games….the last time the Lions won on the road was in 2007.

·         S.O.S.  The Colts ran the ball 155 yards to defeat the Jaguars 34-24 and for the AFC South lead. They can win the division with wins over Oakland and Tennessee.  Again.

·         The Swagger is Back:  The New York Jets, who haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 1970, beat the Steelers 22-17 to give a glimmer of hope to the Ravens’ divisional title chances and hopes for a first round bye.  See below.  Speaking of which, it didn’t take much for the Jets to get mouthy again.  Jets players credit a Saturday night hotel speech by Rex Ryan in spurring them to victory.  Ray Rice said the same thing about Ray Lewis’ speech at their hotel.  Here’s something to remember about these speeches, whether they’re delivered by Ryan to the Jets, or Lewis to the Ravens; players only talk about them when they win.

What’s Next?

In spite of the fact that Ravens are now tied with the Steelers based on seasonal records, the Steelers own the tie-breaker in two important categories:  Divisional and conference wins.  The table spells things out.

Team

Won / Lost

Division

Conference

Games Left

Steelers

10 – 4

4-1

8-3

Carolina (H) Cleveland (A)

Ravens

10 – 4

2-2

7-3

Cleveland (A) Bengals (H)

 
This is why the loss to the lowly Bengals in week 2 was so costly.  For the Ravens now to win the division the Steelers must lose one game and the Ravens must win out.  Or if the Ravens lose one game, the Steelers must lose 2.  Uh, no.  Any other combination gives the AFC North and a first round bye to Pittsburgh.  One thing is for sure:  Cleveland will have a say in who wins the Division.  They play the Ravens and the Steelers in successive weeks, both games at home.

This Week:

The day after Christmas, in Cleveland.  The Clowns.  The Weather.  The city with the serial crybabies that possess the worst sports psyche in America.  Until recently, the Browns were considered one of the improving teams in the NFL, making steady progress as the season went on.  They destroyed New Orleans and New England, and suffered close losses to the Jags and Jets.  In the past two weeks, however, they’ve suffered inexplicable losses to the Bills and the Bengals.  Eric Mangini’s job is now clearly on the line with 2 of the best teams in the league next on the schedule. 

I don’t understand the 3 point spread in the Ravens favor at all.  The Browns are 28th in passing, and 18th in rushing.  The Ravens run defense is now up to 5th in the league and 10th overall.  Cleveland’s total defense is 22nd overall and 29th in run defense.  So why 3 points?  Maybe because the weather this time of year on the lake front is the great equalizer and is always problematic.  I expect the Ravens to continue the smash mouth offense by running the ball down the Browns throat, and passing just to keep things honest -unless the Browns are still in the giving mood.  Harbaugh’s Ravens are next to unbeatable against sub .500 teams and they simply will not lose an important game to an inferior opponent who’s just playing out the string. 

Ravens 27 Browns 6.

 

Merry Christmas to All!!

 
 
Note:  All stats courtesy of NFL.com and the baltimoresun.com.
 

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Fran "The Fan" Vojik

About Fran "The Fan" Vojik

Fran Vojik has been a contributor to the Ravens24X7 site since 2005, first as a regular on the "Letters to T.L." page, then as the author of the Fran the Fan column. A huge Orioles and Ravens fan, he defines the term “homer.” A former season ticket holder of the Baltimore Colts, he now roots on the Ravens from his corner end zone seat in M&T Bank Stadium. His work makes him a regular traveler to various MLB and NFL cities and he’s watched both the Birds and Purple and Black in a variety of away stadiums. He brings a passionate and humorous perspective to the world of professional sports. Born in Highlandtown, and a graduate of Calvert Hall College and the University of Maryland, he lives on Furnace Creek in northern Anne Arundel County. He and his girlfriend, Sandy, have recently renovated his Man Cave, known as the “The Sports Palace," which contains many mementos from the Colts, Ravens, and Orioles. On days the Ravens play at home, Fran can usually be found tailgating at the Baltimore Fire Fighters Union Hall Local 734 , supporting the organization’s Widow’s and Orphan’s fund. More from Fran "The Fan" Vojik

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