Fran the Fan
The Ravens beat a tough Houston Texans in a tight, tense game that, after a blow-out 1st quarter, turned out to be much closer than the final score indicated. I listened to the radio broadcast from my end zone seat and Gerry Sandusky accurately gauged the mood and emotions of what was the largest crowd in Ravens’ history.
Things were tense and anxious.
The Texans were beating the Ravens on both sides of the ball. Comments on the Ravens’ play-calling flew back and forth. The inability of the offense to provide any kind of spark after the 1st quarter flurry of points had everybody simultaneously shaking their heads and cursing Cam Cameron.
We all thought that, after Ed Reed’s acrobatic interception, the Ravens would run out the clock and many fans headed to the ramps. Uh, let’s wait a minute…After failing to get a first down, we were treated to another heart-stopping finish as T.J. Yates lofted Hail Mary after Hail Mary into the end zone. We all held our breath until the last ball fell incomplete.
The run up to the Conference Championship has not been lacking in drama. Midweek practice got interesting when Ed Reed called out Joe Flacco for his performance in the Houston game, a news item that has made every sports web site and every sports cable program. I can’t speak to the effect it might have had on the locker room, although my sense is that it had little or none, given this group of veterans. I’m sure it didn’t phase the target.
Pro Joe or Anti-Joe? What are you?
I know this: Joe doesn’t have a dedicated quarterback coach. The team not so kindly excused Jim Zorn after the 2010 season. This is not a performance enhancer. And, for every complaint about Flacco’s performance, for every plea not to give him a long term contract, for every argument about his play calling and pocket presence, I will continue to take the 5th on Joe as long as Cam Cameron is the offensive coordinator.
I think he’s done with Cameron. I don’t think Flacco can learn anything more from him. Like a child musical prodigy who takes his first lessons and quickly outpaces his tutor, the Ravens have to come to a similar conclusion: “He can’t improve any more in this system.” Joe Flacco needs to read from a different sheet of music. He will not progress any further if changes are not made.
Whether we win out in February or lose this Sunday, Cameron has to go.
The Ravens struggled at home but won against a tough, determined Texans team that gave them everything they wanted and more. The Patriots blew out the Broncos in a game that was, for all intents and purposes, over by the middle of the 2nd quarter. Las Vegas saw the disparity and adjusted the line – wrongly, in my estimation. But teams don’t play to the betting line. They play each other. What must the Ravens do to beat the Patriots in Foxborough and move on to Indianapolis?
There is No Fear Factor in Foxborough this time.
Ø Get Pressure on Brady
This is a given. The Ravens have only made 3 sacks in the last few games. They simply cannot give Tom Brady the time T.J. Yates had. Ed Reed will not bait Brady so easily. He has too many mid-range weapons at his disposal if we give him time. Hit Brady early and often. Get him off his rhythm. Make him flinch. Measure him for that tutu.
Ø Give Ray His 20+ Touches
The math is simple; when Ray Rice touches the ball 20 times and more, the Ravens win. This is not rocket science and, more importantly, the Patriots are not the Texans defense. Opportunities will present themselves for Ray to excel on the ground and in the air. Added bonus: it takes time off the clock and keeps Brady off the field.
Ø Spread the Ball Around
Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Ed Dickson are not the second coming of the Greatest Show on Turf, but they are all competent receivers. Boldin is the possession receiver. Smith gives us the shot down the field. Pitta and Dickson can catch and run under the coverage. We have the assets. Use them against a defense that gives up a ton of yardage.
Ø Protect the Fu
The offensive line cannot allow itself to be bullied around like last week. Tackles Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher have to step it up. Double up on their best lineman, Vince Wilfork and take care of the rest of an average Patriots defense.
Ø Play Smart
Duplicate the Texans game. No turnovers and no penalties.
Here we go………………..
Ravens 31, Patriots 24
And on to Indianapolis for a rematch of the HarBowl!
Note: All stats courtesy of NFL.com, additional content from the Baltimore Sun, the Boston Herald, Vegas Insiders, The Bleacher Report, and ProFootballTalk.com