News and Notes from a Fan’s Perspective
Grinding Out Another Win
Last week I predicted a Ravens blowout of the Cleveland Browns by 21 points. Didn’t happen. This game did not show us anything we haven’t seen all year, other than to confirm that the Ravens are first class grinders.
The offense played a careful game and made good use of the Browns’ turnovers and a couple of misguided coaching decisions by Eric Mangini. In spite of getting burned by a trick play, the defense produced 4 turnovers and employed the same philosophy they used in the Saints game: Shut down the running game and make the quarterback beat you with his arm. There was no way Colt McCoy was going to win this game. The Ravens defense made him look like the rookie he is.
Without further adieu, let’s go to Studs and Duds.
The Defense: Although it was only a 10 point win, the Ravens defense, led by Ed Reed and the rest of a ball-hawking secondary, made sure that the game was never in serious danger. The Browns only touchdown came on a trick play. Ray Lewis, my favorite tarot card reader, called out Peyton Hillis earlier in the week and made his challenge stand up. 12 carries, 35 yards. In fact, his “blind cat” analogy may have energized the Ravens defense more so than the Browns offense.
The Offense: In spite of the relentless grinding, the offense was careful not to waste the opportunities given by the Defense. The Ravens scored 17 points off Browns turnovers. The Ubermensch, Derrick Mason, had 4 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Although his numbers this season have predictably dropped off due to the addition of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, he will probably go over 60 catches for the 11th straight year, a feat matched only by the great Jerry Rice.
John Harbaugh and the Red Challenge Flag: Harbaugh is challenged in two areas (I know, I know, some would say more than two): Effective use of time outs and challenging referee calls. For the second week in a row, Harbs made the wrong call on an opponent’s touchdown. When the Browns Brian Robiskie pulled in that acrobatic pass from fellow wideout Mohamed Massaquoi, I and my fellow Ravens Roosters practically screamed at the TV for him not to through that flag. Harbs needs to go to clock management and challenge school in the off season.
Ed (the Serial Lateral-er) Reed: Dude, you’re going to give me a coronary. Please spare us these antics in the playoffs.
Around the Ravens and Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets
· The Strange Case of Sergio Kindle: The 2nd round draft choice was arrested early Monday morning in Howard County and charged with a DWI after failing all field sobriety tests and clocking a BAC of 0.17. Wow! John Harbaugh said that Kindle has “a track record for making really poor decisions.” I’d say so. He has a prior DUI from his Texas days, and was charged 2 years later with leaving the scene of an accident after damaging a building with his vehicle. Then he “falls” down the stairs at a friend’s house prior to training camp. Having known about the priors alone, just what the hell were the Ravens doing drafting this guy?
The Ravens rarely, if ever, select a player who has such blatant character issues. Football skills aside, the front office blew this one. Addressing the media, John Harbaugh said the politically correct things regarding this incident but I’m fairly certain that someone else will be wearing the # 49 jersey next July in training camp.
· 5 Ravens Going to the Pro Bowl. 4 defensive players (Lewis, Ngata, Reed, and Suggs) and one special teamer (Cundiff). Congrats to all, But Sam Koch’s absence was a huge snub and no offensive players were selected, except as alternates. What a surprise. Tony Lombardi thinks this is an indictment of Cam Cameron’s play-calling philosophy. I have to agree. Although Pro Bowl voting is a stat-driven affair (with a goodly amount of fan-favorite, ballot-stuffing thrown in for good measure), we’ve had the offensive tools all year and have grossly underused them. Somebody from the Ravens offense should have made the squad.
· Curious Fact: When Derrick Mason caught a touchdown pass to move the Ravens to a 10 point lead, it was the first time in 6 games that the Ravens scored an offensive touchdown in the 2nd half. This may turn out to be a damning fact for Cam Cameron’s future in Baltimore.
· Do you think the Ravens are being disrespected by the national media? Here’s one national pundit who think the Ravens are flying under the radar and likes it that way: Schrager’s Cheat Sheet Week 17
· Dead Men Walking: They are dropping like flies, and the end of the season and a potential work stoppage in 2011 is not stopping the owners from unloading the deadwood. The Alumni: Wade Phillips, Brad Childress, Josh McDaniels, and now Mike Singletary.
With one week left in the season, we only have to wait until this Sunday evening before the rest of the pink slips start flying. Here’s my Soon-to-be-Unemployed Fabulous Six, and I’m not even counting the interim coaches, most of whom are getting their first and last “cup of coffee” in the head coaching ranks:
1) John Fox, Carolina: The season can’t end soon enough for coach and club. 2) Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati: I knew the Bungles wouldn’t repeat, but 4-11? 3) Jeff Fisher, Tennessee: Jeff wants out of Nashville. He will get his wish. 4) Tom Coughlin, NY Giants: The Giants need lots of help to get into the dance. If they blow it against the unpredictable Redskins, the Maras may join the Cowherd sweepstakes. 5) Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville: The loss to the Redskins at home was inexcusable. Owner Wayne Weaver may decide to excuse Jack from further employment. 6) A newbie: Tony Sparano, Miami: The Dolphins are 1-7 at home this year and a major disappointment. No wonder
Joe Robbie, Pro Players, Land Shark, Sun Life Stadium always looks half empty.
Now back to the Bengals, Carson Palmer has had a terrible year, but the Ravens always seem to bring the best out in him. That said, I’m thinking he shot his wad last week against the Chargers. This Sunday, the weather will be lousy, his receivers brand new, and he’ll be facing a different Ravens defense from week 2. This game is far too important to the Ravens to allow a relapse.
There is one cause for concern; long snapper Morgan Cox is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, an injury that could not have come at a worst time. The success that Billy Cundiff and Sam Koch have enjoyed this year is due, in no small measure, to the accurate, consistent ball-snapping from Cox. It’s a general rule that the less you hear a snapper’s name, the better the team and the kicking game is doing. Matt Katula, anyone? The Ravens signed veteran Kevin Houser as long snapper and getting him in sync with Cundiff and Koch is an absolute priority.
Think it doesn’t matter? Since it became known that Cox was lost for the year, the Vegas odds makers have quietly dropped the Ravens line from -10.5 to -9.5. For betting purposes, that’s a not-insignificant shift and is even less reason to pick the Ravens by more than a touchdown. The Ravens appear to have rediscovered their offensive formula of Rice-A-Willis and will surely use it on what is forecasted to be a rainy game day. Run we will, pass when we have to. Let’s keep Palmer off the field and grind out another win.
Ravens 23 Bengals 16.
Note: All stats courtesy of NFL.com NFL Network.com, and the baltimoresun.com.