LETTERS 2 TL: IS THE SKY FALLING ON THE RAVENS?

Lombardi's Way LETTERS 2 TL: IS THE SKY FALLING ON THE RAVENS?

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NFL OBSERVATIONS
 
Hi Tony,
 
I did some traveling last week for business and got to hear and see a lot of commentary about the NFL. That and what I saw this weekend leads to a couple of observations from this past week’s action:
 
The loss to the Bengals stung and a win sure would have made things easier, but with the exception of the Steelers game, when have the Ravens ever had things go easy this year? The Ravens are destined to earn every thing they get this year. Get used to it.
 
Synopsis: Playing on only 3 days rest and then traveling, the Ravens held a lights-out offense to 13 points in their own stadium, 1 TD courtesy of a trick play, and in adverse weather conditions in front of a hostile crowd.  Not so bad for a game that I had penciled in as a sure loss back in the Spring. You can’t overestimate the toll taken on a team traveling on 3 days rest to play a good team. When’s the last time Dallas lost on Thanksgiving Day?
 
I guess Parcells will keep Martin Gramatica another week.
 
It didn’t hurt the Cowboys that the Giants killed themselves with dumb penalties and questionable time-outs. Not to mention the off-the-field stuff.
 
I love reading the NY papers after a Giants loss — beats the supermarket tabloids every time.
 
It really hurts to watch Green Bay these days. The Jets aren’t THAT good. But maybe the Packers are really THAT bad.
 
The last player taken in the NFL draft is traditionally called "Mr. Irrelevant." Really? What do you call Art Shell and the Raiders?
 
Denny Green is no longer Mr. Co-Irrelevant…until next week.
 
Until the Redskins change their business model, they’re doomed to being an underachieving team, Joe Gibbs or no Joe Gibbs.  I truly think the modern game has passed Joe Gibbs by. He looks like a lost ball in high grass.
 
I think the Patriots have finally come back to the league. Free agency, the cap, and injuries have taken their toll.
 
The Bears are the ugliest 10-2 team in the NFL.  Rex Grossman had a QB rating of 1.3 yesterday against the 31st rated defense.  I never heard so much bitching about a 10-2 team like I did last week listening to ESPN 1000 in Chicago.  But they’re right………………..with Rex Grossman, I predict Da Bears are One and Done in January.
 
Final and perhaps the most overlooked point: 3 of the 5 teams that are in competition with the Ravens for the playoffs lost yesterday. The unexpected losses of the Colts, Chiefs and Broncos helped the Ravens more than most people realize. It would have been nice if San Diego tanked in the frozen waste of Buffalo and Detroit was able to hold their lead, but I’ll take 3 out of 5 every time.
 
Fran from Glen Burnie
 
Fran,
 
Thanks for you insight.  I’ll take a lap around the league with you on the topics you touched on.  If you hold the Bengals to 13 you should win.  Over, done, move on…I was secretly wishing for Gramatica to miss because I think the locker room drama would have been interesting since Terrell Owens didn’t support the team cutting Mike Vanderjagt…I do enjoy watching Tom Coughlin’s misery though.  Is he ever happy?…Green Bay is bad and by the way, why did Brett Favre finish that game?…If they inflated a blow up version of Art Shell, would anyone notice the difference?  Would it affect the Raiders approach to the game at all?  Talk about punching the clock…Denny Green will be on NFL Network next year…Joe Gibbs could possibly be back on the NASCAR circuit.  Apparently all those exhaust fumes got to him.  He is an Art Shell of his former self…Patriots get a lot from a little but I think that will wear down in the post season…How bad is Brian Griese if he can’t take over for Rex Grossman which by the way is a very appropriate name for the Bears’ QB…and finally staying with your 3 out of 5 I will go out on a limb and say that trend continues with 3 more surprises this weekend when the Dolphins defeat the Patriots, the Jaguars defeat the Colts and the Broncos defeat the Chargers.
 
Seasons Greeting to you Fran,
 
TL
 
P.S. The Cowboys lost to the Broncos 24-21 last Thanksgiving.
 
CAMP CREAMPUFF LIVES
 
Tony,
 
Had some thoughts on the game: 
 
On the plus side, I suppose its true that Jason Brown and Chris Chester got pushed around some, but given that they will be part of the future of the team, I like it that they are in there getting some reps.  Also, I like the way the Ravens D came out in the second half and shut them down.  If we are to go deep into the playoffs it’s inevitable that’ll we’ll see a high-powered offense like the Bengals, and it’s nice to see we can handle it when we do. 
 
On the down side, the offense obviously evaporated.  My sense is that when an offense comes out as flat as they did on Sunday the coaches didn’t have them prepared, and that’s all on Billick.  I realize it was a short week away, but the Bengals sure as hell looked fired up and Lewis had them practicing. 
 
While there’s no doubt that up until Thursday they were playing better O, we’re getting an extra large helping of Camp Creampuff this week where Billick is letting them sleep-in until Wednesday.  If they win, he looks great.  But if he loses, he’ll look like a pretty big schmuck again.  In any event, what you said a few weeks ago rings true now.  Let’s wait awhile before we extend Billick’s contract. 
 
What do you think? 
 
Regards,
 
Bill in Northeast
 
Bill,
 
It’s been my experience that whenever footing conditions aren’t favorable that it hurts a player who relies more on quickness than sheer strength and power.  Such is the case with Chris Chester.  Sam Adams benefits because his opponents slow down to his sluggishness.  Adams has always had a quick first step.  It’s the ones that come after that have contributed to his decline.  That’s not the case on a slow track and both Brown and Chester learned that lesson first hand.  But I agree the experience is invaluable.
 
As for the Ravens offense, they did not look prepared and they seemed sluggish and out of synch.  I believe the varying approaches to that game by Marvin Lewis and Brian Billick did in fact affect the outcome.  Billick is managing for the long haul.  Lewis’ approach was influenced by desperation and his team prevailed.  However, I’ll take holding the Bengals to 13 points any day and I think the Ravens came away from that game having learned something about defending their division rival.
 
I may be in the minority here but I support the rest Billick has given his team.  I think they should treat this week as a quasi-bye week given their recent success after the bye (5 consecutive wins).
 
As for Billick’s contract…what’s the hurry?
 
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas Bill,
 
TL
 
URGENT, URGENT, EMERGENCY
 
Tony,
 
 Was it me or did the "clock management" seem to be completely disregarded? Near the end of the 1st half – no sense of urgency or immediacy. Maybe calling 2 plays in the huddle so as to utilize time more effectively might work. Near the end of the 2nd half, it appeared as though the Ravens either thought there was going to be a 5th quarter, or the score would somehow, miraculously invert itself thereby showing the Ravens as winners instead. Also, I find it very difficult to fathom that Steve McNair doesn’t have the capacity to audible at the line. Why would a QB *NOT* change a running play up the middle, at the line of scrimmage when the defense BOLDLY stacks the box w/ 8 – 9 players?
 
Kevin in Owings Mills
 
Kevin,
 
Steve McNair had a bad game and I blame much of the clock management issues on him.  I believe he’ll respond positively and I agree that there was a clear lack of urgency on their part.  They were lethargic offensively.
 
As for the audibles, there were two things working against that on Thursday night.  First, the crowd noise factors into the equation and oftentimes prevents a QB from checking down.  Also audibles are often installed during the week to be employed against an opponent’s tendencies.  The short week probably left the Ravens little time to incorporate those check downs.  And although we couldn’t see it very often, McNair may have thought that given the play clock that he couldn’t get those checkdowns called in a timely fashion.
 
It won’t get much easier this week in a hostile Arrowhead Stadium.  However the team will have ample time to install the checks and perhaps indicate them with hand signals.  We’ll find out soon enough….
 
Ho, Ho, Ho Kevin,
 
TL
 
OLD HABITS ARE HARD TO BREAK
 
TL,
 
I heard that in their 11 plus years the Ravens have never won a night game. Just wondering if this is true. I will say other than last year’s Monday night game vs. the Steelers (a loss) the Ravens, with the exception of the Super Bowl, always seem to lay an egg when on late night national television. They never seem prepared or focused. When and if we make it to the playoffs I hope all our games begin before 5:00. Also, how can a team that so thoroughly dominated the Steelers on Sunday look so pathetic four days later. I don’t get it. These guys are supposed to be professionals. High school teams are more consistent in their play than the Ravens. Just when you thought they were over the hump and ready to take care of business this team falls back to its old habits of inconsistency, mistakes, poor time management, penalties, and lack of focus. After last night’s performance they don’t deserve a 5 day vacation. I hope they rebound against the Chiefs, but the doubt is back.
 
Terry Detorie
 
Terry,
 
Or should I call you Thomas?
 
You can’t win them all my friend and you have to at least be encouraged that the defense held the Bengals to 13 points.  I’ve watched this team closely and I believe that they are taking a highly professional approach to the season.  I think you will see a better offensive effort from the team this week in KC.  And I don’t think that the Ravens lack focus.  In fact I believe just the opposite.  I’ll look at this loss against Cincy as a bit of a sound check.  I believe they will adjust and even if they fall short in Arrowhead, I don’t necessarily think their season is done.  I think it will be a test to see how they weather the adversity and that will test their resolve.
 
Sometimes it takes a while before you hit that stride.  The team’s 2000 season is a perfect case in point.
 
As for the night games, they have won their share.  Just off the top of my head a few that come to mind: Denver in ’02 Monday Night; last year Christmas Night v. Minnesota and Monday Night v. Green Bay; Tennessee in ’01 on Monday Night and I believe there were a few against the Browns.
 
Merry Christmas Terry,
 
TL
 
BRING BACK COLLETTO?
 
TL,
 
Tony,
 
It seems like ever since Chris Foerster took over as the Oline coach, the line has had trouble run blocking and opening up holes for the running backs. The team is currently ranked #22 in rushing. The unit, under former line coach Jim Colletto excelled at run blocking, but under Foerster they have consistently had trouble moving defenders off the line of scrimmage. And in my opinion, Foerster actually has more talent to work with than Colletto did (Jason Brown & Chris Chester as opposed to Orlando Brown, Ethan Brooks and Bennie Anderson). Did Foerster change the blocking scheme when he took over last year, because whatever he’s doing, it’s not working, regarding our ground game
 
Steve M, Baltimore
 
Steve,
 
The Ravens have for the most part been a zone blocking unit over the years.  They still do some of that but much of what they do today is man on man with very little trap blocking.  I do think the trap blocking will come in time as Brown and Chester mature.  You have to keep in mind that Chester played only one season at the collegiate level as an offensive lineman.  In the grand scheme of things, he’s actually done extremely well.
 
As for the lack of production, I think a lot of that falls on the backs.  There have been several instances when Jamal Lewis left big chunks of yardage on the field.  You can’t sustain those blocks forever, particularly with the speed of linebackers these days.  Plus Lewis is shedding tacklers the way he once did.  You also need to keep in mind that at the outset of the season, Jim Fassel abandoned the heavy use of a fullback.  That also hurt the running game.
 
Don’t be surprised to see the Ravens look to a RB in the draft.  And don’t be surprised how much better the offensive line looks if a back gets to those holes quicker.  Until then, I am a strong believer that the Ravens need to set up the run with the pass.  When they’ve done that the running game has been more effective.
 
Run, run Rudolph,
 
TL
 
MEN OF HONOR
 
Tony,
 
I’ve been out of town and just got around to your blog — very on point about the ring of honor. I would actually go a step further – wait for Jonathan or Ray – whoever retires first – as the standard. Everybody else is extremely good, but not extremely great. 
 
Always enjoy your site and glad to hear you on the radio.
 
David Janka
 
David,
 
If Jonathan and Ray are the standards, that ring will be a lonely place. Conversely if Byner is the standard, the Ravens might have to build a bigger stadium.
 
Thanks for tuning in to the site and GAMETIME.
 
Simply…Having…a Wonderful Christmas Time,
 
TL
 
THE SKY IS NOT FALLING
 
TL,
 
I totally agree, the sky is not falling, the Ravens are not frauds, and as many say, "on any given Sunday…".  Like you said, we played a very good Cincinnati team at home on a short week, and it took a trick play to get them into the end zone.  The defense did not go after Carson Palmer like they did Big Ben, and he was able to make some plays, and eat up some clock.  Let’s face it, in today’s NFL, if you have the combination of time, a talented QB, and 3 good receivers, a defense with 14 men on the field could not stop the pass.
 
As far as "Mr. All things Dundalk", oh sorry, "Mr. Self appointed all things Dundalk".  His existence is based on being unhappy, and over reacting to just about everything.  For him to say that our defense "laid down" Thursday, is about as stupid as thinking he could get Angelos to sell the Orioles.  So, of course you will hear the Baltimore fan call in and feed off the negativity of him and others.  I say, "do you want to jump off the bandwagon? Then JUMP!"  People need to understand that there is a reason no one has gone undefeated since the Dolphins in ’72 and since the salary cap began.
 
To be honest, I would like to see the offense go deep a little more often.  I would also like to see more pressure from the D-line without rushing more than 4, with the secondary getting more picks from one-on-one coverage, and no penalties on special teams.  But all that would be a perfect team, and is unrealistic. 
 
So, I’ll just be happy with the best record in franchise history and hope for good performances, game plans, and a lot of lucky bounces.
 
Mark Considine
 
Mark,
 
In my opinion winning in the NFL is all about exploiting the weaknesses of your opponent better than they exploit yours because as you suggest, every team has its ugly warts.
 
To say that the Ravens laid down in Cincinnati is to undermine the team’s effort (particularly defensively) and to question their collective will and resolve. I’m sure the self appointed VP of Dundalk knows more about running a radio station than Brian Billick does.  But if his signal goes out does that mean he laid down as an owner of the station?  Probably not.  Things happen.  Hamsters get tired and Brian Billick would probably trust the Dundalkian to remedy the problems
 
Maybe we should also give Billick the same benefit of the doubt.  I know I will.  It sounds like you will as well.
 
Peace on Earth Mark,
 
TL

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Tony Lombardi

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Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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