LETTERS 2 TL: A DOSE OF REALITY

Lombardi's Way LETTERS 2 TL: A DOSE OF REALITY

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O-LINE NEEDS TO GET BETTER
 
Tony,
 
Still depressed about the outcome of the game. I had a bad feeling about it all week leading up to it though. After we went 3 and out on the first series I automatically started questioning our gameplan as it looked like our scripted plays were just too conservative and probing. Heck, it’s a playoff game and you have to be more aggressive. We showed numerous times that we could go downfield on the Colts secondary and we showed that every 3-4 runs that Jamal was getting into the secondary. If you are only behind by field goals then you can keep with the run and take some shots downfield instead of throwing 5 yard passes when you need 7 yards for a first down.
 
Why do we always come down on a running back when he fails to consistently gain yardage? If the hole is not there then he can’t move forward. For the past 2 years that has been the case on our O-line. Granted, our pass blocking is much improved this year but teams consistently take away a Jamal favorite – the cut back. Our backside blocking has been the problem and I think that our blocking schemes affect this. Change the scheme somewhat and keep Jamal.
 
I thought the some of the officiating calls on us, especially the holding call on Ogden were ridiculous. When Reed made his second INT they whistled the play dead before he lateraled it to Cmac who had plenty of open space to run. Hard to believe that this play hasn’t gotten much visibility. A game like this could have turned on a dime. Funny how 3 out of our 4 losses this year included an end of the first half TO or missed opportunity. Almost like sending a subconscious message to the team that "Today is just not our day".
 
I guess, in a nutshell, we basically choked and did some uncharacteristic things team wide. Not how we achieved the playoffs in the first place. I have to agree with Tom Matte in that there was not much sense of urgency getting up to the line and executing plays in the second half but we have not been like that all year.
 
Everything that could go wrong did so. Lot’s of pressure on our guys/ though as our team and city seems to have adopted this "we gotta do this right now" mentality. Does not help when the Mr. Cash comes out and states that we basically have a 2 year window to win the SB. Why do teams like Indy and NE make the playoffs each of the last 4-5 years when we seem slated for only a 2 year window?
 
I still have my Ravens flags and car magnet displayed on my car. Later tonight, I’ll be screwing on my Ravens license plate frame. Gotta keep the faith and continue to get better as I am sure that we will. It was a blessed season. One that showed us just how good we can be albeit maybe not up to our full potential. Developing a defeatist and bitter outlook is for losers. One that teams like NE, Indy, and Philly have strayed away from.
 
Sorry for the long diatribe just hard to let go of a tough loss.
 
Thanks,
 
Paul Day
 
Paul,
 
Without question it was a bitter loss and a tough one to let go of. I’ll tell you a quick story that I shared last night with members of Ravens Roost 44 in Ocean City. When Jamal started to get untracked in the second quarter, a ran down the aisle next to my seat at The Vault violently pounding my chest chanting, “Now that’s Ravens football!  It’s time for some smash mouth!"
 
Of course they didn’t stick to Ravens football or smash mouth.
 
I now have a bruised left pectoral muscle. Every time its soreness flares up, I’m reminded of all we didn’t do to win that game.
 
As for Jamal, I think he’s done, at least the Jamal we once knew. Those backside cutbacks that Jamal was known for have been there in my opinion. He’s just missed them or can’t get to them anymore. He may still have a role on the team, but it’s time to move this rushing attack in a new direction. I expect that to be the team’s primary focus this offseason. An offseason that will feel like an eternity to you and me.
 
Only 190 days until Summer Camp….but who’s counting?
 
TL
 
LET’S GO TO THE TAPE
 
TL,
 
Since 1999, I have taped every Ravens game for the purpose of reviewing the game in detail to see what I may have missed. After watching Saturday’s game on tape, I felt differently than I did walking out of the stadium. If you taped the game, I would suggest you look at it again to see if you agree with a few points. What stood out to me was, that the ball was not bouncing our way all day, and that the officials were seeing things in blue and white, not purple.
 
Here’s my take…(this will all be offensive, as the defense played lights out)
 
Running the ball…
First of all, I thought that Jamal ran pretty well against an 8 man front. Bob Sanders cheated into the box on every play, and to run a 5 yard average against that was impressive.
 
Bad Calls…
We were called for off sides twice, one the center Jeff Saturday whipped his head up, drawing our jump, and the other, was called encroachment outside of the tackle box with no snap of the ball.

There was the flag we got for delay of game, where the ball was clearly snapped with one second on the clock as shown on the bottom of the screen.

The Colts offensive line was getting away with holding all day long, preventing our linemen from pursuing Addai in the stretch play. Terrell Suggs was tackled at least twice by the left tackle, most importantly on that big 3rd down in the fourth quarter. I didn’t think Dallas Clark made that catch at the end of the game. Why no review?

Bad Luck….
Not only did Ray Lewis tip 2 interceptions away from Ed Reed and one to McAlister, but he slapped the ball out of another Raven defender’s hands on the Addai fumble. 2 of the 5 field goals hit the goal posts. Todd Heap fumbles on the 25, which was his first in how many games?

 
Poor play…
McNair stared down Todd Heap in the end zone and threw late into coverage. McNair under throws Demetrius Williams on a skinny post that I thought could have gone the distance.
Clayton fumbles after a 45 yard pass play, which results in a measly 5 yard penalty for illegal contact 20 yards down field.
 
Lack of necessary adjustments…
It seemed to me that the Colts dictated how the game was going to be played, and we had no answers. They were playing the cover two, cheating men into the box, and keying on Todd Heap. We threw deep twice, had one swing pass, and one poorly executed screen play. If you are playing a team that doesn’t tackle well and primarily plays the Cover 2, and you have a big fast back, wouldn’t it make sense to spread 4 wide (including Heap) and mix the pass and run based on the match ups?
 
I may be wrong, but I believe it is easier to find holes in zone coverage when you run more men through it. Then with a pass rush first D line, you run draws and delays underneath the spread field. If they put an extra LB on the field to cover Heap, you have a mismatch. You can flood one zone, and throw a swing pass to Jamal the other direction. You can send all receivers deep and throw the screen underneath. What you don’t want to do is to put an extra TE or FB on the field which will allow the Colts to put another fast LB there to support the run. I just think that to be successful in running the football it is not so much how well you run and block, it is also when you call the run against which defense that makes the big difference.

It just wasn’t to be our day, and it was not because we were the inferior team. After that loss, do you think we could just shut up about losing the Colts 20 years ago? All that talk, made that loss sting just a little more.

 
Mark Considine
 
Mark,
 
You should have sent this email to Brian Billick before he appointed Rick Neuheisel as the Offensive Coordinator. Your thoughts on attacking the Cover 2 are right on in my opinion. You need to attack weaknesses (you mention the Colts’ tackling) and you need to create mismatches. The Ravens seldom did either.
 
I think against hard charging bookends like Freeney and Mathis, you need to keep them honest with delays, draws and screens. Otherwise you play into their hands. I’m also surprised that they didn’t use the hard count more often to keep the Colts’ ends off balance but that could have something to do with the deliberate way they came up to the line of scrimmage. They had no tempo. The Colts had the ball 2:44 more than the Ravens yet managed to run 15 more plays. That should tell you something.  Ogden owned Freeney on Saturday and they should have exploited that.
 
Personally, I’m over the Colts thing. But I also thought that before they arrived last week. If they could only give us our due in Canton as the Baltimore Colts, maybe that would help. We’ll have more news on that in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.
 
TL
 
THE CURES FOR THE RAVENS’ WOES
 
Tony,
 
A few extra words as to why we lost on Saturday-just to chew on…
 
1. First and foremost the playoffs are totally different than the regular season- You throw out the records during the regular season. Good coaches (Dungy is one of them) have their teams prepared to play in that environment. Seattle limped into the playoffs and the Bears had to take overtime at home to beat them which gives you the sense that games are much tougher. With two weeks to prepare, Brian did not have the offense geared to play-with a plan or any contingencies. The Ravens did not turn it up a notch on offense.
 
2. Our offense regardless of how the production increased during the season was not a playoff offense, i.e., when you get behind you must have the horses to get back into the game. In our running game we do not have the horses-no speed.
 
3. Regardless of point two- Billick should have been more aggressive in some calls or at least be more creative. Running Jamal inside the five yard line from a one back set is dumb for a playoff game. Placing someone like Mark Clayton or Cory Ross next to him at least to demand the Colt defense account for that player is at least a little creative. I looked at Reggie Bush Saturday night running to the corner of the end zone and scoring from just outside the five and nearly cried.
 
4. McNair had a rough day-period. He looked unsure and old. He clearly is on the downside of his career. He had no zip on any passes. If he was 3-4 years younger or if we had a quarterback who could carry a team regardless of the deficiencies in the offense the outcome may have been better.
Some thoughts for next year~
 
1. Do not resign Jamal Lewis-his best days are behind him-let him go to Atlanta. The problem we have is that this upcoming draft for running backs is a poor one. My God Michael Bush -four months removed from a broken leg injury is coming out early because the running back class is so bad. Is there someone available in free agency? Speed is essential.
 
2. Next year’s schedule will be rough. It will be much much tougher making the playoffs. With the present roster I have serious doubts that we will make it back into the playoffs.
 
3. Offer a contract to AD ~ but do not break the bank. He is 29 years old. We have more disturbing holes.
 
4. We had better start grooming a quarterback-if Boller is not the guy then what about Drew Olson? But we had better start soon to find that guy.
 
5. We need more athleticism on the offensive line-I think that I would faint if I saw one of our guards pulling on a sweep.
 
Well- that’s about it.
 
Have a great off-season!
Greg in Baltimore
 
Greg,
 
Thanks for taking the time. I’ll address your points…
 
1. Coaching…Brian had a bad game and was out coached. His track record after byes has been excellent. It is now tainted. This was a big black eye.  He’ll need to step up in the post season and avoid that which now haunts Marty Schottenheimer.
 
2. I believe the offense even with its rushing deficiencies, was a playoff offense. They need to trust in their playmakers more and Heap, Mason, Clayton and Williams all fit that description. Billick and Neuheisel need to find more ways to allow his playmakers to make plays.
 
3. Agreed on the lack of aggressive play calling…but your scenario with Clayton and Ross is way too dangerous deep in the red zone during a playoff game. I wouldn’t mind seeing a play out of a spread formation. I think they were prepared to do that prior to the play clock running down and McNair being forced to use a timeout. THAT was unforgivable! You are on your home turf for crying out loud!
 
4. McNair is on the downside but I think he can get it done in 2007. There have been some rumblings about his physical well being over the past couple of weeks. I’ll check into that.
 
As for next year….
 
1. Two words: Michael Turner
 
2. Every season is much different. I think the Ravens will be back in the post season. Pittsburgh will need a year to recover; Cincinnati is a threat; the Browns are the Browns.
 
3. AD will not give a big home town discount. Maybe a little but AD’s knew deal will test the bank for sure…and the cap should he stay, even under the franchise tag.
 
4. Olson isn’t the answer. I don’t think the Ravens have given up on Boller but I do expect them to look at a QB late on day one of the draft or on day 2.
 
5. Brown and Chester provide more athleticism. I think they’ll look for more in order to develop a more versatile O-line.
 
I have faith in Ozzie. You should too.
 
TL
 
"GET OVER IT" ALREADY!
 
Dear Tony,
 
I would like to respond to those who suggest that I should "Get Over" the move of the Colts to Indianapolis. I am 46 years old. My first football memories are of watching the Colts win the 1968 NFL Championship game. I can still visualize watching that game with my Dad and seeing Tom Matte score 3 touchdowns. Tom Matte became my first Colt hero.
 
My next football memory was crying my eyes out when the Colts lost to the Jets two weeks later. Despite the loss, the Colts were a magical part of my childhood. I never missed watching a Colts game. I would ask my parents to get gasoline at Crown gas stations, so I could get their free Colt related give-aways, such as the Johnny Unitas board game. Once I realized that the football player on top of the Gino’s sign was Colt great Gino Marchetti, I would always ask my family to go at Gino’s to eat, as opposed to McDonalds. I still have the Colts pennant and autographed Johnny Unitas photo that use to hang on my childhood bedroom wall.
 
I will never forget the despair I felt when it appeared that Eddie Hinton had fumbled away the Colts best chance to tie the score in Super Bowl V and jubilation I felt when Jim O’Brien kicked the winning field goal a few minutes later. My love of the Colts continued until they left.
 
When I reached my high school, my best friend and I began to attend Colt games. One week after the fog game victory over Miami, we were in Memorial Stadium watching the Colts defeat the Patriots to win the 1975 Eastern Division Championship. I was at the 1976 "airplane game" playoff loss to the Steelers. I was at the 1977 "Ghost to the Post" playoff game against the Raiders. I still have the ticket stub and photos that I took during the game. When I graduated from college and began my career in late 1983, I was looking forward to buying season tickets for the 1984 season. I never got the opportunity.
 
The Colts meant a great deal to me and their departure tore a whole in my gut that never fully healed. This is why I get angry every time I think about Johhny Unitas’ records being listed under the Indianapolis Colts. It is not their history, it is MY history. I would like someone to tell me how I am suppose to "get over" that? A lot of the news articles this week portrayed Jimmy Irsay as a very nice guy, completely unlike his father. Maybe he is, but I am not aware of anything that he has done to alleviate the pain caused by his father’actions. He could have given Modell the name and colors. He didn’t. He STILL could release the records. He hasn’t. And I am still bitter about it and that is not going to change until Irsay does the right thing.
 
Despite all of this, there is no question where my loyalties lie. I root like hell for the Ravens. My wife and I are PSL holders and we are out there each home game screaming our lungs out. Saturday’s loss was devastating to me and not just because of the missed opportunity for payback. More importantly, we missed our best chance since 2000 to get another Lombardi trophy. I don’t know when that opportunity will arise again.
 
The Washington Post had a great photo of a boy trying to comfort his distraught father. That photo captured exactly how I still feel about the loss. I won’t be getting over it anytime soon. People need to understand that for those of us of a certain age, the Baltimore Colts are always going to be part of our football memories. Instead of "getting over" it, every Baltimore football fan should embrace the wonderful history that we have. Despite the attempts of the Rosenblooms, the Irsays, Paul Tagliabue, and certain members of the media to screw with the fans of Baltimore, we are still here giving pro football some of its finest moments. The history of Baltimore football is the history of pro football and we can never allow that to be taken away.
 
Sean Mitchell
 
Sean,
 
I admire your passion and I share similar memories. I think the only solution for fans that feel as you do, is to restore the city’s football heritage by acknowledging the Baltimore Colts in the Hall of Fame. That isn’t Irsay’s call, that is the call of the Hall’s directors. We will be doing our part here at 24×7 in a few weeks to try and help in that regard. Stay tuned for details. Your help will be called upon.
 
Here’s to good ole’ Bawlmer,
 
TL
 
FOOTBALL REALLY ISN’T LIFE?
Dear Tony (and fans),
 
Personally, this has been the toughest year, both mentally and physically, on both my wife and myself for a number of reasons which I, obviously, won’t get into. However, it has also been difficult on my godson who is currently serving in Iraq, and lives for his football team back home, who too was disappointed with the way his team’s season turned out – but his life goes on, nonetheless.
 
The point is, I hear a lot of whining and complaining and ill-behavior (directed towards non-Ravens fans – just read the message boards), and I pause to think, man, this is just a freaking football game! Friends, please keep all of this in proper perspective. If we would spend half as much time committing to others less fortunate than ourselves (and there are scores of unfortunate souls out there), instead of whining/complaining about a team that gave us such an exciting outlet this year, we’d be a hell of a lot better off, both personally and as a city.
Remember, this is just a freaking football game!
 
RavenJoe
 
RJ,
 
Speaking on behalf of all of our city’s fans, thanks for the needed and welcomed dose of reality. Things could be a lot worse than fretting the loss of a playoff game, that’s for sure. That being said, this one still stings knowing that we could be hosting the AFC Championship Game. You don’t get too many opportunities to do that!
 
We’ll all try to keep it in perspective.
 
Peace,
 
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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