RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Flacco rebounds, Suggs returns

Street Talk RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Flacco rebounds, Suggs returns

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BALTIMORE – Although it was obvious that Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs still doesn’t completely trust his left knee, he managed to gut it out and didn’t seriously aggravate the injury Sunday.


Suggs made his return to the starting lineup after missing the past three games with a sprained medial collateral ligament suffered on an illegal block by Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn.


In the first quarter of the Ravens’ 48-3 demolition of the Detroit Lions, Suggs limped off the field after getting roll-blocked in what looked like an intentional targeting of his knee.


“They went right after my knee,” Suggs said. “I tweaked it a little bit. I had to make an adjustment to the brace, but it was fine.”


Suggs didn’t make an impact as a pass rusher, but appeared to hold his own while recording four tackles in his first game back since getting hurt.

Afterward, he was sore.


“It felt good,” Suggs said. “They hit it on the second play of the game and it’s been hurting ever since, but you have to shake it off. I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction.


“So, I shook it off, taped it up some more and got back in there. I put a little brace on it, but we just really taped it up tighter. That kind of let the pain go away and it was all right.”


Even with Suggs back in the lineup, the Ravens didn’t generate much of a pass rush. Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper was only sacked once.


“I can’t say I was focusing on him, but I didn’t see any problems,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Suggs. “I saw him in the backfield against the run a lot. I saw him getting pressure. He had a little bit of a limp where he had to adjust the brace at one point, but he seemed fine after that.”


FLACCO REBOUNDS: One week removed from a three-interception meltdown against the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Joe Flacco had a strong game against the Lions’ last-ranked pass defense.


Flacco completed 13 of 20 passes for 230 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 120.8 passer rating.

“Joe bounced back,” Harbaugh said. “I thought it was gutsy. He made some good throws.”

When the Ravens win, it usually has a lot to do with Flacco’s play.

During the Ravens’ past 16 victories, Flacco has 21 touchdown passes against three interceptions.

For the season, Flacco has passed for 3,111 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

“You don’t have a choice,” Flacco said. “You have to move on to the next game. We had a lot of fun playing the way we did.”

Flacco’s chemistry with Rice, who leads the team with 68 receptions for 652 yards, has provided a major boost to the offense.

"I know where he is and he seems to be able to find my eyes and do those kinds of things," Flacco said. "And whenever you have that kind of guy, and you have that little connection with the guy, it really helps you, because they’ve got everyone covered downfield and you know you can have trust in that guy to go get a first down."

Ravens tight end Todd Heap said the team wasn’t concerned about Flacco’s confidence level after throwing just two touchdowns with six interceptions over the previous five games.

"Joe knows how to play this game and what he needs to do," Heap said. "I don’t think he ever lacks for any confidence. I don’t think he’ll ever let himself get shaken after a game like last week and he showed that.”

STARTING DEBUT: With left offensive tackle Jared Gaither a surprise scratch due to a foot injury, the Ravens shifted rookie Michael Oher over to left tackle and installed Oniel Cousins into the lineup at right tackle for the first time.


It marked the first start of his NFL career, and Cousins seemed to have a solid game with some physical blocks to help spring running back Ray Rice for a career-high 166 rushing yards.


“I thought I did some good things in there, some things you always want to do better and improve,” Cousins said. “I thought I did well for the most part. I’m glad we got the win and I felt good going out there. I just wanted to do my part and try to help.”


Known more for his temper displayed in a series of practice fights than his blocking skills, the former third-round pick from Texas-El Paso advanced in his development.


“I’m always trying to get better,” Cousins said. “I think I took a step in improvement.”


The entire offensive line upgraded its play after allowing a total of eight sacks over the previous two games.


“It was huge,” Harbaugh said. “Oniel has worked very hard. For him to step in and play the way he did and to have a physical presence like he had, of course the rest of the guys, too, the offensive line was probably the key on offense. No doubt.”


Once again, Oher made a smooth transition back to left tackle.


“It’s a very difficult thing to do,” he said. “You get used to one position and then you’ve got to go over there and play left tackle. They’re very different. It’s not easy.”


Left offensive guard Ben Grubbs struggled markedly against the Packers, beaten repeatedly at the point of attack in Green Bay.


This time, he didn’t have any problems.


“We didn’t skip a beat,” he said. “We know if we want to win the offensive line has to play well. We came up short a few games, but we knew what we had to do.”


And blocking for Rice lends itself to a fired-up offensive line.


“It’s exciting,” Grubbs said. “Ray has talent and he’s been doing that all year. He makes our job a lot easier when he’s back there making the cuts and setting up blocks for us.”


RETURN OF WILLIS: Running back Willis McGahee rushed for 76 yards on 12 carries, his second-highest rushing total this year.


He also scored two touchdowns on runs of six and 19 yards. He has 50 touchdowns for his career, leading the team with 11 scores this year.


“I’m still alive,” he said. “The horse is in the stable. I’m a derby horse. When you come to me, I can make it happen. When you don’t come to me, I can’t make it happen.”


McGahee averaged 6.3 yards per carry.


McGahee said he wouldn’t have minded if Rice had stayed in the game after rushing for a career-high 166 yards before exiting early in the third quarter.


“I was all for him staying in, getting that Pro Bowl vote, making it known you’ve got to make a statement in order for people to realize that you’ve been doing a lot,” McGahee said. “So, I was happy for him.”


INJURY UPDATE: The Ravens were also missing free safety Ed Reed (strained groin, foot) and wide receiver Mark Clayton (knee, tweaked hamstring).

Clayton was noncommittal on whether he’ll be able to play next week against the Chicago Bears.

“We pretty much know what’s going on,” he said. “We have a plan to get me back to playing soon.”

Rice (chest) and wide receiver Kelley Washington (ankle) left the game and didn’t return. Neither injury is regarded as serious.

With Reed out for the second game in a row, safety Tom Zbikowski started his second consecutive game and recorded his second interception.

“I’ve gotten what every backup or special-teams player can ask for: an opportunity,” Zbikowski said. “You’ve just got to make the best of it when you get in there.”

Nose guard Kelly Gregg didn’t have any problems with his shoulder stinger.


“I’m doing all right,” he said. “It feels pretty good. I probably would’ve felt like crap if we lost.”


QUICK HITS: Besides Gaither, Reed and Clayton, the Ravens deactivated third quarterback John Beck, offensive lineman David Hale (concussion), tight end L.J. Smith (sprained ankle), nose guard Brandon McKinney (back) and defensive tackle Kelly Talavou. … The Lions deactivated rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford (separated non-throwing shoulder), defensive back Jahi Word-Daniels, fullback Jerome Felton, center Melvin Fowler, offensive tackle Corey Hilliard, tight end Casey FitzSimmons, defensive tackle Andre Fluellen and defensive end Dewayne White.  … Promoted to the active roster Saturday after spending the entire season on the practice squad and last season on injured reserve, wide receiver Justin Harper saw his first regular-season action. He didn’t catch any passes, but contributed on special teams. “It felt really good,” he said. “I’ve been waiting since last year. It’s all about taking advantage of your opportunities. It felt really good to get out there and run around.” … After being flagged a season-high 12 times in Green Bay, the Ravens were only penalized five times for 50 yards. There were only nine penalties total. “They allowed both teams to play,” said wide receiver Derrick Mason, who caught a game-high five passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. “There was some pushing and shoving, but it didn’t get out of hand. The penalties slow the game down and the fans get irritated, especially if there are bad calls. For the most part, those guys did a good job.” … Quarterback Troy Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, said he voted for Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Ingram won the award Saturday night. Smith said his second-place vote went to Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and his third-place vote went to Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. … Smith rushed for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter on a quarterback keeper. “They set an edge for me to run around,” he said. “We took advantage of it.” … Lion running back Kevin Smith was carted off the field after suffering a gruesome knee injury. It’s expected to be a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament with tests scheduled for today.  “I wanted to stop and make a cut, but my knee got stuck and I felt a lot of pain,” he said. “I knew I was hurt pretty badly right away. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt.” … The Ravens’ game captains were offensive Marshal Yanda, punter Sam Koch, defensive tackle Justin Bannan and middle linebacker Ray Lewis. … Inactive for several games, outside linebacker Antwan Barnes registered his first sack of the season. … Former Baltimore coach Brian Billick will call a Ravens game for the first time as he’ll work next week’s game against the Bears for FOX.


Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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