I can’t believe I’m writing this. But after suffering through that staggering
loss, uh, win on MNF, I’ve reevaluated what I think of the Ravens recent play, and how they will do in the playoffs. Never has a 9-4 team looked so bad. I thought I was watching two separate teams in the 1st and 2nd halves. Actually, Matt Schaub had the Ravens’ defense figured out by the end of the first half when he drove the Texans for a touchdown that made the score 21-7, we just didn’t know it yet. The offense, to use a term from ESPN’s Mike Tirico, went into the Witness Protection Program in the second half, and the defense was blitzed for close to 400 yards by Schaub. We heard the usual tripe from the players and coaches after the game, such as “A win is a win,” “We know we have to improve,” “We’re not where we want to be.” Well, as a friend of mine likes to say, Blah, Blah, Blah. We’ve all heard enough. There’s not much good to write about the game except the final score. Here goes:
Special Teams: It looks like the Ravens have finally settled on two reliable returners for kickoffs and punts. Ladarius Webb and David Reed both did an excellent job Monday night. Billy Cundiff continues to boom kickoffs for touchbacks. Sam Koch is the unsung hero of the evening for keeping the Texans bottled up deep in their own end on possession changes (at lot of good it did). But that 58 yard punt inside the Houston 10, which eventually caused Matt Schaub to throw that errant pass from the end zone, in all likelihood, saved the game for the Ravens.
I don’t know where to begin here. The offense went to sleep in the second half and Matt Schaub provided a fresh blueprint to opponents on how to take the Ravens defense apart. 62 total yards of offense in the second half? 393 yards passing given up by the defense? Come on! I’m hoping it was just the usual case of the Ravens’ Dome-itis, but I don’t think so. Coaching? Coordinators? (my favorite) Players? Missing Jared Gaither? Loss of Focus? Out of Shape? Maybe all of the above. Getting snarly and uncooperative with locker room reporters isn’t the answer, either. Something has to change, and in a hurry.
Around the Ravens and Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets
Not a Question of If, Just a Matter of When : You knew this was coming…..Wearing a T-shirt that read “I love keeping it real,” the Cincinnati Inquirer reports that reality TV star and alleged wideout Terrell Owens blasted the Bengals brass on the Versus Channel’s “The T.Ocho Show” for the team’s dreadful record. He made a passing attempt to lay some blame on the players, but then blamed the player’s performance back on the coaches. “You start off with the owner, you start off with the coaches, and obviously we as players. We are a product of what the coaches are doing……Of course we have to go out there and play the game but in order for us to do what we’re allowed to do at the best of our ability the coaches have to put the players in the best position.”
My take: TO was in the “best position” when he short armed or flat out missed a couple of passes during the Steelers loss on Sunday. Carson Palmer is bad enough, and he doesn’t need any help from you. Et tu, TO.
Some Things Never Change: Watching the game at Reckless Ric’s, the CBS feed switched long enough to see Kyle Boller spell the Raiders’ Jason Campbell for a series. Yes fans, Kyle is still in the league, but hasn’t attempted a pass since September in an exhibition game. Boller completed a pass for 20 yards putting the Raiders in Jaguars territory with a chance of scoring, but his next pass was intercepted by the Jags. 1 for 3, 20 yards, 1 interception. Drive killed. We coulda told ya.
The Strange Case of Sal Alosi just gets stranger. Every fan has seen two videos this week – the “deflation” of the Metrodome roof and the infamous trip of Dolphins special teamer and ex-Terp Nolan Carroll by Jets assistant coach Sal Alosi. First he apologetically admitted to an unthinking brain cramp. Then Jets investigators learned that it was a premeditated act in which Alosi coerced several inactive players to build a human wall on the sidelines to impede the movement of the Dolphins defensive back. Alosi admitted that he ordered the players to block Carroll so he would be forces to run around them. Some in the media think others in the Jets locker room, higher up the food chain, at least tacitly approved this ploy. Given that the team is the attention-driven Jets, and the head coach is Rex Ryan, I’m not surprised.
For a Minute, I Thought the Pope Died. The Vikings’ decision to deactivate Brett Favre sent ESPN into their usual, over-the-top spin doctoring. I was half-expecting the background, tinkling piano music signifying that someone important in sports had passed on. It pushed a very exciting Ravens-Texans game right off the top of the Sports Center highlights board and 30 minutes into the broadcast.
Labor Agreement Update: There is none, because there have been no contract talks. Forget what anyone, or either side, is saying. Under 90 days until the lockout. Probability: now >95%.
Ray Lewis recently said that the Ravens defense was elite and is on par with the 2000 Super Bowl unit. Joe Flacco considers himself an “elite” quarterback. No on both counts. The only difference is that Joe may eventually get there, but the 2000 Raven defense would never, ever, give up touchdown drives of 95 and 99 yards, especially to a sub .500 team.
Some good things happened over the weekend. Miami did us a huge favor Sunday night by upsetting the Jets. For now, we own the 5th seed due to the tie breaker. I’ll be pulling for the Jets this Sunday in Pittsburgh but I’m not hopeful. Kansas City and San Diego are beating each other up, and the Jags and Colts will play for the AFC South crown this Sunday. Another good thing: Pittsburgh is truly only marginally better than the Ravens. They beat the Bengals by 16 points last Sunday, but the offense did not score a touchdown. Maybe they will get taken down a peg before the playoffs.
The Ravens are 9-4 with a reputed 91% chance of making the playoffs. But to be sure, the Ravens must win 2 of their last 3 games, all the while keeping an eye on the pretenders in the AFC South and West. My sense is that only one team from each division will make the show (San Diego and Indianapolis have the easiest schedules) but that means the Ravens will visit one of those cities in the Wild Card round if they remain a lower seed. Not a pleasant proposition. I much prefer Jacksonville or Kansas City.
If fans think what Schaub and the Texans did to the Ravens Monday night was bad, wait until Drew Brees draws a ‘Bead’ on the Ravens defense. The Saints are 3rd overall in offense, 3rd in passing, and 22nd in rushing, which only means the Saints are too busy passing to run the ball. The Saints are ranked 6th overall in defense which doesn’t bode well for the Ravens’ Jekyll and Hyde offense. One thing for sure, you won’t see Brees throw stupid passes out of the end zone and into coverage. Weather may help the Ravens, but don’t count on it. Final telling stat: The Ravens have lost a 4th quarter lead in 8 of their 13 games. In Sunday’s contest, they’ll be lucky to be leading at all with 15 minutes left. Until they play at a high level for 60 minutes, something they haven’t done all year, I’m a doubter. I think its Bombs Away, gang.
Saints 31 Ravens 24
Note: All stats courtesy of NFL.com and the baltimoresun.com