Two years ago, the Ravens went to Sports Authority Field at Mile High with a fresh new Lombardi Trophy in hand, and the revenge-minded Denver Broncos put a whipping on them, with Peyton Manning throwing seven touchdown passes in a 49-27 win. This time around, both teams again have Super Bowl hopes after being disposed of in the divisional round last year – the Ravens by the Patriots and the Broncos by the Colts. Speaking of New England, they beat Pittsburgh the other night, so the Ravens, Browns, and Bengals all already have a half-game lead on last year’s AFC North winners before they even take the field.
The long wait is finally over. Everybody ready for some football?
Let’s look at this week’s stats, quotes, and more, in our weekly Crab Bag.
KNOW THY ENEMY
MMQB.com’s Andy Benoit on QB Joe Flacco:
“Joe Flacco is the most underappreciated quarterback in football—by far. He’s an elite superstar blessed with all the physical traits you look for: size, arm strength, precision accuracy, and even mobility. … Flacco is also cerebral, which shows in the way he identifies and picks apart defensive zones. … Flacco’s biggest problem is one of perception, because he comes across as bland. But if you listen to what he says and not how he says it, you realize that he’s thoughtful, refreshingly honest and eloquent—yet he continues to get overlooked and underestimated. Maybe that will change this season during Super Bowl 50 Media Day. If all goes right, that’s where his Ravens will end up.”
NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison on ranking head coach John Harbaugh No. 3 on his list of NFL head coaches:
“Harbaugh’s run in Baltimore rivals that of the best coaches of all time. While it might be hard to think of him in such lofty terms, consider that the Ravens have made the postseason in six of Harbaugh’s seven seasons at the helm, nabbing a Lombardi Trophy in the 2012 season, to boot. He’s also 10-5 all time in the playoffs.”
ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley on G Marshal Yanda:
“Yanda is playing as well as he’s ever played in his eight-season NFL career. He’s a mauling run blocker and steady pass protector. Yanda is a leader by example and is one of the most respected players on the team because of his toughness. … Even though Yanda will turn 31 a couple of weeks into the regular season, there is little concern of Yanda wearing down. He is among the most dependable players on the Ravens, and he’s played 99.4 percent of the Ravens’ snaps the past two seasons.”
John Harbaugh on WR Steve Smith Sr. still practicing hard, even in his final NFL season:
“He’s going to force you to practice every single day, or he’s going to humiliate you. It’s as simple as that. He’s going to force you to bring your A-game, or you’re going to look really bad. And he doesn’t apologize for that.”
The Washington Post’s Mark Maske on the Ravens’ 2014 playoff run and their 2015 roster:
“It was the Ravens … who were the primary obstacle to [Tom] Brady and the Patriots in their run through last season’s AFC playoffs. The Ravens suffered some significant offseason losses, but the league’s best general manager, Ozzie Newsome, undoubtedly has assembled another contending roster.”
GETTING TO KNOW YOU ~ Q&A with Elvis Dumervil
You (17) and Terrell Suggs (12) had the most combined sacks for an NFL duo in 2014. Describe your on-the-field relationship.
“We’re like brothers. He makes a play, then I want to make a play. When I make a play, he wants to make a play. You’ve got two guys who love getting sacks, and it creates that synergy, which is good for the Ravens.”
You tied a career high and set a Ravens’ record with 17 sacks last season. What are your personal and team goals in 2015?
“I know if I have a great year, it makes our chances to go to the Super Bowl even greater, and that’s why we play the game – to win the Super Bowl.”
Beginning your 10th NFL season, what motivates you to consistently perform at the highest level?
“Being drafted in the fourth round after leading the league in sacks throughout my college years does. I still don’t get it. You’ve got guys who are first-round [selections] who have five sacks and get drafted off potential. My thought process has always been productivity over potential. So, my goal is to establish that year-in and year-out.”
If you could play in any era of the NFL, which would it be?
“The ‘70s. There were less rules, and it just seemed like a fun era.”
Why has it been important for you to become involved in the Baltimore community since joining the Ravens?
“I think it is important. If you can give back and impact people’s lives – and use your platform to do so – it does a great justice to society and enables people to change their future. We’ve been blessed through this game and to get paid the way we do. You never want to take that for granted.”
If you had the attention of every kid in America, what would you say?
“Give your best. Never quit. Whatever you start, make sure you finish it. And, prayer goes a long way.”
Away from football, how would you describe yourself?
“I try to be fair with everybody, treat people as I want to be treated and just be trustworthy. I think that’s important.”
You have 122 sacks throughout college (32) and the NFL (90). Is there a most memorable one?
“They all feel great. A sack is a sack.”
Which current Raven… Hits hardest?
“It’s between Terrence Brooks and Courtney Upshaw.”
Is the toughest?
Works hardest in the weight room?
Is the most competitive in practice?
Is most likely to be an NFL head coach?
Is most likely to be an NFL analyst?
“Steve Smith [Sr.]”
HEY, YOU LOOK FAMILIAR! ~ Key Connections
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak served as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator in 2014. With Kubiak leading the charge, Baltimore set single-season franchise records by scoring 409 points and producing 5,838 yards. Baltimore also averaged the NFL’s eighth-most points per game (25.6), 12th-most yards per game (364.9) and eighth-most rushing yards per contest (126.2).
Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach during the 2014 campaign. Under Dennison’s guidance, QB Joe Flacco finished the 2014 season with career highs in yards (3,986) and TD passes (27).
During the 2014 season, Broncos tight ends coach Brian Pariani held the same position with the Ravens.
Broncos assistant special teams coach Tony Coaxum spent the 2014 season as the Ravens’ STs coaching intern, assisting Ravens special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg.
Ravens ILBs coach Don Martindale served as the Broncos’ LBs coach during the 2009 season, when he helped Denver’s defense rank seventh in the NFL in yards allowed (315.0 ypg). Martindale was later promoted to defensive coordinator for Denver’s 2010 campaign.
Ravens OLB Elvis Dumervil was selected by Denver in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Dumervil played six seasons for the Broncos (2006-12) and earned three Pro Bowl nods (2009, 2011-12). He currently ranks fourth on the Broncos’ all-time sacks list with 63.5 quarterback drops. In 2009, Dumervil led the NFL in sacks with a career-high-tying and then-franchise-record 17 QB drops for Denver.
In his lone season with Baltimore in 2014, Broncos TE Owen Daniels hauled in 48 receptions for 527 yards and 4 TDs.
Broncos S Darian Stewart played for Baltimore in 2014. He saw action in 16 games (14 starts), recording 53 tackles, 4 PD, 1 FF and 1 INT.
Ravens director of player engagement Harry Swayne played tackle for the Broncos from 1997-98. Swayne earned his first two Super Bowl rings with Denver and then another as a player in Baltimore (2000).
Ravens OLB Za’Darius Smith’s brother, Bob Meeks, played center for the Broncos from 1992-94.
Broncos EVP of football operations/general manager John Elway was selected by the Baltimore Colts with the first-overall pick of the 1983 draft. The Colts then traded Elway to Denver on May 2, 1983.
LAUGH OF THE WEEK AT EXPENSE OF RAVENS’ OPPONENT