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A Rivalry Like No Other

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The Ravens v. Steelers Rivalry

If I could use one word to describe #RavensFlock these days it would be tepid. Despite the Ravens being the No. 1 seed in the AFC at the moment, fans are just a little unsure of what to expect from the team moving forward and that diminishes the collective enthusiasm over the team’s accomplishments to date. The Ravens aren’t playing with any consistency. They are however resourceful – finding ways to win. But peering over the Ravens shoulder are three clubs that are gaining momentum, namely the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and AFC North rival, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Where the balance of the season goes is anyone’s guess. I can’t recall another season during which no team seemed regularly dominant and that as they say, is just the way the NFL likes it. The mystery of uncertainty heightens fan engagement.

But back to the Ravens for a moment, perhaps the most unsettling thing isn’t all of the injuries or the daunting balance of the 2021 regular season schedule. The most worrisome aspect of the team until proven otherwise, is the inconsistency of Lamar Jackson. Since his Superman-like performance during the comeback win against the Colts on Monday Night Football, Lamar has started five games, throwing 7 TD passes and 9 interceptions to the tune of a 71.4 passer rating. That’s a substantive sample size and it is cause for concern.

[Related Article: Lamar is Not Seeing The Entire Field]

Meanwhile the defense has shown signs of improvement and they will soon get a few players back to provide additional reinforcements. If Lamar returns to form and the defense continues their positive trajectory, perhaps one day a couple of months from now after some postseason success, we’ll all be sitting here remembering the mountain of adversity the team has navigated, wondering, “How the hell did they do it?

Time to Move On, But…

Before we close the book on the Browns, these Tweets are eye-opening…

News & Notes

• Dating back to 2018, the Ravens have produced the NFL’s best record in the month of December, going (13-2). The Ravens have won 12 of their past 13 December games, including four straight.

• Baltimore has won an NFL-best six games that have been decided by 8-or-fewer points this season (6-1 in such contests). The Ravens are also (4-0) in games that have been decided by 3-or-fewer points in 2021.

• Part of their success in close games can be attributed to the excellence of Justin Tucker. JT has made 55 consecutive fourth-quarter/OT FGAs. His 95.0 career FG% in the second half/OT (153-of-161), ranks as the NFL’s best such mark of all time. With 39 more points this season Tucker will be the first kicker in NFL history to reach 130 points in six consecutive seasons. He is seven field goals shy of reaching 30 field goals in a season. He already owns the NFL record for the most seasons with 30+ field goals made (6).

Rivalry Connections

We are all familiar with the intensity of the Ravens/Steelers rivalry. And as per usual, there are connections between the teams. Alejandro Villanueva will face his former team for the first time; WR Coach Tee Martin, a quarterback out of the University of Tennessee, was drafted by the Steelers in the 5th-round of the 2000 NFL Draft, 163rd overall (36 picks ahead of Tom Brady); Chris Wormley, the Ravens 3rd-round pick in 2017, is the Steelers starting LDE. He has 32 tackles and 2 ½ sacks so far this season.

And then of course there’s LJ Fort who the Ravens have missed this season. He’s an invaluable special teams contributor and would probably be playing alongside Patrick Queen if not for a season-ending knee injury. Fort played for the Steelers a few years ago and was among the Pittsburgh players who once gathered on the field hoping for a playoff berth that didn’t come because the Ravens beat the Browns, a win sealed by a CJ Mosley interception.

Battle Tested

In sports we’re often prisoners of the moment and recency bias narrows our focus to the short-term. But if we choose to take off the blinders and open our minds to the long-view, what the Ravens are experiencing this season and the obstacles they’ve been forced to overcome, will only make them better. Consider another offseason with a decent amount of cap space and one that includes another 9 draft picks; consider the return of some big-time players from injury. Now mesh that with the battle-tested resiliency of 2021’s experiences. The possibilities are exciting.

The organization’s perseverance hasn’t gone unnoticed on a National scale. Listen in to what Randy Moss, Steve Young and Booger McFarland had to say about the Baltimore franchise on Monday Night Countdown.

NFL officiating, per usual, has been inconsistent. We can all agree on that I’m sure. But think about why we believe that to be the case. Instant. Replay. The coaches see it. The media sees it. Fans see it. And when the call on the field isn’t consistent with what we all see, it leads to frustration. And the solution is so glaringly obvious. Put an official in the booth and let them rule on any questionable call. Forget about all the mumbo jumbo like, “there’s not enough visual evidence to overturn the call on the field”. Just do what’s right for the game!

What an official sees live can’t compare to the visual evidence in slow motion in the booth. Just use the technology and make the call quickly, as they would on the field. This isn’t that difficult. Of course you might find some slacky every now and then who concludes that something like this was a catch.

You probably won’t solve the debate on all questionable calls. Even the Gene Steratore’s of the world disagree with their former colleagues at times. But the current system clearly doesn’t work.

May I Remind You That It’s Rivalry Week?

Several years ago we put this video together to mock the Terrible Towel and stir up the rivalry. Feel free to share!

Years ago before Facebook became a thing, I used to migrate around the tailgate lots and take pictures of fans, hand them one of these cards below and direct them towards a page on our site (then Ravens247.com) called Birdwatcher.

birdwatcher

I found the young girl below in Lot A. I’m going to guess that this was about 15 years ago. If anyone recognizes her, please hit me up at TL@russellstreetreport.com. I’d love to send her a token of appreciation for the timeless picture.

rivalry

Time has a way of healing wounds. I’m sure you recall the days when Ed Reed and Hines Ward used to go at it. Now, they seem like long lost pals. Check out this 2 minute video of Ward giving Ed a tour around Heinz Field.

He’s No Terrible Tomlin

I’m not sure about you all, but I rather enjoy Mike Tomlin’s pressers. Here he gives a brief rivalry preview of the upcoming game between the Ravens and Steelers.

I won’t pull punches here. Chase Claypool, albeit a good receiver, is a clown. Last season after the Steelers beat the Ravens on November 1, Claypool shared this nugget:

By the time the Steelers reached (11-0) in 2020, “her” visited the Steelers on five consecutive weeks ending with Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey sharing a few tears on the Steelers bench after being waxed by the Browns on Wild Card Weekend. If only Claypool (of tears) had joined them. Since this Tweet posted, the Steelers are (9-10-1). “Her” revisits often.

This season the Notre Dame graduate had another idea spark in his golden dome. He wants to liven up Steelers’ practices.

“We have music in warm-ups and that, so it’s fun. People are dancing, having fun. So I think maybe music would make practice more fun and little more up tempo.” Maybe Chase should invest in a SkateWorld franchise?

When asked about Claypool’s idea, Mike Tomlin’s response was a classic…

Speaking of classics, I’m not sure if you all are familiar with Pittsburgh Dad. He’s a parody of a Steelers fan and is quite entertaining. Here’s his latest following the Bengals beatdown of the black and yellow…

It’s The Holiday Season

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving with loved ones and that the upcoming Holidays are joyous for everyone. At this time of year, drives around town with my bride are accompanied by Sirius XM channels featuring Christmas music – like Holly and the Hallmark Channel among others. So, in deference to my wife, I will share some of my favorite Christmas song videos in the Ravens Town Tavern through the New Year. To kick things off, let’s start with this classic.

Music Fanimal

In this episode we sit down with Vertigo Red. They may as well call them Vertigo Red HOT because this band is smokin’! We touch down on the band’s influences, their experiences on the Love Boat…sort of. Why they ditched some dude lead singer for a hot girl, plus they perform three tracks, one each from A Star is Born, Amy Winehouse and Maren Morris. You are going to want to watch this. Trust me…I know these things…

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…even if you’re on California time. Pour yourself a beverage, hook us up to your best sound system and kick back. A splendid time is guaranteed for all…

Get Back

The Beatles, for my money are by far the best band of all-time. They were pioneers, breaking down doors in America and paving the way to the British Invasion after which, music changed forever. They were trend-setters in style and in fashion and in many ways spokespersons in the 60’s for millions worldwide. But for me, the two things that set them apart from every band before or since are:

1. They, more than any other recording act, inspired more artists to become musicians, and it’s not even close; and

2. The depth, range and volume of work they created beginning in 1963 and ending in 1969, is unprecedented.

Think about this. On January 18, 1964, I Want to Hold Your Hand hit No. 1 in the States. Five years later they were in the studio recording and composing songs that would appear on Let it Be and Abbey Road. In between, they pushed the boundaries of recording and composition with LP’s like Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Consider their rapid progression in song composition and craftsmanship in such a short period of time.

Volume, quality and range in six years.

Mind. Blown.

A couple of months after The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper their manager Brian Epstein died on August 27, 1967 from an accidental overdose. The band had no real business acumen. Their talents were grounded in creating and playing music. John Lennon outwardly expressed that he thought the band was finished after Epstein’s death. Paul McCartney thought otherwise.

Paul assumed the role of musical director. He pushed the band forward, encouraging each member to continue to evolve. As the only single member of the band living in the swinging city of London while the others domiciled with their families in the suburbs, McCartney’s ambition propelled The Beatles forward. The rest of the band begrudgingly obliged, albeit with some intermittent pushback.

Five months after the release of Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles had Magical Mystery Tour ready to hit record stores. Six months later, the band started work on their next project, a stripped down, back to basics production devoid of the studio wizardry they mastered on Pepper. Instead of the complicated and colorful album jacket with imaginative titles, the name of their next LP would be simply, “The Beatles” and presented in a completely white jacket. Unsurprisingly, the album would become popularly known as The White Album.

The recording of The White Album, a double LP, was completed on October 18, 1968 and released in November of ’68. Just two months later, The Beatles prepared to take on their next project, but with a different twist. The making of their next album would be caught on film, capturing the band writing, developing and rehearsing brand new material which would later be performed live. That live performance would become their next album. It was a great concept that never came to fruition due to the incredible time constraints and creative pressures placed upon them – some of which were self-inflicted.

Click here for the rest of the Get Back story.

Great Stocking Stuffers

Our friends at Sporticulture are offering some great items and deals in time for the Holidays. Take a lap around their site and pick out a few really cool stocking stuffers for that special sports fan in your family. Be sure to use the code below to get 30% off!

Jimmy V

Prior to jumping in as an online publisher, my livelihood was rooted in commercial finance. Essentially, I worked with financial officers of capital intensive companies and provided them with alternative ways to finance their essential use equipment. The job required some travel and our marketing group met annually in various locations to celebrate the close and the accomplishments of one fiscal year and to kick off the next. Oftentimes, we would have a guest speaker.

A couple of times meetings were held at Amelia Island outside of Jacksonville.

During one of our breakout sessions I had to run out and make a phone call. In those days we often used pay phones and long distance calling cards while out of town. You might remember how expensive cell phones once were.

So one day I’m at this pay phone talking to a customer and behind me I hear a familiar voice. When I finished my call I turned around to see the smiling face of Jim Valvano. He finished his call almost simultaneously and he asked who I was at the conference center with. I explained that I was with Bell Atlantic Capital and a bit about what I did. Jimmy explained that he was there as a guest speaker for a company that I now can’t recall.

After a few other pleasantries, we shook hands, he introduced himself (like he really needed to) and I shared my name. “Tony Lombardi”, he enthusiastically repeated after me. “Nice to meet you paesan!”

And that was that. Jimmy V was as you would expect him to be – down to Earth and an obvious lover of life.

On Wednesday night, I watched Jimmy V’s speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards. I’ve seen it many times as I’m sure you have as well. It is riveting and the message never gets old. And when I hear him tell his Vince Lombardi story and the way he says, “Lombardi” it takes me back to that random encounter at the pay phone with the great Jim Valvano.

He was a blessing to our world and with his foundation and this speech, he’ll live among us always.

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