Monday, November 30, 2009

To say the Ravens are slow starters is an understatement

If you think the Ravens are pretty predictable on their first offensive possession, then you would be absolutely correct!

I thought Ray Rice would take a handoff and go relatively nowhere to start the game for Cam Cameron’s unit. Unfortunately I was right – Ray Rice up the middle for a gain of 1. Too familiar if you ask me!

Yesterday I did something that I rarely do – I stayed at home and watched the game.

No section 107 seat, no press box, just my living room.

And I must admit that there are certain advantages to that viewing chair. I can rewind, freeze, slo-mo and all of the wonderful amenities provided by my DVR. I can also access the internet on more than one computer if I choose. So gifting away my tickets to my son and his friend had its privileges.

With that in mind I decided to do a little surfing on to see what Cameron has called in each of the team’s 11 games on the very first play of the game.

The 11 snaps in question have produced 26 yards, i.e. 2.36 yards per play.

Three of those plays were passes, one of which was incomplete. Those three plays produced 21 yards or seven yards per throw.

The eight running plays have produced 5 yards – FIVE (that’s 0.63 yards/carry if you are keeping score)! Four of those yards were churned by Joe Flacco on a scramble. So that leaves seven plays from running backs producing 1 yard – ONE! (If you are still scoring this, that’s 0.14 yards/carry.)

Now over the course of the last 6 games, Ray Rice has been the ball carrier on the Ravens’ first offensive play 6 consecutive times. Those 6 runs have produced minus 1 yard.

Think it’s time for a change?
Photo by Sabina Moran

The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox

THE GOOD: Joe Flacco wasn’t great…yes he needs to finish his deep throws – the 54 yard completion to Mark Clayton should have been a touchdown. And yes he missed some throws badly, looking a bit skittish at times in the face of a brutal Steelers’ pass rush. But to register a 100+ QB rating against a tough defense without throwing a pick despite 5 sacks and constant pressure qualifies as a good performance in my book…Speaking of Clayton, he stepped up and got involved early. His fumble aside the oft-criticized wideout made some plays in the passing game and with a little more pass protection, he may have hauled in another deep ball for a score. He found the separation that had been missing from his game…The running attack was very solid against the league’s top ranked rushing defense. The 3-headed monster put up 132 yards against a stingy team that had yielded less than 70 such yards per contest prior to last night…Haloti Ngata was stout against the run and contributed on offense at the goal line with a crushing block paving the way for the Willis McGahee’s TD run in the first quarter…NEWSFLASH: Chris Carr can return punts. Let’s hope this was a building block for him and not simply an indictment upon the Steelers’ subpar punt coverage…Paul Kruger’s interception had me wondering if he could play tight end. The game changing catch had to have impressed Todd Heap…Dwan Edwards, 8 tackles and sheer hustle. The man has a motor and is arguably the team’s most improved defender…Lardarius Webb is looking like the real deal. Another year of coaching and an offseason in the weight room, this guy could be in line for a trip across the pond in February, 2011.

THE BAD: Some Ravens need to play smarter and not let the adrenalin take over their minds. Tom Zbikowski and Ngata at times got caught up in the heat of the moment and it cost the team penalty yards. Ngata is a repeat offender and he needs to reel it in…Ray Lewis looked very pedestrian shedding blocks and when teams run right at him…The Ravens missed tackles, Chris Carr and Jarret Johnson come to mind…Tavares Gooden needs to contain. He gets washed out inside the tackles too often…Ben Grubbs allowed Lawrence Timmons to come in untouched for a sack while Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice each missed blocking assignments failing to pick up blitzing backers…Greg Mattison was outcoached and didn’t take advantage of Dennis Dixon’s inexperience. The all-out blitz that he dialed up that resulted in Dixon’s waltz into the end zone forced the former Duck to his strength – his right, and not against his body. I’ll give Mattison a pass on the lack of containment on that play and say that a player blew an assignment…John Harbaugh mismanaged timeouts again. His team should have been ready to go on fourth and 5 after the 17 yard completion on third down. Had they failed on the fourth down conversion, Harbaugh would have had only 1 timeout to save his offense some time on the clock.

THE UGLY: Penalties on returns negated great field position too often…Domonique Foxworth was owned by Santonio Holmes. Had Ben Roethlisberger started, it would have been sub-ugly…The blitz on Dixon’s TD run…Chris Collinsworth supporting a very ticky-tacky defensive holding call against Haloti Ngata. The flag seemed almost premeditated. Can’t Troy Aikman take Collinsworth’s place?

THE MEGAN FOX: Ray Rice, the man makes something out of nothing and chipped in with 155 yards of offense against a tough, amped up Steelers defense. His catch and run on the fourth down conversion with 3 minutes and change left in the game was really the pivotal play of the game.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NFL Injury reports can be deceiving

NFL injury reports list four categories: Probable; Questionable; Doubtful and Out. Conventional thinking suggests that Probable equates to a 75% chance of a player playing, Questionable 50%, Doubtful 25% and Out 0%.

However, a study of injury reports over the past 10 years conducted by the Ravens front office kicks such conventional thinking to the curb. What they have discovered at the Castle in Owings Mills is that while the traditional barometers may intend to gauge the probability of an injured player playing, the actual results are far different.

Players listed as Probable suited up 95% of the time; Questionable 53%; Doubtful 7% and Out 1%.

Fantasy ballers and those inclined to wager should take note…

Don't count on Suggs playing v. Pittsburgh

John Harbaugh has shown a great deal of gamesmanship when it comes to Ravens injuries and addressing questions about the physical well being of his team. He consistently serves up empty answers and such questions regarding the team’s highest paid player are no exception.

Harbaugh insists that Suggs status is week to week and somewhere in his words of nothingness you will hear something about him being hopeful that Suggs will play against the (fill in the blank) and then we’ll get, “We’ll find out on Sunday.”

If Suggs plays on Sunday against the Steelers I will be borderline shocked. No one in the Ravens’ camp is providing anything definitive about Suggs’ injury but the body language and between the lines reading suggests that he will miss 3+ games.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ravens v. Colts: The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox

The Good: The Ravens defense stepped up after a shaky start and forced three turnovers. They did a nice job of keeping Peyton Manning off balance and at times they were in his head. A often criticized secondary held their own and outside of a blown coverage in the end zone, they kept the dangerous Dallas Clark under wraps…Ray Rice chipped in with another 100+ yard effort from the line of scrimmage (135 yards) and Derrick Mason, despite a drop had a solid game (9 catches, 142 yards). The two combined for 277 of the team’s 354 net yards of offense…John Harbaugh’s challenge following Lardarius Webb’s fumble on the Ravens’ initial kick return changed the game’s momentum in a big way. Replays were hardly conclusive and there didn’t seem to be enough evidence to overturn the fumble called on the field. Despite the odds, Harbaugh got his way…Ray Lewis’ hit on Santi at the 1 to force the fumble/turnover…Billy Cundiff’s overall effort, 5 of 6 FGA’s…Sam Koch’s hands, among the best in the business as a kick holder. He has bailed out long snapper Matt Katula regularly during the 2009 campaign. Sunday was no exception.

The Bad: Joe Flacco had plenty of time to throw most of the afternoon yet seemed to continually lock in on Derrick Mason or check down prematurely to Ray Rice. He also delivered the ball late to Derrick Mason on no less than three occasions. Flacco is far too dependent upon Rice and Mason. Twenty-six of his 34 throws were intended for one or the other…Cam Cameron’s short yardage sub packages are very subpar. He needs to utilize his roster better and take advantage of size matchups when they present themselves. The inability to score a touchdown after a first and goal from the 1 is inexcusable…Chris Chester doesn’t generate any offensive push. It’s time to replace him with Marshal Yanda…Ray Lewis, your jock is still on the 1 yard line following Joseph Addai’s 5 yard TD run…The run support from the Ravens’ corners and nickel backs was awful.

The Ugly: Haloti Ngata’s unnecessary personal foul cost the Ravens field position. Instead of a 2nd and 17 from the Ravens 48 the Colts were handed a first and 10 at the Ravens 33 leading to a Matt Stover 25 yard field goal. Those 15 yards and the down ultimately were the difference in the game...Joe Flacco’s interception toss to Gary Bracken was a fundamentally flawed play. He predetermined where he was going with the ball prior to the snap and ignored an open Derrick Mason running an intermediate out. Harbaugh wasted a time out with 2:19 to go and that cost the Ravens 47 seconds on the game clock…The short yard/goal line offense was anemic…Red zone efficiency on offense cost the Ravens dearly and of course, Cundiff’s missed 30 yard FG.

The Megan Fox: It’s not often that Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis go through an entire game without a tackle, sack or quarterback hurry between them but that is exactly what happened on Sunday. The credit goes to Jared Gaither and Michael Oher who combined easily score this week’s Megan Fox Award.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ravens news, notes & an old friend pays a visit

Quarterbacks are so overprotected in today’s NFL that the integrity of the game – the game that the founding fathers of the league envisioned, is now seriously being challenged. NFL analysts have suggested without a trace of sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek intent that quarterbacks should be considered down after a two-handed touch.

Overly inflated fines are being levied by the league for little love taps to the helmet. Just ask Haloti Ngata who made that mistake against league princess Tom Brady.

Now those roles have been reversed.

On Monday Night Football before a national audience (at least those who were enjoying some form of energy drink and were still awake), Brady Quinn took an unnecessary shot at Terrell Suggs knee after Quinn tossed a pass that ended up in the wrong hands – those of Ravens nickel back Chris Carr. The blow will put Suggs on the shelf for at the very minimum 2 weeks but more likely it will be 4+ weeks. The injury puts a serious dent in the Ravens’ playoff chances, a team already struggling to rush the passer.

Cheap, unnecessary, a foul born out of frustration and arguably malicious intent…

Is Suggs’ knee any less valuable than Quinn’s? If Suggs took that shot at Quinn while he was in the pocket and as defenseless as Suggs was on the interception return, wouldn’t he receive a major fine?

Quinn’s fine should be no less.

And he better keep his head on a swivel the next time he shows up at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens lost another valuable contributor to injury on Monday when special teams ace Haruki Nakamura went down on the opening kickoff after suffering a broken ankle. Although no official word has come down yet, Nakamura seems destined for injured reserve which would then free up a roster spot for the Ravens.

Will they promote a practice squad player or might they scour the waiver wire to fill the 53 man roster spot to be vacated by Nakamura?

Here’s a suggestion – Lorenzo Neal.

Cameron's Crew has struggled to find an identity on offense and many have suggested that the team revert back to the three-headed monster approach with Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain. The trouble with that approach is that McClain no longer has the lead blocker that he had in 2008 with Neal.

Granted it is difficult to justify taking carries away from Ray Rice at this point. But if the Ravens are successful at developing an offensive identity and that is one of balance, it may be wise to have the jumbo style backfield to grind it out late in games during the cold, inclement weather months while featuring McClain and Neal. Of course this is all predicated upon Neal being in decent shape.

Even if the Ravens don’t bring back Neal, Cam Cameron would be wise to get the ball in McClain’s hands more frequently. The 2009 Pro Bowl fullback has been very productive as a pass catcher and his efforts with the ball have often moved the chains and sustained drives. If the Ravens can feature McClain as a receiver more, opposing defenses will be forced to assign additional resources to defend him and that could free up slot receivers or tight ends over the middle.

Speaking of tight ends, it is borderline mind boggling how Cam Cameron can’t find a way to get Todd Heap more involved in the offense and producing more explosive plays. Cameron had a high degree of success with Antonio Gates in San Diego and Heap has often represented a mismatch when flanked outside of the tackle box. Equally surprising is Cameron’s inability to incorporate LJ Smith into the game plan. Smith is an athletic receiver and along with Heap they would pressure opposing safeties and linebackers and force defensive coordinators to account for the potentially dangerous duo. That could help free up space on the outside for Joe Flacco who very clearly prefers to throw the ball outside of the hash marks.

Early in the season the Ravens did an excellent job of spreading the ball around on offense. That keeps all players engage, alert and contributing with more enthusiasm. Lately players like Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington have disappeared.

Kelley Washington is a big target who possesses solid hands and athleticism. It’s time the Ravens handed him the No. 2 receiver position over struggling Mark Clayton. Washington’s size is more conducive to throws inside the hash marks and he increases the margin for error. Slightly errant throws like the somewhat high pass to Clayton on a slant against the Browns that should have gone for a touchdown (thank you very much ESPN for the lame replays) would be less challenging for Washington. His size also helps in tight coverage against smaller defenders. Clayton can’t enjoy that kind of advantage because of physical limitations.

Matt Birk seems to be struggling. Word surfaced during the game in Minnesota that his pre-snap movements were tipping pass plays and placing unwelcomed stress on the offensive line. Some have opined that he continues to tip plays. While that could be true, the Ravens offensive line has just played poorly as of late, particularly inside the tackles. Perhaps a line-up change is in order. Marshal Yanda could and should be the next man up.

And finally, the Colts visit Baltimore again on Sunday and the fan experience is almost always surreal. Those of us who were Baltimore Colts fans are still left somewhat breathless when the day’s enemy is wearing the colors we collectively loved. For my money, they are the league’s best uniforms.

Over time, the level of surreal has lessened but this week I expect it to perhaps reach unprecedented levels when Matt Stover takes the field wearing his traditional No. 3 and sporting a horseshoe on his helmet.

A Raven from the beginning, seeing Stover on the visitor’s bench could hurt like hell, particularly if his foot puts a dent in the Ravens’ playoff aspirations.

Hey Ravens fans...curb the enthusiasm

The Ravens offense has scored exactly zero offensive touchdowns in the first half over the course of their last five consecutive games, including a game against the lowly Cleveland Browns whose defense ranks dead last in the league. That is substantive enough data to sound the alarms.

Ravens fans should heed the call.

This week the Ravens will take on the Indianapolis Colts, a team that has taken 6 straight from the good guys. Clearly they have the Ravens’ number and there’s little evidence that exists to suggest the Colts won’t make it seven in a row.

The Ravens have struggled mightily against good quarterbacks and on Sunday they will face arguably the league’s very best in Peyton Manning. The primary culprit for the Ravens failure against the upper echelon signal callers is directly tied to their inability, unwillingness or some combination thereof to place pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Face Kyle Orton and the Ravens unleash the dogs and then convincingly knock off a previously unbeaten team. Go up against Brady Quinn and the Ravens suffocate the Browns and force them to spend the entire game in their own territory en route to a shutout victory. But face Philip Rivers, Brett Favre, Tom Brady or Carson Palmer and the Ravens go conservative, play soft and allow these relative NFL surgeons to carve up their soft white underbelly, aka their secondary.

It’s then that the Ravens are forced to play catch up and that is a daunting task for an offense that looks like the cast of The Living Dead moments after the opening kick cuts through the stadium air.

Playing from behind pushes the Ravens away from balance in their offense and it forces them to throw. Growing increasingly one-dimensional as the games unfold makes speed rushers like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis even more dangerous. It doesn’t take a visionary to picture such contests quickly getting away from the Ravens who lack the explosive players to get them back within striking distance.

To add insult to injury the Ravens will be without the services of their best pass rusher Terrell Suggs for a month or more after absorbing a cheap and unnecessary shot from Brady Quinn.

Where will the pass rush come from?

After Peyton Manning and the Colts (who are remarkably a very slight underdog this week against the Ravens) John Harbaugh’s troops will take on Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers twice within a matter of five weeks. Can you see them jumping out to a quick lead and then turning Messrs. Harrison, Woodley and Timmons loose? That’s about as predictable as an ear to ear grin from Hines Ward after absorbing a big hit.
The post season is clearly in jeopardy.

To get there conventional wisdom suggests that it will take ten wins. That said you may recall that the Patriots were on the outside looking in during the 2008 post season and they finished with 11 wins.

Ten wins for the Ravens is an uphill climb on a slippery slope. Assuming that they can take care of business against the NFC North contingent of the Packers, Lions and Bears plus the dysfunctional Raiders, they will need at least one win during those three contests against the Colts and Steelers.

I just don’t think it’s in the cards. Even if the defense can step up to the challenges presented by Manning and Roethlisberger, Flacco & Co.’s inability to establish any offensive consistency or an identity offers little hope. The uninspired play, the inability to throw the ball between the hash marks and the lack of explosiveness leaves them at risk.

Whatever happened to spreading the ball around, something they did quite successfully early in the season? Did they abandon that or was that early success simply a reflection of the weak defenses they took on during the first three weeks?
The offensive line is now beginning to show weaknesses and they are breaking down regularly. How long before Flacco breaks down – literally?

Some may object to this picture of gloom and doom for a season that once held such high expectations. But for me those high hopes came crashing down after the team’s second loss to the Bengals. That was a brutal and cruel reality check that sent my expectations crumbling. And in a strange way, it had helped me to see this team for what it is – a flawed team that needs another explosive player on both sides of the ball.

A flawed team that at best is only slightly above average.

The epiphany of sorts has helped me to keep my disappointments in check. It helped me to watch the ugliness in Cleveland unfold with no noticeable signs of change in my pulse or blood pressure.

A self-professed lunatic who suffers from football Tourette’s when watching the Ravens is now suddenly a voice of reason.

Go figure…

Maybe you should consider the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ravens shutout Browns: The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox

THE GOOD: Lardarius Webb is a player. He’s explosive and impactful and it’s time he starts to return punts and don’t give me this, “He’s a rookie and we don’t want to overburden him.” It’s as simple as this: Look up in the air, see ball, catch it, run to daylight…Ray Lewis was solid with 7 tackles, a sack, another QB hurry and 2 passes defended…Le’Ron McClain pancaked at least two Browns (David Bowen and Kamerion Wimbley) to spring Ray Rice on a couple of runs plus he made the most of limited touches as a receiver, moving the chains twice…Coverage teams were very solid and they bottled up Josh Cribbs for the most part…Props to Greg Mattison’s unit, they played with intensity and they were fast to the ball. The deepest ending point for any Browns drive was their own 46. Mattie should be as bold against good quarterbacks. They attack the bad ones and play on their heels against good ones…Trevor Pryce is more effective rushing the QB from the defensive tackle position particularly on the weak side. Pryce was able to record a sack on Brady Quinn despite Mattison sending only 3 rushers after the Cleveland QB…The Ravens running game from the shotgun is effective and they should employ it more regularly.

THE BAD: Chris Chester and Ben Grubbs looked lost at times and both erred leading to sacks on Joe Flacco…Cam Cameron’s game plan was suspect again. During the few shots from behind the quarterback that ESPN blessed us with during the broadcast, we could see Ravens receivers blanketed all over the field. ESPN perhaps realizing that the viewing audience would be lame for this unappealing matchup must have spared some expenses. Replays were rather limited and they seemed more interested in trips down memory lane with Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski…Staying with Cameron, when will he start incorporating Todd Heap more into the offensive game plan? Wasn’t the tight end an integral part of his success in San Diego. Seems to me Cameron helped shape a former hoops player into an All-Pro Tight End…Trevor Pryce, your sack celebration is ugly and looks like a seizure…Chris Carr, please retire from returning punts…Joe Flacco, despite what the stat line says (QB rating of 98.1) you looked like a deer in headlights far too often. On a key third down in the second quarter (third and 2) Flacco completely missed seeing a wide open Kelly Washington crossing the middle. Despite all of the emphasis during OTA’s and camp to throw the ball between the hash marks, Flacco still looks uncomfortable doing it…Third down conversions were an embarrassing 4 of 14 against the league’s worst ranked defense…Substitutions were sloppy on both sides of the ball and the Ravens were hit with 2 penalties for too many men on the field…Tavares Gooden suffered another concussion and the bet here is that his propensity for such injuries will unfortunately end his career prematurely despite the promising physical skills if this continues…The coaching staff has to do something to jump start this team early in games, particularly the offense. If they continue to come out this flat against the Colts, Steelers and even the Packers, they can forget postseason play.

THE UGLY: The game itself was about as entertaining as a documentary on the manufacturing process of synthetic turf. That game has the dubious distinction of being the only NFL game the entire season to be a scoreless tie at halftime…Mark Clayton’s drop of a slightly high throw from Flacco on a slant pass was even more proof that the team’s 2005 first round pick is not a playmaker. The perfect call and read only to be undermined by poor execution…The team’s use of their timeouts in the first half was purely amateurish as was John Harbaugh’s challenge on Cleveland’s first play from scrimmage following a 13 yard run by Jamal Lewis. Harbaugh thought Lewis fumbled and it wasn’t even close…Steve Hauschka, his name is now a verb – a synonym for miss as in, “Holy s*^t he Hauschka’d it again!” The caucasion answer to Baby Face has been released by the team.

THE MEGAN FOX: For weeks I have beaten up on this week’s award winner for missing tackles, lack of aggressiveness and obvious weaknesses in pass coverage. And while I recognize that the Ravens were playing the hapless Browns and seemingly incompetent Brady Quinn, my choice for this week reportedly was in risk of losing his job to the injured Haruki Nakamura. Perhaps that was Dawan Landry’s wakeup call. The oft-criticized strong safety played aggressively, tackled confidently and wasn’t caught out of position. His four tackles (one for a loss), 1 pass defended and another that he intercepted for a score added up as one very solid game – in fact a thing of beauty, like the namesake of this award.

Suggs out indefinitely

Sources close to 24x7 are telling us that Ravens' star linebacker Terrell Suggs will miss time due to a knee injury sustained in last night's game against the Browns. Brady Quinn hit Suggs after an interception in what can be described (at the very least) as unprofessional behavior but more appropriately labeled, "cheap and dirty play."

No official word has been delivered at this time (2:37PM) by the team.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Browns fans should hope the team moves...AGAIN!

Cleveland fans have always been rather miserable and since the Browns left in 1997 and became the Baltimore Ravens, the misery has intensified.

The Browns go through head coaches and GM’s like David Duchovny goes through women.

Tonight the “brilliant” fans of Cleveland are staging a protest of sorts (assuming they can actually organize one) and may abandon their seats prior to the opening kickoff just to send a statement to management that they’ve had enough.

You know this got me thinking…

Under Randy Lerner, the Browns will probably never amount to much. After the way they’ve treated coaches, players, locker rooms (staph is as common as the common cold in Cleveland Browns’ facilities), executives, etc. who would want to work there?

Maybe the best thing for Browns fans is if Lerner moves the team to Los Angeles and then the mayor and the fans can jump up and down and whine like a 2 year old who just had his lollipop eaten by the dog. They will whine until they are granted ANOTHER expansion franchise.

Why not Browns fans?

After all, you’d stand a better chance of making the playoffs as an expansion team than you do with the collection of misfits that now call themselves the Cleveland Browns.

Just sayin'...

Smug Belichick does Ravens a favor with boneheaded call

Like most of you I looked forward to the Patriots @ Colts on Football Night in America. Granted I dislike both teams, the Patriots for their smugness, arrogance and above the law status and the Colts for obvious reasons.

For me, it’s hard to really get into a game unless there’s an edge. Fortunately I don’t lean on gambling for that edge so I create one by determining how the game’s outcome could benefit the Ravens. I concluded that the best outcome was a Colts win. I know, I know, I can hear the cries of blasphemer now but let’s set emotion up on the shelf and look at this objectively.

The Ravens are never going to catch the Colts and they probably won’t catch the Patriots in terms of having a better overall record and the associated benefits that might go along with that.


You never know how the playoff dance card will shake out so it’s best to root against the teams closer in the standing to the Ravens and let those division leaders run away and hide, right?

Now I can’t envision a scenario in which the Ravens knock the Colts from the ranks of the unbeaten. That said, I’d rather play them after they score an emotional win that they might savor a bit too long on a short week. I’d rather they live high on the hog than arrive in Baltimore loaded with fire and brimstone and holding only a 1 game edge over the Patriots and the Bengals for conference supremacy and home field advantage throughout January.

This Colts win helps the Ravens from that perspective in my opinion, so thank you very much Mr. Belichick.

In case you fell asleep last night and missed the dramatic ending, the Patriots faced a fourth and 2 from their own 28 holding a 34-28 lead with 2:08 to play. The Patriots called timeout, their last after unnecessarily burning one before the first snap of that series of downs.

Now with no timeouts left and the Colts with only 1, Belichick huddles with his GQ QB and then decided to go for the first down.

They failed.

The Colts took over on downs and proceeded to run through the Patriots’ defense like a hot knife through butter while working every possible second off the clock leaving next to no time for a Brady miracle.

Either Belichick’s arrogance got the best of him or he had little confidence that his defense could contain Peyton Manning for 70 yards and less than 2 minutes to go. You have to wonder what the Patriots’ defense thinks about Hoodie’s lack of confidence. Former Patriot Rodney Harrison was spot on in his post game assessment.

“It was a really bad coaching decision by Coach Belichick,” said Harrison. “I’ve got all the respect in the world for him, but he has to punt the ball and the message that you sent in the locker room is, ‘I have no confidence in my young guys on my defense.’”

Here’s a sampling of a few other responses to Belichick’s gaffe:

“It was an opportunity to win the game and that's all you can really ask for as an offense. It was Coach being aggressive and I love that about him. If we gain seven more inches, it's a great call.” ~ Smug, Jr. Tom Brady.

"I like the swagger of a head coach who believes in his personnel. I'll take that swagger of a coach any day." ~ Deion Sanders (who apparently doesn’t recognize the fine line between swagger and stupidity)

"This decision was ludicrous." ~ ESPN's Trent Dilfer

"This was as bad as anything the Red Sox ever did. Had it been a playoff game, it would be right up there with Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, Aaron Boone, and History Derailed in Glendale, Ariz. And Bill Belichick played the part of Grady Little.” ~ Patriots’ hugger Peter King

“Everyone was surprised. Fourth down in their territory, you know, they got a lot of confidence in their offense. But we got a lot of confidence in our defense. We took that as a slap in the face. It was a slap in the face, and Melvin stepped up and made a good play.’’ ~ Colts safety Antoine Bethea

“If you play defense, you’re going to take offense to that.’’ ~ Colts defensive end Robert Mathis

At the end of the day, Belichick’s boneheaded decision helps the purple and black and consequently, it was a good Football Night in America here in The Land of Pleasant Living.

Fixing the Baltimore Ravens: News, notes & innuendo

Lardarius Webb was clearly one of the Ravens’ few bright spots against the Bengals. Given the team’s lack of tight coverage, attitude and aggressive play in the secondary, the rookie is deserving of more time on the field. Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington have frequently been the object of fan angst but sources close to the team more frequently point at the lack of a consistent pass rush and the poor play of the safeties as bigger contributors to the team’s defensive woes.

Look for Webb to see more action as the nickel or even in place of the oft-injured Washington but don’t be shocked if he ends up playing some safety. Dawan Landry has had a very poor season and apparently Greg Mattison lacks confidence in Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. Webb played significant minutes as a safety at Southern Miss and Nicholls State. If groomed properly he could be the heir apparent to Ed Reed and given the All World’s ongoing issues with the neck and shoulder nerve impingement, the passing of the torch could come sooner than later.

Speaking of Ed Reed, the blood of a playmaker runs rampant in his veins and when the team’s defense or offense struggles, Reed presses to make a game changing play almost to the point of desperation. He’ll push the risk taking a little more hoping for big dividends. Sometimes it pays but more times than not it leaves his defensive mates vulnerable, particularly Dawan Landry who isn’t built to pick up the slack in coverage.

The Ravens are the No. 12 ranked defense heading into Week 10 meaning of course that there are 20 other defenses playing worse than Greg Mattison’s unit. That is a bit mind boggling when you consider just how poorly the group has played relative to the tradition of defensive excellence we’ve grown accustomed to here in Baltimore. That said, look around the league and you will be hard pressed to identify a stud defense. The league is so geared to promote offense by protecting quarterbacks and looking the other way when offensive linemen have defenders in a near bear hug that we may never again see a dominant defense in the mold of the 2000 Ravens. Come to think of it, that team would have never won Super Bowl XXXV if officials enforced rules to aide offenses and protect quarterbacks the way they do today.

The Ravens after 8 games have failed to develop a team identity. What was once a squad that featured a defensive juggernaut and challenged offense now is a team with a burgeoning offense and a rapidly aging defense. The transformation has seemingly arrived at the speed of light and the borderline identity crisis appears to be challenging the team when taking on more difficult opponents in pressure situations. The swagger is gone.

Until Steve Hauschka hits a few meaningful field goals the debate will rage on as to whether or not the Ravens should have retained future Ring of Honor inductee Matt Stover. The young kicker appears to have the support of his head coach – or so he says.

"Steve is our kicker,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be our kicker Monday night and going forward. We said it all along. Steve is a talented kicker. His percentage is actually way above what some guys have had who have gone on to become very good kickers in this league, but we want him to make kicks right now.

“For the most part, he’s kicked well. He’s had a couple of misses that we’d like to have had back, but that’s part of the process."

If true coach, why is it that the last couple of weeks you’ve ushered in the likes of free agent kickers Billy Cundiff and Mike Nugent for a look-see?

Looking ahead, it would appear that the Ravens will need to at least pull out one of the three games against the Steelers and Colts. If not, they can finish no better than 9-7 and if that is in fact the team’s final record and the club is on the outside looking in come playoff time, how many will look back to that kick in Minnesota and ask, “What if?”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More playing time for McGahee is NOT the answer

Where’s Willis?

Why aren’t the Ravens playing McGahee more?

These questions are being pondered by Ravens fans throughout the Land of Pleasant Living.


Can Willis McGahee help the Ravens stretch the field? Would his increased playing time help the team’s receivers gain better separation? Could his presence reverse the recent slump of Chris Chester?

No, no and no!

Unless McGahee can take a direct snap and throw it to himself downfield, he won’t improve the team’s offense. Who is he going to replace, the team’s best offensive weapon not wearing No. 5 – Ray Rice?

C’mon man!

Sure I get that Willis has been productive when he has a chance to get into the flow of the game. And Cam Cameron has been able to do that up to the heartbreaker in Minnesota. In that contest, the Ravens fell way behind and McGahee finished the contest with 7 attempts for 3 yards. Not exactly productive unless a set of downs includes 22 plays.

Given the way that game unfolded with Ray Rice’s explosiveness and 194 yards from scrimmage, can you question the choice to not get McGahee more involved?

Against Denver McGahee had three touches for 3 yards. His game is inside the tackles and if you recall, the Ravens offensive line struggled in that area. Was Cameron wrong not to play Willis more?

In two games against the Bengals McGahee had two more touches for two more yards.

Scintillating huh?

In order to get McGahee more touches, the Ravens need to achieve balance in their offense. It is then that they are most successful and it is then, by no small coincidence that they are able to get McGahee into the flow.

But let’s get this straight right now, giving McGahee more touches during the club's losses would have changed NOTHING! NOTHING! Come to think of it, the results may have been even worse. Should the Ravens put Troy Smith in to spell Flacco? That makes about as much sense as replacing your most productive player with McGahee.

The key to more PT for Willis is finding balance in the offense and playing with a lead. Until they do, McGahee will continue to sit and you know what if it means choosing between him and Rice, he should sit.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dear John...a letter to the Ravens skipper

Dear John,

I have to tell you, this is a very difficult letter for me to author. By nature I’m the optimistic type particularly when it comes to the Ravens but Sunday’s game against the Bengals was a reality check and 8 games into the season it appears to me there are far too many holes, too many questions surrounding your squad and not enough answers. But if there are enough answers, I trust that you will uncover them.

You see I dig your coaching style and I am very impressed by the staff you’ve assembled. I also respect the team organizationally from top to bottom and therefore when in doubt I trust in the castle’s judgment. After all, you guys are the professionals, right?

That said, given my job and the fact that it begs for my objectivity I must assess the Ravens fairly and what I see isn’t very promising.

We are now half way through the season and I think it’s safe to say that we’ve seen enough to know what we can expect for the balance of the 2009 season. Given your upbringing and value system I find it surprising just how undisciplined and fundamentally unsound your team is. Against the Bengals you had 45 yards in penalties and 44 yards of net offense in the first half. The Ravens are the second most penalized team in the league and the tackling is abysmal. To make matters worse the defense appears out of position far too often.

It just doesn’t add up John. It flies in the face of what I believe is the core of your coaching style. I would think that the Harbaugh DNA would dictate fielding teams that are prepared, fundamentally sound, capable of adjusting on the fly and disciplined. Unfortunately we see very little of this. Your team loses its collective head and they get caught up emotionally in games and that undermines preparedness, fundamentals and discipline.

We all expected more. I’m sure you did as well.

Expectations are a funny thing. It’s a bit like hope and it can mess with your mind. Overachieve and you are a hero. Underachieve and you are a goat. In 2008 we expected very little from the team yet you delivered. The bar was set low and you soared above it like LeBron James on an uncontested dunk by reaching the AFC Championship Game – just one bad possession from the Super Bowl.

So with the return of most key players, a roster augmented by more youthful talent plus a more mature and learned Joe Flacco the team set its sights on Miami this February. And why not?

Today anyone that realistically thinks the Ravens have a chance to go to the Super Bowl just hasn’t been watching. The team doesn’t have the explosiveness on either side of the football to strike fear in the hearts of playoff caliber opponents. Offensively you don’t have a difference maker at any of the receiver positions including tight end. You’ve proven that you can get away with that against an average secondary but you can’t and you won’t again against solid cover guys.

Defensively your front seven looks very old and it happened seemingly overnight. Kelly Gregg and Trevor Pryce have dropped off measurably and consequently, Haloti Ngata is neutralized by double teams. The inside linebacker position not manned by Ray Lewis has been inconsistent at best.

I don’t need to tell you that the secondary – one that the entire organization swore improved, is regularly torched and the lack of a consistent pass rush exposes them badly.

You really are in a tough spot John and I know you have to put on your brave face and pretend to manage the season one game at a time but desperation has to have paid you a visit. It is probably knocking on your door right now.

At (4-4) you are running out of mulligans. Three more losses and you are likely done and at this point you can’t possibly believe that your guys stand a chance against the Steelers or the Colts. Without a pass rush Messrs. Roethlisberger and Manning will compare playing the Ravens to 7 on 7 drills in camp. Cynics might even say that the rubber trash cans have a better chance of sacking Manning than any of your defenders.

So from my vantage point, you’ll need to run the table outside of those games just to land at 9-7 for the season. With a record like that, you will need a ton of help to attain a post season berth. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but I’d say it’s unlikely.

So what do you do? Pack it in?

Again, quitting isn’t in your DNA.

You will fight the good fight but while you’re at it, don’t stick your head in the sand and ignore what is going on around you. And please, do not let foolish pride cloud your judgment in making personnel decisions.

So with all this in mind and understanding that I have your back (remember my business is really tied to your success) here’s what I suggest you do to help make the most of your eight remaining games:

1. Keep Steven Hauschka: Look Robbie Gould was once in a Ravens camp and he’s moved on and he’s done very well in Chicago. There’s really nothing else out there that’s any better. Personally I thought Graham Gano was the better option but you didn’t so commit to Babyface.

2. De-activate Demetrius Williams: For some reason Cam doesn’t like him and he offers nothing to special teams. You used a second round pick on Paul Kruger who does what – rush the passer. What is your team’s biggest weakness? Rushing the passer. Hello, McFly? Don’t tell me it’s because Kruger doesn’t play because he doesn’t do anything on special teams. When is the last time Williams made a special teams tackle? As each week passes, Kruger looks more and more like Dan Cody Part II.

3. Bring back Lo Neal: I get that you drafted Le’Ron McClain to be a fullback but sometimes a little smash mouth is in order and McClain needs that lead blocker to get it done. He doesn’t have to be active every week, but when the shoe fits, pound away.

4. Shake up the secondary: Start Lardarius Webb at one corner and Foxworth at the other corner. Let F. Washington (“F” stands for fragile as in fra-gee-lay) be the nickel. Replace Dawan Landry with Haruki Nakamura. Dawan Landry is another one who couldn’t cover a cadaver with a blanket. Place Chris Carr on the weekly inactive list…please!

5. Let Webb return punts: I don’t want to hear about giving him too much too soon. See ball in air; catch it; run to daylight real fast. It’s not rocket science.

6. Move Kelley Washington to the No. 2 receiver slot: Let Clayton operate out of the slot and come in as the No. 3 pass catcher. Clayton and Mason are too much alike and the bigger target might be able to haul in the passes that the smurf-like receivers can’t physically get to. And while you’re at it, let L.J. Smith play some for Todd Heap before he blows out a hamstring in the shower.

7. Bench Kelly Gregg: Clearly he’s not the same player and if you are trying to save face for a guy who has been underappreciated by the league and the Pro Bowl voters, ok I get it. Put him on IR and say his decline is due knee problems. Let Kelly Talavou and/or Bryant McKinney take his reps.

8. Sit Chris Chester and put Marshal Yanda at right guard

9. Configure a speed rush package that consists of Suggs, Jameel McClain, Antwan Barnes and Kruger. And while we are on the subject, please tell Suggs to just kill the quarterback. Make him watch The Waterboy before each game but by all means send him directly at the quarterback and stop doing opposing QB’s a favor and drop him into coverage. That’s like asking Bono to stop singing and go play bass for U2.

10. Run out of the shotgun more often: Take a look at the film. Your most productive running plays are almost always from the spread formation in the gun.

11. Prescribe some football Viagra for your defensive coordinator.

12. Implement a new system that rewards or penalizes the players for penalties: If they get 2 or fewer penalties in a game, give them an extra day off; five or more penalties results in no days off.

If you have read this far, maybe you are open to suggestions or maybe you are doubled over in laughter thinking, “Why does this crackpot journalist with a two-bit website think I would listen to him?” I have some site visitors that might say the same.

But at this point John, you have to admit, your way isn’t working given the talent on your football team.

Maybe my way could help.

Here’s to the future...


Tony Lombardi

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ravens @ Bengals: The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox

THE GOOD: This won’t take long…Lardarius Webb continues to show signs that he is a playmaker and he was the only Ravens defensive back to stay stride for stride with a Bengals’ receiver and break up a pass. He was very physical supporting the run. This kid needs to play…Ray Rice’s effort is relentless and for all intents and purposes he WAS the Ravens’ offense…Dwan Edwards continues to show great hustle and contributed 8 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries…Terrell Suggs was the beneficiary of a rare Ravens’ coverage sack.

THE BAD: Team tackling was atrocious…Derrick Mason tried to catch a pass with his face with unsatisfactory results…Siamese twins get more separation than Mason and Mark Clayton were able to gain from Bengals’ corners Joseph and Hall…Conversely Domonique Foxworth couldn’t cover a cadaver with a blanket. The Ravens have realized little return on their investment in the former Terrapin…Why exactly is Chris Carr the punt returner? And for that matter why exactly is he a Raven?

THE UGLY: The Ravens did nothing to improve their next to worst league ranking in penalties by adding to their staggering totals with 7 more flags for negative 80 yards. The Ravens had 44 net yards of offense in the first half and they were penalized for 45 yards. It’s a little difficult to win football games that way…Joe Flacco looked desperate and chucked some very ill advised passes. He was fortunate not to have been intercepted at least two more times and “luckily” finished with an anemic 48.3 quarterback rating…The Ravens have managed to score 14 points on offense against the Bengals in 8 quarters…The Bengals had 16 first half first downs while the Ravens managed to get off just 18 PLAYS…Does anyone really think that Steve Hauschka can make an important kick at this point?...It’s a good thing that Chad Ochocinco provided all that deodorant to the Ravens’ players, otherwise the stench in Queen City would have rivaled that of Cleveland. Harbaugh’s troops just flat out stunk!

THE MEGAN FOX: Do you seriously think Fox would show up for a wretched team performance like the Ravens’ in Cincinnati on Sunday? C’mon man!

Ravens playoff chances fade away

Let’s all just admit it…the Ravens are not a playoff caliber team. They just can’t beat a good quarterback. Sure Philip Rivers qualifies as a good QB that the Ravens beat but did they really beat him? How many of you breathed a big sigh of relief when Rivers handed off to Sproles on that fourth down play? Thank you very much Mr. Dead Man Walking, aka Norv Turner.

The Ravens are now 4-4 having dropped 4 of their last 5 games. Ahead on the schedule are Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger twice. Is there any rational reason for you to believe that the Ravens can win even one of those games?

I don’t think so…

Today I chased loved ones out of my living room with bowling alley words that would make Chris Rock blush. By halftime I had pretty much given up on them.

Sure, some of you will call me a quitter, a hater – maybe even a front-runner. Yet as that game played out, it grew increasingly apparent that the Ravens dominating win against the Broncos was a fraud. Yes they deserved that win but the daring, attacking, organized chaos-like approach had more to do with their lack of respect for Kyle Orton than a rekindling of their traditional style of defensive play. Today they went back to a soft approach – at least in the first half and they fell too far behind particularly when the Bengals defensive line was kicking the living daylights out of the Ravens’ vaunted O-Line.

The Bengals showed up…the Ravens didn’t and they hopefully are completely embarrassed.

The Bengals might show up in the post season…the Ravens won’t.

9-7 won’t cut it for the playoffs – assuming the Ravens win that many.

That’s just the way I see it right now.

Hopefully I’m wrong…

Friday, November 06, 2009

THE BUZZ: Ochocinco sends gifts to Baltimore plus Week 9 news & notes

CLEVELAND BROWNS THE BED…AGAIN ~ Eric Mangini’s tenure so far in Cleveland has been nothing short of a train wreck. He ousted the team’s offensive threats (Messrs. Winslow & Edwards) and has b-slapped his quarterbacks who are now nothing more than significant drags on the club’s salary cap.

To help save face in even a miniscule way, owner Randy Lerner picked GM George Kokinis as his scapegoat and gifted him with a pink slip. To add insult to injury the team is reviewing Kokinis’ phone records to build a case against him so that they don’t have to pay the balance of the former GM’s contract.

Talk about a back assward team! The Browns hire their brand new shiny head coach (Mangini) and then they have ball coach hire the GM, old buddy George. Now former buddy Eric is happily kicking Kokinis under the bus to save his sorry ass!

Same old Browns!

LIAR, LIAR ~ From one sorry team to another, Washington Redskins’ CB DeAngelo Hall recently fired some shots at Falcons’ GM Thomas Dimitroff.

“I didn’t trust Dimitroff at all,” Hall said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He lied to me several times. He promised me he was going to get something done [on a contract] and he's behind my back trying to shop me at the draft.”

Well boo-freaking-hoo. Hall probably wouldn’t be whining so much if the Falcons weren’t so superior to Danny’s boys.

HIS NOSE IS SO FAR UP ~ Staying with the team whose name denigrates Native Americans, Redskins’ D-coordinator Greg Blache stood up for his oft-criticized owner after former Redskins’ Hall of Fame RB John Riggins called Daniel Snyder a “bad guy” whose “heart is dark” during an interview on Showtime’s Inside the NFL.

"That's totally, totally untrue," Blache said. "And the problem is the fans don't get to know Mr. Snyder like we do, and so they get an impression of things that are written and things people say."

Blache added that Snyder is "one of the most generous, kind individuals you could ever meet."
Of course he is Greg. Just look at what he paid underachieving defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.


IT’S SUPERBIRD ~ Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb may have discovered the secret to superhero-dom. Since McNabb’s return from a rib injury suffered in the season opener he has been sporting a secret weapon flak jacket. In four games with the jacket, McNabb has thrown for seven scores and has a string of 115 attempts without an interception.

IS THAT MARCIA OR TOM? ~ While out and about in Baltimore’s Federal Hill area on Halloween, a festive bar patron was spotted wearing a Tom Brady jersey with a pink tutu. Whenever someone touched him, he threw a penalty flag. Joey Porter apparently can relate.
"When a guy can tell a ref when to throw a flag, and he gets it, he's got his own rules,” Porter complained to Rich Eisen on NFL Network’s Around the League.

“They made the rule that you don't go at the legs for Tom, so when he feels that someone is going at his legs, he just points to the ref and he gets a flag. So I can honestly say that he gets his own rules."

Wonder if Tom has his own rules with Gisele?

EWWW THAT SMELL ~ Bengals’ star wide receiver Chad Ochocinco sent gift baskets to players of the Baltimore Ravens’ secondary along with linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. The baskets included roll-on deodorant. No truth to the rumor that No. 85 is changing his name to Chad Oh-No-Stinko.

Ochocinco is hoping that this prank pays off a bit better than a similar one in 2004 when he sent Pepto Bismol to members of the Cleveland Browns’ secondary prior to one of their divisional contests. The Bengals dropped that game to the Browns by the score of 34-17.

CALLING DR. SHEPHERD ~ The undefeated Colts are dealing with a host of injuries that could threaten their unbeaten status. This week the team lost nickel back and former starting CB Marlin Jackson (no not a member of the Jackson 5) for the season after he tore his ACL during practice. The Colts also lost starting LB Tyjuan Hagler (not so marvelous) for the balance of the ’09 campaign due to a ruptured biceps. Now there’s talk that Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders (no relation to the Colonel) may have some lingering knee issues that the famous Dr. Andrews will peruse. Houston could be a problem…this week.

THE COLORADO ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH ~ Speaking of problems this week, the Steelers are missing two defensive linemen for their game in Denver and they could also be without the services of safety Ryan Clark. Clark has a rare sickle-cell trait that flares up when he exerts himself in high altitude. The affects can be devastating. The Steelers and the league for that matter need to be careful here if Clark is permitted to play. They could be exposed legally. Do the right thing fellas and give Clark a comfortable seat along the sidelines.

THAT DUDE CAN RUN… Titans RB Chris Johnson leads the NFL in rushing with 824 yards and an eye popping 6.9 yard/carry average – the highest rushing average by an NFL rushing leader through the first 8 weeks of the season since 1970. Maybe the 1-6 Titans should give Johnson the ball more, ya think?

YOU BETTER, YOU BETTER YOU BET ~ New odds are out to win Super Bowl XLIV as provided by Bodog and it should come as no surprise that the Saints and Colts lead the way. The odds of some favorites winning the league’s last game in Miami are: New Orleans Saints 3/1; Indianapolis Colts 5/1; New England Patriots 11/2; Minnesota Vikings 8/1; Pittsburgh Steelers 10/1; Baltimore Ravens 13/1; Philadelphia Eagles 14/1; Dallas Cowboys 18/1; New York Giants 18/1; Denver Broncos 22/1; San Diego Chargers 22/1.

WITH THE 7TH PICK THE OAKLAND RAIDERS SELECT ~ The 2009 seventh overall draft pick, Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey finished the first half of his rookie season with five catches for 74 yards and 0 TD’s. The rather abysmal numbers have not tempered the former Maryland Terrapin’s confidence.

"Looking at the first game on film, just studying myself how I've improved, I'm happy with what I see now," Heyward-Bey said. "I see improvement."

He was watching a Raiders’ game, right?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"The Blind Side" touches the right side of your heart

Like just about everyone I enjoy a good movie and human interest stories are among my favorite. I like the plight of an underdog, the protagonist who perseveres, tackles seemingly insurmountable obstacles and scores a glorious victory.

Now granted those things more times than not happen in fairy tales and in Hollywood or both, but regardless of whether or not they are in fact fictional, if I walk out of a theatre or pause my DVD player feeling good and feeling entertained, the flick gets my thumbs up.

Yesterday thanks to the nice folks at Warner Bros. I was able to catch the sneak preview of The Blind Side: The Michael Oher Story.

In this movie not only do you get the feel good human interest story, you get the added value of knowing that the tale isn’t all bubblegum and cookies. The incredible journey of Michael Oher’s life happened – it is NON-fiction and to make the drama even more appealing, it happened to the first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.

Given that he is a member of the purple and black, you already know most of the story but don’t let that stop you from checking out this one on the big screen. I have little doubt that you will applaud at the end of the picture even if it does include some over the top Hollywood embellishing.

Yet for me, the meat and potatoes of the picture – the part that resonated as I walked out of the Charles Theatre last night with my son was the underlying kindness that is really the glue that holds not only the movie, but Michael Oher’s life together. This movie very well could have been called Colorblind.

Leigh Anne Touhy played by Sandra Bullock is the film’s star. She is a take charge, A-type personality who runs a high end interior design company. Coupled with her husband who operates a chain of fast food restaurants, the Touhy’s are an affluent family living in the high end district of suburban Memphis.

Leigh Anne feels for the homeless Oher and takes him in – a gesture that her snobby friends label “white guilt.” When she passionately explains why she has become what amounts to as an ambassador Good Samaritan, her friends swallow humble pie as one friend concludes, “You’re changing that boy’s life.”

Her reply…

“No, he’s changing mine.”

You watch each member of the Touhy Family embrace Oher on different levels and in different ways. Their collective selflessness that enabled each to look into the heart of Michael Oher and not at his size, destitute lifestyle or his skin color is the shiny diamond of the movie that rises up from the ashes and teaches something to us all.

If you are looking for a hard-core football movie, The Blind Side is not for you. But if you want to be inspired by heartfelt and wonderful acts of kindness and the bonding of the human spirit, go see this movie. It won’t win any Oscars but it will win your heart, particularly if you are a fan of the Baltimore Ravens.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ravens v. Broncos: The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox

The Good: The Ravens faced a Denver defense that allowed only 66 points the entire season and had limited opponents to a third down conversion rate of 26%. The Broncos also had gone four consecutive games without allowing a second half third down conversion. Yesterday the Ravens rang the scoreboard for 30 points and 24 in the second half. They also converted 61% of third downs for the game and they were 6 of 8 (75%) after the break…Jarret Johnson set the tone on the game’s first play from scrimmage dropping Orton for an 8 yard sack. Johnson was solid throughout the game with pressure and controlled his matchups at the line of scrimmage…Ed Reed recovered from a poor effort in Minnesota and forced a fumble with a big hit on a slow developing screen. He also faked a blitz off the right edge and then covered the swing pass to his side to drop Correll Buckhalter for a 5 yard loss…Chris Carr responded to heavy criticism of his play with a solid defensive performance and showed marked improvement (despite a premature fair catch) in his punt returns…Kelley Washington had 4 catches for 58 yards, each catch resulting in a first down…Joe Flacco’s development continues. Not only did he tie a Ravens record for completion percentage (80%) he also showed outstanding pocket presence and solid footwork while evading the pass rush…Ray Rice had 84 yards and a score against a tough and fast Denver D…Greg Mattison let the dogs out and installed a game plan more in line with the team’s defensive DNA.

The Bad: Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson both dropped interceptions that had pick 6 written all over them…Chris Chester and Ben Grubbs struggled at times.

The Ugly: Eight more penalties for 94 yards. The Ravens reputation for penalties is snowballing and when in doubt, officials are making calls they probably shouldn’t perhaps an acknowledgement of the team’s burgeoning bad boy reputation…Derrick Mason’s temper tantrum was way over the top particularly at that early stage of the scoreless game (4:57 of Q1).

The Megan Fox: The Ravens special teams’ effort against the Broncos had to be among the club’s very best of all time. They were outstanding on punt and kickoff coverage limiting the dangerous Eddie Royal to a 2.5 yard average on 2 punt returns and 18.7 yards on 6 kick returns…Steve Hauschka rebounded from his failures in Minnesota and was rock solid on field goal attempts and outside of his opening kickoff, his boots off the tee landed deep. On average for the game Hauschka placed his kickoffs at the goal line including the opening kickoff…The team tackling on both kick and punt returns was superb…Chris Carr came up to field short punts in traffic instead of allowing them to bounce and that help the team control field position…On average the Ravens’ drives started at their own 35 v. the Broncos whose drives started at their own 21 on average…Lardarius Webb is an incredibly quick accelerator and fearless on kick returns. He is a weapon and will help the team win the battle for field position. His 95 yard TD return on the second half’s opening kickoff was electrifying and the way the team’s defense was playing, the return despite the majority of the second half still to be played felt like a game winner...Props to Jerry Rosburg and his vastly improved unit.