Sunday, December 25, 2011



Santa Claus visited M&T Bank Stadium on Christmas Eve 2011 and he looked strikingly similar to Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur. The Browns skipper’s inept sideline leadership, play calling and clock management played a huge role in gifting the Ravens a 20-14 victory and keep their 2011 home record at an unblemished 8-0.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Ravens jumped out to a 20-0 lead but as they have so often in the past, they took their collective foot off the accelerator and let an inferior opponent back in the game. The Ravens clearly lack a killer instinct and the blame for that falls on the shoulders of three men: John Harbaugh; Cam Cameron; and Joe Flacco.

The team now will travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a flexed game (4:15 kickoff) to try and secure a first round playoff bye. It won’t be easy. The Ravens have scored a total of 17 points during their last two visits to Paul Brown Stadium during which Joe Flacco has tossed 6 interceptions and posted a putrid quarterback rating of 33.1. The extended forecast for the game is for partly cloudy skies and moderate temps in the 40’s. The Ravens have been installed as an early 3 point favorite.

Now, back to Pat Shurmur and the season of giving...

THE GOOD: Despite resources deployed to shut him down, Ray Rice still managed 135 yards of offense including a 42 yard touchdown reception on a perfectly executed wheel route. Joe Flacco delivered an excellent ball dropping it in a bucket beyond D’Qwell Jackson and in front of the oncoming safety…Flacco looked sharp in the first half although he waited too long to deliver the ball to Torrey Smith who had beaten the corner and the safety on a go route. Flacco had a QB Rating of 133.7 in the first half…Vonta Leach is seemingly growing stronger as the season progresses. The Ravens acquired him with December and January football in mind and their investment is paying big dividends. On one play Leach dropped Browns DE Jabaal Sheard and then continued to release in the right flat to provide a dump off option for Flacco…

Brendon Ayanbadejo was active making two keys plays. He sacked Seneca Wallace after torching the statuesque Tony Pashos off the edge and he was in position to knock Peyton Hillis out of bounds during the Browns final possession to force a key turnover on downs…Bernard Pollard had a plus outing with 8 tackles.

THE BAD: The Ravens rushing defense was beaten consistently throughout the divisional contest. Despite keying in on Peyton Hillis, the big bruising back still managed to average 4.7 yards per carry on his way to a 112 yard afternoon. Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody struggled to win at the point of attack and too often looked like they were on roller skates. When that happens it almost always spells trouble for Ray Lewis who managed 10 tackles, few if any of which were at or behind the line of scrimmage. Lewis has also become an extreme liability in pass coverage and he needs to get off the field in obvious third down passing situations…Ed Reed has had a bad season so far and not until his blitz to force Wallace to get rid of the football too quickly on a key third down was he noticeable for anything positive. He was by far the less effective Ravens’ safety yesterday. He and Lewis, sure-fire Hall of Famers, are looking every bit their age as of late...Chris Carr has had a rough season. Yesterday was no different. Always a slow starter, there is little to no evidence thus far this season that Carr can be counted on. If concussed Cary Williams is unable to go in Cincinnati, is anyone confident that he can stay with AJ Green or even Jerome Simpson?

THE UGLY: Let’s start with the uniforms! The last time the Ravens wore that sad purple and black combination was the last time they lost at home – last December to the Steelers in the “Polamalu Game.” Can someone burn that combo?... Ed Dickson doing his best Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran impersonation yesterday…Joe Flacco’s second half – a QB Rating of 4.9 and yes the decimal place is correct…The injuries are mounting. Just when he seemed to be getting his mojo back, David Reed is lost for the year with an ACL tear; Cary Williams and Dannell Ellerbe could both be lost for the Cincinnati game with concussions; Marshal Yanda may have broken a rib or two and experienced trouble breathing…Special teams were horrific save for Shayne Graham. Sam Koch had a bad day; Graham struggled with his 5 kickoffs – only 1 of which reached the end zone (without a touchback) and that will threaten a coverage team that struggles without Cundiff’s touchbacks. Josh Cribbs’ 84-yard jaunt for his 11th career TD return is the third the Ravens have allowed this season for a score. That hasn't happened in nine years. If Cam Cameron is on notice, why isn’t Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg?...John Harbaugh needs to be held accountable for not putting away a staggering opponent. That soft approach is as contagious as a killer approach. Perhaps that in part explains the road struggles against sub .500 teams.

THE MEGAN FOX AWARD: The Browns initial drive looked like it would go the distance until Lardarius Webb made an excellent interception to reverse the game’s early momentum. Webb had 4 defended passes on the afternoon. On a day when there was little to get excited about other than Rice’s TD catch and the play of Ayanbadejo, Webb’s effort was the best choice for TMFA!

I couldn’t really give this to Pat Shurmur, could I?