Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ravens Report-Divisional Playoffs 2011

Last week, the Ravens took it to the Kansas City Chiefs with a 30-7 pounding. With this win, Joe Flacco became the first QB to win a playoff game in his first three seasons. After the Ravens drove down the field early in the game, they were forced to settle with a Cundiff field goal after not converting deep in Chiefs territory. But then the Chiefs set out to prove that they wouldn't go away without a fight, as Jamaal Charles busted up the middle and sprinted 41 yards to the end zone to take the lead. The Ravens responded, when Flacco dumped it off to Ray Rice, who could walk into the end zone, and the Ravens took a 10-7 lead at the half. In the third, Cundiff hit two 29-yard field goals to make it a two possession game. Late in the third quarter, the Ravens began to pull away from the Chiefs. The score went to 23-7 late in the third when Flacco found Boldin in the back of the end zone for another score. This is when the Chiefs really began to collapse as a whole. After more turnovers, the Ravens sealed the deal late with a Willis McGahee touchdown run. The Chiefs turned the ball over five times, after only turning it over 15 times over the course of the season. A second quarter fumble by Charles ultimately changed the tide of the game. Before the fumble, Charles was a running back trying to get yards, but after the fumble, he became a ball-carrier trying not to lose the ball, and his team paid a price for that. After 87 rushing yards in the first half, he was then held to -5 in the second half, and the Ravens continued their streak of not letting a 100-yard rusher in the playoffs. Also, Ravens TE Todd Heap had broke the franchise record for receptions in a playoff game, as well as having the first postseason 100-yard receiving game in Ravens playoff history. The Ravens have to be extremely happy about this win, after dominating the time of possession, and keeping a healthy team overall.
Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco-25/34, 265 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 7 rushes, 26 rushing yards

Next week, the Ravens play a team they know all too well, as they'll travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two teams split the regular season head-to-head, so the winner of this game has bragging rights for the next year. This is about as even a matchup as you can get, and I believe that no team has any kind of edge or advantage heading into Saturday's game. The Steelers have really had the Ravens number in the playoffs, winning the two matchups they've had in the postseason. But now the Ravens head in with momentum trying to move on, and the inspiration from Ed Reed and his situation seems to have lifted the entire team. No matter the skill on either side of the ball, inspiration has proven a reason for victory throughout sports history. Reed will play once again despite his family situation. The Steelers offense is usually conservative, but two or three times a game, they take a risk, and sometimes, it changes the momentum and is a key to the game. Their big play weapon is Mike Wallace, one of the fastest and most explosive receivers in the game. If the Ravens defense can prevent those big plays the Steelers will throw at them, they'll be able to hold Pittsburgh to field goals, and get the ball back quicker. The Ravens are virtually completely healthy on defense, so it will be big that they won't have to hold back. On offense, the Ravens will need to stay steady and limit mistakes. The play-calling will have to be top notch, and even more important, the execution of the plays will have to be perfect. Just as they did last week, the Ravens will need to control the time of possession, keep their offense on the field, and have their defense stay resting on the sidelines while wearing out the Steelers defense. The one defender the Ravens offense needs to be aware of the most is Troy Polamalu, who basically won the game for the Steelers back in Week 13. Polamalu is one of the most dangerous blitzers in the entire league, so being aware of him at all times is key for the Ravens. As I said earlier, this matchup is just about as even as can be, but I have the Ravens pulling out yet another last-minute win, 20-17.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Steelers
Ravens CB Josh Wilson vs. Steelers WR Mike Wallace Edge: Wilson
Ravens NT Kelly Gregg vs. Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey Edge: Pouncey
Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Steelers LB James Harrison Edge: Harrison
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Steelers CB Bryant McFadden Edge: Boldin

Injury Report
C Matt Birk-Knee-QST
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-QST
S Tom Zbikowski-Back-QST
DE Aaron Smith-Triceps-DBT

AFC Playoff Bracket
Ravens at Steelers
Jets at Patriots
AFC Playoff Outlook: It's as easy as the winner of the two games will play each other next week in the AFC Championship. The Patriots automatically have a home game if they beat the Jets. If the Jets win, they will travel to the winner of the Ravens/Steelers game.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

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