Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 3 2011

Last Sunday, the Ravens suffered a tough loss at the hands of the Titans, falling 26-13. The Titans opened up with a 3-0 lead in the second quarter on a Rob Bironas field goal. The Ravens would respond soon, as Ray Rice took a screen pass to the end zone for a 31-yard score. The Ravens defense would continue to get beaten though, allowing another Titans score, and a last-second Cundiff field goal would send the teams to halftime tied at 10. But the Titans would waste no time, scoring on a fourth down from inside the ten, and a Bironas field goal extended the lead with one quarter left. With only seven minutes left on the clock, and trailing 23-10, the Ravens faced a fourth down and goal from the Titans 11-yard line. It seemed like a touchdown was necessary, in order to make it a one-possession game, and the way the Ravens defense was getting thrown around, two stops within seven minutes seemed highly unlikely. But John Harbaugh went against the grain and kicked the field goal. The Ravens defense could again do nothing, and a late field goal sealed the win for the Titans. The Ravens defense seemed lethargic all game, and seemed to be one second behind the Titans on every play. Plain and simple, they got beat bad. The Ravens offense played exactly how they didn't last week, turning the ball over three times. Between the two, the Ravens simply didn't deserve to get this win. This loss shows how much of an any-given-sunday league this is, any team can really beat any team.
Player of the Game: Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck-30/42, 358 yards, 1 touchdown

Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week, I said that the Ravens needed to avoid a hangover from the Steelers win. That is exactly what they did not do. They came out way too confident, and the Titans made them pay for it.

Next Sunday, the Ravens travel to face the 0-2 St. Louis Rams, who had high expectations coming into the year, but have yet to fulfill them. QB Sam Bradford had a breakout rookie season last year, and many thought he would pick up where he left off, but he's yet to play at that same level. One aspect of the Rams offense is their no-huddle attack, which they have used to confuse defenses this year. Since the Ravens defense is slow at times, reacting to the hurry-up offense will be a key to a win against the Rams. RB Steven Jackson is the biggest playmaker on their offense, but has been limited this year with a quad injury, and will be questionable for Sunday's game. Cadillac Williams, his replacement, has rushed for 127 in the first two games. The Rams defense has been a low point so far this season, giving up an average of 177 rushing yards and 29 points per game. QB Joe Flacco needs to lead the Ravens offense to an early start, and try and get the Rams out of the game early by tiring out their defense, and sucking the life out of the stadium. Flacco needs to take advantage of the weak Rams defense by having a statement game to prove that last week was just a fluke. Ravens WR Lee Evans has already been ruled out, so Flacco will have to rely on a thin receiving corps that could see guys like Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta getting more looks. You can also expect Ray Rice's load to increase after a bad game last week. Ravens WR Anquan Boldin has over 1,000 career receiving yards against the Rams, so he could be vital in the Ravens gameplan. In a win that the Ravens really need, I have them taking it with a score of 24-13.

Key to the Game: This game will really come down to which Ravens team takes the field Sunday. The team that beat the Steelers can beat any team in the NFL. On the other hand, the team that lost to the Titans can lose to any team in the NFL. We'll see.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Rams:
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Rams offensive line Edge: Suggs
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Rams RBs Cadillac Williams/Steven Jackson Edge: Lewis
Ravens T Bryant McKinnie vs. Rams DE Chris Long Edge: Long
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Rams LB James Laurinaitis Edge: Rice

Injury Report
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-OUT
WR David Reed-Shoulder-OUT
CB Jimmy Smtih-Ankle-OUT
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-QST

WR Danny Amendola-Elbow-OUT
RB Steven Jackson-Quad-QST
LB Ben Leber-Groin-QST
RB Cadillac Williams-Hamstring-QST

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 2 2011

Last week, the Ravens made a statement by dominating the Steelers with a convincing 35-7 win. The Ravens jumped out of the gates early, as Flacco found Anquan Boldin for a 27-yard score on a 3-play drive that saw the offense drive 66 yards in under two minutes. The Ravens would score again when Ray Rice pounded it in from a yard out on a drive that stemmed from a Steelers fumble that put the Ravens in position to strike. Pittsburgh would rebound in the second quarter when Big Ben found Emmanuel Sanders in the back of the end zone. But Flacco wouldn't let the Steelers gain momentum, and the Ravens would make it a two possession game once again, when Flacco dumped it off to Rice, who ran it in for the score. At that point, we could all remember the last time the Ravens took a 21-7 lead into halftime against Pittsburgh, but the Ravens were bound to make sure that didn't happen. On the Steelers first play from scrimmage, Haloti Ngata got into the backfield, put a huge hit on Rashard Mendenhall, and forced a fumble that gave the Ravens the ball in Steelers territory. On the very next play, Flacco found Ed Dickson for a touchdown. The Ravens then faked the extra point, and punter Sam Koch rushed in for the two-point conversion, and the Ravens took a 29-7 lead. The Ravens would go on to force seven turnovers, including two picks from Ed Reed, and one from Ray Lewis. Billy Cundiff would add two field goals, and the Ravens sealed a win that was nothing less than total domination. Every side of the field did their part in this win. A shaky offensive line played a fantastic game, allowing only one sack of Joe Flacco. A questionable receiving corps helped Joe Flacco to one of the best games of his career. The two teams had their fair share of scuffling, including one fight that ended up with Steelers CB Ike Taylor thrown out of the game. The one thing the Ravens and their fan base need to take out of this win is that it's only week one, we have fifteen games left to play, and the Steelers will not go away.
Players of the Game: QB Joe Flacco-17/29 224 yards, 3 touchdowns
RB Ray Rice-19 carries, 107 yards, 1 touchdown
LB Terrell Suggs-5 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
DT Haloti Ngata-2 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Last Week's Key to the Game: The Ravens responded to the key of the game, easily winning the battle of the pass-rushers. The Ravens sacked Big Ben 4 times, and forced him to commit 5 turnovers, while Flacco was sacked just once.

Next Sunday, the Ravens will travel to Nashville to face off with the 0-1 Tennessee Titans. The Titans looked uninspired last week, losing to the Jaguars. Their star RB, Chris Johnson, was not a factor at all, rushing for just 24 yards. Johnson missed all of training camp and the pre-season because of a contract holdout, and his performance last week reflected that missed time. The Ravens need to hold Johnson again, as the Titans lack offensive playmakers without him. Other than WR Kenny Britt, who performed well last week by catching two touchdowns for over 100 yards, nobody on the Titans offense has the potential to really burn the Ravens defense. If the Ravens can find some way to render both Johnson and Britt irrelevant, the Titans offense won't be able to get it going. The Ravens need to come out strong on offense again. They will be forced to face Titans CB Cortland Finnegan, who can change the tide of the game with an interception. Finnegan has had a decent amount of run-ins with receivers who don't like his over-aggressive style of play, so watch out for that. In another good offensive performance, I have the Ravens taking down the Titans, 23-10.
Key to the Game: Following a dominating win over Pittsburgh, it would be understandable for the Ravens to be over-confident. But if the Ravens come out a bit too happy-go-lucky, the Titans will make them pay for it.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Titans
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Titans RB Chris Johnson Edge: Lewis
Ravens CB Dominique Foxworth vs. Titans WR Kenny Britt Edge: Britt
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Titans CB Cortland Finnegan Edge: Finnegan
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Titans LB Barrett Ruud Edge: Rice

Injury Report
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-OUT
CB Jimmy Smith-Ankle-OUT
G Ben Grubbs*-Toe-DBT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-PRB
FB Vonta Leach-Foot-PRB
*Grubbs will be a game-time decision.
S Chris Hope-Shoulder-DBT
DE William Hayes-Shoulder-QST
WR Damian Williams-Hamstring-QST

Well, that's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 1 2011

Well, here we are. Just a day away from Ravens football. The NFL lockout officially ended on July 25, so NFL players had a shortened training camp to get ready for the season. The Ravens went out and traded for veteran receiver Lee Evans from Buffalo, and signed 5-time Pro Bowl C Andre Gurode. With Matt Birk already entrenched at center, both Gurode's and Birk's roles are yet to be seen. As for Evans, he is a great threat down the field, and will likely be running one main route this year for Flacco. Run straight, look up, catch ball. The Ravens also signed FB Vonta Leach, a physical blocker who will help find holes for Ray Rice to run. As far as cuts went, the one surprise was the release of LB Tavares Gooden, whose injuries helped run him out of Baltimore. The Ravens had a strong pre-season, finishing 3-1 after losing the first game to the Eagles. There were no major injuries, but RB Matt Lawrence and OL Ramon Harewood have already been placed on injured reserve, and will be out for the year.

On Sunday, the Ravens will welcome the hated Pittsburgh Steelers to M&T Bank Stadium to renew the fiercest rivalry in the NFL. After an upsetting loss to the Steelers in the postseason, the Ravens will be looking for a little revenge to open the year. No matter what, until the Ravens win a real important game against Pittsburgh, the Steelers will always have the edge, and the Ravens know that. What has been hurting the Ravens the most against Pittsburgh is the lack of a big playmaker on offense, while the Steelers lead with Big Ben, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace. With the acquisitions of Lee Evans and Torrey Smith, the Ravens will finally have the opportunity to counterattack. Some might say that because this is the first week of the season, the game isn't as important, but I beg to differ. While it is disappointing that the teams won't have a late-season matchup, I think it is even more important that they're playing here in Week 1. A Ravens win sets the tone for the entire season, and is a huge confidence boost for the players going on. A loss could hurt the Ravens' confidence as the year goes on. In yet another close game, I have Joe Flacco finally getting the monkey off his back, as the Ravens will win 16-10.

Key to the Game: The key to this game will be pass-rushing, as both defenses have premier defenders putting pressure on the quarterback. We've seen these games come down to a sack-fumble or interception, so the team that forces that turnover has a good chance of winning the game.

Key Matchups for Ravens vs. Steelers
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Steelers offensive line Edge: Suggs
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Steelers WR Mike Wallace Edge: Wallace
Ravens offensive line vs. Steelers LB James Harrison Edge: Harrison
Ravens WR Lee Evans vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor Edge: Evans

Injury Report
WR David Reed-Suspended*-OUT
LB Jason Phillips-Concussion-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Thigh-PRB
*Reed was suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

LB Chris Carter-Hamstring-OUT
WR Jerricho Cotchery-Hamstring-DBT
T Marcus Gilbert-Concussion-PRB
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!