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Ravens Visit White House and Sign Veteran Linebacker In Same Day

June 6, 2013 in Baltimore Ravens, Free Agency

BY ALAN ZLOTORZYNSKI: Even while attending to Presidential affairs, the Baltimore Ravens still managed to complete some business today. According to Ryan Mink on the Ravens team site, the team bolstered their inside linebacker corps by adding former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker, Daryl Smith.

Daryl Smith

As a nine-year veteran in Jacksonville, Smith departs the Jags as their all-time leading tackler with 678 total stops. However, he is 31-years-old, and is coming off a groin injury that limited him to just two games last season.

Despite drafting Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown and signing Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens are thin on numbers and experience as a whole at the line backing position. Following last season’s Super Bowl victory, Ray Lewis retired and then Dannell Ellerbe unexpectedly signed with the Miami Dolphins for $35 million over five years.

The team inked former Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain to a deal but his penchant for getting into to trouble with the law, including another run in with the Police in his hometown, caused him to step away from the game to get his life in order.

Smith brings plenty of experience. The former second-round pick out of Georgia Tech has been a starter throughout his entire career. Before last season, Smith had never missed more than two games before and has 124 starts during his career.

In 2011, he received Pro Football Focus’ second-highest grade among outside linebackers. The only player Smith trailed was Denver’s, Von Miller. Smith received high marks for his run and pass coverage. He has never gone to the Pro Bowl, but he had 311 tackles from 2009 to 2011 to go along with 21.5 career sacks, six interceptions and nine forced fumbles.

During his nine-year career, Smith played all three-linebacker positions, concentrating mostly on the outside for the Jaguars but is a likely candidate to move inside for Baltimore. The Ravens released outside linebacker Michael McAdoo, who spent the last two seasons on injured reserve, in the corresponding roster move.

With nearly the entire starting line backing core no longer in Baltimore after last season, the key returner is veteran Jameel McClain. The Ravens are hoping that McClain will be ready to go by training camp. McClain is working his way back from a spinal cord contusion he suffered vs. the Redskins in December that put him on injured reserve last season.

When McClain is full-go, the Ravens plan on plugging him into the starting role he’s held for the last three years. The starting linebackers could be Terrell Suggs, Jameel McClain, rookie Arthur Brown and Elvis Dumervil. Smith would definitely factor into any rotation either inside or out and could possibly take over if McClain isn’t recovered or Brown struggles to start at the NFL level.

If Smith is fully recovered from last season’s injury, he would be yet another solid pick up for the Ravens this offseason. However, it is unlikely Smith will wear No.52 as he did in Jacksonville.

WHITE HOUSE AND THE CHAMPS:

The old gang spent one last day together today as the Super Bowl XLVII Champions spent the day with President Barack Obama. The Texans Ed Reed, ESPN’s Ray Lewis and Miami's Dannell Ellerbe were amongst some of the departed Ravens on the South Lawn today with the rest of the Ravens that decided to stay in Baltimore

The President seemed relaxed and playful with the champions and began to joke with them from the opening of his speech.

“I suspect that these guys are wondering, ‘What kind of introduction is that?’” Obama said, after simply walking to the podium and welcoming the team. “No smoke machine? No fire cannons? Obama didn’t even tear up chunks of turf and rub them on his suit?”

Obama joked with wide receiver Jacoby Jones about “Dancing With The Stars,” and teased quarterback Joe Flacco about the timing of having a historic postseason run right before his contract expired, then listed his accomplishments.

“I don’t know about you, Joe, but I think that qualifies as elite,” Obama said. “I think if you keep playing like that, you’re going to challenge [Vice President Joe] Biden for most popular person in Delaware.”

Obama laughed about Ray Lewis’ signature dance but did not do the dance after Lewis invited him to try. The President asked Lewis to please not rip up the White House lawn. He even joked with Ed Reed about his gray hair. After mentioning that Reed was gone he said, “The man’s getting some gray hair though. I’m not the only one. You’re like an old man, I’m telling you. That makes me feel better.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh and Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome presented Obama with the traditional jersey. The 44th president received a purple home jersey with "MR PRESIDENT" and the number 44 on the back.

The last time back in 2000

Obama ended by congratulating the Ravens and as a Chicago native could not resist to throw in a Bears jab. “Best of luck next season,” Obama said. “You’re going to need it in Week 11 when you go to my hometown Chicago to play the Bears.”

Harbaugh responded in turn: “On behalf of all the Ravens, I want to thank Mr. President for hosting us here today. It’s an unbelievable honor and we are grateful to be here,” Harbaugh said. “And I want you to know we have plans to be back next year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravens White House Visit Date Set

June 1, 2013 in News, Super Bowl XLVII

One of the perks of winning the Super Bowl is to take a visit to the White House and meet the current president of the United States.  It is not just reserved for football though, as all champions of major US sports get to take a visit.

Since the Ravens just won Super Bowl XLVII, they will be taking a visit.  That date has now been set as Wednesday, June 5.  Today is Friday, May 31, so the visit will take place soon.

President Barack Obama has spoken to head coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome already, as he called them two days after the Ravens won the Super Bowl to congratulate them on their victory.  Harbaugh also met Obama at a Gridiron Dinner back in March.

Whenever a team makes this trip, they give the president some type of memorabilia.  A team jersey, with the president's name on, is given. Another popular thing to give along with the jersey is a football autographed by the team.

The last time the Ravens won the Super Bowl was in 2001 when George W. Bush was the president.

20 Greatest Games in Baltimore Ravens History (Part 4:The Elite 8)

May 30, 2013 in Ravens Greatest Games, Super Bowl XLVII

By Alan Zlotorzynski: Here we go Baltimore football fans, the “Elite 8 Greatest Games” in Ravens franchise history has arrived, well at least the next four in the series anyway. When last I left you we were getting down to some of the playoff battles that have stuck in our minds throughout the years.

Here is a brief recap of 12 through nine and to recap the entire history, simply click on the part to the right—- (Part 1 20-17)(Part 2 16-13)(Part 3 12-9)

No. 12 December 20, 2008 Ravens Run over Cowboys in Texas Stadium Finale

Ravens running backs Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain combined to rush for two late touchdowns, which covered 159 total yards to help turn out the lights on old Texas Stadium, as the Ravens defeated the Dallas Cowboys 33-24 in the final game ever played in the historic venue. The two teams combined to score 28-points in the games final 3:54. The Ravens became only the third visiting team since 1996 to beat an NFL team closing out its old stadium.

27 Celebrating the Elite 8

The win greatly helped the Ravens in their quest to return to the playoffs following a 5-11 season the year before, as Baltimore moved to 10-5 on the season with a rookie head coach and quarterback.

No.11 November 6, 2011: Flacco One More Time in the Steele City:

Entering the 2011 season, NFL pundits and experts said Joe Flacco could not beat the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger playing QB. After all, Flacco had never beaten the Steelers with Big Ben under center.

Flacco silenced his critics, at least temporarily, as he led the Ravens on a 92-yard game winning touchdown drive with less than two minutes to play. Flacco finished with 300 yards passing and Baltimore, who moved to 6-2 on the year, swept the season series from the rival Steelers (6-3) for the first time since 2006. "This Steelers-Ravens game is a game for men," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "This is a game for big men. You've got to shine bright in this game if you want to win this game. And nobody shined brighter than Joe Flacco in this game."

No.10 January 13, 2002 & January 4, 2009: Fish Food for the Ravens (Two for One Deal)

The Ravens have met the Miami Dolphins twice in the post season, and while both games were blowouts so to speak, they still came in the playoffs. The first of those two playoff meetings came in January 2002 as Baltimore traveled to Pro Player stadium on Wild Card Weekend to begin defense of their Super Bowl title.

The Dolphins led 3-0 after the first quarter, but that was it for Miami as the Ravens scored 20 unanswered points to knock the Dolphins out of the post season. Although the Ravens defense returned many from their 2000 team that won the Super Bowl, they were not quite as good. However, they did hold the Dolphins offense to just 151 total yards for the contest.

The Ravens would need to return to Miami in order to win another playoff game but it would come almost seven years to the day of their last playoff victory.  The Ravens had not won a postseason contest since beating Miami in the above game. This time the Ravens came to town with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. While John Harbaugh had his team prepared to play, Joe Flacco managed the offense well during his first ever playoff victory. He let the Ravens do what they did best back then, win with defense. Flacco was only 9-for-23 for 135 yards and one rushing TD, but he committed no turnovers and let the Ravens' defenders control the game, and control the game they did.

The Ravens' intercepted Dolphins QB Chad Pennington four times and forced five turnovers total during their 27-9 triumph. The five turnovers and four interceptions tied a playoff team record, both coming in the 2000 AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXXV.

No. 9 January 10, 2009: Ravens Stun the Nashville Faithful Yet Again

For the second time in their franchise history, the Tennessee Titans had the inside track to the Super Bowl with home field advantage as the No.1 seed, and the for the second time, the Baltimore Ravens derailed those chances by beating the Titans in Tennessee.

Despite out gaining the Ravens, 391-to-211 in the game, Baltimore not Tennessee would advance to play for the AFC Championship. The 13-10 win was unexpected by many Ravens fans but greatly welcomed. In a scene reminiscent of the 2000 playoff victory in Tennessee, a few thousand Ravens fans flocked to BWI Airport to welcome the team home from Nashville later that evening.

“THE ELITE 8”…….WELL AT LEAST FOUR OF THEM”

No.8 December 31, 2000: The Postseason Returns to Baltimore:

New Year's Eve 2000 marked the return of playoff football to Baltimore, as the 12-4 Ravens hosted the Denver Broncos. The last playoff game in Charm City occurred on Christmas Eve in 1977. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Baltimore Colts 37-31 in what was the third longest game in NFL history at the time. In a double overtime playoff classic, Raiders QB Ken Stabler found Dave Casper 43-seconds into the second overtime for the win. The game would go onto become known as the Ghost to the Post.

John Madden said Ghost to the Post game the greatest ever if it were a Super Bowl

For the Baltimore football fans that were around in 1977, they must have known that this outcome would be different for the home team following the Ravens second TD of the game. After rookie running back Jamal Lewis scored on a one yard dive to give the Ravens a 7-3 lead, Ravens QB Trent Dilfer looked to throw a pass to Lewis in the flat later in the quarter.

The cold temperatures may have played a part in the play, as the game time temperature was just 22 degrees with a wind chill of five degrees. Instead of landing in the arms of the rookie running back, the pass deflected off his hands and into the arms of Denver cornerback Terrell Buckley, and then amazingly, the ball deflected out of Buckley’s hands and into the arms of Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, who was admittedly five yards out of position.

"I was supposed to go 10 yards and out," Sharpe said. "I looked at the defense and went 5 and into the flat." Sharpe grabbed the ball, and followed fullback Sam Gash and wide receiver Patrick Johnson down the sideline for the touchdown. Sharpe’s crazy TD was plenty of offense for the best defense in the NFL.

Lewis, who missed the ball to begin with, was the Ravens offensive star of the game, as the rookie rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns including a decisive romp through the middle of the Broncos defense for a 27-yard touchdown to cap off the Ravens scoring. The 2000 season and the Championship that followed was not about the Ravens offense, it was all about the defense.

The Broncos came to Baltimore with the No. 2-ranked offense in the league, but the Ravens allowed it to cross midfield only once during the game. That was in the second quarter, when a 68-yard drive reached the Baltimore 12-yard line. Baltimore allowed just nine first downs and 177 total yards to the high powered attack.

The first NFL playoff game in Baltimore since 1977 produced the first home playoff win by a Baltimore team since Jan. 3, 1971, when the Colts beat those same Raiders, 27-17, in the 1970 AFC championship game.

 

No.7 January 6, 2013: The Last Dance:

Obviously, still fresh in Ravens fans minds, this instant classic, along with a few others from the 2012-13 postseason must take the place of few games from January’s gone by. How can the final home game of Ray Lewis’ career not make this list and not make the list this high.

The Ravens entered the Wild Card round of the playoffs having lost four of their past five games. Not exactly on a roll but it did not matter— the Ravens were not going to lose this game and apparently decided as a team that losing wasn’t option for the rest of the playoffs either.

The Indianapolis Colts were the opponent on this day. Baltimore football fans still had memories from the 2007 divisional round loss, as well as a scratch that needed to be itched form the whole little Mayflower Vans leaving town in the middle of the night incident back in 1984.

The Last Daance

Back in January of 2007,  Ray Lewis led a Baltimore’s defense that kept the Colts offense, led by Peyton Manning, from scoring a touchdown—but five Adam Vinatieri’s field goals were enough to eliminate the 13-3 Ravens from the postseason, as the Colts prevailed 15-6 and eventually went on to win the Super Bowl. In fact, the Ravens and Colts had met two previous times in the playoffs and both times, the Colts won and went onto play in the big game.

This time was different, Indianapolis no longer had Peyton Manning but they did possess one of the best young rookie quarterbacks since No.18 arrived in 1998, Andrew Luck. With Luck still in college and Manning injured for the season, the Colts were 2-14 in 2011 but on Luck’s arm and inspiration provided by their head coach, former Ravens defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, the Colts franchise came to the city they once called home with a better regular season record than the Ravens.

Many NFL pundits and experts believed that Indianapolis had a legitimate shot to upset the Ravens. Many believed  that the Colts were a team of destiny. Pagano battled cancer all season and returned to the sidelines before the season ended, sparking the motivation for his team to be CHUCK STRONG through any adversity– on and off the field. Luck led the team to numerous come from behind fourth quarter wins during the season, as interim head coach Bruce Arians filled in for Pagano. Miracles were the only way to describe how the Colts managed to pull out more than a few of their 11 wins in 2012.

However, a few days before the game, the heart and soul of the Ravens franchise stole back some, if not all of the momentum by announcing to his team—then the world– that he would be making his “last ride”, Ray Lewis announced that following the Ravens post season run he was going to retire. Not totally unexpected considering he was returning from a torn triceps muscle which had him sidelined since Week 6 of the regular season. Lewis spent 17 seasons chasing down ball carriers, receivers and quarterbacks; he was heading to the Hall of Fame and would take his place on the Baltimore “Mt Rushmore” of iconic sports figures. Lewis’s face would be right up there with Unitas, Ripken and Robinson.

In fact, because the Ravens clinched a playoff spot three weeks before the end of the season, Lewis would make his return to the field in this game while wearing a specially fitted arm brace. But before Lewis could ride off into the East Baltimore sunset, there was the task of the playoffs at hand. Following Lewis’ historic and iconic last dance onto the field during pregame introductions, which saw Ravens players lined up to watch like never before, the Ravens went on to take care of business the way they did when Lewis was in younger years manning the middle of the vaunted Baltimore defense.

While Andrew Luck set a postseason single-game rookie record for pass attempts and had the most passing yards by a rookie in a playoff game since Sammy Baugh in 1937, the Ravens aggressive pass rush caused Luck a lot of trouble. He was sacked three times by that rush and had a fumble and an interception, snapping a streak of three games without a turnover.

Chuck Pagano

The Ravens kept the Colts out of the end zone and held them to single digits for just the second time all season. Luck finished with an ESPN total QBR of 27.2, his third lowest in any game this season, as the Ravens pulled away for a 24-9 victory.

Ironically, it was the experience of quarterback Joe Flacco, which won out over the performance of an up-and-coming rookie. The Ravens became the sixth team in NFL history to win a playoff game in five straight seasons and improved to 6-1 all time in the wild card round. While Ray Lewis got much of the attention for his team-high 13 tackles, Flacco and the Ravens' offense also played a huge role and began what would become the start of something special.

Flacco completed 12 passes but managed 282 passing yards. The only other quarterback since 1960 to have at least as many yards on that few completions in a postseason game was Tim Tebow for the Denver Broncos against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

Flacco was 5-of-8 passing at least 15 yards downfield, including 4-of-5 targeting Anquan Boldin. Speaking of Boldin, he set a team playoff record with his 145 receiving yards. He had two catches on throws that traveled 31 yards or more in the air; matching the number, he had in the entire regular season.

On the games final play, Ray Lewis lined up at deep running back and did his patent dance one last time, as the Ravens would travel to Denver the following week in a game that many believed would actually be the real last dance for Lewis and his teammates…….more on that in a bit!

No.6 January 14, 2001: The Ravens Are Super Bowl BoundFor the First Time:

The Ravens completed their improbable run as a wild card team through the 2000 AFC playoffs by finishing off the Oakland Raiders to win the AFC Championship. The defense again carried the day for the Ravens allowing just three points for the second time during the 00' postseason.

The Raiders were held to just 191 total yards, as the Ravens defense held Oakland's league-leading running game to 24 rushing yards on 17 carries. It forced five turnovers from a Raiders offense that had the second-fewest giveaways in the NFL this season.

Mccrary with the first of two devastating blows to Rich Gannon

Baltimore's physical bullish defense also knocked Raiders starting QB Rich Gannon from the game. Gannon was hurt on two separate hits from Baltimore defenders. The first from defensive end Michael McCrary, and the knockout punch was provided by the Ravens 350-pound defensive tackle, Tony Siragusa.

The Goose landed on Gannon's upper body after an incomplete pass to James Jett, sending him to the sidelines, and eventually, the locker room for good. The Raiders offense could never really get started and in fact, were only able to cross midfield for the first time after Ravens QB Trent Dilfer put them there in the second quarter by throwing an interception.

The Ravens offense was not much better but they made the biggest play of the post season when it mattered most. Following a 54-yard punt and a sack of Dilfer inside the Ravens five-yard line, Baltimore's offense was facing third and 18 from their own four-yard line.

The play call was Rip Double Slant, but when the Raiders showed blitz, Dilfer checked down to his hot read, tight end Shannon Sharpe. The Raiders came after Dilfer as they showed they would pre-snap but Dilfer stood tall and delivered a perfect quick strike against the Oakland pressure to his veteran tight end as planned.

Sharpe found 96-yards of daylight and with the help of fellow Ravens receiver Brandon Stokley, the end zone, to give the ravens a 7-0 lead.

The Ravens defense took over and after three Matt Stover field goals; the Ravens defeated the Raiders 13-3, to win the AFC Championship. Two weeks later in Tampa, Baltimore’s defense would again rise to the occasion against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

No. 5 January 28, 2001: Super Bowl XXXV Champions

Hard to believe this game ranks fifth doesn’t it? That just goes to show you how special the 2012-13 run to the Super Bowl was. For all the buildup of the big game, this one was over early, like as soon as Giants QB Kerry Collins stepped on the field and realized the Ravens defense was twice, maybe three times as fast as they appeared on tape.

Even head coach Brian Billick is quoted as saying during the NFL Films Super Bowl XXXV recap film, “they don’t know how fast we are on defense”. I’m not sure the self-professed quarterback guru knew himself.

In what many consider the most dominating defensive performance in Super Bowl history, the Baltimore Ravens held the New York Giants to 152 totals yards, did not surrender an offensive touchdown and forced five turnovers in their dominating 34-7 win.

The Ravens knocked the Giants around early and often, never taking their foot off their throats. Giants QB Kerry Collins, who threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns during New York's 41-0 win over the Vikings in the NFC Championship game, looked confused, slow and at times scared of the ferocious Baltimore D.

The Ravens scored in every phase of the game. They scored on offense twice, defense once and added a special team’s touchdown, killing any Giants momentum. Baltimore struck first when Brandon Stokley ran past Giants DB Jason Sehorn for a 38-yard TD reception from Trent Dilfer.

Dilfer, who was returning to play in the stadium where he suffered some of his greatest failings in the NFL, again managed the offense to perfection while allowing the defense to control the game.

The Ravens led 10-0 at halftime, and after a great halftime show that featured Aerosmith, Brittany Spears, The Back Street Boys, Mary J Blige and Nelly was complete, continued their dominance in the second half.

The third quarter scoring was kicked off by Ravens cornerback Duane Starks, who stepped in front of a Collins slant pass, and returned it 49-yards for the Ravens defensive TD of the game. The Giants Ron Dixon then returned the ensuing kickoff 97-yards for the Giants only score of the game.

Arthur B. Modell

Not to be outdone, Ravens Pro Bowl kick returner Jermaine Lewis immediately matched Dixon's return with an 84-yard touchdown of his own on the ensuing kickoff. The score was an emotional one for Lewis, who suffered a personal tragedy when he lost his stillborn son in December. Lewis dedicated the game and TD in his honor.

The three touchdowns in just 36 seconds set a Super Bowl record, as did the successive kick returns for touchdowns.

Linebacker Ray Lewis, who sat in jail charged with murder during the days following the previous year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, finished off a great season in which he won the defensive player of the year award, by winning the Super Bowl MVP. Lewis became just the sixth defensive player to do so.

Following the game, Art Modell lifted the Lombardi Trophy in the air and said, “To the people of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and the State of Maryland, this belongs to you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

No Art, thank you. Here is hoping that you are resting in peace and that one day you get what you deserve from the league you helped build. A gold jacket with the NFL Hall of Fame patch on the breast.

HOW CAN THIS BE YOU ASK:

How can a Super Bowl championship be only the fifth greatest game in franchise history you ask? It’s not a simple explanation but one certainly worth providing. The term Greatest Game, to me, would indicate the game itself provided drama filled nail-biting action. The only drama in Super Bowl XXXV was which team was going to win the coin toss. In fact, as Super Bowls go, this one was quite the clunker, thankfully, as Ravens fans, we were on the side of watching our team deliver the clunking.

Following this past postseason and considering the route the Ravens took and who they beat to get there, this game simply lost a little of its luster in my eyes. Spoiled you say, maybe but the first one is always the sweetest, it’s just not the greatest—-anymore. I hope that one day Ravens fans will see SB XXXV fall to the high teens in terms of greatest games in Ravens history.

Please do not forget to check back this weekend as the “Final 4” is revealed. Thanks—-And as always, comments are welcome and encouraged.

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Lewis Career Stats

February 18, 2013 in News, Stats, Super Bowl XLVII

With Super Bowl XLVII being Ravens legendary LB Ray Lewis's last career game of his 17 season career, it is time to look at his career stats.

Regular Season Stat Totals

Games Played:  228
Combined Tackles:  2,050
Total Tackles:  1,558
Tackles Assists:  492
Sacks:  41.5
Forced Fumbles:  19
Fumble Recoveries:  19
Interceptions:  31
Interception Yards:  503 (16 yard average and 64 yard long)
Touchdowns:  3
Pass Deflections:  119

Postseason Stat Totals

Seasons:  9
Games Played:  21
Combined Tackles:  211
Total Tackles:  132
Sacks:  2.0
Forced Fumbles:  6
Fumble Recoveries:  1
Interceptions:  2
Interception Yards:  54 (50 and 4 yard returns)
Touchdowns:  1
Pass Deflections:  14

Regular Season Career Highs

Ray Lewis

Ravens legendary LB Ray Lewis celebrates winning Super Bowl XLVII in his last career game.

Games Played:  16 (8 times)
Combined Tackles:  183 (1997 season)
Total Tackles:  155 (1997 season)
Tackles Assists:  49 (2001 season)
Sacks:  5.0 (2006 season)
Forced Fumbles:  2 (6 times)
Fumble Recoveries:  3 (2000 and 2010)
Interceptions:  6 (2003)
Interception Yards:  115 (2001)
Touchdowns:  1 (3 times)
Pass Deflections:  13 (2003)

Postseason Career Highs

Combined Tackles:  51 (2012)
Total Tackles:  29 (2012)
Tackles Assists:  22 (2012)
Sacks:  1.0 (2009 and 2010)
Forced Fumbles:  3 (2001)
Fumble Recoveries:  1 (2000)
Interceptions:  2 (2000)
Interception Yards:  54 (2000)
Touchdowns:  1 (2000)
Pass Deflections:  8 (2000)

Career Awards

13x Pro Bowler
7x AP first team All-Pro
3x AP second team All-Pro
2x AP Defensive Player of the Year (2000 and 2003)
2x AFC Champion (2000 and 2012)
2x Super Bowl Champion (XXXV and XLVII)
Super Bowl XXXV MVP

Interesting Facts

Record 13 Pro Bowls for a middle linebacker
Record 10 All-Pro selections for a middle linebacker
Record 10 All-Pro selections for a linebacker (tied with Lawrence Taylor)
Most games started at middle linebacker (227)
Most interception return yards for a middle linebacker (503)
Most seasons played at middle linebacker (17)
Most tackles in one postseason (51 in 2012)
Quickest player to reach 20 sacks and 20 interceptions (113 games)
Quickest player to reach 30 sacks and 30 interceptions (204 games)
Only player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions.
Second most takeaways by a linebacker in NFL history (50).
Lewis led the NFL in tackles 5 different seasons.
He had 11 seasons with at least 150 tackles.
Holds the Ravens franchise record for tackles in a game with 25 (9/14/97)
His first career sack was of Colts QB Jim Harbaugh, the brother of current Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers head coach in Super Bowl XLVII.
The quarterback that Lewis sacked the most was Kordell Stewart.
Lewis was on the cover of the video game "Madden NFL 2005."
Lewis won his 2 Super Bowls 12 years apart.  This is the longest time in between wins in NFL history.
Only 3 Hall of Fame players have won the Super Bowl in their last career game.  Lewis will be the 4th when he his elected.
Six players, including Lewis, have been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year more than once.
The Ravens won 164 games since the drafting of Lewis with the 26th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft and the Ravens 2nd ever draft pick (Hall of Fame LT Jonathan Ogden went 4th overall).

Now the question remains, is Ray Lewis the best defensive player of all-time?

Jacoby Jones Shines In Hometown

February 11, 2013 in Super Bowl XLVII

During the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVII, lots of people, including me, were talking about Ravens S Ed Reed returning to his hometown of New Orleans for the Super Bowl.  Well, Ravens WR Jacoby Jones is from New Orleans as well, and he had an amazing game.

Reed did have a good game, recording an interception but, Jones had an even better one.  He set the Super Bowl record for all-purpose yards with 290.  Of these 290 yards, 56 were receiving yards and 234 were return yards.

Jacoby Jones

Ravens WR Jacoby Jones celebrates his kickoff return for a touchdown.

Most of his 234 return yards came on an 108 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half.  This was originally ruled to be a return of 109 yards but it was changed after further review of the play.  The play (seen here) was still a Super Bowl record return though.  After scoring the touchdown, Jones gave a little tribute to retiring LB Ray Lewis by doing Lewis's introduction dance.  Earlier in the year, week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys, Jones also had an 108 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.  This return was his third kickoff return for a touchdown and fourth total as he had one punt return touchdown.

Returning a kickoff for a touchdown was not all Jones did though. With 1:45 left in the first half, Jones scored on a 56 yard touchdown catch.  On the play, Jones ran a deep route.  While catching the ball, Jones fell to the ground and wasn't touched by San Francisco 49ers CB Chris Culliver.  Jones realized this and got up right away, he then was able to outrun the two 49ers defenders in the area for a touchdown.  This was the only catch that Jones had on two targets but he made it count

When asked about this play, Jones said "Football is a chess match sometimes.  We watched film.  It was a play we dialed up and we knew they’d play coverage a certain way.  [Chris Culliver and Donte Whitner] both bit and Joe threw a perfect ball."

After the game, there was some talk that Jones should have won the MVP award.  He did set the Super Bowl record with 290 all-purpose yards but, only 56 were receiving yards.  When you factor in the great game that QB Joe Flacco had, then the award should have gone to Flacco.  The runner-up for this award was definitely Jones though.

Jones doesn't believe that he deserved the award either.  When asked, Jones said "No. I  just played my role, I did my job that I was supposed to do.  When they call your name, you have to show up and play your role.  I played my role.  Joe Flacco deserves it because if you see what he did in that postseason, he threw 11 touchdowns and no picks."

Super Bowl XLVII Recap

February 11, 2013 in Observations, Super Bowl XLVII

Exactly one week ago, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII.  Since it has been one week, it is time to look at some important things that occurred.  The play of Joe Flacco has already been looked at here.

Ravens Coaching
The Baltimore Ravens coaching staff did a good job preparing for this game.  The team came out strong and was able to execute what we can assume was the gameplan.  Two key moments for the coaching staff stick out from this game.

First, was the power outage during the game.  For 34 minutes, the lights on half of the stadium went out.  This allowed the 49ers to recuperate and come out attacking.  Before the power outage, the Ravens led 28-6.  After the power outage, the 49ers outscored the Ravens 25-6.  The coaching staff obviously didn't do enough to keep the players ready to play.  The 49ers were able to get their players ready to play.  Maybe the players were thinking that this game was already decided due to the big lead, I don't.  But what I do now is that the team wasn't the same after this stoppage of play.

In my opinion, the best decision by the coaching staff was to take a safety with about ten seconds left in the game.  The Ravens were up by five points and had the ball on their own 8-yard line on a 4th and 7.  Instead of just punting the ball away, P Sam Koch took the ball and ran around in the endzone.  He was able to run off eight seconds before the 49ers figured out what was going on and pushed Koch out-of-bounds.  This made the Ravens have to do a free kick and the coverage unit was able to stop the return as time expired.

So, instead of allowing a possible blocked punt or a punt return for a touchdown on a short field, the Ravens played it safe.  It is easier to defend a return when the returner is fielding the ball from farther away from the endzone.  More importantly, it ran off eight seconds which guaranteed that the return would be the last play of the game.  If the 49ers had any return, they would have been able to throw a hail mary pass or, if they got a good return, would have been able to run a regular play.  By taking the safety, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh played the odds perfectly and set up the Ravens victory.

Bernard Pollard
One the first play of the game, Pollard re-broke six ribs.  According to the Ravens website, Pollard broke initially broke these six ribs one multiple occasions in the season.  The first three were broken when OLB Courtney Upshaw hit him during the week 2 game against Philadelphia.  Two more broke when CB Chykie Brown hit him in practice in November.  Lastly, Pollard broke the sixth when S Ed Reed hit him on the first play of the game in week 14 against Washington.

Pollard was able to play through the pain but he wasn't his normal self.  He looked weaker in pass coverage all game long.  Obviously, the injury isn't serious and he will be ready for next season with plenty of time to spare.

Haloti Ngata
Just like Pollard, Ngata got injured in the game.  However, Ngata's injury was more serious and, had a bigger impact on the game.  Ngata left the game with a knee injury and never returned.  It has been confirmed that Ngata only sprained his knee, so there will be no effect on his play next season.

In game, this effected the Ravens big time.  As soon as he went out with the injury, the 49ers were able to run the ball more effectively.  This is one of the reasons why the 49ers had much more success in the second half on offense then they did in the first. If Ngata, hadn't got injured the 49ers wouldn't have been able to run as well since Ngata is one of the top run stuffers in the NFL, let alone the Ravens best.

Underrated Play Of The Game
Certain plays like the touchdowns and the defensive stop at the end of the game get all the publicity but, there are still great plays that go unmentioned.  In this game, the underrated play of the game was a 3rd and 1 pass by the Ravens.

More specifically, it was a 3rd and 1 pass to WR Anquan Boldin with under nine minutes left.  Originally, the Ravens called for a run play but, Flacco audibled once he saw how the 49ers lined up on defense.  He called for a back shoulder fade to Boldin, who was in one-on-one coverage. On the route, Boldin was covered very well and it was a tough throw to make.  However, Flacco placed the ball perfectly and Boldin was able to hold on for the catch.

This play put the ball on the 49ers 40-yard line and one play later, the Ravens were in field goal range.  This field goal, by K Justin Tucker, put the Ravens up by five points with under five minutes left in the game.  If this pass is dropped or falls incomplete, the 49ers would only have been down two points, which means instead of having to score a touchdown at the end of the game, they would have only needed a field goal.

Underrated Player Of The Game
This goes to LG Kelechi Osemele.  I said, if the Ravens stop 49ers DE Justin Smith, they will win the trenches on offense.  Osemele did just that for the Ravens.  He was able to single team Smith which allowed more blockers to go to other pass rushers which neutralized the 49ers defensive front.

Player Of The Game
Last, is my player of the game award.  I think that the voters got this right when the gave it to Flacco.  He played an excellent game going 22-of-33 for 287 yards and threw 3 TDs.  Without Flacco's performance they wouldn't have won this game.  Coming into the game, the only real threat I saw to Flacco winning the award (if the Ravens won the game) was LB Ray Lewis.  If Lewis had a big impact on the game (i.e. forcing a big turnover), the voters might have given him the award because this was his last game in the NFL.
Runner Up:  WR/KR Jacoby Jones

Joe Flacco

Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco throws a pass.

Joe Flacco Is Officially Elite

February 6, 2013 in Super Bowl XLVII

During the offseason, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said he was an elite quarterback.  Well, with the Ravens victory in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Flacco has become one.

Personally, I don't like labeling quarterbacks as "elite."  There are just too many interpretations of what elite can mean, how many quarterbacks can be elite and so forth.  I prefer to look at it as can they lead their team to a Super Bowl and then win it.

If we are going by this, then Flacco is now an elite quarterback.  You can also argue he is an elite quarterback just based on his performance in the playoffs, which is also a valid argument.

Joe Flacco

Ravens QB Joe Flacco won the Super Bowl MVP and will hope this ends the debate on his "eliteness."

In the playoffs, Flacco went 73-of-126 for 1,140 yards with 11 TDs, 0 INTs, a QB rating of 117.2 and a QBR of 83.6.  These stats come from four games.  Over a full season this would equate to a statline of 292-of-504 for 4,560 yards and 44 TDs.  The completion percentage of 58 can seem a little worrying but when you factor in the fact that he is throwing many more deep passes than most quarterbacks, it isn't much to worry about.  His eleven touchdown passes to zero interceptions ties him with Joe Montana for the best TD-to-INT ratio in playoff history.

While Flacco had a good playoffs as a whole, his performance in the Ravens 34-31 Super Bowl victory was great.  He went 22-of-33 for 287 yards with 3 TDs, 0 INTs, a QBR rating of 124.2 and a QBR of 95.1.  This QBR of 95.1 is seven points higher than any of the Super Bowl performances since 2008 (when QBR was created).

On the deep ball, Flacco excelled again in the Super Bowl. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Flacco was 7-of-13 for 171 yards and 2 TDs on passes longer than ten yards.  This has been the key to Flacco's postseason success.  In the postseason from 2008-2011, Flacco threw 1 TD and 6 INTs on passes longer than ten yards.

With this performance, Flacco won the MVP of the game which always helps in an argument about being elite.

People who hate on Flacco will point to his regular season stats to say he isn't elite.  While they have a point, consider that Flacco's improved play occurred after offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired.  It will be interesting to see how Flacco plays after a full season under new coordinator, Jim Caldwell.  If Flacco doesn't perform well then there could be an argument but, I see Flacco having a career year next season, statistically speaking.

In my opinion, the only question there should be with Flacco now is his contract situation, not whether he is elite or not because, how many active quarterbacks have a Super Bowl MVP trophy?

Win In The Trenches, Win The Game

January 31, 2013 in Super Bowl XLVII, What to Look For

Super Bowl XLVII is being dubbed as the "Harbowl" because of brothers John and Jim Harbaugh being the head coaches of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers respectively.  While this is a good storyline, it won't exactly determine who will win this game.  These two teams played last season on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore and the Ravens won 16-6.  Both teams are similar to those teams from 2011 but, there are still many differences.  In this game, the key will be winning the battle of the trenches.

1.  Offensive Line
The biggest reason the Ravens are in the Super Bowl, in my opinion, is the offensive line.  You can argue other things like the defense stepping up, Ray Lewis announcing his retirement, and Joe Flacco but, without the offensive line, Flacco wouldn't be playing as good as he has.  Without Flacco, the Ravens wouldn't have made it this far so, the offensive line is a big deal.

Throughout the postseason, the offensive line has given up only four sacks in three games.  In the regular season, they allowed thirty-eight sacks in sixteen games.  This comes out to 2.38 sacks per game.  Sacks isn't the whole story though, as the line was allowing constant pressure during some games which gave Flacco no chance to complete was pass.  In fact, in the game against the Denver Broncos in week 15, the line allowed eighteen hurries, ten knockdowns, and three sacks (not counted as knockdowns) on forty pass attempts.  In their matchup in the Divisional Playoffs, the Broncos only had one sack and never had much pressure.

The reason for this sudden change was a change in the line itself.  Starting LG Jah Reid was injured for the Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts.  This forced a complete reshuffling of the line.  Normal LT Michael Oher went to RT, normal RT Kelechi Osemele went to LG, and backup Bryant McKinnie went to LT.  McKinnie started at LT last season but was forced to the bench when the Ravens drafted Osemele. Before the next game, against the Broncos, the Ravens placed Reid on injured reserve which locked in this lineup for the rest of the playoffs.

On to Super Bowl XLVII, the line will face a tough matchup with the 49ers who finished the regular season 3rd in total yards allowed and 2nd in points per game.  The biggest challenge will be for the left side of the offensive line.  Left tackle McKinnie will go up against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Aldon Smith who has 19.5 sacks this season.  Right guard Marshal Yanda will face All-Pro DE Justin Smith.  One stat in favor of the Ravens is that neither has recorded a sack since week 14 against the Miami Dolphins.  The reason for this is Justin Smith then missed some time with a triceps injury.  This shows that without Justin Smith, Aldon Smith is an "average" pass rusher.  Even in their two playoff games, Aldon Smith has no sacks and Justin Smith has been playing injured in those two games.

Since Yanda is an All-Pro guard, the Ravens will hope he can handle Justin Smith one-on-one.  This then allows more attention to go to Aldon Smith with McKinnie probably getting some help from a tight end or a running back.  If Yanda can handle Justin Smith, it frees up the whole offensive line.  It means on run plays C Matt Birk and LG Kelechi Osemele could double team NT Isaac Sopoaga and lets FB Vonta Leach get to the second level and take out one of the 49ers All-Pro ILBs in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.

The key for the Ravens offensive line is to stop Justin Smith.  If they can do this with just Marshal Yanda then it will free up other lineman to block linebackers and the rest of the defensive line.  Anytime you can get offensive lineman on linebackers in the run game, it is good.  In the passing game, if the line can hold up, Flacco should play similar to how he has so far in the playoffs.

2.  Joe Flacco
Speaking of Flacco, he has big responsibilities in the game.  This is his chance to show the world that he is an elite quarterback like he said before the season.  So far this postseason, he has been elite going 51-of-93 for 853 yards with 8 TDs, 0 INTs, and a QB rating of 114.7.  His passing yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and QB rating are all the best for QBs in this postseason.  

Beyond the stats, he has gone into Denver and beat MVP candidate Peyton Manning and went into New England and beat Tom Brady.  Not only did he beat both, he outperformed them and now he finds himself in New Orleans for the Super Bowl while they watch from home.

The best part of Flacco's game this postseason has been the deep passing game.  On passes to wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, Flacco is averaging 16.7 yards per completion.  During the regular season, the 49ers were good at stopping the deep pass but, in the playoffs, they have regressed and quarterbacks are 10-of-15 for 264 yards with 3 TDs, 1 INT, and a QBR of 100.  If you want to see a full chart for this click here.

Expect the Ravens to come out passing against the 49ers.  Against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, they came out running and it didn't work.  In the second half, they started to pass the ball and this second half performance won the game for them.  Don't expect the Ravens to abandon the run game though as they will need it for play-action passes and the Ravens always seem to lose when they don't run the ball.  As always, they will use Smith to take the top off the defense and then use Boldin and TE Dennis Pitta across the middle of the field.

Joe Flacco

The Ravens will need one more good game from QB Joe Flacco to win the Super Bowl.

3.  Stopping the Run
When the 49ers played the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoffs, the Packers couldn't stop QB Colin Kaepernick or RB Frank Gore.  In the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons, the Falcons were able to stop Kaepernick from running but couldn't stop Gore.  If the Ravens want to win, they will have to at least contain both of them.

Coming into this game, the Ravens defense is on fire.  They have given up 14 points per game in the playoffs and have only allowed four touchdowns.  Despite the Ravens not having played a good running teams in the playoffs, they have a few advantages over the Packers and the Falcons in stopping the 49ers run game.

The best defense to run for stopping the option, which the 49ers will run, is the 3-4, which the Packers use but not the Falcons.  However, the Packers defense has consistently been awful over the last few years.  The Ravens run the 3-4 defense and, they have the right personnel to stop the outside runs.

Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has been one of the best run defenders at his position all season long.  Therefore, expect him to play a little bit more than usual on Sunday.  When you think of Terrell Suggs, you think of a pass rusher, not a run defender.  However, Suggs has become a good run defender over the last few years and it has become the most evident this year.  Due to all of his injuries limiting his pass rushing ability, Suggs has become a better run defender.  Paul Kruger also will play at OLB for the Ravens but he is mainly a pass rusher so he won't be talked about here.

The outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense are the most important players in stopping outside runs, which is mainly what Kaepernick does.  Since the Ravens have a pair of good outside linebackers, the should be ok in this part of the run game.  They also showed this in their week 14 matchup against the Washington Redskins.  While the Ravens lost, they were able to limit QB Robert Griffin III to 34 yards on 7 rushes before he was hampered by a knee injury.  Therefore, it is Gore that the Ravens will have to really worry about.

The outside linebackers will have to set the edge for runs and probably will be assigned to Kaepernick on the option plays.  This means that the rest of the front seven will be responsible for stopping Gore.  This is what the Falcons couldn't do and the Ravens could fall in the same boat. The nose tackle position has been very inconsistent for the Ravens this year with not very good production.  This allows lineman to get blocks on the linebackers which can spring the running backs free.  This is never good for a run defense as it allows constant runs of five yards or more.

A way to fix this is putting normal DE Haloti Ngata at NT but this all but eliminates him from rushing the passer which he is so good at. Therefore, the Ravens will have to stick with Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody at NT.  Them, along with DEs Ngata, Arthur Jones, and Pernell McPhee will need to get push and take on blockers to disrupt the runs and allow the linebackers to run free and make tackles.

Expect the Ravens to have schemed up a decent way to stop this high powered run game of the 49ers.  However, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are great offensive minds which means they also will have schemed up something.  This means it will come down to execution and who can make plays.

4.  Pass Rush
Containing Kaepernick isn't the only thing the Ravens outside linebackers will have to do, they will also have to generate a pass rush when the 49ers pass it.  It will be a tough challenge for the Ravens pass rushers as the 49ers line has only given up two sacks this postseason but, they did give up forty-one sacks in the regular season which ranks tied for 23rd best in the NFL.

The Ravens, on the other hand, recorded thirty-seven sacks in the regular season, tied for 15th best, and have six sacks in the postseason.  In the game against the Patriots, they recorded no sacks but were able to have constant pressure.  Rushing the passer isn't all about sacks, most of it is getting enough pressure to force the ball out of the quarterback's hands before he wants to throw it.

Playing the 49ers, the biggest problem with getting pressure is the threat of Kaepernick to scramble and pick up chunks of yards.  Therefore, don't be surprised if the Ravens have either a linebacker in the middle of the field spy Kaepernick or just tell the edge pass rusher to contain on certain plays.  This should limit the scrambling ability of Kaepernick on pass plays.

On to specific players, OLB Paul Kruger had been quite a tear since week ten against the Oakland Raiders.  He had a total of ten sacks in nine games starting with that game.  His streak finished after a 2.5 sack performance against the Colts in their Wild Card game.  He has been shut out in the last two playoff games though.  The Ravens will need Kruger to regain his late season form to get pressure on Kaepernick and disrupt the 49ers passing game.

On the other side of the line will the Terrell Suggs.  Suggs has overcome a torn achilles and a torn biceps to be able to play this season.  In the regular season, Suggs was only able to record two sacks in eight games.  In the postseason, however, Suggs has two sacks, both against the Broncos.  Suggs will need to be in top form as the 49ers have a great offensive line, plus he will have big responsibilities in the run game.

While Kruger and Suggs will rush from the outside, Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones, and Pernell McPhee will rush Kaepernick from the inside.  Of those three, McPhee has turned his game on recently.  Against the Patriots he batted down two passes including one that resulted for an interception.  In the previous game, he had a strip sack of Peyton Manning.  McPhee had been limited by injuries all year but now, he seems to be back in form.  Jones had 4.5 sacks in weeks 12-14 but has no others on the season.  Ngata, has been a force inside when healthy and, he seems to be in good health right now.

As stated above, who ever wins in the trenches will win the game.  So, it might not be as fun to watch as a high powered passing offense, like the Patriots, but the battle in the trenches will be great to watch as there will be some great matchups and, most importantly, it will determine the game.

Paul Kruger

Ravens OLB Paul Kruger will be a key player in Super Bowl XLVII.

Four Ravens With Super Bowl Experience

January 27, 2013 in Super Bowl XLVII

With the Super Bowl being one week away, we should look at what experience the Ravens will have in New Orleans.  The Ravens have four players who have played in the Super Bowl before and their head coach along with both of their coordinators have been to the Super Bowl.

The first, and most obvious of the Ravens to play in a Super Bowl, is LB Ray Lewis.  He is the only player on the Ravens team with a Super Bowl ring.  Lewis got his ring in Super Bowl XXXV where the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7.  This is the only other time the Ravens have made it to a Super Bowl and Lewis is the only player left from this team.

In the game, Lewis only had 3 solo tackles, 2 tackle assists, and 4 pass defensed.  However, Lewis still was able to win the Super Bowl MVP. The reason that Lewis won the MVP was he was the leader of a defense that allowed no points (the Giants returned a kickoff for a touchdown). In fact on ESPNs Super Bowl MVP page, it just says "Led a dominant Ravens defense" under why he received the award.  Every MVP except one, Super Bowl XII, has the players statistics.  During that season, Lewis was also the Defensive Player of the Year and he led arguably the best best defense in history.

Ray Lewis

Ravens LB Ray Lewis was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV.

In his post game press conference, Lewis said "I told Shannon Sharpe [TE] and I told Jamal Lewis [RB]: Give us 10 points and the game is over. That's not boasting. If you give us 10 points, game over.  You go down against our defense, you're in a whole lot of trouble.  We've dominated people like that all year.  And they didn't score on us.  Make sure you quote that.  They didn't score on our defense."  As you can see, Lewis was very proud of his, and the defense's accomplishments.

The next Ravens player who has made a Super Bowl is fellow LB Brendon Ayanbadejo.  Ayanbadejo was part of the Chicago Bears when they made it to Super Bowl XLI.  The Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 29-17.  Ayanbadejo only played special teams for the Bears and recorded 1 tackle during the game.

Starting WR Anquan Boldin was part of one of the most unexpected Super Bowl runs ever.  He played a key part in getting the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII.  In the regular season, the Cardinals went 9-7 and many people believed they didn't belong in the playoffs at all.  The Cardinals run was ended by the Pittsburgh Steelers as they handed the Cardinals a 27-23 loss on an improbable touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left.  Boldin had 8 catches for 84 yards including a 45 yard catch. For that season, Boldin had 89 catches for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns in the regular season.

Last is backup S James Ihedigbo who played for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI which was last year.  Despite the Patriots losing 21-17 to the New York Giants, who like the Cardinals went 9-7 in the regular season, Ihedigbo played a decent game.  He had 5 tackles as one of the starting safeties.  However, Ihedigbo was covering Giants WR Victor Cruz on his touchdown catch.  At the end of training camp this year, Ihedigbo was cut and the Ravens quickly signed him.  By beating the Patriots twice, including the AFC Championship Game, Ihedigbo has is revenge and now is going for back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

On the coaching side of things, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was the Colts QB coach/assistant head coach when they beat  Ayanbadejo and the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.  This experience should be helpful during preparation for the Super Bowl over the next week.  Since he was also the assistant head coach, Caldwell would have had more responsibilities than a regular QB coach.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been to two Super Bowls with the Patriots.  The first was Super Bowl XXXIX where he was the LB coach and the second was Super Bowl XLII as the defensive coordinator.  The Patriots won the first Super Bowl but not the second.  The loss in Super Bowl XLII wasn't exactly on Pees because his defense only gave up 17 points.  They did give up 14 points in the 4th quarter but, coming into the game, the Patriots would have been happy giving up 17 points as their offense was one of the best in history.  However, the Giants were able to stop this high-powered offense.

Head coach John Harbaugh has been to the Super Bowl once when he was the Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator.  The Eagles faced the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX and as we already know, the Patriots won.  The Eagles special teams didn't give up any touchdowns and the longest return they allowed was only 26 yards.  It definitely wasn't Harbaugh's fault that the Eagles lost.

Now, what does this mean for the Ravens?  It means that they have some experience in all aspects of the game.  On offense, they have Boldin, a veteran receiver and a key players, and the offensive coordinator in Caldwell.  On defense, they have Lewis, a great leader, and coordinator Dean Pees.  Both Ayanbadejo and Ihedigbo play special teams so they will bring experience to that part of the game.  It is good that the three most important coaches all have been to the Super Bowl as they have already been through this before.

The San Francisco 49ers don't have the same experience at the top of their coach staff as head coach Jim Harbaugh went to Super Bowl XXXVII as the Oakland Raiders QB coach and neither offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio have been to a Super Bowl.  The 49ers do have more players who have played in Super Bowls as they have five players with Super Bowl experience.

It will be interesting to see how experience ends up impacting the game.  It is interesting that the teams combined will only have a  total of nine players with Super Bowl experience which is probably a recent low.

Ravens Advance To Super Bowl XLVII

January 22, 2013 in Observations

In a rematch of last years AFC Championship Game, the Baltimore Ravens outlasted the New England Patriots by a score of 28-13.  At halftime the score was 13-7 to the Patriots.  Once the second half started the Ravens had a new offensive scheme, pass the ball.  This worked as it led to 21 second half points.  The defense rose to the occasion and shut the Patriots out in the second half.  In the first half, the Ravens were out played but, in the second half, the Ravens outplayed the Patriots.  Before this game, the Patriots had won 71 games in a row under head coach Bill Belichick when leading at half, including a 67-0 record when the quarterback is Tom Brady.  Now the Ravens will head to New Orleans to play in Super Bowl XLVII.  They will have the San Francisco 49ers who are coached by the brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh.  The game will take place on February 3rd and kickoff is at 6:29 pm Eastern time.

The Red Zone
The Ravens play in the red zone, on offense and defense, is what won them this game.  On offense, they made it to the red zone four times and, scored four touchdowns.  This offensive efficiency can make an offense almost unstoppable, as long as they can actually get to the red zone. On defense, they allowed the Patriots to make it in to the red zone four times but, they only scored one touchdown.  The Patriots also got to the Ravens 24 and 22-yard line but, the Ravens were able to force interceptions both times.  This red zone defense describes this years Ravens defense.  They are not the best in the league anymore however, once the other team makes it to the red zone, they dig in and stop the offense. It is very hard to lose a game when you have these two stats on your side.

Joe Flacco
For Flacco, it was almost like two different games.  In the first half, he went 6-of-12 for 81 yards with 0 TDs or INTs.  This isn't bad quarterbacking but, it also isn't how an elite one plays.  In the second half though, he went 15-of-24 for 159 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.  For the game, he went 21-of-36 for 240 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.  His QBR was 80.2 and his QB rating was 106.2 compared to Tom Brady's QBR of 45.1 and QB rating of 62.3.  Brady also threw 2 INTs.  So, for the third time in as many games, Flacco has outplayed Tom Brady and, two of these games have been the AFC Championship.

As stated above, the Ravens offensive strategy in the second half changed.  In the first half they had been doing a lot of run plays, especially on first down.  The offense just looked really conservative in the first half.  At halftime, there were some changes as the Ravens came out throwing in the second half.  In fact, Flacco accounted for 70% of the Ravens offense in the second half.  With this change, the offense started to move the ball.  Soon they had taken a 14-13 lead and they never looked back after that.

On to more game specific things, Flacco never really got the deep ball going as his longest completion of the game went for 26 yards to Anquan Boldin.  The lack of a deep passing game can be attributed to the weather as it was very windy on the field with the wind at around 20 mph if I remember correctly.  All of Flacco's touchdown passes were good but the one that stood out to me was the first to Anquan Boldin.  The first was a play action jump ball.  After the fake, Flacco threw the ball up where only Boldin could get it.  Flacco also had one rush attempt where he scrambled and picked up 14 yards and a first down.

Joe Flacco

Ravens QB Joe Flacco celebrates throwing one of his three touchdown passes against the Patriots.

Ray Rice
Starting with his performance in the passing game, Rice had 3 catches for 22 yards on 4 targets.  Of these three catches, two of them went for first downs.  The most memorable was a 15 yard screen pass.  The Patriots originally had the screen covered but, Rice got away and Flacco threw it.  Rice broke three tackles on his way to the first down.  Now to the run game.  While Rice had 19 rushes, he only ran for 48 yards which is an average of 2.5 yards per carry.  Three of these rushes went for first downs.  One was a 5 yard run that put the ball on the Patriots 2-yard line after he ran for eight yards the play before.  Another of his first downs was a short run on a 2nd and 2 which put the ball on the Patriots 3-yard line.  The last of his first downs was a 3rd and 1 run with five minutes left in the game which helped run more time off the clock.  Along with his 48 rush yards, Rice also had a rushing touchdown.  He only went for two yards but, he broke two tackles on the way.  The play called for Rice to run up the middle but, like most of the game, there wasn't running room in the middle.  So, Rice bounced the run outside to the left and scored. The only negative from Rice is he had a false start on a 3rd an 8 from the Ravens own 29-yard line.  This was early in the game so it can probably be accounted to nerves.

Bernard Pierce
While couldn't get much going on the ground, Pierce had much more success.  On 9 carries he had 52 yards.  Three of these carries went for first downs.  One of them was a 2nd and 5 run for nine yards which put the ball on the Patriots 22-yard line and another was a 3rd and 2 draw that he was able to bounce outside for a gain of eleven, the longest rush by any running back in the game.  Pierce also had 1 catch for 8 yards.  This also went for a first down; it was a 2nd and 8 swing pass that just barely was enough for the first.

Torrey Smith
Unlike the Denver game, Smith wasn't able to catch a deep pass but, he still had an impact on the game.  Most of his catches were in the intermediate range due to the wind.  He had 4 catches for 69 yards on 9 targets.  He had three of these go for first downs.  The first was a 25 yard catch on play action on a 2nd and 6 which put the Ravens on the Patriots 15-yard line.  The second was a 2nd and 14 conversion that went for 23 yards.  Lastly, he had a 16 yard catch on a first down.

Anquan Boldin
This was another record setting game for Boldin.  With his two touchdown catches, Boldin became the Ravens all-time postseason receiving touchdown leader.  He had 5 catches for 60 yards with 2 TDs on 8 targets.  All of these catches came in the second half and only one wasn't a first down or touchdown.  One of these first down catches was a 3rd and 9 for 26 yards and the other was on 2nd and 10 that put the ball on the Patriots 10-yard line.  Boldin's first touchdown was on the first play of the fourth quarter.  The other touchdown (the first was discussed with Flacco), was on a 2nd and 4 and was for 12 yards.  Boldin lined up in the slot and ran a seam route, Flacco threw it up and Boldin caught it for another touchdown.

Anquan Boldin

Ravens WR Anquan Boldin celebrates a touchdown with WRs Torrey Smith (left) and Jacoby Jones (right) nearby.

Dennis Pitta
For the second game in a row, Pitta had 55 receiving yards.  This week he did it on 5 catches with 7 targets.  Three of these catches went for first downs, one for a touchdown, and the other was in the red zone.  Starting with his first down catches, Pitta had a 3rd and 4 catch from deep in Ravens territory, a 2nd and 10 catch for a gain of over 20 yards, and a 2nd and 4 catch that put the ball on the Patriots 13-yard line.  His touchdown was on 2nd and goal from the 5-yard line and was a quick pass.  Lastly, his other catch occurred on the play before his touchdown.  It was first and goal from the ten and he went over the middle.  Pitta caught the ball and took a big hit but still was able to hold on to the ball.  On the negative side, Pitta had a diving catch go right through his hands on a 3rd and 8.

Offensive Line
Yet again, the offensive line performed great.  They only gave up two sacks for a combined loss of five yards which is nothing in terms of sack yardage.  The first sack was given up by LT Bryant McKinnie on a 3rd and 6 from inside the Ravens own 10-yard line. The other sack was more of a coverage sack and Flacco was starting to scramble so it wasn't really the fault of the offensive line.  It only went for a loss of one so it was basically a failed run play.  None of the offensive linemen were called for a penalty which is very impressive.  In the run game, they got some movement but for the most past, there never were any big holes to run through.  Of the offensive line can protect Flacco like this for one more game, they could be tough to beat in the Super Bowl.

Haloti Ngata
Ngata may have only had four tackles but, for a defensive lineman in a 3-4 defense, that is good.  One of these tackles was a run stop for no gain.  The part of the game that Ngata was the best at yesterday was rushing the passer.  Ngata finished with three of the Ravens seven QB hits (they didn't record a sack but seemed to have a fair amount of pressure).  On a 4th and 4 play from the Ravens 19-yard line, Ngata had pressure with Terrell Suggs which caused Brady to throw the ball away.  Once the Ravens made this stop, it seemed like the Ravens were going to win and make it to the Super Bowl.  This play is an attribute to Ngata's speed as Brady had an open field in front of him but didn't run because he probably wouldn't have made it.  Ngata also had pressure on another play which caused a throw away.  The last play where Ngata caused a throw away was with two minutes left.  Ngata had pressure which caused Brady to throw the ball away.

Pernell McPhee
So how does a defensive lineman without a tackle make it here?  Simple, deflect two passes (including one that leads to a touchdown) and say that you have discovered Tom Brady's flaw.  First, McPhee batted away a pass in the fourth quarter that Dannell Ellerbe was able to intercept. After this interception, with seven minutes left in the game, it seemed like the game really was over as the Patriots never got the ball back until there were two minutes left.  The other pass deflection came with under two minutes left in game.  On to him discovering Brady's flaw, McPhee says "He throws all of his balls low."  When asked about how Brady has been so successful despite this McPhee said "He just throws it fast and he always gets good pockets.  But I tried to stay in front of him after watching film and knowing where he likes to go and how he likes to do it.  So that was my best advantage, just get my hands up."  This strategy clearly worked for McPhee as he had his two pass deflections at the line.

Pernell McPhee

Ravens DE Pernell McPhee batted down two passes at the line-of-scrimmage.

Ray Lewis
As usual, Lewis recorded double digit tackles with 14 but, according to Pro Football Focus, only two of those were defensive stops (runs for little or no gain).  Lewis was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit which was the right call even though it was pretty obvious that he didn't mean to do it. Lastly, after the game, Lewis fell to the ground and started saying "Hallelujah."

Dannell Ellerbe
Starting with pass coverage, Ellerbe gave up three catches for one first down.  With about seven minutes left in the game, Ellerbe intercepted Brady off of McPhee's tip.  This came the next play after Wes Welker caught a 56 yard pass.  The last positive for Ellerbe was a pressure on Brady which caused a bad deep pass that ended up going out-of-bounds.  Also on this play, Ellerbe was able to take down Brady.  On the negative side Ellerbe was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty after slapping a Patriots offensive lineman when a play was over. Ellerbe was retaliating to a late block but, you can't do that in the NFL and he was flagged, even if his slap barely was anything.

Terrell Suggs
While Suggs is though of as a pass rusher, he is actually quite a good run defender and this was on full display yesterday.  Suggs had two run stops for no gain including one on a 2nd and 1.  In the pass rush department he wasn't able to record a sack (like all of the Ravens) but, still had at least two pressures.  The first was on the 4th and 4 with Haloti Ngata as already discussed.  The other was with under two minutes left where he hit Brady as he threw causing an incompletion.

Walking off the field, Suggs was overheard saying "Tell them to have fun at the Pro Bowl. Arrogant f—ers" and "These are the most arrogant pricks in the world starting with Belichick on down."  He also said "That's funny, ever since SpyGate they haven't been able to win" though I don't know if he said this one to reporters or if he was overheard like the other two.  He did respond to reporters saying "All BS aside they are a hell of a ball club … They have the right to be arrogant."  While he may believe this, there is no reason to say this but, on the positive side, he didn't come out and say it to the media, he was just overheard.  Either way, the Ravens don't need publicity like this, especially after these two controversial things about the Patriots.

Bernard Pollard
It seemed like Pollard was all over the field going full speed all night.  He finished with 9 tackles, 1 pass deflection, and 1 forced fumble.  In the run game, Pollard had a run stop for a gain of two yards.  In pass coverage, he only gave up one pass.  On a blitz he was able to bat down a pass at the line-of-scrimmage.  This batted pass came on 1st and goal from the Ravens two-yard line.  On a 3rd and 4 from the Ravens 19-yard line, he had great coverage and forced an incompletion.  Pollard had a big hit on a receiver but was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit.  However, he led with his shoulder on the play and his shoulder hit the receiver on his head so I am going to call this one a bad call.

Lastly is the play we all remember, his hit and forced fumble on Patriots RB Stevan Ridley.  Pollard hit Ridley hard and they both lowered their heads on the play so it was a helmet-to-helmet hit but since it was a running back it isn't a penalty.  Ridley was unconscious before he hit the ground and on his way down, the ball came out of his hands and was recovered by DT Arthur Jones.  Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said "That [Pollard's hit] was the turning point of the game. A tremendous hit, football at its finest."  This play goes in line with Pollard's history with the Patriots.  In 2008, it was Pollard that hit Brady when he tore his ACL.  In 2009, it was Pollard that Welker was trying to avoid when he tore his ACL.  In 2012, it was Pollard that injured Rob Gronkowski ankle which limited him in the Super Bowl.

Bernard Pollard

Ravens S Bernard Pollard goes in for a tackle.

Cary Williams
Williams had a solid performance last night only giving up four completions and one first down.  He also had a deflection on a 3rd and 2 that went right to Paul Kruger but, since the deflection took a weird bounce off of Williams, Kruger dropped it because he wasn't expecting the ball to come to him.  Lastly, Williams intercepted Brady in the end zone with 1:06 left in the game.  After this interception the Ravens just took a two knees and the game was over.

Corey Graham
Like Williams, Graham gave up four completions, however, three of his went for first downs and the other was for the Patriots only touchdown of the game.  The touchdown was on a 3rd and goal from the one.  After the play, Graham and Chykie Brown were upset because they didn't communicate well after the Patriots motioned a receiver over.  This led to Welker being open for the touchdown.  Graham was also beaten on the first drive on a 3rd and 2 but Welker dropped the pass.  On a pass that Welker didn't drop, Graham was beat deep for 56 yards.  He bit badly on the double move leaving Welker wide open.  Ending on a positive note, Graham had a run stop for a loss of one on a 3rd and 2 which forced a field goal by the Patriots.

Jimmy Smith
This game was the first time in a while that Smith received substantial playing time.  Brown started as the nickel corner and then Smith took it over.  By the end of the game it seemed like they were being rotated.  This could have been part of the game plan to put Graham on Welker instead of Brown doing that.  This would mean that Graham would be in the slot.  Since Smith is better on the outside than Brown, he would come in when in nickel.  This is just a speculation so it will be interesting to see who is the nickel corner in the Super Bowl.

John Harbaugh

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh celebrates the Ravens win in the locker room.