Ravens – Your Moment of Zen

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“Tom Brady if you’re listening – Take off the skirt and put on some slacks.”

- ex-teammate Rodney Harrison

Ravens fans have certainly waited a long time for this.  Not Detroit-Lions-Long, but it feels like eternity when you taste the AFC championship game one year, and then watch the opportunity slip away in back-to-back seasons.

The Patriots present a tough matchup – perhaps the hardest we’ve faced all year.  About a month ago, the Ravens went on the road to face a top 10 offense with an “elite” quarterback and got drummed by the Chargers.

Of course, that doesn’t really mean anything.  It was a different team they played.  The Ravens are a different team now.  And don’t forget Lardarius Webb did not play.  If that does not comfort you it should.  With his play this year – and the progression he’s shown from a college safety with injuries, to a borderline pro bowl cornerback – we should feel encouraged.

I’d be shocked if Webb isn’t regularly matched up in the slot against Welker, Hernandez, or the Gronk.  The Ravens should change their base package this week to a nickel set.  It’s not like they’d be losing physicality – all three cornerbacks can tackle especially Webb and Smith.  And all three cornerbacks can cover.  It would certainly beat the alternative of having McClain, an injured Ayanbadejo, or an aged Lewis trying to keep up with those guys.

And just as an aside, how well did the ‘old men’ play against the Texans!  Ray Lewis was all over the field.  How about when he blew up that screen pass with his shoe-string tackle!  Not to mention Ed Reed securing victory with 2 passes defended and an interception near the goal line.  Andre Johnson was so frustrated he gave up on the play allowing Reed to pick it (Johnson had broken up 2 interceptions earlier in the game).

Pagano’s scheme was ingenious.  Pressure Yates but don’t over commit to bringing him down – let him throw.  And throw he did.  I counted at least 6 pickable balls.  He was bailed out to only throw 3.  I applaud Suggs who did what he always does when not asked to harass the quarterback, make plays in the run game especially by running down the tailback from behind with his exhaustive pursuit.

Surely, this is not the plan tomorrow.  Suggs must get after Brady.  He’ll most likely be matched up against LT Matt Light who he has beaten on several occasions in past matchups.  Suggs’ success would mean that Brady will become hurried, out-of-sync, and less accurate (not inacurrate – that’s impossible to do to Brady).  It could also create a chain-of-reactions by the Patriots in which one of the tight ends is brought into pass block.  This is significant because then the Patriot’s offense is being dictated to by the Ravens who could blitz more once they smell blood in the water.  If Suggs is stopped by Light.  No sweat.  Put him at left DE where the RT is the only real questionable starter for the Patriots going into tomorrow’s game (according to sports talk up here in Boston).

As for the offense, lets get something straight – the national media has not watched many Ravens games this year.  Their reporting is stale and largely misconstrues reality.  Their questioning Flacco is preposterous.  He played a great game last week against the Texans. Just ask Phil Sims who usually hates the Ravens, “Did the experts watch the game? Joe didn’t miss a throw, not one. I watched every play. Every time he had the opportunity, he hit the guy. And, he made some moves so he could complete other throws. Are these people watching? What was Joe supposed to do with Texans in his face? Throw it up and hope? Sometimes a sack is a good thing. The object is to win the game. You did.”  Flacco went something like 14 for 28 with approx. 5 throw-aways due to defensive pressures and around 5 drops by wide receivers.

The Packers had about 8 drops so it does happen, but they are a throwing team.  It is easier to overcome them when you still have 2nd or 3rd down to throw again.  The Ravens don’t.  They have less pass attempts, therefore the drops by receivers are magnified because Flacco cannot always give them another opportunity.  Look at last year.  Boldin dropped a 4th quarter TD that bounced off his chest.  Then Houshmandzadeh dropped a 20 yard pass on 4th and 18.

Flacco is a game manager until the game is on the line.  Then he becomes an ice cold killer – like he was this year in Pittsburg.  If the offensive line can figure out a way to flatten the front of the pocket and let Joe throw the ball, he can deliver a strike.  Just ask Mark Clayton who dropped a pass that hit him on the chest 2 years ago in Foxboro (on 4th and 2 stopping Flacco from completing an epic comeback against Tom Brady).

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