Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl XLVII Ring: Rich City of Tradition

The bauble earned for the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII.

The bauble earned for the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII.

So to conclude a reunion week of the team that vanquished the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl last February, the Baltimore Ravens were on tour again. First a trip to the White House where they met with President Obama where they presented him with a ceremonial jersey. Then to have the week culminate in the presentation of their Super Bowl rings in a gala on Friday night.  Ray Lewis and most of the players who have moved on from the organization, were back to bask in the evening commemorating their achievement sitting atop the NFL for 2012.

The first view leaked on the day by CBS Sports didn’t do the ring justice. This professional shot from the Ravens organization shows off the quality of the ring and downplays it’s size. The oval design of the top distinguishes it from the rectangular face of the first championship ring. This ring needed to say more where the typical design of a first ring is normally the team logo and a series of diamonds. With the oval face we see the off centered dual Super Bowl trophies layered beneath the logo amid a bed of diamonds.

The best aspect of the ring is it was made in white gold which gives it a clean and sleek look. Much like the Super Bowl trophy itself, it has a steely look to it. One that reflects the clinical moves that an organization makes with awarding a Ray Rice with a $35 million contract before the season, yet make Joe Flacco sweat it out in a contract year. Another that comes to mind is the steely resolve Flacco exhibited in his road performances in Denver and New England. Where he took the measure of the two best quarterbacks whose status kept his in question when you think of the AFC’s elite quarterbacks.

The ring will forever reflect the steely grit a team showcased once their leader in Ray Lewis announced he would retire after the 2012 postseason. Finally, it reflects the steely nerves a tired Raven defense had to display in the greatest goal line stand in Super Bowl history. Greater than the 49er stand in Super Bowl XVI?? Absolutely!! This one won the Super Bowl with seconds left where the one the 49ers put on was in the third quarter.

By doing so the Baltimore Ravens brought the city its fifth NFL championship. Just as Johnny Unitas used to attend Ravens games, those old titles belong to this city, not with the original franchise that sits in Indianapolis.

1958 NFL Championship ring

1958 NFL Championship ring

The championship team that put the city of Baltimore on the map forever was the one that won this ring right here. Arguably the most influential NFL Championship ever played was the 1958 epic where the Colts beat the New York Giants in overtime 23-17. In fact it’s moniker has been “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. Although there had been winning drives in championship games before, Johnny Unitas came of age as a quarterback during his. With the Colts down 17-14, where they hadn’t scored since the second quarter, Unitas took to the air. Through his will and determination he directed Baltimore on a long drive to tie the score on a Steve Myra kick. Forcing the first “sudden death” overtime in NFL playoff history.

You have to remember we were just two years removed from the New York Giants having won the 1956 championship with the league’s best defense 47-7 over the Chicago Bears. This was to be their era and the New York media was there en masse to cover their second championship triumph in 3 years. Yet as Unitas to Raymond Berry began to dominate the overtime period, media attention switched to; “Who is this skinny quarterback riddling the NFL’s best defense?” Unitas was inventing the “two minute quarterback” with his every move from quick passes, to his deft play calling. He had total command of the game and performed with glacial calm.

Unitas famous drive showcased his flair for the dramatic as well as his play calling taking advantage of what the Giants defense would think he would do. Once inside the 10 yard line where the Colts could kick the winning field goal, Unitas threw an out to TE Jim Mutscheller to get down to the 1. The Giants were out of position as they were geared to stop the run. Just as the Giants braced themselves for the customary fullback leading the halfback into the line, Unitas called the opposite. Alan Ameche crashed into the endzone behind a Lenny Moore block through a gaping hole.

The game was over with the city of Balitmore champions of the football world and Johnny Unitas was on the map forever. On the heels of the excitement of this game, Lamar Hunt formed the principles of what would become the American Football League. Football became the new American obsession after this game and began to rival baseball as the #1 sport.

Watch that was awarded to the 1958 NFL Champion Colts. Unsure if this went to the coaches and owners or the complete story.

Watch that was awarded to the 1959 NFL Champion Colts. Unsure if this went to the coaches and owners or the complete story.

In a rematch that concluded the NFL’s “Golden Age” of the fabulous 1950s, the New York Giants again faced the Colts for the league championship. This time the Colts would be at home. A city that famous Baltimore writer John Steadman once said “Baltimore was known for being the train stop between Washington DC and New York.” Tapping into the city’s inferiority complex. The Colts and principally Johnny Unitas gave the city a legitimacy on a nationwide scale that it hadn’t experienced before. Yet here they were again facing the evil empire that was New York’s Football Giants coming to take back the crown.

However in a dominating performance, Unitas and the Colts throttled the Giants 31-16 thanks to a 24 point 4th quarter. They were down 9-7 when the highest scoring team in football scored with a Johnny Unitas 4 yard scamper around end. Then Unitas found Jerry Richardson for a 12 yard touchdown to push the lead to 21-9. Then Johnny Sample, yes the same one that played with the Jets and intercepted Unitas twice in Super Bowl III, returned a Charlie Conerly pass  42 yards to push the Colts to an insurmountable 28-9 lead with half a quarter to go.

Richardson would go on to own the Carolina Panthers many years later.

Gino Marchetti and Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb and the Colt defense came up with timely plays to hold the Giants to 3 first half field goals by Pat Summerall.  In Tom Landry’s last game as the defensive coach (defensive coordinator) of the Giants, the Colts were held to only 280 yards of total offense to the Giants 323.

The NFL Championship ring of the 1959 Baltimore Colts.

The NFL Championship ring of the 1959 Baltimore Colts.

The Colts winning back to back championships made them a dynasty and one of the greatest champions in NFL history. Not bad for a team that had come into the league from a defunct All American Football Conference with the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns in 1950. In 10 years, these 3 teams from the inferior league won half the decades NFL championships. Winning the first in 1950, the last in 1959, and the Browns playing for 3 more championships. Yet it was the team from Baltimore that ushered football into the modern age as the 1960s dawned.

The ring commissioned for winning Super Bowl V.

The ring commissioned for winning Super Bowl V.

The last Colts team that won Super Bowl V for Baltimore was one that suffered from the fallout from having lost Super Bowl III. The turbulent 1960s were over and the merger between the NFL and AFL happened with a championship between the two leagues starting after the 1966 season.  The Super Bowl III loss to the New York Jets legitimized the AFL and the merger but the Colts suffered from the fallout that lasted the rest of their lives VIDEO.

The Colts were led by an aged Johnny Unitas who was getting by on guile. He now had All Pro Tight End and fellow Hall of Famer John Mackey on offense along with Roy Jefferson and Eddie Hinton at the wide outs. Gone were Raymond Berry, Tom Matte and familiar names with the Colts. They were transitioning from the team that won for most of the decade of the 1960s but couldn’t overcome the Green Bay Packers in the Western Conference. Now they found themselves in the first year of interleague play under the AFC along with former AFL teams and the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers who were paid $3 million to move from the NFL to the AFC. Each conference now had 13 teams.

After posting an 11-2-1 record, they bested the Oakland Raiders in the first ever AFC Championship Game 27-17 to make their way to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the Orange Bowl. Rookie Jim O’Brien kicked a last second field goal to win Super Bowl V 16-13 over the Dallas Cowboys. Unitas who would be gone from the Colts in less than two years was knocked from the game in the second quarter. The Colts put themselves in position for the winning field goal when Mike Curtis intercepted a Craig Morton pass with seconds left to put the ball on the Dallas 28 with seconds left.

This ring was the first for the city of Baltimore with it’s new team, the Ravens. Art Modell had moved the former Cleveland Browns (ironically) to town in 1996. Free agency had dawned after the 1993 season and teams were struggling to put offenses together. Yet the trend became one where a suffocating defense through free agency could be built, and the Ravens built one of history’s finest. After drafting Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Duane Starks, and Chris McAlister, they filled in the blanks with free agents Tony Siragusa, Robert Bailey, Corey Harris, and future Hall of Famer Rod Woodson to form a defense the league hadn’t seen since the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles.

The first ring won by the Baltimore Ravens after Super Bowl XXXV.

The first ring won by the Baltimore Ravens after Super Bowl XXXV.

The Ravens first ever foray into the NFL playoffs came after a regular season where they had given up a league record 165 points for the season. The old record had been 187 points allowed by the 1986 Chicago Bears.  Although the Ravens defense was ranked #2 on the year, they yielded the fewest points, highlighted by four shutouts. They had become the first team since the ’85 Bears to record back to back shutouts during any NFL season. How dominating were they?? If you include the 3 points allowed to Denver in the wildcard 21-3 win, the 10 points given up to defending AFC Champion Tennessee Titans in a 24-10 win, and the 6 points given up in the AFC Championship win over Oakland 16-6, in 19 games they still gave up less points than the Bears old 16 game record. (184-187 points) Yikes!!

Couple that with the fact the Giants only touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV had been a kick return by Ron Dixon, they would have ended the game with a fifth shutout which would have been a Super Bowl first. Ray Lewis was the 2000 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of the Super Bowl as well. Trent Dilfer, Jamal Lewis, and free agent acquisition Hall of Fame Tight End Shannon Sharpe powered an efficient offense. This was one of the greatest defensive champions of all time.

There you have it… Baltimore’s rich NFL tradition punctuated by championships from different eras. Ironically there is a lot more to the Cleveland Baltimore rivalry than meets the eye. They have been joined from the hip since their 1950 NFL inception and the present day franchise started in Cleveland. Yet here they sit as champions of the football world for another year. How will they fare in 2013?? Go read our previews.

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Huge Quarterback Salaries: Feast or Famine

nfl-logoWhen the final gun went off at the end of Super Bowl XLVII, the first item up for business for the Baltimore Ravens was to work out the long term deal for Joe Flacco. General Manager Ozzie Newsome inked his quarterback to a lucrative 6 year $120.6 million deal. With that in mind, the Green Bay Packers are on the verge of an even bigger contract for Aaron . Which brings up the question: Are these huge quarterback salaries worth it?? Have they translated into Super Bowl wins??

When we’re talking about these over the top contracts we’re not talking about the contract where a back-up or a player is trying to resurrect their career like Drew Brees was in 2005. We’re talking about the $80 – 100 million plus contract extensions to lock up a quarterback long-term. Every GM beams with the quarterback in the photo-op, but are they crippling their own franchises??

Peyton Manning was an icon in Indy.

Peyton Manning was an icon in Indy.

The one that comes to mind first is Peyton Manning. He came into the league in 1998. By the end of 2003 he played out his rookie contract and was given the franchise tag in 2004. He then went on to sign a 7 year $98 million contract that made him the highest paid player in 2005 with a cap cost of $17.766 million for 2006. The fall-out?? Say good-bye to franchise all time leading rusher Edgerrin James via free agency that very same year. However the Colts did make it to Super Bowl XLI later that season but one of the issues had been with so much money tied to the offense, they couldn’t sign any key defensive free agents to get to a championship sooner. They weren’t the same type of team when they took on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Gone was a superstar in wideout Marvin Harrison, replaced by lessor talents in Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. It’s a miracle they made it to that title game.

When you look at the other fall-out they lost several defensive starters in that same 2004 year in Cornerback David Macklin, Cornerback Walt Harris, and Linebacker Marcus Washington. Fortunately they had Cato June and S Bob Sanders who were already on the roster to replace them. However June, the leading tackler on the championship ’06 team, signed a free agent deal with Tampa before 2007 and Sanders career was derailed by injuries.

Yet with another contract looming he was franchised again in 2011. Had a deal not been reached he would have counted $23 million against the cap that year. But a deal was reached on a new 5 year deal worth $90 million that back-loaded money so he only counted $18 million against the cap. Having learned from previous years Manning cited he wanted the Colts to be able to retain other players. By 2010 they were an average team. They were 10-6 only because of his brilliant play. It wasn’t the 20th ranked defense that had given up 388 points (81 more than the AFC Champion ’09 squad). It wasn’t leading rusher Donald Brown (who?) that ran for 497 yards and 2 touchdowns. So when his neck injury hit, the entire house of cards collapsed as they went 2-14 and had to purge the team including Manning.

Brady is a 3 time Super Bowl champion.

Brady is a 3 time Super Bowl champion.

Of course you can’t mention Manning without bringing up Tom Brady. In 2008 the Patriots were coming off their 18-1 season where they had lost Super Bowl XLII. They had signed budget priced free agents in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth the year before and became a juggernaut. His contract has been extended multiple times to offer cap space yet he’s still counting nearly $13.8 million against the cap this year where originally he was going to count $16-18 million before. Notice the Patriots have signed only middle of the road free agents over the last few years. So it was surprising they signed WR Danny Amendola to a $31 million deal.

However a closer look at it and you noticed they haven’t had any other high-priced free agents come in and help him get that fourth Super Bowl win. Even receivers Chad Ochocinco and Brandon Lloyd were marginal free agents at best. The defense has totally been purged and Bill Belichick has a young defense that has had some growing pains. They did make it to Super Bowl XLVI but lost to the Giants and Eli Manning for a second time. They don’t have the cap space to sign quality free agents yet remain close but no championships.

In 2010 he signed a four-year extension worth $72 million to relieve cap space then in February of this year re-worked it to a 3 year $27 million extension. He thought the latest move would keep Welker in town. When it didn’t he was upset about it. Yet it was the back and forth between he and Peyton Manning who would be the highest paid players have crippled their teams in other areas. The real reason they didn’t win it in 2007 and 2010 were pedestrian defenses. They were the Achille’s Heel that showed up in the waning minutes of  Super Bowl XLII when Eli Manning started his drive.  Let’s face facts , in 2011 when they lost Super Bowl XLVI they were 31st in the NFL in overall defense. Gone were Richard Seymour and Asante Samuel who had made plays for them. In 2007 they were at least 4th in defense but weren’t pressed in games since they were ahead by so many points.

Romo is the newest member of the $100 milion club.

Romo is the newest member of the $100 milion club.

Now wait…wait this just in *Walter Cronkite voice* “The flash making it official, Jerry Jones has just signed quarterback Tony Romo to a 6 year deal worth $108 million.” They get some immediate cap relief but who else have they signed with any merit?? Exactly. Now don’t forget we’re a week or two removed where Aaron Rodgers will not discount double check a contract worth $120 million. The sticking point will be how much is guaranteed?? $60-65 million??

You’ll note before last season the New Orleans Saints signed Drew Brees to a 5 year $100 million contract. Yet who have they signed to shore up that porous defense that ranked dead last allowing 440 yards per game and gave up 454 points for the season?? They’re supposed to be competitive in a division that has Tampa improving and Atlanta fresh from a birth in the NFC Championship?? The Chancellor doesn’t think so.

Yet you look around, Manning’s Broncos and Brady’s Patriots seem like the only teams that are favored to be contenders. Over in the NFC it’s the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Atlanta Falcons who are the favorites. The Giants and Eli Manning’s $90 million contract and the aforementioned Aaron Rodgers and the Packers seem to be on a tier below. In fact it was Colin Kaepernick (4 yrs / $5.2 million) and money spent on a better team that ousted Green Bay 45-31 in last year’s divisional round. Now that they’re going to sign Rodgers to his mega deal, they can only keep Clay Matthews yet Charles Woodson and receiver Greg Jennings are now gone.

The league will come to realize this yet it’s hard to see teams not overpay for the best at their positions. The Tony Romo signing is baffing since he has only 1 playoff win in 7 years. Yet when he faced the Redskins and Robert Griffin III (4yrs /$21 million) for the NFC East Title he came up short as he has in big games since ’07. $108 million for a perennial 8-8 quarterback??

What we’re seeing here is a changing of the guard. You have the teams with all their money tied into elite quarterbacks facing young counterparts with smaller contracts on more complete teams. We hadn’t even brought up Andrew Luck and the Colts yet either. Joe Flacco signs his huge deal and watches all his teammates walk out the door as Peyton Manning once did. Each team has to do what is right for them but these contracts are crippling the rest of the roster. The only big money quarterback to win a Super Bowl was Eli Manning and even his Giants have not been in that top-tier of contenders. The NFL is catching on and in another 2-3 more years of watching this, you’ll know who the teams that will be the contenders. Find the team with the young quarterback with money spent on defense. The Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan are at that tipping point.

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2013 Baltimore Ravens Preview – A New Frontier

Baltimore's trophy case holding the Super Bowl XXXV & XLVII Trophies along with the AFC Championship units.

Baltimore’s trophy case holding the Super Bowl XXXV & XLVII Trophies along with the AFC Championship units.

When you hold up the trophy at the end of the season, everyone comes gunning for you the following season. However in Baltimore’s case they’re unsure as to who they’re going to be. As the confetti fell, the ink was drying on the retirement papers for Ray Lewis. Friday morning the inked signature of C Matt Birk was scrolled across retirement paperwork as well. Super Bowl XLVII hero Anquan Boldin has said he would retire from the NFL if the Ravens released him. He will not play for another team. Yet a contract restructure should keep his services in Baltimore.

All of this before we find out the fate of S Ed Reed and Linebackers Paul Kruger &  Danell Ellerbe with their unrestricted free agent status. Will one of them be franchised if they sign Joe Flacco to a long term deal or will Flacco be franchised and one of them walk away as a free agent?? Not since the 1997 MLB champion Florida Marlins have we seen defending champion with so many roster questions going into the next season. In that situation they were having a fire sale for half their roster, in this one it’s all the team leaders with half already gone and the spiritual / emotional leader in Lewis already out of the complex. These next few weeks leading into free agency will tell the tale. Who will the 2013 Baltimore Ravens be??

Even as late as this weekend at the combine, they are still negotiating Flacco's contract.

Even as late as this weekend at the combine, they are still negotiating Flacco’s contract.

Quarterback: Well, well, well… Looks like The Chancellor along with LaMarr Woodley had to eat their words when it came down to assessing Joe Flacco’s projected ability to win the big game. Where last year it looked like his career would be defined by the incompletion to Lee Evans in the AFC Championship, a new Flacco emerged gunning his team to a 28-7 3rd quarter Super Bowl lead. Even when things got tight he drove them to the game clinching field goal while eating up valuable time.

He finally came through and out-dueled Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get to that Super Bowl victory. The traces Flacco’s transformation began in that divisional playoff against Denver.

Last year our CEO challenged that Flacco wasn’t going through his progressions and just dumping the ball to Ray Rice where there were throws down-field that could have been made. For the season Rice was second on the team with 61 receptions. However in the playoffs, Rice only had 1 reception on a screen against the Colts, none in Denver, 3 in the championship against New England, and 4 in the Super Bowl. Three of those were when the 49ers were coming back and he started to regress a bit. Compare that to Boldin’s postseason, 22 rec. for 380 yards and 4TDs, and you could see how his play improved. He jelled with new play calling coach Jim Caldwell in the playoffs to the tune of 11TDs with zero interceptions in the postseason.

Finally, the Ravens are Super Bowl quality at the quarterback position.

Offensive Backfield: Now if it hit you during the playoffs that Bernard Pierce was getting almost as many carries as Ray Rice you weren’t seeing things. If you go back to the final two games and go through the playoffs, Pierce had 70 car. for 400 yards to Rice’s 108 car. for 521 yards and 1 touchdown. Pierce was the more physical runner as the season concluded and had an eye popping 5.7 yards per carry. He ran with good body lean and fell forward. Yet with Rice with the big contract he’ll get the majority of the carries in the upcoming season.

Bernard Pierce ran hard toward the end of the season averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Bernard Pierce ran hard toward the end of the season averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

With 1,527 touches in his first five years, the Ravens were coming close to burning Ray Rice out. Truth be told it’s good that Pierce has emerged to take a load off for various drives or even games where they can afford to rest him. As they did in the season finale against Cincinnati. For the season he did rush for 1,143 yards and 9TDs on 257 carries. However they can trim his work load thanks to second year back in Pierce.

They will rely on their running game a little bit more to offset a defense that won’t be as stout as it had in year’s past. The Ravens are in great shape if either were to go down for a stretch in the upcoming season. Depending on how they strategically need to be used to rest the defense.  The Chacellor sees a season where Rice / Pierce should see a 60/40 mix as the runners this season. They may want to re-work his contract but that will be going into 2014. As for now the Ravens are playoff quality at the running back position.

Receivers: Here is where the first of the question marks show up for the Baltimore Ravens. Restrictive free agent TE Dennis Pitta (61 rec. / 669 yards / 7TDs) and WR Anquan Boldin (65 rec /921 yards / 4 TDs) have question marks at the present time. Right now it looks like they’ll be able to re-sign Pitta, whom Flacco developed a bond with, but Boldin is another scenario. From his free agent contract after leaving the Cardinals, Boldin is due $7.5 million this year and the consensus is he’ll be released. Boldin has said if that happens he’ll retire from the game. Although he was clutch in the AFC Championship & Super Bowl, he would be going into his 11th season and gets by on will. He is going to have to take a drastic pay cut to remain a Raven which we think he’ll do. We’ll have to wait and see.

The difference in this team winning the Super Bowl and watching it was Jacoby Jones. While Torrey Smith has emerged as a bonafide playmaker with 8 touchdowns on 49 receptions, it was Jones who was a game changer. When the team needed a charge in the game against Dallas he broke through with a 106 yard kick return touchdown that was the margin of victory that swung momentum in a 31-29 win. When the Ravens took the field in Denver with a little over a minute to go, it was Jones who got behind the defense for the 70 yard touchdown to force overtime. In the Super Bowl when the question was if the 49ers could come back?? Boom he goes 108 on a kick return to boost the lead to 28-6.  He is the missing element that the Houston Texans lost when they let him get away as a free agent.  Jones will have a bigger role this season even with the return of Boldin. Look for Offensive Co-ordinator Jim Caldwell to unleash formations with Smith and Jones in bunch formations often in 2013. If they get Boldin back this is a Super Bowl caliber group. Without they are still playoff caliber.

Michael Oher should return to his native LT spot in 2013.

Michael Oher should return to his native LT spot in 2013.

Offensive Line: This is where the 2013 questions on the Ravens are the loudest. First of which, how do you replace a team leader and center in the retired Matt Birk?? Are they going to come to terms or even re-sign T Bryant McKinnie?? The Ravens had to shuffle Michael Oher from LT to RT and moved rookie RT Kelechi Osemele to LG and insert McKinnie at LT to replace an injured guard. For the season the team was 20th in sacks allowed with 38. There is no way that Osemele didn’t benefit from learning from Birk as he learned a new position on the fly. It takes more than coaching to do that.

This unit paved the way for 444 rushing attempts 1,901 yards and 17 touchdowns. The yardage was good enough for 11th in all of pro football but they could use a little more muscle in the middle. When it came to 3rd or 4th and two or fewer, or even 1st or 2nd down at the goal line, they pushed for a first down or touchdown 58% of the time as compared to 79% on the right. Up the middle is where they can improve on this to keep drives sustained with a younger center. Look for the Ravens to use a couple of draft picks on the offensive line and a pick up or two in free agency at either Center or Tackle. It’s not a given that McKinnie will come back. Until we know what they do once free agency begins we have to give them a below average grade. Replacing a center means to replace the man responsible for blocking audibles. Doubtful they would leave that to a rookie.

Defensive Line: For years The Chancellor has said that Haloti Ngata is the best defensive lineman in the NFL. Never was it as evident as in the Super Bowl a month ago. The comeback by the 49ers coincided with his leaving the game with an injury. Up until that point the 49ers were unable to sustain the run on the front side of their read-option. Once he went down you saw the Niners mount their comeback and Frank Gore gained the majority of his 110 yards rushing.

In 2012 Ngata made his presence felt again with 50 total tackles and 5 sacks while making his 4th straight Pro Bowl. However you have to worry about the mileage on Ngata’s knees now that he’s turning 30. It’s also time for Terrence “Mount” Cody to start performing like the high draft pick he was out of Alabama. He only started 3 games and had 25 total tackles yet is about to become labeled as a “bust”. Having been beat out by a 33 year old journeyman in Ma’ake Kemoeatu. The Ravens gave up a lot of yards against the run in 2012 and these guys were allowing offensive linemen to get out on linebackers as Baltimore finished 20th against the run.

The Ravens need to make a move here in free agency or the draft. Without a great camp it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cody be released. Lets face it the line in Baltimore is there to stop the run more than rush the passer but they can’t give ground and need to get off blocks. There Cody has struggled. They have to get younger and healthier on the line. If not they will be really beat up toward the end of last season. Right now the Ravens are average on the defensive line.

They need to re-sign Paul Kruger.

Can the Ravens retain Paul Kruger??

Linebacker: Did you ever think that we’d ever say the Ravens are weakest at the linebacker position??  Well with Paul Kruger, Danell Ellerbe both about to test the free agency market. That leaves Terrell Suggs as the lone cornerstone linebacker on the roster and let’s face it, he was a shell of his former self. He was only getting a quarterback pressure once every 14.5 rushes. That is not enough. Not for a former defensive player of the year. He came in with 8 games to go and only had 2 sacks on the season and 23 tackles on the year. Last year teams were able to block him one on one.

The most important re-signs are Kruger and Ellerbe. Kruger had 42 tackles, 6 passes defensed, and 9 sacks. Even in the Super Bowl when San Francisco made it in close to the goal line in the second quarter, Kruger made the sack to force SF to kick a field goal. He made plays from the outside. Ellerbe (89 tackles / 4.5 sacks) on the inside is crucial to maintain some continuity along with Jameel McClain 78 tackles. This is another place where the team may make a move to pick up a free agent linebacker and draft someone for the middle.

We see them re-signing Ellerbe and re-signing Kruger is a wish. They do have Shaun Phillips (Chargers), Anthony Spencer (Cowboys), Dwight Freeney (Colts), and possibly Osi Yumeniora (Giants) could be situational pass rushers if they can’t bring back Kruger and they await Suggs to get to full strength. With the questions they have at linebacker we have to say this group is below average if they don’t get Ellerbe back.

Secondary: Here is another position where the Ravens come in less than they were a month ago.  The looming loss of future Hall of Fame S Ed Reed is a big loss. However there are two safeties in Dashon Goldston (49ers) and William Moore (Falcons) are available for less money. At SS Bernard Pollard is ready to be a pro bowl player after last year’s 99 tackles 2 sacks, and an interception. They may lose CB Cary Williams who wants more than the 3 yrs and $15 million dollar contract that is being offered. The truth is LarDarius Webb and Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham are solid enough at the corner position. They are very good cover corners but they need to get more interceptions. Webb is their best corner but he is coming back from injury. If they can solidify the FS this group can be Super Bowl caliber. If they need to draft a FS they will drop down to playoff level at best…

Overall: Where other prognosticators are saying the Ravens have a legitimate chance to defend their Super Bowl title isn’t looking at projecting out to next year. This team is going to miss the leadership of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and C Matt Birk beyond what can be quantified. This team hasn’t had to motivate itself or get emotionally ready to play for the last 17 years. The coaching staff and the team will search to find those next leaders. This team had lost 4 out of 5 coming down the stretch before Lewis brought the team motivation with his retirement announcement. They do have holes in their defense and in the first year without a strong defense, The Chancellor doesn’t think the offense is ready to pick up the slack. The Ravens will really slip this year and they may be a 7-9 or an 8-8 team. They won’t come close to getting back to the Super Bowl.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

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Super Bowl XLVII Recap: Ravens 34 – 49ers 31

Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII

Finally Super Sunday dawned like Christmas day for football fans and of course the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. However once the game kicked off the 49ers inexperience immediately hampered early success. After forcing a 3rd and nine where the Ravens didn’t convert, Ahmad Brooks jumped offsides giving the Ravens new life. The Ravens converted and scored with Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin from 13 yards out to make it 7-0 Baltimore.

As expected the 49ers came out in the Pistol offense and moved the ball for the next couple of drives but went 1 of 3 on their first third downs and kicked the ball several times to the Ravens. They did have Ray Lewis and the Ravens befuddled as they drove the football and kicked a field goal to cut it to 7-3 before inexperience hit San Francisco again. On a quick outside play, LeMichael James instead of going down, fought for more yards and had the football knocked loose and the Ravens recovered.

The subsequent drive had one of the highlights in Flacco’s career. While holding a pensive 7-3 lead Joe was flushed by a blitzing Aldon Smith and scrambled to his right. Where it seemed like a perfect time to throw it away, the new Joe Flacco heaved it for 30 yards where Anquan came up with the football. A huge first down that allowed the Ravens to keep the momentum and take a 14-3 lead. Even if you go back to the first play of the game, Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis with a 20 yard gain. It was called back with an illegal formation and they stayed a step behind Baltimore ever since.

Torrey Smith and the prettiest Ravens in the building.

Torrey Smith and the prettiest Ravens in the building.

Then the quarterback that swore he was never nervous about the Super Bowl, showed his nerves as he overthrew his receiver and S Ed Reed picked it off on the San Francisco end of the field. Frustration boiled over as a fight ensued. The 49ers have played on the edge being a defensive bully on the NFC block and they were getting beaten by a team that has been an NFL bully for 13 years. The 49ers thought they were the more physcial team and found out they had run smack into a buzzsaw. They were down 14-3 and were starting to sweat. After a botched fake field goal gave the Niners the ball back Kaepernick was jittery and nearly threw a second interception to a diving Cary Williams. Then the Jacoby Jones highlight reel started.

First Flacco hits him with a 56 yard bomb to put the Ravens up 21-3 and he totally had blown by the secondary for the catch. He then got up and raced into the end-zone and the Ravens were up 21-3 and it looked like they were headed to hoist the trophy. After a field goal by the 49ers to cut the lead to 21-6, the momentum was clearly Baltimore’s as the teams left the field.

Coming from halftime, the first thoughts were for the 49ers to stop the Ravens who were going to get the ball after the kick. Get the Ravens to  go 3 and…..ooops!! Jacoby Jones sets a league record by bringing the second half kick 109 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-6 and the ballon of confidence popped on the San Francisco sideline!!  A few plays later the lights went out…literally! We had a 36 minute play stoppage but the Niners were about to be blown out of the stadium.  Or so it appeared… It was eery watching the players try to keep warmed up in a semi-dark Super Dome. The only delay that was close to this was the “Fan-Man” incident during a Riddick Bowe v. Evander Holyfield championship match in 1993.

Ravens Brass holding the hardware.

Ravens Owner Steve Biscotti and Head Coach Jim Harbaugh hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy while CBS’ Jim Nantz looks on.

After the outage, the Ravens came out flat and the 49ers seized the momentum, outscoring the Ravens 17-0. First a touchdown throw from Kaepernick to Crabtree for 31 yards to first cut the lead to 28-13. On the next series Flacco is swallowed by Ahmad Brooks on third down forcing a punt. Then the game swung big time! First Ted Ginn Jr took the punt around midfield and ran it back to the Raven 20 yard line. Couple plays later Frank Gore took a handoff around right end on a counter and the 49ers had cut the game to 28-20. Over the next few minutes the 49ers had all the momentum and it looked like the Ravens were hanging on for dear life.

In a wild second half Colin Kaepernick found his groove. He eventually completed 16 of 28 for 302 yards and 1TD to Michael Crabtree. He also rushed 6 times for 62 yards and the touchdown to cut the Ravens lead to 31-29 with just over 7 minutes to go in the game. Kaepernick’s game was transcendent and elevated this Super Bowl into one of the greatest ever. He completed all the throws and shook off his second quarter jitters and being down 34-29 after a Ravens field goal, everyone held their breath as the Niners raced downfield.  With just over two minutes to go, Frank Gore burst around left end and gave the Niners a first and goal from inside the 10 yard line. San Francisco was on the brink of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. They just needed 8 yards…

The last play of Ray Lewis career. A 4th down incompletion in Super Bowl XLVII.

The last play of Ray Lewis career. A 4th down incompletion in Super Bowl XLVII.

That’s when the heart of a champion showed up in the form of the Baltimore Ravens defense. They stuffed one running play and played discipline football in stringing out two passes to the sideline. There were no openings for Kaepernick to throw the football. Then as it had on a two point attempt earlier, the Ravens blitzed on 4th down, Kaepernick lofted the ball for Michael Crabtree but the throw was errant thanks to the pressure. Baltimore escaped with a World Title thanks to a goal line stand to end Ray Lewis’ story career.

The MVP of the game was Joe Flacco and it could be argued that he almost played his way out of it. In the first half he was brilliant throwing for 192 yards with 3TDs on 13 of 20 passes. Once he was sacked by Brooks during the 49ers furious 3rd quarter rally he stopped throwing downfield and started to look like “the old Joe Flacco”. Yet once the Niners cut the lead to 31-29, Joe drove the Ravens on a 10 play 59 yard drive and gave the Ravens defense 5:29 of possession time to rest. On the drive he hit Anquan Boldin with three passes, one a critical third down that kept the chains moving. The subsequent 38 yard field goal by Tucker put the Ravens up by 5, 34-29 and no one was safe.

Ray Lewis, from The [[_]] hoists the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his last NFL game.

Ray Lewis, from The [[_]] hoists the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his last NFL game.

In the end, the Ravens gutted it out in that goal line stand and the difference could have been borne from the rest Flacco and the offense gave them from the previous drive. After three plays the Ravens took a ceremonious safety that gave them a 34-31 lead while effectively running out the clock.

World Champion Baltimore Ravens! The victors in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever. The vanquished 49ers had to exit the field as the purple and gold confetti fell on one of the most unlikely NFL champions ever. In one of our Super Bowl articles, our CEO said to “never underestimate what it means for a man to motivate other men.” Inside the 10 with just 1 minute to go, Ray got his guys to focus on those 4 plays. This team was flat coming down the stretch losing 4 of 5 to finish the season and it looked like another mid playoff exit was brewing.

Ray announces this would be his last go ’round and everything changed for the Baltimore Ravens. Cell phones were left out of meetings and players focused that much more on the game. The miracle double overtime win was one of the greatest in NFL history and one Flacco had to throw a 70 yard touchdown with less than a minute to go to tie it. In a year where former Owner Art Modell passes earlier in the season, OJ Brigance fighting ALS while working in the Ravens front office, Torrey Smith losing his brother and coming back to play for the Ravens with a heavy heart, they drew inspiration from within. Once Lewis admission to retire at the end of these playoffs and they were playing for something bigger than themselves. They needed every bit of spirit and motivation to upset the favored San Francisco 49ers by 8 yards.

The game won’t be the same without Ray Lewis but he leaves with another championship ring.

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Super Bowl XLVII Preview: Joe Flacco – Transformation Into An Alpha Quarterback

Joe Flacco has come of age in the 2012 playoffs.

Joe Flacco has come of age in the 2012 playoffs.

Contrary to LaMarr Woodley’s opinion, the Baltimore Ravens have made it to the Super Bowl with Joe Flacco at quarterback. Even here, our CEO has had his issues with Joe Flacco who used to shrink a the enormity of the event. But something happened out in Denver that separated the Raven quarterback we once knew, to the confident play maker that has emerged.

For the whole of his career, Flacco plays well enough but always left you wondering. Every now and again he’d have a flash, like the last second touchdown pass to TJ Houshmandzadeh in week 4 of 2010 to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Yet when the season was on the line some 14 weeks later in the divisional round of the playoffs, Flacco played nervously and wouldn’t pass downfield. In this playoff loss he only completed 3 downfield passes in a 31-24 loss that seamed to seal his fate as a quarterback who couldn’t lead his team to a championship.

He appeared to be afraid to pull the trigger and kept checking the ball down to Ray Rice in that game. Its been the knock our CEO has had on him for years and we’ve talked about ad nauseum when covering the Ravens. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/07/13/2012-baltimore-ravens-preview/  He wasn’t going through his  progressions and getting the ball down the field when the plays were there. We spoke of a damaged fight or flight mechanism that had his nervous feet count 1, then 2 seconds then throw it to Ray Rice. There were games when a receiver would break open and the ball would be overthrown. He wouldn’t capitalize on these moments and would always keep the Ravens opponents in games by not putting them away. It happened in last year’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots as well.

Even when you look at his performance over this season, he only completed 59.7% of his passes for 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.  Rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck out performed that throwing for 26 and 23 touchdowns respectively. He performed well in the wild card win over Indy with a 282 yards passing, 2 touchdown performance, but would he continue those ways against an AFC heavyweight. For his career he would beat the lessor teams and struggle against the better teams in the AFC playoffs. Why would the divisional tilt against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning be any different?? The Broncos were on an 11 game winning streak and he had under-performed and lost to the elite quarterbacks in playoff games. He had said he was elite and now was going into the lion’s den at Invesco Field. It didn’t look good.

Flacco's coming out party in the AFC Divisional 38-35 defeat of the Denver Broncos.

Flacco’s coming out party in the AFC Divisional 38-35 defeat of the Denver Broncos.

In the game that will forever define him going forward, Flacco played a magnificent game. He was decisive and made every read while going through his progressions completing 18 of 34 for 331 yards and 3TDs. Where Ray Rice was 2nd on the team with 61 receptions, he didn’t catch a single pass in the 38-35 overtime thriller. When the play was there, he was on time and perfect like when he feathered a 59 yard bomb to Torrey Smith to tie the game at 7. However the clarion moment for him took place when he took the field with 1:09 left in the game and down 35-28. His team needed a touchdown and they had to cover 77 yards. On a 3rd and 3 Flacco dropped back and instead of his usual scared check down throw he launched a game tying bomb to Jacoby Jones for 70 yards and the tying touchdown with :41 left in regulation. Everyone of the 78,000 in the stadium were stunned along with the millions watching the game and Broncos S Rahim Moore. No one believed he would go deep.

SuperBowl47_SOR01a_2012_SCC_SRGBIt was the confidence in how he dropped back and delivered the football that was the most telling point of the play. He was sure of himself and the throw he executed will go down in NFL history. He carried that confidence into the AFC Championship Game in New England. Where for a second year he out-dueled Tom Brady throwing for 240 yards and 3 more touchdowns leading his team to Super Bowl XLVII. If you’re keeping count, Flacco’s thrown for over 800 yards, 8 touchdowns and no interceptions during this postseason. He’s buried the memories of losing in the playoffs to two of the most storied quarterbacks of his era in Manning and Brady.

So now he gets to wrap up this great postseason run in Super Bowl XLVII. Why would he get nervous now?? Everyone is talking about Colin Kaepernick, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore when the man poised to win the most valuable player award and possibly this game is wearing #5 for the Ravens. He now has the most road wins in playoff history with 6. On Sunday he’s going to try and join Eli Manning as the only quarterbacks with 7 or more postseason wins away from home. He’s flown under the radar this whole week and seems poised to do it again.

NEXT UP: SUPER BOWL XLVII GAME PREDICTIONS

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AFC Divisional Playoff: Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Peyton's Broncos face the Ravens defense in today's divisional match-up.

Peyton’s Broncos face the Ravens defense in today’s divisional match-up.

This is a very intriguing playoff match-up. The Denver Broncos have enjoyed a dream of a season in 2012 as Peyton Manning has delivered. Not since John Elway have they finished with a record as well as 13-3. Their defense finished ranked #2 in all of football yet The Chancellor is still not convinced. While it’s true they beat Baltimore in week 15, keep in mind Ray Lewis wasn’t there and neither was SS Bernard Pollard.

If you go back and look at that football game, Denver held a 10-0 lead when seconds before halftime, Flacco threw a lazy sideline pass. It was intercepted and returned for a touchdown and boom…17-0, the game was over.

One intriguing fact that no one thought of with Peyton going to Denver was his play in the cold throughout his career. He did have one great playoff game in 2003 on the road in Kansas City when the Colts won 38-31. He threw for 304 yards and 3TDs in that game yet had Edgerrin James with him who rushed for 125 yards. It was 40* at kickoff and he did lean on his running game in that one. Others in New England didn’t go so well. Remember 2003 & 2004?? The temperature will be in the 30s for this one…can he lean on his running game?

At 5’9, 200 lbs, we’re not sure Ronnie Hillman has enough rocks in his pockets to run hard in a playoff against Baltimore. Moreno should get the bulk of the carries in this one since he’s 215. Each of which have rushed under the league average of 4.0 at 3.8 and 3.9 respectively and they have fumbled 3 times. They’ll have to handle the football 30 times or more to keep control of the game. Yet neither has been a playoff starter before… how will nerves and the Baltimore defense make them respond??

Although our CEO has had his problems with Joe Flacco, he did play well in the second half of the wildcard game against the Colts. Do you realize he has 4 road playoff wins under his belt?? For the Ravens to win he needs to throw downfield and not play like a scared rookie and keep dumping the ball to Rice. He has to go through his progressions. This is the make or break game of Flacco’s career. He could be heading to free agency and he needs a signature win to solidify his status as a starter in the National Football League.

We don’t know if you noticed but RB Bernard Pierce #30 has been running the football with some muscle for the Ravens lately. Last week he ran for 103 yards on 13 carries, the week before ran for 89 in the finale against the Bengals, and 123 against the Giants. Ray Rice is still in the picture but their change of pace back is a bruiser built more for a cold grind it out day like today.

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Playing with emotion trying to get Ray back to the Super Bowl.

The fact of the matter is the Ravens are coming in with more playoff experience at key positions. The team has banded together to get Ray Lewis back to the Super Bowl and we know how emotion can play in high intensity football. When Denver ran out to the AFC West crown, the rest of their division was in the middle of losing 17 straight games and now the Chiefs and Chargers fired their coaches.

Between a team that has had to fight and claw to get to this point versus one that coasted playing weak teams.  The Chancellor has to take the Ravens because they are the most battle hardened. How will Denver players react to being roped into a street fight??

Don’t forget that when Peyton asks the Denver crowd for quiet, it will allow the Ravens to get their defensive adjustments also. Peyton Manning has known nothing but close games with the Ravens.

In a mild upset… Baltimore Ravens

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