August 21, 2017

Ravens 30, Steelers 17

The second game of wildcard weekend had the Baltimore Ravens heading up to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.  These teams are division rivals and are very familiar with one another.  Kicker Josh Tucker sent the opening kickoff deep into the end zone and the Steelers started at their 20-yard line.  They took 6:27 off the clock and moved into Baltimore territory, but they came away with no points.  Instead of trying a 55-yard field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin decided it would be a wise decision to punt.  Brad Wing’s punt was downed at the Baltimore seven-yard line.  The Ravens ran three plays and punted the ball right back to the Steelers.

Starting with good position at the Pittsburgh 40, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown.  That was followed by a five-yard carry by rookie running back Josh Harris.  Harris got the call again and he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Roethlisberger went to the air again and two completions to rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant netted 29 yards.  That set them up with a first down at the Baltimore 20.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, the next three plays would lose seven yards.  Kicker Shaun Suisham came on and his 45-yard field goal attempt was good.  That put the Steelers up 3-0 with 1:29 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and quarterback Joe Flacco went deep on first down for wide receiver Jacoby Jones.  The pass was incomplete, but safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit.  That moved the ball to the 35.  Flacco threw to his right and the pass was caught by tight end Owen Daniels for a gain of 18 yards.  Two carries by running back Justin Forsett netted another first down and the Ravens were in Steeler territory.  From the 36, Flacco hooked up with Daniels again for a gain of ten yards.  That was followed by two more carries by Forsett and that gave them a first down at the five-yard line.  Two plays later, running back Bernard Pierce took it in from five yards out for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 7-3 with 12:28 to go in the second quarter.

Return man Markus Wheaton fielded the ensuing kickoff five yards deep and decided to run it out.  Not a good idea.  He was brought down at the 14-yard line.  From the 14, Roethlisberger completed an 18-yard pass to Brown.  On third and ten from the 32, Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller for a gain of 30 and a first down at the Baltimore 38-yard line.  The next three plays netted nine yards and Suisham was brought into the game for a field goal attempt.  But the Ravens were flagged for having 12 men on the field.  That gave the Steelers a first down at the 24.  Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Tate on first down.  But another flag was thrown and the Ravens were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the ten.  The Ravens brought some pressure and Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of nine by defensive tackle Brandon Williams.  That was followed by a short pass to Brown and a 12-yard pass to Bryant.  That set up a fourth and goal from the four.  Suisham had no problem making his 22-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens now led 7-6 with 5:40 to go in the second quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Steve Smith for a gain of 23 yards.  A four-yard pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken and an eight-yard run by Forsett moved them into Pittsburgh territory.  Add another personal foul penalty on the Steelers and the Ravens had a first down at the 30.  From the 30, Flacco found Daniels for a gain of 19 yards and a first down at the 11.  But they would only gain one yard on their next three plays.  Tucker was brought in for a 28-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  That put the Ravens up 10-6 with 2:41 to go in the second quarter.

Another short kick return by Wheaton had the Steelers starting their next possession at their 18-yard line.  Roethlisberger got his team to mid-field with an 11-yard pass to Miller, a 14-yard pass to Bryant and a seven-yard pass to running back Dri Archer.  A six-yard pass to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and an 11-yard pass to Wheaton netted a first down at the 33.  The drive stalled at the 29 and Suisham came on for a 47-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Ravens led 10-9 at halftime.

The Ravens started their first drive of the second half at their 16-yard line.  On third and 14, Flacco looked his right and found wide receiver Torrey Smith for a gain of 17 yards.  A seven-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and a short run by Forsett had the Ravens in a third and short situation.  Instead of trying to run it up the gut, Flacco went deep for S. Smith.  The pass was incomplete, but some more yellow laundry was thrown onto the field.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, they weren’t terrible towels.  They were penalty flags.  Defensive pass interference was the call and the Ravens now had the ball at the Pittsburgh 31.  On first down, Flacco was sacked for a loss of 13 by linebacker Sean Spence.  The ball came loose, but the Ravens recovered it at the 44-yard line.  A short pass to Jones and a 14-yard pass to Smith put the Ravens back in field goal range.  Tucker’s 45-yard field goal attempt was good and the Ravens went up 13-9 with ten minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers punted on their next possession and the Ravens took over at their 31-yard line.  Two completions to S. Smith quickly moved them down to the Pittsburgh 23.  A nine-yard pass to Juszczyk and a five-yard scramble by Flacco moved the ball down to the nine-yard line.  Two plays later, Flacco lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone and it was hauled in by T. Smith for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 20-9 with 4:13 to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers couldn’t get moving and after eight plays netted just 14 yards, they punted again.  The Ravens took over at their 17 and a completion to S. Smith and some good running by Forsett moved them to the 42-yard line.  On third and eight from the 44, Forsett caught a pass and was brought down just short of a first down.  Flacco took it up the middle on fourth down and gained two yards for a first down at the Pittsburgh 47-yard line.  From the 47, Forsett ran up the left side and the ball came loose.  Defensive end Stephon Tuitt recovered the fumble and that gave the Steelers the ball at the 45-yard line.  Roethlisberger went deep for Brown on first down and it appeared he made a 45-yard touchdown catch.  But replay showed he was down at the one.  That was followed by a false start that moved them back to the six.  From the six, Roethlisberger threw to the right and Bryant caught it for a touchdown.  They decided to go for two, but the pass intended for Brown was picked off by safety Matt Elam.  With 11 minutes to go in the game, the Ravens led 20-15.

Jones returned the kickoff to the 22, but the Steelers were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the 37-yard line.  The next two plays lost three yards and that put the Ravens in a third and 13 situation.  If the Steelers could get a stop here, they’d be in position to take the lead.  That didn’t happen.  Flacco found Daniels across the middle and he gained 23 yards on the play.  That gave the Ravens a first down at the Pittsburgh 43-yard line.  From the 43, Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Marlon Brown for a gain of nine.  On third and one from the 34, Flacco went deep for S. Smith, but it was incomplete.  Tucker came on again for another field goal attempt.  His 52-yard attempt split the uprights and the Ravens went up 23-15 with 8:47 to go in the game.

The Steelers still had a shot to tie the game up.  But on third and four from the 26, Roethlisberger felt the pressure and dumped off a short pass to Tate.  The ball hit his hands, but he couldn’t handle it and it was picked off by defensive end Terrell Suggs.  The Ravens wasted no time in getting another score as Flacco dumped a short pass off to tight end Crockett Gillmore and he took it the rest of the way for a 21-yard touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 30-15 with 7:56 to go in the game.

The Steelers knew they had to score quickly.  But they were anything but quick on their next drive.  Granted, they moved the ball well, but they weren’t using the no huddle offense consistently.  To top that off, Roethlisberger left the game after getting his bell rung.  He was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.  Gradkowski completed two of three passes for 22 yards.  On second and ten from the Baltimore 14, Roethlisberger came back into the game and promptly threw a pass that was picked off by safety Darian Stewart.  That pretty much sealed the deal.  The Steelers did manage to block a punt late in the game for a safety, but that was way too little way too late.  The Ravens came away with a 30-17 win.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 18 of 29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns.  Steve Smith led the team in receptions with five and receiving yards with 101.  There wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of for the Ravens.  They totaled 49 yards rushing on 25 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Daryl Smith led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 of 45 for 334 yards, one touchdown and two very costly interceptions.  Antonio Brown led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 117.  Like the Ravens, there wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of.  As a team, the Steelers rushed for 68 yards on 19 carries.  Defensively, safety Troy Polamalu led the team in solo tackles with five.

Up next for the Ravens is a trip to New England to face the Patriots.  That game will be on Saturday at 4:35 eastern time.

Bears 23, Ravens 20 – Strange Winds Were Blowin’

The Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens took a side trip through the Land of Oz on Sunday and their return ended in a wet and weird 23-20 overtime victory for the Bears that kept them in the hunt for the playoffs and left the Ravens in a very bad spot.

But none of that really matters.

It was just a football game but it could have been catastrophic and was, indeed, deadly for some people just several hundred miles away from Chicago’s Soldier Field.

The Ravens led 10-0 in the first quarter when severe winds, rain and dark clouds that looked like they were drawn in hell descended upon Chicago’s lakefront having already, in the form of tornadoes, cut a deadly path through southern and central Illinois, ripping houses to shreds, tossing cars like blades of grass and killing at least eight people.

No one at Soldier Field knew at that moment that the weather had killed people but everyone was well aware of the potential danger and the game was, rightly, delayed.  The officials sent the players into the locker rooms and Soldier Field staff told the 62,367 fans to move inside.  The delay lasted one hour and 53 minutes.

Then, it was time for football again.

The Soldier Field grass, which is widely considered the worst playing surface in the NFL, had been transformed into a muddy bog of potholes and the game became a test of which team could better handle the delay and navigate the striped minefield.

It proved to be the Bears.  It was close, but we’ll take it.

Josh McCown was at quarterback again for the Bears in place of the injured Jay Cutler and Mr. McCown continued to impress, playing about as well as a QB could amid challenging conditions and against a depleted but proud Ravens defense, completing 19 of 31 passes for 216 yards, one touchdown and, amazingly again, no turnovers.

In #12’s four games of action he has completed 60.4% of his passes for five scores, no turnovers, and a quarterback rating of exactly 100.0% which is higher than Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Alex Smith and, among others, Tony Romo.  If McCown keeps playing – Cutler is expected to be out at least one more game – he will certainly, at some point, throw an interception and make bad decisions.  But for now, he’s a joy to watch.  He’s precise and cautious, yet completely unafraid.  The Bears want Cutler back, to be sure.  But if Josh has a few more good games they might not be so vocal about it.

McCown’s best play of the game came in overtime when he connected with tight end Martellus Bennett for 43 yards setting up Robbie Gould’s game-winning 38-yard field goal about six minutes into the extra quarter.  Sixty-two thousand Bears fans, most of whom had gutted out the rain and wind, celebrated wildly and the Bears had their third victory of the year against the AFC North.

But the heroics of McCown, Bennett and Gould would not have been possible if the Bears’ defense, which has been criticized more than Rob Ford, had not come up big.

Chicago’s first touchdown came when defensive end David Bass intercepted Joe Flacco for a 24-yard interception return in the second quarter.  It was the fifth defensive touchdown for the Bears this year.  Since 2005, the Bears are 25-2 when the defense scores and have won 11 in a row when getting a defensive TD.

Those TDs are nice but you also have to do it the old fashioned way sometimes and just stop people, and the Bears, who are still missing Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Shea McLellin and just about every other defender who’s making big money, did that, too.

Baltimore won the coin toss to start overtime and the Bears were able to hold Joe Flacco and Ray Rice’s crew to one first down before forcing a punt.  Prior to that the Bears defense did allow Baltimore to drive down 96 yards at the end of the fourth quarter for the tying field goal. That cannot be denied.  But the Bears at least were finally able to come up with some clutch tackles and kept Baltimore out of the end zone.  Maybe they shouldn’t have been in that position but they were, and they got it done.

The Bears’ defense still has much to answer for.  Ray Rice, who is having a terrible season, got healthy on Sunday running for 131 yards and a score against the Bears who have running backs all over America licking their chops. The Bears are allowing 133.9 yards rushing per game, second worst in the NFL, and have given up 11 rushing scores, which is tied for fifth worst in the league.  Oh Henry Melton, where art thou?

The Bears are now muddied, bloodied, battered and 6-4.  The Detroit Lions lost on Sunday to drop to 6-4 and the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers also fell and are 5-5 so Chicago’s chances of winning the NFC North, which it will probably have to do to qualify for the playoffs, remain ripe.

The campaign continues with a trip to St. Louis to face the 4-6 Rams.  Some of the Illinois tornadoes struck near St. Louis so that city is feeling the pain of what happened on Sunday just as much as Chicago is.  Hopefully this coming Sunday’s game will help fans in both cities gain some solace and, at least for a few hours, forget a terrible afternoon when thousands had to take shelter.

 

NFL Week 1 Highlights

The NFL is back!

Both last year’s Super Bowl and this year’s NFL 2013 opener have something in common: Baltimore Ravens witnessing a delay.

However there is one major difference during these two delays: Baltimore being demolished by the Denver Broncos 49-27 in the season opener compared to seven months ago becoming Super Bowl XLVII champions.

The 2013 NFL season went through a 33-minute lighting delay before the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens played the Denver Broncos on the road. Baltimore becomes the first Super Bowl championship team in ten years to start their season on the road since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003.

Denver wanted to redeem last year’s divisional playoff loss in overtime against Baltimore. Not only did they redeemed last year’s loss, but they gave the Ravens the worst season opening defeat ever by a Super Bowl champion.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had a historic game, achieving several records during the 49-27 victory. Manning threw for a NFL game-tying record seven touchdown passes for 462 yards. Only five quarterbacks have thrown seven touchdowns in a game and was last achieved by Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp against the Baltimore Colts on September 28, 1969. 

The Broncos are the first team in NFL history with three players catching at least two touchdown passes from the same quarterback. Manning’s first two passes went to tight end Julius Thomas, which were his first two touchdowns of his NFL career. After the Broncos blocked punt in the third quarter, Manning’s fourth and fifth touchdown passes went to newly acquired wide receiver Wes Welker. To put the game out of reach, Manning completed his final two touchdown passes to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Overall, there were 63 touchdown passes in Week 1, the most ever in any week in NFL history.

 

Other Records Achieved During Manning’s 7-Touchdown Game

-1st quarterback with three career games of 6 Touchdown Passes

-23rd career game with 4+ Touchdown Passes, tied for 1st with Brett Favre

-7th career game with 5+ Touchdown Passes, tied for 1st with Drew Brees

-Extended his NFL record with his 73rd career 300-yard passing game

-Extended his NFL record 74th career game throwing 3+ touchdown passes

 

Unique Debuts

They are other players who achieved or extended personal records and streaks during Week 1 of the NFL season. Newly acquired wide receiver Anquan Boldin for San Francisco 49ers had 13 receptions for 208 yards in the 34-28 victory over the Green Bay Packers. 

Boldin becomes the first player in NFL history to receive over 100 yards in his debut with three different teams (217 for the Cardinals, 110 for the Ravens, and 208 for 49ers). Only one other player has received for over 100 yards in their debut for two teams: Randy Moss (130 for the Raiders and 183 for the Patriots). Boldin has two career games of 200+ receiving yards, both of them occurred during Week 1 of the NFL regular season.

 

Extended Personal Streaks and Records

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne extended his streak of 65 consecutive games with at least three receptions.  Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter ranks second at 58 consecutive games with at least three receptions. Wayne is 23 receptions away from 1,000 in his career. 

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 357 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Brees has 36 career games of 350+ passing yards, most in NFL history.  He is also one of six quarterbacks with at least 100 career games of 2+ touchdown passes and ranks 3rd among active quarterbacks behind Manning and Tom Brady. 

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson had 12 receptions for 146 yards in the Texans comeback victory over the San Diego Chargers. Johnson is the first player ever with 19 career games of at least 10 receptions.  He is the active leader for most 100-yard receiving games with 45.

 

The Slowly Approaching Good Days

The NFL has released its 2013 schedule, officially providing Jon Gruden with a five-month countdown to calm down to the point of broadcast coherency.

The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will play the season opener on Thursday, September 5th, in Denver against the Broncos, whom the Ravens outdueled in an epic double-overtime divisional playoff game last January.

There are unconfirmed reports that 76,000 Broncos fans have already found their seats for the season opener but in fact they have been frozen in shock at Sports Authority Field (along with Rahim Moore and Tony Carter) since that January 12th loss.

The Broncos will be facing a much different Ravens team this time, though.  Ray Lewis is gone and so are Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, Matt Birk, Dannelle Ellerbe, Cary Williams and most of Steve Biscotti’s money.

Biscotti celebrated Baltimore’s Super Bowl win first by buying new light bulbs for the Superdome and then gave a $126 million contract to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.  Flacco is due to portray Johnny Unitas in an upcoming movie and is rumored to be willing to give at least $63 million to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for a seat at Maggie Smith’s table at the 2015 Golden Globes.

The Super Bowl winner always plays the first game of the new season and usually at home, but the Ravens will be on the road because their baseball counterparts, the Baltimore Orioles, refused to reschedule their September 5th home game against the Chicago White Sox.  It’s very strange that the Orioles swallowed a big drink of the “won’tbugdees” because usually the only ones to say “no” to the NFL are Charlie Ward and the 3.8 million people of Los Angeles.

After the Broncos and Ravens get the 2013 season off to a high-scoring, bubbly beginning, other intriguing Week One matchups include Falcons @ Saints, Packers @ 49ers, Giants @ Cowboys and, in the Monday Night Football doubleheader, Texans @ Chargers and Eagles @ Redskins, a game which could feature Robert Griffin III relaxing on the sidelines in a hyperbaric featherbed alongside Stephen Strasburg.

The Broncos and Ravens not only start the season on Thursday night but are the only teams with two Thursday night games, with the Broncos hosting the San Diego Freezing Our Bolts Off on December 12th and the Ravens will host the Steelers on Thanksgiving night after the nation has already gobbled up Packers @ Lions and Raiders @ Cowboys.

Technically, however, the opening game on Thursday, September 5th between the Broncos and Ravens is not a Thursday game and neither is the Thanksgiving game between the Ravens and Steelers.  The NFL is so powerful it can even change a Thursday to a Sunday as Broncos-Ravens is listed as a Sunday night game because it’s on NBC, same with Ravens-Steelers, whereas other Thursday night games are on NFL Network.

Cool?  Disturbing?

So, depending on how you look at it, like say, if you think Thursdays really are Thursdays, the Ravens will make two Thursday appearances during the 2013 season.  Or, if you insist that Thursday is only a Thursday unless it’s called a Sunday, then they don’t make any.   The Ravens do play an actual Sunday night game on Sunday, December 22nd at home against the Patriots but never play an actual Thursday game on a Thursday.

Please write that all down.

What about Mondays?  The Ravens are scheduled to play on one of those and it will be on Monday – yes, really – December 16th in Detroit.

The first person to say, “what about flex scheduling?” gets a thumb in their eye.

Who cares, right?  We live in a 24/7/365 world of pigskin.  The calendar doesn’t list NFL games; rather it’s the NFL season that gives meaning to the rest of the year.

The NFL is king.  Baseball, basketball, hockey, politics, the stars and moon are mere satellites orbiting Planet Goodell.  The NFL plays on Thursdays, Sundays, Mondays and Saturdays and is on our minds and in our hearts on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and every day.

It’s a good life.

Stellar Performances and Records in the 2013 Postseason

The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl XLVII Champions after enduring a 35-minute power outage in their 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. There were many stellar performances and records broken during the NFL playoffs, including several of them during Super Bowl XLVII. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers received outstanding performances from several players. Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones, Ed Reed and Joe Flacco broke or tied several records while the 49ers received great play from Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore Ravens receiver/returner Jacoby Jones broke two Super Bowl records. He amassed a record-setting 290 all-purpose yards in the Super Bowl, including a 108-yard kickoff return and a 56-yard reception for touchdowns. His 108-yard kickoff return is the longest return in Super Bowl history. The return was originally ruled a 109-yard return but the NFL later changed it to 108 yards. The NFL record for both the regular season and postseason is 108 yards.

Earlier this season, Jones had a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. Jones is the only player in NFL history with three kickoff returns of 105 or more yards for touchdowns.

On the Ravens defense, free safety Ed Reed tied an NFL playoff record during the second quarter of the Super Bowl with his ninth career playoff interception. Reed is tied with Ronnie Lott, Charlie Waters and Bill Simpson for most career playoff interceptions. During the regular season, the future Hall of Famer has 61 interceptions.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP quarterback Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions during the playoffs. When his Ravens defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 in the AFC Championship Game, he became the first quarterback ever with six career playoff victories on the road, breaking a tie of five road wins that he shared with Eli Manning of the New York Giants.

49ers running back Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Throughout the playoffs, Gore averaged a shade over five yards per carry and had two 100-yard rushing games. Gore quietly puts up good numbers each year. During the regular season, he rushed for 1,214 yards for his sixth season of 1,000 or more yards. He currently ranks 34th all-time in rushing yards with 8,839 yards, just ten yards behind regular season MVP Adrian Peterson. Both look to join the 10,000-yard club in 2013.

When the 49ers defeated the Packers during NFC Divisional Playoffs, Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first QB/RB duo with each having 100 yards rushing in a playoff game. They are only the third duo since 1960 to each have 100 yards rushing in a playoff game.

If the 49ers weren’t running the ball, tight end Vernon Davis was catching passes for them. Vernon had two 100-yard receiving games during the playoffs including six receptions for 104 yards in the Super Bowl. Davis has played in five career playoff games and already has achieved four games with over 100 yards receiving. The player either handing or throwing the ball to Gore or Davis was Kaepernick.

Kaepernick splashed onto the playoff scene in a big way. Against the Green Bay Packers, he became the first player ever to rush for 100+ yards and pass for 250+ yards while passing and rushing for two touchdowns each. Kaepernick joins only Jay Cutler and Otto Graham with two rushing and two passing touchdowns in a playoff game. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards with two touchdowns (20 and 56-yards). His 181 rushing yards are the most rushing yards by a quarterback in any game (regular season or playoffs).

On the road against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, Kaepernick lifted the 49ers to a victory after trailing 17-0 in the first quarter. The 17-point deficit is the second greatest comeback in a conference championship game. The Indianapolis Colts came back from an 18-point deficit against the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Kaepernick nearly lead his team to the greatest comeback ever in Super Bowl history. The 49ers trailed 28-6 in the early part of the third quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback as his 4th and goal pass fell incomplete late in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick completed 16 out of 28 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 62 yards on 7 carries, including a 15-yard rushing touchdown.

 

Super Bowl XLVII

This year, the Super Bowl matched up the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.  It was the first time in Super Bowl history that brothers (John and Jim Harbaugh) were coaching the teams and it was being billed as the “Har-Bowl” or the “Super-Bro.”  So, after two weeks of hype, we were finally ready for the game to start.  The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Justin Tucker kicked it deep for a touch-back and the 49ers started at their 20.  They got the game off to a good start when quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis.  Unfortunately, that play was called back due to an illegal formation penalty.  Three plays later, punter Andy Lee came on and hit a 50-yard punt that was fielded at the Raven 32 by return man Jacoby Jones.  He returned it to the 49 and the Ravens had good field position for their first drive.

From the 49, quarterback Joe Flacco completed a short pass to fullback Vonta Leach that went for eight yards.  Running back Ray Rice ran for four yards on the next play and that got the Ravens a first down at the San Francisco 39.  From the 39, Flacco went to wide receiver Torrey Smith for 20 more yards and the Ravens were marching.  A short run by Rice and an incomplete pass made it third and nine.  On third down, Flacco looked for tight end Dennis Pitta and the pass was incomplete.  However, the 49ers were flagged for an offside penalty.  On third and four from the 13, Flacco threw for the end zone and the pass was caught by wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens had an early 7-0 lead.

Starting from their 20, the 49ers went to work.  Running back Frank Gore was thrown for a loss of one on first down, but Kaepernick came back with a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Michael Crabtree.  Runs of nine and five yards by Gore and 16 more rushing yards from Kaepernick moved the ball to the Raven 32.  Kaepernick then found Davis open for a gain of 24 and the 49ers were at the Raven eight-yard line.  They would go no further.  In fact, they went backwards as Kaepernick was sacked on third down for a loss of ten by linebacker Paul Kruger.  Kicker David Akers came into the game and made his 36-yard field goal attempt.  That made it 7-3 with 3:58 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens managed to get a couple of first downs on their next drive but ended up punting.  Sam Koch’s punt went into the end zone and the 49ers were starting from their 20 again.  Passes of 29 and 11 yards to Davis had the 49ers off to a good start.  Rookie running back LaMichael James ran up the left side for eight yards and Gore got seven more on the next play.  On first down from the Raven 24, James ran off right end and the ball came loose.  It was recovered by defensive end Arthur Jones at the 25.

Running back Bernard Pierce got some action to start this drive and he netted 12 yards on three carries.  From the 37, Flacco found Pitta for nine and Pierce got two yards on his next carry for a first down at the 48.  Flacco then found tight end Ed Dickson for 23 yards and Rice ran up the right side for seven more.  Flacco looked for Dickson again and he was dragged down at the San Francisco eight-yard line.  A facemask penalty on safety Donte Whitner made it first and goal from the four.  On second and goal from the one, Flacco fired a pass into the end zone that was caught by Pitta for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-3 with 7:06 to go in the first half.

The 49ers got the ball back at their 21 and Kaepernick put up a deep ball for wide receiver Randy Moss.  The ball was picked off by safety Ed Reed at the San Francisco 44 and returned to the 38.  After that, a huge brawl ensued.  Offsetting penalties were called and the Ravens were in business again.  Three runs by Rice, a short pass to Leach and a seven-yard pass to Rice got them a first down at the San Francisco 15.  The next three plays netted one yard and Tucker came on for a field goal attempt.  Instead of kicking the ball through the uprights, Tucker took the snap and ran up the left side in hopes of getting a first down.  He was pushed out of bounds one yard short of the first down marker by safety Darcel McBath.

A quick three and out by the 49ers gave the Ravens the ball at their 44.  On third and ten, Flacco looked deep for Jones and the ball was caught at the San Francisco nine.  After Jones caught the pass, he fell to the turf, quickly got up and made his way into the end zone for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now had a 21-3 lead with 1:45 to go in the half.

Starting at the 20, Kaepernick completed a six-yard pass to Crabtree and a 14-yard pass to tight end Delanie Walker.  A roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata got them 15 more yards and a first down at the Raven 45.  Kaepernick looked for Walker again and found him for a gain of 28.  That got them down to the 17, but they couldn’t get the ball into the zone.  Akers made his 27-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens took a 21-6 lead into the locker room.

The second half got started with a bang as Jones fielded the kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone and ran straight up the middle.  Not a 49er could catch him and he ran it in for a 108-yard touchdown.  By the way, that was the longest scoring play in Super Bowl history.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 28-6 with 14:49 to go in the third quarter.  The 49ers started at their 14 and on first down, Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree for a gain of 29 yards.  On first down from the 43, Gore ran up the left side for three and Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of six yards.  And then the lights went out.  The lights stayed out for a grand total of 34 minutes.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.  After they finally came back on, the 49ers faced a third and 13 and didn’t get the first down.  The Ravens didn’t fare much better on their next drive and punted after four plays.

From their 20, the 49ers went to work knowing they had to get something going if they wanted to avoid being blown out.  Kaepernick had two scrambles that netted 20 yards and a first down at the 40.  On third and eight from the 42, Moss caught a nine-yard pass for a first down at the Raven 49.  From the 49, Kaepernick hit Davis for 18 yards and a first down at the 31.  Next, Crabtree caught a pass on the left side, bounced off a couple of defenders and made his way into the end zone for a 49er touchdown.  Akers made the point after and the score was now 28-13 with 7:20 to go in the third quarter.

On their next drive, the Ravens went nowhere as Flacco was sacked on third and ten by linebacker Ahmad Brooks.  49er return man Tedd Ginn fielded the punt at the San Francisco 48 and returned it to the Raven 20.  It took two plays to go 20 yards and Gore ran the ball in from the six-yard line for a touchdown.  Akers made the point after and it was now 28-20 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.  You could feel the momentum swing in favor of the 49ers.  What made it worse for the Ravens was an injury to Ngata.  He would not return to the game.  It couldn’t get worse than that, could it?  Yes it could.  On second and seven from the 23, the 49ers brought the blitz.  Flacco managed to dump off a pass to Rice on the left side where he was hit by cornerback Tarell Brown.  The ball came loose and Brown recovered it at the 24.

This time, the Raven defense was ready.  The 49ers managed to gain only three yards on three plays and it was up to Akers to put some more points on the board.  His kick sailed wide left, but the Ravens were flagged for running into the kicker.  That moved them up five yards and Akers was granted another try from 34 yards.  The kick was good and the score was now 28-23 with 3:10 to go in the third quarter.

The Ravens took over at their 28.  Two runs by Pierce and a 30-yard catch and run by Boldin moved the Ravens to the San Francisco 35.  Pitta caught another one for seven yards, Rice ran for two and Pierce had a nice run up the left side for a gain of eight.  He was hurt after that play, but would return later in the game.  A four-yard run by Rice and a nine-yard catch by Boldin made it first and goal at the four.  Two runs by Rice got them down to the one.  Instead of running it again, Flacco rolled out to the right side and couldn’t find anyone open.  The pass was incomplete and the Ravens had to settle for a 19-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and that made it 31-23 with 12:54 to go in the game.

The 49ers had little trouble moving the ball from their 24-yard line.  A five-yard run by Gore, a 32-yard catch by Moss and a 21-yard run by Gore made it first down at the Raven 18.  On second and seven from the 15, Kaepernick took it the rest of the way for another touchdown.  That made it 31-29 and they went for two to tie the game up.  The Ravens blitzed and Kaepernick’s pass to Moss was overthrown.  The score remained 31-29 with 9:57 to go in the game.

The Ravens started at their 21 and on third and nine, a pass interference penalty was called on cornerback Chris Culliver.  That gave them a first down at their 36.  A short run by Pierce and another catch by Boldin appeared to give the Ravens another first down.  But 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the spot and it was ruled Boldin was short of the first down.  That made it third and one from the 45.  I think everyone in the building was expecting a run up the middle on the next play.  Instead, Flacco called an audible and threw to the right side to Boldin.  Despite being blanketed by cornerback Carlos Rogers, Boldin managed to haul in the pass for a gain of 15 and a crucial first down.  Rice finally got loose for a gain of 12 and another first down at the San Francisco 28.  Two short runs by Rice and an offside penalty made it third and two at the 20.  Flacco fired a pass to Pitta, but he couldn’t hold on and that brought up fourth down.  Tucker came into the game again and his 38-yard attempt was good.  The Ravens now led 34-29 with 4:19 to go in the game.

Eight-yard runs by Kaepernick and Gore got the 49ers a first down at their 36.  On second and ten from the 36, Kaepernick hit Crabtree for a gain of 24 and a first down at the Raven 40.  From the 40, Gore ran up the left side and was finally pushed out of bounds at the seven-yard line.  The 49ers had to go seven yards to take the lead after they had trailed 28-6 earlier in the game.  From the seven, James ran for two yards.  On second down from the five, Kaepernick looked for Crabtree and the pass was incomplete.  He would look for Crabtree again on third down and get the same result.  That made it fourth and goal from the five.  Kaepernick took the snap and once again looked for Crabtree in the end zone.  The pass fell incomplete and the 49ers turned the ball over on downs.  There was definitely some contact between Crabtree and cornerback Jimmy Smith on that final play, but no flag was thrown.  This caused Jim Harbaugh to lose his mind and he was very critical of the zebras after the game.

The Ravens took over at their five-yard line and three plays got them exactly three yards.  The 49ers used up their remaining timeouts and on fourth down with 12 seconds remaining, the Ravens went into punt formation.  Koch took the snap and held the ball as long as he could before running out of the end zone for a safety.  That made it 34-31 with four seconds remaining.  From the 20, Koch blasted a 61-yard punt that was fielded by Ginn.  He fielded it at the 19 and was brought down at midfield.  That brought the game to an end with the final score: Baltimore Ravens 34 San Francisco 49ers 31.

For the Ravens, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco completed 23 of 33 for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 104 and a touchdown.  The Ravens had a tough time moving the ball on the ground and Ray Rice led the way with 59 yards on 20 carries.  Rice also had 19 yards receiving and one lost fumble.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for just 93 yards on 35 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Dannell Ellerbee led the Ravens with six solo tackles and one tackle for a loss.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 16 of 28 for 302 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also had 62 yards rushing on seven carries and one rushing touchdown.  Vernon Davis led the team in receptions with six and Crabtree had the most yards receiving with 109 and a touchdown.  On the ground, Frank Gore led the way with 110 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.  As a team, the 49ers averaged 6.3 yards a carry and racked up 182 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Patrick Willis led the 49ers with eight solo tackles.

That was one hell of a game.  The Ravens could do no wrong until the lights went out.  After they came back on, all the momentum switched to the 49ers.  But, when it came to crunch time, the Raven defense got the job done.  Linebacker Ray Lewis played his last game and is retiring a champion.  The next time we see him will be at his Hall of Fame induction speech.  It was indeed a tough loss for the 49ers, but they have a bright future with Colin Kaepernick at the helm.  I would imagine quarterback Alex Smith won’t be back next year.  Maybe he’ll end up in Arizona or Kansas City.  As of right now, your guess is as good as mine.

I enjoyed writing all these post season articles and I’ll return next month as The Raider Guy.  They have the third pick in the draft this year and need help at lots of positions.  As far as I am concerned, Damontre Moore from Texas A&M is the guy they need to get.  That will be discussed at a later time.  Until then, take it easy.

 

Ravens 28, Patriots 13

The Baltimore Ravens headed north to New England to take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.  The Ravens were coming off a huge 38-35 double overtime win over the Denver Broncos and the Patriots were coming off a 41-28 win over the Houston Texans.  The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.

Neither team could do much on their first possessions until the Patriots started their second drive of the game from their 21.  An eight-yard completion from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and a three-yard run by running back Stevan Ridley got them a first down at the 32.  An eight-yard pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez and another one to Lloyd for 13 yards moved them to the Raven 47.  Brady found Hernandez again for ten more yards and a first down at the 37.  A short run by Ridley and another pass to Lloyd for 16 more yards made it first down at the 20.  They would get as far as the 12 and the drive stopped there.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski came on and made his 30-yard attempt and the Patriots led 3-0 with 6:21 to go in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Ravens were flagged for an illegal block and started at their ten.  Aside from a 17-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to fullback Vonta Leach, the Ravens didn’t do much.  On third and 12 from the 25, Flacco looked for wide receiver Anquan Boldin and the pass was incomplete.  Cornerback Aqib Talib was injured on this play and would not return.  That was a big blow to the Patriot secondary.

As the game progressed, neither offense could get into a rhythm and the first quarter ended with the score still at 3-0.  The Ravens found themselves back at their ten-yard line again and a three-yard run by running back Ray Rice, a five-yard pass to Leach and a 17-yard pass to tight end Daniel Pitta got them out to their 33-yard line.  A couple of short runs and an 11-yard reception by Rice netted another first down at the 46.  From the 46, running back Bernard Pierce made an appearance.  On second and eight from the 48, Flacco found Pierce for eight yards and a first down at the Patriot 44.  A four-yard run by Pierce and a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Torrey Smith moved the Ravens into the red zone.  Rice finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.  Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 7-3 with 9:28 to go in the second quarter.  The Patriots suffered another injury on this drive as cornerback Patrick Chung left the game.

The Patriots started at their 21 and Ridley ran for a gain of three yards.  An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens got them 15 free yards and a first down at the 39.  Brady found wide receiver Wes Welker for seven yards and Lloyd again for three more.  Two more runs by Ridley and a 24-yard pass to Welker had them marching into Raven territory.  On second and two from the eight, Brady connected with Hernandez at the one to make it first and goal.  On third down, Brady looked to his right and found Welker for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots were back on top, 10-7 with 4:18 to go in the first half.

Three plays got the Ravens zero yards and they brought Sam Koch into the game to punt again.  A 15-yard return by Welker put the Patriots at the Raven 43 with 2:32 to go.  Runs by Brady, Ridley and Woodhead made it fourth and one from the 34.  Woodhead took the direct snap and ran up the left side for a gain of seven and a first down.  On third and ten from the 27, Brady found Hernandez again for a gain of 17 and a first and goal from the ten.  With 26 seconds left, the Patriots called their second timeout.  On first down, Brady ran for a gain of three and instead of calling timeout, he tried to get the offense back to the line of scrimmage to run another play.  Precious seconds ran off the clock as they tried to get organized.  That forced Brady to take the third timeout with four seconds remaining.  That wasn’t enough time to run a play and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Patriots took a 13-7 lead into the locker room.

The Ravens would get as far as the 50 on their first drive of the second half and would be forced to punt.  The Patriots took over at their nine and a six-yard pass to Lloyd, a five yard run by Ridley, a five-yard pass to Hernandez and a 24-yard pass to Welker moved the ball to midfield.  Add another unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens and the Patriots were looking good with a first down at the Raven 36-yard line.  But, they would only get as far as the 34.  With the swirling winds making field goal attempts difficult, the Patriots opted to punt.  Zoltan Mesko punted the ball to the 13 where it was fair caught by safety Ed Reed.

With ten minutes to go in the third quarter, the Ravens took to the air and Flacco brought out the no huddle offense.  A 15-yard pass interference penalty on the Patriots and a 22-yard pass to Pitta moved the Ravens to the 50.  From the 50, Flacco hooked up with Rice for 15 yards.  A five-yard pass to Smith and an eight yard run by Pierce netted a first down at the 22.  From the 22, Flacco found Boldin for 12 and Pitta for five more.  On second and goal from the five, Flacco tossed a short pass to his right and Pitta caught it for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-13 with 6:14 to go in the third quarter.

The Patriots went nowhere on their next drive and punted.  Return man Jacoby Jones fielded the punt at the Raven 26 and returned it to the 37.  On second and 14 from the 33, Flacco went deep for Smith and he hauled it in for a gain of 23 yards.  An offside penalty and runs by Rice and Pierce got them a first down at the Patriot 25.  A six-yard run by Pierce and a six-yard completion to Pitta made it first down at the  13.  From the 13, Flacco completed an eight-yard pass to Boldin and Rice ran up the right side for a gain of two yards and that made it first and goal from the three.  On first down, Flacco tossed a high pass into the middle of the end zone for Boldin.  Despite the fact that there were two defenders in the area, Boldin came down with the ball for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 21-13 with an entire quarter remaining.

The Patriots started their next drive at their 16 and moved quickly to the 39 on the strength of three runs by Ridley and a 12-yard pass to Lloyd.  From the 39, Ridley ran up the right side and after a gain of eight yards, he was hammered by safety Bernard Pollard.  The ball came loose and there was a huge pileup.  Defensive end Arthur Jones emerged from the pile with the ball and the Ravens took over at the Patriot 47.  Ridley would leave the game and not return.  The Ravens needed four plays to go 47 yards and on second and four from the 11, Flacco once again found Boldin in the end zone for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens went up 28-13 with 11:13 to go in the game.

Now it was time for Brady to break out the no huddle offense.  From his own 29, he completed passes to Lloyd, running back Shane Vereen and Welker  to move the ball to the Raven 25.  On fourth and four from the 19, Brady ran to the left and looked like he may be able to get the first down.  Instead of running for it, he tossed the ball to the end zone where it fell incomplete.  That gave the Ravens the ball at the 19 with 8:27 to go.  Instead of running the ball, Flacco tried three pass plays.  That resulted in a grand total of minus one yard.  They had the ball for a whole minute and two seconds and punted.

The Patriots took over at their 40 and Brady wasted no time finding Welker for a big gain of 36 yards.  On first down from the 24, Brady looked for Hernandez and the ball was knocked up in the air by defensive end Pernell McPhee.  Linebacker Dannell Ellerbee got under it and picked it off.  That was a killer for the Patriots.  This time, the Ravens ran the ball and took a little over four minutes off the clock and the Patriots used all their timeouts.  With 2:05 to go, the Patriots moved from their 33 to the Raven 22.  On second down from the 22, Brady threw for the end zone and his pass was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams.  That sealed the deal and got the Ravens a ticket to the Super Bowl.  Final score: Ravens 28 Patriots 13.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 21 of 36 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta tied for the lead in receptions with five and Torrey Smith had the most yards receiving with 69.  Bernard Pierce led the ground game with 52 yards on nine carries and as a team, the Ravens rushed for 121 yards on 33 carries.  Linebacker Ray Lewis led the team with six solo tackles.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 29 of 54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Aaron Hernandez had the most receptions with nine and Welker had the most yards receiving with 117 and a touchdown.  Stevan Ridley had the bulk of the carries and led the team with 70 yards on 18 carries.  All totaled, the Patriots rushed for 108 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Brandon Spikes led the team with six solo tackles.

In two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers will meet the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.  It’ll be the first brother versus brother coaching match-up in Super Bowl history as John Harbaugh will be matching wits with his younger brother Jim.  The last time they met was in 2011 and  the Ravens won that game by a score of 16-6.  It will also be the last game for the great Ray Lewis.  I would also imagine 49er wide receiver Randy Moss may call it quits after this game too.  Honestly, all I’m hoping for is a good and entertaining game.  I’ll be traveling on Super Bowl weekend and will not be back in town until Monday afternoon.  I’ll have a recap of the game up no later than Monday night.  Until then, take it easy and enjoy the game.

 

 

 

Ravens 38, Broncos 35 in Two Overtimes

The first game on the playoff schedule had the Baltimore Ravens flying out to Denver to take on the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos were coming off a first round bye week and the Ravens defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the wildcard round by a score of 24-9.  The Broncos won the toss and deferred to the second half.

After moving the ball from their own 20-yard line to the to the 38, running back Ray Rice was stopped short of the first down on third and two.  Punter Sam Koch got off a nice 52-yard punt that was fielded by return man Trindon Holliday at the the Bronco ten.  He ran straight up the middle and cut up the right sideline.  Koch gave his best effort to stop him short of the end zone, but Holliday was too quick.  Just like that, it was 6-0.  Kicker Matt Prater made the point after and the Broncos led 7-0 with 12:14 to go in the first quarter.

After a muffed kickoff return by Jacoby Jones, the Ravens were starting at their own six-yard line.  A pass interference penalty on the Broncos gave them a first down at the 33.  On second and two from the 41, quarterback Joe Flacco went deep for wide receiver Torrey Smith who got behind the secondary.  Smith caught the ball in stride and made it to the end zone for a Raven touchdown.  Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the score was quickly knotted at seven with 10:31 to go in the first quarter.

The Broncos got the ball back at their 25 and on third and six from the 29, quarterback Peyton Manning looked for wide receiver Eric Decker.  The ball was knocked up into the air and promptly picked off by cornerback Corey Graham at the 39.  He returned it all the way for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-7 with 9:49 to go in the first quarter.

The Broncos started out at their 26 and completions to tight end Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen got them to midfield.  A short run by running back Knowshon Moreno and a 13-yard pass to Decker got them down to the Raven 36.  A short pass to running back Ronnie Hillman, an illegal hands to the face penalty on the Ravens and an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas made it first down at the 17.  On third and eight from the 15, Manning looked for his old friend wide receiver Brandon Stokley in the end zone.  Stokley did a good job of keeping his knee in bounds for a Bronco touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the score was now tied at 14 with four minutes to go in the first quarter.

The teams traded punts on the next few possessions and the Broncos took over at their 14.  Completions to Thomas and Moreno had the Broncos rolling again.  A pass up the right side to Decker netted 32 yards and they found themselves in the red zone.  From the 14, Manning tossed a pass to the right side for Moreno who caught it for yet another Bronco touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos led 21-14 with 7:26 to go in the first half.

A missed field goal by Prater after a 14 play, 47-yard drive gave the Ravens the ball at their 42 with 1:16 remaining in the first half.  Flacco found wide receiver Anquan Boldin for 11 yards and and tight end Dennis Pitta for 15 more.  On first down from the Bronco 32, Flacco looked to his right and put one up for Smith who got behind cornerback Champ Bailey again.  Smith made a nice leaping catch for a Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the extra point and the first half ended with the score tied at 21.

At halftime, it was obvious nobody told Tucker not to kick the ball to Holliday.  He fielded the ball four yards deep in the end zone and ran it out.  The Ravens managed to get a couple of hands on him, but he slithered away and ran the kick back for a touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos now led 28-21 with 14:47 to go in the third quarter.

With the help of three penalties by the Broncos and a 20-yard run by running back Ray Rice, the Ravens moved into Bronco territory.  However, on first down from the 43, Flacco fumbled the snap and the ball was recovered by linebacker Keith Brooking at the 43.  Despite the good field position, the Broncos could do nothing with the ball and punted.  The Ravens followed suit and punted it right back to the Broncos.  They took over at their 25 and on the strength of two completions to Tamme, moved the ball to the 46.  On second and 13 from the 43, Manning found Tamme again for a gain of 12 down to the Raven 45.  On third and one, the Broncos were flagged for holding.  That put them in a third and long situation back at their 46.  On third down, defensive end Pernell McPhee sacked Manning and the ball came loose.  It was recovered by linebacker Paul Kruger at the Bronco 37.

It was time for the Ray Rice show to begin.  Five straight carries by Rice got the Ravens into the end zone and they were now down 28-27.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens tied the score at 28 with 20 seconds to go in the third quarter.  Both teams punted on their next possessions.  With 12 minutes to go in the game, the Broncos started their next drive at their 12.  Filling in for the injured Moreno, Hillman became the main running back.  An 11-yard pass to Hillman, a four-yard run and a seven-yard pass to Dreessen got them a first down at the 34.  Another 11-yard completion and a personal foul on the Ravens got them a first down at the Raven 40.  A defensive holding on third and three netted another first down at the 28.  From the 28, Hillman ran up the left side for three yards and Decker caught another pass for eight more.  On first down from the 17, Manning threw a short pass to Thomas who caught it and weaved his way through several Raven defenders for a Bronco touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos now led  35-28 with 7:11 to go in the game.

The Ravens got the ball back and knew they had to score on this drive to hopefully force overtime.  They started at their 25 and on third and seven from the 28, Boldin made a nice grab for a gain of 19.  Another pass to Boldin went for 17 yards and a first down at the Bronco 36.  A false start penalty moved them back five yards and made it first and 15 from the 41.  Three straight carries by Rice netted ten yards and the Ravens now had a fourth and five from the 31.  Flacco looked for Pitta on fourth down and the pass was incomplete.  The Broncos took over with 3:12 to go in the game.  The Ravens had two timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the clock.  Hillman ran four times and moved the ball from the 31 to the 47.  On third and seven, he was stuffed for a loss and the Broncos were forced to punt with 1:15 to go.  The ball was fair caught at the 23 and the Ravens needed a miracle.  Flacco looked for Pitta again on first down and it was incomplete.  He scrambled up the middle for seven yards on second down and with 31 seconds to go, Flacco put one up the right side for Jones who had gotten behind the secondary.  Jones caught it for a stunning 70-yard touchdown.  The rowdy Denver crowd stood in stunned silence at what they had just witnessed.  Tucker made the point after and the game was now tied at 35.  Manning took a knee to end regulation and the game went to overtime.

The Ravens won the toss and got the ball at their 20.  They got down to the Bronco 44 and on third and two, Flacco was sacked for a loss of nine by linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil.  A whole lot of punting went on until the 3:47 mark.  On the last punt by the Ravens, Koch hit a nice 52-yarder that was fielded by Holliday at the 14.  Cornerback Jimmy Smith brought him down for a loss of seven.  Starting at their seven, the Broncos went to work.  A short pass to Hillman, an 11-yard pass to Decker and a couple of runs by Hillman and fullback Jacob Hester netted a first down at the 34.  On second and six from the 38, Manning threw a pass intended for Stokley and it was picked off by Graham.  He was brought down at the Bronco 45.

On second and ten from the 45, Rice ran up the middle for a gain of 11.  That brought the first overtime to a close.  Three more carries by Rice got five yards and on fourth down from the 29, Tucker trotted onto the field for the game-winning kick.  There was no timeout called by the Broncos and his kick was good.  That gave the Ravens a 38-35 win and they will face the winner of the Texans-Patriots game in the AFC Championship.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 18 of 34 for 331 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a lost fumble.  Torrey Smith led all receivers in receptions with three and receiving yards with 98 and two touchdowns.  On the ground, Ray Rice grinded out 131 yards on 30 carries and one touchdown.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for 155 yards on 39 carries.  Defensively, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs tied for the team lead in solo tackles with ten apiece.  Suggs also had two sacks, one tackle for a loss and one pass defensed.

For the Broncos, Peyton Manning completed 28 of 43 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two very costly interceptions.  One was returned for a score and the other set up the game winning field goal.  Eric Decker and Joel Dreessen tied for the lead in receptions with six and Decker had the most receiving yards with 84.  Ronnie Hillman led the Broncos in rushing yards with 83 yards on 22 carries.  As a team, the Broncos rushed for 125 yards on 41 carries.  Defensively, linebackers Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven.  Miller also had a half sack.  I will be back tomorrow morning with a recap of the Packers-49ers game.

 

 

 

Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis made his return to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday with a dominant performance featuring 13 tackles as the Ravens beat the Indianapolis Colts, 24-9, in their wildcard playoff game.

Afterwards, Lewis took a lap around M&T Bank Stadium to thank the Ravens fans who have supported him for 17 years because this was his last home game, as his career will end when Baltimore’s playoff run ends.

Ravens fans screamed and waved at Lewis like he was a rock star.   Ray Lewis: he’s fierce, he’s funny, he makes commercials, he’s perhaps the best linebacker in NFL history and he has a seat in Canton and a job at ESPN waiting for him.

He’s also the guy…you remember don’t you?

Two men murdered in Atlanta 13 years ago.  Ray Lewis was charged, he was not convicted and no one ever has been.

Everyone says, or seems to believe, that Lewis is not only truly innocent but is also truly a decent person.  If so, then remembering Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar does not tarnish that goodness.  If not, then it is not only respectful for us to remember them, it’s incumbent upon us to do so.

 

Ravens 24, Colts 9

The next playoff game on the schedule had the Indianapolis Colts visiting the Baltimore Ravens.  The big story in this game was that it would be the last one linebacker Ray Lewis would ever play in Baltimore.  After 17 seasons, he decided this season would be his last.  Judging by the entrance he made coming into this game, he was ready to go.  The other big story in this game was that Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness and was absent from the game.  Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen ended up calling the plays.  The Colts won the toss and elected to receive.

The kickoff went nine yards deep into the end zone for a touch-back and the Colts started at their 20.  Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led his team onto the field and on the first play of the game, the Colts started out with some trickery as wide receiver Donnie Avery took an end around up the right side for a gain of 15.  That was the only play that gained any yards for the Colts and they promptly punted the ball away.  Return man Jacoby Jones fielded the punt at the 14 and returned it to the Raven 48.

With good starting field position, the Ravens went to work.  On second and seven from the Colt 49, quarterback Joe Flacco found tight end Ed Dickson across the middle for a gain of 24 yards and a first down at the 25.  A pass interference penalty on the Colts moved the ball to the 15.  On second and six, running back Ray Rice fumbled and despite the fact that guard Marshal Yanda came out of the pile with the ball, the zebras still ruled the Colts had recovered the fumble.  Replay showed that defensive end Lawrence Guy fell on the ball, but it squirted free and was recovered by Yanda.  Still, the Colts were given possession of the ball at their 11.

A four-yard run by running back Vick Ballard and an eight-yard scramble by Luck got the Colts a first down at the 22.  An illegal contact penalty on the Ravens, a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne and some more shifty running by Ballard got the Colts down to the Raven 35.  On third and five from the 30, the Ravens brought the pressure and Luck was sacked by linebacker Paul Kruger.  The ball came loose and was recovered by defensive end Pernell McPhee at the 37.  The Colts took over seven minutes off the clock and came away with nothing.

Speaking of ending up with nothing, the remainder of the first quarter featured two more punts and zero points scored.  The second quarter began with the Ravens starting their next drive at their 29.  Ray Rice was given a breather and running back Bernard Pierce entered the game.  On second and four from the 35, Pierce ran up the left side for a gain of five and a first down.  Flacco then found wide receiver Torrey Smith across the middle for a gain of 22 yards.  Another five-yard run for Pierce and a seven-yard catch by tight end Dennis Pitta moved the ball to the Colt 26.  From the 26, Pierce got loose for an 18-yard gain and that made it first and goal from the nine.  The Ravens abandoned the running game and got as far as the five-yard line.  On fourth down from the five, kicker Justin Tucker kicked a 23-yard field goal and the Ravens took a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter.

On first down from his own 20, Luck looked for Avery, but the ball was tipped by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and by all rights, Ray Lewis should have had an interception.  The ball hit his hands, bounced off his chest and fell incomplete to the ground.  Two more plays netted eight yards and the Colts were forced to punt again.  Jones fielded the ball at the 19 and returned it to the 36.  But a holding call moved them back to their 20.  They went nowhere and punted the ball back to the Colts.

With eight minutes to go in the first half, the Colts took over at their 20.  Runs by Ballard and an eight-yard pass to Wayne gave them a first down at the 33.  Luck then found tight end Dwayne Allen across the middle for a gain of 22.  Two plays later, Luck found Allen again for a gain of 13.  The Ravens brought the blitz and Luck was sacked by Kruger and cornerback Corey Graham for a loss of six yards.  On third and 14 from the Raven 36, Luck completed a short pass to tight end Coby Fleener for a gain of seven.  That brought out kicker Adam Vinatieri for a 47-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the score was knotted at three with a little over two minutes to go in the first half.

A 37-yard kickoff return by Jones set the Ravens up with good field position.  On third and four from the 43, Flacco found Jones across the middle for a gain of eight.  On second and ten from the 49, Flacco hit Rice with a short pass and thanks to some good down-field blocking, Rice weaved his way down to the two-yard line.  Fullback Vonta Leach finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 10-3 with 50 seconds to go in the first half.

With time running short, Luck took to the air and completed passes to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Wayne to move the ball to the Raven 43.  An intentional grounding penalty moved them back to their 41, but Luck found Hilton again for a gain of 25 yards.  With no more time to run a play, Vinatieri was brought in to try a 52-yard field goal.  He snuck it inside the right upright and the kick was good.  At halftime, the score was 10-6 in favor of the Ravens.

With ten minutes to go in the third quarter, the Ravens took over at their 25.  Throughout the entire first half, wide receiver Anquan Boldin had been invisible.  It was time for him to make some noise.  From the 25, Flacco found Boldin for ten yards.  On second and six from the 39, Boldin caught a deep ball on the right sideline for a gain of 46 and a first down at the Colt 15.  A false start moved them back five yards, but Flacco was unfazed and found Pitta on the right side for a nice 20-yard catch and run for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 17-6 with eight and a half minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Colts started at their 20 and they knew they had better get the ball rolling.  A couple of runs by Ballard, a 17-yard completion to wide receiver LaVon Brazill and a nice six-yard scramble on third and two by Luck moved the Colts to the Raven 43.  Luck continued to spread short passes to his receivers and a 20-yard pass to Wayne set them up with a first down at the 14.  The Ravens really brought the pressure and the drive stalled at the eight-yard line.  Vinatieri made his 26-yard field goal attempt and the score was now 17-9 with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter.

From the 21, Flacco hooked up with Boldin again for 21 yards and a first down at the 42.  Rice got the call on the next play and took off up the left side for a big gain.  As he was running, the ball was knocked loose by safety Joe Lefeged and bounced forward.  It was recovered by linebacker Pat Angerer at the Colt 29.  The Colts put together a decent drive on the strength of a 19-yard catch by Wayne and a 24-yard run by Ballard.  Still, they couldn’t put the ball into the end zone and the drive came to an end at the Raven 22.  It’s a rare occasion that Vinatieri misses a field goal, but his 40-yard attempt sailed wide right and the Colts came away with nothing again.

The Ravens got the ball back at their 30 and knew one more touchdown would most likely put the Colts away.  A nine-yard pass to Smith and a 43-yard run by Pierce got the Ravens in business at the Colt 18.  On second and ten, Flacco put up a high pass into the end zone for Boldin.  Despite having a man in his face, he was able to bring the ball in for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 24-9 with nine minutes to go in the game.

The Colts wouldn’t go down without a fight and went from their 20 down to the Raven 18.  On fourth and one from the 18, Luck looked for Wayne but the pass was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams at the 15.  That sealed the deal and the Ravens ran out the clock.  Final score: Ravens 24 Colts 9.  It was a great and emotional day for the Ravens as their defense brought relentless pressure and Ray Lewis got a win in his last home game as a Raven.  What I was thinking as the game came to a close was that it may also be the final home game for safety Ed Reed.  Both he and Lewis are destined for the Hall of Fame.

For the Colts, Andrew Luck completed 28 of 54 for 288 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and one lost fumble.  Reggie Wayne led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 114.  Vick Ballard led the ground game with 91 yards on 22 carries.  As a team, the Colts rushed for 152 yards on 30 carries.  Defensively, safety Antoine Bethea and defensive end Cory Redding tied for the lead in solo tackles with six.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 12 of 23 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin was the star of the show and had 145 yards on five receptions and a touchdown.  Bernard Pierce led the ground game with 103 yards on 15 carries.  Ray Rice also had a good day with 70 yards on 15 carries.  He also had 47 yards receiving and lost two fumbles.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for 172 yards on 32 carries.  Defensively, the Ravens brought the pressure and sacked Luck three times.  He was also knocked down ten times.  Fittingly, Ray Lewis led the team in solo tackles with nine and he also had one tackle for a loss and one pass defensed.  Up next for the Ravens is a trip to Denver to take on the Denver Broncos.  In week 15, they met in Baltimore and the Broncos came away with a dominant 34-17 win.  I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a recap of the Seahawks-Redskins game.