Ravens dominate fourth quarter in 44-20 win over Lions

BALTIMORE — It was pointed out earlier this week that teams become cursed after facing the Houston Texans. Teams are just 1-9 this season after facing Houston for some odd reason but the Ravens were able to buck that trend with a 44-20 victory over the visiting Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Since the Lions have been known to struggle in the first quarter all season, the Ravens needed to jump out to a good start. Despite a couple of missed opportunities, they were able to do just that. After taking a 3-0 lead in the first quarter the Ravens offense was able to “let it loose” as Joe Flacco would like to describe it.

Following a missed field goal by Matt Prater, Flacco connected with Mike Wallace for a 66-yard bomb. Wallace came up just shy of the end zone but the play was still the longest of the year for the Baltimore offense. Flacco didn’t waste any time finishing off the drive as he connected with a wide open Ben Watson on the next play for a one-yard score.

The defense picked up on this unexpected burst of offense and came up with a turnover on the ensuing Lions possession. It hasn’t happened often this season but Eric Weddle was given the chance to blitz the quarterback and he didn’t miss his opportunity for a big play. The veteran safety went untouched off the blind side, catching Matt Stafford off guard and forcing a fumble. Willie Henry scooped up the loose ball for an extra 16 yards.

Flacco and the offense quickly turned this takeaway into another touchdown, jumping out to a 17-0 lead. By halftime, Flacco had racked up 192 yards to accompany his two touchdowns. It’s safe to say that this was a breakout performance as Flacco has only thrown for 200 yards in four games this season.

The only blemish for the Ravens in the first half was the loss of Jimmy Smith. The Ravens #1 corner has been having trouble with his achilles all year and it finally gave on him in the second quarter. Smith dropped back to cover his receiver but collapsed without making any contact. As soon as it happened, a hush came over the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium because everyone immediately knew what had happened.

Despite playing poorly in the first half, Detroit was prepared to make this a close game. The Lions have had a lot of experience playing from behind this season and they started the second half with a quality touchdown drive. A 42-yard pass from Stafford to Marvin Jones jump-started their offense similar to Flacco’s deep pass earlier in the game. The momentum continued to swing in Detroit’s favor as they forced the Ravens to punt on their next drive.

The Lions added another touchdown before the end of the third quarter but Prater missed the extra point. After dominating the first half, the Ravens quickly found themselves under pressure with just a one possession lead. Perhaps this is just what they needed though because nobody could have predicted what happened int he fourth quarter.

With the Lions knocking at the door, Flacco lead his offense down the field for a nine play, 74-yard touchdown drive. This score put Baltimore up by 14 but it still wasn’t enough to put the game away. However, the Ravens offense did not look complacent at any point down the stretch. With under eight minutes to play, Justin Tucker added a field goal and the defense picked up another turnover to officially put the game on ice.

The Ravens finished with 24 points in the fourth quarter thanks to another Alex Collins touchdown run and a pick six by Weddle. Flacco finished with 269 passing yards, Wallace racked up 116 receiving yards, and the team put up an impressive total of 44 points. All three of these are season highs.

This win is very big for a Baltimore team with its eyes on the postseason. For the first time all year they have a three-game win streak and the road ahead looks very nice. The Steelers are up next on the schedule but they are the only challenging opponent remaining.

For once, a late season meeting between these rivals will not mean much in terms of playoff implications. However, this rivalry is always going to be exciting and a win for either team would be a big confidence boost as the postseason approaches.

Image Credit: Daniel Mears, Detroit News

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Ravens set to host first Monday night game since 2012

BALTIMORE — We at Charm City Bird Watch hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving with friends and family but now that the holiday rush is over, it’s time to get back to Ravens football. After last week’s 23-0 win over the Green Bay Packers, the team and fan base has been given new life but there remains a lot of work to be do as the Ravens approach the last six games.

The victory in Green Bay marked the third shutout of the year for this Baltimore defense but the team still only has five wins. Their .500 record is good enough for the second wildcard spot in a weakened AFC but there’s barely any space separating the Ravens from other playoff hopefuls like the Buffalo Bills.

Going into this final stretch of the year, we know that the Ravens have a chance simply based on their schedule. Four of the final six games will be against a team with a losing record. The other two are the Lions (6-5) and Steelers (8-2). In addition to this, the Ravens defense will get the chance to face yet another backup quarterback on Monday night in Tom Savage. They are 3-1 so far this year in games against backup QB’s.

Savage did start the season. as the Texans’ starting quarterback, but he got replaced by DeShaun Watson after he struggled mightily in Houston’s season opener. A torn ACL suffered in practice by Watson  means Savage has been thrown right back into the fold, going 1-3 as the Texans’ starting signal-caller.

The visiting Houston Texans are struggling, winning just two of their last six. However, they find themselves just one game behind the Ravens in a crowded playoff race. Many pundits are already counting Houston out, largely due to the loss of Watson. When it comes to the playoffs, this game means just as much for the Texans as it does for the Ravens.

Last Meeting: These teams haven’t seen each other in a few years. The Texans hosted the Ravens during week 16 of the 2014 season and came away with a 25-13 win. This was just the second win against Baltimore in Texans history as the Ravens lead the all time series 7-2. After four previous tries, the Texans have yet to win at M&T Bank Stadium.

Injury Report: As of Saturday Nov. 25

Notes on Texans:

  • Since losing Watson to a season ending injury, the Texans’ offense has averaged 15 points a game. That’s not a very comfortable number to work with if you are the Texans defense, especially when you are giving up over 24 points a game in the same span.
  • If the Texans want to beat the Ravens the blueprint is simple. Get pressure on Joe Flacco. Houston defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney has managed to get after the QB despite commanding double coverage after injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Clowney has posted five sacks in his last four games.

Notes on Ravens:

  • There has been a lot of talk about Flacco’s quality of play this season but lets look at the numbers. Last week Flacco had a decent game but he failed to throw for 200 yards for the sixth time this season. Through ten games, Flacco is also averaging a career low 5.44 yards-per-completion. His passer rating of 74.4 is also the second lowest of his career with 2013 (73.1) coming in just slightly worse.
  • This weeks matchup against Houston marks just the second home Monday night game for the Ravens in the last ten seasons. Even though Flacco’s stats listed above are abysmal, lets give him credit for his 11-1 career record in prime time games.

Details:

When: Monday, Nov. 27, 8:30 pm

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, MD

Radio: WBAL 109098 Rock

Commentators: Gerry SanduskyJustin Forsett, Stan White

TV: ESPNWBAL-TV

Commentators: Sean McDonough, John Gruden, Lisa Salters

Image Credit: Fanspeak

Ravens defense picks apart Hundley and Packers offense in 23-0 win

GREEN BAY, WI — Coming out of a bye week the Ravens needed a strong performance to kick-start the final stretch of their season. If the Ravens are to make the postseason, the window is still open but there is not much room left for error. However, a 23-0 road win against the Green Bay Packers is an awfully good start.

In terms of health the Ravens were not exactly better off than they were a few weeks ago. Getting running back Danny Woodhead back was certainly a big difference maker for the anemic offense. The Ravens found themselves down another offensive lineman as second-year man Ronnie Stanley was unable to suit up as he deals with a concussion. The Ravens also had two healthy scratches – Terrance West and Breshad Perriman – that could have been attributed to Woodhead’s return.

After winning the coin toss the Ravens chose to kick and send their defense out first. This would end up paying off as Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle picked up a pair of interceptions on the first two Green Bay possessions. Brett Hundley and the Packers offense had gone their last two games without a turnover.

The defense continued to feast on the Packers at the beginning of the second quarter. Patrick Onwuasor got to Green Bay running back Devante Mays and force a fumble. The turnover marked the Packers first fumble by a running back this season.

Despite forcing three turnovers after just eighteen minutes of play, the Ravens only put three points on the board. Marty Mornhinweg continued to show how incompetent of a play-caller he is with more head-scratching decisions. Joe Flacco was 13-for-17 on completions at the half but only averaged 5.8 yards-per-completion. Even in third-and-long situations, there was absolutely no urgency to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage.

The screen pass is an important piece in running a successful offense but that’s because you should only be calling it a handful of times per game, not a handful of times per drive. I don’t care how banged up you offensive line is, this is unacceptable on Mornhinweg’s part.

These mind-numbing play calls were not reserved to the pass game. Alex Collins got off to a hot start by running up the middle, yet Mornhinweg decided to call some pitch runs to the outside in third and short scenarios. All of this, combined with an ugly Flacco interception, resulted in a slim 6-0 Ravens lead at halftime.

The Ravens offense looked completely rejuvenated coming out of the half. Chris Moore set the offense up nicely after returning the kick 59 yards. Flacco took over from there, completing three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Mike Wallace brought in Flacco’s precise pass with one arm while fighting with the defender for space.

Considering how well the defense performed in the first half, the new 13-0 lead felt twice as large. Even with a larger lead, the defense did not let up, forcing the Packers to punt or turn the ball over on eight straight drives. Hundley was under pressure for a majority of the second half. When he did manage to escape the Ravens defenders, he was forced to throw it away.

The Ravens offense was just as lost as the Packers following their touchdown but the pressure was not on them. Just one score would have been enough to officially put the game away but the offense didn’t look too concerned with closing it out themselves. Luckily, the defense remained on point, forcing one more turnover while keeping Green Bay scoreless.

Had it not been for this forced fumble by Terrell Suggs, the offense likely would have run out the clock without another score, but excellent field position allowed them to finally put more points on the board in the final minutes of the game.

The Ravens defense finished the 23-0 win with five forced turnovers and six sacks for their third shutout performance of the season.

The Ravens will get a little extra rest before returning home for a Monday Night game against the Texans next week. Earlier this year, this matchup looked like it could be trouble for the Ravens but injuries have decimated the Texans to the point where they are no longer contenders. With that being said, the Ravens will have to make some changes on offense if they want to avoid the upset.

Image Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press

Preview: Ravens desperate for win in prime time matchup against Dolphins

BALTIMORE — Despite losing four of their last five and suffering a handful of injuries, the Baltimore Ravens are favored by three points to win their Thursday night matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

We all know that the Ravens have a magnitude of different problems that go beyond injuries, but if  they bounce-back on a short week they are going to need some key players back.

Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman were ruled out of Sunday’s game against Minnesota and Mike Wallace was forced to join them after suffering a concussion in the first quarter. With all three starting receivers out, Joe Flacco was tasked with delivering the ball to a group of highly unreliable players. Getting at least two of those three starting receivers back will be huge for Flacco and the offense as a whole.

Defensively, the Ravens are relatively healthy. But, the level of play in recent weeks has not lived up to the hype. One of the most notable disappointments is the secondary. The once feared safety duo of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson has been reduced to a pair of unreliable and mistake-prone defenders.

Let’s not overlook the defensive line. Brandon Williams returned to action against the Vikings, but the run defense was not good enough to keep Minnesota off the field. The Ravens also failed to record a sack against backup quarterback Case Keenum. Both of these stats need to change. With the Dolphins likely resorting to a backup quarterback this week, pressure will be essential in creating more turnover opportunities and taking some weight off of an under-performing secondary

Previous matchup: This year the Ravens and Dolphins are facing a rare scenario. The teams squared off in the preseason and will now meet again in the regular season. while the preseason means absolutely nothing and both teams have changed drastically since then, Baltimore did dominate their way to a 31-7 win back in August.

Notes on Miami:

  • The Dolphins looked sluggish a few weeks ago after suffering back-to-back loses, but since then they have won three in a row against some good competition.
  • Matt Moore is expected to get the start this week in place of an injured Jay Cutler. Moore had to enter Sunday’s game against the Jets after Cutler took a big hit and suffered cracked ribs. The 33-year-old Moore threw for 188 yards with two touchdowns while leading his team to a 31-28 win over the New York Jets.
  • As usual, expect turnovers to be a big factor on Thursday. During their three-game win streak, the Dolphins have generated five turnovers, making them a defense to look out for. However, Miami has also turned the ball over five times in those games, giving themselves a turnover margin of zero.

Details:

Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland

When: Thursday, Oct. 26, 8:25 pm EST

Networks: CBS / NFL Network / Amazon Prime 

Image Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Flacco returns to practice as Ravens set 53 man roster

OWINGS MILLS — After weeks of uncertainty and conflicting reports from multiple sources, Joe Flacco is finally back at practice.

The veteran quarterback suffered a back injury at the beginning of training camp and has been sidelined since. When the injury first got announced, some doubt as to whether or not Flacco would be ready for the season opener on September 10 emerged. However, after a few weeks of rest, it was reported that Flacco would just miss the preseason.

This became a huge relief for Ravens fans, but there was still an underlying sense of panic with the timetable not being specific. Flacco’s return is certainly important for the Ravens moving forward, but that sense of panic could still linger into the regular season.

There are valid concerns about how quickly the offense can get in sync with Flacco, but the biggest questions should still revolve around Flacco’s health and durability. Back injuries have a lot of grey area. Don’t act like you’re not going to hold your breath every time a Bengals defender gets a hand on Joe next week.

In addition to Flacco, the Ravens saw the return of a handful of other offensive players on Saturday. Breshad Perriman, Danny Woodhead, and Ronnie Stanley are all back and practicing with a week remaining before the regular season.

While Saturday saw the return of these players, it also marked the exit of a handful of others as the Ravens trimmed their roster down to the final 53. Some of the notable cuts announced on Friday and Saturday include Larry Donnell and Lorenzo Taliaferro. Center Jeremy Zuttah also finds himself on his way out after rejoined the Ravens just a few weeks ago.

These roster cuts also reveal which young players broke out and proved themselves these past four weeks. Undrafted free agents Jaylen Hill, Bam Bradley and Patrick Ricard all made the final 53-man roster after excelling on multiple occasions in the preseason. Hill led the way with two interceptions and a handful of strong tackles on defense. Ricard and Bradley impressed on special teams.

The full 53 man roster can be found here.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Facing depth concerns on offensive line, Ravens bring back Jeremy Zuttah

OWINGS MILLS, MD — Since the beginning of training camp, three Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman got lost for the season either due to injury (Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa) or retirement (John Urschel). On Friday, the team made up for some of those losses by signing free agent center Jeremy Zuttah.

The deal, according to NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport, spans over two years for $6 million.

Zuttah, 31, played the last three seasons with the Ravens, starting at center when healthy. Following a disappointing season, the Ravens traded Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers in March for a sixth-round pick. That draft pick got used on Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. On Aug. 9, two days before their first preseason game, the 49ers released Zuttah. He reportedly drew interest from both the Ravens and Colts. Ultimately, the Ravens won the bid and helped an offensive line that faces serious depth concerns.

Zuttah made his first Pro Bowl in nine seasons in 2016, but that transpired after several offensive lineman elected not to play in the game. 2016 was not a solid season for Zuttah. He committed multiple holding penalties in critical spots against the Raiders and Cowboys last season. He also allowed three sacks.

The Ravens traded Zuttah before the draft, and waited until the fourth round to address the offensive line. Baltimore feels good about 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen to take over the starting job at center. If the coaching staff sticks to that plan, Zuttah will either back up Jensen or play left guard. The coaches could also elect for Zuttah and Jensen to play their natural positions; Jensen at left guard and Zuttah at center.

This move needed to occur. 2016 first round pick Ronnie Stanley missed practice this week with an undisclosed injury. Marshal Yanda has yet to play in a preseason game after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. Austin Howard got some playing time on Thursday night against the Dolphins, but he still needs time to get acclimated with the offense after getting signed two weeks ago.

In the second preseason game against the Dolphins, the Ravens’ starting offensive line featured three undrafted players – James Hurst, Matt Skura and Jarrod Pughsley. Starting running backs Terrance West and Danny Woodhead combined for zero yards from scrimmage on seven carries. Not good.

Hearing Zuttah’s name may cause some Ravens fans to sigh, but his addition brings an upgrade to what the team currently possesses along the offensive line. Head Coach John Harbaugh provided no timetable for Stanley’s return to practice. The coaching staff is bringing Yanda along slowly. Not to mention that quarterback Joe Flacco has yet to practice in training camp due to a back injury. No one knows when Flacco will return.

The Ravens need to protect their franchise quarterback now more than ever. Losing three offensive lineman in training camp so far makes for a scary situation. Zuttah may not provide a long-term answer, but he owns 117 career starts. Zuttah knows the Ravens’ offense. The addition of senior offensive assistant Greg Roman brings a learning curve for Zuttah, but the regular season does not start for another three weeks.

The Ravens cannot afford any more injuries on the offensive line. However, if more injuries occur, the depth at the position upgraded with the addition of Zuttah.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun 

Alex Lewis and Tim White to miss 2017 season with injuries

The Ravens kicked off their season last night with a 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins but the game did not come without an injury tax.

The offensive line took yet another hit when Alex Lewis aggravated a lingering shoulder injury. There was no word on the injury last night but the Ravens are reporting today that the lineman’s shoulder is not responding well to treatment

Ravens beat writer, Jeff Zrebiec says that Lewis suffered a torn labrum and has been dealing with it throughout camp. The injury has reached a point where Lewis cannot play through it and he will require season ending surgery.

Undrafted rookie Tim White is also expected to miss the entire 2017 season after injuring his thumb during Thursdays game. It’s unclear when White suffered the injury but it appears to be serious as he will require surgery.

Fans started to take notice of White during the teams first open practice in late July and he even got a shoutout from Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace during their interview with NFL Network. The 23-year-old receiver only had one reception in Thursdays game but he made it a big one. White caught a 33 yard touchdown pass from Josh Woodrum at the end of the third quarter to put the Ravens up 20-3.

The Ravens also provided an update on Joe Flacco’s back injury. The 10 year veteran will not play in any preseason games but is expected to return to the practice field soon. The team also made sure to mention that Flacco will be ready to go for the season opener on September 10.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun