Five takeaways from John Harbaugh’s season review press conference

OWINGS MILLS — On Thursday morning, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh addressed the media for his season review press conference. A variety of topics were discussed including the recent retirement of Dean Pees and the upcoming draft.

Overall this was a typical press conference that we have come to expect from Harbaugh. Many of the more detailed issues and answers will come from the annual state of the Ravens address when Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti take questions from the media.

Here are five highlights from the 40-minute press conference, which you can watch here.

1. 2017 season in review:

Harbaugh opened up the press conference by reflecting on the season and all the adversity the team faced since starting back in the spring. “When it’s all said and done, you look at your people and the job they did,” Harbaugh said.” How did we do as a team? How did we compete? How did we handle adversity? How did we respond? In the end, I’m really proud of our people.”

Continuing off of this, Harbaugh complimented his team on their journey since day one and their work ethic to be the best possible team. “From April 15th through this week, we had a bunch of veteran leaders that came to work everyday to be the best they could be,” Harbaugh said.” In the end that’s what you ask of people, so I’m happy with that and I’m excited about where we are going forward.”

As the press conference continued, Harbaugh went into depth about the way the season ended and how disappointing it was. He mentioned how the team went into half time against the Bengals kicking themselves over how poorly they played but were still able to regroup and take the lead in the second half. The Ravens coach hinted at this being a microcosm of their entire season but when it came down to the last play, they couldn’t get the job done.

Harbaugh seemed reluctant to place all the blame on the now infamous 4th and 12 play. He mentioned the punt prior to that drive and how that could have easily bounced in their favor as well as the two defensive penalties on that drive that could have been avoided.

2. The coaching staff:

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Ravens moving forward is the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has already announced his retirement but Harbaugh said he doesn’t anticipate having to replace anyone else.

“We will find a defensive coordinator somewhere, inside or out,” Harbaugh said. “We are in the process of doing that right now. I’m happy with the coaches that we have and we are building going forward.”

This idea of “building” would come up again later as Harbaugh mentioned how important consistency is from season-to-season. The offensive coordinator job has been a revolving door for many seasons now, so it’s not surprising that they want to try to improve with Marty Mornhinweg instead of starting over again.

“We have great coaches. You can look at the stats but the bottom line is we improved tremendously and faced a great deal of adversity on offense,” Harbaugh said. He admitted that the beginning of the season was slow and frustrating at times for the offense but they kept working and just focused on winning the next game in front of them.

As Flacco returned to full strength and the makeshift offensive line started to gain some traction, there were clear improvements. So it sounds like carrying this finish into next season while continuing to build will be Harbaugh’s goal for improving the offense.

3. Protesting and empty seats:

This has been one of the more anticipated issues for Harbaugh and others to speak on this offseason but I have a feeling the bulk of it is still to come. Harbaugh did speak about this for a while during his press conference but didn’t jump to any grand conclusions.

“Whether it’s the anthem, the kneeling, or the social [issues], those are complicated and tough conversations that you have,” Harbaugh said. He went on to say that he had many talks with his players about the issues they have faced outside of football and how difficult those can be when you are in the middle of a season.

“As a coach it’s tough because I want them thinking about the game, but this was something that really hit the league [as a whole],” Harbaugh said. “That’s a bigger picture than I can stand up here and address.”

Harbaugh did emphasize how the team is always active in the community and many players care deeply about things outside the game. With that being said, the Ravens head coach continued to hammer home how it’s his job to have them ready on Sunday no matter what.

4. Upcoming draft:

It has become apparent that the Ravens haven’t had the best success in recent drafts. For the most part, their first round picks have been consistent but as a whole there have been some busts. This upcoming draft will be especially important for the offense after 2017 focused heavily on the defense.

Harbaugh was quick to say that adding weapons on offense is the number one goal for the upcoming draft. “I don’t think its any secret that we need to add playmakers to the mix.”

The salary cap will be a concern as always so the draft could be the team’s best opportunity to really add weapons. Having a healthy offense is what’s really important but combining that with a solid draft will be the key, as always, for any Ravens success in 2018.

Harbaugh was also questioned about the possibility of drafting a quarterback after a couple shaly seasons from Joe Flacco. “It’s something we will be talking about for sure,” Harbaugh said. “When you have a veteran quarterback at this stage, that’s the time you’re looking for a young backup.”

5. Injury news:

Harbaugh closed out Thursdays press conference by talking about the handful of injuries the team suffered since April. According to Harbaugh, almost every player is on pace for a proper return next year. Marshall Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Tavon Young headline that group but there are many others who are on schedule and working hard to come back.

Jimmy Smith is a bit of a different story though. Since he suffered his injury in December, he will be behind everyone else in terms of recovery time. Harbaugh said that we all know the timetable for Achilles injuries but you just hope for the best.

“If you do the math, eight months will be September for Jimmy but that’s conservative. I’m hopeful but we are going to have a bunch of corners here as you know.”

Image Credit: Sporting News


Ravens regain control of season with 27-10 win over Browns

CLEVELAND — On Sunday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens traveled to Cleveland for their second matchup against the winless Browns this season. John Harbaugh and the Ravens put together a 27-10 win and walked out of Cleveland with a fresh morale.

Coming off of an overtime loss to the Packers, the Browns were looking more than overdue for their first win of the year. Quarterback DeShone Kizer played one of his best games of the year and star receiver Josh Gordon made his long-awaited return. With all of this in mind, this week’s matchup had all the makings of a trap game for the Ravens.

For all of you superstitious fans, Saturday was also the ten-year anniversary of the Ravens infamous loss to the Miami Dolphins. That would end up being the only win for Miami during their abysmal 2007 campaign but it saved them from what looked like an inevitable 0-16 season. Ten years later, the Browns found themselves winless with the same exact record (0-13) as the Dolphins. This time around the Ravens would handle their business, simultaneously saving themselves from embarrassment.

Baltimore’s offense didn’t pounce on the Browns in the early minutes of Sunday’s game but the defense certainly came looking to make a statement. The Terrell Suggs-led unit held Kizer and the Browns’ offense down early and never backed off. Up until the final drive of the first half, Kizer’s total passing yards were in the negatives. He finished the game with 146 passing yards on 20 completions.

The Ravens continued to look a little sloppy through most of the first half but finished strong with a pair of touchdowns to take a 17-10 lead. Given everything that went wrong for Cleveland in the first half, including a pair of turnovers, they only found themselves down by one possession at the break. The Ravens’ defense continued to do their job in the second half and kept the Browns off of the scoreboard for the reminder of the game.

Alex Collins had an uncharacteristically quiet game on the ground, possibly due to the stout run defense of Cleveland. After getting roughed up on a couple of plays throughout the game, the coaching staff decided to sit their starting running back instead of risking an injury. Javorius Allen picked up the work load in his absence and racked up 70 yards while running out the clock in the fourth quarter.

With Collins not running as well as he normally does, Joe Flacco ended up throwing over 40 passes in Sunday’s win. Despite only completing 26 of those passes, Flacco finished with 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The offensive line didn’t open many holes in the run game until garbage time, but they did keep Flacco on his feet. The Browns only sacked #5 once.

One of the unsung heroes of the day was punter Sam Koch. The 12-year veteran dropped three punts inside the Cleveland 5-yard line throughout the game. The first two made it difficult for Kizer and the Browns’ offense to get anything going but the third was the key to the game.

On the first play following Koch’s sensational punt, Kizer dropped back into his own endzone. Za’Darius Smith was all over the rookie QB before he could get a read on his receivers. Smith swiftly forced a fumble which Brandon Williams recovered for a touchdown. The score was reviewed, but it was upheld and the Ravens took complete control of the game with a 24-10 lead.

Williams’ touchdown marks the first of his career and the fifth of the year for the Ravens defense. This was just one of four turnovers forced by Baltimore on the day, giving them a differential of +17 for the year.

Following the heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh, the Ravens still had the chance to control their own destiny by winning out and this week was the first step toward a playoff berth. There are still two winnable games left. If the Ravens continue to take care of their own business, we will be seeing purple in the postseason.

The first of those final two games will be this coming Saturday when the Indianapolis Colts come to town for the first time since the 2012-13 playoffs.

Image Credit: Ron Schwane, Associated Press 

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

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.


When: Monday, Nov. 27, 8:30 pm

Where: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, MD

Radio: WBAL 109098 Rock

Commentators: Gerry SanduskyJustin Forsett, Stan White


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.


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