Podcast Episode 22: Justin Tucker’s missed PAT stuns Baltimore and Orioles let international talent slip away

Image Credit: The Forward 

Welcome to Episode 22 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

For the second time in four episodes, our guest this week is an employee from our sponsor, Seven Sports Bar & Grille in New Freedom, PA. This time, we welcome in Camden Williams, who works in the back of the house (3:37). Cam happens to be named after Camden Yards and he’s obsessed with football. We recorded our segment with Cam hours after the Ravens’ soul-crushing 24-23 defeat to the Saints, so you’ll hear plenty of raw emotion and reaction to Baltimore’s second defeat in three weeks. We’ll also go around the NFL to recap the top takeaways from week 7’s action.

Up next, McGraw and Schultz hop on the show to continue our assessment of the Ravens’ latest loss (33:14). Who was to blame – Justin Tucker, the offense, or the defense? Are the Ravens still a legit contender, or are we seeing more of the same from the previous three seasons? How will the Ravens’ defensive line make up for the loss of Willie Henry (45:55)? The Ravens are 4-3, and face a tough schedule ahead. The clock is ticking, and if the Ravens go 1-1 or 0-2 before their week 10 bye, the pressure will keep mounting.

As always, we’ll tell you Who’s Trending (48:32) after the Ravens’ most recent performance, and we’ll go over some things to watch for on Sunday (1:07:32) as the Ravens hit the road for the fourth time in five weeks for a 1:00 pm tilt with the 4-2 Carolina Panthers.

The World Series is underway, and there’s plenty of baseball talk on-tap for episode 22. We begin with the Orioles, who despite leading MLB in international slot money this offseason ($6.5 million), did not land three of the biggest international names in baseball – Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr, and Sandy Gastón. How in the world did the Orioles let this happen (1:15:20)? We then dive into the 2018 World Series, contested between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox (1:19:46). Will Manny Machado spark any drama against his old east coast rival, and who do we think will walk away as champions? All of this and more on this week’s podcast.

To wrap up the show, we dive into our weekly numbers segment, taking a look at the best Baltimore sports athletes to wear the number 22 (1:25:07).

You can find the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloudiTunes, and Google Play. Please leave us a review on iTunes, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

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The Charm City Bird Watch Podcast is brought to you by Seven Sports Bar & Grille. For a limited time only on behalf on Charm City Bird Watch, you can receive a 10% discount off any entree dish when you tell your server or bartender the promo code ‘Charm City.’ One possible entree combination, pictured above: Filet Mignon, Mac & Cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and a dinner roll!

 

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Five things we learned from Ravens 24-23 loss to Saints

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens lost for the second time in three weeks when the New Orleans Saints marched out of M&T Bank Stadium with a 24-23 win on Sunday evening.

The Saints are winners of five straight since the Buccaneers upset them in week 1, and carry a 5-1 record into week 8 where they’ll try to avenge last year’s divisional playoff loss to the Vikings in Minnesota for Sunday Night Football. The Ravens, now 4-3, will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina for their fourth road contest in five weeks against the now 4-2 Carolina Panthers.

Now that Ravens fans have had a day to digest arguably the team’s toughest loss of the season, here are five things we learned from the game.


1. Justin Tucker is human 

Leading up to Justin Tucker‘s attempt to tie the game at 24 with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter, he had made 222 straight extra point attempts which dates back to the beginning of his career in 2012. In fact, Tucker’s stretch of perfect PAT’s dates back to his time in College at Texas. In total, he had made 316 straight extra points.

But at the worst time possible, Tucker missed his first extra point after Joe Flacco‘s 14-yard touchdown pass to John Brown. That score capped off a six-play, 81-yard drive that everyone thought would send the Ravens into overtime against Drew Brees and the Saints. Instead, the Ravens watched Tucker’s kick start off on-target before slowly hooking right and missing the post by a few feet.

“I feel like I cost us the game,” Tucker said in the locker-room. “Every single one of my teammates thus far has told me the opposite, and not one play wins or loses a game. But that’s a tough thing to grapple with when you’re the guy in that situation at the end of the game.”

Winds were sailing up to 40 miles-per-hour in Baltimore on Sunday, but Tucker had been the only kicker in the NFL to not miss a PAT since the extra point marker was moved back in 2015, going 112-for-112 over that span.

Tucker had field goals blocked against Cleveland and Denver this season, but made his other 13 attempts without any issues. Who knows that would have happened if the game had gone into overtime, but this miss completely crushed the momentum the Ravens had built on their touchdown drive.

It will be interesting to see how Tucker responds to the adversity. He’s one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, but in recent memory a number of NFL kickers have dealt with the mental yips. ‘The Wolfpack’ consisting of Tucker, Sam Koch and Morgan Cox is one of the most consistent units in the NFL. They will have no problem getting back to work and will be prepared for next week’s game. But Tucker has never dealt with a blunder as big as this, and there will be added pressure on him next week, especially if the Panthers duke it out with the Ravens until the final seconds and the Ravens need Tucker to win the game.

It could script an amazing comeback story, or send Tucker into a mental slump that Ravens fans had not foreseen being a problem this season.


2. Jimmy Smith was a liability in pass coverage 

Up until Sunday, the two prior performances of Jimmy Smith had been shadowed by a low snap count in week 5 against the Browns and the Titans lacking an explosive receiver in week 6. But when it was announced pregame that Marlon Humphrey would miss the game with a thigh injury, Smith got the start and lined up against #1 receiver Michael Thomas for much of the game.

Simply put, Smith got outplayed by Thomas. Smith allowed Thomas to rack up seven catches for 69 yards, including and a five-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Smith also had three penalties called against him, including two pass interference fouls. One of the penalties was a bad call, but Smith allowed too many big plays on Sunday. 69 yards is pedestrian for Thomas, but he made several catches in big spots and got the best of Smith on a consistent basis.

After the game, Smith faced reporters in the locker-room, saying that he “just didn’t play [his] game today,” and that he “felt frustrated because I feel like I’m the one that lost that game at the end.” Credit to Smith for being available to answer questions after a hard loss. He did not use his Achilles as an excuse, and he said that he’s going to do everything he can to be 100% ready next week against Carolina.

If Humphrey’s thigh injury lingers, Smith could receive a start against Antonio Brown in two weeks against the Steelers. Before returning from suspension against Cleveland, Smith had missed eight straight games, and he’s still getting back into football shape. Smith should be close to full speed in two weeks versus Pittsburgh, but the pressure is on him to rebound next week against Carolina.

The good news is that the Panthers don’t have a true #1 receiver for Smith to match up against.


3. The Ravens defense is still the best in the NFL, but will share blame with offense and Tucker for loss
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In their two previous road tests, the Saints scored at least 33 points each time. The Saints had also scored at least 33 points in four of five games, with the exception being their 21-point total in their win over the Browns in week 2. Up until the fourth quarter, the Ravens limited the Saints to seven points. The Ravens held Brees to 212 passing yards, his lowest total of the season. The Ravens defense finally allowed a second-half touchdown when Alvin Kamara scored from two yards out with 12:32 left in the fourth quarter, but the offense went three-and-out after that drive and then Brees orchestrated the Saints’ second-straight 12-play drive that ended with the Thomas touchdown.

 

After Brees’ touchdown to Thomas, Flacco and the Ravens offense went 50 yards on nine plays, having to face two fourth down plays. The first one, a fourth-and-seven, would have failed on a Flacco incompletion intended for Willie Snead, but P.J. Williams was flagged for pass interference. After the Ravens were awarded a first down, Alex Collins ran for four yards. Then Flacco threw three straight incompletions and the Saints took over at their own 36-yard line. They got down to the Baltimore 21-yard line and Will Lutz kicked a 39-yard field goal with 2:07 left to put the Saints up 24-17.

The Ravens defense did allow the Saints to come back in the fourth quarter, but they still lead the NFL in multiple defensive categories.

The blame will be shared for this loss, but the Ravens offense couldn’t get out of their own way in the fourth quarter. The stalled drive in particular sticks out. Eight of Flacco’s 10 attempted passes fell incomplete on that drive, with some drops included by receivers. Had the Ravens scored touchdowns on that drive or the prior three-and-out, then perhaps they wouldn’t have needed a late comeback with Tucker’s botched extra point attempt. Scoring 24 points at home might be enough against the Bills or the Broncos, but not against the #1-ranked New Orleans offense.


4. Ravens beginning to rely on Lamar Jackson just a little bit more 

Lamar Jackson only played five snaps on Sunday, but he was put into some bigger spots than in previous weeks. There was a third-and-eight play in the second quarter in which Jackson threw a pass over the middle to Brown that only went five yards, and the Ravens settled for a 31-yard Tucker field goal. Jackson scored his first career touchdown on a one-yard run with four seconds left in the first half. Jackson converted a third-and-two into a four-yard run for a first down in the third quarter. He had another four-yard run on a second-down play and his last snap of the game went to Collins on a first-down run.

Jackson’s five snaps saw more good than bad, and the Ravens relied on him a bit more on third down and with the football on pass to Brown. The Saints had more success with their second-string quarterback Taysom Hill, who’s also being used as a decoy like Jackson. Hill played 26 snaps and finished the game with 35 rushing yards on six carries. The Saints are having more success with Hill than the Ravens are with Jackson, but they’re putting him in the game much more. That might not be the best for Hill’s longevity long-term, and the Ravens seem to have just the opposite approach with Jackson.


5. With Alex Lewis and James Hurst sidelined, Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown Jr. showed their dependability 

Alex Lewis (pinched nerve in neck) and James Hurst (back) were both questionable heading into Sunday and were listed as OUT when the inactives list became official before gametime. Rookies Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown Jr. filled in at left guard and right tackle, respectively. When the offense warmed up and took the field for the first time, the starting five were, left to right, Ronnie Stanley, Bozeman, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda, and Brown Jr.

Both Bozeman and Brown Jr. played admiringly in their first NFL starts. Bozeman left the game twice with a lower body injury, but returned both times and finished the game. Both the Ravens and the Saints finished the game with one sack on defense, so both offensive lines were effective in protecting Brees and Flacco. Flacco did ensure some pressure throughout the game like usual, but Saints defenders only hit him two times.

It’s a small sample size, but Bozeman and Brown Jr. showed that they are capable starting if needed. The Saints’ pass rush isn’t very formidable and the Ravens only ran for 77 yards on the day, but the line did not appear to take a step down compared to what they were showing with Lewis and Hurst in games.

Going off Zrebiec’s tweet, it’s possible that Hurst could miss some more time. Lewis did not practice all week and it’s no guarantee that he will be able to play on Sunday after being stretchered off the field in Tennessee just eight days ago. If Bozeman and Brown Jr. start next week, their true test will come on the road with the crowd being a factor.


Quick hits:

Image Credit: The Comeback

 

Three things to watch for as the Ravens return home to take on the Saints

The 4-2 Baltimore Ravens return home for their first home contest since September 23 looking to build off of last week’s 21-0 shutout of the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

After back-to-back sacks (theme of the day) ended the first drive for the Titans, the offense got things off on the right foot with Joe Flacco leading a 17-play 94-yard march which ended in a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. Crabtree responded well after his drop-filled day in Cleveland, hauling in six passes for 93 yards and that touchdown.

A sack would end Tennessee’s next drive as well and the offense would march 52 yards in seven plays on their next drive to build the insurmountable 14-0 lead on an Alex Collins 13-yard touchdown run.

The Ravens defense was dominant in the performance, picking up a franchise record 11 sacks in the victory. It also tied for the second most number of sacks that a team has recorded in one game in NFL history.

The victory moved the Ravens into a first place tie with the Cincinnati Bengals with the Bengals holding the top spot due to the head-to-head tie breaker. The Ravens will welcome the NFC South-leading 4-1 New Orleans Saints and their high-powered offense to Baltimore this Sunday.

Here’s what to watch for ahead of Sunday’s contest.

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Chris Wormley picks up one the Ravens franchise record 11 sacks this past Sunday in Tennessee. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

1) Does the sack party continue?

The Ravens’ pass rush completely annihilated what is considered one of the NFL’d better offensive lines in the Titans last weekend. The Ravens had 11 sacks on the day and also picked up 12 tackles-for-loss as well. The Ravens’ social media team had some fun with the performance even making a change to their twitter handle:

Za’Darius Smith continued his strong push for a new contract, leading the charge with three sacks. He has been the Ravens most consistent pass rusher to date. Other sacks were recorded by Patrick Onwuasor (2) Matt Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr, and Chris Wormley.

I list those names to hammer home the fact that these sacks came from everywhere. Rush ends, interior linemen, linebackers, and safeties all got into the act and this will be key for the Ravens this Sunday when they take on Drew Brees and the NFL’s 3rd ranked total offense. Brees will also be looking for his first career win against the Ravens who are the only NFL team he has never beaten.

The Saints have only surrendered eight total sacks this season. However, they have played just one opponent who ranks higher than 26th in total team sacks in the Cleveland Browns who rank 16th.

Asking for a duplicate performance from last week is unreasonable but the pass rush will need to be disruptive if the Ravens are to emerge victorious.

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Will we see the first career start for Orlando Brown Jr. this Sunday if Alex Lewis can’t go? Image Credit: Getty Images

2) How does the offensive line look if Alex Lewis isn’t able to play?

While Sunday’s game against the Titans produced many positive moments, there was one major injury scare for the Ravens when starting left guard Alex Lewis was placed on a backboard and carted out of Nissan Stadium with an apparent neck injury. Coach John Harbaugh commented on the injury after the game:

Lewis did pass all of the necessary testing after the game and was able to fly home with the team. It appears that Lewis and the Ravens were able to dodge a major injury bullet when Harbaugh provided an update on Lewis’s condition yesterday at his Wednesday press conference.

While Harbaugh seems optimistic, it would be difficult to imagine Lewis returning to the playing field just seven days removed from the injury. In his absence Sunday the Ravens went with a rookie lineman Bradley Bozeman to replace Lewis.

Many thought that the injury would lead to a shuffle along the offensive line, moving starting right tackle James Hurst to left guard and inserting rookie offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr into the starting lineup at right tackle.

On the fly, the Ravens chose to go with Bozeman but it will interesting to see how things line up Sunday on the offensive line with a full week of practice factored in.

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John Brown will be looking to find the endzone for the first time since his 33-yard TD catch in Pittsburgh. Image Credit: Getty Images

3) Can the Ravens score with the Saints?

Much will be made this week of the strength vs. strength battle between the Ravens defense and the Saints offense. The numbers support that, garnering the story line as the two teams boast the following exploits:

Ravens Defense

  • #1 in PPG allowed with 12.8
  • #1 in total defense allowing 270.8 yards per game
  • #2 in passing yards allowed per game at 188
  • #3 in rushing yards allowed per game at 82.8
  • #1 in sacks for the year with 26
  • #2 in third down defense holding opponents to 26.5% conversion rate

Saints Offense

  • #1 in PPG scored with 36
  • #3 in total offense racking up 424 yards per game
  • #3 in passing yards for per game at 320.8
  • #3 in sacks allowed for the season with 8
  • #5 in yards per play with 6.5

It is fair to believe that if both of these units play their game, it is likely going to take 21+ points to win this game. The Ravens’ defense is exceptional but Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram and company have registered less than 21 points just three times in their last 19 games.

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While all the talk has been about the Ravens defense vs the Saints offense, Joe Flacco’s offense is the unit to watch for Sunday. Image Credit: AP

So my focus on Sunday is going to be on the Ravens offense. The Saints defense is ranked just 18th in total defense but are 30th in the league in passing yards per game allowed. They have the NFL’s number one ranked run defense, surrendering 71.4 yards per game, albeit in five games as opposed to six as most teams have played to this point.

This will need to be a big day for Flacco and the Ravens revamped receiving corps. Crabtree had a big game last week and Willie Snead IV has been consistent each game so far this season. Snead also has the revenge factor this week, facing his former team that refused to match the Ravens offer sheet for the receiver. John Brown has been quiet the last two weeks, tallying six catches for 86 yards and no scores after recording 15 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the first four weeks of the season.

The Saints are tied for fifth-worst in the NFL in allowing plays of 40+ yards, having surrendered six so far this season. Look for Brown to get back on track this Sunday.

Predictions:

Jay Stavros– Ravens 35 Saints 28

Nolan McGraw– Ravens 30 Saints 23

Jake McDonnell– Saints 27 Ravens 24

Ian Schultz– Ravens 32 Saints 26

The Ravens will be looking for back-to-back wins on Sunday and return home after an extended road trip. They are 13-5 in their last 18 home games. They will run into a Saints team coming off of their bye week which only enhances the difficulty of the task at hand. I think the Saints will be able to score points on the vaunted Ravens defense but the offense will be able to do enough in the end to get the Ravens to 5-2.

The Details:

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun