Podcast Episode 21: Interview with Orioles legend Al Bumbry, revisiting the Ravens 11-sack dismantling of the Titans

Welcome to Episode 21 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

At the top of this week’s show is an exclusive interview with legendary Baltimore Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry (5:20). Jake talked to Mr. Bumbry about the Orioles’ rebuild, his top career memories, and the MLB playoffs. Mr. Bumbry also mentioned the organization his son is involved with called Helping Latin America’s Orphans.

Up next, McGraw and Schultz jump in to talk about all things baseball (21:19). Along with breaking down the American League & National League Championship Series, the guys went back-and-forth over the Manny Machado drama, and the rumors swirling around about the Astros cheating in playoff games.

Did you hear that? I think Za’Darius Smith just sacked Marcus Mariota again. The football talk kicks off with the crew revisiting the Ravens’ 21-0 shutout over the Tennessee Titans that saw the defense rack up 11 sacks in the game (35:45). After the gang reveals their initial impressions from the win that advanced the Ravens to 4-2, they get into their weekly Who’s Trending segment (47:00) and went over some things to watch for on Sunday at 4:05 pm as the Ravens duke it out with the 4-1 New Orleans Saints at M&T Bank Stadium (56:20).

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 21 (1:05:17).

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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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

Five things we learned from Ravens 21-0 win over Titans

NASHVILLE — The Baltimore Ravens advanced to 4-2 with a 21-0 shutout over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, who fell to 3-3. For the Ravens, this ended a three-game road trip with the team going 2-1 over that span.

The three-game road trip was filled with ups and downs, but it ended on a high note with Sunday’s win over Tennessee. Here are five things we learned about the Ravens in their first shutout of the 2018 season.


1. Holy crap, pass rush!

Ever since the Ravens’ defense tallied six sacks against the Buffalo Bills in the opening game of the season, the pass rush failed to put opposing quarterbacks on the ground more than five times in a game.

Sunday against Tennessee, that trend changed. The Ravens’ pass rush exploded on the Titans, finishing with a franchise-high 11 sacks and absolutely terrorizing Marcus Mariota. Speaking of Mariota, he finished the game being sacked more times than his completion total showed, which was 10 passes.

Za’Darius Smith led the pass rushers with three sacks. Patrick Onwuasor followed with two. Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr., and Chris Wormley all found their way into the Tennessee backfield on Sunday with one sack each. The 11-sack total the Titans allowed in this game was more than the total amount of sacks they had let up all season (9).

Mariota finished the game with 117 passing yards. He didn’t stand a chance, as his offense went 1-for-10 on third down with the running back tandem of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combining for 30 yards on 12 carries.

With former defensive coordinator Dean Pees on the opposite end of the sideline, the Ravens’ defense wanted to send a clear message. Even though several players expressed their respect for Pees this past week, they wanted to stick it to their old play-caller. Not only did the defense’s performance on Sunday prove that they live on without Pees, it showed that the defense could be better than they ever were with him leading the way.


2. Michael Crabtree puts Cleveland nightmare behind him

Against the Browns last week, Michael Crabtree hauled in just six of 12 targets with multiple drops, including a potential touchdown grab in the fourth quarter that could have won the game for the Ravens. Crabtree has run into some issues with drops in his career, but he’s consistently bounced back from his struggles. That pattern continued against Tennessee, where Crabtree rebounded by leading the Ravens with 93 yards on six receptions, including a four-yard touchdown catch. It marked Crabtree’s first touchdown reception since the season opener against Buffalo.

Willie Snead caught seven passes for 60 yards, but the next leading receiver, John Brown, only caught two. Crabtree signed a three-year contract with the Ravens coveting him as a red-zone threat. The Ravens certainly expected more than two touchdowns through the first six games for Crabtree, but the Ravens will go forward and hope that Crabtree’s bounce-back today carries over in the next three games before the bye.


3. Ravens balance out offense, make honest effort to run the football

In the Ravens’ two losses this season, the ratio of run and pass plays has scewed much more towards the pass. In Marty Morthinweg’s sixth game called this season, he ran 35 run plays and 38 pass plays. The end result was Joe Flacco completing 27 passes for 238 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, with the run game compiling 123 yards on the ground.

On 19 carries, Alex Collins could only rack up 54 yards for an average of 2.8 yards-per-carry. Although many of his runs went short, he did break free for a 13-yard touchdown run in the first half.

After Collins, Gus Edwards carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards in his regular season debut. Lamar Jackson‘s lone rush attempt, a 22-yarder, awarded the Ravens a first down midway through the third quarter. Buck Allen caught three passes for 18 yards, but only received one carry which went one yard.

The results of the run game aren’t anything sexy and are aided by Jackson’s 22-yard run, but the encouraging sign was how many holes opened up for the running backs as opposed to the first five weeks. With Allen proving to be an asset in the passing game, Edwards will continue to split the load with Collins for the lion’s share of carries. Considering Edwards led the team with 174 rushing yards (53 carries) in the preseason, he’s a name to keep an eye on going forward.


4. Second-half defensive dominance continues

The Ravens may have compiled 11 sacks on Mariota on Sunday, but don’t forget that they again did not allow a second-half touchdown. Baltimore’s defense has not allowed an opposing offense to reach the end zone in the second half yet this season. The unit continues to put up incredible numbers, and it’s becoming fun to watch, not just in the game, but on social media too. Check out this Tweet from Barstool Banks with another interesting tidbit surrounding the 2018 Ravens defense.

The outstanding defensive performances are helping out the Ravens’ offense too. Two weeks ago against Pittsburgh, the Ravens got by on four Justin Tucker field goals because the defense shut out Ben Roethlisberger in the second half. Then this week, the only score the Ravens needed in the second half was a two-yard run by Collins midway through the third quarter. It’s no secret that Flacco performs better when his defense backs him up, and the defense has certainly held up their end of the bargain through the first six games.


5. Alex Lewis injury could present offensive line shuffling

A scary moment occurred in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win when left guard Alex Lewis went down with a neck injury. Lewis remained on the ground for several minutes before a cart was brought onto the field, where Lewis was placed on a stretcher and taken away from Nissan Stadium in an ambulance.

According to the Ravens, upon arriving at the hospital Lewis regained movement in all of his extremities and was even cleared to fly back with the Ravens on the team plane Sunday night. Lewis underwent a CT scan, and head coach John Harbaugh said that the team will release details on Lewis’ injury once they get the scan results back.

Unfortunately, Lewis’ issues with injuries continue and he’s likely to miss some time while healing this neck injury. Who knows, it could even be season-ending. The good news is that the Ravens have some depth along the offensive line.

After Lewis came out of the game, rookie center Bradley Bozeman filled in at left guard while James Hurst remained at right tackle. This seems puzzling, given that the Ravens have rookie tackle Orlando Brown Jr. waiting in the wings to make his regular season debut, but it’s worth noting that Hurst has not practiced much at left guard this season after starting all 16 games last year at left guard. If Lewis is out for a long period of time, the Ravens could absolutely move Hurst back to left guard and have Brown slide in at right tackle. Given the nature of a sudden injury, it’s understandable as to why the coaches kept Hurst at right tackle for the remainder of the game.


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Image Credit: NBC Sports