Injuries have forced the Ravens to lean on a patchwork defense
Weak-side linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who had elevated his play in Lewis’ absence, is in danger of missing his third straight game with an ankle injury. Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, whose season has been marred first by a torn Achilles and now by a torn biceps, is also a game-time decision.
Only four defensive players — McClain and defensive backs Cary Williams, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard — have started all 13 games for the Ravens. That number will probably decrease by two as McClain is out today and Pollard likely won’t play because of a chest injury.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has missed just one game, but shoulder and knee injuries have contributed to his looking ordinary at times. Second-year defensive end Pernell McPhee, who was second on the team last year with 6.5 sacks, has just a half-sack this year, and he has played just nine games because of injuries.
Peyton Manning. Ravens injuries. Ordinary Ngata.
Even a Ray Lewis pep talk isn't saving the Ravens now.
Film Room: Quick Reels
Cameron didn’t do a lot schematically to make life easier on Joe Flacco. New offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell should be able to fix this. He’s never been a play-caller at the NFL level, but it doesn’t take any experience to know that in order to throw on Denver, you have to intertwine some routes. The Broncos have one of football’s best man-to-man outside tandems in Champ Bailey and Tony Carter. Plus, Chris Harris is one of the few nickelbacks capable of hanging with Anquan Boldin one-on-one in the slot.
Caldwell is no spring chicken, and this won't be his first rodeo; but it will be his first time ever calling plays in the NFL, and at any level since 1999 (he'll do so from up in the coaches' booth). Many have suggested this week that Caldwell's task will be a simple matter of giving Ray Rice more touches, and letting Joe Flacco go no-huddle. Pete Prisco thinks it won't quite be that easy.
Meanwhile, Jack Del Rio has drawn hefty praise for the wide variety of defensive looks he's shown opponents this season. Think he'll have a few wrinkles up his sleeve to greet Caldwell and the struggling Joe Flacco?
As this week draws on, we're finding it increasingly hard to think this will be such a difficult game for Denver, what with Baltimore's turmoil on offense and the mountain of injuries facing its defense. What do you think?
Further, Tagliabue emphasized that Goodell had done the right things the wrong way and that, as an investigator, Goodell pretty much makes Torquemada look like the chairman of your local ACLU. By vacating the suspensions levied by Goodell, Tagliabue may have defused a number of the inevitable lawsuits, and created a kind of détente with the NFL Players Association. (The NFLPA might well have settled for any finding that just made Goodell look ridiculous, which Tagliabue certainly did.) It is devoutly to be hoped that Vilma, whose lawyer may never stop crowing from the rooftops, goes ahead with his defamation suit against Goodell, because the discovery process alone in that one would be surreal.
You have to love Charlie Pierce, especially if you're a fellow liberal asshole from New England like I am. He uses his standard big/obscure words (like mountebank!) and employs his trademark rational thought. Like the best liberals, he doesn't automatically reach the predictable ideological point that the players are "martyrs for union solidarity and the rights of due process." They're no such thing, of course, and they pretty clearly behaved in a discreditable manner. The NFL (and Brother Ginger) were far worse, though.
Read the article, and give it a thought. It'll probably be the smartest thing you read all day.
Injuries at inside linebacker impacting defense's options
The Ravens may have to meet the Denver Broncos Sunday without their top three inside linebackers in Ray Lewis (torn right triceps), Jameel McClain (neck stinger) and Dannell Ellerbe (right ankle, left foot, both thumbs). That would leave the defense with just three healthy inside linebackers in Josh Bynes, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Albert McClellan.
Ayanbadejo, Bynes and McClellan have carved out a niche through their play on special teams, but are not being asked to absorb the assignments that Lewis, McClain and Ellerbe would normally run on defense.
Lewis and Ellerbe were apparently limited practice participants today, but at less than optimal health, they may provide better play than did their three backups (Bynes -2.3, Ayanbadejo -3.1, McClellan -1.6) last week, according to PFF. McClain, who has already been ruled out, was a brutal -5.8, and the four inside backers combined for four missed tackles in the loss to Washington. Should dovetail nicely with the strengths of Denver's offense.
Champ Bailey, 'one of the greatest,' has Ravens' respect
“They’ve always been an aggressive defense that can get up and stop the run and has some good pass coverage on the outside and secondary and has the outside guys that can rush,” the fifth-year quarterback said. “Obviously, I don’t think we’ve played against Von and he adds another element to those guys being able to head to the passer and have a guy on each side and also be a very good player in the run. You guys are a good defense. They can do all those things—stop the run, get to the passer, cover the pass well—so it will be a good challenge for us.”
It's nice that Joe Flacco respects his elders, and he's right about Von Miller, but we're not sure what universe he's living in--one in which the Broncos have always gotten up and stopped the run. In fact, here's where the Broncos have ranked in yards per carry on defense since 2005 (Flacco came into the league in 2008):
If by "great" Flacco means completely "average" or even "ugly," well then, he's right on the money. Lucky for the Broncos, this year is turning out to be quite different.
Five Ravens stats that stand out from Week 15
Launched by the powerful right arm of Flacco, the Ravens rocketed off to their best offensive start through four games in team history. The Ravens averaged 344.4 net passing yards in those games. But since then, they have averaged 187.2 net passing yards per game. The statistical decline is not just limited to the passing attack, though. They have averaged 23.3 points after averaging 30.3 in the first four weeks and averaged 309 net yards of offense after averaging 424 in their first four games. Now, even with that great start, the Ravens rank 18th in total offense and 16th in passing offense.
Since Week 5, Baltimore's Net Yards per Attempt has been a woeful 5.39, which is 21st in the NFL during that span. They're also 21st in yards per rush since then, which helps explain why Cam Cameron lost his job the other day.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have allowed the fifth-lowest Net Yards per Attempt in the league this season, and are tied for the second-lowest yards per rushing attempt allowed. The Ravens needed to make a change at OC, but this doesn't appear the week their offense gets going again.
AFC grades: It's the Pats, then everybody else
The Broncos had an unlikely hero in their 26-13 win Thursday night in Oakland: Running back Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for 119 yards on a career-high 32 carries. On a short week, Denver proved it could close out a game on the ground, something that was in question after losing starting running back Willis McGahee last month.
Having never read the words "hero" and "Knowshon Moreno" in the same sentence, I thought I'd pass this along.
The winds of fortune can change quickly. One day you're supposed to be the next Herschel Walker. Then you're running with the scout team. A month later, you're back on the field playing as well as you ever have.
Regardless of your view on Moreno and his future with the Broncos, right now, it's okay to be excited to see the kid get another shot and to hope he makes the most of it.
Tony Dungy explains why Peyton Manning could never be a coach
Tony Dungy coached Peyton Manning for seven seasons in Indianapolis and gave him wide leeway to call the plays, run the offense and generally act like a coach on the field. But Dungy doesn’t think Manning could ever be a coach on the sideline…
“No, absolutely not, because he would expect that from everybody, and he doesn’t realize, everybody’s not Peyton Manning,” Dungy said. “Everybody doesn’t work that hard, everybody can’t be at that level all the time. It would frustrate him to death.”
Of course Peyton Manning isn't going to be a coach. He's got pizzas to sell--a lot of them.
Cam Cameron fired by Baltimore Ravens as offensive coordinator
Tired with the offense’s inconsistency and the lack of significant progression from quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens today let go much-maligned offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, according to team sources.
Clearly not an ideal way to head into the stretch run of a season, and while preparing for a game the magnitude of Sunday's looming visit from the Broncos.
Jason Cole says the inability of Cameron and QB Joe Flacco to coexist necessitated the switch, while Jamison Hensley says the firing of Cameron - who had been on a one-year deal - is sure to please Baltimore's offensive players.
Updated 2:01pm ET
Tom Jackson, in addition to covering backs out of the backfield and making tackles, devoted his energy to unleashing disdainful broadsides in the direction of the Oakland bench, including coach John Madden. After recovering a fumble late in the game near the sideline, Jackson got up, waved the ball, and spotted Madden a few feet away. “It’s all over, fat man!” he yelled.
On the NBC broadcast, sage play-by-play man Curt Gowdy, the voice of American sports and ‘The American Sportsman,’ mused that Sunday “has to be the greatest day in the history of the Denver franchise.”
Up to that point, it was.
Most of you know where our name came from, and some have learned the story from our About page. This excerpt from Terry Frei's book is an excellent retelling of the leadup to the 1977 showdown in Oakland, and the stunning touchdown pass from holder Norris Weese to kicker Jim Turner.