Sports Much Sports Blog

Classic formula helps Ravens beat Steelers

Justin Tucker proved once again he is the most reliable kicker in the league as he won the game for the Ravens with a 52-yard field goal in overtime.

Justin Tucker proved once again he is the most reliable kicker in the league as he won the game for the Ravens with a 52-yard field goal in overtime.

By: Corey Johns

Establish the run, play great defense and win with the best kicker in the NFL — it’s a formula the Ravens have always had success with and on Thursday in Pittsburgh against their most hated rival Steelers, it led to the team’s first win of the year.

In overtime, Justin Tucker nailed a 52-yard field goal to earn the 23-20 victory.

The Ravens trailed most of the game but thanks to a very strong defensive performance the Steelers were never able to close the door and Baltimore came back to win.

Baltimore held Pittsburgh to only 2-for-13 on third-down conversations and shut them down both times they went for it on fourth down in overtime. That effort made up for bad outing by Joe Flacco, who lost two fumbles and threw an interception.

Meanwhile, Justin Forsett finally broke out for the first time this year, averaging over 5.5 yards per carry on 27 attempts for 150 yards and Tucker led them to the win. He went 3-for-3 in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Ravens came back, making a 40-yarder, 42-yards and the game-winning 52-yard field goal.

Those two performances were huge, especially with the Ravens receivers dropping like flies. The team was already without first round pick Breshad Perriman, who just underwent knee surgery after re-injuring his PCL, and tight end Crockett Gillmore was out with an injury as well but Steve Smith Sr. and Michael Campanaro both left the game with injuries.

So while the win was far from pretty and easily could have gone a different way if the Steelers would have made one of their two fourth-quarter field goal attempts, it was a win Baltimore needed and a win they gutted out and fought hard to get.

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It’s Steelers Week!

Ravens Steelers

By: Corey Johns

Forget about the record. The Ravens are 0-3 and this week, it means nothing because it’s Steelers week. It is going to be a tough, hard-fought game and it is bound to come down to the finals seconds of the game.

And it is fitting that the Ravens play the Steelers this week while they are desperate for a win to spark a turnaround to save their season. Last year the Ravens could fallen into a disaster after all the Ray Rice stuff, but a dominating victory over the Steelers clearly helped them move past their early-season struggles. Maybe that can be what saves the team from disaster this year. They need a win right now or their season is over.

Only one team under the current playoff format has made the playoffs after an 0-4 start. That was the 1992 San Diego Chargers a long, long time ago.

This game will have a little different feel to it. Terrell Suggs, the biggest Steelers’ hater in football, is out. Ben Roethlisberger, the biggest Ravens killer, is also out.

Michael Vick will start under center for Pittsburgh. Even at 35-years-old he is still an elite athlete and dangerous playmaker with a huge arm, but he is very mistake prone. Even at his very best Vick would try to force that one bad pass he had no business throwing and would put his team in a bad spot. Because of that the Steelers will likely take a more conservative approach.

Now, that might mean giving the ball to the best running back in the game, Le’Veon Bell, but the Ravens are much better at stopping the run than the pass right now and it should limit the number of really big plays the Steelers make.

But the Ravens have to get their running game going too. Without Crocket Gillmore the Ravens really lack a secondary option in the passing game after Steve Smith. Justin Forsett has struggled horribly early this season but the Ravens have not truly committed to feeding him either. A more consistent running game will also keep the Ravens defense off the field and fresh at the end of the game so they are not getting gashed in the final minutes of the game.

Or maybe, the defense just plays the smash-mouth style of football we all know and love and expect in a game against the Steelers.

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The Ravens are 0-3 but their season is not finished yet


By: Corey Johns

The terrible start could have led to absolute disaster but the Ravens battled back and took a fourth quarter lead twice…and lost it twice. A.J. Green made the Ravens’ secondary look silly as he tore through them for 227 yards and two touchdowns and led the Bengals to a 28-24 win over the Ravens. Now, for the first time in franchise history the Ravens are 0-3 and a postseason appearance just does not seem very likely any more.

Luckily, the Ravens could still turn things around. Steve Smith Sr. looked the best he ever has as he caught 13 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. With Breshad Perriman’s return to practice the receiving corp. has the ability to get better. Left Tackle Eugene Monroe is also supposed to be back by Thursday, and maybe that will help the disappointing running game get going.

And sure, only five teams in history have made the playoffs after an 0-3 start, but the Ravens are a resilient group. With the addition of Perriman, the continued excellence of Smith and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco leading the way, the Ravens clearly have talent. But it is also easy to see how the Ravens have lost their first three games and could come back.

They were supposed to lose Week 1 at Denver, they always lose one road game that they are supposed to win and they always seem to split with Cincinnati. It just so happens that the Ravens had all three of those things happen at the very beginning of the season.

They get a big break with Ben Roethlisberger going down and already declared out for Thursday’s game with an MCL sprain, leaving the dynamic but older and mistake-prone Michael Vick there to lead the Steelers. Then they play Cleveland with a mess at quarterback, travel to play a struggling 49ers team and still have a stretch on the schedule that includes Jacksonville, St. Louis, Cleveland and Miami.

A 10-6 record usually gets a team into the playoffs. They have to win all of those games and split games against Arizona, San Diego, Seattle, Kansas City, Pittsburgh (with Roethlisberger) and Cincinnati in the final week.

The 0-3 record is not good and the team’s secondary really looks bad right now but their season is not over quite yet.

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There’s no place like home

Elvis Dumervil has yet to get a sack this year but will have to get going this week to keep Andy Dalton from getting into a rhythm.

Elvis Dumervil has yet to get a sack this year but will have to get going this week to keep Andy Dalton from getting into a rhythm.

By: Corey Johns

When desperate for a win there is no better place for the Ravens to be than in the comfort of M&T Bank Stadium. Since 2007 when the John Harbaugh – Joe Flacco era began the Ravens have only lost 11 home games, so their desperate situation just might lead to a turnaround.

In order to turn things around and avoid a third-straight loss the Ravens defense is going to have to play significantly better than they did against the Oakland Raiders a week ago. That was bad, bordering embarrassing against a young team without any proven threats on their offense. The Bengals are far more dangerous.

While Andy Dalton might not be more than an average quarterback, he has elite talent around him that has helped get the Bengals to four-straight playoff appearances. The Bengals could choose to throw the ball around the field to their deep group of receivers headlined by A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, or they could decide to be a ground-and-pound team and let Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard lead the way.

Either way, the Ravens need to learn to live without Terrell Suggs on the field. Last week the defense had no pass rush and it allowed Derek Carr to look more like Peyton Manning than Peyton Manning did. Maybe Jason Babin will make things better. It was pretty questionable as to why he was not active for the game against the Raiders but he is a proven pass rusher. If he is a decent presence on the edge, that should also open things up for Elvis Dumervil, who had a career-year in 2014 but has yet to record a sack in 2015.

Getting to Dalton will be hard enough as it is — he has yet to be sacked this year — and he has good enough receiving threats to make it a long day for the Ravens if he has all day to throw.

But let’s give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt and say Babin and Dumervil wreck some havoc in the backfield. That is when, Dalton is prone to making mistakes. He has yet to throw an interception this year, but he also has not been pressured very much behind his big offensive line. If the Ravens get in the backfield, force a turnover of two and keep the Bengals in the 20s in terms of points, expect the Ravens to get their first win of the year.

Last week the Ravens offense turned it on against the Raiders. The Bengals are better defensively but Joe Flacco showed comfort and confidence throwing to more than only Steve Smith. Tight end Crockett Gillmore and wide receiver Kamar Aiken were heavily involved in the passing game. Even if Smith was still the team’s leading receiver, having two extra options will keep the defense honest.

Now, it is just up to the running game to get going. Justin Forsett has not looked like the explosive back he was last year but expect more of a three-headed monster with Forsett, second-year power back Lorenzo Taliaferro and rookie change-of-pace back Buck Allen.

When they establish the run and take pressure off Flacco and the passing game the Ravens are always at their best. That will be the key to a victory and saving their season.

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The Ravens Are Back!

Steve Smith

By: Corey Johns

All of the detractors say the same thing: the Ravens don’t have enough at receiver and don’t have enough explosiveness to win a Super Bowl. And it does not matter one bit. Being an air-it-our team that puts up huge points with huge yardage totals just is not the Ravens style, it’s not Baltimore’s style. We’re hard-nosed, blue-collar people who scrap and work hard for everything we do and football is no different.

What led to both Super Bowls the Ravens won? It was not a prolific offense; it was a tough as nails defense and a grind-it-out offense that just got the job done.

Very few franchises have been as successful as the Baltimore Ravens since 2008 when the John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco era began. Despite the limited number of explosive receivers – no Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones types – the Ravens still always find a way to move the ball and get the job done as much as they need. They understand that a one-point win is the same thing as a 21-point blowout and there is no reason to believe they won’t win a bunch of games again this year.

Sure, wide receiver may not look that sexy in comparison to what other teams have, but the overall roster looks like the best in the league. The simple fact that players like DeAngelo Tyson, Jah Reid, Asa Jackson, and Fitzgerald Toussaint were released during final cut downs just shows how deep this year’s squad is. It might even be the best roster the Ravens have ever had.

Flacco does not put up the gaudy numbers, but he is top five in winning-percentage among current NFL Quarterbacks. The always reliable Steve Smith Sr. might not be the speedy guy he once was running up and down the field, but you’d be hard pressed to find a tougher guy who plays with more emotion in the entire NFL. The offensive line is one of the best in the league with arguably three of the best players at their position (Kelechi Osemele – LG, Marshal Yanda – RG, Rick Wagner – RT). If you want to talk about explosive, just look at Justin Forsett, who had more 20-yard plays than anybody in the NFL last year.

Are any of those guys All-Pros? Yanda is, but after him it is a bunch of guys who quietly get their job done.

Defensively, try to find a better pass rushing duo than Terrell Suggs and Elvin Dumervil. While you’re at it, find a better inside linebacker duo than C.J. Mosley and Darryl Smith. The Ravens always have the best linebacker corp. in the league and that does not look like it’s stopping this year.

The defensive line might have lost Haloti Ngata, but the group proved they were more than capable without him while he was suspended last year. The secondary lacks huge stars but Jimmy Smith is back, Will Hill hits very, very hard and Kendrick Lewis is another quiet guy who does his job and does not hurt his team.

While the Ravens might not have many top of the line stars, they don’t need them. They never really have needed them. The Ravens, more than any other team in the league, play hard and find ways to win. They don’t need to look good doing it.