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Late For Work 1/9: Denver Columnist Takes Shot At Lewis, Ravens


Denver Columnist Takes Shot At Lewis, Ravens

Like many others out there, a Denver Post columnist appears very confident the Broncos will take down the Ravens Saturday.

But the lead paragraph to introduce his opinion took what seems like a disrespectful shot at future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and the city of Baltimore.

"If this rust belt town needed a bib to catch all the sentimental tears shed at the last home game of iconic linebacker Ray Lewis, how is Baltimore going to handle the emotional breakdown when the Broncos force him into retirement as a loser?" asked Mark Kiszla.

“Whoa,” was the response from's Ray Frager.

Kiszla continued a few paragraphs later,: "[L]ike Lewis, their very passionate but washed-up warrior, the Ravens now seem better at striking a pose than striking fear in the hearts of a foe."

The columnist was unimpressed with Baltimore's win over quarterback Andrew Luck, saying "big deal" that the defense "toyed" with a rookie. Would the "Ravens' arms are long enough to box" Peyton Manning?

"Last time we looked in on Manning against Baltimore, the result was so ugly that the Ravens should have covered their eyes," Ksizla wrote.

If there's enough room on the bulletin board, tack this one up.

Three-Step Plan To Offsetting Denver Pass Rush

The talented Denver pass rush suffocated quarterback Joe Flacco in their last matchup, notching three sacks and nine quarterback hits.

Thus, a key to victory for Baltimore in Saturday's playoff contest will be to keep the five-year veteran upright, and Football Outsiders' Vince Verhei gives a three-step plan for stifling Denver's pass rush (which is easier said than done):

1)      Stop Von Miller: "[N]umbers from the Football Outsiders game-charting project show that Miller has been even more dominant than his sack numbers suggest. Our project is not quite complete, but so far we've already credited Miller with 40.5 pressures. … Adding Miller's sacks and pressures gives us 59 quarterback "incidents" (sacks plus hits plus hurries), nearly one-third of Denver's team total."

2)      Help Michael Oher: "Between sacks and holding penalties, we've counted a dozen blown blocks for Baltimore's right tackle [he has been a left tackle for most of the season]. That would have placed in the top five last season. Oher can't be counted on to block defensive ends week in and week out, and he certainly can't be counted on to block a defensive MVP-type like Miller by himself. As long as Miller is lining up on Oher's side, the Ravens will need to keep a running back or tight end (or both) to that side of the formation to chip Miller before releasing for a pass route, or just forget about the pass route entirely and leave an extra blocker in to help with Miller until Flacco can find a different target. Every time the Broncos are able to isolate Miller on Oher will be a win for Denver."

3)     Avoid clear passing situations: "[I]f the Ravens want to protect Flacco, they'll need to open up their playbook and be unpredictable. If they wait until third down to pass, Flacco might not finish the game. Better to pass on first or second down and try to catch Denver by surprise. And speaking of catching Denver by surprise, the Ravens should rely heavily on two-receiver sets and try to keep Denver in their base defense. Remarkably, the Broncos had only three sacks in 156 passing plays with four or fewer defensive backs on the field, but 42 sacks in 451 drop-backs in nickel and dime sets."

Ravens Dead Last In Playoff Power Rankings

The Ravens moved up in the power rankings, but that's because there are only eight teams left.

Of those eight teams, Baltimore is ranked No. 8 in all of the playoff rankings below except one.

Pete Prisco, No. 8
"The Lewis hype is done. Now it's time to show the old guys can play against an explosive offense in Denver." No. 7 (Texans last)
"Facts are facts and this Ravens defense isn't the same. Terrell Suggs struggles to get a rush off the edge. The secondary gets exposed each weekend. Ray Lewis, who made his return in wild-card action, isn't the same. We know that. Ray Rice's fumbles aren't worrisome, but if this team has any hope Joe Flacco must step up. If he wants a big-time contract, he better elevate his game when it matters most."

Elliot Harrison, No. 8
"The Baltimore Ravens see the most movement in this special Playoff Edition of the Power Rankings, and it's deserved. Here's what did not suck about Baltimore's big win:

"A) Andrew Luck barely completed 50 percent of his passes, while averaging a miniscule 5.3 yards per throw.
"B) Everything Anquan Boldin.
"C) The Ravens only asked Joe Flacco to drop back 24 times, essentially making it a team game and not a quarterback game.

"... Now, just so we're not totally Positive Perry here, it's important to note that the run defense is still struggling. The Colts and their mediocre (if that) offensive line pushed around Baltimore's front seven enough to rack up over 150 yards rushing at 5.1 yards per carry. Can't have that happen against Denver, with a resurgent Knowshon Moreno in the backfield."

Peter King, Sports Illustrated: No. 8
"Pretty impressive performance by a defense we all had consigned to mediocrity."

Schmuck: League Should Use Replay To Confirm Illegal Helmet Hits

Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, who pundits believe will get a fine this week for his hit on Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, believes the league should institute replay to review flagged plays for illegal helmet hits.

The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck says Pollard has a good point.

"Pollard probably isn't going to get much sympathy, and he isn't asking for any. He does, however, think that the NFL needs to make helmet hits reviewable so that the defense only gets penalized when the hits are clearly illegal," Schmuck wrote.

"Sounds pretty reasonable when you consider the impact that a poorly decided 15-yard penalty can have on a game — and the impact a single game can have on the fortunes of a team in a league that employs tiebreakers at the end of almost every season."

Schmuck argues that a slow-motion review of a play commonly shows what once looked like a helmet hit, become a legal shoulder tackle. Or it will show an offensive player lowering his head at the last instant, making it impossible for a defender to adjust in mid-air.

"When the officials overreact to a legal hit … the league needs to have a system in place make sure the injustice is reversed so the quality of the competition and the appeal of the sport does not also take a nasty hit."

Quick Hits

  • When asked which team will win the Ravens-Broncos game, SportsNation voters picked Denver with 78 percent of the vote (127,261 total votes).
  • Tackle Michael Oher was the Ravens’ 2012 Iron Man, playing the most snaps of anybody on the team with 1,134. [ESPN]
  • The Broncos didn't let their bye week go to waste. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Anquan Boldin’s second chance. The veteran receiver was a "non-factor" in the Ravens' Week 15 loss to Denver, but put up a team playoff record 145 points last week. Chris Burke explains how Boldin can deliver another huge game, even against the Broncos. [Sports Illustrated]
  • @ravensinsider: The Ravens and Broncos won't have an injury report [Tuesday] even though game is on Saturday. There will be injury reports over next three days. [Twitter]
  • @mzenitz: Ray Lewis on how his surgically repaired triceps held up Sunday: "I feel awesome. The arm held up incredibly great, so on to the next move." [Twitter]
  • @ravensinsider: Cary Williams: 'I'm tired of talking about every quarterback every week. You could say I've got a chip on my shoulder.' [Twitter]
  • @ravens: Ravens DT Haloti Ngata has been selected for the 2012 USA Football All-Fundamentals Team. Congrats! [Twitter]
  • Broncos running back (and former Raven) Willis McGahee is not eligible to play until the AFC championship, but he did return to the field. @mikeklis [Denver Post reporter]: Willis mcgahee back at practice
  • Blogger Blitz: Struggling Suggs. Injuries have slowed down Suggs this year, but the Ravens will need him if they want to put pressure on Manning and have a chance to win. [ESPN]
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