Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We've Flown the Nest...for a Better One!!!

and running!

The Nest will be moving to our new home at bmorebirdsnest.com. Everything you love about the Nest will be making the trip with us - previews, recaps, news, polls, all of it. In addition, we are now also able to offer new content - first up are our Podcasts, featuring the hilarious in-game banter of the "Nick-a-What & D-Baby Show!" Please check us out at the new Nest!

Don't forget to reset your bookmarks!

Ravens #5 on SI's Fan Value Experience - Meter

After being named Best Tailgate City earlier this season in an independent study (http://bmorebirdsnest.blogspot.com/2007/09/b-more-tailgate-capital-of-us.html), B-More has again garnered praise, this time from Sports Illustrated. SI last week released their list of the best cities for what they describe as "Fan Value Experience." Baltimore came in at #5, which is obviously something to be proud of; however, that was only good for 3rd out of the AFC North teams, as Sh*tsburgh and Cleveland were #2 and #3, disrespectfully. Teams/Cities were scored in several areas, including tickets, food & souvenirs, accessibility, tailgating, team, stadium atmosphere, and neighborhood.

See it here:
B-More's scores:

Tickets: 6/10
Food & Souvenirs: 6/10
Accessibility: 6/10
Tailgating: 8/10
Team: 5/10
Stadium Atmosphere: 9/10
Neighborhood: 8/10
Bottom Line: 48/70

Causing us to lose a few points here and there were things like overpriced concessions, poor traffic control by B-More Police, and drunk, belligerent fans. They give us credit for being loud and rowdy in helping our team, but chastise us for being too quick to boo our own guys, while too mean-spirited towards the other teams and their fans. Hey - we think the considerable chip on our collective B-More shoulder is more than warranted given what we've had to endure, what with losing our team (and their colors) to another city, then having to fight, scratch, and claw to even have a team to call our own again. So if they play like crap (lately, much?) we're going to let them hear it. Likewise, if you come into our house and root against our purple-and-black, well you'd better be able to deal with what we're dishing out.

On a related note, much has been made this week regarding the emptying-out of M&T last Sunday before the game was over. The Nest knows that we B-More fans are the best in the NFL. As such, we feel we deserve better than we have been seeing on the field this season. That being said, that semi walk-out was surely an anomaly, and we expect the Raven faithful to be out in full force ready to do all we can to help our team beat the Browns this week. The team needs to play better, obviously. Let's continue to give them our full support and not give anyone any reason to think we have fallen from our perch atop the list of the NFL's best fans.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bengals 21 Ravens 7 (The WORST OFFENSE IN ALL THE LAND game)

Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse.....it did.

The four quarters the Ravens played yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals could have just as easily been quarters 5-8 at Heinz field in a continuation of last Monday's stomping at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens managed, yet again, to turn the ball over 6 times, 3 by quarterback Steve McNair. "Error" McNair (the people have spoken) was every bit as dreadful in the nice weather and friendly confines of B-More as he was in the hostile, rainy territory last week. In what could very well have been the final start of his career, "Error":

1. threw an interception from the Bengals' 2-yard line in the waning moments of the first half with the chance to put the Ravens on top;

2. fumbled while trying to scramble for a first down, on a play that further convinced us that he completely forgets there are other players on the field (on either team) once he leaves the pocket, at which point he carries the ball like a loaf of bread; and

3. had another of his patented "phantom-fumbles" where the air seemingly strips the ball from his grasp as he prepares to throw.

McNair's 2 fumbles led directly to 2 Shayne Graham field goals, while his interception was the difference between going into halftime leading by a point (or, at the worst, trailing by 3) and entering the break scoreless and trailing 6-0.

Steve McNair is a shell of his former self, and even after all his defiance earlier in the week, sounded like a beaten man sitting at his locker last night. He basically resigned himself to serving as Kyle Boller's backup moving forward, saying, "This is probably the lowest point of my career I've ever had, these last two games. What do I need to do about it? What is the answer? I don't know. I'm playing hard, doing all I can to help this team, but it's just not there." Against a team that had been allowing 30.5 points per game, Steve McNair's offense was shut out for the entirety of his 50 minutes in the game. Don't be surprised to hear that Kyle Boller will get the start against Cleveland next week.

Boller, who relieved McNair with 10 minutes to go, made some throws against Cincinnati's soft prevent defense, and was at least able to get the Ravens on the board. However, he also reminded us why he is not the answer, as he threw an ill-advised pass in triple coverage resulting in an interception in the end zone. Some Ravens fans out there are currently deluding themselves into thinking Boller will be the savior of this team. If this is you, we ask that you only look back to the scoreboard scorching goose-egg the Boller-led Ravens put up in the first half in Buffalo 3 weeks ago for your much-needed splash of cold water to the face. Say it with us: Boller is not the answer. That being said, Kyle obviously gives the Ravens a better chance to win than McNair at this point, and at the very least the games will be more exciting to watch.

The bigger problem (yes, bigger than a QB who is apparently allergic to the ball), remains the questionable coaching of Brian Billick. Inexplicably, Compu-Coach again went pass-happy, despite running back Willis McGahee gashing the Bengal defense for chunks of yardage with seemingly every touch. On the Ravens' second possession of the game, the play sequence was:

Run, Run resulting in a 1st down, Run, Pass, Pass, Pass resulting in a 1st down, Pass, Run, Run, Pass - turnover on downs

5 Runs, 5 Passes - seems like a balanced attack, but we would argue that there is NO NEED for balance when you have a quarterback who is showing definite signs of rust, injury, age, etc., and are able to move the ball on the ground at will, which the Ravens were. McGahee had 54 yards on 11 carries in the first half, nearly 5 yards per carry, and yet, trailing by less than a touchdown, the Ravens came out in the second half with the following play sequence:

Run, Pass, Pass, Pass, Run, Pass, Pass (fumbled)

On their second possession of the 2nd half, trailing 9-0:

Pass, Run, Pass, Punt

This kind of head-scratch-inducing play calling is obviously nothing new to us Ravens fans (see the RUN THE DAMN BALL I & II games), but that doesn't make it any less painful to watch, especially when it results in losses. Throughout his tenure in B-More, Coach Billick's inadequacies as far as Xs-and-Os go have been masked by the big-play ability of the vaunted purple-and-black defense. However, when the defense falters, whether it be by allowing touchdowns instead of field goals (as we saw last week) or by not coming up with turnovers to put the offense in good field position (as we saw yesterday), the team has not fared well. Relying on the defense to bail them out has been the Ravens' M.O. for 9 years, but we fear the well has run dry this season. Injuries, age, and personnel losses have all taken a toll, and the D, while still one of the unquestioned best in the NFL, may not be able to shoulder the entire load as we have become accustomed to. There will be no mentions of the P-word moving forward, as any hopes of Arizona this year are nothing but a pipe dream. The focus now needs to be on taking whatever steps necessary to fix what ails the offense, so as to leave the embarrassments of the past two games in the past. The Ravens' have become a laughing stock quickly, due to nothing more than their inability to put points on the board in a league where the rules are designed to produce big scores. They are humiliating themselves as well as their fans with their ineptitude, and something has to give. What that something will be, we are as interested to see as the rest of you.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bengals @ Ravens

The Cincinnati Bengals (2-6) visit B-More this week to take on the Ravens (4-4). At the beginning of the season, this looked to be a battle for first in the AFC North. Instead, it is a fight to stay out of the basement. The Ravens are coming off their worst loss of the Brian Billick era, and desperately need a win to have any chance of a 2nd half resurgence. The Bengals, a popular preseason pick to win the division, are playing like the Bungles of old, and desperately need a win to keep coach Marvin Lewis' head off the chopping block for at least another week.

The Ravens, for whatever reason, always seem to bring out the best in the Bengals. They have the purple-and-black's number, having won 4 of the last 5 meetings. The Ravens secondary, even when healthy, always has trouble containing the Bengals star wide receivers, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Ocho Cinco suffered what looked to be a serious neck/spine injury last Sunday against Buffalo, but practiced on Wednesday, and seems likely to play. The Bengals also get certified bungle-hole Chris Henry back from his 8 game suspension just in time to bring him along to M&T. A complete Cincinnati receiving corps is bad news for Ravens fans, as the Ravens will again be shorthanded in the secondary. Samari Rolle's mystery illness has resurfaced to sideline him for the second straight week, and Chris McAlister is said to be a game-time decision with his knee injury. If Rolle and McAlister are both out, and Johnson is in....well, we shudder to think.
On offense (if you want to call it that), the Ravens have a chance to get on the right track this week against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Ravens would be well advised to make certain that Willis McGahee touches the ball no less than 25-30 times against a unit giving up 143 yards per game on the ground. The Bengals are equally atrocious defending the pass, allowing over 250 aerial yards per contest, but the sight of Steve McNair dropping back to fumble...er...pass is not something we hope to see more than 20-25 times Sunday. Speaking of McNair, he has staunchly defended himself this week (why not, nobody seems to have trouble defending him these days) and stated that he his still capable of performing at a high level. Coach Billick stands behind him, and as early as the post-game conference in Pittsburgh had named McNair the unquestioned starter. If he plays anything like he did against the Steelers in the first half Sunday, though, don't be surprised to see Billick go to the well and put Kyle Boller in. Even though it is probably "six one way, half dozen the other" with Boller and McNair, at least with Kyle the defense has to at least THINK that the Ravens could - maybe, possibly, if the stars align correctly and a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa and the tide is coming in - throw the ball more than 10 yards.

Hopefully Palmer won't "eat up" the Ravens' tasty secondary

The Bengals should not, and likely will not, even bother trying to run the ball Sunday. They will come out throwing, attack the Ravens reeling secondary, and they WILL put points on the board. Make no mistake about it, Carson Palmer knows how to beat this defense, and without Rolle and/or McAlister, it will be easy pickin's for him. The game will come down to whether or not the Ravens are able to run their methodical, ball-control game, keep the Bengals' O off the field, and get 6 points instead of 3 when they have the opportunity. In a match-up between evenly matched (yes, the Ravens are, unfortunately, evenly matched with a 2-6 team) teams, we give the advantage to the Ravens, simply because they always play much better at home.

Ravens 24 Bengals 21

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Steelers 38 Ravens 7 (The PAYBACKS ARE A ..... Game)

There were plenty of things we could have called this one. The "Monday Night Massacre" would have fit nicely, as would the "Prime Time Pounding," the "Three River Ripping," or the "Steel City Shitty Bed." Maybe even more fitting than all of those would be the "Wow, the Ravens really stink" game. In the end, though, our hated rivals got their revenge on the purple and black, atoning for last year's 31-7 and 27-0 Ravens wins with a 38-7 smack down of their own. The payback couldn't have worked out any better for the Steelers, who were able to completely embarrass the Ravens on national television, pulling the rug out from under them and sending B-More's already shaky "playoff contender" house of cards crashing to the rain-soaked earth.

The night started innocently enough, as the Ravens forced Pittsburgh to punt on their first possession, then managed to convert a 3rd-and-6 for what would end up being their only first down of the 1st half, and one of just five on the night. However, 3 plays later, after initially eluding blitzing LB James Harrison, Steve McNair seemed to completely forget Harrison was there, dropping the ball to throw it right as Harrison caught back up and sacked him, forcing McNair into his league leading 5th lost fumble. As a result, the Steelers started their drive at the B-More 20. The Ravens bottled up Willie Parker on consecutive runs to set up a 3rd-and-7, which was where the night really turned downhill quickly. Trevor Pryce busted through the Pissburgh line, and had Baby Ben Toothlessburger all wrapped up for what should have forced a long field goal attempt in windy, rainy conditions. Instead, Pryce was unable to secure the quarterback, surely due in part to the cast he was wearing on his surgically repaired wrist, and Frankenburger's overgrown, corn-fed, motorcycle crashing a** was able to skip free, run outside the pocket, and find tight end Heath Miller in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. It was a scene that played over and over last night, with the Ravens forcing the Steelers into passing situations, pressuring the quarterback, but then being unable to seal the deal and watching as another Steelers receiver ran completely free through the inexperienced and overmatched secondary. Five times in the first 29 minutes of playing time the Steelers were able to find the end zone through the air. Only a 33 yard touchdown scamper from Willis McGahee saved what likely would have been a Steel Town shutout, making the score 35-7 at the half.

Has anyone else noticed that Hines Ward looks like a middle-aged Korean woman these days? Or is it just us? Hit someone else while they're not looking, big man.

Hines Ward: Happy to hit you when you're not looking

In this week's poll, the Nest is asking you all to help us choose a new nickname for Steve McNair. Its all in fun, but unfortunately the reality is that for the Ravens to have any chance at all this season, his name is going to have to be something along the lines of "Former Ravens Starting Quarterback" Steve McNair. "Error" McNair was absolutely atrocious again last night. If he or the team has decided to try to hide some injury that he has, it needs to stop. If this is Steve healthy, he needs to retire, like yesterday. It is obvious that his body cannot do the things that he has come to expect, and he looks tired, old, and washed up. At one point in last night's game, he managed to underthrow a zero yard pass! The Ravens longest completion of the night was NINE yards! And, to put a big fat bow on the gift of futility McNair has bestowed upon Ravens nation, Steve set an NFL record for the fewest passing yards (63) in a game by a quarterback in which he has at least 13 completions.

For the game:
13 of 22 for 63 yards, one interception, and two fumbles (one lost).
For the season:
116 of 179 for 985 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 5 lost fumbles

Brian Billick has stated that Steve McNair remains his starting quarterback, an assertion that should give Ravens fans night terrors. The Coach needs to take a long, hard look at himself and his team moving forward, as the Ravens have now laid their second straight absolute turd in a big game coming off a bye week (Last year vs. IND being the previous). We do not claim to know the answers, and we will certainly stick by our team through this rough patch. There is no denying, however, that something needs to change, and fast.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Last Minute Monday Night Updates

Some late breaking news on tonight's match-up in Pittsburgh, all of it bad for the Ravens:

1. Samari Rolle is out yet again with another recurrence of his "undisclosed illness." Rolle, who earned the nickname "Sorry Rolle" from some Ravens fans in 2006 due to his dismal play, has given us motivation to coin his 2007 moniker, "SARSi Rolle."

2. Chris McAlister will not play, as the severe knee sprain he suffered against St. Louis is not 100%.

3. Although he has practiced, Todd Heap is being called a "game-time decision," with a still sore hamstring.

4. The Ravens' most dangerous offensive weapon, K Matt Stover has evidently suffered a thigh bruise to his kicking leg, and did not practice Saturday night.

5. Finally, the latest weather report for tonight in Squealtown is mid-40's and rainy, with 15 mph winds. While conventional wisdom says the poor conditions could help neutralize the Steelers' big advantage in the passing game, we Ravens fans know that our purple and black, much like rapper Missy Elliott, "Can't Stand the Rain." Look no further than last year's losses in Denver and Cincinnati, if you need a reminder.

There you have it, a "Perfect Storm" of bad news for the Ravens. We won't back down from our previously predicted 20-17 win, but the Guru Crew certainly has their work cut out for them.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ravens @ Steelers - Part 2: Prediction

We hope you enjoyed digesting yesterday's preview, where the hate flew like Bill Cowher spittle. Today, its time to get down to it, and predict the score. First off, the Ravens are 9-point underdogs in this game. If betting were legal (which it is NOT), the Nest would bet the farm on this one. You have to go back to December 2004 to find a game in this series which Pittsburgh won convincingly, when they beat the Ravens 20-7. If the Ravens lose, it will certainly not be by 10 points.
We fully expect the Ravens to be able to shut down Willie Parker - perhaps not as convincingly as they did last season, but effectively nonetheless. If they can hold him to ~70 yards, we are not convinced that Ben can carry the team with his arm. While his passer rating is gaudy this year, he still makes mistakes - as evidenced by his red zone interception last week in Cincy. Look for the Ravens' secondary to capitalize on his stupidity, get some picks, and set the O up with good field position. The offense, in turn, will capitalize just enough to win this one. A late score by Pittsburgh will make the game appear closer than it really was.
Ravens 20 Steelers 17

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ravens @ Steelers

Another disclaimer: If you are looking for the usual even-handed, unbiased game preview you've come to expect from the Nest, you won't get it. The Squealers hold a special place in our farts, er...hearts, and as such get a column big on hate, little on analysis. Anyway, the mid-season review had enough stats for one week, right?

The Ravens (4-3) come off the bye with a bang this week, immediately being thrust into the national spotlight to clash with the division leading Shitsburg Squealers (5-2). In a game that is as close to a "must-win" as is possible at midseason, the Ravens are facing a potential 2 game swing in this one, as a win would tie them for the AFC North lead, while a loss would leave them looking up across a 2-game canyon at the hated Steelers. The Steelers have been playing out of their minds this season, outscoring their opponents in their 5 victories by a 142-39 margin. Rookie head coach Mike "Omar Epps" Tomlin has found time in his busy schedule of filming the hit show "House" to seemingly right the ship up in Pierogie-ville, after Bill Cowher's farewell tour fizzled out at 8-8 last year. As loathe as we are to admit it, as nauseous as it makes us at the Nest, the black-and-gold (aren't those colors better suited to a high school or college team, by the way? My high school and college both used pee and dung for colors. Bring your uniforms up to a professional level, losers) may just be a decent team. Again.

On offense, the Steelers have the number 1 rushing attack in the league, led by the NFL's second leading rusher, "Fast" Willie Parker. Back in our neighborhood growing up, there was a crazy old man that wandered the streets talking to himself and trying to find his marbles - we called him "Fast" Eddie. Probably Willie's uncle. Willie has been running with a chip on his shoulder all season, but hey - we would be bitter too if we spent four years in college ball playing end, guard, tackle (sit on the end of the bench, guard the water, and tackle anybody who tries to drink it) like Parker did. Moderate pace William has went over 100 yards in each of the Squealers' five wins this season, while going for just 37 in the week 4 loss to Arizona, and 93 in the week 7 loss to Denver. Following A to B - stop Willie, stop the Squealers. What better team to do that than the purple and black, the NFL's #2 ground defense, currently holding teams to a paltry 72 yards per game? In the two glorious beatdowns in '06, the Ravens held Slow Bill to 51 yards on 23 carries. We think we should point out that, yes, Slow Bill had fewer total yards in 2 games than the Ravens had points (58-51). Stop Willie? Don't mind if we do.

The next "weapon" the Ravens will have to contend with is the arm of one Baby Ben Toothlessburger, who was miraculously able to avoid the grilles of Chrysler New Yorkers this off-season. Actually, he avoided all grills with equal gusto, refusing his teammates' invites to their summer Bar-B-Qs, steering clear of the outdoor appliance section at Wal-Mart, and ignoring text messages from rapper Lil' John and Bengals WR Chad Johnson. Just a season removed from leading the NFL in interceptions, Baby Ben has thrown only 6 this year, to go along with 15 touchdowns. Although, he is probably just trying to avoid anything that sounds at all like "intersection." If Ben is able to quiet the constant ringing that we imagine goes on inside his noggin enough to run an effective no-huddle, he may be able to do some damage. Also, we expect the Steelers to try to move the pocket for him, and utilize his mobility better than in past meetings. Last year, sitting in the pocket, the Ravens absolutely battered him, sacking him 14 times and causing him to at one point say that Bart Scott hit him harder than he had ever been hit (this from a man who, a few months earlier, had been hit by a car! Rest assured Ben will search out #57 before every snap).

The Steelers also have a new secret weapon, mascot Steely McBeam. The love child of former coach Bill Cowher and homosexual adult film actor Phillup Seymour Buffmen, the chiseling of McBeam's chin is rivaled only by that of his abs. It seems the Steelers management knew a big hunk of burnin love man-meat would do a much better job of exciting the crowd than something as silly as scantily clad females with pom-poms. With McBeam to go along with all the snapping towels, Pittsburgh has succeeded in turning Heinz Field into the world's largest outdoor men's locker room. Way to go! Might as well just get it over with and rename it "Heiny Field."

Cheerleaders? Ew! We'll take this guy, thanks.

All joking aside - the Steelers....suck.

No, really.

Much like the Ravens, they've faced the dregs of the NFL, only they have taken advantage a little better. Their wins have come over teams with a combined record of 15-20. They beat the Browns when Cleveland was starting Seattle's current 3rd-string QB. We're not impressed. Billick's Bashers (aka The Guru Gang) are finally healthy again, are well rested, and are primed for the upset. The Ravens own a three game winning streak in the series, during which time they have outscored the Squeals 74-20. Ben is so afraid of the Ravens' D that he stopped hanging garlic in his room in the hopes that the vampires would keep Bart Scott away.

If there is one thing that worries us about this one, its the fact that it is a Monday nighter. The Ravens, for as much as they seemingly love the limelight, play atrociously in nationally televised games. They have lost their last 4 such contests, including playoffs (after winning two in a row in weeks 15-16 of 2005, over the Green Bay Packers 48-3, and Minnesota Vikings 30-23 - go figure). This is a bugaboo they need to get off their back this week, with 2 more primetime games on the schedule, against the Colts and Patriots, no less. Will they be able to do it?

Coming Tomorrow

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Season at the Bye - The Good, Bad, and Ugly

disclaimer: this article heavy on the stats. If youre a stat-o-phobe, turn back now. You have been warned.

The Good

The Ravens currently sit at 4-3, tied with the Cleveland Browns (!?!) for second place in the AFC North, just a game behind the Squealers. Historically, the Ravens are a much better team in the 2nd half of the season under head coach Brian Billick. They have won 5 straight (regular season) games when coming off the bye week, and are 6-3 overall. In regular season games after Nov. 1, the Ravens are 46-23 under compu-coach. Last season, the team went into the bye at 4-2, and dominated the second half of their schedule to finish 13-3.

The Ravens are 2nd in overall defense, trailing only the Squealers, and 2nd in rush defense, looking up at the Tennessee Titans. Running back Willis McGahee is 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards, and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Backup QB Kyle Boller has played well in relief of the injured Steve McNair, and is finally showing some signs of progress that we have been waiting years to see. Wide receiver Derrick Mason has been a huge part of the offense, and leads the NFL with 56 receptions. Return man Yamon Figurs ranks 3rd in the NFL in kick return average and 4th in punt return average among players with at least 5 attempts. Kicker Matt Stover has been his usual consistent self, leading the league with 18 field goals on 21 attempts.

The Bad

Despite their success on the ground, the Ravens have been unable to put together a constant mid-range passing attack to compliment their running game, and are just 16th in the league in total offense. They have struggled mightily in the dead zone, and as a result are 25th in the league in points per game, averaging just 17.7. Going into week 8, only 3 teams were having less success scoring touchdowns inside the 20, and those teams had a combined record of 3-17. Overall, Ravens quarterbacks have turned the ball over 9 times while throwing for only 5 touchdowns.

Defensively, the Ravens have again been vulnerable to the big play, and have not shown the ability to shut teams down when leading in the second half. They have allowed 25 plays over 20 yards, and 6 over 40. They also have not pressured the quarterback as well as they did in 2006, and have only 15 sacks through 7 games, 16th in the NFL (last year, the team had 60 sacks, just one behind the league-leading Chargers.) No Raven is in the top 50 in the league in sacks, with Corey Ivy, Jarrett Johnson, Kelly Gregg, and Terrell Suggs sharing the team lead with 2.0 each.

The Ugly

Plenty of ugly to go around this season so far. After making it through the 2006 season incredibly healthy as a team, the injuries have caught up to the purple and black this year in a big way. Jonathan Ogden has not started a game since opening night, and just took his first snaps since then last week in Buffalo. Quarterback Steve McNair has made only 4 starts, and came out early in one of them. Even when playing, McNair has been bothered by a groin injury, which has made his throws inaccurate, wobbly, and all around, well…ugly. Tight end Todd Heap, left tackle Adam Terry, and center Mike Flynn have all missed games due to pain. Wide receiver Mark Clayton was slowed by injury early in the season, but seems to be getting over it.

On the other side, the D hasn’t escaped the bug either, as end Trevor Pryce has been out since week 2 with a broken wrist, and corner Chris McAlister may or may not return this week after injuring his knee in week 6. Samari Rolle also missed significant time due to “undisclosed illness.” The health of this aging core group of players will play a big role in how the rest of the season plays out here in B-More.

The teams the Ravens have beaten (Jets, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams) have a combined record of 6-24, while the teams they have lost to (Bengals, Browns, Bills) are 9-12. Looking ahead to the rest of the schedule, the remaining teams on the Ravens docket are a combined 34-24. Also, the quarterbacks the Ravens have beaten this season on their way to a #2 ranked defense have included names like Kellen Clemens, Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, and Gus Frerotte. A little shudder shakes the Nest when we think of how this team will fare against the Peyton Mannings, Tom Bradys, Ben Toothlessburgers, and Matt Hasselbecks of the world, at least if they continue to play the way they have, which is to say extremely loose in the secondary.

Another big double-branch on the ugly tree that has been the 2007 season is the play-calling of coach Billick, and now the outspokenness of Ray Lewis as pertains to it. Billick has been criticized heavily, here and elsewhere, for his refusal to run the ball in certain situations, particularly at the goal line in Cincinnati and at midfield in the final minute in Buffalo. We don’t know if he outsmarts himself, thinking “well, they expect us to run here, so let’s fool them and go with the pass,” or if he really does have more confidence in his passing game than running game to pick up 2 or 3 yards. Both scenarios are cause for great concern by fans hoping to see some wins pile up in the 2nd half. Equally disconcerting is the fact that Ray-Ray saw fit to call the coach out on his radio show. The last thing we need is to see the locker room divide as it did three years ago, which led to several sub-par purple and black seasons. Lewis should have kept his complaints private, in-house, and spoken to Billick one-on-one like a man. As upset as Ravens fans are about the play-calling, the court of public opinion has spoken, and their resounding response to Lewis is to just “SHUT UP!” As a matter of fact, it could be argued that many members of the team should shut their mouths a bit, as it seems just about every player has their own weekly radio show that they are hosting. Time that could be better spent preparing for the next opponent.

The fact of the matter is, at 4-3, the Ravens control their own destiny at this point. They have 4 division and 8 conference games remaining to put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. As good, bad, or ugly as anything has been so far, there is still a lot of football to be played, and plenty of time to either right the ship, or sail it right off the end of the earth.

special thanks to the Nick-a-What research team on this article.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Special Olympics at Fenway Park

Before beginning play in the 103rd MLB World Series, the Boston Red Sox were kind enough to lend their home field to the Special Olympics for a short 2-day event. The games were a resounding success, and even included a special-needs celebrity.

Mongo Papelsmear, known best for his role as "Warren" in the movie "There's Something About Mary," took home the gold in several events, and was named the Games' Outstanding Athlete.

A heart-warming story, indeed.

Mongo celebrated his win, Special Style

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bills 19 Ravens 14 (The RUN THE DAMN BALL II: RETURN OF THE GURU game)

Well, we can finally get around to our game recap now that the swelling has subsided from banging our heads against the wall along with the rest of you Ravens fans on Sunday. The Ravens shot themselves in the foot again and again and again in Buffalo on their way to falling to 4-3 on the season. Eleven penalties, along with sub-par offensive line play and a dash of ridiculously bone-headed offensive playcalls all added up to another game that was ugly to watch and is even uglier to write about.

Lets start with the penalties. After a few series in this one, the Nest was reminded of that debacle in Detroit in '05. The flags were a-flyin', and the mental mistakes proved costly. On their first field goal drive, the Bills had faced a 2nd-and-6 from their own 36 before Jarrett Johnson jumped offside to make it 2nd-and-1. On their next drive, which netted another 3 points, it was 3rd-and-6 at midfield when Haloti Ngata came across the line early and made it 3rd-and-1 instead. Devard Darling would then be called for holding on the ensuing kickoff. No matter though, as Quinn Sypnewski fumbled just two plays later, setting up the Bills for their 3rd field goal of the first half. Still scoreless, the Ravens then proceeded to march to the Buffalo 38, and faced 3rd-and-3. A harbinger of things to come, Brian Billick opted to throw on 3rd down, which resulted in an incompletion, before being a total wuss and punting. Yes, punting - from just outside of field goal range, trailing 9-0, on the road. Bravo, Brian, Bravo. The Nest asks why, oh WHY, not run the ball twice on 3rd-and-3, and get the first down? Again, this proved to be a bit of foreshadowing.

On their first drive of the 2nd half, the Ravens managed to overcome consecutive false start penalties on Jared Gaither and Ben Grubbs before Willis McGahee busted out the long TD run that we had been asking for in last week's game preview. Rumbling 46 juking, stiff-arming yards to paydirt, McGahee pulled the purple-and-black right back into the game. He failed to deliver on the celebration he had promised us, which was a bit disappointing, but after a 46 yard touchdown, we aren't about to complain. And even if we were, Willis wouldn't have heard us, since he was promptly taken back to the locker room for an IV. Is Willis out of shape? Its a question that has to be asked, in light of the Ravens reluctance to let him carry the offense on his shoulders this year, and now this. Hopefully he will spend the bye week getting into better game shape, but keep an eye on this Ravens fans.

The Bills would answer however, with another Rian Lindell field goal followed quickly by a Marshawn Lynch 1 yard TD run. On the touchdown drive, the Bills picked on Corey Ivy, who was forced to make the start for the injured Chris McAlister. Ivy was burnt by Lee Evans for 54 yards, and four plays later was called for pass interference in the back of the end zone, setting up the Lynch run. As we feared, Nestgoers, the loss of Chris McAlister tangibly hurt this team on Sunday. Keep your fingers crossed, rabbits feet in hand, black cats away, four-leaf clovers clutched...whatever it is you do for good luck - and hope that C-Mac returns after the bye.

Now trailing 19-7, the Ravens would fight back on the strength of a Samari Rolle interception at the Buffalo 14, converting on 4th-and-11 when Kyle Boller found Derrick Mason with a dart in the middle of the end zone. Say what you will about Kyle Boller, but the kid made a throw on this particular play that a lot of NFL quarterbacks just could not have made. It doesn't completely make up for his happy feet or lack of accuracy over the rest of the game, of course, but it was a big play in a critical situation. Boller should also be commended for not turning the ball over, again. He has now not committed a turnover in 2 of his 3 starts this season (Steve McNair, by comparison, has 5 turnovers in 4 starts).

Now trailing 19-14....we entered the twilight zone. Or is it the deja' vu zone? Or do you just get deja' vu when you're in the twilight zo....nevermind. Buffalo played right into the Ravens' hands, going into a shut-down mode of their own after their rookie QB had turned the ball over deep in his own territory. A few run, run, run, punt series by Buffalo later, the Ravens were looking at a 2nd-and-1 from midfield with just under 2 minutes remaining, trailing 19-14. Every Buffalo fan watching was getting nauseous as visions of another late blown lead danced through their heads.

Never fear, Bills fans, Brian Billick is here!

Our resident offensive guru decided that the best course of action, facing a 2nd-and-1 at the end of the game in obvious 4 down territory....was to pass, pass, and pass again. Three incompletions later, the Bills were kneeling for the victory. In an inexplicable brain-fart of a sequence that has been scrutinized endlessly since, not only locally but nationally as well, Coach Billick put us through almost the same exact scenario we saw in Cincinnati in week 1. If you remember, in the final minute of that game the Ravens ran 6 plays inside the 3 yard line, 4 of which were passes. Sunday, ONE YARD was all that was needed to continue the drive. ONE YARD!!! Three quarterback sneaks will net 1 yard 99 times out of 100! Why Brian refuses to run the ball in these situations, we certainly do not claim to know. But it is obvious that it has now cost the Ravens at least 1, if not 2 games this year. To reiterate: we LIKE Brian Billick here at the Nest. That, as they say however, was strike 2.

beware the Guru Monster...coming to kill a win near you....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Kevin Millar the Red Sux Cheerleader

Another Traitor??

We don't even know what to say about this one. Should O's fans be upset that an Oriole fan favorite is making videos cheering on his old team, a hated division foe? On one hand, Millar was part of something special up there in '04 and it's nice to see a bit of loyalty (to something) from a professional athlete. But Millar is an Oriole NOW! Shouldn't he be more focused on improving the state of his current team rather than living vicariously through his former employer and teammates?

And what of the O's people who allowed this to happen? We assume the Boston PR department had to clear this kind of thing with the O's staff beforehand. Should we be angry with them for showing their ridiculous stupidity yet again?

Its no secret that Kevin Millar's heart is in Bean-town. However, it hurts those of us who root for him currently that he would be so blatant about it. If Millar makes this video for a 2010 Red Sux playoff run, after he is retired, then fine. But doing it now is in bad taste and a slap in the face to O's fans.

What do you think?

update: There is now a petition to trade Millar due to his antics, if any of you are interested:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ravens @ Bills

Team Stats:

This week the 4-2 Ravens travel north (almost to Canada, right Willis?) to take on the 1-4 Buffalo Bills. When looking at the Bills record, along with their stats this season (they fall near the bottom in most categories on both offense and defense, as seen above) Ravens fans may be lulled into a sense of ease about this game. However, the Bills probably are not as bad as they want us to believe.

The Bills are 1-2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season, both losses in which they never trailed until the last second of the game - a 15-14 loss to the Broncos in week 1, and a 25-24 Monday night loss to Dallas in week 5, a game the Bills led 24-13 after 3 quarters. They were not competitive in their other two losses, which came on the road against very strong teams in Pittsburgh and New England. Their lone win was over the New York Jets 17-14.

While the stats may paint a bleak picture of this Bills team, the Nest thinks they may be a bit misleading. Over their past 2 games (NYJ, DAL), the Bills defense has been much more stout than their 32nd overall ranking indicates. After allowing big days on the ground by Travis Henry, Willie Parker, and Laurence Maroney in succession to start the year, the Bills then held Thomas Jones to less than 3 yards per carry, and the Julius Jones-Marion Barber tandem to less than 3.5. And while their secondary allowed Tony Romo to pass for over 300 yards in leading the Cowboys back from behind, they still managed to intercept him 5 times.

On offense, the Bills stat sheet again indicates ineptitude all around. Again, though, this may be a bit misleading. Buffalo features a dynamic rookie running back in Marshawn Lynch, and a different quarterback than the Ravens saw the last time these two teams met last New Year's Eve. Rookie Trent Edwards has taken over for J.P. Losman, and shown some ability, that, when paired with the Ravens' banged up secondary, should make purple and black fans a little uneasy. In the win over New York, Edwards was 22/28 for 234 yards and a TD. Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis had this to say after the game:

"He threw the ball more than we expected. We knew he was a talented quarterback. We didn't think he'd do this to us. But he did."

Edwards didn't fare quite as well against Dallas, but that may have been more a result of Dick Jauron's going into "shut-down mode" after the Cowboys handed his team a big lead than of his QB's inability to move the ball. The Ravens defense would be wise to heed Ellis' words and be prepared for Edwards to try to air it out. If Buffalo can use the pass to loosen up the running lanes for Lynch, watch out. If, however, they try to run to set up the pass, then they will play right into Rex Ryan's hands and everyone watching should get comfortable in preparation for another punt-a-thon.
The Ravens offense, on the other hand, has been steadily slipping in terms of overall production. Willis McGahee returns to face the team that drafted him, and while he has been saying all the right things this week, the Nest doesn't buy it, and thinks he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. McGahee continues to be near the top of the league in rushing, but has yet to break the big one that we Ravens fans are waiting for (funny, he has no problem breaking off 60 yard runs regularly on Madden - but I digress). All the injuries to the offensive line certainly don't help, though, and he probably won't have the day he is hoping for in celebration of not only his coming-home party, but his birthday as well. Center Mike Flynn has indicated that he will "give it a go" this week, while Todd Heap will likely not play. Kyle Boller again gets the start behind center. Boller, who played reasonably well last week, will have to be better in Buffalo. Its nice to see him taking shots down the field and all, but eventually he will have to connect with one (and not just a jump-ball) for defenses to really start respecting his arm. Kyle will also have to pretend he is playing in B-More, as he has a career record of 5-12 as a starter outside of M&T Bank stadium.

The Ravens are just looking to survive this week and get out of The Queen City at 5-2 so they can go into the bye and hopefully get healthy for the 2nd half. The Nest sees the patchwork Ravens having a tough time in this one, though, a game that Buffalo has had two weeks to prepare and rest up for. We advise Ravens fans to break out that blood pressure medication we were able to shelf last week for this one. It will take a big play late by the defense or special teams to reach 5-2.

Ravens 16 Bills 13
(As always, please leave YOUR score predictions in the comments)

ben-AD-ict Arnold

Say it ain't so, 96.

One of the Nest's all-time favorite Ravens, Adalius Thomas, is now taking shots at the organization that gave him his break and made it possible for him to sign that big money deal with the Patriots. In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, AD had this to say:

"You've got to remember, I'm coming in from Baltimore," says Thomas. "People there wanted the limelight, people sought out the limelight, starting with the head coach. It was a star-studded system. Here it's about as different as you can get. Everybody here shies away from being the star guy. Nobody on this team beats his chest. They just all go about their business. And win."

Calling out his former friends, teammates, and head coach. Not what we would expect from the usually classy Thomas. While he probably would have received a warm M&T reception on December 3rd, AD can now expect a chorus of Boos to rain down on him from the B-More faithful. And that is just sad in our book. A player that we all grew to have the utmost respect for during his tenure here opens his big mouth (which now apparently is able to speak above a whisper again) and gives us reason to spew obscenities his way. We lost a lot of admiration for you as a person today, Adalius.

Looks like they don't just have cheaters up there in the Northeast, but traitors as well.

Update: C-Mac

Chris McAlister's torn PCL will not require surgery (at least at this time). The Ravens are understandably being very guarded about releasing too much information about his injury, not wanting to tip their hand to the Buffalo Bills, or any other teams on their schedule for the next month or so. ESPN is reporting that it is likely McAlister will miss 2-4 weeks.

"Major League Coach of the Year" joins O's as Pitching Coach

The Orioles have announced the signing of Rick Kranitz as pitching coach. Kranitz comes over from the Florida Marlins, where he spent the last 2 seasons. He was awarded the 2006 Baseball America award for Major League Coach of the Year for his work as the pitching coach of the fish, having led a rotation that included 4 rookies to a 4.22 ERA. This past season, though, the Marlins finished just one spot above the O's (who were 29th out of 30 teams) in total team ERA, at 4.94 to the O's 5.17. So it seems he is coming into a familiar situation - decent starters, crappy, crappy bullpen. The Nest wishes "Kranny" luck, although we really wish Dave Trembley would never, ever call him that again, for two reasons: First, it brings to mind the heavily ridiculed "Brownie," former head of FEMA, and second, it sounds just a bit too much like a character from the movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

So no more "Kranny" talk, please. Oh yeah, and Rick, just stay out of Eric Bedard's way. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

C-Mac Injury

It seems one Raven came away with more than just one of the team's five interceptions on Sunday against the Rams. What Brian Billick originally described as a "tweaked" knee is turning out to be something far more serious for cornerback Chris McAlister. Apparently, C-Mac's knee has been swollen since the game, and Doctors have diagnosed him with an injury of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The swelling is currently preventing a full evaluation of the injury, which may or may not require surgery. If surgery is indeed necessary, McAlister would basically be on the shelf for the rest of the season (8-10 weeks), while a best case scenario for non-surgical treatment would put him back in action in anywhere from 3-6 weeks, according to Drew Forrester over at wnst.net .

The Ravens secondary just played their first game since week 1 at full strength, and will now again be missing a pivotal cog. C-Mac's play has been less than stellar so far this season, as he has been beat on several long touchdowns (and almost one more on Sunday). However, he is still one of the absolute BEST cornerbacks in the NFL, and those Ravens fans who are critical of him may be about to see just how badly the purple and black D depends on him.

Lets keep our fingers crossed that surgery is not on the horizon for Chris.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ravens 22 Rams 3 (The BATTLE OF THE BACKUPS)

The Ravens pushed their record to 4-2 Sunday, beating up on the hapless (and winless) St. Louis Rams 22-3. Both teams were playing at less than full strength, trotting out players that certainly were not at the tops of the opening day depth charts at several key positions. Backup quarterback Gus Frerotte was expected to play for the Rams all week, but it took the late-week development of a stiff back to force Ravens QB Steve McNair to the bench in favor of Kyle Boller. That was not where the similarities ended between the two signal callers yesterday, though, as both spent most of the day running for their respective lives, taking big hits, and turning the ball over. Boller was sacked twice, fumbled, and was picked off in the red zone. Frerotte felt the pain worse, however, getting sacked 4 times, picked off 5 (a new Ravens record), and hurried or hit countless others. Boller must be commended for his effort yesterday, taking his licks and getting right back up for the next play. Had it been McNair underneath all those Rams jerseys yesterday, he almost certainly would have been injured, along with the Ravens post-season aspirations. Kyle's play was better than that of just a "good backup QB", as he was even able to make some plays that we've been hoping to see from McNair all season. Boller’s passes were crisp and his decisions sound. We saw 3 things from the offense for maybe the first time this season:

1. Passes thrown consistently past the sticks on 3rd and long;
2. Checks being made at the line; and
3. A hurry-up, no-huddle style offense.

All of these things were refreshing to see, and if nothing else, made for a much more entertaining game to watch than what we've grown accustomed to.

Boller is now 20-16 as a starter in his career, and a very respectable 15-4 at M&T Bank Stadium (bet you didn’t realize that). His numbers, while not gaudy by any means (18/30 183 yards 0 TD 1 INT), were enough to get the job done, and reflect the struggles of the offensive line more than his own play. The O-Line was horrendous, as is also evidenced by Willis McGahee’s season low rushing total of 61 yards against a team that had previously been completely inept at stopping the run. Third-string left tackle Jared Gaither was abused all afternoon, as was fellow rookie Marshall Yanda. The “elder statesman” of the group, 3rd year man Jason Brown, was hounded by mental as well as physical mistakes, twice being called for false starts in the 1st quarter, the 2nd of which forced the Ravens to attempt a field goal after originally lining up to go for it on 4th-and-1. Chris Chester had a holding penalty nullify what would have been Willis McGahee’s 2nd touchdown of the day. Just a poor effort all around from this group. The Ravens need to get healthy everywhere for the 2nd half, but especially up front; a defense like New England or Pittsburgh will flat out destroy the line we saw yesterday.

The Ravens defense continued to build on their superb play from a week ago. The pass rush was relentless, forcing Gus Frerotte to unload the ball under duress, make poor decisions, and be very inaccurate with his throws. The Rams' receivers were short-arming passes, not wanting any part of the purple and black D over the middle. The D was able to hold St. Louis scoreless on a drive that started at the B-More 11 yard line, as kicker Jeff Wilkins missed a 35 yarder after the Rams managed -6 yards on 3 plays. Five different Ravens notched interceptions, Ed Reed, Derrick Martin, Corey Ivy, Chris McAlister, and Dwan Edwards. McAlister's came as a gift though, when Frerotte severely underthrew his man who was wide open streaking past C-Mac.

The Ravens beat an inferior team handily, which is something good teams need to do. The defense held their opponent in single digits for a second straight week, the offense found the end zone, and Matt Stover was his usual reliable self. Thats been the formula for success here in B-More, and on this day it resulted in the 100th win for the Baltimore Ravens (79th with B.B. at the helm).

Friday, October 12, 2007


After 2 years rocking in the Camden Yards dugout, the O's have fired Leo Mazzone as pitching coach. Mazzone joined the team to be able to hang out with his boyhood friend Sam Perlozzo, and was never able to work his Atlanta magic here in B-More. Maybe he should have been given the benefit of the doubt and more than 2 years to get the O's pitching staff straightened out. On the other hand, however, it may be a good sign that the O's are letting manager Dave Trembley pick his own coaches, something they have been reluctant to do in the managerial revolving door recently. What do you think, Nestgoers?

Ravens TV Notes

Several pieces on the Ravens will be airing on television this weekend. Right around noon on Sunday's ESPN NFL pre-game show, they will be airing a segment they filmed on the Ravens' road trip to San Francisco last week. Included will be many off-the-field aspects of the team that we as fans don't normally get to see.

Also, Saturday night at 8 pm, the NFL network will be showing a special program they did for the Ravens-49ers game. During the game, the network had microphones on 10 players and used 12 cameras to capture a much more in-depth version of the game than we saw last Sunday.

The Nest wonders how disappointed the networks were that they chose the Boredom Bowl to put all this money and effort into. Probably a good bit of cussing in both production meetings this week, but Hell, maybe they can actually make that game seem interesting? Now that would be some impressive work.

Be sure to check them out Ravens fans!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rams @ Ravens

This week the 3-2 Ravens take on the 0-5 St. Louis Rams at M&T Bank Stadium. The Rams, a preseason sleeper pick by many to win the NFC west, have had a dismal year so far. Like the Ravens, the Rams have had to deal with the injury bug. Perennial pro-bowl tackle Orlando Pace is out for the season, and the Rams have also been playing without QB Marc Bulger and RB Steven Jackson. Both will miss Sunday’s contest, which bodes well for the purple and black, although neither was producing at nearly their 2006 levels when they got hurt. After finishing 6th in total offense last year (4th in passing), the St. Louis O has spit and sputtered from the get-go in 2007, currently standing 27th in total offense at 287.4 ypg, 28th in passing (211.2), and 21st in rushing (91.6). They have not faired much better on defense, coming into B’More 27th in the league, allowing 356 total yards per game, and 146 on the ground (28th). …wait for it….

They faired a bit better in last week’s matchup with Arizona, however, racking up 123 yards on the ground and 262 in the air, as backup QB Gus Frerotte threw for 3 TDs (but also 3 INT). The defense also held the Cards to 102 yards on the ground, as Edgerrin James averaged 3.4 yards on 26 carries.

The Ravens, on the other hand, dropped from 8th to 11th in total offense last week on the “other” bay, and sit as the #14 team in the league rushing, at 113.2 ypg, and #18 in passing, at 241.8 ypg. Steve McNair is set to start again this week, ailing groin be darned. From the Nest’s poll we can see that many of you agree with us that Steve should be sat down for a few weeks to heal completely before the Ravens' post-bye week murderers row of a schedule starts. McNair will again be likely looking for his favorite target, WR Derrick Mason, who leads the NFL in receptions with 44. Mason has been bothered by a bit of a stomach problem this week, but is expected to start Sunday. Also returning to the lineup is TE Todd Heap, whose presence will hopefully help spark some dead zone success. Running back Willis McGahee comes into the game 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards, trailing only Willie Parker (PIT) and Travis Henry (DEN). ….wait for it…

On defense, Trent Dilfer and the 49ers were just what the Doctor ordered for the Ravens, who are now 4th in the league in total D, 2nd in rushing, and 13th in passing. Cornerback Samari Rolle practiced in full gear this week, and is expected to return to the lineup, although he may not resume full starting responsibilities just yet.

Elsewhere on the injury front, don’t be surprised to see the Ravens with an offensive line very similar to the one that finished the game against the 49ers, as Mike Flynn and Adam Terry continue to recover from boo-boos sustained in that game. Jonathan Ogden does not appear ready to go. As good as the young guys were last week, the presence of all that inexperience in the trenches could prove troublesome on Sunday. Expect a few more drive-killing false start penalties, at the very least. Late word is that Steve McNair missed practice on Thursday with a stiff back, but seems likely to play.

A winless team can be a very dangerous team. Fortunately, according to their comments this week at least, the Ravens realize this and will not take the Rams lightly. The Rams have nothing left to play for this year other than pride and ruining other team’s seasons. With the 2nd half schedule the Ravens have, a loss this Sunday would almost certainly accomplish the latter. The Rams would be wise to not even try to run the ball against the Ravens, which is pretty much impossible, especially with a back-up running back (Brian Leonard). As such, the Nest expects Gus Frerotte to come out firing. If the Ravens are able to get pressure on him, as they did to Dilfer last week, and force him into some early mistakes (and of course, capitalize on these mistakes with, well I dunno…TOUCHDOWNS?), then the purple and black should have little trouble in this one. A perfect recipe for success Sunday (and in any game, really) would be to get early turnovers, punch the ball into the end zone building the lead, and then let Willis loose on this awful Rams defense. If, however, the Ravens allow them to hang around until the end as they have done with now all 3 victories this year, Frerotte-to-Torry Holt may just be able to steal one in Charm City.

...still waiting for it, aren't you?

Ok, here goes: RUN THE BALL!

This isn't to say that the Ravens have not ran the ball 'enough' this season, per se. Willis McGahee is tied for 3rd in the league in carries with 102 through 4 games. 20-25 carries for Willis, along with another 5-10 going to Musa Smith, should be enough runs to be able to have a successful day on the ground. The problem is that the Ravens (ridiculously) short passing game creates double-digit drives whenever they are able to move the ball down the field. 22 runs for 88 yards (McGahee's stats in SF) would seem much more productive if there were a few intermediate to long range passes mixed in. The fact that the Ravens run such an overwhelming majority of their plays in between the 20s makes it tough to appreciate what Willis has been able to accomplish so far this year. The Nest hopes to see Mark Clayton and Todd Heap more involved in the offense moving forward, which will help make what has so far been a nice campaign for McGahee all the more impressive, by creating more space near the line, and also allowing him more carries from scoring range.

So maybe a more appropriate request would be: THROW THE BALL (more than 5 yards) and then RUN THE BALL!

The Nest sees the Ravens D, swagger regained (a little at least) last week, coming out and totally dominating a backup QB and RB (as well as several offensive linemen), handing the offense gift-wrapped points, and the O coming alive (for their standards) in front of the home fans against a soft, porous Saint Louie defense.

While the Nest had sworn off predicting blowouts until they actually proved they were capable, we just don't see this one being close.

Ravens 23 Rams 6

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mr. Reed (better than Ms.Polamalu - duh)

An article on ESPN today named "Five to Fear," 5 NFL players who force teams to alter their gameplans just by being on the field. A panel of 11 "experts" made up of GM's, players, scouts, and coaches came up with the list - Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Steve Smith, Randy Moss (crazy how much can change in a year), and Antonio Gates. While no Ravens made the list, the player coming closest was (surprise, surprise) Ed Reed.
From the article:
"Baltimore's Reed and Pittsburgh's Polamalu were the only safeties who came close to earning spots on the short list of scheme-changing players. Reed came closer than Polamalu.
Quarterbacks marvel at Reed's range and overall playmaking ability. An interception Reed made against San Francisco on Sunday left the 49ers in awe. Reed somehow picked off a short pass to the flanker after lining up in the middle of the field, as if he'd been in two places at once.
Polamalu moves around constantly and blitzes from various angles. He moves around so much that some offensive coordinators tell their quarterbacks not to worry about him too much. They would rather ignore Polamalu than let him bait them into guesswork.
In that sense, safeties can be wild cards to the extent that teams resist making significant changes to their plans for fear of outsmarting themselves.
"Polamalu is an issue in protection while Reed is a factor for the quarterback and where his throws are going," the defensive coordinator said. "He's supposed to be in the post, but he might be jumping a route on the other side of the field."
Two scouts believe even the greatest safeties are generally too far from the football on most plays to force significant changes to game plans. Quarterbacks disagreed, saying Reed could change what they do.
"Ed Reed is special," another GM said. "The guy at Pittsburgh [Polamalu] is really good, not overrated, but there are some holes in his game."
Well put, agrees the Nest. However, we also think they forgot to point out that teams need to account for Mr. Reed in punt blocking schemes as well. The fact that he has not blocked a punt in several years is a testament to teams scheming for his presence moreso than an indication of declining skill in this part of his game.

Read the whole article here:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Im Matt Stover

c/o WHFS Morning Show, "Kirk and Mark"

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ravens 9 49ers 7 (The BOREDOM BOWL)

In a game that was about as exciting as watching paint dry, the Ravens survived their first trip to the west coast this season, holding on to beat the San Francisco 49ers by the yawn-inducing score of 9-7 (Not quite the 20-17 "Barn-burner" predicted here, but a nail-biter nonetheless). It was the first time since the Super Bowl season of 2000 that the Ravens had won a game in which they managed to score solely by the leg of Matt Stover. The offense managed to move the ball fairly effectively, racking up 314 total yards, but - and stop me if you've heard this one before - failed to convert for TDs in their 2 red zone opportunities. The Ravens are now a dismal 5 for 16 in the red zone this year (28th in the NFL). Until things change, the Nest will now refer to the area inside the 20 yard line as the "dead zone" as it applies to the Ravens.

Luckily, the defense was up to the task of stopping the absolutely TERRIBLE 49er offense, led by backup QB Trent Dilfer. Give a degree of credit to the Ravens defense, who had their best game of the season to date, but lets call a spade a spade: the Niner offense was anemic. Several times during the first half, the home crowd booed the 49ers playcalling on offense (sound familiar?), as the coaching staff was clearly afraid to let Dilfer even begin to let loose against the purple and black. The Ravens, to their credit, took advantage of the overmatched Niner O, sacking Dilfer 3 times and picking him off once. Of course, the secondary had their usual brain-farts (as foreseen by the Nest), allowing Dilfer to throw for 42 and 23 yards on consecutive plays in the 4th quarter, the latter for the TD that made it a one-score ballgame.

Injuries were again a story, this time on the offensive line as Mike Flynn and Adam Terry both went out. Filling in were Marshall Yanda, Ben Grubbs, and Jared Gaither, who, along with Chris Chester and Jason Brown, played remarkably well for a group having only 8 total years experience between the 5 of them. As of this writing, little has been disclosed about either injury, save that Brian Billick seemed to hint that Terry's was the more serious of the two. Terry had been doing a terrific job of filling in for perennial Hall of Famer Jon Ogden, who may now be forced to come back sooner than he had expected to. Lets hope there has been significant healing since we last saw J.O. on September 10 in Cincinnati, so he is able to rejoin the lineup at near full strength.
There isn't a whole lot more to say about the game itself - it was a snoozer, the Ravens did just enough to win, and still needed Joe Nedney to miss a 53 yard field goal attempt late in the 4th quarter to avoid having to put together a waning-moment score to win.

Point after
The Nest wonders: Could the problems in the Ravens secondary be partly attributed to the Ravens offense? Not that we are looking to blame everything on the offense and absolve the D of all responsibility, but think about it: If the D is never tested in practice by a Ravens passing game that is completely unable to stretch the field, find holes in coverage, and fit passes into the 10-20 yard range, might that make it difficult for the Ravens defensive coaches to diagnose problems in coverage schemes, communication, etc? Does the fact that they never see them in practice make it more likely that the Ravens cover guys (especially the younger, inexperienced ones) will be beat on WR double moves come game day? Thoughts, Nestgoers?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chamberlain's B.O. Declared Unfair Advantage

New York- Umpires in Friday night's American League Division Series game between the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees stopped play in the 7th inning, deciding that Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain's body odor was giving him an unfair advantage over Indians hitters.

"The Indians hitters were visibly woozy after stepping into the box against him," said home plate umpire Laz Diaz. "So we decided we had to either eject him, or come up with a way to get rid of that God awful scent."

"It was bad, real bad," said Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner. "You know that smell when you leave sweaty clothes in a workout bag for a few weeks at a time? Well, like that, but if somebody took a dump in your nostril as you were sniffing."

Another problem was that Chamberlain's stench resulted in a swarm of flies constantly swirling around the pitcher's body.

"Man, you remember 'Pigpen' from the Snoopy cartoons? Thats what that fool looked like, but it was bugs instead of dirt. You ever try to pick up a baseball comin out of a swarm of insects?" asked Tribe center fielder Grady Sizemore.

The umpires decided to spray Chamberlain with industrial strength deodorant to level the playing field.

Robbed of his "performance enhancing bugs", Chamberlain was no longer the dominant force he has been since joining the Yankees, throwing a wild pitch that allowed Cleveland to tie the game, which they would go on to win.

"Teams around the league should start to take notice for next season," said Indians skipper Eric Wedge. "Deodorant is Joba's kryptonite."

Friday, October 5, 2007

First Rat to desert a sunken ship....

Jim Duquette has resigned as VP of the Orioles. Duquette was instrumental in such earth-shattering signings as Corey Patterson and Danys Baez, while also having the savvy to trade John Maine away for Anna Benson (kind enough to bring her husband, Kris, at least for one season). The Nest fully expects more shake-ups to continue in the coming weeks from all sides: front office, coaching staff, and players.

Another promising note: According to Baltimore Sun blogger Roch Kubatko, an MLB scout he talks with has called the O's "ugly," and the worst team in baseball.

Baltimore Baseball: Catch the Fever!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ravens @ 49ers

The Ravens (2-2) travel to San Francisco this week to take on the 49ers (2-2), who are on a 2 game losing skid since starting their season with wins over the Cardinals and Rams. The niners will be without their franchise quarterback, Alex Smith, who dislocated his shoulder in the opening minutes last week when Seattle lineman Rocky Bernard landed on him following a hit. The Nest notes a bit of a coincidence: Ravens fans who saw the hit were reminded of a similar hit that occurred (with similar results) just across the bay, by Tony Siragusa on Rich Gannon in the 2001 AFC Championship game. Connecting the dots, the Ravens quarterback in that game was Trent Dilfer, who just happens to be Alex Smith’s backup in SF this year.

Dilfer was ineffective, to say the least, in relief, as the Seahawks dropped the 49ers 24-3. Our old friend Trent will be making the start against his former team this Sunday, which of course stirred up a media frenzy over the already overplayed Dilfer-Brian Billick feud. The rift between the two has been played up whenever Trent’s teams came to town, when he was with the Seahawks and again when he started against the Ravens in B-More in 2005 for the Cleveland Browns. Trent has been quite outspoken regarding his animosity and hard feelings toward Billick (despite complete opposite views on the city, fans, players, and organization in general), whom he blames for letting him go following the Super Bowl. His most recent barbs came just this year, during Super Bowl XLI media week. However, Dilfer has, for the first time in the nearly 7 years since he left the Ravens, chose to take the high road, saying that he plans to clear the air with Billick before the game. So hopefully Trent, Brian, the media, and the players, will be able to focus on the task at hand, winning a ballgame.

Each team comes in fighting to stay above the .500 mark on the season. The 49ers were, for all intents and purposes, handed their first win by the Cardinals, and got their 2nd against the hapless Rams in St. Louis, before taking beatings the past two weeks at the hands of the Squealers and the aforementioned ‘Hawks. On paper, this should be an easy win for the purple and black. The 49ers, already ranked dead last in the NFL in total offense, are without Smith, while highly hyped RB Frank Gore is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. The Ravens defense, black and blue as it currently is both physically and mentally, will benefit from the (rumored) return of CB Samari Rolle. Having both #1 cornerbacks back on the field should allow Rex Ryan to turn up the pressure on Dilfer, blitzing him relentlessly just as the Seahawks did last week, and as the Ravens did in 2005 when they forced him into 3 turnovers. Keep an eye on this. If the Ravens fail to get pressure on Dilfer, as they did on Derek Anderson last week and Kurt Warner the week before, the Ravens may well leave the west coast at 2-3.

On defense, the 49ers rank 11th against the pass (213 ypg), but 25th against the run (130 ypg). Please, please, please, Brian: RUN THE BALL. The team of Willis Mcgahee and Musa Smith should be able to have a field day against this SF team, and the Nest would even like to see Mike Anderson active to give the Ravens yet another set of legs to pound the ball with. The Ravens will likely be without Todd Heap in the passing game, yet another reason to run, run, run. If the Ravens come out pass-happy again, and Sore-groin Steve is tossing it all over the (5 yards down-) field, be nervous B-More fans.

An X-factor in this game could be SF head coach Mike Nolan. Nolan, a former Ravens defensive coordinator, is in his 3rd season in the Gay city. We saw what happened last week when former coaches meet their old team, as an inferior Cardinals team coached by former Pittsburgh OC Ken Whisenhunt found a way to stop the Squealers high-flying offense. However, Rex Ryan’s defense is nothing like the basic 3-4 Nolan used when he was here, and enough faces have changed on both sides of the ball that this should not be much of an issue. Mike and his suit have been gone too long for any familiarity to make a difference.

The Ravens should win this game easily. However, we have been taught to know better this season. Look for the 49ers to hang around until the very end, due to the reluctance of the Ravens coaches to stick with the run, as well as continued miscommunications in the secondary.

Ravens 20 49ers 17

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Quarter Season Gut-Check

Birds Nest Prologue: Professional athletes should never really need "Gut Checks," or "Wake-up Calls." They are men being paid to play a boy's game, in front of adoring fans who give up their hard earned money to watch them, their tax dollars to finance the teams' stadium, and who live and die with each game. The least they could do is try as hard as they can, all of the time. Of course, in the era of the spoiled athlete, most do not.

That being said, several Ravens and pundits are labeling the loss in Cleveland a wake up call or a gut check. So then what were the 2 near-collapses against the Jets and Cardinals at home? One would hope that those would have "woken" this team up. As fans of the team, we can only hope that they have not been giving their best efforts, and that is the reason for the mediocre play so far this season. The only other option is that they are not a very good team. Some talking heads around the country that don't see this team play on a week-to-week basis have started labeling them as such. We at the Nest know better. There is simply too much collective talent on both sides of the football for this to be a problem of having a "bad" team.

As long ago as it may now seem, it was just last year that the Ravens were 13-3 and the #2 seed in the AFC. However, a quick look around the NFL is evidence that much can change in a year. The Chicago Bears are 1-3, but they have been decimated by injuries on defense and hurt by the regression of Rex Grossman and loss of Thomas Jones. The San Diego Chargers are 1-3, but they are under new head coach Norv Turner, and to say that everybody saw this coming from them would be an understatement. The New Orleans Saints? Well, they just ran out of Fairy Dust. The Ravens, while having sustained a few injuries, are still pretty much the same team, with the same coaching staff, and game philosophies as they had last year. While this may seem at first to be a positive, perhaps it is time to start thinking about how to change things up a bit.

The Ravens offense has been much more unpredictable this season when compared to years past, in terms of whether they will run or pass on any given down, which, along with the upgrade at running back, has led to them currently standing at 8th in the league in total offensive yards. But it hardly matters whether you are running for 3 yards on 1st down and throwing for 5 on 2nd OR throwing for 5 on 1st and running for 3 on 2nd. Its still 3rd and 2.

This offense is still predicated on SHORT passes and controlling the clock. Which works fine when you have a defense that is consistently ranking in the top 5 in the league, as it has been since Brian Billick and his West Coast Offense have been in B-More. But when your vaunted defense is giving up over 22 points per game, scoring 20 on a handful of long drives isn't going to cut it. You're going to need to put up some points. Which means a quick-strike touchdown here and there, exactly what has been missing for the past 8+ seasons.

The Ravens have as much talent on offense, at wide receiver and tight end, as most any team in the league. The difference is in the way they are utilized in the offensive schemes, which results in the discrepancy of being ranked 8th in the league in total yards, yet 18th in points per game. For comparisons sake, the top 4 teams in the league in total offense, 1 through 4, are: Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, Detroit. Top 4 in points per game? Again: Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, Detroit. The yards just aren't translating into points for the Ravens, because they are coming between the 20s. The lack of quick-strike big plays, combined with the abysmal red zone efficiency, lead to a lot of yards....and a lot of field goals.

So instead of (or in addition to) a gut-check to the players, this could serve as a "brain-check" to the Ravens coaches. Last season, Brian Billick made a job and season-saving decision by firing his good friend Jim Fassel as Offensive Coordinator when the Ravens were sitting at 4-2 atop the AFC Central. Perhaps this season he can make a similarly drastic move, by allowing his quarterbacks to throw down the field. We don't know if it really matters whether it is Kyle Boller or Steve McNair. Some would argue that McNair does not have the arm strength to throw the ball all over the field, but both quarterbacks are averaging ~6 yards per attempt this season. Even when he has been in, Boller has shown no signs that he is being encouraged to stretch the field. The change needs to come from the game plan, not from the guy throwing the ball.

Teams have 17 games of film from last season to look at just how the Ravens got their 13-4 record. The same formula may not prove as successful this time around. So will the Ravens coaches stand still, continue to put all the pressure on the defense, and hope it returns to its former self? Or will they take steps toward improving the point output of their offense, serving to take some pressure off of said defense, at least while they get their feet under them and recover from the barrage of punches they have taken over the first 4 games?

The suggestion is not so much for a complete offensive overhaul as it is just a plea for the realization that the team may NEED to score some points to win ballgames. A sense of urgency from the O, evidenced by some shots down the field, some big plays, and a bit of creativity in the red zone. Lets show off the offensive weapons we have here in B-More. The defensive ones just don't seem to be getting it done like they used to. The Ravens are not a bad team. They are a good team playing poorly. Time to get this ship headed in the right direction.

Browns 27 Ravens 13 (The ORIOLE-ESQUE EMBARASSMENT game)

Really? Really? Seriously? That just happened?

Yes, it did.

While we in B-More have come to expect much better from the Purple and Black, the Ravens reminded us that they too are capable of embarrassing us Charm City sports fans from time to time, stinking up Paul Brown stadium with a laugher of an effort against the Browns. Losing 27-13 in a game that wasn’t even as close as that awful final score seems, they were simply dominated in every facet of the game, whether it be offense, defense, special teams, or coaching. Pathetic. Absolutely terrible. The Ravens seem to THINK they are better than they actually are, and can play hard when they feel like it, while just going through the motions when they don’t.

The sky isn’t falling in B-More just yet, Ravens fans. However, make no mistake about it: a couple more showings like we saw last weekend, and there will be no Festivus talk this year. Go get better, boys, and don’t embarrass yourselves like that again.

For you eternal optimists out there:

The Ravens are undefeated this season:

A. Outside of Ohio
B. Against teams without orange in their uniforms

And so, based on solely these 2 trends, they will finish the season 11-5 (just 5 games behind the Patriots in the AFC) after losing only to the Browns and Bengals again, as well as to the Miami Dolphins.

Ravens fans rejoice!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A blast (some hate) from the past....

This post was originally written right after the Squealers and the Refs stole Super bowl 40

So, the Steelers won the super bowl, huh? Or the Seahawks lost it. Whatever. After letting my boiling blood cool for a day, I want to say a few things about the big game.

First off-a disclaimer: The Pittsburgh Steelers are a class organization, starting at the top with the Rooneys, all the way down through the coaching staff, most of the players (former and current), and I'm sure a large percentage of their inexplicably large fan base. I have no problem with Jerome Bettis. He played the game the way it should be played for his entire illustrius career, gave back to his community, and if anybody deserves a storybook ending like we saw yesterday, it is Jerome.

That being said-a couple things that anybody not plastered beyond belief on Iron City beer with their air supply being choked off by an unfortunate byproduct of too much malicious towel-waving should be able to see:

The Agenda of the NFL

Is there anybody left in this country (with even passing access to a television) who doesnt know what city Jerome Bettis is from? Make no mistake about it-the NFL is an ENTERTAINMENT company. They make their money from advertisers paying for airtime during NFL broadcasts and fans dishing out their hard earned dollars to be entertained by 250 lb steroid enhanced man-beasts. And so, in keeping in line with that, the powers that be at the NFL decided the best way to get more people to watch the culmination of their entertainment season was to pull at the heartstrings of the casual fan or even non-fan by giving them something to relate to-the story of a boy beating the odds to get out of his ghetto of a hometown, achieving national fame, and ultimately returning to that (still very ghettoish) hometown for the biggest game of his life. You can't write this stuff. However, Jerome Bettis was not the only player "going home." Hell, he wasn't even the only Steeler, nay, the only Steelers STARTER who was "going home." LB Larry Foote also calls the Motor City home. How many segments did we see about him? Bettis deserves a lot of credit for announcing his retirement right there on the field after the game too, taking the high road rather then the, "lets keep them in suspense" path that so many egotistical athletes display these days.

Also, in watching the game, I couldn't help but notice those commercials that showed a player or coach molesting the Lombardi trophy like something you'd hear in a Rolling Stones song and talking about how much it would mean for them to win it. After the 3rd one I saw during the first half featuring a Steelers player I mentioned something along the lines of, "what the fudge?" to my surrounding Seahawk fans du-jour. Somebody explained to me that they were doing the commercials with both teams. And sure enough, during the 3rd quarter, there was Matt Hasselbeck groping said trophy. Next commercial break, right back to the steelers. Eventually, a group of players representing both teams, the majority of which, of course, were Steelers. Am I implying that the NFL was pulling for the Steelers in this game? All I am saying is that they are a company, like any, in the business of making money. Do you really think they fail to notice the abundance of Steeler fans floating around this country? The fact that about 70% of the crowd at Ford field yesterday had testicle towels with them? It gets a little annoying to those of us not wearing black and gold. Thats all Im sayin.

The blind (or very well supplementally paid) Zebras

Ah, the officals. First off, realize that the collective headache enveloping the city of Pittsburgh today pales in comparison to the one being suffered over at the NFL head office. The day after the Super Bowl, and the majority of the country wants to talk about nothing but the referees. That doesn't bode well for them. Chat rooms, newspaper columns, shit nobody will read (like this), and even ESPN are adamant that the officials undoubtedly affected the outcome of the game. Theres plenty of reading material on that elsewhere, so I wont dwell too much here. However, I do want to point out that along with the phantom holding and pass interference calls, along with the mystery touchdown by Ben in the first half and the 15 yard penalty on Hasselbeck for tackling (tackling??) below the waist, there were also glaring No-calls. Joey Porter (in the one play he made all day) dragged Shawn Alexander down by the back of his collar. No penalty for the horsecollar. On the play of the holding call (unanimously NOT holding if you watch ESPN today), the Steelers were obviously offsides, with the hawks center later saying, "I thought they were offside [on the play Locklear was called for holding]," center Robbie Tobeck said. "I thought we had a free play on because they had two guys come across." Whatever, right. Here's the bottom line: The Seahawks didnt play well enough to win. Neither did the Steelers. Either team, with the right calls, could be wearing rings today.

Best Team

What can you really ask for out of a super bowl, or any game for that matter? That the best team win, right. Did the best team win Sunday? Let's look at it for a second. The Steelers got beat "up and down the field," in the first half according to Michael Irvin. I'd have to agree. Anybody watching that first half would have never guessed the score to be 7-3 Pittsburgh at the break. "Big Ben," reverted back to his "Baby Ben" days of last year's playoffs, looking rattled and out of sync. To his credit, he was the first to admit he had a bad game. Still, even the plays he did make could have easily gone the other way. His 3rd and 28 hail mary to Ward was a smart play, because even if it is intercepted, the end result is likely just as good or better than a punt. However, had the Seattle secondary not had a group brain-fart at the time, 'dem stillers never take that 7-3 lead. He had the lowest passer rating of any winning QB in super bowl history. When I expected him to be perfect on those 3rd and shorts as hes been all season, he overthrew his guys by feet, not inches. And when he did put the ball where it needed to be, the steelers receivers displayed hands of stone. Game "MVP" Hines Ward had at least 2 balls bounce right off his chest. His only real MVP moment in the game came when Andre Dyson injured himself tackling Ward out of bounds. Dysons replacement took a bad angle on Willie Parker's run and also bit hard on the fake reverse, allowing Ward to scamper open to the end zone. In Herndon's defense, he is also the one who picked off Ben's lame duck and returned it to the Steelers 20 (on a side note, it was great to see Ben get absolutely flattened on the INT return, after all that hoopla about his tackle in the Indy game). And the other unanimous pre-game MVP, Suck-a-pole-amalu, was nowhere to be found all game. Not to mention Joey Porter's play being much less visible than his midriff during warmups. Matt Hasselbeck, on the other hand, was money all day, even when he was being completely betrayed by the butterfingers of his teammates or the yellow flags raining down that might as well have had "terrible towel" written on them.

Dems da breaks

Through all that, the fact remains that the Seahawks shot themselves in the foot all night long. Dropping passes, missing field goals, and showing the worst two minute drill seen in the NFL since the last Super Bowl Holmgren tried to coach (Well, to anybody except us Ravens fans anyway). The Steelers took advantage of every opportunity given them, no matter how fairly it was given, and made just enough plays (3-no more no less) to earn the "one for the thumb." I'm sick of hearing about that too-there are 2 other NFL franchises with 5 Super Bowl wins, you dont hear them crowing about thumbs. So enjoy it Steelers fans, you earned it. And NFL glory in this new era is nothing if not fleeting. Take that ring, place it ever so deservingly on your thumbs, and shove those thumbs straight up your....