Gandalf; the fictional character from the Lord of the Rings, once proclaimed to a Balrog, “You shall not pass!” Having satiated the impulses of my inner nerd please allow me to get to my point. The Ravens defense has had some issues in the secondary that hasn’t quite put that quote into action. The story tells a strangely different tale when it comes to the ground game. It involves injuries, outrageous feats of athleticism from giants, and acts of sheer will. It is just about the halfway point in the season and the thought hit me. Will any running back tally 100 yards in a game versus the Ravens? We should take a look at what the unit has accomplished so far this season.
The first thing to get out of the way is how many total yards teams have put up against this tenacious run defense. Week one the Bengals totaled 79 yards on the ground. In week two the Steelers managed 99 rushing yards. The Browns notched 85 yards running the ball in week three. Week four saw the Panthers scratch out 67 yards. The Colts would crack the century mark as a team and get 127 yards in week five. In week six the Buccaneers amassed 87 yards via the ground game. And finally, this past week against the Falcons the Ravens defense allowed a total of 68 yards. The most yards the Ravens gave up to any one runner was 68 to Ahmad Bradshaw of the Colts. So what runningback; if any, will crack that elusive number? Here is a list of the upcoming candidates.
Next week the Ravens will face the Bengals in a rematch on the Bengals turf. Giovanni Bernard has had a few big games this season, but against suspect defenses such as Atlanta, Tennessee, and Carolina. In the first meeting the Ravens allowed only 48 yards to him. Bernard got pounded in last week’s game against the Colts but isn’t seriously injured.
Up next for the challenge would be Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount of the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Bell has had some 100 or more yard games this season. The biggest one was the 147 yard game in which Blount also had 118. Blount hasn’t had a game anything close to that performance against the Panthers and Bell tallied only 59 yards against the Ravens. Bell is coming off of two 80 plus yard games.
The Tennessee Titans will come to Baltimore the following week and it remains to be seen if starter Shonn Greene will be healthy by that time. Even if he is the best game he has had so far was in week one with a 71 yard effort. He hasn’t had over 40 yards in any game after that. If he is not available the team will most likely turn to Bishop Sankey. Sankey’s best game on the season has been a 61 yard effort on only ten carries. In his last two games as the starter he tallied 61 yards again and 56 yards respectively.
In week twelve after the bye the Ravens will travel to New Orleans to face a number of backs. Injuries have plagued the backfield of the Saints and they have used Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, and may need to use Travaris Cadet depending on the health of Thomas who suffered a shoulder injury in week seven. Ingram had two very productive games before getting injured but came back to face the Lions and was awful. Thomas has seen backup work behind both Ingram and Robinson and is a change of pace option. Robinson has been the go to guy when Ingram was out and has had some success but also some fumbling issues. He’s got two 80 plus yard performances under his belt. Cadet if he’s active will see limited duty.
The next opponent will be the San Diego Chargers and by that time they might have a healthy Ryan Matthews. He currently is trying to recover from a sprained MCL. The team has turned to Donald Brown and he is currently trying to come back from a concussion. He’s missed a couple of weeks so far and if all things are going well for him he should be back by this game. The team has had to rely on an impressive rookie; Branden Oliver. Oliver so far in his three starts has had two 100 plus yard games and also looked pretty good in his week seven performance against Kansas City. The Chargers will have a decision to make once Brown and Matthews are healthy. Based off of performance only I don’t see how they could stop going to Oliver if he remains productive.
The Ravens will travel to Florida to meet the Miami Dolphins and their feature back Lamar Miller. Knowshon Moreno is out for the season with a knee injury and Miller has been forced into starting duty. He’s being backed up by Daniel Thomas and rookie Damien Williams. It is unfortunate because Moreno tore up the Patriots in week one when he was healthy. Since then Miller has shown some life in a 108 yard game against the Chiefs, but has been rather pedestrian since then as his output has been 64 yards, 53 yards, and 61 yards. Both Thomas and Williams see limited touches behind Miller and should not be much of a factor.
Keeping with the Florida theme, the Ravens will play the Jacksonville Jaguars the following week but will do so at home. Jacksonville has used a runningback by committee approach to the season and finally one emerged as a star in week seven. Denard Robinson broke out with a 127 yard game in his first stint as the go to man against Cleveland which was the Jaguars first win of the season. It will be interesting to keep an eye on him in the following weeks. Toby Gerhart is currently out with an injury and could be back by this game, but he hasn’t been much of a factor this season. The third option is rookie Storm Johnson who seems to only give the starter a breather.
Next on the list will be the Texans as Baltimore travels to Houston. And in Houston we may have a problem. Arian Foster when healthy has been on an absolute tear. He’s noticed 100 yards or more in every single game he’s started and finished on the season. He’s been nicked up here and there this season and has missed one game completely and most of another. Aside from that he has been he normally tremendous self. This could be a great game to watch and the biggest challenge to the Ravens run defense.
And the last challenge on the season will be at home against The Browns. The Browns also have a have a three headed attack featuring Ben Tate, Terrence West, and Isiah Crowell. In the first matchup between these teams Tate was hurt and didn’t play. There was some hype around West as he came out of the gates with a 100 yard game in week one. He hasn’t come close to that number since and has also been injured. In limited duty in week one Crowell punched in two touchdowns in what was supposed to be a strong Steelers defense. Crowell has been up and down in his performances but he can be a factor. Tate had a big game in his return against Tennessee but hasn’t been impressive in his two weeks following that 124 yard game. So now that we’ve met all the challengers for the opposition let us take a look at what is to account for the Ravens success.
It all starts in the trenches. Last season Haloti Ngata wasn’t completely healthy and Terrence Cody wasn’t exactly the force the Ravens had hoped for. Chris Canty was the other end in the base 3-4 alignment deployed by Baltimore. Ray Lewis was gone and though Daryl Smith filled in admirably, his cohort was Jameel McClain who wasn’t a bad player but he wasn’t elite. This season Haloti Ngata is healthy and to go along with his eating up of defenders and hole clogging ability he has added the team leadership; currently anyway, for interceptions. Brandon Williams has taken over for an injured Cody and the results have been outstanding. Williams is known for his freakish strength and uncanny athleticism for a big man. He can be seen collapsing the line of scrimmage making progress in the ground game very difficult. He may not make the play himself, but he does his job to take on blockers and free up another player to do their job. At the other end position there has been a rotation of players since Chris Canty has been injured. DeAngelo Tyson, Timmy Jernigan, Pernell McPhee, Lawrence Guy, and Christo Bilukidi have all seen work. McPhee has emerged as a star in the pass rushing game but this line combination has allowed for Daryl Smith and rookie phenom C.J. Mosley to clean up and play as the tackling machines they are. We can’t forget how good Terrell Suggs has become in playing against the run as well. He can often be seen in the backfield disrupting running lanes and making big plays even if he’s not tallying sacks. Elvis Dumervil is a pass rushing specialist but on clear running situations the Ravens will deploy Courtney Upshaw who is a bigger body and more stout against a run. Add in the fact that you have safeties Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks, Darian Sterwart and Will Hill that are not not come up in run support and you have the recipe for a great run defense. Does any team out there have the game plan to solve this defensive puzzle?
The NFL has shifted away from the 30 plus carry a game running back philosophy. Most deploy two backs where one might be the primary ball carrier and see around 20 touches while a change of pace back might see a handful. The emphasis in the passing attack and scoring more points also has seen the emergence of specialists that are more or less receivers and good blockers out of the backfield as opposed to strict runningbacks. Some teams do not even have a full back on the roster anymore and if there is one, he is more of a hybrid H-back type. A player who is a jack of all trades. He could run a bit, block some in the ground game, pass block, and go out for a few catches. So do you see any challengers in this list. I am circling the Houston Texans if they have a healthy Arian Foster. I don’t see any other team or runningback that I think is up for the kind of tenacious attack the Ravens deploy against the run.
Another week and another collection of goodies for you at Purple Reign Show.
Phil Gentile leads off with a special Flacco vs. Ryan edition of his weekly recap about the Ravens vs. Falcons game. You can also catch video coverage of the Ravens tribute to the Baltimore Orioles season right here if you missed it. Phil also ponders which team might sign Ray Rice if he was reinstated.
Newcomer Andrew Frank goes “Inside the Huddle” and gives us some Pro Football Focus ratings on some key contributors for the Ravens in their lopsided win against the Falcons.
Tim Horsey, Phil Gentile, and Lindsey O. return for this week’s installment of the podcast featuring a special guest to talk about the Bengals match up.
Brandon Spiegel offers up a look at what directions the Ravens and Bengals are seemingly moving.
Zeyd Khan takes a look at how Joe Flacco has been distributing the football this season.
And I provide the preview of possibly the second hottest rivalry as the Ravens travel to Cincinnati, complete with keys to the game for both teams, my prediction for the outcome, and up to date injury news.
Come on over to Purple Reign Show and check out how much we love our followers by continuing to offer you fantastic content!
You think you knew everything about The Falcons and Ravens game this weekend? Think again! The staff and friends of Purple Reign show absolutely knocked it out of the park this week!
You know yours truly has you covered with my weekly preview featuring my takes on the strengths and weaknesses, my predictions, and the latest injury news for the game. I also chipped in a little extra this week with a post comparing Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Just how close are the numbers? Who is better? Why not read the article and cast your vote!
You think it stops there? Oh no my friend. Check out Brandon Spiegel’s contribution as he debates who the better free agent pick up was between RB Justin Forsett and WR Steve Smith Sr.
Nick Meriweather comes back to school us on how the Ravens can school Julio Jones And Roddy White and try to shut them down.
Newcomer Robert Schembri joins our staff this week and hits the first one he sees out of the park! Here are five things he thinks you need to know about the game on Sunday!
I feel like a late night telemarketer; but wait…there’s more! That’s right, Tim Horsey, Phil Gentile, and Lindsey O. were in the studio with Mark Zinno this week on the Purple Reign Show Podcast. Don’t miss it!
Think you might want something awesome to eat for the game? Having some friends over for perhaps one of the last grilling dates of the season before it gets too cold? John from Grilling24x7.com shares his recipe for Maryland style Pit Beef! YUM!
Who loves you better than we do at Purple Reign? Come for the articles, stay for my stupid jokes.
We have the always insightful Brandon Spiegel with a great post asking which free agent pick up is better between Justin Forsett and Steve Smith Sr. New man on the team comes out of the gates strong as Robert Schembri brings up five very important things you need to know about the Ravens game this week against he Falcons. And my Ryan vs Flacco article here on WordPress finds its way over there as well in much better living color. Mark Zinno joined the crew on the weekly podcast segment and the most important question ever was discussed; BBQ or crabcakes? Come on back to Purple Reign Show as more posts are added because my weekly preview is coming up next and you won’t want to miss it.
In 2008 two quarterbacks were drafted in the first round and would immediately be linked in a battle of “who is the better quarterback” discussions spanning all kinds of sports media outlets. Matt Ryan was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the third pick while the Ravens would trade up to select Joe Flacco with the 18th pick. Ryan was highly touted coming out of Boston College. His 2007 season saw him posting gaudy numbers. 4,507 yards, 31 touchdowns to 19 interceptions and a rating of 127. He would win the ACC Offensive Player of the Year Award, the ACC Player of the Year Award, The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and the Manning Award. Joe Flacco was not as highly decorated. In fact, he found himself as a backup to Tyler Palko at Pittsburgh and would transfer to Delaware so that he could start. Flacco would put up impressive stats in 2007 as well, albeit against lesser competition. His 4,263 yards, 23 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions along with a strong senior bowl showing would get him noticed. Then of course there was the notorious 74 yard long pass in the ESPN quarterback challenge which would best a host of names including Matt Ryan.
The draft came and went and nobody questioned the decision of the Falcons. Many experts thought the Ravens had reached on Flacco and would wind up with another Kyle Boller. Ryan was the starting QB for the Falcons from the get go. The Ravens actually had Joe Flacco as third on their depth chart behind aforementioned Kyle Boller and former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. An injury to Boller, and a serious tonsil infection suffered by Smith propelled Flacco to starter by default. He had a very impressive pre season and wound up picking up the reigns of the offense and hasn’t looked back since. Comparisons would be made routinely by talk show hosts and the consensus was at least through the earlier years that Matt Ryan was the better quarterback. The numbers however were disturbingly similar. The records were almost identical, the yards thrown for, the number of touchdowns, the number of interceptions, almost everything was nearly the same. Six years later, what does the story tell us now? Here are the overall stats for Joe Flacco up to his last game against Tampa Bay. Here are the stats for Matt Ryan up to his last game against Chicago.
The numbers are pretty close in a few categories but Ryan does beat out Flacco by around 2,000 yards, 30 more touchdowns, a slightly better completion rate, and about six points in QB Rating. Does that mean that Ryan is the better Quarterback? Here is where things can get pretty interesting and where subjective thoughts enter the fray. If you go strictly by the measurable stats you would probably have to agree that Matt Ryan is the better player. The support for Joe Flacco would bring up things like a supporting cast, the playoff records, and what about the biggest game of them all, the Super Bowl? Who had the better teams?
Let’s tackle supporting cast first for Matt Ryan. In 2008 he had a potent ground attack with Micheal Turner churning out almost 1,700 yards and crossed the goal line 17 times. He had one of the best weapons in the game in Roddy White who racked up almost 1,400 yards with seven touchdowns. Micheal Jenkins added almost 800 yards and three touchdowns. 2009 would see a duo of Michael Turner and Jason Snelling combining for almost 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. The receiving unit was once again led by Roddy White’s 1,152 yards and 11 touchdowns, but added to the mix was long time Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez who added over 80 receptions, 867 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Micheal Jenkins would also chip in and extra 50 catches for 635 yards and a score. The 2010 season featured Micheal Turner as the main weapon on the ground as he provided nearly 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. Roddy White was once again the man with his team leading 115 receptions for 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns. TE Tony Gonzalez would haul in 70 passes for 656 yards and six touchdowns and then there was Micheal Jenkins adding 505 yards on 41 catches with two touchdowns. 2011 rolled along and so did Micheal Turner once again on the ground. Another 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground helped set up the passing attack. Roddy White was at it again with 100 catches for 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez was being his normal excellent self with 80 more catches, 875 yards and seven touchdowns. The difference now is Micheal Jenkins was replaced with Julio Jones. Jones would notch 54 catches for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. This would mark a change in the offense for the Falcons. 2012 saw Micheal Turner waning with little support from backup Jacquizz Rogers. The duo combined for a nearly 1,200 yards but still managed to add 11 touchdowns. Roddy White turned in another amazing season catching 92 passes for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns. Fellow WR Julio Jones added 79 catches for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez actually led the team with 93 receptions and tallied 930 yards and eight touchdowns. Things went a bit South for the Falcons in 2013. Turner was replaced with Steven Jackson from the Rams and combined with Jacquizz Rogers they failed to get 1,000 yards and only scored six touchdowns between them on the ground. Roddy White would miss three games on the season and his production dropped to 63 catches for 711 yards and only three touchdowns. Julio Jones would only play in five games but would manage 41 catches, 580 yards, and two touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez would have his last hurrah and go out on a high note with 83 grabs for 859 yards and eight touchdowns. All was not lost though because out of nowhere came Harry Douglas who nabbed 85 passes for 1,067 yards and two touchdowns. Now let’s take a look at what Joe Flacco had to work with over those same seasons.
In 2008 the Ravens had a three headed attack at running back featuring Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice that combined for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Leading the way in the receiving game was Derek Mason with 80 catches for 1,037 yards and five touchdowns. Mark Clayton would add 41 catches for 695 yards and three scores. Lastly TE Todd Heap would chime in with 35 catches, 403 yards, and three touchdowns. 2009 would see a shift to Ray Rice as the primary back but Willis McGahee would add a potent punch to the mix as they combined for over 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns. Derek Mason would once again be the main man with 73 catches for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns. Mark Clayton would tack on 34 catches for 480 yards with two touchdowns. An injury to him would press almost unknown Kelley Washington into service and he would add another 34 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns. Todd Heap would add 53 catches, 593 yards and six scores. Another weapon burst onto the scene though. Ray Rice out of the backfield caught a team leading 78 passes for 702 yards and a touchdown. 2010 would be the shift in focus on offense for the Ravens. The rushing attack would still be productive but not the main focus. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee once again teamed up to rush for over 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns. Derek Mason would reel in 61 passes for 802 yards and seven trips to the endzone. Baltimore would add veteran Anquan Boldin to the mix and he would bring 64 catches, 837 yards, and seven touchdowns to the table. Todd Heap produced 40 catches for 599 yards and five scores. Ray Rice would once again be a big target with 63 catches for 556 yards and a touchdown. 2011 would see Ray Rice leading the charge on the ground with some help from Ricky Williams. The combination put up over 1700 yards and 14 trips to the endzone. Anquan Boldin became the man for the Ravens with 57 grabs for 887 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie Torrey Smith’s speed would provide a much needed new dimension to the offense and he would catch 50 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. Todd Heap was gone but the Ravens decided a twin TE set could work wonders. Enter Dennis Pitta with his 40 catches for 405 yards with three touchdowns and Ed Dickson’s 54 grabs for 528 yards and five scores. Ray Rice would lead the team in receptions again with 76 for 704 yards and three touchdowns. 2012 would be the magical season for the Ravens. A rushing attack led by Ray Rice and supported by rookie Bernard Pierce would combine for nearly 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns. Anquan Boldin would be the leader in receiving yards as he gained 921 yards on 65 catches and scored four times. Torrey Smith would continue to contribute with his 49 catches for 855 yards and eight touchdowns. Dennis Pitta would emerge as the primary TE with his 61 hauls for 669 yards with 7 touchdowns. Jacoby Jones was added primarily to help the return game, but his speed helped out on offense as well. Jones added 406 yards on 30 catches with a score. Ray Rice had 61 catches for 478 yards and a touchdown. 2013 would mark a serious downward spiral for the offense. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce couldn’t manage much of an assault combining for just over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. Boldin was gone, Pitta was hurt, and only Torrey Smith emerged as a threat as he caught 65 passes for 1,128 yards and four touchdowns. Rookie Marlon Brown stepped up to become a redzone weapon with his 49 receptions for 524 yards and seven touchdowns. Jacoby Jones added 455 yards and two touchdowns on 37 catches. Ray Rice would catch 58 passes but would only turn them into 321 yards with no endzone trips. Now that the supporting cast statements have been made let’s turn to post season records.
Matt Ryan is 1-4 in the playoffs throwing for 1,230 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was voted AP Rookie of the year in 2008 and has been to the Pro Bowl twice; once in 2010 and again in 2012. Joe Flacco is 9-4 in the playoffs and has passed for 2,672 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. This of course also includes a Super Bowl winning performance where he threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. This would earn him his only award so far; perhaps one of the best any player could ever receive, a Super Bowl MVP award.
A case could be made that Joe Flacco was able to accomplish more with less talent on offense. There is also the argument that Joe Flacco had a much better defense to work with than Matt Ryan has in his career. Most people would say that regardless of what the stats are the most important one of all is the win and loss columns. As the late Al Davis was famous for saying, “Just win, baby.” There is no bigger win for any player than a Super Bowl. So in the case for which player is the better quarterback, who do you think is the winner? Vote on our poll and let us know and feel free to leave us some comments about why you went with your choice.
My preview and prediction for the game is on the Purple Reign Show site along with the latest upgrade on the injury reports. Check back and look at the comments section for the most current information on injuries. So far I am 100% on predicting the outcomes of the Ravens games though my predicted scores haven’t been quite accurate.
Check out my breakdown of the game and who I think will prevail in this weeks matchup of franchises that will be forever linked.
I’ve got a slew of information for you in this preview as I explore memory lane over the only four games these teams played in their franchise history. There are A LOT of players on the injury report with murky statuses for the game so be sure to check the preview often as I will update the injury situation in the Comments Section. Feel free to leave me comments there as well, I would love to hear from you all.