Tag:Baltimore Ravens
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:20 pm
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Roethlisberger denies rumors he's planning to sit

Big Ben limps down the steps to the locker room after Pittsburgh beat Cleveland last Thursday. (AP)
By Will Brinson

The logical conclusion for the remainder of the Steelers season is that they will rest quarterback Ben Roethlisberger against the Rams and Browns. In fact, on Wednesday we noted rumors that Ben would likely be out Saturday against Cleveland, despite the quarterback saying he was optimistic he'd play.

Roethlisberger was asked about those rumors specifically on Thursday, and, per Mike Bires of the Beaver County Times, staunchly denied that he's currently planning on sitting out against St. Louis.

"They always like to say things," Roethlisberger said when asked about reports that he wouldn't play. "Unless Coach said something, I will wait to hear it from him."

Roethlisberger, simply put, didn't look healthy against the 49ers. He looked like a guy with a bum ankle who needed rest in order to gain his mobility back, not to mention his ability to step into throws.

The Steelers obviously want to win the next two weeks, but they don't need to win. They hold the tiebreaker over the only three 8-6 teams -- the Bengals (head-to-head), the Broncos (conference record) and the Jets (conference record) -- that could potentially catch them for the fifth seed.

Pittsburgh could still win the AFC North, but it would require the Ravens losing to either the Browns at home or the Bengals on the road. Though the latter is certainly possible, it's still not likely, and if Charlie Batch is able to hand the ball off well enough to score 21 points each of the next two weeks, the Steelers could get away with resting Roethlisberger for the postseason.

Which is precisely why they should, even if Ben doesn't want to rest and is maintaining that the isn't planning on it yet.


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Posted on: December 21, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Rodgers tops Pro Bowl voting; Tebow third AFC QB

Aaron Rodgers led the way in all Pro Bowl voting.(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We've wondered whether or not Tim Tebow is a Pro-Bowl candidate before this year and the answer is probably "no." But that doesn't matter when it comes to Pro-Bowl voting, where Tebow was the third-highest vote getter among AFC quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers, named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, was the top vote-getter among all NFL players, pulling in 1,581,982 votes from fans. Tom Brady was second among all NFL players with 1,454,311 votes. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Brady in the top 10, via NFL.com:

Top-10 Pro Bowl Vote Getters
Player Position Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311
Drew Brees
QB Saints 1,188,893
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886
Ben Roethlisberger
QB Steelers 935,535
Adrian Peterson
RB Vikings 925,554
Mike Wallace
WR Steelers 923,073

So, yeah, breaking: the Patriots and Steelers are popular! Also popular? Tebow.

AFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311 Andre Carter
DE Patriots 511,693
Arian Foster
RB Texans 896,804 Haloti Ngata
DT Ravens 592,603
Vonta Leach
FB Ravens 149,801 Terrell Suggs
OLB Ravens 546,851
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787 Ray Lewis
MLB Ravens 413,222
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886 Darrelle Revis
CB Jets 561,986
Michael Oher
OT Ravens 327,644 Troy Polamalu
SS Steelers 230,649
Logan Mankins
G Patriots 337,844 Ed Reed
FS Ravens 198,075
Maurkice Pouncey
C Steelers 376,457 Shane Lechler
P Raiders 228,782
Sebastian Janikowski
K Raiders 244,512 Joe McKnight
KR Jets 140,926

Once again, I'll point out that the Ravens and Patriots are popular (and also good at what they do), along with the Steelers. Brendon Ayanbadejo was the leading "special teams" vote-getter, with 106,515. On the NFC side, well, I hope you like the Packers:

NFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982 Jared Allen
DE Vikings 784,527
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824 Justin Smith
DT 49ers 525,578
John Kuhn
FB Packers 322,260 DeMarcus Ware
OLB Cowboys 581,554
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777 Patrick Willis
MLB 49ers 581,554
Jimmy Graham
TE Saints 725,612 Charles Woodson
CB Packers 763,198
Chad Clifton
OT Packers 392,106 Roman Harper
SS Saints 147,542
T.J. Lang
G Packers 327,740 Morgan Burnett
FS Packers 223,292
Scott Wells
C Packers 436,693 Andy Lee
P 49ers 161,812
Mason Crosby
K Packers 184,665 Devin Hester
KR Bears 268,293

For the NFC, Jarrett Bush of the Packers received the most special teams votes with 134,696. (And yes, I suppose I could have kick returners on the offense side, but I'm not trying to have my tables be all uneven. Oh no I'm not.)

Naturally, none of this means any of these guys are guaranteed to make the Pro Bowl -- the fan vote only counts as one-third of the total. The players vote is worth two-thirds. But there's a good chance that many of these guys will end up in the Pro Bowl.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:57 am
Edited on: December 21, 2011 4:12 pm
 

Big Ben doesn't practice, optimistic on playing

By Will Brinson

Ben Roethlisberger looked like a statue (or, if you prefer, "the best 49er") during Pittsburgh's 20-3 loss to San Francisco on Monday night but is optimistic that he'll play on Saturday against St. Louis.

The Steelers quarterback said on Wednesday that he wasn't negatively affected by remaining in the game and throwing 45 times, and that his ankle is no worse because of it. Roethlisberger did not practice on Wednesday, however.

As Clark Judge pointed out Monday, it was a bad decision to leave Ben in against San Francisco. But it doesn't look like the same mistake will be made against St. Louis this week, as the Steelers would reportedly be "shocked" if Roethlisberger played against the Rams.

"Steelers officials would be shocked if Ben plays this week," Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network tweeted Wednesday. "Fully expect him to rest at least one week. Mike Tomlin yet to reveal decision."

Tomlin's decision should be pretty obvious: sit Ben against the Rams.

The entire point of putting Roethlisberger on the field against the 49ers was to gamble on a shot for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If Pittsburgh beat San Francisco, they would've jumped into the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, with a very good shot at homefield advantage and a bye in the first week of the playoffs.

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Instead, the Steelers now need to both win out and have the Ravens slip up against either Cleveland or Cincinnati. As we noted this morning, anything's possible with the Ravens on the road.

But the likely scenario for Tomlin's crew involves traveling for the first round of the playoffs (perhaps to Denver) and preparing for any other reality by playing Roethlisberger against the Rams just wouldn't be prudent, particularly given the way he looked on Monday night.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: December 21, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Steelers loss 'changed the mood' of the Ravens

By Will Brinson

Week 15 was an up-and-down experience for the Ravens (and the Harbaugh family0: they rolled into San Diego and got whupped, handing the Steelers a chance at taking over the AFC North. Pittsburgh blew their shot, thanks to a big game out of the 49ers, and now the Ravens are back to controlling their own destiny.

The prospect has them, according to Ravens running back Ray Rice, in a totally different mood.

"It changed the mood of the team today," Rice said about the Steelers loss Monday per the Baltimore Sun. "Coming in here, guys are happy. I'm not saying we're never a happy bunch. We know how to take a loss on the chin [and] we want to get better from that film, but we don't have to look at it as critical as we would have had to, [or] put as much time into San Diego anymore. We know you got to get onto Cleveland, but at the same time, we still control it. We don't have to take our show on the road if we take care of business."

Now, it's pretty obvious that "the mood in Baltimore after a Steelers loss" >>>>> "the mood in Baltimore after a Steelers win." You don't have to be a math major and/or a genius to figure that out.

What concerns me here is the way Rice is framing the Ravens attitude as a team. One, it sounds like they knew they were dead men walking if they needed to go on the road during the playoffs and they were basically expecting the Steelers to win on Monday. It's one thing to be mad about a loss; it's an entirely different thing to dwell on it like that, particularly if you've got another game in just a few days.


And two, are we supposed to buy into the idea that the Ravens don't overlook certain games on their schedule? The obvious answer to the team's problems is that they don't travel well. But Rice's statements really make me think that Baltimore's struggles against inferior opponents (they lost to three 7-7 teams and one 4-10 team this year) might be because they're looking ahead and/or too busy celebrating a previous victory.

Maybe I'm reading too deep into what the running back's saying. Or maybe not -- but there's a good chance we find out Week 17 when they travel to Cincinnati.

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Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:58 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 15: Max meets Aldon

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

By Ryan Wilson

Max Starks - Steelers

To be fair to Max, the Steelers cut him during the summer, something about him being out of shape. And then, a month into the season, after it was abundantly clear that Jonathan Scott wasn't a capable NFL starting left tackle, Pittsburgh re-signed Starks, promptly inserted him into the lineup, and the offensive line immediately improved.

And given how well the Steelers had been playing in the two and a half months since Starks returned to the team, it's hard to quibble with one performance. But hey, that's what we do here.

Rookie Aldon Smith, a situational pass rusher at this stage of his career, treated Starks like a 350-pound rag doll Monday night. Any shortcomings along the offensive line are usually mitigated by Ben Roethlisberger's mobility in the pocket, but the Steelers quarterback was playing on bum ankle that so hobble him that we're pretty sure Tommy Maddox could've beat him in a foot race.


Aldon Smith puts on a clinic as he takes down Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on 2.5 sacks Monday night, setting the 49ers' rookie record at 13 with two games left in the season.

Starks held his own in the first half, primarily because the close score meant that Pittsburgh's rushing attack was still part of the game plan. But after the 49ers went up 13-3 in the second half it was, as they say, on like Donkey Kong. To paraphrase Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football, if the game had gone on much longer, Smith would've earned a trip to Canton on that singular performance. (The only thing missing: the wind spring sack dance.)

A healthy Big Ben and a soft schedule over the final two weeks (Rams, at Browns) should mean more consistent play throughout the offense. Also not hurting: getting Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey back. He missed the 49ers game with a high-ankle sprain of his own.

Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith - Ravens

Heading into the season, the Ravens secondary -- particularly cornerback -- was thought to be a liability. Former practice-squad player Cary Williams has started 14 games this season and for the most part he's been solid. Against the Chargers, he spent the evening chasing after whichever target Philip Rivers just found wide open streaking across the field.

And you could argue Jimmy Smith's night was worse. Chargers head coach Norv Turner identified the rookie first-round pick as a target and Norv was true to his word. Rivers ended the night completing 74 percent of his throws for 270 yards and a touchdown. More than that: he wasn't touched all game. That's right, the team with more offensive line issues than the Steelers, and who were working on their third left tackle of the season, kept Rivers clean against one of the NFL's most ferocious pass rushes.

Put differently: Baltimore's shortcomings don't all fall to Williams and Smith. The front seven didn't do their job and if we really want to point fingers, Joe Flacco played like, well, crap. The lesson: don't take Tim Tebow's name in vain. Nothing good will come of it.

Stanford Routt, Rolando McClain, Raiders

Obviously, this honor should go to head coach Hue Jackson for his inexplicable decision to not triple and quadruple-team Calvin Johnson during the last drive of Sunday's game, one that proved to be the difference. (But this is 'Coach Killers.' Presumably, Jackson's into self-preservation even if his coaching decisions scream otherwise.) Instead, Jackson blamed execution not play-calling for Johnson getting open, even though one play call had linebacker Rolando McClain responsible for covering Johnson 40 yards down the field.

“Yeah, that’s called the Tampa-2," Jackson said. "That’s what the middle linebacker does — he runs right down the middle of the field. They made the play and we didn’t.”

We don't know much about football strategizing, but that seems like a recipe for losing.

Oakland likes to play a lot of man-to-man and cornerback Stanford Routt was burdened with covering Johnson for most of the game. He had a costly pass interference penalty that gave Detroit the ball at the Raiders six-yard line with 48 seconds to go. Wondering how that ended? Yep, a Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. The goal post was the closet object in coverage on the play.


See how Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson led the Lions on a seven-play, 98-yard drive to defeat the Raiders in Oakland.

“It isn’t a scheme issue. The ball’s laying up in the air. You gotta go make that play. Their guy made it and we didn’t. So they won the game." Jackson said, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Eric Gilmore.

Well, it is a scheme issue when the scheme doesn't have anyone in Johnson's vicinity.

Santonio Holmes - Jets

You have to wonder what goes through a player's mind when he makes the conscious decision to do something stupid. The Bills' Stevie Johnson had to know that as soon as he went to the ground during his "I shot myself in the leg" homage to Plaxico Burress touchdown dance in Week 12 that he was going to get a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty.

On Sunday, with the Jets trailing 28-9, Holmes finally held onto the ball long enough to get into the end zone (he already had a fumble and caused an interception by misplaying a Mark Sanchez pass).

Hand the ball to the official, head to the sidelines and try to figure out how get back in this game.

That should've been the thought that ran through Holmes' mind. Nope. Instead, he put the ball on the ground, stepped on it, and pretended to fly. Like an eagle. Um, yeah, using the ball as a prop? That's a 15-yard penalty.


Good news: Holmes scores. Bad news: he gets a stupid celebration penalty.

In the scheme of things it didn't matter; the Eagles blew the doors off the Jets and 15 yards here or there wasn't going to be the difference. But the penalty is symptomatic of something larger: Rex Ryan's inability to control his locker room. Holmes is a six-year veteran and a team captain. He's also one of New York's best players. But there's a chance he will be one of New York's best players sitting on the couch in January.

Ryan, for his part, nailed the role of the enabling parent.

“He apologized for that to me but I’ll say this about Santonio and every other player on this team: They have my 100 percent support and we’re in this thing together. … Are we perfect? No. None of us are perfect, but I'm just saying that you wish that thing never happened," Ryan said. "I don't think it will happen again, but again, I have his back, he has mine and this whole team is that way. We just have to come out and fight for each other, we know it was a mistake and we'll learn from it."

In two weeks, the Jets might have plenty of time to replay all the mistakes from the past season.

Marc Mariani - Titans

We were all set to blame Chris Johnson for the Titans' loss to the Colts, but pointing the finger at one of the league's worst running backs has become unoriginal 15 weeks into the season. And while Mariani had very little to do with Tennessee getting steamrolled by an 0-13 team, this play perfectly embodies the Titans' Sunday afternoon experience at Lucas Oil Stadium.

With the Colts leading 17-6, Mariani, Tennessee's return man, misplayed a kickoff in the end zone. No big deal -- it happens all the time … except that Mariani accidentally drop-kicked the ball out of bounds at about the six-inch line.

“I botched my responsibility,” Mariani said. “Their kicker (Pat McAfee) line-drived that one and I was trying to make a play, but it was all over the place and took an unbelievable bounce.”

The miscue proved to be harmless; the Titans gained a few first downs before eventually punting.

As for the real culprits Sunday, take your pick: Johnson (15 rushes, 55 yards); Matt Hasselbeck (a pick-six -- including the first interception by a Colts cornerback all season -- and another pick in the Colts end zone); Jared Cook (huge fumble in Indy territory); and the entire Titans defense for getting Donald Brown'd in the fourth quarter with Indy leading just 20-13. And perhaps more embarrassingly, giving Dan Orlovsky his first career victory. (Orolovsky had been 0-7 with the 2008 Lions and 0-2 with the Colts in 2011.)


Tennessee goes tackling-optional on Brown's 80-yard TD run.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 8:10 pm
 

Ben Roethlisberger active Monday night

Ben Roethlisberger is offically active for Monday night. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We mentioned first thing Monday morning that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would start on Monday night in San Francisco. There was some concern that Ben would be a game-time decision throughout the day, but he's officially active for Pittsburgh now.

It was widely assumed that Roethlisberger would start once Baltimore lost to San Diego on Monday; a win on Monday against the 49ers would give the Steelers a serious leg up on chasing the No. 1 seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

But it remains to be seen if Ben can be effective on the field. Expect the Steelers to play ball control and try to move the rock on the ground in order for Roethlisberger to minimize any hits.


The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Join James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason as they break down this upcoming matchup.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:48 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 10:50 am
 

Pick-6 Podcast: Recapping Ravens, previewing MNF

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The Ravens blew it. They had a chance to wrap up the AFC North, and maybe even the No. 1 seed in the conference and all they had to do was beat the Chargers in San Diego. It seemed eminently possible since San Diego had lost six games in a row after starting the season 4-1, and Baltimore was considered one of the NFL's best teams.

Instead, the Ravens' inability to beat lesser opponents on the road haunted them once again and now it could mean the difference between a first-round bye and traveling to Denver as a wild-card team.

So we talk about that, as well as what the win means for the 7-7 Chargers. Do they still have a chance at the postseason? (No way, right? Right?!)

In addition to San Diego's surprising win, Week 15 was chocked full of upsets and we discuss those, too: from Romeo Crennel and the Chiefs upending the previously undefeated Packers, to the Colts finally getting a win (thanks, Tennessee!), to the Panthers thoroughly outplaying the Texans, as well as the ever-evolving playoff landscape

Finally, we preview a suddenly important Steelers-49ers Monday Night Football matchup.

Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?

If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.



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Posted on: December 18, 2011 11:28 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 11:31 pm
 

Ravens blow their chance to maintain top seed

J. Flacco and Baltimore looked terrible against San Diego (AP).

By Josh Katzowitz

First things first: the Ravens were horrendous in their 34-14 loss to the Chargers on Sunday night. Quarterback Joe Flacco was terrible, the Ravens defense couldn’t stop anything Philip Rivers or Ryan Mathews were doing, and they looked like a team that would have a tough time advancing past the first round of the playoffs.

That’s not a great sign for a Ravens team that, after Sunday’s 1 p.m. games, was the No. 1 seed in the NFL playoff picture (and then the No. 2 seed after the 4 p.m. games). Baltimore would have been the No. 1 seed again with a win tonight; now, however, the Ravens are the No. 5 seed.

As we’ve seen this year, the Ravens either struggle mightily (like Sunday night or in Week 2 against the Titans, Week 7 vs. the Jaguars and in Week 10 vs. the Seahawks) or they’re the best team in the AFC (as one analyst said before the Chargers game). That kind of inconsistency does not bode well for Baltimore as it prepares for the playoffs in three weeks.

With the loss tonight and with a Steelers victory on Monday at San Francisco – which is, by no means, certain -- the Ravens would fall into second place in the AFC North. Though Pittsburgh and Baltimore already have clinched playoff berths, the two still have to decide who will win the division.

Based on their effort vs. the Chargers, that won’t be the Ravens. The good news is that they own the tiebreaker against Pittsburgh by sweeping the season series with the Steelers. And while Baltimore should beat Cleveland next week and probably will be favored to knock off Cincinnati in Week 17, the Browns and Bengals won this week and will own the momentum that Baltimore decidedly won’t have entering the final two weeks of the season.

The bigger problem is that, with a Pittsburgh win vs. the 49ers, the Ravens will stay as the fifth seed until Week 16. If that position doesn't change by the end of the season, that means the team would problaby have to face off against the AFC West division winner and travel across the country to do it.

Maybe that wouldn’t be a terrible burden, having to play the Raiders or the Broncos. But you’ll recall what happened to the Saints, who were decidedly the better squad but who had to travel to Seattle for a wild card game against the Seahawks last year. You remember who won that game? Yeah, the Seahawks. Plus, remember, the Ravens are 3-4 this season when they're on the road.

After playing the 49ers on Monday, the Steelers finish up the season with the Rams and the Browns. They’ll probably win both those games, and that puts the pressure on the Ravens to match it in order to win the division.

The best-case scenario for Baltimore? Pittsburgh loses Monday, and the Ravens beat the Bengals and Browns to earn the tiebreaker against the Steelers. But the way Baltimore played Sunday, I wouldn’t count on it.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com