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What I Learned During the Bye Week


It’s amazing what a little time off can do for you.

I think anyone who has a full-time job will tell you that there isn’t anything much better than getting some vacation time to recharge your batteries so you can return to your duties with renewed purpose.

Honestly this bye week was a good thing for everyone in Baltimore from coaches, players. media members, fans and even us bloggers. It gives you chance to step back and see the big picture. So even though I decided not to write all that much last week I did have my eyes and ears open and I’m pleased to report that even though the Ravens were without a game last week I still learned a lot.

Here is what I learned.

1) One kick would have made a huge difference.

Until Week Twelve I am putting a ban on the words, Matt Stover on this site. However I will break my own rule now as I explain. It may have taken literally three seconds after Steve Hauschka’s kick leaned wide left that the words were spoken by the majority of the purple faithful; “Stover would have made that kick.”

Well, maybe he would have. If you go back and look at his long track record under those conditions, at that distance and there is no reason to suggest that he wouldn’t. Matt Stover made a career out of bailing this team out of difficulties and you can look no further than the last big kick of his career as he helped propel the Ravens to the AFC title game against Tennessee. Even during the Championship season, an anemic offense only needed Stover’s right leg to get them by as the defense devoured the opposition. Surely he would have done it one more time just when the once dominant defense needed him most.

One kick.

I hate to make so much out of just one kick. But let’s suppose Hauschka nailed it. Baltimore would be 4-2, right in step with division leading Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The transformation would almost be complete as the offense would take the mantle of team identity away from the D. Joe Flacco and company led a 17 point comeback on the road in the fourth quarter two weeks ago. Anyone want to tell me the last time a Baltimore offense did that? And finally the ghost of Mr. Stover would be put to rest. This was Hauschka’s first game winning test and he flunked and its not all that uncommon for young kickers to have such struggles. Even Matt Stover only hit 72% of his field goals during his first full year on the job. But no one wants to hear that.

Just make the kick and all is well.

2) The defense is missing some pieces. The days of dominance are over.

I’ll admit it again. Some of the pieces that are no longer with this defense haven’t been replaced. I know I said that they would be fine and that’s because in the past the Ravens have been able to find competent replacements for what left. Lose Adalius Thomas, plug in Bart Scott. Lose Marvin Lewis, plug in Mike Nolan. It seemed too easy. As long as we had the core then the replacement parts were expendable.

But here is the reality. They haven’t found anyone to replace Bart Scott, especially in coverage. Ayanbadejo was starting to become that guy but he’s lost for the year. Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellberbee each had good statistical games against Minnesota but someone needs to step into Bart’s sizable shoes.

Jim Leonhard was a good player. Smart, gritty and a crowd favorite but most of all he played his role and played it well. Dawan Landry hasn’t looked even close to the player he was as a rookie in 2007. Some people have thought about a switch being possible to maybe Haruki Nakamura. I don’t see it, so that means Landry has to find himself soon and fast.

Finally Rex Ryan, he of the bombastic personality and exotic defenses. His imprint is all over this defense. Blitz and attack. Be aggressive. It’s embedded into their minds as football players. So, Greg Mattison’s approach is more basic and more discipline oriented. Both systems can work. But you have to play the scheme and do you job. I’m not sure if these players can switch gears like that, at least not from what I’ve watched the first six games. I’m not expecting any big changes either, not at this stage. You have to fall back on your technique and committment to your system and your belief that what you do is right.
Better tackling, sound discipline in your gaps, better technique in your coverage and shedding blocks. If they do those things, good things (turnovers) will come naturally. Let’s hope they take that to heart.

3) The secondary can’t play any worse, can they?

Perhaps this is the optimist in me. But after watching several teams play over the weekend, the awfulness of our secondary unit becomes even more apparent. Poor technique, miscommunication and now the worst thing – fear has engrossed the entire group.

What I mentioned before goes double for the corners and safeties. Be fundamentally sound and play the game hard and don’t be afraid to fail.

Again the only real change I see here is Ladarius Webb gets more time. He’s quick, he’s young and he appears to have no conscience. All things that we could use right now. But even a slight improvement over the next few games would seem huge now.

4) We have an offense!

Joe Flacco is fast becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and he’s just getting started. That comeback against the Vikings is what special players do and this guy has it. Unfortunately that comeback has been lost in all the negativity this week but he’s a damn good ball player. The same can be said for Ray Rice. He moves, he grooves, he scores. He’ll be here a long time.

We’ve spent so much time eulogizing the death of the defense yet we don’t celebrate the birth of an offense that actually gets touchdowns in the red zone.

They are exciting to watch and the reason why the poor play of the defense hasn’t cost us more.

5) Bye weeks are nice break but it’s great to look forward to a game.

I’ve watched the 30/30 Barry Levinson documentary, “The Band that Wouldn’t Die” at least three times now. I urge every Baltimore fan to watch it and if they release a DVD (I hear they will) buy it and rewatch it at the start of each season.

I was 10 when the Colts moved to Indianapolis and it wasn’t until I was a young man just out of college at age 22 that I was able to enjoy what’s it’s like to have a true rooting interest in the NFL. I can’t even begin to think how life would be different if we didn’t have the Ravens to call our own.

At the very least I was able to cheer against our divisonal rivals this week and have it mean something to my team’s fortunes. We can complain about them, but be thankful for what we have.

So I’m energized and ready. Bring on the Broncos and let’s get that early season momentum back.

What time is it?????

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One Response to “What I Learned During the Bye Week”

  1. […] from Ravens Gab is an incredible blogger, as evidenced by his latest entry on his bye week […]

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