Dime Coverage: Thoughts on Baltimore/New England AFC Championship

Heartbreaking.

There are many ways to lose a football but one of the worst may be a botched Field Goal, especially a chip shot from Thirty yards.

The playoffs for the Ravens will be defined yet again by missed opportunities and underwhelming performances. This one hurts but then again they all do. It hurts because the Ravens did much of what they needed to do to beat the Patriots on the road. They slowed down the New England attack as Tom Brady didn’t throw a touchdown pass. They also got the Patriots to turn the ball over three times. In the end it comes down to making a relatively easy kick to go to Overtime.

Wide Left.

Let’s get this over with. My thoughts on today’s game.

  • So here we are again Ravens fans. Just short. This team has had consistent success in the Harbaugh era – four playoff trips in as many seasons, with two AFC championship appearances. However, the Super Bowl trip remains elusive. Still there were a few firsts under John Harbaugh’s watch, his First AFC North division title and his First Home playoff game to add to his resume. All that remains is a chance to play in the big game. That will be a sticking point among the fan base this week as they vent over missing another chance at greatness. Still this team went through personnel changes heading into the season and came out better than the 2010 edition which is saying something since expectations may not have been as high Week One. All that changed of course after a home shellacking of the rival Steelers. The team went from maybe making the post-season to a Super Bowl contender in one game. That’s quite a turnaround. Still the inability to the close it out will stick in the minds of the Ravens nation all off-season. What needs to happen in order for them to get over the hump? It’s the price of success. It was another great season even though right now it doesn’t feel that way.
  • Billy Cundiff. It’s quite astounding to think that Cundiff has gone from Pro Bowl kicker to Playoff goat in just one season. His missed kick will now live in Baltimore sports infamy and I wonder how he’ll recover and be able to continue to play in this city. I’ll admit that I wasn’t that surprised though when he shanked it. He had leg problems most of the season and his big leg deserted him on 50 yard field goals as he was 1 for 6 from 50 plus this season and a fairly unimpressive 5-19 for his career. Those facts should put to rest Coach Harbaugh’s decision to go for it on 4th and 6, instead of attempting a 51-yarder to tie the game. The Ravens did so many things right tonight and seems like such a shame for it all to come down to a botched kick. Simply stunning. (ed. note – After watching the play several times now, Cundiff appears to rush on to the field with 13 seconds on the play clock. I felt like the kick was rushed but wasn’t really sure. With One timeout remaining why wouldn’t Harbaugh have used it?)
  • Joe Flacco. Aside from one bad interception Flacco played extremely well and deserved a better fate. At times he put the offense on his shoulders and lead several scoring drives after starting very slowly. He also ran a few times when he saw an opening. Phil Simms made a great point about getting Flacco an easy throw to get him going (more on that when I talk Cam later) and for him it was a roll-out on First Down that if he throws two seconds earlier goes for a touchdown to Torrey Smith. Still it was a huge gain and seemed to get him rolling. He made several key First Down pickups through the air (13) but of course his almost third touchdown will be the one that fans debate over the off-season. What if Lee Evans would have held on to that perfectly thrown spiral for just a second longer? Then Joe could rightly pump his fist in the air and hold up one finger to his doubters. NFL Quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame and Flacco has been snakebitten when it comes to getting help from his teammates – from Anquan Boldin and T.J. last season, to Mark Clayton two years ago in that same Gillette Stadium. Enough debate he can get the job done – the bigger question is, how will they go about retaining him long-term? He has a year left on his contract and there are others ahead of him so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. But in my opinion he needs to stay. Admit it he outplayed Brady in his own stadium yet was failed by those around him.
  • After hearing the post-game comments from Lee Evans I will agree that he has to catch that ball. I still think that the defender made a great play but Evans has to hold on to the ball strong. One second longer and it’s a score.
  • Jimmy Smith’s interception off of Bernard Pollard’s tip may be one of the most athletic defensive plays I’ve seen in a long time. It could not have happened at a better time and it gave Baltimore almost identical field position from where Flacco threw his only pick.
  • Have we seen the end of several All-Pro careers this season in Matt Birk, Ed Reed, and Ray Lewis? Birk struggled in the last quarter with Vince Wilfork and the big Nose Tackle’s play was big. Birk refuted Charlie Casserly’s report that he would retire at season’s end but his contract is up. Will it even be his decision? Ed Reed made one last stellar play as he kept the Ravens hopes alive in the Fourth Quarter but you wonder if his body has had enough. He faded over the last few regular season games but of course saved some of his best for the playoffs. Does he finish his career without a ring or even a chance at one? Lewis had said at the start of the season that if the Ravens won a championship that he would retire. That isn’t an issue anymore so it’s a matter of what he wants to do. (he should be back) Tremendous effort in pass coverage against Welker and stopping the Pats at the goal line on third down. Over the next few days we should find out more.
  • The Ravens have a large group of Free Agents to deal with for next season. Ray Rice is at the top of course but Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson, Jameel McClain, and Cory Redding are also up for new deals. Who stays and who goes? Rice isn’t even a second though, even if they franchise him but I wonder how the team can justify paying two Offensive Guards big money after Marshal Yanda scored a huge deal this season?
  • Cam Cameron. The much maligned play caller did a pretty good job tonight but I don’t think it’s enough to re-sign him to a new contract. There were still a few questionable moves tonight too, as has been the case for years. The Ravens need a fresh perspective with their offensive philosophy and that can only happen if Cam moves on. Frankly for me the deal was sealed with that dreadful loss to the Jaguars  back in Week Seven. The system just doesn’t get enough out of the talent that is on the field and that means it’s time for a change. Hue Jackson would seem to be a likely candidate due to his familiarity with the organization but who knows. I do think that whomever it is needs to build an offense that maximize’s Flacco’s strengths and that of draft-mate Ray Rice. It didn’t feel that way this season.
  • Anquan Boldin once again proved his worth to the offense with a big game (6 catches, 101 yds.). He’s been a good addition to this team over the years and brings a toughness to the offense that I really like. Don’t be upset that his numbers aren’t more Cardinal-like that’s a product of the system and not his diminished skills. Lee Evans gave a glimpse of what next season could look like with three receiver sets and had some solid grabs even if not the big one at the end.
  • Dennis Pitta should be the starting Tight End next season – no doubt about it. He has developed a strong connection with Joe Flacco and doesn’t drop a pass. Ed Dickson however seems to average a drop a game and also was penalized for a False Start.
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32 Responses to “Dime Coverage: Thoughts on Baltimore/New England AFC Championship”

  1. Ben Dover says:

    Bwa ha ha ha, the Ravens fall in another AFC Championship Game!!!!!

    Here we go Steelers!!!!!

  2. Ed Nestor says:

    Here we go Steelers Here we go. Choke of the Century. Live with that Ray Lewis.

  3. Here come the trolls.

    Lewis didn’t murder two people. He may have covered it up but he didn’t murder anyone.

    I see that Rapistberger is a little lighter in the pocket this week. No comments on the settlement of course. Maybe his wife can teach him that No means No.

    Laugh while you can trolls. The sweep and division title still feels sweet and you boys have a little cap issue to figure out for next season I think. $25 million over?

    • The Tony says:

      6 Rings

      • Ben says:

        The Ravens and the Steelers

        The defense of the Ravens has been very solid this year. They have certainly had their moments at times but for the most part they performed well when they had to. Joe struggled against the Texans, the Jets and the Jaguars all teams with very good defenses. Say what you want about the performance of the Ravens yesterday and all year, this Ravens team will return to the playoffs again next year and maybe make another serious run at the title.

        The Steelers 2012 season has some issues to resolve. Almost 5 months ago when the Ravens destroyed the Steelers your team looked old, tired, and out of gas. Since that time the defense improved a bit until the game against the Broncos when once again they appeared slow, a bit gassed and confused. The running game never got going and Big Ben just wasn’t his old self. This vaunted stellar defense could not stop a QB with a completion rate of less than 50% whose only effective weapon was the running game. Your defense except for Hood, Woodley, Timmons and Gay are on the downside of 30. Who is aging on the Ravens- Lewis and Reed. The Steelers will be lucky to make it to another playoff game next year. Don’t despair your team can not contend for the Super Bowl every year.

    • Ben Dover says:

      The Ravens didn’t deserve to play in the Super Bowl because they put more importance on winning an AFC North Division Championship by beating the Steelers twice –which was their Super Bowl– than winning an NFL Championship. Losers set regular season goals, and the Ravens are losers.

  4. Gag.

    Live in the now my friend.

    Now says that your team got knocked out of the playoffs by a guy who won’t even be starting in two years.

    Now says that your team is old and in need of a new OC and an ability to comply with the cap.

    Good luck.

    • The Tony says:

      Atleast we have a quarterback that can win in the big game

    • Ben Dover says:

      The Steelers didn’t lose to Tim Tebow, “a guy who won’t even be starting in two years.” they lost to the Denver Broncos. Didn’t you listen to Ray-Ray “kill a guy” Lewis after the Ravens crushing loss in the AFC Championship Game? “No one guy wins or loses a game, we win as a team and we lose as a team.”

  5. I guess the victory in Pittsburgh wasn’t a “big game”? It only decided the division.

    Don’t sell your team short like that.

    He threw for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns and the game winner was dropped. He can’t throw it then catch it too.

  6. Ed Nestor says:

    Steelers 6 Super Bowls Ravens 1

    Oddbaughs loss both games, I’m so excited that the Browns and Ravens Suck. Oddbaughs hate losing but its in bread. Ray Lewis belongs in prison for accessory to two murders.

    • GW says:

      You obviously, don’t know your football history. Baltimore has won many Football championships. Your probably one of those jabronies that lives in Florida wearing a Pittsburgh jersey. You claim to be a Steelers fan because your great uncle lived in Pittsburgh for 2 months–but had to leave because the Steel workers were smiling at him.

  7. Inbred. The word is inbred my Steeler troll. Not in bread like the fries on your primanti sandwich. Have a minor grasp of the english language before you write trash.

  8. Owns Steeler trolls says:

    Pittsburgh hasn’t won a legit Super Bowl in your lifetime, kid. Refs apologized for screwing the Seahawks and everyone saw the botched calls vs. the Cardinals too. So as far as you’re concerned, it’s Ravens 1, Shittsburgh zero. Ray Lewis did murder Hines Ward’s career in our game at your crap stadium back in November though so you have it right that he has one murder on his resume.

  9. The Tony says:

    Crab cakes and losing in the AFC Championship, that’s what Maryland does!!!

  10. You guys need to get something new to spew.

    The Ravens are the Browns, and the Colts and Colts. Much like your Super Bowl titles that’s ancient history.

    Let’s talk how you were swept and couldn’t get out of the Wildcard round.

    • The Tony says:

      Every once in awhile the little brother gets in a good punch, but yet they are still the little brother

      • The Tony says:

        As much as I hate on Flacco, he actually played decently enough to win, however only scoring 20 points with good field position is inexcusable

  11. Andrew H says:

    Matt,

    Great work on the site! Truly devastating loss, don’t think I’ll be able to watch the Super Bowl this year.

    On a more positive note, do you know who out there is a viable candidate to replace Cameron as OC if he doesn’t come back? That’s one off-season change I think most fans are looking forward to.

    (please not Hugh Jackson though, the Ravens can’t afford 10 penalties a game)

  12. @ The Tony.

    Do you want Flacco to throw and catch the ball? If Evans does his job the Ravens score 27 and book a trip to Indy. That was enough. It’s a point lost on these national types. Flacco has been let down by receivers not only all season but during his career as well in big games. You can’t but that on him.

    @ Andrew H.

    Thanks, I appreciate it.

    So far I’ve only heard Hue Jackson and Brad Childress as possible names because of Hue’s ties to the organization and Childress being from the Andy Reid tree. Only speculation at this point, of course. Cam’s contract is up and while he had a fairly good game yesterday you have to look at the body of work. This offense still is not consistent enough.

  13. Judy Bowen says:

    I don’t know why the Steelers are even part of this conversation. They were out of it long ago. I still can’t get the images from Sunday’s game out of my head.

    I’m proud of the Ravens and the way they played. I was really worried that Tom and Co. were going to humiliate us and put 45 points on the board, and we are not that kind of team. We really gave it our all and he was seriously worried — you could see that. Just a strange confluence of circumstances. We will all remember the field goal b/c that was our last best chance. But, as Ray says, it was no one thing. The NFL network is re-showing the game tonight and, difficult as it will be, I may re-visit it to see just all the things that went wrong (and right!)

    You have to feel for BIlly Cundiff. I could so see all of us in that botched play…how many times have we all had the chance to pull off something great and botched it b/c of nerves, being rushed, or just too damn much pressure? If the Ravens understand, everyone should.

    • The Tony says:

      Cundiff gets paid more money than most people will ever see just to kick a ball. He is the reason to blame

      • Judy Bowen says:

        I felt that way at first, but now I see it was just so many things. We are all vulnerable to the pressures of time and the pressure we put on ourselves can be crippling. I’m sure Cundiff is blaming himself more than we ever could. Now they are saying he thought it was third down b/c that’s what the scoreboard was saying. Strange! I don’t know what I think of that.

        We have to move on. Who is to say that even if Cundiff made the kick and tied up the score, Brady and Co. wouldn’t have started one of their famous drives down the field and won anyway?

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