Friday, October 30, 2009

Next Wave of Young Running Backs

In week 8 of the NFL, there are a few teams that will be giving some young running backs a chance to show off their skills, possibly propelling them as the next new wave of young running backs in the NFL. With injuries to both Brian Westbrook and Leon Washington, rookies LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles and Shonn Greene of the New York Jets are going to see an increased workload. And with some off the field issues, week 9 for the Kansas City Chiefs could have second year man Jamaal Charles as the primary back. All three of these backs have flown under the radar in their early careers, not gaining nearly as much publicity as other young backs such as Knowshon Moreno and Chris "Beanie" Wells.

Let's first take a closer look at LeSean McCoy. It might surprise you to learn that McCoy is actually the leading rusher this season for the Eagles, gaining 15 more yards on the ground than his counterpart, Westbrook. And with Westbrook continuing to be plagued by injuries every season, McCoy is looking more and more like the every down back of the future; the man to replace Westbrook full-time. Not to say that Westbrook is done his career by any means, but this is Westbrook's 8th NFL season, and everyone knows that the average lifespan of an NFL running back isn't very long. Most "experts" say that a running back usually sticks around for seven seasons, with about four or five productive years. With that being said, Westbrook's career seems to be on the downswing. And who is next in line? McCoy did have a solid game in week 3 against the Chiefs, putting up 84 yards on 20 carries, adding one touchdown. And the New York Giants, who the Eagles play this week, are giving up on average 103 yards on the ground each game, and have allowed 10 rushing touchdowns. So I'm expecting a breakout performance for McCoy to put him on the map permanently.

And as for Shonn Greene, he is in a little bit of a different situation, but is primed to put himself on the map as well. He is taking the place of back-up Leon Washington, behind Thomas Jones. However, last week, both Greene and Jones had huge games against the Oakland Raiders. Greene put up 144 yards and two touchdowns while Jones put up 121 yards and one touchdown. And with Rex Ryan's rush happy offense to help protect rookie Mark Sanchez, there are going to be plenty of touches for Greene. And if we go back to the average lifespan of a running back, Jones' career is about to be done as well. This is Jones' 10th season, so if we go by averages, Jones might be calling it a career soon. But that remains to be seen, as Jones has posted totals of over 1,000 rushing yards the past four seasons, and is on his way to do it again this year. But the day that Jones hangs up his jersey, it looks as if Shonn Greene will be ready to become the every down back. All of this is just speculation, and will depend on the return of Leon Washington, who was placed on the injured reserve after breaking his leg after one carry last week.

Finally, we have Jamaal Charles, who has a lot to prove before he can step into the shoes of Larry Johnson, who has been increasingly in the negative news in the past few years. After a great career at the University of Texas, Charles was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2008 NFL draft, and hasn't shown too much in the NFL in his first two seasons. The one chance that he did get last year against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Charles rushed for 106 yards on 18 careers, but hasn't done much since, rarely getting more than five carries a game. And with Larry Johnson being currently suspended, Charles will be given the opportunity to try and prove himself. The Chiefs have a bye week this week, but take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 9, who are giving up about 99 yards a game, but only surrendering three rushing touchdowns. So we will see what awaits Charles. And once again, if we go back to the normal lifespan of an NFL running back, Johnson is also on the down swing, with this being his seventh season.

I know that there are a lot of other young running backs out there, but these are three that haven't really gotten a lot of press or opportunities to play. Obviously, people like the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall (it kills me to admit this) are on the upswing of their career, and there are other sleepers out there, such as the Colts' Donald Brown, but he is behind Joseph Addai, and not really getting enough carries yet to show what he can do. But in the next few weeks, let's keep an eye on McCoy, Greene, and Charles to see if they can replace their elder counterparts and bring in a new wave young running backs.

Can LeSean McCoy, Shonn Greene, and Jamaal Charles be the next wave of top running backs in the NFL?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can the Ravens get back on the winning track?

The Ravens welcome the undefeated Denver Broncos into Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium this upcoming Sunday. This is going to be a tough game, showing the Ravens if they deserve to be back in the discussion of one of the top teams in the AFC, and the NFL for that matter.

As has been the case all season, the Ravens secondary is going to be the focal point of the other team. The Broncos have some extremely talented wide receivers with the trio of Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokely, and Eddie Royal, as well as tight end Tony Scheffler. The Broncos also have some familiar names at running back, such as Correll Buckhalter, Knowshon Moreno, and LaMont Jordan, but if I were the Ravens defense, I would be more worried about their talented receiver core. Can the Ravens secondary contain these receivers, or should we expect the same kind of defensive performance that the Ravens put up against the Vikings, the Bengals, and the Patriots?

And as for the Ravens offense, we have quite a test ahead of us on this side of the ball as well. The Broncos defense is number one in the NFL in points allowed, only surrendering 11 points per game, and the number two defense overall in the NFL in total yards allowed. Hopefully the Ravens offensive line can push back the Denver defensive line, allowing for some early success on the ground so that Joe Flacco can have less pressure on him in the pocket. If the Ravens can control the ball early, then they can allow our defense to rest, and keep the Broncos' high-powered offense off the field as well. The Ravens need to balance their attack by utilizing Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and even Le'Ron McClain, our long lost fullback. By changing the pace at running back, hopefully we can keep the Broncos defense off balance.

This is going to be a tough game on both sides of the ball. I feel that the winner is going to be the team that does well in special teams and defense. If the Ravens can maintain good field position and at least finish drives with field goals instead of punts, then we should be in good shape. Otherwise, if we give someone like Eddie Royal a good chance at a return, he could burn our special teams, coming up with a big return that could send the Ravens packing with their fourth straight loss. Let's hope this doesn't happen. The Ravens have had two week to prepare for this game. Let's see what our coaching staff's game plan is this upcoming Sunday.

Brandon Marshall is the Broncos Pro Bowl wide receiver. Can the Ravens secondary stop him, or at least contain him?

NFC Prime Time Games

This past week ended with two much anticipated primetime games. On Sunday night, the Arizona Cardinals took on the New York Giants, and on Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles took on the Washington Redskins. A lot was expected of both games, and both of them delivered.

As for the Sunday night game, a lot of people had their eye on the New York Giants, seeing if they could rebound from their embarrassing week six blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints by taking on another formidable offense in the Cardinals. The Cardinals came in at 3-2, seemingly having to prove to people that last season wasn't a fluke. The Giants, at 5-1, had to show why they were considered one of the top teams in the NFC as well. I expected quite a high scoring affair, but I would be disappointed. Instead of a high-flying performance by many young wide receiver superstars, it was the running games and defenses that showed up. Both Beanie Wells and Brandon Jacobs showed good vision and power as they both had decent nights on the ground, but neither one of them was utilized as much as I thought they should have been, especially when they got off to such great starts. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin combined for nine catches and 158 yards, which is a decent night combined, but not quite the show that we wanted to see. And for the Giants, the ball was distributed quite evenly, with Hakeem Nicks being their top receiver, hauling in a touchdown where the ball got tipped by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but ended up in Nicks' hands.

Both quarterbacks threw the ball a lot, with Eli Manning getting the short end of the stick by getting picked off three times. His final interception came with 1:08 left in the game, which put a stop to any last minute comeback that the Giants were hoping for. Arizona's defense showed that they can be a force to be reckoned with, and if the offense continues to get in rhythm, they could be a tough team down the stretch.

As for the Monday night game, it was a chance for one of two teams to rebound after coming off of embarrassing losses to sub-par teams. The Eagles had just lost to the Oakland Raiders, who seem like the laughing stock of the league this season, and the Redskins gave yet another team their first win of the season by loosing to the Kansas City Chiefs in week six. This game went about as expected as the Eagles prevailed in a somewhat boring game. Thank God for DeSean Jackson who provided some excitement by scoring two times, once on a 67-yard run and another on a 57-yard catch from Donavan McNabb. He also added some decent kickoff returns. Besides Jackson, the Eagles offense looked rather flat, and if it weren't for the Eagles' defense picking off Jason Campbell for another touchdown, the Redskins might have been able to steal the victory. But the Eagles were able to hold on and win. However, they may have lost at the same time as Brian Westbrook got injured, looking rather shook up as he was helped off of the field in the first half. Hopefully LeSean McCoy can fill his shoes. McCoy has done a decent job this season, but we'll see when the Eagles take in the Giants this upcoming Sunday.

After these two NFC Prime Time games, it still remains to be seen if any of these teams are in the elite class of the NFC. Obviously, the Giants and Cardinals are almost there, but you still have to like the Minnesota Vikings (who barely lost to the Steelers) and the New Orleans Saints (who had to come back late to beat the Dolphins) as the favorites to make it to the NFC Championship game. But as I have said before, it is early still, and the NFL season is a long and grueling one. A lot can happen between now and January, so a lot of things are going to shake out in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jeff Fisher: Good Joke or Terrible Career Move?

After the Tennessee Titans lost their sixth game this season, making them 0-6, Jeff Fisher decided to have a little fun on Tuesday. At a charity event, Fisher was asked to speak, and then he had to introduce former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. After he introduced him, he took off his shirt and revealed a Peyton Manning Colts jersey. This was then followed by Fisher saying, "I just wanted to feel like a winner".

Personally, I thought that this is hilarious, but then I got to thinking. The Titans and the Colts are not only having completely opposite seasons, but they are division rivals. What would Baltimore do if John Harbaugh sported a Ben Roethlisberger jersey at a charity event? Can you imagine? Ravens fans would be up in arms, yelling for Harbaugh to be fired. Regardless of the joke that Fisher made, it is a slap in the face of his fans. You just don't wear a jersey of a player from another team, especially one in your division. The fact that Fisher even owns a jersey of a player from another team would be enough to anger me, much less wear it out in public. Let's just hope for Harbaugh's sake that he has burned any of his jerseys of other teams, or at least packed them away in storage where they will not see the light of day as long as he is the Ravens coach.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New identiity in Baltimore now

Ever since I can remember, when the Ravens defense was out on the field, I couldn't have felt safer. However, this season, I feel the opposite way unfortunately. Our defense looks like a sieve out there, letting anything run or pass through it at any given time. When our offense is out there, I feel like we always have a chance to score, and our opponents offense isn't on the field, which means our defense isn't.

In the Vikings game, we were letting both Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor gain substantial gains on the ground that we haven't allowed in the past years. Grant it, Peterson is probably the best back in the league, and Taylor is no scrub, but we are the Ravens. We are supposed to be a top five defense in every category. Not this season though. I'm not one to hop on the bandwagon of blaming our defensive coordinator, but there has got to be something. Greg Mattison still has, from what I thought, some of the best defensive football players in the entire NFL.

Ray Lewis is going to the Hall of Fame one day as arguably the best linebacker to ever play the game. Ed Reed is "reediculous" out there, picking off quarterbacks left and right (not so much this year). Terrell Suggs is a great all around linebacker and is still yet to reach his prime, at least this season. And we got two tremendous big boys, Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg, who clog up the middle of the trenches. Everyone else, in my opinion, is solid enough that this defense should be playing better.

A lot of people are getting on the secondary, which may be completely just, but it might not be 100% on them. Mattison needs to put these guys in a position to succeed. We have been playing against some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL the past three losses, with the likes of Tom Brady (who absolutely blew up with six touchdown passes), Carson Palmer, and finally, Brett Favre. These three men know how to play this game and can pick apart a defense. And they all have pretty good receivers to throw the ball to. Our secondary looks vulnerable, but maybe it's not Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington's fault. They need some help over top, and if Ed Reed and Dawan Landry aren't there to support them, well I'm sure it's hard to cover Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, and Sidney Rice (who is emerging this year as a Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver).

All I'm saying is that our offense is here to stay. We can put up points with the best of them now. When the Ravens were down by 17 points on Sunday, it looked like the game was over; people were giving up. One person who didn't give up was Joe Flacco. He brought us back to take the lead late. And he gave Steve Hauschka a chance to let Baltimore forget who Matt Stover was. Instead, he missed a 44 yard field goal by the narrowest of wide lefts, and the Ravens fell just short. But I know one thing: if the Ravens defense would like to show up sometime soon, the Ravens could still be considered a Super Bowl contender.

Joe Flacco led a formidable comeback that wasn't quite enough to beat the Vikings.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is this guy serious?

So, the St. Louis Rams are a terrible franchise right now, possibly well on their way of having the NFL's worst record, almost a guarantee with Kyle Boller as your starting quaterback. In the last three seasons, including the five games this season, the Rams are 5-32, and their 0-5 start this year don't look too promising. So who wants to buy this pitiful franchise: none other than the controversy-stricken Rush Limbaugh. What a great improvement...

I don't understand why this man feels that he would be a good fit for the Rams, much less the NFL. This man is an ultra-conservative who lets his opinions be known, much of which are directed at minorities, mainly African-Americans. He wants to own a team in a league where 78% of the players are African-Americans. Let's take a look at some of his quotes, and let you decide if he should be making financial decisions on the future of these men.

When working for ESPN in 2003(yea, that was a mistake), Limbaugh said about Donovan McNabb, "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." Well, that was the end of his employment for ESPN.

Let's look a few years later, in 2007. On his website, he stated, "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." Wow. What else can you say after a statement like that? I am shocked that he is actually employed and allowed to broadcast. I mean, I guess it's freedom of speech and all, but really Rush? Come on man, if you a racist, keep these derogatory comments to yourself.

Oh, you thought I was done? Not yet, I'll give you a few more examples. After being pulled out of the bidding process by NFL union leader DeMaurice Smith, who is backed by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, Limbaugh called these three men "Obama-ites" who were portraying "Obama's America on full display."

And because 24 of the NFL's 32 teams need to approve all franchise sales, Smith decided that the league shouldn't waste time on Limbaugh and his antics since he couldn't see any owner gambling on the financial history of their thriving NFL teams. I just do not see anything positive coming out of a partnership between the NFL and Rush Limbaugh.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another great Monday Night Football game

Who would have thought that the New York Jets at the Miami Dolphins in week five of the season would present us with such a great game? This is the second Monday Night Football game in a row that I watched every second of, and was glad that I did (except for all the hype about Hispanic heritage, I mean really, speak English in television unless I'm watching the game on ESPN Deportes). But back to the game! Wow, was that a great back and forth battle or what?

After Mark Anthony took about 10 minutes to sing the National Anthem, the thing that immediately caught my attention was the Dolphins uniform. Man, were those things bright or what? And after this game, I was tempted to go and buy one of these bright orange Ronnie Brown jerseys. What a game he had! Dolphin, I mean, Landshark Stadium, as it is now called, was going bizerk the entire game. And you know why? The Wildcat! Need I say more?

Dan Henning, the Dolphins offensive coordinator, looked like a genius going up against Rex Ryan and his dominating defense. They mixed up their offense in a fashion that I have not seen before. Not only did Chad Henne and Ronnie Brown take direct snaps in this game, but so did Ricky Williams and even Pat White. The Jets defense looked all out of sorts, not knowing who to cover, who had the ball, or who was even on the field for that matter. On the first Wildcat play, only the third play of the game Ronnie Brown rolled out to his left to find Anthony Fasano wide open for a gain of 21 yards. This set the pace for the rest of the game as the Dolphins ran 16 Wildcat plays for a total of 110 yards, including the game winning touchdown with only six seconds left on the game clock. It made for a very exciting 31-27 victory for the Dolphins.

Not to go unnoticed is the play by the two quarterbacks, who combined now have a total of eight NFL starts. Chad Henne went 20-26 for 241 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 130.4. Not bad for his third start. And Mark Sanchez also somewhat impressive, going 12-24 for 172 yards and one touchdown, also with no interception. Obviously, Henne has a much better overall game, but one other thing that may have came out of this game for Sanchez was the emergence of Braylon Edwards as his number one receiver. I don't think I commented on this yet, but on Wednesday of last week, the Jets and the Cleveland Browns made a trade sending Edwards to the Jets in return for Chansi Stuckey, another player, and a couple of draft picks. Edwards stepped up as Sanchez's go to guy, hauling in five catches for 64 yards, including a very impressive touchdown catch as well as another deep ball where he came up just a half yard short of his second score of the night.

All in all, it was another pleasant Monday Night Football game from two unsuspecting teams. From the looks of it right now, the Denver Broncos traveling into Qualcomm Stadium to take on the San Diego Chargers could turn out to be yet another great match-up. I'll let you know what I think next week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another disappointing week for the Ravens

After sitting on top on most people's NFL power rankings for the first three weeks of the season, the Baltimore Ravens have now dropped two games in a row to fellow AFC powerhouses. And just when Baltimore thought things couldn't get much worse, they now how to travel into the loud Metrodome to take on the undefeated and very impressive looking Minnesota Vikings, who are steadily climbing week to week up the power rankings. The Baltimore Ravens are currently #11 on ESPN's power rankings.

Not only did the Ravens look rather dismal against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, but they also broke a streak that had been lasting for the past 39 games, going all the way back against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 10, 2006. On that date, Larry Johnson ran for 120 yards on the stout Ravens defense. On Sunday, Bengals running back Cedric Benson also ran 120 yards to break the 39-game streak. Yes, that is correct. You just read the name Cedric Benson. The same Cedric Benson that looked like a complete bust for the Chicago Bears after being drafted number four overall in the 2005 draft. Benson didn't rush for over 700 yards in a season for his three seasons in Chicago, and just barely eclipsed the 700-yard mark last year for the Bengals. This season, Benson is leading the NFL (yes, the entire NFL) in rushing yard with 487 yards, ahead of running backs like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, and Ronnie Brown. I know, it seems impossible, but unfortunately, it is not, and the Ravens go from taking on the number one rusher in the league this past Sunday to take on the number two rusher in the league this Sunday.

Let's just hope this upcoming game wasn't like our last. The game against the Bengals was a very disappointing game that very much resembled the Patriots game from the previous week. The Ravens were in both games until the very end, with our offense coming up just sort, and our defense not making the big stop at the end to put them away. Not to mention questionable officiating that may or may not have swung the momentum in the other direction, but let's not go there again.

But Baltimore, do not give up hope yet! I mean, we are playing the NFL all-time leader in interceptions this Sunday. Oh yea, he is also the NFL all-time leader in touchdowns too. But hey, he is 40 years old now; we should be able to beat him, right?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Of course you want to sign now!

So it's official, Michael Crabtree and the San Francisco 49ers have agreed to a contract that will pay Crabtree $32 million over the course of the next six years. The big thing now is whether or not Crabtree is actually worth this money. In my opinion, this conceited pompous prick needs to take a good look in the mirror and realize how much he has hurt his team. The 49ers have miraculously outperformed their expectations without him, going 3-1, so hopefully now that Crabtree is going to be part of the mix their chemistry will not be interrupted. He has missed all of the OTAs (Organized Team Activities), rookie camp, training camp, the preseason, and the first four weeks of the regular season. In my opinion, the 49ers gave this kid a much needed but undeserving second chance. I feel is really suspicious that now that his team is 3-1, he wants to be a part of the team.

After the NFL draft in April, Michael Crabtree was disappointed when fellow wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, from the University of Maryland, was taken over him. Crabtree demanded that he deserved more money than Heyward-Bey, but the truth of the matter is that is not how the NFL draft works, and Crabtree wouldn't accept it. Now, instead of being out on the field outperforming Heyward-Bey on a week by week basis, which wouldn't have been difficult considering the struggles of JaMarcus Russell leading to Heyward-Bey having two receptions on the season for only 36 yards, Crabtree has put himself behind the 8-ball, something that could take him weeks to get over.

In the coming weeks, we will see how Crabtree fares, seeing if he can develop any chemistry with the rolling 49ers offense led by quarterback Shaun Hill. In my opinion, he is going down the road of being a top first round bust, a thing that is becoming more and more prevalant in the NFL these days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Over/Under: When will Favre's arm give out?

Yes. The quarterback that holds every quarterback record there is had a wonderful game Monday night, and picked up yet another record, if that is what you want to call it (he has now beaten all 32 NFL teams once). I'll give it to the guy. Brett Favre looked as good as he ever has, making precise throws, putting up great numbers, and securing a victory wearing a purple #4. But let's think back to this time last year, when Favre was in a New York Jets uniform.

Last year, through week four, the Jets were 2-2, where the Minnesota Vikings are 4-0. Before we start saying how much better he is this year than last year, let's look at whom he played. Through the first four weeks of the 2008 season, the New York Jets had beaten the Miami Dolphins (a playoff team last season), lost to the New England Patriots (who are the Patriots), lost to the San Diego Chargers (a playoff team last season), and beaten the Arizona Cardinals (who made it to the Super Bowl to barely loose to the Steelers, which makes me want to throw up typing that). So yea, they were 2-2. As for the Vikings this year, they are 4-0 because they have beaten the Cleveland Browns (who are 0-4), the Detroit Lions (who are 2-26 going back to November 11, 2007), the San Francisco 49ers (ok, they are having an decent season but haven't really faced much competition except the Vikings), and the Green Bay Packers (which is making me write this blog). So does everyone have that now? The Vikings are 4-0 because they haven't faced much, and the Jets were 2-2 after a tough start last season. And now you are asking "What is the point of all this?"

Here is the point. Brett Favre is getting so much credit for being such a great quarterback, which he was, back in the day. This season, these are Brett Favre's numbers: 85 completions on 125 attempts, which is 68%, 837 yards, eight touchdowns, and only one interception. This time last year, Favre was: 87-124 for 70%, 935 yards, 12 touchdowns, and four interceptions. Then after week four last year, Favre only threw for 10 more touchdowns. At this time last year, Favre was a better quarterback than this year.

Grant it, he has this guy that lines up behind him this year that is probably going to end up being the best running back of all-time, maybe. Adrian Peterson is going to take a lot of pressure off of Favre and give the Vikings a good chance to be a very good team. But how long can Favre sling the ball around the field like he did on Monday night? I sat there and watched every second of that game the other night, except for when I had to check in on my boy Chuck Liddell on Dancing With The Stars. But besides that, I saw the Brett Favre that I saw when I was younger, when he threw that ball that rolled on Antonio Freeman's back, rolled over, caught it, got up, and housed it to the end zone to beat none other than the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. But he is also the same Brett Favre who dominated the first four weeks last season and fell off the face of the earth faster than Usain Bolt crosses the finish line nowadays.

All I'm saying is that we have to be careful with cheering too many praises for the man who turns 40 years old on Saturday. I love to watch him play, and he is one of the best quarterbacks that I am going to ever see play (I'm only 22 years old, then again, I get to see Joe Flacco for the next 15 years). Good luck Brett Favre, you are going to need it my man, especially in your week six match-up against the amazing Baltimore Ravens.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No need to panic in Charm City

The Ravens didn't quite receive the result that they were looking for as they visited the Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon. After a hard fought game, the Patriots were able to hold off the Ravens last minute scoring attempts to pull off the victory. A lot of people are quick to place blame on different things, as am I, so let's take a look at what could be the problem.

The number one hindrance that the Ravens faced on Sunday was the referees. Every time it looked as if Baltimore's defense was halting a Patriots drive, a piece of yellow laundry would litter the field, giving Tom Brady an extra opportunity to pick on the Ravens' secondary. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs both were called with roughing the passer penalties on third downs when they barely grazed Brady. On the Suggs "hit", Brady immediately turned around to look at head referee Ron Winter, who waited for Brady to yell at him until he started nodding and reached for his flag. If Tom Brady cries enough, he is going to get his way. This became obvious after this play, and this game for that matter. Even Coach John Harbaugh got in on the action, receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty himself, showing his passion for defending his players. Joe Flacco got hit plenty of times after he had gotten rid of the ball, and only received one penalty flag, showing that the officials were being more biased toward New England. The most notable late hit that stands out in my mind is when both Flacco and Ravens left offensive tackle Jared Gaither got sandwiched by two Patriots defenders. Luckily, from what I've heard, Gaither was able to move his limbs and extremities after being carted off the field. If Gaither is out for a significant period of time, the Ravens' offensive line will definitely feel his absence.

A lot of people are quick to point to certain players, in particular, Mark Clayton. I know that he dropped a crucial pass at the end of the game on a fourth down that could have given the Ravens a first and goal. But give him a break; the ball hit him right between the 8 and the 9 on his jersey, and went right through his hands. It's not his fault. Ok, enough of the sarcasm. He should have got the damn ball, but he didn't, and if Derrick Mason would have caught the ball on the previous play, Clayton wouldn't be the scapegoat. But let's stop panicking. We are 3-1. We are in first place.

Besides the referees, I say we might have to look to our own sidelines and review some of our play calls. The Baltimore Ravens, who going into the games against the Patriots, were the fifth ranked rushing defense in the NFL. And they got off to a great rushing attack against New England, but then just stopped handing the ball off. The Ravens rushed for only 17 times, but for 116 yards, which is an average of 6.8 yards per carry. And with that being said, Willis McGahee, arguably our hottest running back, only had five carries. And our Pro Bowl fullback, Le'ron McClain and his 260-lb frame didn't touch the ball one time. Don't get me wrong, I am a Wacko for Flacco, and he can put the ball where it needs to be, but what was Cam Cameron thinking? We threw the ball 47 times and ran it only 17 times. I wonder why the Patriots defense was so successful. The Ravens offense became a little bit too predictable as the game progressed.

Once again, there is not one thing that lost us this game, but it once obviously a combination of things. Let's hope the boys practice hard out there at The Castle in Owings Mills this week and are prepared to take on the Cincinnati Bengals come Sunday.