Posts Tagged 'Mark Clayton'

NFL Week 4: Ravens – Patriots Wrap Up

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Some thoughts on yesterday’s Ravens – Patriots game.

-I never thought I’d ever say this, but I would have liked to see Baltimore run the ball more than they did yesterday. There were only 17 rushing attempts the entire game. Credit New England, who shut down the run for most of the afternoon. With the exception of Ray Rice’s 50 yard scamper in the third quarter, they did a very good job of keeping the Ravens running game in check. But I believe with a little more balance; maybe the Ravens finish a few more drives.

-Joe Flacco was good, but not great yesterday. I was extremely pleased with how he did in third down situations. On third downs, he was 8 for 11 and had a QB rating of 125. But on 1st and 10 with 1:11 remaining in the first half, and driving inside the New England 20, he threw a costly interception to Leigh Bodden. The Ravens were in field goal range and that pick cost them at least 3 points.

-I think it is very weak for anyone to blame Mark Clayton’s drop on fourth down for yesterday’s loss. There were plenty of opportunities for the Ravens to score points throughout the game. Chris Carr’s fumble on the opening kickoff allowed New England to get 3 easy points. Combine that fumble with Flacco’s interception in scoring territory, and that is potentially six, even 10 points in the Ravens’ favor. Mark dropped a big pass that happened to be late in the game. Was it a mistake? You bet. But there many other mistakes yesterday that added up to the loss.

-I’m never one to blame the referees. Overall the officiating was questionable, and the roughing the passer call on Terrell Suggs was just unacceptable. I realize what the league and the officials are trying to do. You have to protect the quarterback, and I get it. But there has to be a point where you let the players play. Ray Lewis was very upset with the call and I agree with what he said: “Without totally going off the wall here, it is embarrassing to the game. Brady is good enough to make his own plays; let him make the play.”)

-At the end of the day I am fine with this loss. The Ravens proved to me that they are very good team and that they can play with the big boys. They had numerous opportunities to take control of the game and they didn’t. They had a chance to win the game at the end and that’s all you can ask for. And I honestly believe they LOST the game more than New England won it. That doesn’t mean anything in the standings though, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. But this team has to feel awfully good about where they can go in 2009. If they stay healthy, I don’t see them losing more than 4 games the whole season.

Week 3: Ravens – Browns Wrap Up

Raice Rice celebrates his first career NFL touchdown with the help of Mark Clayton.

Raice Rice celebrates his first career NFL touchdown with the help of Mark Clayton.

The Ravens did a great job yesterday of staying focused and not overlooking an inferior team. They came out of the gates strong and didn’t let up. They played smart football and the result was a 34-3 domination of the Cleveland Browns before 70,950 at M&T Bank Stadium.

I honestly thought the game would be a little closer, but I guess I didn’t realize just how bad the Browns really are. There are numerous problems with the team, but it seems like the solution is a mystery. Is it head coach Eric Mangini? Is it the quarterback situation? Or is it owner Randy Lerner? I just don’t know. After reading some of the reader comments on the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s website, I almost feel sorry for what Browns fans have to go through.

But that’s enough sympathy for the Browns. Let’s talk about the Ravens and their stellar performance.

The offense is so fluid right now. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice went literally untouched on all three of their touchdown runs. Huge credit goes to the offensive line, especially tackles Jared Gaither and rookie Michael Oher.

Joe Flacco was efficient, completing 25 of his 35 throws and amassing a career high 342 yards. His confidence has to be extremely high going into Foxborough next Sunday after throwing no interceptions for the first time this season.

Derrick Mason caught 5 passes for 118 yards and he surpassed the 800 catch plateau for his career. His most impressive play came with a little over eight minutes remaining in the game. He adjusted to catch an underthrown pass by Flacco. He made the leaping catch, and proceeded to make two Cleveland defenders miss on his way to the endzone for a 72 yard TD.

The defense took advantage of Jamal Lewis being out with a hamstring injury and shut down the Cleveland rushing attack. Jerome Harrison was limited to 52 yards on 16 carries. With that the Ravens have now not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 38 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL.

Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Dominique Foxworth, and Brendan Ayanbadejo all had interceptions. The secondary limited Braylon Edwards to 35 yards receiving.

Final Thoughts: The Ravens are playing some the best football in the history of the franchise. Never before have the offense and defense been so balanced and so good. The offense is explosive and the defense is as rough and tough as it’s ever been. But their toughest opponents are still in front of them. Next week’s game at New England is going to be a HUGE test for this team. Whether or not they can go into a tough environment and beat a very talented football team will speak volumes.

Ravens, R. Lewis Come Up Big in San Diego

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The Ravens victory over the Chargers yesterday wasn’t pretty, but when have the Ravens ever been a team of style over substance? Never.

The defense gave up 476 yards, but Ray Lewis, who on fourth and 2 made the game’s biggest play, summed it up best. “You see a couple of big plays here or there, but I told the defense earlier, those third- and fourth-down goal-line stances will win us the ballgame. I’ve been in games where we’ve held under 150 yards. That’s cute. Stats are pretty. But if you don’t win, you’re sick.”

The franchise’s M.O. for winning over the past decade has been to play great defense, and hope the offense can do SOMETHING. However yesterday, in front of a crowd of 66,882 at sun-splashed Qualcomm Stadium, it was a bit of a role-reversal as the offense picked up the slack for the defense.

Willis McGahee rushed for 79 yards and was able to find the endzone twice. Dan Fouts made mention during the CBS telecast of how motivating it can be to a player when he has to earn his carries. This is a remarkably different McGahee than the one we saw in 2008. He has a great attitude this year and is looking even better than he did in 2007 when he averaged 81 yards per game and had almost 300 carries.

Joe Flacco, aside from throwing an interception early in the fourth quarter, was brilliant. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 27 yard lob to Kelley Washington looked great. He pumped to Mark Clayton who was setting up for a screen, and the Charger defense bit hard. What a great piece of play calling from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The receivers were decent; I was expecting a bit more from Clayton and Derrick Mason. Together they only totaled 4 receptions. Kelley Washington is quickly becoming one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets. Todd Heap only caught one pass, but it was good for six and gave Baltimore their biggest lead of the game. Mason needs only 3 catches to become the 23rd player in league history to amass 800 or more receptions.

For the Ravens’ defensive front seven, it was business as usual. They held the explosive Darren Sproles to only 26 rushing yards and the Chargers as a whole to 53. The play of the secondary was cause for concern though. Sproles and Phillip Rivers connected on a 81 yard catch and run that went the distance. And receiver Vincent Jackson snagged in 6 balls for 141 yards. Down the road, teams are going to exploit corners Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth like the Chargers. Each is only 5-foot-11, and when the Ravens face big, tall receivers, (i.e. Braylon Edwards next week and Randy Moss in 2 weeks) they are going to have get help from the safeties and use double coverage. If they don’t figure out a way to contain these playmakers, yesterday’s game will not be the only time Baltimore gives up 400+ passing yards.

Overall, a win is a win and the play of this team right now should excite any fan. Both games this year have revealed weaknesses that could have potentially led to losses. Yet both times, the Ravens have found ways to come out victorious.

With Pittsburgh losing in Chicago yesterday, Baltimore now sits atop the AFC North. I know, I know, it’s early, but starting out 2-0 historically bodes well for the Ravens. The last three times they’ve done it, they’ve made the playoffs (2000, 2006, and 2008). An excellent opportunity to improve to 3-0 awaits this Sunday when Baltimore hosts the 0-2 Cleveland Browns.

Thoughts on Ravens – Chiefs

WR Mark Clayton hauls in a 31-yard touchdown pass over the Chiefs' Brandon Carr. The score put the Ravens ahead 31-24

WR Mark Clayton hauls in a 31-yard touchdown pass over the Chiefs' Brandon Carr. The score put the Ravens ahead 31-24

Yesterday’s 38-24 win was very satisfying for me as a Ravens fan. Some wouldn’t agree, but I’ll explain a little later. Many people are quick to point out that the ravens were heavy favorites, and that they were given a tough fight by one of the worst teams in football. I don’t share that same opinion.

I wasn’t surprised at all by the Chiefs’ effort yesterday; you can always expect great effort from any NFL team on any given Sunday. I was a little shocked though, with the two long scoring drives they had in the fourth quarter. Fabian Washington seemed to be struggling with coverage and the pass rush was decent but not getting to Brodie Croyle as nearly as quickly as it should have been.

And aside from the special teams mishap which resulted in a blocked punt for a TD, and a poor interception by Joe Flacco which led to another TD, the Ravens looked superb yesterday.

Flacco was very sharp and it definitely looks as if he has a much better feel for the pocket than he did last year. He really know when to scramble, when to throw it away, or when to just take a sack. I loved his touchdown pass to Willis McGahee. It was very Roethlisberger-esque, if that’s a word. He bought himself time, kept his head up and extended the play long enough for a man to open up and he capitalized beautifully for the score.

Ray Rice and Willis McGahee were great; they combined for 152 yards on a score on the ground. While Le’Ron McClain caught 3 passes and rushed 6 times for 42 total yards and a score. The running back by committee works! It really is the heart and soul of the Ravens offense.

Mark Clayton’s beautiful game winning touchdown capped a solid day for the receiving corps. He, Mason, Heap, and Washington combined for 2 TD’s, 17 receptions, and 241 yards!

As I mentioned earlier, the defensive play in the early part of the fourth quarter was cause for concern in my opinion. But let’s go over the performance of this defense on their first four series of the game. Four straight 3 and outs! They did not yield a first down until the 4:38 mark in the 2nd quarter! That is dominant. KC was 2 for 10 on third downs and only made 2 trips to the redzone all day. One of those was courtesy of Joe Flacco, not the D.

So back to my first sentence, you only get better when you make mistakes and learn from them. The Ravens made a few yesterday. 2 of them ended up costing them 14 points. Against tougher teams, it won’t be as easy to put up 38 and negate those two scores. You got to believe head coach John Harbaugh will have these guys ready and even more focused for a west coast trip to play the Chargers next Sunday.

Wild Card Preview: Ravens at Dolphins

Jan. 5, 2009, 2:11 PM

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Game Info:
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Site: Dolphin Stadium (75,192)•Miami Gardens, FL
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Phil Simms (color commentary)

Overview: The Ravens and Dolphins both come into Sunday’s game with a lot of confidence. Miami finished their season by winning five in a row, while Baltimore won five of their last six to close out the 2008 season. The last time these teams met was on October 19, when the Ravens won 27-13. Willis McGahee rushed for 105 yards and Terrell Suggs scored his first career NFL touchdown, picking off Chad Pennington and taking it back 44 yards for the score. Although both teams finished the regular season with 11-5 records and Baltimore won the head to head meeting, Miami gets the home game because they won the AFC East and the Ravens took the Wild Card.

Matchups:

RAVENS OFFENSE vs. DOLPHINS DEFENSE: Joe Flacco has been very composed in the last few weeks. Even when he feels pressure, he has shown the ability to roll out and make a play or just get rid of it. In weeks 15 and 16, Flacco saw two of the game’s best pass rushers in James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware. On Sunday he will have to deal with another great one in Joey Porter, who compiled 17½ sacks this year. Porter, like Harrison and Ware, uses his strength and speed to generate a ferocious pass rush. Veterans Vonnie Holliday and Jason Ferguson have a combined 23 years of NFL experience and are the big men up front for Miami. They helped the Fins limit opponents to 101 rushing yards per game this year. Ray Rice will be back on the field for Baltimore for the first time since Dec. 7 when he injured his calf. The secondary is where the Ravens need to take advantage of Miami. The Dolphins gave up 28 plays of 25 yards or more during the regular season, so look for Mark Clayton, Todd Heap, and Derrick Mason to all possibly make a few big plays.

DOLPHINS OFFENSE vs. RAVENS DEFENSE: The Ravens did an excellent job of shutting down Miami’s wildcat offense back on Oct. 19. They used their speed and aggressiveness to stop some of Miami’s trickery before it could get started. Baltimore’s defense is one that commits and commits hard. If Chad Pennington is able to get a good play action fake and still have enough time to throw the ball, the Ravens could be vulnerable. The Ravens do so many things defensively to confuse the offense. Putting 340 pound Haloti Ngata into pass coverage will throw off any quarterback. And having four linebackers who can blitz at anytime is a lot for the offensive line to handle. The Ravens showed some holes in their run defense last week against Jacksonville, giving up 119 yards. This is something the Dolphins will try to build upon. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for 1575 rushing yards this season. They are a talented pair of playmakers.

PREDICTION: The Ravens led the league in takeaways during the regular season with 34. The Dolphins tied for the league lead with only 13 turnovers. Something has to give. If Chad Pennington is efficient and smart like he has been all season, I believe the Dolphins have a really good shot at winning this one. But if the Ravens can get to him early and be disruptive, it will take an enormous ammount of pressure off of Joe Flacco and the offense. I say the Ravens will continue their brand of smash mouth football and walk out of Miami with their first playoff victory since 2002. RAVENS, 21-13

Playoff Bound: Ravens 27 – Jaguars 7

Dec. 28, 2008, 9:44 PM

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Here are few notes following the Ravens 27-7 stomping of the Jacksonville Jaguars

1) Joe Flacco and the offense looked very solid. This was easily Flacco’s best game of the year. He looked very comfortable out there and made some incredible throws to Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason. Cam Cameron threw in a flea flicker and also got Troy Smith involved. The big play from Smith came in the third quarter when he lateraled the ball to Flacco, who then found him for a 36 yard catch and run.  Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee and Lorenzo Neal all contributed nicely on the ground. Zero turnovers is a very nice stat to see.

2) The defense was great again. Although it looked like Maurice Jones-Drew would gain 100+ yards after a good first half, the Ravens played shut down D in the second half. I cannot say enough about Ed Reed. He had 2 more interceptions today to give him a league leading  nine for the season. If he does not win the Defensive Player of the Year Award, I will be shocked and dissapointed.

3) The Miami Dolphins defeated the New York Jets to win the AFC East, which means Baltimore will travel to Miami for a 1:00 kickoff on Sunday, January 4 on Wild Card Weekend.


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