Before we talk about Pagano, a quick word about
But Mattison lost me for good on that infamous 3rd-and-16 against Pittsburgh in the
That's not Chuck Pagano's style. I think that's obvious now. And in an NFL where the rules are constantly being tweaked to give the offense every advantage, you can't play read-and-react defense. You have to constantly be in attack mode, trying to force mistakes. You have to have a deep rotation, and you have to trust your young guys. Because if you don't, good teams will eat you alive. Pagano is a charismatic guy with an aggressive mentality, and he seems to understand that if the Ravens make a few mistakes here and there, that's OK. At least there won't be bullets left in their six shooter when it's over.
Sunday's 24-10 victory over the
San Diego is going to be a tremendous test for Pagano, maybe the biggest test his secondary has faced this season. But he continues to show how creative he is by moving players around, blitzing with different players, going deep into his bench, and getting everyone to buy into the Ravens overall goals. It hasn't been perfect.
You can tell how much the players like and respect Pagano, too. It's different than the way they felt about Mattison, who they were a little indifferent toward. Suggs, who can't resist playing the role of comedian, said something about Pagano after the game that only enforced those warm feelings.
"If anybody is trying to hire a head coach, if they ask, I’m going to say Pagano sucks," Suggs said. "He’s terrible. He’s a terrible coach. His players don’t love him, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he’s calling a game."
Suggs can say whatever he wants, but he won't be able to hide Pagano for long.
2. Apologies to
It's hard to explain just how good Redding has become with the Ravens, in part because he doesn't post a lot of big numbers. He has 4.5 sacks this year, which doesn't seem like much, even though it's already the second highest total of his career. (He had 8.0 sacks in 2006 with the
Redding's initial read is almost never up the field, which is one reason why it's so hard to run against Baltimore. He doesn't take himself out of plays by design. He holds his ground, then tries to collapse the pocket with a combination of size and strength. Back when he played for Detroit, he had a lot more freedom to come off the edge and simply chase the quarterback, but with the Ravens, he's done a lot of dirty work, embraced his new role, and become a crucial part of a defense that's probably the best in the NFL. It's almost hard to believe Redding had never been the playoffs in his career before last season.
“We’re just getting better, man," Redding said. "We’re just getting better at the right time, and we’re making a real strong push for this playoff position. And we’re just getting in the mix and fight for this trophy. We all know what we’re playing for, and we have something special here, so it’s all about getting better each week.”
3. It's hard to believe that the Ravens' wins over the
Of all that stats I heard on Sunday, this one jumped out at me the most. Even
"I didn't realize that," Harbaugh said.
But if you look over the game logs, it's true. He's come close a few times, and easily could have done it if the Ravens wanted to do it. But officially, he hasn't done it prior to now. I would have bet a week's salary that it had happened in 2009, when he was basically the Ravens' entire offense, racking up more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. But the closest he's ever come was when he ran for 87 yards in an easy win over the
But what's obvious this year is how the Ravens focus on just handing him the ball him a lot more lately. In the past four games, Rice has carried the ball 96 times, the highest four-game total of his career. (He's also caught 11 passes during that span.) One thing Cameron did that I loved was give Rice the ball on a play where he lined up at wide receiver and came in motion. I still think the Ravens would have more success in the red zone if they ran the ball from spread formations like that than they would in jumbo packages. But either way, it seems safe to say that Rice won't see a game the rest of the year where he only has five carries.
"It’s really important," Harbaugh said of the running game. "That’s what this time of year is going to have to be about. You’re going to have to be able to do that. There are going to be games when you’re not going to be able to run the ball, and we’ll have to lean on the passing game. But, if you can run the ball, and you can stop the run, you should always have a chance this time of year.”
It will be interesting if the Ravens stick to that philosophy come playoff time. Rice has played in four playoff games where he was essentially the Ravens' primary ball carrier. In those four games, he's averaged only 16 carries.
“I guess I have to say I’m pretty fresh right now considering the amount of work load I had in the first half of the season," Rice said. "I’m not saying I saved my best for the end of the season, but I’m doing a great job of keeping myself fresh. I get a great relief when
4. The Colts should be more than a little embarrassed with the way they've quit on this season.
I've seen a few people claim in recent weeks that, if they had a vote in the NFL MVP balloting this season, they'd vote for Peyton Manning, ahead of
I'm sorry, but to heck with that line of thinking. What's happening in Denver with
But you know why it backfired? Not because Tebow is an amazing quarterback. He's fascinating to watch, and I'm loving every minute of this, but he's not the sole reason Denver is winning. They're winning because the entire team rallied around him. The defense is playing superb football, Willis McGahee is running hard, the kicking game has been superb, and the coaches have played to Tebow's strengths. Tebow gets a lot of the credit, and he deserves a lot for the way he's been able to finish close games, but it's still a total team effort. They're proof adversity is sometimes an opportunity.
What has Indianapolis done? The exact opposite. They undermined
The Colts seem more determined to finish the season 0-16 than they were determined to finish 16-0 a few years ago. Before their final drive, they had 91 yards of total offense. It's ridiculous. If there's any justice, Andrew Luck will stun the world by deciding he wants to be a fifth-year senior at Stanford, making the Colts look even more foolish for throwing in the white towel so quickly.
One of the reasons the
Flacco managed to pull off one of those types of throws for the first time in a long time against the Colts, hitting Pitta on 3rd-and-goal from the 7-yard line near the end of the third quarter. It was an extremely dangerous throw, but a great play by Flacco to buy enough time for Pitta to get open. That's the kind of athletic play Flacco needs to make occasionally just to keep defenses honest.
"[Pitta] was actually my main read on that, and they did a good job of covering him up," Flacco said. "I kind of felt like the pocket was closing down on me a little bit, so I kind of took my eyes off down field for a little bit and found a little crease to step up in and thought I might be able to run for it. But when I kind of got out of there, I kind of got a feeling that I might not be able to, so I dragged the play on and just make it a little bit of a longer play, and I happened to peek back and see Dennis with his arms up in the end zone.”
Overall, I thought Flacco played a very good game. He was as accurate on intermediate routes as he's been all season, and the post he threw to Boldin -- which Boldin snared with his fingertips -- was a thing of beauty.
As much as the Ravens have been talking about running the ball late in the season, I still believe how far Baltimore goes in the playoffs will eventually fall on Flacco's shoulders. He won't have to carry the team, but he will need to make more plays in the red zone. That will be the difference between beating Pittsburgh or New England and losing to them. If the Ravens are forced to kick field goals, they're going to get beat. But if Flacco can move around outside the pocket, understand where the pressure is coming from, and make a few throws that lead to touchdowns, then this Ravens team can get to the