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2015 Regular Season
Preview: Ravens @ Cards

Last MInute News, Rumors etc.:
TBD
. Keep an eye on Jernigan's medical status as well as the remaining Raven MASH list.

Setting the Stage:
Welcome to Monday Night Football. Cards are at home and 4 & 2, having lost to Steelers in a manner similar to their loss
to the Rams - i.e. they made too many mistakes against a physical, close-to-the-vest opponent. The 1 & 5 Ravens lost to the Niners 25 - 20. (Their only win ironically was a 23 - 20 squeaker over the Steelers).

Opponent's Last Game
Niners opened up an early lead and hung on to beat the Ravens 25 - 20. Statistically, the two teams were practically the mirror image of one-another with one exception: Flacco's 2 interceptions (vs. none by Kaepernick). Other than that, the two teams matched up pretty even in every department. But this game was a textbook example of why statistics don't always tell the entire story. From what we hear, hidden in the numbers were (1) two dropped TD passes by Steve Smith Sr., (2) two interceptions dropped, (3) a botched holding call on J Smith...(4) a missed roughness flag on Boldin and (5) the sinkhole that "tried to eat" Justin Tucker (causing him to miss a 45-yard FG)...Ravens are now 1 & 5. According to veteran Ravens beat-writer, Clifton Brown “In the three years I’ve been covering the Ravens, this is the quietest locker room I’d ever been in.”

First Quarter
Niners received - TB on the KO...Niners gained consistent yardage in short chunks and reached the Raven 37 before their drive fizzle. Punt was out of bounds at the Balt 15....Baltimore managed to pick up one first down but were forced to punt from their own 25. SF returned the punt (net a fumble) to their own 33....A 28-yard pickup on a completion to Miller managed to SF move to the Balt 35 where Dawson's 53-yard FG attempt was "good."Niners 3 - Ravens 0.

TB on the KO. Balt went 3 & out...Punt was downed at the Niner 14. A 52-yard completion (Kaepernick to Miller) helped set up Dawson's second FG of the game - this one from 31. Niners 6 - Ravens 0.

KO returned by Ross to Raven 39. A 19-yard Flacco to Smith completion moved Balt into Niner territory. They reached the SF 26 as the quarter ended.

First Quarter Score: Niners 6 - Ravens 0.

Second Quarter
A 19-yard completion (Flacco to Gilmore) helped move the Ravens to inside the Niner 10-yard line, but the drive stalled out at the Niner 4 where Tucker was good from 22. Niners 6 - Ravens 3.

TB on the KO. On the second play from scrimmage, Kaepernick connected deep with T Smith for a 76 yard TD. Niners 13 - Ravens 3.

TB on the KO. On the third play of the Balt possession, Flacco's pass intended for Aiken was intercepted and returned to the Raven 29. Niners kept it simple - relying on runs by Hyde and scrambles by Kaepernick. They reached the Balt 8, where Dawson (once again) was good this time from 26. Niners 16 - Ravens 3.

TB on the KO. A 29 yard completion to S Smith and a 22 yard gallop by Forsett helped the Ravens get to the Niner 18 where Tucker was good from 36. Niners 16 - Ravens 6.

TB on the KO. No more scoring.

First Half Score: Niners 16 - Ravens 6.

Third Quarter
Ravens received, TB on the KO. They reached their own 41 in 7 plays, but Flacco threw an interception on the 8th....Niners took over on the Balt 38. They managed to reach the Raven 24, where Dawson was good once more - this time from 42. Niners 19 - Ravens 6.

TB on the KO. Flacco finally engineered a 9-play scoring drive capped by a 34-yard TD pass in the end zone to Steven Smith. Niners 19 - Ravens 13.

TD on the KO. SF held to 3 & out. Punt downed at the Raven 44. The Ravens managed to move to the Niner 41 to end the quarter.

Third Quarter Score: Niners 19 - Ravens 13.

Fourth Quarter
The Ravens managed to reach the Niner 27, but were forced to settle for a FG. But Tucker's attempt from 45 was "no good."...Niners took over on their own 35. Kapernick connected with a 51-yarder to Boldin (challenge on completion was upheld). Three plays later, Kaepernick connected with Patton for a 21-yard TD. Two-point attempt was "no good." Niners 25 - Ravens 13.

10:52 left. TB on the KO. Flacco engineered a 14-play TD drive capped by a 2-yard completion to Aiken. Longest play of the drive (which used up 5:38) was a 19 yards throw to Steve Smith.. Niners 25 - Ravens 20

TB on the KO. 5:14 left. Kapernick milked all but 1:06 off the clock moving from his 20 to the Niner 48 in 8 plays. Punt went into the end zone for a touchback. 1:06 left. Eight plays later, time ran out with the Steelers at the Niner 35.

Final Score: Niners 25 - Ravens 20

Ravens vs. Niners Significant Game Stats

Flacco was 33 of 53 for 343 yards, 2 TD's and 2 interceptions.

Forsett picked up 62 yards on 17 carries. (Balt held SF to 65 rushing yards - 2.6 ypc)

Leading receivers were Steve Smith (7 for 137 yards and a TD) and Forsett (7 catches for 39 yards).

D Smith (9), Mosley (6), Guy (5) and Dumervil (5) were the leading Balt tacklers.

Balt pass rushers netted 3 sacks. D Smith and Guyeach had one sack. Dumerville and Jernigan shared the other sack. Balt pass blockers allowed no sacks.

Ravens were penalized 3 times (SF 4)

Time of Possession: 26:17 (Pit) to 33:43 (SD)

Raven Cumulative Season Stats
(Note - May be a game or so "old")

First Downs: Ravens 127- Opponents 123.

3rd Down Conversions: Ravens 28 of 84 - Opponents 44 of 92

4th Down Conversions: Ravens 7 of 11 - Opponents 1 of 4

Total Yards Offense: Ravens 2,217 - Opponents 2,284

Rushing Yards: Ravens 667 (4.2 ypc )- Opponents 567 (3.6 ypc). Forsett gained 457 yards (4.4 ypc). J Allen gained 137 yards (4.6 ypc).

Rush/Pass Ratio: Ravens 158/248

Passing - Flacco completed 62.3% of his passes and gained 1,605 yards and is credited with 8 TD's and 7 interceptions. He has an 80.1 QB Rating.

Receiving - Steve Smith leads Baltimore with 36 catches for 510 yards and 3 TD's. He's averaging 14.2 ypr. Their RB (Forsett) is second with 129 yards on 23 grabs. Aiken is third with 265 yards on 18 catches (14.7 ypr). Their TE (Gillmore) is fourth with 181 yards on 13 catches (13.9 ypr).

Turnovers Ratio: minus-5

Tackles - D Smith (55) is the leading tackler followed by Mosley (35) J Smith (31) and Hill (29).

Sacks - Ravens defense is credited with 18. Spread around- Guy leads with 3.0 followed by Dumervil (2.5) followed by D Smith, Z Smith nd Mosley with 2 apiece. Baltimore's pass blockers have conversely only allowed 8 sacks.

Interceptions: Three vs. opponents' 7. J Smith leads with 2. W Hill has the other.

Time of Possession:Ravens 30:29 - Opponents 32:33

Field Goals: - Tucker is 8 for 8 inside the forty and five for 8 outside the forty. Ravens have kicked 13 FG's (compared to 17 for opponents).

Punting: Average yards: 42.9 (3.4 yards more than opponents' average). Total Punts: 25 TB's: 0. Inside the 20: 8; Outside the twenty: 17.

Punt Returns: Balt averages 13.3 ypr (vs. 7.1 for opponents). Ross, Campanaro and S Smith split the duties.

Kick Returns: Ross (6) and Campanaro (3) return most of the kicks. Ross averages nearly 30 ypr (Opponents average 26.0).

Rosters/Match-ups

Raven Offense

LWR...11 Aiken.......18 Perryman.......10 Ross..... 13 Givens
RWR..89 S Smith...14 M Brown.........12 Waller         
LT.......60 Monroe....74 Hurst
LG.....72 Osemele...64 Urschel                    
C.......53 Zuttah......66 Jansen                  
RG....73 Yanda    
RT.....71 Wagner             
TE.....80 Gillmore...87 M Williams.....82 Boyle
QB....05 Flacco.....08 Schaub                             
FB....44 Juszyk        
RB....29 Forsett.....37 J Allen...........30 Magee.....43 Moser
t

Cardinal Defense

DE        93 Campbell..........90 Redding
NT        95 Gunter...............69 X Williams                
DT        92 Rucker..............73 Mauro........72 Stinson                    
SLB      52 Woodley.......... 44 Golden       
ILB       55 Weatherspoon.             
ILB       51 Minter...............59 Fua                    
WLB    54 Freeney.............96 Martin.......56 Riddick........57 Okafor (inj)       
LCB     21 Peterson                   
RCB    25 Powers.............28 Bethel...35 C Brooks               
SS       36 Bucannon.........22 Jefferson              
FS       32 Mathieu............26 R. Johnson.....

Matchup: Raven Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
This has not been a good year thus far for Joe Flacco, but (according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley), this is less a matter of Flacco's "taking a step backward" than it is regression by his supporting staff. He points out that the same thing happened in 2013 following the trade of Anquan Bolden (Flacco was picked off 22 times) . This year, the Ravens allowed WR Torrey Smith to escape, and Smith's replacement (Breshad Perriman) has been banged up. Ravens are down to one experienced TE in Owen Daniels and AARP member Steve Smith Sr. can only do so much. He describes other pass catchers, Kamar Aiken, RB Justin Forsett as "journeymen" and doesn't speak highly of Marion Brown or backup TE Crockett Gilmore. Hensely doesn't mention the Ravens OL which has only allowed Flacco to be sacked 8 times. (Note: Regardless of what the pundits say, the biggest Raven threat remains Steve Smith Sr. - who can still get blazing hot and take over games).

Card defense has been under fire for too much loose zone coverage and (because too many backup DB's earmarked for spot-coverage play too many snaps) the wearing down of the secondary late in games. Pass rush is still average at best. Whether Freeney will have shed most of the rust in his second appearance remains to be seen. Calais Campbell has been the Cardinals' only impact defensive lineman (though rookie NT Gunter has made his mark and the other DE Rucker has been a solid presence. Cards usually inactivate backup NT X Williams (which means rotating smaller linemen through the NT position and being vulnerable wearing down late in games against physical opponents with strong running attacks).

Key Matchups: Peterson vs. S. Steve Sr. Mathieu vs. Forsett. Jefferson vs Gilmore

Matchup: Raven Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Raven ran 158 times and passed 248 (Maybe it's Trestman's influence). Their running attack is nothing special, but their two RB's (Forsett and J Allen) have been averaging 4.4 and 4.6 yards per carry. After watching tape of the Ram and Steeler games, the Ravens might want to emphasize the run if only to wear down the Cardinal defense and own the 4Q and possibly steal a close game.

When Cards put their minds to it, they've been able to stop the run, but they do tend to wear down late in games (not a good career move when you're trying to come back from a deficit). Unlike some defenses (which rely on one or two "playmakers" to make things happen), the Cards accomplish their mission via a team-defense where - when every member effectively executes their job, big plays can happen. That said, keep an eye on Rucker, Minter and Bucannon

Key Matchups: Minter vs. Forsett. Gunter vs. Yanda, Zuttah and/or Osemele.


Cardinal Offense

WR1     11 Fitzgerald..13 Jar Brown......10 Golden   
LT         68 Veldheer....79 Sowell                       
LG        76 Iupati.........62 Larsen                     
C          63 Sendlein....53 Shipley                    
RG       61 Cooper                   
RT        70 Massie.......78 Watford.........74 Humphreys                     
TE        85 Fells...........87 Niklas           
WR2    15 M. Floyd.....12 John Brown...14 Nelson              
QB       03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........09 Barkley        
RB       38 Ellington.....27 C Johnson.....31 D Johnson.....30 Taylor,
TE        84 Gresham

Raven Defense

DT.......97Jernigan........95 Lewis-Moore 
NT.......98 B Williams....94 Davis        
DE......99 Canty............67 Guy      
OLB....58 Dumervil.......90 Z Smith
ILB......57 Moseley.......54 Orr...............59 A Brown    
ILB......51 D Smith........50 McClellan                
SAM...91 Upshaw    
LCB....21 Webb............24 Arrington....25 T Walker
SS .....33 W Hill............28 Trawick     
FS   ....23 K Lewis........31 T Brooks.....41 Levine Sr.
RCB....22 J Smith........35 S Wright......27 Jackson

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Raven Pass Defense
Palmer still ranks in the top 5 - 10 NFL QB's this season, but will occasionally make a bad decision, miss an open receiver or fail to pick up an open man. When he does this more than once or twice, it can make the difference between winning or losing a close game. Fitz will give you 8 - 10 catches a game (Actually, some have questioned whether Palmer relies on him too often and will try to force too many balls into overly tight windows). John Brown has emerged as a clutch #2. Floyd will wow you with an acrobatic catch on one play and then disappoint you with a drop, funky route or poor sideline footwork the next. (The potential is there/he needs to play closer to it). The OL - while not awful - needs to protect Palmer better. It's not so much the sacks or even the pressures or penalties as it is sustaining the protection for the extra second it will take for Carson to locate his target and step into his throw.

Baltimore enjoys an impressive 18 to 8 sack advantage over its opponents. This isn't due so much to the dominant performance by Dumervil, Jernigan, Mosley or any single player but rather (like the Cardinal pass rush) an overall team effort. Boldin said after the game last week that the Niners targeted backup RCB Wright; so whomever Arians designates his #3 receiver figures to see a lot of action. Keep an eye on Jernigan's health status (he left the field last week on crutches, but Harbaugh claims that his injury isn't all that serious.

Key Matchups: Dumervil vs. Veldheer. Jernigan (if he plays) vs. Massey. Fitz vs. J. Smith. John Brown vs. Webb. Floyd vs. Wright.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Raven Run Defense
Cards didn't run well vs. PIttsburgh. Some of the blame was placed on Arians (for not calling enough running plays or involving Ellington more often). Baltimore beat-writers speculate that the Cards will rely more on Ellington and David Johnson this Monday, because they're better than Chris Johnson catching out of the backfield (Funny, I never thought C Johnson's hands were any kind of liability.) From a blocking standpoint, don't expect to much reliance on Cardinal TE's (Cards are down to Gresham and Nikklas on the depth chart).

It won't be easy to run against the Ravens (who held Niner RB's to 2.6 yards per carry). This is probably why the CW has Palmer attacking the perimeter with screens and flares to Ellington and D Johnson rather than handing it off to C Johnson on play action delays (which more often than not makes CJ vulnerable to being nailed behind the LOS). ILB's (D Smith and Mosley) are two leading Raven workhorses vs. the run.

Key Matchups: Iupati and Cooper vs. Guy, D Smith and Mosely. RB's one-on-one outside vs. Webb and J Smith.

Special Teams

Ravens

       04 Koch                    
K        09 Tucker                       
H       04 Koch 
LS     46 Cox                                
KR    10 Ross                        
PR     10 Ross

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                                   
H          02 Butler                             
LS        82 Leach                                  
KR       31 D Johnson.....10 Golden          
PR       21 Peterson........14 Nelson...........10 Golden

Matchup: Raven Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Ross has breakaway speed. Baltimore gains twice as many average yards on punt returns as they give up to their opponents. Tucker (5 for 8 outside the forty) missed a critical 45-yard FG last week vs. the Niners. Koch outpunts his opponents by an average of 3 yards a punt.

Cards used Peterson to return most punts last week, but Nelson may be ready to return from injury. Niners. Campbell and Bethel are productive kick blockers. Catanzaro has a good, accurate leg but isn't 100% fool-proof.

Key matchups: Cardinal coverage unit vs. Ross. Bethel and Campbell vs. Tucker.

Coaching
Pitt: HC John Harbaugh. DC: Dean Peas. OC: Marc Trestman. ST: Jerry Rosburg. Harbaugh is one of the most highly respected coaches in the NFL. Trestman is a former Card OC and former HC of the Bears. Mornhinweg is QB coach.

AZ: Bruce Arians is HC. James Bettcher DC. Harold Goodwin OC and Amos Jones ST coordinator. Tom Moore is assistant HC. Brentson Buckner coaches the D-line and Larry Foote inside LB's.

Harbaugh has to rally his troops from a 1 & 5 record (after a tough loss to the Niners amid reports that the Raven locker room was the "quietest" in recent or not-so-recent history). Cards lost their second game of the season to the Steelers. Their two losses came from physical, run-oriented teams not too dissimilar from the Ravens. As I see it, both teams face mental challenges. From the standpoint of the Cardinals, there's been an abundance of "talk" in the aftermath of the loss to Pittsburgh. What I'm hoping to see Monday night is aggressive, physical, sure-footed, mistake-free football. This is where factors like coaching, team chemistry and veteran leadership must come to the fore.

Last Word
Pivotal game for the Cardinals - 4 & 2 and could either wind up 5 & 2 or 4 & 3. Game is at home in front of a loud, rabid crowd under the lights before a national audience on a Monday night. Time to step up and show the nation what we've got. We'll be facing a beaten-up Ravens team who will either curl up and die (not likely under Harbaugh's leadership) or come out fighting like cornered rats.

We're betting on the latter, and the Cards had better strap on their BB pants. Go git 'em!


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