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Spending habits of Ravens, Niners proves defense still wins championships

John-Harbaugh-Jim-HarbaughDuring the 2012 regular season, 11 NFL quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 yards. Through the 2008 season, only two quarterbacks in league history had ever thrown for more than 5,000 in a single season — Dan Marino with 5,084 in 1984 and Drew Brees with 5,069 in 2008. Then, in 2011, Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford all threw for over 5,000 yards. Eli Manning just missed the mark with 4,933.

Statistics would tell you that the game is changing and offense is taking over. The Ravens and the 49ers would tell you that we’re still watching the same old NFL, and defense still wins championships.

The Guardian recently examined the spending habits of all 32 NFL teams for the 2012 season, and the numbers show that 17 teams spent more money on defense than they did on offense. Of the 12 teams that made the playoffs in both the NFC and AFC, exactly half dedicated more of their salary cap dollars to defense than offense. Two of those teams remain standing, and their overall numbers are strikingly similar.

The Ravens dedicated $64 million to their defense this season, which is the fifth-highest amount in the NFL. The Niners spent $61.4 million on that side of the ball, which places them seventh in the league. San Francisco also ranked in the top 10 in offensive spending with $58.5 million, while Baltimore came in it 23rd with $49.1 million.

In an era where spread offenses and empty backfields have taken over, Baltmore general manager Ozzie Newsome and San Francisco GM Trent Baalke have decided to place an emphasis on defense. Their approach has carried them over some of the best offenses in the league in Green Bay and New England and all the way to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. Finesse and scoring may lead to wins in the regular season, but the two teams in the Super Bowl have proven that smash-mouth football and stout defense can still prevail come playoff time.

Torrey Smith: Ray Lewis isn’t the only guy here

Over the next two weeks, the media will spend a tremendous amount of time focusing on Ray Lewis and the final chapter of his career with the Baltimore Ravens. Since the 13-time Pro Bowler announced that he will retire after the season, the Ravens have appeared to play with more urgency. However, he is hardly the only reason Baltimore is headed to New Orleans for Super Bowl 47.

On Monday, Torrey Smith reminded reporters that there are 52 other players on the team who have earned a shot at the title just as much as Lewis has. And they want to capture the Vince Lombardi trophy just as badly as he does.

“We wanted to be here before (Lewis) said he wanted to retire,” Smith said according to Around the League. “We all want to win a Super Bowl. You know, Ray isn’t the only guy here. He has one (ring) and we all know that this is his last shot at it. Ed Reed has never been to the Super Bowl. Terrell Suggs has never been to one. Anquan Boldin has never won one, he’s been there. These are (who) I play for every day, we play for each other.”

Good for Torrey. He was in no way trying to upstage Lewis or understate what he has accomplished, but a team is a team. When players are asked question after question about the same person on their team, it starts to take its toll. It doesn’t matter if that player is a rookie or a 17-year veteran. Lewis has already won a Super Bowl. Do the Ravens want him to be able to end his NFL career on top? Sure, but they want to win a Super Bowl for the same reasons every other player in the league wants to win one. Ray’s retirement tour is simply a footnote.

Ravens DC Dean Pees on stopping Tom Brady: ‘Hire Tonya Harding’

Tom-Brady-PatriotsBaltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has his hands full with trying to stop the New England Patriots on Sunday, and he knows more than the average person about just how deadly Tom Brady and company can be. Pees was a defensive coach for the Patriots from 2004-2009, so he has experience watching Brady from the sidelines and going up against him in practice.

So how does he intend to stop him this weekend in Foxboro?

“Hire Tonya Harding,” Pees joked on Thursday according to the Boston Herald. “If they were getting off the bus, I’d spray water outside the bus and hope it freezes.

“He is who he is. I went against him up there in practice for six years. He’s as competitive of a person as I’ve ever been around. He can give you this little boyish look on TV, but he is a very, very, very competitive guy. He didn’t even like losing in practice. The more we rode him on defense, because I had a couple trash talkers, the harder he played. He is who he is. He’s going to play well.”

That’s a cruel joke that legendary skater Nancy Kerrigan certainly would not appreciate, but you get the point. Pees gushed about Brady and called him a Hall of Fame quarterback, reiterating that he expects him to play well and that all Baltimore can do is try to disrupt him the best way they can.

While the way a playoff game will go is impossible to predict, common sense would tell you that the Ravens will have to score a lot of points this weekend if they want to advance to the Super Bowl. A certain Baltimore linebacker may think New England runs a “gimmick” offense, but talking trash isn’t going to help them stop it. Nobody knows that better than Pees.

Anquan Boldin on Sunday’s game against the Patriots: ‘We’ll win’

anquan boldin catchThe Baltimore Ravens are heading to Super Bowl 47, according to wide receiver Anquan Boldin. They still have to make an important stop in Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, but the 10-year veteran doesn’t sound all that concerned about that.

On Wednesday, Boldin told reporters that the Ravens were going to make the outcome of this year’s playoff game against New England different than last year. You might remember in that game when Billy Cundiff shanked what would have been a game-tying 32-yard field goal as time expired. Boldin isn’t worried about a repeat performance from the Ravens.

“We’ll win,” he said confidently, according to the Ravens official website.

Boldin made a similar comment last week leading up to Baltimore’s game against the Denver Broncos, telling reporters that the outcome would be different than when Denver beat the Ravens 34-17 in Week 16. He was right. He did not, however, guarantee a victory.

Every player who is taking part in a conference championship game this weekend believes their team is going to win — or at least they should. The reason people take issue with statements like the one Boldin made is that a team seemingly gains nothing from them. It’s nothing more than bulletin board material for the opposition, and Brendon Ayanbadejo has already provided the Patriots with plenty of that by ranting on Twitter over the weekend. I’m always an advocate for letting the play do the talking.

Chest bump to Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com

Ravens reportedly preparing for future without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed

ray-lewis-ed-reedRay Lewis and Ed Reed have been the core of the Baltimore Ravens’ stellar defense over the past decade, but both players are aging and at some point may either retire or move to another team. CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora reported on Sunday that the team is bracing for the possibility of life without both players.

Lewis is 37 and has been out since tearing his triceps in Week 6. He is scheduled to earn $5.4 million next season, and LaCanfora says the Ravens are leery about paying him that kind of money to potentially be a part-time player. Additionally, the team reportedly is concerned that Lewis wouldn’t accept being a part-time player should matters come to that. Given Lewis’ age, there has been looming speculation that the 13-time Pro Bowler might retire after the season. We have heard that might be the case, though it’s possible he might want to return to play a full season rather than go out following an injury.

Reed will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the 34-year-old safety could be in for another long contract negotiation with the team. LaCanfora says Reed would not take to being franchise tagged very well. Reed mentioned the possibility of retirement in May when he was seeking a new contract from the team. He’s in the final season of a six-year, $44.4 million deal signed in 2006.

Who knows if Reed will retire as he’s threatened, return to Baltimore, or sign with another team. What we do know is that Baltimore reportedly is preparing for a future without either player.

The Ravens are 10-5 and visit the 9-6 Bengals on Sunday. They’ve clinched a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive season, but their defense has slipped from allowing the third-fewest points in the league the past three seasons to ranking 12th this season.

Eli Manning asked Peyton Manning for advice on playing the Ravens

Eli Manning has the benefit of having more than just game film at his disposal to prepare for the New York Giants’ game against the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. He has an older brother. The Denver Broncos defeated the Ravens in convincing fashion last Sunday, which means Eli’s next opponent is fresh on Peyton Manning’s mind.

“I talked to him a little bit and watched the game,” Eli Manning said on Wednesday according to the Baltimore Sun. “Our offenses are a little different. I tried to just watch the game and see what they were doing and see how the defense played certain looks. So I talked to him a little bit, but it’s really going to be a matter of our own preparation and trying to understand what type of scheme we’re going to run against them.”

Peyton didn’t exactly light it up (17-for-28, 204 yards, 1 TD), but he didn’t have to. Baltimore made so many mistakes that Denver’s offense had to do very little. However, Peyton is a known student of the game who can certainly pass on anything he saw to his little brother. Given the fact that the Giants are in a three-way tie atop the NFC East with two regular season games remaining, Eli will take all the advice he can get.

It should be noted that Eli also sought advice from Peyton earlier in the season after big brother lit up the Cincinnati Bengals. Eli wound up throwing for 215 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in a loss to the Bengals, so hopefully Peyton’s wisdom has more of an impact this time around.

Photo credit: Jim O’Connor-US PRESSWIRE

Ravens players reportedly had been complaining about Cam Cameron

cam-cameronThe Baltimore Ravens surprised most people when they announced the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with three games left in the regular season. Jay Glazer reported on FOX NFL Sunday that Cameron’s dismissal did not surprise the team’s players; many of them had been looking for a change for a while.

Glazer says Ravens players have been clamoring for a change for over a year. Players reportedly have gone to the front office and head coach John Harbaugh to complain about Cameron. Glazer also says players were frustrated that Cameron wouldn’t adjust gameplans when it was clear to them that they weren’t working during games.

According to Glazer, the edict came down from ownership a few weeks ago to remove Cameron. Harbaugh reportedly helped Cameron hang on for as long he could until he was finally let go.

Glazer’s report isn’t at all shocking. Not only has the media questioned Cameron, but linebacker Terrell Suggs publicly questioned the coordinator’s usage of offensive playmakers Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin last season.

Cameron had been the team’s offensive coordinator since 2008 after being fired following a 1-15 season as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

For what it’s worth, the Ravens were held to three points through the first three quarters at home in a 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. They had a fumble, interception, and five punts in their first seven possessions with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator.

We think the Ravens should have fired Cameron before the season began, and that they should have turned to someone other than Caldwell.