This feature appears every week on the Baltimore Sports Blitz. It’s just like “What They’re Saying About the Ravens,” but it includes blogger Matt Vensel saying something about what those people are saying. Got it?
--- ESPN’s Jamison Hensley doesn’t see the need for injured linebacker Ray Lewis to rush back to the field.
“Do the Ravens really need Lewis to rush back? The play of the Ravens' defense says no,” Hensley wrote. “With Lewis, the Ravens went 5-1 and allowed 19.6 points per game. Without him, Baltimore has a 4-1 record and has given up 20.2 points per game. … [The Ravens] are leading the Steelers and Bengals by three games with five weeks remaining. The defense has found its groove in the red zone, not allowing a touchdown inside its 20-yard line in the past four games. There really is no need for Lewis to be a medical miracle.”
Matt’s take: Lewis didn’t look like the same player we have seen for 16 years -- and understandably so -- before he got injured this season, and I’m not just talking about his weight loss. Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain have played well with Lewis rehabbing his torn triceps, though the improvement of the Ravens defense isn’t solely correlated with Lewis being out. His leadership and savvy will benefit the Ravens, but he should make sure he is healthy enough to make an impact before he returns because a 37-year-old linebacker with one good arm would be a liability.
--- Jim Reineking of NFL.com says that Ray Rice’s play on 4th and 29 will be one of the most memorable plays of 2012.
“The play could go down in NFL lore as ‘Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle’ unless, of course, somebody comes up with a moniker more amazing. The fourth-and-29 conversion at the game's most crucial moment will go down as one of the most amazing in Ravens history and will be one of this season's signature plays," he wrote. "Down 13-10 to the San Diego Chargers at their own 37-yard line with 1:37 left to play, the Ravens got an unbelievable play in the seemingly impossible situation. Rice turned a short check-down pass into a 29-yard gain, keeping alive a drive that ultimately ended with the tying field goal attempt.”
Matt’s take: I’ve already gushed about the play plenty the past two days, and I know I’m not the only one. But there was an exception: How did ESPN have a cookie-cutter NBA dunk ahead of this on its Top 10 list? Those are a dime a dozen. Rice's play was unique.
--- Clark Judge of CBS Sports said Anquan Boldin’s block on Rice’s remarkable catch-and-run was Sunday's best block.
“The best block of the afternoon wasn't by an offensive lineman,” he wrote. “It was by the Ravens' Anquan Boldin on San Diego safety Eric Weddle, a shot that helped spring Rice to that improbable fourth-down conversion.”
Matt’s take: Boldin knocked Weddle out of the game with that hit, which Ravens coach John Harbaugh said was as good a block as you will see. And he pointed out Monday that he thought it was legal. Either way, you couldn’t pay me enough money to stand in there and take a hit like the one Boldin dished out Sunday.
--- Peter King of Sports Illustrated named rookie kicker Justin Tucker his special teams player of the week.
“Big deal. A 38-yard field goal. Or two. Well, I say it is a big deal. The Ravens trailed 13-10 in San Diego with four seconds left when Tucker, the rookie free agent from the University of Texas, came on and kicked a 38-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Then, with 67 seconds left in overtime, he trotted out for another 38-yarder. Drilled the game-winner too. No doubt about either one, both straight down Broadway. The Ravens, who will be playing in January, look to have a playoff-caliber kicker they won't have to worry about in the big spots."
Matt’s take: Tucker has made more 50-yarders (four) than he has missed field goals (two), but his clutch kicks Sunday once again proved that this rookie won’t be rattled. If he keeps it up, he will be here for a long time.
--- John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com says the Ravens can’t let up, even if they clinch on Sunday.
“While the division title is all but wrapped up, the Ravens are seeking one of the top two seeds in the AFC field, which would give them a first-round bye and second-round home game -- things that, let’s face it, they could really use,” he wrote. “They’re currently situated one game ahead of both the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots in that race, so there’s little room for error. It’s funny, December isn’t even here and the Ravens’ fifth-straight trip to the playoffs, a sizable achievement, is already all but certain. But they can’t rest.”
Matt’s take: Exactly. If they handle their business over the next five weeks, the Ravens can rest the first week of January as they watch the first round of the playoffs from their sofas. Sure, they have won three road games in a row, but they need to make it easier on themselves with a bye and a second-round home game. And if the Ravens can somehow host the AFC championship game, not too many people will bet against them.