This feature appears each Monday 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?
--- Bill Barnwell of Grantland says Joe Flacco’s career record has more to do with the defense than him.
“Inevitably, a graphic will pop up noting that Flacco has one of the best win-loss records for a quarterback at this young point in his career,” he wrote. “It's a disingenuous piece of trivia, and everybody knows it. For whatever good or bad Flacco provides, he has spent his entire career as the starting quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, who perennially possess one of the league's best defenses. He also has Ray Rice and a solid running game to go alongside him on offense. It's safe to say that a win by, say, [second-year Carolina Panthers quarterback] Cam Newton usually requires more work from the quarterback than one by Flacco.”
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Matt’s take: Barnwell has a point as he grinds that axe while he still can. Yes, Flacco benefited from having one of the NFL’s best defenses early in his career, though there were plenty of games where he carried his fair share of the load. If he had started his career in, say, Cleveland or Jacksonville, his record might not even be .500. But why grind that axe now? Flacco is third in the NFL is passing yards and the Ravens are fifth in scoring. Meanwhile, the Ravens defense has been vulnerable. I know I’m going to come off sounding like a homer here, but Barnwell just looks petty for taking shots at Flacco when it's the offense that is pacing the Ravens.
--- Michael Lombardi of NFL.com and NFL Network says that the Ravens have defensive issues that they need to address ASAP.
“The defense is no longer dominant,” he wrote. “Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Co. still boast the heart of a champion and can make plays when they absolutely need, like they did in Thursday night's 23-16 win over the Cleveland Browns. But over the remaining 12 games of the regular season, Baltimore must find ways to scheme a pass rush and get more speed on the field on all downs. How the Ravens address these issues over the next three months will determine how far they go in the playoffs.”
Matt’s take: I was bullish on the defense after the first couple of games, but it’s clear that this unit is in distress. How can they fix it quickly? Generate a pass rush, but that’s easier said than done.
--- John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com writes that the Ravens narrowly avoided beating themselves on Thursday night.
“The Ravens pretty much followed the ‘How to Lose a Game’ blueprint Thursday night,” Eisenberg wrote. “The good news for the Ravens was they overcame it all to win for the third time in four games in 2012. And if their prior history is any precedent, they won't follow the 'How to Lose' blueprint too often. One of the seldom-discussed secrets of pro football -- any sport, really -- is games are given away by mistakes as often as they're won by excellent play. Teams that make a habit of not giving things away with turnovers, penalties, drops and missed field goals are usually well on their way to winning seasons, playoff berths, etc."
Matt’s take: I touched in this in “Five Things” after the game, but the penalties have become concerning. Coach John Harbaugh instilled discipline in this team during his first four seasons, but this year, they are back at the top of the league in yellow flags. They are tied for first in penalties and are second in penalty yards.
--- Clark Judge of CBS Sports thinks it’s already time for the Washington Redskins to pull the plug on kicker Billy Cundiff.
“So Billy Cundiff nailed a game-winning field goal. Great. Washington still must consider replacing him,” he wrote. “He misses from 41. He misses from 57. He misses from 31. Then he barely drops the clincher inside the left upright. He could've cost Washington a game, just as he cost Baltimore a possible AFC championship. The Redskins can't survive this. Start auditioning replacement candidates and start now.”
Matt’s take: Cundiff might have saved his job (for now) with the game-winner Sunday, but it looks more and more like Cundiff is not the same kicker after his big miss in the AFC championship game. I’m rooting for the guy -- I know I might be in the minority around here -- but it’s also been clear for a while that the Ravens made the right choice by going with rookie Justin Tucker this summer.
--- J. Michael of CSN Baltimore says the team’s glass is half-full after they hit the quarter pole in first place.
“[Harbaugh’s] team is 3-1. And it could be undefeated if the offense didn't disappear in the second half vs. the Eagles,” he wrote. “So is the glass half-empty or half-full? The view from here is half-full. There's something to be said for winning despite the sub-par defensive statistics. And this defense, which is without 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs for at least the first six games of the season, isn't whole yet.”
Matt’s take: Any time you can win three of four games -- including one against the New England Patriots -- in a span of 18 days, you have to feel pretty good about that. Yes, there are concerns, but let’s not forget that they are in first place and have 13 weeks left to get better. Getting Terrell Suggs back will be a boost -- emotionally, at the very least -- so if the Ravens can keep cruising until then, who knows how this season will turn out?