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?
--- Mike Freeman of CBS Sports says the suspension of safety Ed Reed shows this is the 21st-century NFL.
“In this new NFL, any shot at, or near, the head will be punished,” Freeman wrote. “Let me repeat: Any shot at, or near, the head will be punished. Rinse, wash, repeat. In many ways, this suspension was historic. It begins a precedent that could do more to change the violence of the NFL from brutal to just nasty. This was a signal from the NFL to the league's players: We're not just fining you now because we know you guys eat fines for lunch. We know the only way the message gets through is with not playing.”
Matt’s take: I’m mostly indifferent when it comes to Reed’s suspension because while there was no malice there on his part, he did slam helmets with at least three defenders over the past three years. But I do agree with why the NFL is making an example of him, and that’s to continue to make the game safer and ensure that these men aren’t shells of themselves when they retire. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Reed was the bearded but recognizable face the NFL chose as its unlikely poster boy.
--- Jamison Hensley of ESPN says that the Ravens really needed Reed for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
“Baltimore is already without two of its top three cornerbacks: Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith,” he wrote. “Now the Ravens might have to face Philip Rivers and the Chargers' deep passing attack without their eight-time Pro Bowl safety.”
Matt’s take: Trust me, the timing could be worse -- and by that I mean a game against one of the Manning brothers -- but the Ravens will really miss Reed in San Diego, where they got rocked a year ago. The Ravens are already without Webb and Smith, and while Reed’s tackling remains an issue, he is the glue that has held this busted-up secondary together.
--- Ashley Fox says the Ravens are starting to tip the scales in their rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“The rivalry won't truly tilt until this generation of Ravens gets at least one tally on the Super Bowl scoreboard. The Ravens know that. But they also know that there has been a shift, however subtle, in the rivalry. Baltimore knows it can beat Pittsburgh, at home or on the road, and that hasn't always been the case,” she wrote.
Matt’s take: There is no question the Steelers still feel they are the superior team thanks to the Super Bowl rings, one of which came in 2008 after they beat the Ravens in the AFC championship game. But doubt has to be creeping in after the Ravens beat them three times in a row, including twice at Heinz Field.
--- Pete Prisco of CBS Sports says the defense looked like its old self Sunday but wonders if it will last.
“For most of 2012, they haven't come close to that, instead looking like a broken-down version of the old group, a tired, aging, injured unit that made those in Baltimore yearn for years past,” he wrote. “But then something happened, something to help turn back the clock, help make them feel like those old defenses, the ones that used to make quarterbacks quiver and yards hard to get. The Pittsburgh Steelers showed up on the schedule.”
Matt’s take: The Baltimore defense brought its “A” game to Pittsburgh this past weekend and it was the difference in Sunday’s win. The defense has been playing better the past couple of weeks, and the Ravens have been shutting offenses down in the red zone all season. Maybe, just maybe, the defense is getting its act together just in the nick of time. But an injury to another key player might stretch their depth too thin.
--- John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com doesn’t think the Ravens deserve an asterisk with this win.
“There’s no getting around the fact that the Steelers really missed Ben Roethlisberger,” he wrote. “It would have been a decidedly different affair with him under center, and since the game was close as it was, one can easily construct a winning scenario for the Steelers if Ben had been in one of those horrid throwback uniforms instead of on the sidelines in a sling. But in the end, that’s all just conjecture, something to debate and totally pointless.”
Matt’s take: Agreed. I tried to make this point in the wee hours after the game, but Eisenberg articulated it much better. Sure, the Steelers might have won if Ben Roethlisberger had played. But he didn’t. And in the hard-hitting, oh-so-close history of this rivalry, you take any win, whether they come with asterisks for not.