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?
--- Jarrett Bell of USA Today says more Ray Rice and less Joe Flacco might have resulted in a win Sunday.
“A week after scratching out an overtime victory at San Diego that was stamped by Ray Rice's brilliance in converting a checkdown pass on fourth-and-29, Rice didn't have a single touch in the fourth quarter of Sunday's setback,” he wrote. “Shouldn't there be a Maryland law against that? Sure, the Steelers controlled the clock in the final quarter and held onto the football for the last 6 minutes, 42 seconds to set up Shaun Suisham's 42-yard field goal as time expired. But on eight offensive snaps amid two full possessions and a portion of a third in the fourth quarter, Rice's number wasn't called once by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.”
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Matt’s take: Many analysts, including our Mike Preston, have argued the same thing, and I agree that Rice needs to get the ball more, though I feel that should be the case regardless of how Flacco is playing. Yes, I know those two things are tied together since there is only one football. But the Ravens -- and their quarterback -- are their most effective and efficient when Rice is running well and the gameplan is balanced.
--- John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com believes the lack of a pass rush hurt the Ravens against the Steelers, who had a makeshift offensive line.
“Because of injuries, they had a backup starting at left tackle, a backup playing center and a converted center playing guard. The Ravens figured to take full advantage with a pass rush that has gathered steam in the past month. But Pittsburgh’s line rose to the occasion, winning that battle,” he wrote. “[Charlie] Batch had plenty of time to throw on most plays. In fact, he looked a lot like [Ben] Roethlisberger, extending plays and holding the ball until his receivers broke open.”
Matt’s take: Eisenberg makes many good points every week, and this is among them. The Ravens pass rush had been hitting home more often recently, but the lack of pressure on Batch is the main reason why he was able to throw for nearly 300 yards. Any NFL quarterback -- and I mean this with no offense to Batch -- can find open receivers when they are given that much time in the pocket, and Batch made great use of his time.
--- Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com wonders if the 9-3 Ravens are starting to let the AFC North slip out of their hands.
“Baltimore now has a two-game lead over the Steelers and Bengals, both 7-5, with four weeks remaining,” Hensley wrote. “Is there any way these teams could catch the Ravens? ‘I'm sure they're probably going to win the division,’ Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said. … Foote may not want to give the title to the Ravens so quickly.”
Matt’s take: I received a couple of emails on Monday from Ravens fans who can also envision the sky falling after Sunday’s tough loss. I know it is technically possible, but I just don’t see it happening. In fact, I’ll eat my laptop if they don’t win the division. Just remind me to unplug it first.
--- Chris Chase of USA Today believes Ravens coach John Harbaugh is to blame for the awkward handshake with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
“This is all on Harbaugh. He acted like a petulant child, which is to say he acted like his brother, Jim, who gained handshake infamy last year when he swatted Jim Schwartz on the back after his San Francisco 49ers won in Detroit,” he wrote. “Tomlin offered his hand. That's all he needs to do. Pulling him back and admonishing him was petty and juvenile.”
Matt’s take: Seriously? I know it was an awkward exchange between two coaches of rival teams, but let’s not make this into something more than it is. We’re talking about a brief postgame handshake here.
--- Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated wrote about Ed Reed’s latest critical comments about the NFL.
“What set him off? It wasn't the loss to the Steelers. It was Reed's recent one-game suspension for a hit in the last Ravens-Steelers game two weeks ago,” Rosenberg wrote on SI.com. “Reed actually won the appeal of his suspension, but it still bothered him. Executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said at the time, ‘We cannot tolerate repeated violations of rules, especially rules related to player safety.’ Anderson said that again in an ESPN radio interview: Reed is a repeat offender. Reed did not like the implication.”
Matt’s take: I really do think the reason that Reed keeps chirping at Roger Goodell and the NFL has little to do with money or the suspension that was overturned. Reed cares about the game, his legacy and how his peers perceive him. There’s no disputing that he has banged helmets with at least three opponents in recent years. But there was no malice there, and it no doubt offends him that someone has implied that he is a dirty player.