Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ravens - Chiefs Diary: The AFC Will Brook No Upsets

Welcome back to Game 3 of the NFL postseason, aka The Last Football Ever. Let's savor it all, shall we?

The Ravens win the toss and drive the length of the field, with QB Joe Flacco connecting on a big play to WR Anquan Boldin. Nice of Q to make his first play in two months now that it's no longer fantasy football season. I might be a little bitter. The drive stalls at the 1 after Flacco fumbles a snap and designated goal-line meh RB Willis McGahee gets stuffed. A rollout try for TE Todd Heap doesn't work, so the Ravens settle for a figgie. Ravens 3, Chiefs 0, and that's a six minute drive to start things. Everything but the score, really.

The Chiefs go three and out on their possession, with rookie TE Tony Moaki not able to make the sideline catch from QB Matt Cassel. Red looks like they have big play potential in this game, but not big drive. The punt is 54 yards of net, and the Ravens start deep in their own end.

Nothing much for the Purple run game to start this one. On third, RB Ray Rice makes a great catch and effort to save the drive, and the Chiefs review the spot to no avail. Phil Simms would not have wasted that timeout, Chiefs Fan! He is all-knowing! Rice again on a nothing check down for the first, and he's looking very useful right now. At least Simms isn't giving his Powers of Invisibility yet. After another Boldin first down (grr), DT Tamba Ali beats LT Michael Oher for a strip of Flacco, and the fumble is recovered by Red. Big play, especially since the Red defense was starting to look gassed, and Purple's supposed to be the better team. Like that has mattered so far this weekend...

After the fumble, the Chiefs go for a flea flicker to the freshly activated WR Kevin Curtis, but Cassel can't get the handle and has to settle for a sad little 7-yard scramble where it looked like he was running in mud. Second down is a whole nother matter, as RB/Terror Object Jamal Charles gets a hole and takes it to the house. I'm ready to call him the new Chris Johnson, aren't you? The replay shows LB Ray Lewis on his butt after grabbing air, which is always fun. Chiefs 7, Ravens 3, and we've got the blueprint for an upset here.

McGahee for seven on a reasonable hole after the touchback. Flacco connects with WR TJ Houshmanzadeh, and Housh takes advantage of a great Boldin block for 28 yards of ease. Flacco's getting big numbers on nothing throws in this game. An out to TE Eric Dickson is stuffed after two, and a slow give to McGahee works for a stumbling four. End of the quarter, and it's rare to see one team leading when they have one first down to the opponent's eight, and over a 5-to-1 time of possession gap.

Flacco tries Boldin despite S Eric Berry's presence, and it's nearly picked. P Sam Cook gets it to the Red 13 for 26 yards of niggling net, and the Purple defense is on to show that Charles play was just a fluke. Not so much on first down, as the back goes for 11 on a toss right, and we get to see more footage of Lewis getting pancaked. Dance some more, Ray Ray! Charles for eight to the left, and there's nothing complicated about this. He goes for ten more as Lewis is logging more of the worst tape of his life, then Cassel takes RB Thomas Jones on a check for eight. Jones made Lewis whiff too, just for fun. As this is a half dozen straight plays where the Hall of Fame self-promoter is getting blown out, you'd think that CBS might notice, but not so much. Another first down on a short to move into Purple territory, and then Charles puts it on the ground for a very big turnover, not that any of these are small. DT Terence Cody with the strip and recovery, and that looked all kinds of unpleasant for Charles.

Five and then one on the ground for Purple to get it to midfield. On third and four, Flacco has Boldin open right in front of him, but doesn't see him and takes the sack. Wow, he's not good, but maybe that's just nerves from the first two fumnbles. The Cook punt isn't that impressive, and Red will start at their own 13.

Cassel with all kinds of time and a nice fake to set up Moaki for a 22 yard cross. Charles for 11 around the left side, and the Red line is just starting to own this. The RB might have concussed himself, though it's hard to think that they'll test him for that too much in this game. Jones in for a yard, then Cassel to rookie waterbug utility knife Dexter McCluster on a bubble screen for six. From the gun on third, it's Chess Matchery, and Cassel takes the second Red timeout. It's all Ray-Ray's doing, I tell you! He's that scary! Then a Red false start as Ray uses more of his Sith Lord powers, and finally a screen to McCluster where S Ed Reed arrives with all kinds of happy violence. That made Purple Fan squee, along with any fan of old school safety play. The Red punt is damn near perfect, but the coverage isn't, so it's a touchback.

Flacco to McGahee, who can make every Red player miss, but not his own lineman. Gain of two. The QB scrambles in a way that makes him look like he's aging as he goes, but it gets the first. Next play is the third Red sack of the day, and while the line isn't good, the QB had another man open, and he's looking very gun-shy right now. On second and 17, the Chiefs just rush 3, and Flacco takes the Rice checkdown for 4. On third, Flacco finds Heap for a floater that gets just enough for the first. The TE is open again on the next play for a big 21 yard cross, and they'll have it at the Red 34 after the two minute warning. Flacco is now 15 of 22 for 175, and yet he still looks kind of horrible. His receivers are playing outstanding, but his line isn't, and I submit that there is no such thing as good QB numbers when you've scored 3 points in 28 minutes.

Flacco slides for five on a play that would have been a flag on a more media-worthy QB. He then takes Heap for another first down, and the TE now has 7 catches for 81 yards. Kind of a problem for Red. Chief Fan does the Tomahawk Hate, because that's worked out so well for the Atlanta Braves. Flacco scrambles for five as Boldin continues to show his best in class blocking. The QB is the team's leading rusher, with 4 for 24. Rice gets a couple, and it's third and 2 with half a minute left. The QB then takes a nearly effortless checkdown to Rice, who uses his Invisibility Powers to walk into the end zone. Red's coverage of the back on that play consisted of waving him into paydirt. Flacco's first post-season TD in his last 117 passes, which breaks some kind of sad record. Purple PAT makes it 10-7 with 19 seconds left, so short of a massive kickoff return, that will be the half. We don't get one, so that's that.

As the third starts, my youngest daughter asks me if football players have to go potty. I resist the urge to tell her that many times, they just pee themselves, especially if they are Eli Manning, or in this game, Flacco. The Chiefs start with a touchback, an incomplete to Charles, and a minus one screen to McCluster. From the gun on third and 11, the QB throws a high tipped ball pick, but the Raven defense does their usual Keystone Kop routine with the ball, and Red recovers the fumble to avoid disaster. There's a reason Purple doesn't win tight games, folks. Two runs get nothing as the Purple D continues to look manly, and on third and long from the gun, Cassel has time to find Charles, who gets 15 as LB Jameel McClain is almost toasted for plenty. Jones for 11, and so much for the Purple D being manly; Red is nearly in field goal range now. A slant to WR Brandon Tucker gets five, and Red goes hurry up to McCluster for four. On third and one from a power formation, Jones is stopped just short of the sticks. Chiefs coach Todd Haley really know has one manly option here with a reasonably mobile QB and a 49-yard figgie outside into the wind, so he goes for it. The toss to Charles is deception that is smelled out and crushed, and why you don't just sneak it, I'll never know.

Flacco with time for WR Derrick Mason, who gets 11 and a first. Red adds 15 for an unecessary roughness call on a low hit to Flacco, and maybe that's the get-even call for the missed slide hit earlier. From the Red 37, it's Rice with patience for four. Flacco to Boldin, who outwrestles Berry for the first. Not sure he had possession at any point, but it stands. Rice follows the mob for three, and the QB then has an absurd amount of time before scrambling for five. On third and 2 at the 11, Flacco misses Heap on a tightly covered cross, and Purple takes the figgie. It's 13-7 with 6:36 left in the third.

McCluster is spun down at their own 23. Cassel throws it away on first as pressure gets close by, and the refs take forever to call intentional grounding. Yeesh. Second and 20 is a sack for DE Terrell Suggs, and it's obvious that WR Dwayne Bowe is not showing up for this one. Third and 26 is a check down to McCluster, and Lewis forces a fumble that Purple recovers. Third Red turnover, this one in the red zone.

Flacco tries for the end zone with Heap, and that's a pretty obvious flag on DPI. The refs spare him with five, instead of the full. Rice wiggles closer to the goal line as Red Fan boos and LB Mike Vrabel limps off. On second and 7, Flacco runs early and doesn't get bak to the line for another sack. Poor day for the Purple line. Third and 8 from the gun sees the pass knocked down as Ali arrives during the throwing motion. The 29-yard figgie from Billy Cundiff is good, and it's now Ravens 16, Chiefs 7.

Touchback starts Red at their 20. Jones for nothing as Purple is really starting to feel it. From the gun on second, Cassel has all day to throw and winds up throwing a panicky interception to S Carl Landry, who does his best Ed Reed impersonation on a runback that wind up getting nothing after a late block in the back penalty. The Red QB is really looking DOA right now, and he's now 8 of 13 for 67 yards and two picks.

McGahgee for three, then the RB squeezes through tacklers to get the first. They give it to him again for a couple, and Purple now has a 10 minute time of possession edge. Flacco gets it to Heap despite pressure -- Oher is really not having a good day -- and that's a first down on the five. Purple goes no huddle on a fullback dive to the great La'Ron McClain, and it only gets a yard as the teams get mouthy. Purple takes a timeout for some reason, and then Flacco hits Boldin -- fricking Boldin -- for a center slant TD and the probable kill shot in this game. Maybe I can trade him? Ravens 23, Chiefs 7, and from the sounds of things in the stands, there will not be a big problem getting out of the parking lot today.

McCluster wants this remain in doubt, and gets a nice return to the Red 46. From the gun on first, Cassel is snowed under on a blitz, and that's a fumble that's recovered by CB LaDarius Webb. No blitz pick up from Charles, and a more media-worthy QB draws a blow to the head flag there. Red challenges the call, and it might come back for a tuck rule, because that's the era of football that we are under. We get to see the Tuck replay again now, because I need to see that play for the rest of my life. Cheating Patriots. The call is reversed. From the gun on second, Cassel finds Curtis on a hook for a few, and that's the end of the third. Ravens 23, Chiefs 7.

A sideline route to Tucker is caught but out of bounds, and Red punts again. The punt is meh, then followed up by a one yard reverse, flag on reserve WR and tragedy Dante Stallworth, and simple give to Rice that gets 15. This one's going to be out of reach real soon, which is what happens when your QB has thrown for 65 yards in 47 minutes. Heap for the first down, and that's been working all day. The TE now has 9 for 102. Rice for eight in a moving rugby scrum, 12 minutes left and grinding away. Rice for a first down with many hurt feelings and fumble rumors, but no actual ball transfer. Rice again up the middle for three in 1930s football, and McGahee loses two in the same place. Can't say the Red defense has quit in this one; if they ever get a QB, this team might be something. (In other words, no.) On third and nine with 9:30 left, Flacco goes to Heap, who is wrestled down before the sticks. The punt goes off with every second of clock drained... and Red compounds the error with an offsides for another first. Yeesh. I'd call that a major mistake, but Red wasn't going to win this game anyway, and the punt checked up at the one.

With the drive reprieve, McGahee goes for three, and there's no reason for Red Fan to avoid the parking lot now. McGahee for two, and the refs actually go to both sidelines to tell the coaches to get the teams to settle down. Replay shows Red players trying to rip off Heap's helmet, and on some level, I respect that. From the gun on third and five, Flacco finds Boldin for another first. Rice for four, then three. Body blow, body blow! The drive hits the ten minute mark as Rice wiggles forward, just short of sticks. On fourth and inches with 4:48 left there's no reason to not keep it with a QB sneak. Instead, they give it to McGahee, who breaks the line and takes it to the house. FINISH HIM! And if this looks like the team that so many picked to go to the Super Bowl from the AFC, that's because it is. Too bad they aren't going to New England next weekend. Ravens 30, Chiefs 7, and I'm off to fold laundry. That will have more suspense than the end of this one.

A kick out of bounds, then a sack and miss to Curtis. Not even garbage numbers for Bowe in this one. Lewis gets a sack, because, well, why not? Fourth and 23 is an arm punt stat pad, and yes, Chiefs Fan, you really do not have a QB. You have a very large QB contract, but a QB? Not so much. And to think, some people, including me, thought this would be close. The last four minutes are runs up the middle and kneel downs with reserves; smart move by the Ravens to save snaps for Pittsburgh next week. They even manage to save the post-whistle brawls for then, too. And that's your ballgame; the Ravens move on to Pittsburgh for another game of sturm und drang, and the AFC will avoid any pollution of the Final Four with those who are not worthy. Back in a bit for the only game that matters, which would be the one involving my laundry...

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