Philadelphia won't be a walk in the park

Eagles fans, potentially high-powered offense are reasons for concern

September 14, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

I don't envy John Harbaugh. Even when you're flying high in the NFL, you can never relax in his job.

Look at the weird dynamic at work Sunday as the Ravens get set to face the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

Here are the Ravens, coming off a heady 44-13 beatdown of the Cincinnati Bengals in the season-opener that's made their new no-huddle offense the talk of the league.

But all week long, Harbaugh and his coaches have harped about a letdown against the Eagles. All week, the stat thrown up in the Ravens' faces is this: they're 0-2 the past two years after starting their season with a big win over a tough opponent.

"John talked to us a little bit about that ... " Joe Flacco said the other day.

And if the famously laid-back Ravens quarterback says Harbaugh talked "a little bit" about it, you can bet it was a 20-minute stem-winder about the need to not take this one lightly, no matter how horrible the Eagles looked in their ugly, season-opening win over the Cleveland Browns.

The other issue the media and ever-fretful Ravens Nation seem fixated on now is whether Ray Rice is getting enough touches in this new no-huddle offense.

Think about that for a moment.

Here the Ravens have played exactly one game. A game that — again — they won big. A game Rice played a nice role in by rushing 10 times for 68 yards and catching three passes for 25 yards.

Yet already people are worrying about the star running back's state of mind. That might be an all-time record for over-reacting in this town.

Can I just point out one thing? Before we go any further with this is-Ray-happy nonsense?

Rice just signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Ravens in July. So you can bet Rice is happy. Very happy.

When you're 25 and making that kind of iron in the NFL, every day is Christmas. Every day, you walk around with only two types of facial expressions: a big smile or a huge smile.

So don't worry about Rice. No. 1, he's the ultimate team guy. And no. 2, he's not crazy. He won't be calling his agent anytime soon to say: "We gotta tear up that contract. I'm getting eight less touches a game."

Getting back to today's game, though, there's no question the Ravens face a tough test against the Eagles.

Every game in the NFL is a grind for the visiting team — we know that. But playing in front of a raucous, beered-up Philly crowd is its own special treat.

During practice, the Ravens often blast crowd noise from huge speakers on the sidelines to get acclimated to playing in that environment.

But that'll sound like elevator music compared to what they'll hear today. The best way to prepare for a Philly crowd would be to take in the Visigoths sacking Rome again. A Philly crowd would root against both, then demand that whoever was left standing be fed to the lions.

But the noise at Lincoln Financial could definitely affect how the Ravens run their no-huddle, which Flacco and the rest of the Ravens offense absolutely love.

"They had the advantage last week against the Bengals because they were at home," veteran Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans told Philly reporters. "Here, with our crowd noise, that'll make it tougher for those guys to be in a no-huddle."

It'll be interesting, too, to see what the Ravens' defense does against Eagles quarterback Mike Vick, who looked rusty in that 17-16 win over the Browns.

Bothered by injuries, Vick took just 12 snaps in preseason games. Nevertheless, the Eagles let him throw so many passes (56) against the Browns his arm almost fell off. He also had four picks — two were tipped — and looked lost much of the afternoon.

Naturally, Eagles fans were sympathetic about their quarterback having a bad day.

Why, it took almost 20 seconds before the Twitterverse exploded with angry calls to yank Vick and bring in Nick Foles, the rookie backup from Arizona. And the baying about Vick on talk radio the next day was non-stop, even after he drove the Eagles 91 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:18 to play.

But the Ravens know how good Vick can be when he's on his game.

"It's no secret who this guy is," Ray Lewis said. "This guy is fantastic with the football, without the football, however you want to deal with it."

The Ravens will have to deal with a lot if they want to win today. The no-huddle offense will have to deal with the noise and the Eagles defense. And the Ravens D will have to deal with Vick and LeSean McCoy, the Eagles' terrific running back, who ran for 110 yards on 20 carries against Cleveland, yet also finds himself in a "is LeSean happy?" controversy after the Eagles passed 56 times.

He just signed a contract in May for $45 million over five years.

I bet he's happy enough, too.

Kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/kevincowherdsun

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 15.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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