After falling at Minnesota for their third straight loss, it appears to be a tale of two seasons for the Ravens following a 3-0 start. Just as surprising, Baltimore seems to have gone from a running to a passing offense. However, coach John Harbaugh disputes that claim.
In a conversation with Harbaugh, I asked if Baltimore looked more like a passing team because of Joe Flacco's great arm. He assured me his team wants to run the ball but circumstances in the past three weeks put them in pass mode.
Keep in mind, the Ravens have the highest percentage for runs over 4 yards per attempt, with 77 of their 154 runs (50 percent) gaining more than 4 yards. In the first three games, Flacco threw 104 passes compared to 121 in the last three weeks. Facing Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Brett Favre had something to do with the slight increase. However, when compared to last season, when Flacco averaged 26.8 passes a game, he's up to 37.5 this year.
Ray Rice's name also came up, and Harbaugh mentioned how much second-year back out of Rutgers has improved as a pass catcher. "He was a between the tackles runner in college, but his receiving skills are outstanding," Harbaugh said. Considering Rice caught 10 balls for 117 yards against the Vikings, maybe it's time to realize that's really part of the running game.
Vikings far from satisfied on defense
Minnesota's tremendous defensive tackle Pat Williams told me he's having a good time and loves the way Brett Favre is having fun on the field as well as being a great locker room guy. Williams doesn't understand how all the talk of Favre keeping to himself in New York or his final years with Green Bay could ever be true.
As for the defense, Williams and the other veterans aren't satisfied despite the team's 6-0 start. The unit vows to tackle better and get after the run. Williams said when the Ravens climbed back into the game late, "all of a sudden we had a bunch of wide-eyed guys" on the sidelines. He also made me laugh when he said, "Kids love coming to Mr. Williams' house on Halloween because he gives out the most candy in the neighborhood." Sounds like his teammates won't get candy until they close out some more games on defense. As for coach Brad Childress, Williams said, "We all bought into his program."
Sanchez's growing pains
Pete Carroll took a lot of heat for suggesting Mark Sanchez might have been better off staying at USC for another year when the quarterback announced he was leaving school. As Sanchez was visibly upset at the press conference after the overtime loss to the Bills, in which he threw five interceptions, I couldn't help but wonder what an extra year might have done to help him. There's no turning back now, though. Sanchez will fight through these rookie mistakes and be a great pro. As Carroll told me, "He's just got to go for it now, and he will be fine." Don't be surprised if Carroll is the guy to give Sanchez a call and be right by his side during this tough stretch.
Stand by your coach
After Jim Zorn relinquished play-calling duties Monday, Redskins DE Andre Carter backed his head coach Tuesday. "We all respect Jim Zorn because he tells you the situation he's in and where we all stand," Carter told me. When asked if the team discusses the rumors about Zorn's job security, Carter added, "We are all playing for Jim Zorn."
In the loss to Kansas City, Carter had seven tackles and two sacks but was more concerned with what can be done to get a win. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache told Carter, "I need a little bit more from you." Carter agreed with the assessment.
Williams his own man
On Monday, I caught up with Cowboys WR Roy Williams catching passes from fans at a restaurant in an effort to raise money for people in a hunger crisis. Williams will always live in the shadow of Terrell Owens but as he said to me, "People want me to be T.O., and that's not who I am."
Last year before he was traded from Detroit, Williams told me he would love to return to Texas some day and play in front of his home state. When asked if he had any regrets now, Williams said no and thought his impact on the team would surface soon. As for not returning against the Broncos in Week 4 after his rib injury, Williams said the altitude made things even worse and he felt like he just couldn't breathe. He reminded me that he did go back in right after the injury and realized he couldn't play. Williams believes as the Cowboys return from the bye, so will their winning ways.