Ravens only have themselves to blame for loss to Falcons – not refs

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Roddy White  of the Atlanta Falcons pulls in this reception against Lardarius Webb  of the Baltimore Ravens at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Some will focus on Michael Jenkins’ catch on a 3rd and 10 that wasn’t overturned by replay. Others will talk about the pass interference call on Tavares Gooden.

Most will fixate on Roddy White’s push-off.

But they shouldn’t. The Ravens didn’t lose to the Falcons on Thursday night because of the refs. They lost because they were dominated for most of the night and couldn’t catch a break or two down the stretch.

Here’s the way I would tally the final drive of Atlanta’s dramatic 26-21 win:

Jenkins’ Reception: It was a catch. The second replay showed that Jenkins kept a kung fu grip on the ball with his fingers and secured it while getting both feet down.

Pass Interference Call: I’m surprised Gooden didn’t get stopped at the Atlanta airport and picked up for the molestation of Tony Gonzalez. It was a good call – Gooden was draped all over him.

White’s Push-Off: It was clear as day – the ref missed it. I think a stiff wind could have knocked Josh Wilson down, but nevertheless White pushed off and it was a bad no call. He should have been flagged, the Falcons should have been backed up and who knows – maybe Baltimore is 7-2 and Atlanta is 6-3.

But you know what? The Ravens have nobody to blame but themselves and here’s why:

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Deion Sanders not happy with ranking in NFL Network’s Top 100

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 29:  NFL commentator Deion Sanders speaks during a broadcast at the Tampa Convention Center on January 29, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

The network has him ranked #34 all time, and he’s upset about it.

Deion is going to be partial to defense (and himself), but he brings up an interesting point that there’s a huge disparity between the number of offensive players that were selected compared to the number of defensive players. But is that surprising? Offensive players put up gaudy stats while you usually can’t fully appreciate how good a defender is unless you watch film. Nnamdi Asomugha’s interception totals are always low, but he’s widely regarded as the best corner in the league because quarterbacks don’t dare throw his way.

That said, Sanders was the greatest cover corner to have played the game and maybe he does have right to complain about his No. 34 ranking. As he alludes to, quarterbacks used to stay away from his side of the field and he still found ways to make plays. He was also a highlight reel waiting to happen on special teams and even though he’s often criticized for not tackling, that doesn’t take away from how outstanding he was in coverage.

Does he have a beef? Should he be in the top 10 or is his ranking justified?

Sports Illustrated lists its Top 20 all-time sportscasters

Sports Illustrated put out this list of what it believes to be the Top 20 all-time sportscasters. Some of these guys are before my time, but unfortunately, most of them are not. Anyway, here is the list and a snappy comment or two, as well as who they missed and who I’m glad is not on here:

1. Jim McKay—The Bob Costas of his time. McKay hosted ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” as well as The Olympics. It’s hard to argue with putting him on top here, but it’s also easy to argue for a few of these others to be #1.

2. Vin Scully—If I hear ol’ Vin doing a game on TV, and with the MLB package it’s nice to still hear him doing Dodgers’ games, I don’t care who is playing….I stop and watch, and listen. It’s just comforting to hear the guy’s voice, which was made for broadcasting baseball.

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NFL Network to offer its own RedZone channel

DirecTV subscribers may be wondering if the NFL Network’s new channel, “NFL RedZone” is the same as the RedZone Channel that is available as part of the Sunday Ticket package. The answer is yes…and no. It’s not the exact same channel. It has a different host and a different studio, but the concept is the same.

The channel will bounce around from game to game to show live action or instant highlights from a multitude of games. I’ve watched the DirecTV version for six hours straight, and it’s a great way for fantasy football enthusiasts to spend a Sunday. I assume that the NFL Network’s version will be just as good.

I have long been critical of the NFL’s decision to make the Sunday TIcket exclusive to DirecTV, largely because I’m a diehard Packer fan living in a California condo with no view of the southern horizon (making me one of the millions of football fans that simply can’t get DirecTV without moving). The DirecTV monopoly exclusive rights extend through 2014, though the package may be available to non-DirecTV subscribers in 2012. I mention the Sunday Ticket debacle because this NFL Network Red Zone channel is a step in the right direction.

Of course, the NFL Network is still at odds with several cable companies — including my carrier, Time Warner — as they haggle over carriage fees for the channel. Actually, “haggle” would imply that the two sides are negotiating. As far as I know, they’ve both walked away from the table.

The cable giant wants to offer NFL Network on a sports tier, while the NFL Network wants the channel to be on the basic tier, which due to its high carriage cost, would have a significant impact on the bottom line and increase cable rates for all subscribers. Essentially, the Network wants every subscriber to pay for the channel even if they don’t want it in their lineup.

It was one thing for Time Warner to walk away from negotiations when the NFL Network only carried eight games in a season, but now that TWC’s subscribers will be missing out on this new Red Zone channel, I’d expect the pressure to strike a deal will be amped up. I, for one, am not pleased that this product is readily available and the 2nd-largest cable company in the country does not offer it. What’s the point of having a monopoly if you aren’t going to use your negotiating power to get what you want?

Between the offering of exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket and the high carriage fees of the NFL Network (and presumably, the new RedZone channel), the NFL is not treating a subsection of its fan base very well.

We just want to watch the games — all of them. Why is the league making it so difficult for fans to consume its product?

NFL Network furious with Gruden

According to Peter King of SI.com, the NFL Network is furious with Jon Gruden, who nixed a deal with them to replace Tony Kornheiser and join the cast of Monday Night Football.

Do not invite Gruden and NFL Network czar Steve Bornstein to the same event anytime soon, or ever. Bornstein wants to wring Gruden’s neck. The NFL Network is furious with Gruden for jilting the network after he’d verbally agreed to a deal to work there. The former Bucs coach had been very good on the NFL Network, colorful and opinionated, at the NFL scouting combine and the NFL draft, and the network had finalized everything but the signature on the paper for Gruden to begin working there immediately. In fact, he was slated to be at NFL Films this week to begin his job full time. But ESPN swooped in, offered Gruden the Monday night seat vacated by Tony Kornheiser (how convenient), and Gruden took it.

The NFL Network planned to put Gruden on the air all season, then move him to the Thursday night football booth alongside Bob Papa, replacing Cris Collinsworth. Now it’s back to ground zero in its search for a voice to pair with Papa.

One of the reasons the NFL Network is so steamed, I’m told, is that no one from the Gruden camp called Bornstein to tell him. In many cases like this, the league might work with its TV partners to tell them, “Hey, hands off,” or “Play fair here,” but that didn’t happen here. ESPN got to Gruden too fast.

Now there are two people who should have been NFL Network stars this fall — Gruden and ace reporter Adam Schefter — who will instead work for ESPN. And the NFL Network is not pleased about the defection of either one.

The NFL Network has a tough roe to hoe when a bigger network such as ESPN comes a calling for some of their “players”, considering their reach and audience isn’t that big. If you got the opportunity to call a Monday Night Football game when you knew millions of people will be watching on a weekly basis, why would you stay at NFL Network calling late season Thursday night games for an audience of about 12 people?

Still, if this report is true what a crappy move by Gruden. You have to at least have the decency to tell your employer that you’re moving on if you already had an agreement with them to stick around for a while. Either way, he’ll likely be back on the sidelines in 2010, so ESPN will be looking for his replacement soon enough.

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