Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker does the Terio in celebration

Last Sunday, after nailing a game-winning 46-yard field goal in overtime to help the Ravens beat the Bengals, former Longhorn Justin Tucker celebrated how anyone in his position should.

He did the Terio.

Watch and enjoy.

Tucker continues to be clutch in his second year in the NFL. And as Texas fans remember, he hit plenty of last-minute kicks for the Longhorns as well.

And if you haven’t caught up on the Terio craze, stop what you’re doing and watch this video.  Now.

Last week I circled both the Washington Redskins-Oakland Raiders and the Buffalo Bills-Baltimore Ravens games as the two to watch if you were interested in following some former Longhorn greats. Both of these contests lived up to the hype I put on them in my blog last Friday. Contrary to my predictions, the Redskins earned their first victory of the season, while the Bills upset the Ravens at home. Here’s a look at how some key former Longhorns performed for both teams, and other standout Texas performances from the week.

Brian Orakpo (Redskins defensive end)

I guess Orakpo heard me loud and clear last week. He had to play well and set an aggressive defensive tone for his team if the Redskins wanted to pick up their first win of the season. He did just that by providing suffocating pressure on Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn. Orakpo finished the game with four tackles with two for a loss, and two sacks. He spearheaded the Redskins’ defensive attack as they would tally a whopping seven sacks in the game. Overall his defensive did a nice job of limiting the Raiders to just 298 total yards and 14 points. That’s a nice way to set up a win.

Aaron Williams (Bills defensive back)

This is Williams’ second fantastic defensive week of the season. Quarterback Joe Flacco had possibly the worst game of his career and Williams and the Bills’ defense played no small part in his embarrassing afternoon. The Ravens’ defense forced five — that’s not a typo — five interceptions and from Flacco. Williams claimed two of these picks, while also finishing with two tackles and four pass breakups. Buffalo’s defense is starting to become a stingy unit. Williams has been, and will continue to be a major factor in its success as the season progresses.

Earl Thomas (Seahawks safety)

In typical fashion, Thomas brought energy and swagger to the Seahawks’ heroic defensive efforts in what was a potential Super Bowl preview against the Houston Texans. The defining play of the game was cornerback Richard Sherman’s pick six against quarterback Matt Schaub late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20. Thomas contributed on defense all throughout the game prior to that play. He pitched in seven tackles and two critical pass breakups from Matt Schaub. The result: The Seahawks remained unbeaten even after one of their toughest tests of the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense played poorly and still managed to win this game. That speaks volumes about the quality of Seattle’s defense.

As always, this weekend of NFL action features a parade of former Texan Longhorn players.  For Longhorn fans there are quite a few games Sunday to keep an eye on.  Two games in particular – Washington Redskins vs. Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills – will feature a nice collection of Texas players.  In addition to their appeal to Texas football fans, both of these games seem to have make-or-break implications for at least one of the teams involved.  Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Ravens at Bills

Marquise Goodwin is still out with the fractured hand he suffered in the Bills’ week-one loss to the Patriots.  Bummer.  It would have definitely been exciting to see his blazing breakaway speed matched up with the likes of defensive backs Michael Huff and Chykie Brown.  

Look for CB Aaron Williams to have another huge day against a Ravens squad, which is depleted at the receiver position.  In week two, Williams recorded a team-high 12 tackles.  This is a paramount game for the Bills – the difference between 1-3 and 2-2 in this league is greater than it appears.  This is Williams’ chance to shine again, only this time against the defending champs.  I’m taking the Ravens in a close one, as Justin Tucker wins it on a last second field goal.  

Redskins at Raiders

Since 1990, only three teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3.  To avoid permanently crippling their season with their 0-4 start, the Redskins need some big-time defensive help for Robert Griffin III.  Enter the Texas stars:  DE Brian Orakpo, CB Cedric Griffin and LB Keenan Robinson will need to step and play effectively to keep Griffin and the offense on the field.  The defense has already surrendered 98 points in their first three games.  Offensively, the Redskins are putting up a decent amount of points but Griffin is constantly having to play catch up – thus turning himself into a one-dimensional quarterback.  The defensive effort starts with Orakpo, who has been Washington’s best individual defender over the first three weeks.

Oakland defensive tackle Lamarr Houston will be key in applying pressure to Griffin in the pocket.  In three games this year, he’s tallied two sacks and a forced fumble.  If he and the Raider defense can minimize their time on the field, Oakland is in good shape.  The last thing the Redskins’ defense needs right now is 35+ minutes on the field.  This is going to be tough contest for Washington, but I think they’ll pick up their first win.  It’s not the opponent but the wild, Oakland atmosphere that will make things difficult for the ‘Skins as they look to avoid an 0-4 start.  

West Virginia WR Tavon Austin is the head of a class of Big 12 players with bright NFL futures

Of the 22 Big 12 players selected last week in the NFL draft, several are expected to make immediate impacts. Here are some safe bets.

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (St. Louis Rams)

I believe that Austin will be the top NFL player from the 2013 draft class. He is only 5-foot-8 but runs a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, which seems to translate in game situations. He racked up 574 all-purpose yards in a loss to Oklahoma (2nd-most in FBS history), and in the process showed his versatility as a receiver, running back and return man. I really like what I saw from him in college, and think he has a chance to excel in a Percy Harvin-like utility role in the NFL. He will do it all for the Rams, and will have a stellar career if he proves to be durable.

Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State (Baltimore Ravens)

When the Ravens lost Ray Lewis to retirement this offseason, inside linebacker became a question mark, as did who would be his replacement. The Ravens took Brown in the second round, and should be fine at the position. Brown racked up at least 100 tackles in each of his two seasons in Manhattan.

Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (Philadelphia Eagles)

Johnson is a very versatile player who should fit perfectly in Chip Kelly's offensive system. Johnson was a quarterback as well as a track star in high school and played some tight end as well as defensive end before moving to the line at OU. He runs a 4.72-second 40-yard dash, and was one of the most athletic linemen in the class of 2013.  He should be a staple of the Eagles offensive line for years to come, and give Michael Vick some much needed protection on either side of the line.

Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (Arizona Cardinals)

Maybe its just the Texas homer in me, but I was shocked to see Okafor drop into the fourth round like he did. He was one of four players in the FBS to record 12-plus sacks and force four or more fumbles in 2012, and ended his career with one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen live (behind only Ndamukong Suh in the 2009 Big 12 Championship). In the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl, Okafor was credited with a game record 4.5 sacks and even made his assigned blocker cry by the end of the game, although he was probably just as sad that his Oregon State career was coming to an end as he was with his performance. Okafor could be one of the biggest steals in the draft, and should help anchor the Cardinals defense for years to come.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (New Orleans Saints)

Vaccaro is a testament to the fact that hard work in college trumps a high star rating out of high school. He was ranked the 18th-best safety out of high school, according to rivals.com, but was chosen at No. 15 overall, the first safety chosen in a very stron class. Vaccaro is a hard hitter who can cover the field and shut down receivers as the nickleback. If Texas didn’t struggle against the run upfront like they did in 2012, Vaccaro could’ve played more in-position and had a better senior season. But he is exactly what the Saints need to help improve a last place Saints defense from 2012. 

Former Longhorns Justin Tucker, Chykie Brown crowned Super Bowl champs

Four former Longhorns participated in the Super Bowl yesterday, and two, Ravens cornerback Chykie Brown and kicker Justin Tucker, walked away with rings. They became the 11th and 12th former Longhorns to triumph in the Super Bowl and the first since former Texas cornerback and Thorpe Award winner Aaron Ross did it with the New York Giants last season.

A little more than a year after drilling a game-winning 40-yard kick in College Station to close the historic Texas-Texas A&M rivalry victoriously, Tucker helped Baltimore to its second Super Bowl victory kicking a perfect two-for-two, including a 38-yard field goal, with four PATs. The only stain on Tucker's otherwise stellar performance was a failed fake field goal attempt in which he came one yard shy of picking up a first down. He scored 10 points in the Ravens victory, the most by a former Longhorn in a Super Bowl.

On the opposite side of the field were 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown and guard Leonard Davis. Tarell Brown played an important role in the 49ers'. comeback efforts when he struck the ball from Ravens star running back Ray Rice's hands and recovered the fumble in the third quarter. The play revitalized the San Francisco team, whose near comeback from a 22-point deficit made defeat all the more heartbreaking.

As heaps of purple and gold confetti floated from the heavens, Chykie Brown stole the spotlight with his celebration. On the middle of the field, he lay down and jubilantly created a confetti snow angel.

Justin Tucker made plenty of big kicks at Texas and he has carried over his success to the NFL as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Not too long ago they meandered through the 40 Acres, bulked up in the weight room and left their sweat on the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Now former Longhorns Chykie Brown and Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens, along with Tarell Brown and Leonard Davis of the San Francisco 49ers will make their mark on professional football’s largest stage — the Super Bowl.

The Feb. 3 game in New Orleans will be the first Super Bowl for each of the former Longhorns, although high-pressure play is nothing new. Tarell Brown was part of the 2005 National Championship team, while Tucker and Chykie Brown played in the 2009 National Championship game, earning two Big 12 Championships along the way. 

For Houston native Chykie Brown, the path to an NFL career began with his years as a cornerback for the Longhorns. Brown started 29 games and posted 106 tackles and four sacks throughout his career. After starting nine games in his 2010 senior season, Brown was sidelined with a season-ending injury against Kansas State.

Brown was picked up by the Ravens as a defensive back in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and has added 25 tackles in his two seasons with the team.  Whether or not Brown will start against the 49ers is up for debate. After struggling to make tackles against the Patriots, Brown was benched in favor of Jimmy Smith. With the offensive talents of Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Randy Moss, effective defensive backs will be crucial. 

Fellow Raven Justin Tucker seems to have a knack for closing out nail-biting games. The Austin native and music major graduated with an impressive field goal percentage that ties for third best in Texas history. Tucker is beloved in the minds of Longhorn fans for his game-winning 40-yard field goal against Texas A&M in 2011 as the clock ran out. 

After tallying 132 points and a 90.9 percent accuracy rate in his first year with the Ravens, Tucker found himself in a similar situation as he stepped up to attempt a field goal against the Broncos this season. Tucker successfully concluded the fourth-longest game in NFL history by converting a field goal. 

Chykie isn’t the only Brown to have made his start as a Texas cornerback. Tarell Brown, now a San Francisco cornerback, was also racking up impressive statistics during his college career. Starting 35 out of 47 games, Tarell Brown tallied 172 tackles during his four years as a Longhorn.

Tarell Brown has spent six seasons with the 49ers, and has recorded 57 tackles this season, a career best. He played a key role in snagging a win against the Packers when he intercepted Aaron Rodgers’ pass, which spurred another 49ers touchdown. 

Teammate Leonard Davis also has burnt orange roots. The 49ers guard, and the largest player on the team, was once a powerful offensive tackle for Texas, lovingly dubbed the “Dancin’ Bear” by his teammates and coaches. After starting all 12 games as a senior, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinalsin 2001.

Davis has a wide variety of NFL experience. After playing six seasons for the Cardinals, he then played for the Cowboys for four seasons before heading to Detroit and finally to San Francisco. Davis has played in 16 games for the 49ers this season, although he has yet to start a game.

AFC Championship Features Rematch Between Hated Foes

In game that few people expected them to be a part of, the Baltimore Ravens enter Sunday as nine-point underdogs to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  However, the Ravens and fifth-year Quarterback Joe Flacco weren’t phased by similar circumstance last week, when they went into Denver and pulled out a double overtime victory over the Broncos.  Can they do it again?  Here are a few storylines to follow heading into Sunday’s AFC showdown:

1) Oh, You Again

The Pats and Ravens are very familiar with each other, as Sunday’s game will make it their second straight meeting in the AFC Championship game and third playoff contest in the past four years.  Although New England is virtually unbeatable at home in the playoffs, Baltimore blew them out 33-14 in 2009 and narrowly lost 20-23 after Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds.  Clearly, the Ravens aren’t afraid of heading into Foxborough.

2) Matchup to Watch: Aqib Talib vs. Torrey Smith

Plenty will be made of the chess match between QB Tom Brady and LB Ray Lewis in this game, and rightfully so.  However, a matchup that may be more intriguing will be between Pats’ corner Aqib Talif and Ravens’ wide receiver Torrey Smith.  Smith burnt New England for 126 yards and two touchdowns when the two teams met earlier this season, and hauled in another two last week with veteran corner Champ Bailey covering him.  However, Talib, who New England acquired from Tampa Bay midseason, has brought some swagger to the Patriot defense with his fiery attitude and physical style of play.  Can he contain Smith?  The answer to that may determine this game’s outcome.

3) Can Joe Flacco Win the Big One?

Flacco’s been heavily critiqued over the past several years, as many people in the sports world have begun to wonder whether or not he has what it takes to win a championship, despite the fact that he is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.  After last week’s victory in Denver in which Flacco threw three touchdowns and outplayed four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, people had better start acknowledging his abilities.  However, out-dueling Tom Brady in Foxborough is never easy, even if Flacco has done it before.

Prediction:

Although Baltimore is no pushover and will give the Pats all they can handle, New England just has too many weapons on the offensive side, even with Rob Gronkowski out with a broken forearm.  With Tom Brady playing like well, Tom Brady, and their defense playing its best football of the year, New England will make enough plays to defeat Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

Score: 31-24

The NFL’s third batch of games was filled with surprises, from the Saints blowing a lead at home to fall to 0-3 to the Vikings dominating the 49ers. Sunday’s games provided plenty of fantasy football shockers as well, both good and bad:

Studs:
1) Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Just when fantasy owners think they have it all figured out, they don’t.

Following back-to-back subpar outings to start the season, many were wondering if Charles had fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in 2011. However, the former Longhorn proved all his doubters wrong Sunday, breaking out for 233 yards rushing as well as 55 yards receiving to go along with his two touchdowns. Any fantasy owners who had Charles on the bench Sunday were kicking themselves in frustration.

2) Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Smith’s performance Sunday against the New England Patriots was one to remember. He took the field less than 24 hours after he lost his brother in a fatal motorcycle accident. Smith played incredible resilience, racking up 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns in what was by far his best game of the season.

3) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Entering the season, new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley vowed that Pittsburgh would get back to running the football more. Through their first two games, that was certainly the case, causing Roethlisberger’s fantasy production to suffer. However, all that changed in Oakland on Sunday, when Big Ben aired it out for 384 yards and four touchdowns against the Raiders.

Duds:

1) Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Following Eli Manning’s 500-yard performance against Tampa Bay last week, Romo and the Cowboys were licking their chops when the Buccaneers came to Dallas Sunday. However, Romo flopped against what was thought to be a porous defense, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles while failing to throw a touchdown pass.

2) Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

With fellow TE Aaron Hernandez sidelined with an ankle injury, many people expected Gronkowski to have a monster game against the Ravens Sunday night. However, Gronkowski was almost invisible, catching only two passes for 21 yards and failing to get into the end zone for the first time this season.

3) Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

Johnson solidified himself as the biggest bust in fantasy football so far this season, managing a paltry 24 yards rushing against the Lions on Sunday. Sadly, that is the most yards he has totaled this season. Considering Johnson produced such low numbers in a game where the Titans put up 44 points in an overtime victory, he cannot be considered a fantasy starter until he proves otherwise.
 

Ricky Williams served as the backup running back in Baltimore in his final season in the NFL. Williams rushed for over 10,000 yards in his career and is 26th overall on the all-time rushing list.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas legend and 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams has decided to retire after 11 seasons in the NFL. Williams, 34, played with the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and spent his final year with the Baltimore Ravens.

He ends his career as one of just 26 players in NFL history to rush for more than 10,000 yards. He passed Earl Campbell in rushing, becoming Texas’ most productive rusher in the NFL.

“The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life,” Williams said. “I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly fun. I want to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches and supporters for the strength they’ve given me to overcome so much.”

He was selected fifth overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1999 NFL Draft, and he became the first Saints 1,000 yard rusher in more than a decade. In 2002, while on the Dolphins, Williams led the NFL with 1,853 rushing yards. In his final season, his season with the Ravens, he rushed for 444 yards and two touchdowns. Baltimore went 12-4 this season and lost to New England in the AFC championship game.

He originally retired in 2004 when facing a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. But he returned in 2005 and then played with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 2006.

His last NFL start was in 2009; he played backup for Ray Rice this season.

“I have to thank coach [John] Harbaugh and the Ravens organization for the opportunity they gave me this year,” Williams said. “I had so much fun and really appreciated the chance to finish on such a great note.”

As a Texas player, Williams was the winner of the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award and the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year award. He finished as one of the best players in college football history with 21 NCAA records and 26 University of Texas all-time marks.

Williams said he now plans to continue his education and running the Ricky Williams Foundation.

“We’re so proud of Ricky and everything he accomplished,” said head coach Mack Brown. “He’s always been a great player but in recent years I watched every week with amazement at how much speed, power and quickness he still had despite his age.”

Williams’ No. 34 jersey was retired in September 2000 and he is in the Longhorn Hall of Honor.

“He is a special football player and will always be remembered as one of the best to ever play the game,” Brown said.

Printed on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 as: Texas great Ricky Williams retires from NFL