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Beth El Congregation of the South Hills Hosts Shoe Drive

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Beth El Congregation Of The South Hills Hosts Shoe Drive
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Starting today, you can help someone in need literally put a better foot forward.

The Beth El Congregation of the South Hills is holding an area-wide shoe drive.

They accept new and lightly worn shoes to be sent to developing countries.

You can drop off the shoes until 5 p.m. tonight.

This fundraising will continue until October.


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ASK IRA: Do Heat have any wiggle room in competitive NBA East?

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Ask Ira: Do Heat Have Any Wiggle Room In Competitive Nba East?
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Q: Last season the Celtics were 16-19 in December and ended up in the NBA Finals. The Heat have the vets that have been to the Finals. Why not experiment during the first three months of the season? – Stuart.

A: Because with so much quality at the top of the Eastern Conference, I’m not sure that even the slightest blip during the season can be overcome in time to avoid traveling for the first round of the playoffs Look at last season’s standings, with the Heat finishing atop the East by two games, and the Celtics, 76ers and Bucks all tied for second. Now factor in what the Nets might be with Kyrie Irving available for the full season and Ben Simmons injected into the mix with his defense, and it is possible that a solid record still leaves you on the road for a daunting No. 4-vs.-No. 5 opening-round series. Last season, Heat-Celtics came in the East finals. This season, there is potential for such a series in the first round. Such tests are best avoided. And that means experimentation might be best avoided, as well. Getting a top-three seed could prove worth the effort of such a chase.

Q: Always enjoy reading your take. Here’s my question, now that the Heat have extended Tyler Herro and locked what looks like a core of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Herro, why not go all in even into the tax and bring in a power forward to make this team a monster? You would have a heck of a bench with Victor Olidapo and Caleb Martin coming in to spell the starters. P.J. Tucker was a nice complimentary piece, but was almost like a Lego piece where it’s plug and play. Kelly Olynyk or Jae Crowder look like they could provide a serviceable two years until Nikola Jovic is ready for his role. Taxes be darned. – Mike, Pembroke Pines.

A: Of course, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Foremost, the Heat seemingly do not have the matching salaries to work a deal, at the moment, for Jae Crowder or Kelly Olynyk. But, yes, those would be worthwhile expenditures. The Tyler Herro extension did not upgrade the current roster, but merely protected the future. There still has yet to be a win-now upgrade this offseason.

Q: Every year is the same story, never picked as favorite to win the conference or NBA championship, but end up proving them wrong, again and again. – Ernesto.

A: Which is why I’m sure the Heat’s executive offices and coaching suite hardly are upset about the league’s annual survey of general managers forecasting them for a fifth-place finish this season. The Heat seemingly love nothing more than carrying a chip on their shoulders.


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Mike Preston’s Ravens mailbag: Answering questions about the defense, John Harbaugh and more | COMMENTARY

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Ravens Q&Amp;A: Olb Daelin Hayes On Learning From A Frustrating Rookie Season, Reuniting With Kyle Hamilton, The Importance Of Community Service And More
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Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston will answer fans’ questions throughout the Ravens season. Fresh off Baltimore’s 23-20 Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills, plenty of questions remain with the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals coming to town for a “Sunday Night Football” showdown.

Here’s Preston’s take:

(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for length and clarity)

Mike, please tell me the qualifications Mike MacDonald has for being the defensive coordinator besides being a gift to the Ravens from John Harbaugh’s brother. The defense seems to be worse than ever. Based on Harbaugh’s decision to go for a touchdown on fourth down rather than a field goal, it shows he has no confidence in his defense to hold the Bills’ offense. Martindale must be laughing in New York since he is the one who took the fall after last season for the poor defense due to all the defensive injuries.

Bob Kronberg

Mike Preston: If there is one thing I have learned from former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome since covering this team in 1996, it’s patience. Newsome was always willing to give his assistant coaches, front office staff and players time to improve and develop. Before training camp started, I wrote that because of some newly hired coaches and players returning from major injuries, it would take three or four games to figure out where this team is headed.

Right now, the Ravens are in the same situation as most teams in the NFL. Few teams are playing at a consistently high level.

Bob, if you thought Macdonald was going to walk in and wave a magic wand to make things significantly better, then you were way off base. Back in 1996, it took then-coordinator Marvin Lewis two or three years to straighten out his defense because they were used to playing the style taught to them by former Cleveland coach Bill Belichick.

I don’t know all of Macdonald’s pedigree, but he spent seven years in Baltimore as an assistant before going to Michigan, which means he spent a lot of time working in basically the same pressure system instituted by Lewis and other former coordinators such as Rex Ryan and Martindale. I expected to see communication problems, especially on the back end, because most of the starters were held out of preseason games and every coordinator wants to put his signature on his defense. The Ravens haven’t disappointed because they look as unorganized as the old Keystone Cops.

Well, let’s see if that changes.

Macdonald can’t be blamed for some of the team’s other defensive shortcomings. Both inside and outside linebacker play has been poor, so much so that outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul played all but nine snaps against the Bills despite not having a full week of practice. That’s an indictment in itself.

The Ravens play tight coverage for nearly a half, but then lose focus once the other teams adjust. The pass rush has been poor for about four years now, and yes, I would have gambled on selecting a pass rusher in the first round instead of taking Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.

With all that said, the Ravens had the worst pass defense in the NFL last year, and they rank last again so far this season. This isn’t Major League Baseball, where you can bring up some minor league prospect to help. This staff has to work through it and find the strengths and weaknesses of its players. We can point fingers at what went wrong and who was to blame at the end of the season. All you can do now is just hope and wait.

In the 2012 season, it was reported Harbaugh almost lost the locker room. Any chance of that happening here? I know it’s football and emotions are high, but you don’t see these sideline blowups between coach and player from the Ravens.

Jay Parker

Preston: Oh, I’ve seen blowups before between assistant coaches and a player, but never a head coach and a player. Assistant or position coaches are usually the buffer and liaison between the head coach and the respective players, which is why cornerback Marcus Peters’ blow-up on the sideline Sunday with Harbaugh was so strange. I understand the emotions and tempers flaring but attempting to get in the face of a head coach is a major no-no in the NFL.

I never thought Harbaugh was close to losing his locker room in 2012. Harbaugh is an old-school coach who believes in hard work, team and discipline. He was hired by owner Steve Bisciotti to restore a much-needed work ethic because the Ravens had gotten away from that under Harbaugh’s predecessor, Brian Billick. But in 2012, the Ravens had some veterans — linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, receiver Anquan Boldin and safety Bernard Pollard — who were used to doing it their own way. It was natural for them to “bump heads” with Harbaugh but they put their differences aside because they wanted to win a Super Bowl.

After that happened, it was time for the great departure of those alpha males.

In the case of Peters, it was nice to see a player show some emotion and care because clearly Harbaugh has no faith in his defense, which is why he gambled on that fourth-down call late in the game. Harbaugh has to be careful not to let this situation fester because Peters is respected in the locker room and can influence young players.

Harbaugh is smart enough to figure that out and the two will come to some type of resolution. If not, that could become a major problem in the months ahead.

Mike, since Lamar Jackson entered the league, the teams you need to beat to get to the Super Bowl in the AFC are the Bills, Titans, and Chiefs. Include the Steelers because they are the Ravens’ archrival. Lamar’s in his fifth year and he’s only beaten those teams one time each. Is it time to start asking the question (or past the time) if he can win the big games on the biggest stage?

Jason in Federal Hill

Preston: I’ve been asking two similar questions for two years now. One, can Jackson take the Ravens deep into the postseason? And two, can he win a Super Bowl? He has done just about everything else as far as training, conditioning and film study to improve his overall game, but there is still doubt about him being able to win big games in crunch time with his arm. Jackson wants a new contract but for the kind of money he is demanding, he needs to show he can win big in the postseason. Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco did in 2012, and then the Ravens made him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.

To me, if you want to get paid big then you have to deliver big, even though I’m still not sure I would give Jackson a fully guaranteed contract.

Why is it that my family and I can easily predict if the Ravens are running or throwing based on their offensive formation? If we can see it, I assume a trained NFL eye can easily predict what they are doing. How is Greg Roman regarded among his peers? Are most teams with an electric running and throwing quarterback running double tights and incorporating a fullback into their attack?

Jesse Walker

Preston: I have had some problems with Greg Roman’s offenses in the past but not this year. Right now, the Ravens are averaging 359.3 yards per game — 217.3 passing and 142 rushing. They are also averaging 29.8 points.

What’s not to like?

I’m not ecstatic about some of Roman’s calls on short-yardage situations and would prefer he run 300-pound fullback Patrick Ricard up the gut for a yard or two or put Jackson out on the edge more in some run-pass-option plays. Overall, though, the Ravens have been successful.

As far as the double tights and incorporating a fullback, most offenses should be able to muscle up and succeed in short-yardage situations. I like the Ravens’ offense being multi-dimensional.

But if this offense is going to take another major step, Jackson has to learn to be able to read and throw to the outside areas of the field.

In hindsight, do you think a defensive end like George Karlaftis should have been one of the two first-round picks this year? I’ll admit he didn’t wow me coming out of Purdue, but watching him with the Chiefs, he seems pretty relentless out there. So far, seems like Kyle Hamilton’s presence has been more of a luxury than need, especially in light that we never ended up trading Chuck Clark, and Hamilton’s snap count seems to have gone down since the Dolphins game.

Paul from Orlando

Preston: As stated above, I would have taken a pass rusher. One of the keys to having a great defense is being able to get pressure with the front four so a defense can drop seven players into coverage. Regardless, the Ravens became enamored with Hamilton, even though they already have Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams on the roster. They also selected cornerbacks Jayln Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams in the fourth round. But the problem is that defensive backs will get exposed if quarterbacks are given time to throw.

The Ravens stuck with their mantra of taking the best player available, but in this situation, it would’ve been good to “reach” on a pass rusher.

Mike, what is the status of tight end Nick Boyle? He is not even sniffing the field these days. Is it physical or is he in the coach’s doghouse?

Dan in Elkton

Preston: Dan, to be honest, I think Boyle is one of Harbaugh’s favorite players, and the team is rewarding him for coming back from major knee surgery after his November 2020 injury. The guy has worked hard to return, but I saw him struggling to catch the ball and limping after major cuts during training camp. He has done nothing wrong to be put in Harbaugh’s doghouse.

Have a question for Mike Preston? Email [email protected] with “Ravens mailbag” in the subject line and it could be answered in The Baltimore Sun.


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Erwin Chemerinsky: As a new court term begins, prepare for the law to move even more to the right

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Erwin Chemerinsky: As A New Court Term Begins, Prepare For The Law To Move Even More To The Right
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As the Supreme Court begins its new term, it’s clear that the court’s majority is determined to move the law much further to the right. The last term ended with the court overruling Roe v. Wade, dramatically expanding gun rights, rejecting the separation of church and state, and limiting the power of administrative agencies.

About half the docket for the new term is set, and what is striking is how the court is reaching out to take and decide cases to further its conservative vision of the Constitution. Traditionally the justices have focused on granting review in cases where there is a disagreement among the lower courts — with the Supreme Court’s role being to resolve these conflicts. Often in the past, the justices have stressed that they want to wait until many lower courts have ruled — until the issue has “percolated,” before weighing in.

But in many of the high-profile cases for this coming term, the court has stepped in even though there is no disagreement among the lower courts.

For example, on Oct. 31, the Supreme Court will hear two cases about whether to end affirmative action by colleges and universities, Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College. In decisions in 1978, 2003 and 2016, the court held that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in having a diverse student body and may use race as one factor in admissions decisions in carrying out their educational mission.

This is settled law. Affirmative action, like abortion, has long been a target of conservatives. The widespread expectation is that here, too, the activist conservatives on the court will overrule more than 40 years of precedents they oppose politically.

Nothing about the law in this area or how it has been interpreted by the lower courts calls for reopening this issue. All that has changed since 2016 is that three Trump-appointed justices — Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — have joined the court.

Two voting cases of potentially great significance also are before the court. Merrill v. Milligan, which will be argued on Tuesday, involves the application of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to racial discrimination in the drawing of congressional districts. A three-judge court in Alabama — with two judges who were appointed by President Donald Trump and one by President Bill Clinton — found that the districts drawn in Alabama were racially discriminatory. Black individuals make up 27% of the population in Alabama, but only 1 out of 7 congressional districts in Alabama had a likelihood of electing a Black representative.

The three-judge court ordered new districts be drawn, but the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, stopped this in an emergency order and chose to hear the case.

The court, in its prior rulings over the last decade, has already greatly weakened the Voting Rights Act. There is good reason to fear that the conservative justices will make it harder to prove that election districts are drawn in a racially discriminatory manner — or perhaps even rule that considering the race of the people in the district in detecting discrimination is unconstitutional.

Some observers worry that the court might go so far as to rule that any law that prohibits racially discriminatory effects is unconstitutional. Such a ruling would eviscerate many civil rights laws that create liability on proof of disparate impact in employment, housing and voting.

The other election case, expected to be argued in November, is Moore v. Harper. The North Carolina Supreme Court found that the state Legislature violated the North Carolina Constitution by engaging in partisan gerrymandering to ensure that Republicans win 10 of 14 congressional seats even though the state is almost evenly split between the two parties.

That court decision was rooted in law and good sense. Yet the Roberts court took review of the case even though there was no special or unusual action by the North Carolina court. The GOP challengers argue that under the U.S. Constitution only the state legislature can decide matters concerning congressional elections. This stance has never been validated and would eliminate any form of state judicial review in such cases.

If the court embraces this bizarre argument, known as the “independent state legislature” theory (Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Gorsuch have already indicated their support), then state courts would be powerless to stop even the most egregious violations of the law.

Even more frightening, if the justices accept this theory regarding congressional elections, they could well apply the same reasoning to another constitutional provision — Article II, Section 1 — which addresses state legislatures’ role in the selection of presidential electors. That provision is not relevant to the gerrymandering dispute and is not before the Supreme Court. But if the court adopts the “independent state legislature” theory, a state legislature would have the power to award the state’s presidential electors to the candidate that lost the popular vote — even in violation of state law — and change the outcome of the presidential election.

303 Creative LLC v. Elenis is another discrimination case that will be heard by the Supreme Court even though there is no controversy among the appeals courts. The issue in this case is whether a business owner may violate state anti-discrimination law on account of her religious beliefs. Lorie Smith has a business in Colorado designing websites and wants to do that for weddings, but she says she won’t do it for same-sex weddings, even though such discrimination violates Colorado law. The question is whether she can use free speech as a defense against the state law. If the justices rule in her favor, they could open the door to discrimination by business based on sexual orientation, sex and even race simply by claiming their discrimination is protected by the First Amendment.

This will be the first term for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first African American woman on the court, a milestone in American history. Her voice will be greatly valued, but there remain six staunchly conservative justices who are willing to change the course of constitutional law as it has developed over the past five decades. Voting rights, racial equity and the power of states to ban discrimination are all on the line, and this is with less than half the docket set for the new term.

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Lisa Jarvis: Long COVID has become a parallel pandemic

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Lisa Jarvis: Long Covid Has Become A Parallel Pandemic
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The price of “living with COVID” in a free and open society is turning out to be much heftier than public health experts predicted.

Even with good vaccines and treatments, this year’s U.S. death toll is already much higher than that of the other virus that circulates each year, the flu. A terrible flu season kills about 50,000 people, but already more than 226,000 have died from COVID in 2022 — and even if another wave is avoided and fatalities remain at their current “low” level, another 150,000 lives could be lost over the next 12 months.

Then there’s the ballooning price of long COVID. Ongoing transmission, even if more like a slow burn than a raging fire, will mean the ranks of long-haulers will continue to grow. Long COVID has already pushed as many as 4 million people out of the workforce, according to a recent Brookings Institution report. As public concern over COVID fades, and funding dries up, it will become even harder to stem this parallel pandemic.

The government has put most of its resources behind solving the mystery of what causes long COVID. That’s essential work, but very little of it is devoted to studying how to treat and prevent long COVID. COVID long-haulers deserve better.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 5 people who contract the virus suffer lingering symptoms. Some slowly recover, but others find their quality of life drastically diminished for months or even years.

The only things that can get this parallel pandemic under control are better vaccines and treatments. But as society moves on from the emergency phase of the COVID pandemic, both may become more difficult.

Consider the increasingly challenging task of developing new vaccines. Infectious disease experts have advocated for developing universal coronavirus or intranasal vaccines — both worthwhile approaches for their potential to prevent the spread of the disease and maintain efficacy in the face of new variants. Either could significantly reduce the number of people joining the ranks of long-haulers.

But in a country that’s “over” COVID, funding to move these projects beyond the stage of good academic ideas and into actual clinical studies will dry up. And with the government no longer spending billions on COVID products, companies have far less incentive to invest in them. All of that coincides with a much more challenging and expensive climate for getting new COVID vaccines and drugs across the finish line.

One major issue is the growing challenge of enrolling volunteers in clinical studies. “It’s really hard to recruit people,” says David Boulware, an infectious disease researcher at University of Minnesota’s Medical School. Boulware, who has led several large clinical trials of potential COVID therapies, said it took over a year to convince 1,300 people to participate in an internet-based study asking whether vaccination minimizes symptoms of long COVID. During that time, tens of millions of Americans contracted the virus. They would have been eligible for the trial, but that early-pandemic enthusiasm to volunteer for the greater good seems to be evaporating.

Finding volunteers for such trials also depends on people continuing to test themselves for COVID at the first sign of a sniffle or cough. But how many people with mild symptoms are still bothering to find out if it’s COVID or a cold? If testing becomes passé, many people who ignored a mild infection could find themselves wondering why they’re struggling with brain fog or fatigue — and could also struggle to get the support they need.

For example, one theory is that long COVID is driven by virus particles that persist for weeks or months. Ideally, studies would test whether existing antivirals like Pfizer’s Paxlovid could fully clear the virus and prevent long COVID. But even in the thick of the pandemic, academic researchers have struggled to get such trials going, largely due to lack of interest from drug developers. Their task is about to get even harder, because those types of studies will hinge on enrolling people within days of falling sick.

The US federal government needs to be considering how to end the emergency phase of the COVID pandemic without putting solutions for long COVID further out of reach.

For example, one step would be for the Food and Drug Administration to shift the goals of new vaccine trials to focus on preventing infection and speeding recovery. During the early stage of the pandemic, the mandate for any vaccine or therapy was simple: Keep people out of the hospital and prevent death. The current vaccines and boosters crushed those tasks.

But newer vaccines should be aiming to minimize the number of infections, and thereby minimize the number of people at risk for long COVID. That calls for gauging whether new vaccines can prevent infection or significantly cut down on transmission. Late-stage vaccine studies should also include long-term follow-up to answer the question of whether they reduce the risk of long COVID. Promising data might in turn revive enthusiasm for vaccines and boosters at a time when the public seems less sure of their value.

More needs to be done now to ensure that efforts to develop treatments and vaccines aren’t hopelessly stalled as the pandemic’s first phase winds down. How can testing continue to be accessible and encouraged in an endemic world? What incentives can the government offer companies to keep pushing forward with new vaccines? What are the best ways to encourage the public to roll up their sleeves for studies of those new vaccines? Millions of COVID long-haulers — and potentially millions more long-haulers to come — are relying on the answers to these questions.

COVID might no longer be a public health emergency — the days of constant ambulance sirens and packed ICUs seem, thankfully, behind us. But the parallel pandemic of long COVID can’t be neglected in the transition back to “normal.”

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40 years ago, the 1982 Orioles’ magical comeback came up short. It set the stage for a 1983 World Series title.

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40 Years Ago, The 1982 Orioles’ Magical Comeback Came Up Short. It Set The Stage For A 1983 World Series Title.
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Forty years ago this week, it all came down to the 162nd game of the season.

The 1982 Orioles entered the final series of the regular season with a four-game set against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, who happened to be three games ahead of Baltimore in the American League East standings.

The Orioles needed to win each game to advance to the playoffs, and for the first three contests, they did just that, forcing a winner-take-all nationally televised Sunday afternoon game at Memorial Stadium in front of 51,642 fans. ABC broadcaster Keith Jackson described it as “quite a remarkable circumstance with a full World Series or playoff flair” as two future Hall of Famers toed the rubber: the Brewers’ Don Sutton and the Orioles’ Jim Palmer.

What’s more, it was slated to be the denouement of another Hall of Famer — longtime Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who had announced he’d be retiring at the season’s conclusion.

“The setting was too perfect,” sportswriter Jim Henneman wrote in the Evening Sun on Oct. 4, 1982.

Indeed, it was a storybook setting but not a storybook ending, as Robin Yount hit two home runs and the Brewers won, 10-2, to take the division crown. The Orioles finished with the second-best record (94-68) in the majors but missed the playoffs.

Anthony Murawski was an Orioles fan then, at age 11, and he remains one today. He can recall precise details from that summer — like rookie reserve Floyd Rayford hitting a walk-off homer in the 13th inning during a July game or Terry Crowley following suit with a pinch-hit grand slam in August. They overcame an eight-game August deficit to tie the Brewers in the standings ahead of the season finale.

It was a magical time for Murawski, and the season’s conclusion is imprinted in his memory.

“That season cemented my devotion to the Orioles because that was just an amazing thing,” he said. “And it broke my heart at the end.”

The Orioles trailed 5-2 in the eighth inning with two on and two out when pinch hitter Joe Nolan hit a ball to left field that seemed destined for extra bases. Instead, it was caught by Milwaukee’s left fielder.

“Ben Oglivie, of all people, slid into the wall and ended up catching the ball,” then-Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey said last week, “otherwise we score two runs right there.”

It was a sour end to what had been a sweet comeback. One usher cried. The front page of the next day’s Baltimore Sun read: “There is no God. Check that. There is a God, but it’s obvious now that he lives in Milwaukee.”

The baseball gods quickly backed Baltimore, though, as the Orioles returned — with mostly the same team, minus Weaver — to win the 1983 World Series, their most recent championship.

“I do think the combination of ‘81 and ‘82 carried over for that team the next year,” Henneman, now 87, said this week.

1982 was special in its own right, though. It was the year Cal Ripken Jr. began his consecutive games played streak and the year Weaver walked away (until his brief return in 1985). More than 20 minutes after the game against the Brewers had ended, half of the ballpark’s crowd remained, eager for another sighting of Weaver. It was “almost like nobody would leave,” Henneman recalled.

“They’re still out there?” Weaver asked at the time.

Weaver dutifully completed the curtain call and then led fans in a chant of “O-R-I-O-L-E-S.”

The Orioles had come up short that day, but not before staging an improbable late-season comeback and setting the stage for a title the following season.

“It was typical Oriole magic of those days,” said Dempsey.


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Ravens film study: Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman still haven’t solved Buffalo’s defense

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Ravens Film Study: Lamar Jackson And Greg Roman Still Haven’t Solved Buffalo’s Defense
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The Ravens entered Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills with, by some measures, the NFL’s best offense. They led the league in yards per play, points per game and overall efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. They had a Most Valuable Player favorite in quarterback Lamar Jackson.

They ended Sunday’s home collapse without any real progress made against a defense that has vexed Jackson and coordinator Greg Roman like few others have.

In the 23-20 loss, the Ravens averaged a season-low 4.6 yards per play. They had just two drives of longer than 38 yards, the second of which ended with a game-changing goal-line interception. Their running game couldn’t establish itself. Jackson had his worst passing performance of the season. There were inopportune penalties and struggling stars and bad-weather misfortunes against a defense missing an All-Pro-caliber defensive tackle (Ed Oliver), cornerback (Tre’Davious White) and safety (Micah Hyde).

It was the kind of lockdown performance that the Bills, under defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, might well now expect. In their three meetings over the past four years, the Ravens have averaged just 4.6 yards per play — a mark equal to the Washington Commanders’ NFL-low average for this season — and searched fruitlessly for consistent success. They’re averaging minus-0.11 expected points added per play against Buffalo since 2019, according to the play index site nflfastR; only the Pittsburgh Steelers have limited the Ravens more effectively in that span. (EPA accounts for situational factors such as down, distance and field position.)

Even average performances from the Ravens’ offense likely would have been enough to knock off Buffalo in their past two matchups. In their 2020 divisional-round playoff win, the Bills scored one offensive touchdown and had just 220 yards of total offense. In Sunday’s comeback, they finished with a season-low 326 yards, and the Ravens turned their two turnovers into 10 points.

“Our offense is very confident in what we can do,” right guard Kevin Zeitler said Sunday, after his first game against Buffalo as a Raven. “Whether we call passes or we call runs, the guys in the room, we truly believe, whatever is called, we can get it done. And obviously, I think it’s just more [about] consistent execution, and I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”

If the AFC’s road to the Super Bowl runs through Buffalo this season, the Ravens’ next encounter could be just months away. Here’s where their offense will have to improve:

Run offense formula

Roman has probed the Bills’ defense with different personnel tendencies over their three meetings. In 2019, when the Ravens held on for a 24-17 win in Buffalo despite just 118 yards rushing, he relied mostly on “11″ personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers) and “12″ personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers). Neither package averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry.

In their 2020 loss, before Jackson was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter with a concussion, the Ravens leaned more on “11″ personnel and heavier formations featuring fullback Patrick Ricard. They were more successful, especially early, but still all but abandoned designed runs as the game wore on.

On Sunday, the Ravens seemed determined to outmuscle Buffalo, which is content to line up in its “nickel” defense (five defensive backs) against even tight-end-heavy and fullback-added formations. Of Roman’s 26 designed-run calls, 23 came with Ricard on the field.

But the Ravens averaged just 4 yards per carry on those attempts. Early-down success was especially elusive; on running back J.K. Dobbins’ six first-down carries Sunday, he totaled just 9 yards, almost half of which came on his 4-yard first-quarter touchdown. Those struggles kept not only the Ravens off schedule but also Buffalo in its preferred defensive structure.

“We know going in, they’re a very good defense,” Zeitler said. “There is a reason they’re, like, No. 1 in everything, and it was going to be a tough game. We started off nice, and things were rolling our way, but just like any good team, which they are, they made adjustments and they battled. It was an absolute battle out there, and we couldn’t pull it off.”

Unlocking Mark Andrews

Andrews entered Week 4 as the picture of consistency for the Ravens’ passing attack. His 12 straight games with 50-plus receiving yards was the NFL’s longest active streak and tied for the second-longest such streak by a tight end in the modern NFL.

Buffalo’s defense, though, is a graveyard for tight end production. No unit in September better defended the position, according to Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics, and the Bills only burnished their reputation in Baltimore. Andrews was limited to two catches on five targets for 15 yards, his lowest output since the Ravens’ 2019 win in Buffalo (one catch on three targets for 14 yards). In Andrews’ return trip the following year, he had four catches on 11 targets for 28 yards.

Part of the problem is personnel. Taron Johnson, whose pick-six in the Ravens’ 2020 playoff loss doubled Buffalo’s lead, is one of the NFL’s more versatile slot cornerbacks. Inside linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds have played together as starters since 2018, with only occasional interruptions, a cohesiveness that becomes apparent in how well they pass off receivers in zone coverage. And Jordan Poyer, who had two interceptions Sunday, is an All-Pro safety.

But there have also been missed opportunities. In 2020, Jackson twice short-armed passes to a wide-open Andrews, costing the Ravens potential double-digit gains. On Sunday, he overthrew Andrews on a would-be 16-yard touchdown pass to open the second quarter. The Ravens instead settled for a field goal.

Beating ‘Cover 4′

With a steady pass rush, a reliable linebacking corps and a star-studded secondary, the Bills have all but dared Jackson on drop-backs to take what’s available underneath or suffer the consequences.

In 2020, Jackson dropped back 19 times in Buffalo against “Cover 4″ looks, according to Sports Info Solutions, a pass coverage with four deep zones — typically split between two cornerbacks and two safeties — and three shallow zones. He went 9-for-14 for 135 yards but was pressured eight times, scrambling three times and taking two sacks.

On Sunday, Jackson saw more of the same. According to The 33rd Team, Jackson dropped back 11 times against “Cover 4″ looks but went just 3-for-6 for 18 yards. He was hurried five times, pressured seven times and sacked twice. He also scrambled three times for 28 yards.

Harbaugh indicated Monday that the Ravens’ pass protection plans undercut some of Jackson’s effectiveness against Buffalo’s zone schemes. With rookie Daniel Faalele starting at left tackle and star defensive end Von Miller often lining up over right tackle Morgan Moses, the Ravens had to keep Jackson well protected on obvious passing downs. Sometimes that meant sacrificing the integrity of their route concepts.

“We weren’t able to quite do the high-low, maybe, type of challenges as quickly as we wanted to because we were working our protection,” Harbaugh said, referring to a concept that gives the quarterback the option of passing to either the target in front of or behind a defender’s zone. “Sometimes those guys got out late; I think Pat got out late one time. You saw J.K. get out late one time, and Lamar was able to dump him the ball. Or the checkdown ended up being Lamar, because we had the protection set up to protect against those two pass rushers, and Lamar found his way through, and he was the checkdown.”

Better luck

Good teams make their own luck, but the Ravens haven’t had much of it against Buffalo in their past two losses.

They’ve dealt with bad weather. In 2020, amid gusts of wind as high as 26 mph, All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker missed two first-half field-goal attempts. His first one, from 41 yards, hit the left upright, while the second, from 46 yards, doinked off the right. Rainy conditions were a problem for players on both teams Sunday, but maybe no one struggled more with drops than Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman.

They’ve dealt with iffy calls. On Sunday, officials missed an apparent pass-interference call against Ravens wide receiver Demarcus Robinson on third down but penalized tight end Mark Andrews for offensive pass interference, a questionable flag that turned a first-and-goal at Buffalo’s 1-yard line into third-and-16.

And they’ve dealt with bad timing. Jackson has thrown only four interceptions in the red zone in his career. The first one was returned 101 yards for a touchdown by Johnson, ending the Ravens’ last scoring threat of their 2020 loss. The fourth one came Sunday, when Poyer picked off Jackson’s jump-ball throw to wide receiver Devin Duvernay, not only denying a go-ahead touchdown but also moving Buffalo into better territory for its decisive drive.

“At the end of the day, it’s our job to get in the end zone,” Moses said, “and we’ve got to perfect those things.”

Week 5

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Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

TV: Chs. 11, 4

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 3


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