Cleat of Reality delivers “real” blow to Ravens

December 19, 2011 | Drew Forrester

The Cleat of Reality flew back to Baltimore with the Ravens early Monday, having done his work a few hours earlier in San Diego as the Chargers pounded John Harbaugh’s team, 34-14.

San Diego knows enough about the Cleat of Reality…he’s been visiting the Chargers on a regular basis for the last half-dozen years or so.

But for one night, the Cleat was applied to the Ravens.  Big time.

This year’s edition of the Baltimore Ravens might be good enough to make it to the Super Bowl, but they might also be not good enough to win a game in the playoffs.  It’s an odd thing when a team is 10-4 with two weeks to play and no one is still quite certain just what they’re capable of accomplishing.  And, if nothing else, the loss in San Diego only further muddied the picture as far as the Ravens are concerned.

Questions from Sunday night include these:

> Who were those two guys wearing #29 and #22?  Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith both needed to bathe in aloe vera afterwards. I know Smith is a rookie and all, but we need better than that from him down the stretch.

> OK, the Chargers did a terrific job on Terrell Suggs.  Fair enough.  Where, then, were the likes of Pernell McPhee, Paul Kruger and Jarret Johnson?  The Ravens got nothing — from any of them — and didn’t sack Phillip Rivers one time.

>  John Harbaugh wasn’t exactly Vince Lombardi on Sunday night.  With less than two minutes to go in the first half, trailing 10-7, Harbs elected NOT to use any defensive time-outs and the Chargers did their best to kill the clock before going in for a TD that made it 17-7 just prior to the half.  Memo to John:  You can stop the clock when YOUR team is on offense, that’s why you call your time-outs on DEFENSE.  And why would you punt the ball away with 12 minutes left in the game, trailing 31-7?  On 4th and 6 from your 40, don’t you go for it there?  Punting it away there was very un-Harbaugh like, I thought.  And I’m ALL for Tyrod Taylor getting some mop-up duty — I’ve called for it a bunch this year — but I don’t understand why you only give him one series at the very end of the game.  If you’re going to punt the ball away with 12 minutes to go, why not just let Taylor finish up there when you get it back with 7 or 8 minutes to play?

>  Billy Cundiff has to make EVERY kick inside of 40 yards.  Those are three-foot putts in golf.  You don’t make them all, but when you don’t, you lose.  And that’s what kicks inside of 40 yards represent.  Those are game-winning kicks.  You MUST hit them all. I can accept misses from 45 or 50 yards.  But not 36 or 37 yarders.  Cundiff needs to make those kicks or next August we’ll have some other feet trotting around the facility in Owings Mills doing battle for the kicking job.

>  Joe Flacco complained about the Ravens not getting any respect last week.  I think most folks agree that the likes of Tebow and Brady and the Steelers and the Packers get all the meaty publicity.  You know what they have in common?  Winning.  Flacco had his chance to help show everyone around the country that he and the Ravens are more deserving of respect…and he threw the ball to the other team twice in the 3rd quarter when he was trying to bring the Ravens back into the game.  It wasn’t all on Joe, of course, but as Flacco himself noted last Monday night when he was a guest on our Monday Night Live show, when you’re the quarterback, you get the bad rap if your team loses.

>  What’s with the Ravens stinking it up on the road this season?  Other than that walk-in-the-park in St. Louis in week three, the play away from home has been uneven at best and downright awful nearly half the time.  It’s one thing to lose on the road.  Most teams go in to the season hoping to go at least 4-4 away from home, and the Ravens are 3-4 with only a visit to Cincinnati remaining on their away schedule.  But the four losses thus far have been ass-beatings.  Sunday night’s debacle in San Diego was the worst total team performance of the John Harbaugh era, in my opinion.  That’s not good in week #14 of the season.

>  Sunday night once proved this:  The teams that win games are the ones who DON’T make mistakes.  Or, at least, make the fewest.  If I told you prior to Sunday that I saw the script for the game and the Ravens turn the ball over twice, miss a chip-shot field goal and give up seven sacks, what result would you have guessed?  A loss, of course.  Right.  That’s what happens when you throw two picks, miss a field goal and let the other team sack your QB seven times.  You lose.  Can the Ravens win their last two regular season games and go into the playoffs and clean up there, too?  Sure.  But they can’t play games like they played on Sunday in San Diego or they’re done.  All it takes is ONE game like that after January 1st and you’re cooked.  Sometimes, all it takes is one bad HALF of football and your season is over.

If you’re a Ravens fan, you have to balance out last night’s poor performance with the fact that the team is 10-4, relatively healthy and capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday.

The problem, as we’ve seen a few times too many this year, is that the Ravens are also full capable of producing the ugliest of efforts like they did in Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego.

We’re not quite certain which team is going to show up.

And with two weeks to play, that’s not a good sign.