In addition to Monday’s Free The Birds2 event, perhaps we should stage a “Free The Ravens Defense” rally as well.
I’ll say the two most obvious things that can be said about today’s game and the Ravens season to date:
1) A win is a win. Coaches don’t care “how”. They just care “how many”.
2) Something’s not right with our football team.
Is it age? Perhaps. Our best player is in his 12th season, our 2nd best player – not playing because of a toe injury – is also in his 12th campaign and a portion of our secondary can no longer be considered spring chickens, by football standards, and one of the elder statesmen (Rolle) didn’t play this afternoon.
Have we depended on defense too long? To the point, now, where it’s simply time for the football gods to start issuing “make-goods” for all those years where the Ravens ignored offense and simply let the defensive 11 win games for Brian Billick & Co. That could be it. Never let a good witch’s conspiracy get in the way of logic. The football gods may be intervening this year.
Whatever the case, I smelled a distinct odor of “something’s not right” this afternoon in the 4th quarter of that game at M&T Bank Stadium. If not for that foolish head-hunting effort by Adrian Wilson on Todd Heap in the final 90 seconds, the Ravens might have very well gone to overtime today. That hit by Wilson is the precise reason why the Cardinals have been afflicted with the losing curse for so long. When your team has battled back from 23-6 down in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 23-23, the ONLY thing you have to avoid is doing something dumb-ass like a late hit, barking at the ref or trying to decapitate one of the opposing players. Wilson picked two of the three – dumb-ass, and, trying to take Heap’s head off. This week, the crybaby faithful in Arizona will whine about that call on Wilson and an earlier helmet-to-helmet call that should have gone against Ray Lewis but didn’t. They’re wrong, and right. The call on Wilson was the RIGHT call and, yes, Lewis should have been flagged for his earlier reckless hit. But Bill Buckner should have caught that grounder for the Red Sox back in the ’86 World Series and he didn’t. The game goes on. So, when the game is tied at 23 apiece, you have to play smart. Wilson didn’t. And those 15 yards practically ensured the Ravens at a shot to win the game on the leg of Matt Stover (what? you thought the Ravens might drive for a TD there? no chance in hell.)
That being said, you have every right to classify today’s win as an “escape”. I hate to use the word “lucky”, because that sounds like the Ravens didn’t deserve to win. They did deserve a victory. If it were a fight, the Ravens would have won a close, unanimous decision. Not as convincing as a knock-out, mind you, but they won the fight.
And still, something’s not right. At least that’s what I’m smelling. I’m not sure if it’s due to the fact that we nearly got beat by “Shades of Gray” Warner or, after most of the defensive players promised us throughout last week “we won’t let up again like we did against the Jets…make bank on that”, they did just that, again, but I’m breaking out in hives right now thinking about games against legitimate big-time playoff teams like Indy, New England, San Diego (at 1-2…go figure), Pittsburgh (twice), Seattle and pesky San Francisco in a couple of weeks.
If either of these 4th quarter collapses the last two weeks happen on the road, they’re much more acceptable. Near chokes at home – and this, today, was almost an EPIC choke, don’t kid yourself…they don’t happen to good teams. New England won’t allow some sgraggly team to zip in, through and around them in the last 11 minutes of a game to rebound from a 17-point deficit in their stadium, you can bet your purple-butt on that.
What the Ravens need next week in Cleveland is a big win…a laugher…a 34-7 pasting similar to the one the Steelers put on the Browns earlier this season. That would get things straightened out for the time being.
Instead, we have another week of Billick Bashing (“up 20-3 at the half…same old Ravens…only scored 6 points in the 2nd half”), McNair Mauling (“what’s up this dude? can’t he stay healthy and play a whole game anymore?”)…and more questions about the team’s age, health and lack of killer instinct.
They’re 2-1. And, like I said last week, it’s a race (marathon-style) to get to 10 wins and a playoff spot. You can’t get to 10 unless you get one out of the way. Then two. The Ravens have two – en route to 10, hopefully.
But Sunday thrillers like we’ve seen the last two weeks won’t always go their way. And, like we saw last January 13 in Baltimore, eventually you’re going to come against a team that doesn’t blink. Their defensive players don’t make a game changing head-hunting blunder in the final minute and a half. They don’t spike the ball in the face of the opposing player after a 4th quarter TD. Arizona does that stuff – that’s why they lose. Indy, New England, Pittsburgh, San Diego – they won’t beat themselves.
Still – rest easily tonight with this thought, among all others. Pretend you’re a coach this evening: it’s not “how”…it’s “how many”.
Think like that and you’ll have a good night’s rest.