FOXBOROUGH, Ma. — It’s never easy to stomach a loss when a team has a double-digit lead in the 4th quarter.
It isn’t easy in the NBA, or in the NHL, or in College Lacrosse. It’s especially difficult in the NFL when games are a bit more meaningful due to the fact that there are only 16 of them played in the regular season.
With that in mind, it isn’t tough to understand the frustration from the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) fan base following the team’s 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots (4-1) at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
It wasn’t hard to understand the frustrations felt by members of the team in the moments immediately following Stephen Gostkowski’s game winning field goal, either.
It was a bit more difficult to understand why the frustration seemed to have more to do with the reaction to the loss than the loss itself.
LB Terrell Suggs was quick to dismiss the significance of the loss, saying “it’s not the end of the world. We’re six games in. We’re going to go play next week. We can’t cry over spilled milk.”
Suggs wasn’t the only member of the team who was quick to dismiss the significance of the loss despite a late game performance that could be fairly labeled as a “collapse.” Head Coach John Harbaugh was quickly dismissive of the significance of the loss, saying “we’re disappointed with the loss, but we’re certainly not discouraged in any way.”
Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice wasn’t just dismissive about the loss, he was almost combative in his response. “Do I think they’re a better team than us? No. Do I think they played better than us today? Yes.”
Well Ray, the team that isn’t better than your team is — they just outscored your team 13-0 in the final 11:02 of regulation and overtime.
It was a strange scene in the post-game locker room. I don’t think I expected Ravens players to be despondent, but I think I expected them to at least be frustrated with their performance in the latter stages of the game.
The weird thing is, I actually think I agree with them.
Ray Lewis made a relevant point during his post-game session with the media. “You win 80 percent of the games you play the way we (did) today” said the future Hall of Famer. “The mistakes that we did make in the 4th quarter, they’re definitely correctable.”
It’s really hard for an emotional, passionate fan base to accept the fact that not every loss in the end of the world. (Trust me, I would know). But in this case, this loss really ISN’T the end of the world.
In our weekly “Picks and Comment” segment Friday on “The Morning Reaction” on WNST AM-1570, I told Drew Forrester that there was a reason I was picking the Pats to win 23-21. (I don’t bring that up to rub in that I picked the game right, I bring it up because I want to make a point.) I told Drew that the Ravens had already proven this season that they were capable of winning these types of games, as they did by beating the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium and by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. But that didn’t mean they were necessarily ready to win ALL of them. I was also fearful of Patriots QB Tom Brady having the ball in his hands to end the game.
Well…Brady had the ball in his hands to end the game. And despite the fact that the Ravens held him in check on the last drive of regulation and the first two drives in overtime, he still came up big when necessary. Of course, that’s why he’s already solidified his spot at the Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
The Ravens proved Sunday that they are absolutely as good as teams like the Patriots. Through 49 minutes, there was no question that they were BETTER than the New England Patriots. They just didn’t quite finish it off.
They’re not there yet.
There is a desire from a fan base for an improving team to just be great immediately. It’s an understandable request. If a team wants to win a Super Bowl, they have to be capable of winning consecutive big games over quality opponents. This Baltimore Ravens team is approaching greatness. They’ve already shown that early in the season.
But they’re not quite there yet.
And that’s okay.
Honestly. Like Suggs said, it’s early in the 2010 campaign.
QB Joe Flacco is capable of late minute heroics. WR’s Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin have each shown themselves to be capable of putting together big 100+ yard game performances, as has Rice. The offensive line (despite OT Michael Oher’s struggles Sunday) has been significantly better than expected. And while the defense struggled for the better part of the 4th quarter in Foxborough, they also responded to make big plays three of the final four times the Patriots had the ball.
They’re a really good team, and they’re still getting better.
Sometimes really good teams lose to other really good teams on the road. It happens more often when the other really good team has a Hall of Fame-caliber team QB and a Hall of Fame caliber head coach (Bill Belichick). It really ISN’T “the end of the world” as Suggs so rightly pointed out.
The Ravens have things they need to correct — questionable play-calling certainly comes to mind as one of their biggest issues and Cam Cameron will be the one roasted by the fans this week for the loss in Foxborough. But with that being said, they have an opportunity to beat the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium next week and improve to 5-2 heading into their bye week.
Lewis feels pretty good about the team’s chances of doing just that.
“It’s going to be rough on Buffalo…but we’ll have some fun with it.”
Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Rice, Lewis, CB Chris Carr, TE Todd Heap and Suggs NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!