All of Baltimore was stoked and ready for the big game. Bars filled up at 1230pm eagerly awaiting kickoff. Probably a few hundred Ravens fans were on the road in Foxboro. This was it. The biggest game of the year thus far. The young buck, Joe Flacco, versus the old veteran, Tom Brady. The game started on a sour note 10 seconds in, when Chris Carr coughed up the ball on the opening kickoff . Luckily the defense held the Patriots to a field goal.
Joe Flacco hit Derrick Mason 6 times with pinpoint passes and the 6th being a TD reception giving the Ravens a 7-3 lead. We all had a feeling about this one. New England’s defense was on it’s heels during that first drive. Flacco was flawless. Even the 5000 fans at Camden Yards watching the Orioles avoid loss #99 knew it. This looked like it was going to be too easy.
Like every other Ravens’ fan around 420pm I too was rather upset with the 27-21 loss to the Patriots and started rehashing every seemingly lousy call made by Ron Winter’s officiating crew. I can imagine some of the local Sears and Wal Mart stores will sell out of TVs tomorrow. I KNOW someone had to throw a shoe or something through a television screen.
It started with Ngata’s arm hitting Brady’s helmet for a 15 yard roughing call (maybe not as cheap as the Suggs brushing of Kerry Collins shoulder pad last year in week 2 or 3) It continued with the Suggs tumbling against Brady’s legs for another 15 yarder, then there was the obvious push-off by Welker which was called defensive pass interference. Following John Harbaugh’s outrage and “that’s a bullshit call” comment to the line judge a flag flies for unsportsmanlike conduct (which Nance and Simms said is rarely called) All those calls kept Patriot drives alive and led to scoring plays. The decision by Flacco to throw the ball out of bounds left handed was called intentional grounding (which sure resembled what Tony Romo did in Denver in the 4th quarter, even though Romo threw the ball right handed and a little further) Flacco’s pass DID get back toward the line of scrimmage, and he WAS out of the pocket, and he WASN’T in the grasp of a New England player. All that criteria leads to just an incomplete pass, right? Well, not today.
Tthe clincher was the inability of the officials to figure out what was going on when New England tried that quick snap fake field goal pass. The camera crew was confused as well. They were focusing on Belichek and then Jim Nance says “whoa, quick snap and a pass on the fake…” Then the camera crew goes back to live action and we see what appeared to be the Patriots player out of bounds well before the line to gain marker. However, there was a penalty on New England for illegal motion. I don’t recall ever seeing the ball spotted where the player went out of bounds (I’m sure many of you will watch the replay over and over and pick this up) because the officials looked thoroughly confused as to what was happening. Winter gave the penalty signal then went over to talk to Harbaugh, then back to announce the penalty. Harbaugh challenged the catch, Winter looked at it and took the easy way out and said it was a first down (although replays never gave a clear cut angle) and Baltimore lost the challenge but the down would be replayed with the acceptance of the penalty.
The Ravens got the ball back on their 20 with about 3 minutes remaining and Joe Flacco went to work. With a few quick first downs the ball was near midfield at the 2 minute warning. All of Baltimore knew this was going to turn out to be a huge win against all odds in the final seconds, which would deny Brady a chance at heroics we’ve seen out of him since he took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in the Patriots win over Pittsburgh in the playoffs, almost 10 years ago .
Ray Rice, who had a quiet 100+ total yards, tripped over the line of scrimmage, not once but, twice on runs. Clayton dropped a pass. Mason dropped a pass. Washington dropped a pass. And then with 4th and 4 Mark Clayton was hit on the numbers and dropped not only the ball but also dropped all Ravens fans out of their chairs.
I had to think for a minute about what I WAS thinking and how stupid it was, but also how easy it is to get all caught up in the emotions of a football game. As an official I find it offensive being told I directly caused a team to lose. I’m sure these part-time NFL officials feel pretty much the same way after a tough game. There’s no way to undo what had been done. There’s no way to “makeup” for a questionable call, although sometimes it appears that happens at times. When everything seemed to be going against the Ravens today, yeah, it was easy to blame the officials. WNSTV has video of Ray Lewis’ comments about the way Ron Winter’s crew was an embarrassment today. I’m sure the fines will be handed out early in the week.
It all comes down to execution of plays and the Ravens didn’t make the plays they had to make on BOTH sides of the ball in order to win the game. Poor tackling, dropped passes, runners losing their footing on the grass, a bad throw by Flacco late in the first half for an interception in the red zone, all directly led to that loss, NOT the officiating. The Ravens had a chance to win the game on their last drive. NO flags were thrown in the final 3 minutes, and Mark Clayton’s drop doused hopes for a 4-0 start and another possible tie-breaker in our favor.
Look at the bright side…….We all became Browns fans after the Ravens’ loss as they pissed away a 14-0 deficit to a comeback lead in the 4th quarter. Cincinnati needed overtime to beat lowly Cleveland today and the Bengals come to the friendly fired-up confines of M&T Bank Stadium next week to play for SOLE possession of first place. And for those of you who still think the referees caused the Ravens to lose, cheer up. We aren’t going to see Ron Winter’s crew here in Baltimore next Sunday.