When the dust settled – or rather, when the snow stopped swirling – the good team figured out a way to win and the bad team figured out a way to lose.
What happened in the first 59:16 of Monday’s loss to the Patriots was nothing short of a script for the guys who wrote the Rocky film series. And the last 0:44 were pretty good theater too, except the bad guys won. Again.
You’ll hear and read (and maybe subscribe to) a bunch of conspiracy theories today about bad referee calls, bad luck and bad time-out calls.
Buy into it if you will. And, for sure, if it helps you recover from that heartbreaking loss, buy into it all you want.
But, the Ravens lost on Monday night the way they’ve been losing ALL season. It just took them a lot longer to do it this time.
Don’t get me wrong…the Ravens played with the heart, grit and determination of a champion on Monday night. As I talked about last week and again during yesterday’s show, the pride factor was even more suffocating than than the wind and cold on Monday. The Ravens are not a very good team, but deep down in their soul, guys like Ray, CMac, Kelly Gregg, Ed Reed, etc. have a tremendous amount of pride in what they do on the football field.
If only the team could have played the full 60:00 on Monday.
Instead, another late-game collapse showed the entire nation what we’ve all painfully discovered over the last six weeks, specifically. It’s something I’ve been saying since I came on the air at WNST back in 2002.
The toughest thing to do in sports is to stop losing.
And it’s even tougher to stop losing when there are FIVE critical mistakes in the final quarter of the game.
Ahead 24-17 midway through the 4th quarter, faux pas #1 was created by Kyle Boller with an ill-advised throw that was picked off deep in New England territory and led to a field goal that kept Tom Brady and Co. in business and down by just four.
Given the chance to stagger the monster, the Ravens instead gave them new life.
Ahead 24-20 with five minutes left in the game, the Ravens were one 6-8 play drive away from at least getting the clock near the 2:00 mark and putting New England in the delicate position of having to play perfect football to keep their perfect season alive.
Mistake #2 – The Ravens went 3-and-out.
More new life for the Patriots.
On 4th and 1 with 1:48 to go, Rex Ryan signalled for a time-out on the sideline. The only problem? Only the Head Coach can call a time-out on the sideline. Rex Ryan is NOT the Head Coach. Yet, a time-out was granted, just as Tom Brady was getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage and New England’s perfect season was coming to a shocking halt. Mistake #3 goes to the referee who blew the whistle.
And, on 4th and 6 with their unblemished campaign on the line, New England escaped defeat when Brady avoided pressure and scooted for 12 yards before sliding on the turf for a first down.
Mistake #4 – and the biggest one of them all. NEVER, EVER give Tom Brady more chances than he deserves.
At that point, the collapse began.
Jermaine Winborne was called for holding on a 4th and 5 play after Brady’s end zone throw was incomplete. The perfect season was STILL alive.
On the very next play, Brady hit Jabar Gaffney for an 8-yard touchdown to put New England up 27-24 with 0:44 to play in the game.
And then, for everyone across the country who was still awake and watching, the Ravens demonstrated precisely why they’re not a very good team.
Now trailing by just three points with 0:44 to play, the Ravens still had a very legitimate opportunity to tie the score or, even, produce a touchdown. Remember, the Ravens offense had moved the ball all night on the perfect Pats and even when Gaffney caught the TD pass, I said to the guys I was watching the game with at M&T, "Boller’s gonna drive them down the field…you watch."
I said that BEFORE Bart Scott melted down…which was, without a question, Mistake #5.
Ill-timed? Sure. Unnecessary? You bet. Unprofessional? You could say that. Costly? Yes, in the worst of all ways.
The Scott tirade and the 30 yards of penalties (and on off-sides on the PAT that didn’t much matter) took the ball OUT of Yamon Figurs’ hands – the Ravens average field position all night was right around the 30…Figurs had a good night) and put the Ravens on their own 20 with 0:44 to play and just one time-out. And even though Boller’s last play desperation heave was caught some six feet from glory, it was still six feet too short.
Bart Scott didn’t LOSE the game for the Ravens. But his act at the end of the game was something that LOSING TEAMS do. Frankly, fits like that are more apt to come from LOSERS like Chad Johnson when he doesn’t get HIS way. I expected more from Bart, truth be known.
So we’ll all sit back today and reflect on a great night of effort, heart and very good football from a Ravens team that was resilient to the very end.
You’ll hear a lot of whining and complaining about the refs, the time-out and the flags that were thrown in the final minute of the game.
But, in the end, the better team won.
They didn’t get to 12-0 by melting down late in the game.
That’s what 4-8 teams do.