Ravens post “ugly but we’ll take it” win over hapless Bengals

January 02, 2011 | Drew Forrester

Everything about Sunday’s game in Baltimore between the Ravens and Bengals was…well…typical.

The Ravens won, 13-7, improving their record to 12-4 on the year.  Typical.  They’ve been better than most teams they’ve played all season.

The Bengals gave the ball away so much, they should have charged a re-gifting fee.  They missed a field goal, kicked the ball out of bounds to start the 2nd half, fumbled the ball on Baltimore’s 25 yard line with two minutes to play, then squandered a goal-line scoring chance in the game’s final seconds.  Typical.  They’ve been doing that stuff for years now.

And the fans in Baltimore booed at the half with Baltimore ahead, 6-0.  Typical.  If it’s not 24-0 at the half, they’re not happy.

But while everyone else in the stands and on our live chat at WNST.net was up in arms over this “pathetic” or “uninspiring” or “shameful” or “listless” (all words I heard or read…) performance, I couldn’t help but keep thinking to myself:  “What Ravens team have you people been watching this season?  This is about what we’ve seen from them since September.”  In other words:  Typical.

Breaking news – The Ravens win a lot of games the way they won on Sunday over the Bengals.  They won because they almost always beat the dregs of the league.  They don’t demolish people, the way the Steelers sh*tkicked the Browns or the way the Falcons punished the Panthers.  They went ahead, hung on, failed to execute and let the Bengals march deep into Baltimore territory before Carson Palmer became Carson Palmer again, failing to hit a wide open Cedric Peerman on the 2-yard line with the clock ticking down.  The Ravens always escape like that.

This one will go under the “a win is a win” category and that’s that.

There will be lots of talk and lots of high-energy from the fans this week because they’ll say John Harbaugh should have sat some starters in the second half once Pittsburgh went comfortably ahead in Cleveland to lock up the AFC North.  And even if those folks have a point, that’s not nearly critical enough to get me worked up about what happened on Sunday.

Honestly?  The efficiency the Ravens offense showed on Sunday wasn’t WORTHY of an early-seat on the bench to rest up for next week’s post-season game.

I’d rather focus on what’s important in the aftermath of the win over Cincinnati.  What’s important is this:  The Ravens are the luckiest 12-4 team in the league.  Two offensive touchdowns at Carolina, two against Tampa Bay, one against Pittsburgh, two against Cleveland and one against Cincinnati.  And that’s only what’s transpired over the last 6 weeks.  Yes, they’re 4-1 in those 5 games.  But this team’s offense has been as reliable as a ’77 Vega.  One half, they’re like a well-oiled machine, the next half, they can’t get out of their own way.

John Harbaugh likes to use the phrase “WIN, What’s Important Now”.

Well, starting next weekened, what’s important now is this:  The level of competition goes up three notches in the post-season.  The Ravens, barring a miracle, won’t play a home post-season game.  They’ll have to play smart, error-free and, most of all, HIGHLY EFFECTIVE football offensively and defensively in order to book a trip to Dallas in February.

I checked the Ravens locker room after the game and I didn’t see a switch down there that can be turned off and on when the club decides to play well and execute the game plan.

They better get their act together quickly or this playoff run will be over faster than you can say “It’s May and the Orioles are out of it already.”

I’ve been non-plussed by the Ravens offense all year.  Not enough obligation to the run (my opinion), an unthinkable misuse of Anquan Boldin (my opinion) and a supposedly diverse, talented wide receiver corps that has mainly featured Derrick Mason and an occasional contribution from the rest.  It’s been effective, at times, but mostly puzzling, to me. Anyone who says the Ravens offense has been “good” this year must have enjoyed Jersey Girl back in 2004. In other words: You’re the only one.

Sunday against the Bengals, Baltimore took advantage of a team that was overly concerned about getting out of town without any injuries that could derail their January vacation plans.  Those teams are a pleasure to play at the end of the season when your team is good and the team you’re playing is not.  Thank you Mr. Schedule Maker.

But make no mistake about it, the Ravens were better than the Bengals on Sunday, but only by the “barely” margin.  It wasn’t pretty.  And maybe that’s why Harbaugh left the offensive players in the game, even when the #5 seed was etched in stone thanks to the Browns mail-in outing at Cleveland.  Maybe Harbaugh figured, like the rest of us, “Holy hell, what’s wrong with my offense?  I can’t pull them out now…they haven’t even broken a sweat today.”

The good news?  Baltimore doesn’t play Cincinnati anymore.  For some odd reason, the Bengals are a match-up problem for the Ravens.  And if not for Carson Palmer’s horrible throw late in the game, they would have knocked off Harbaugh’s team for a 4th straight time.

It’s on to the playoffs now, and that’s what’s most important.  Remember, last year’s NFL champs – the Saints – were 13-0, then lost their last 3 before ramping up in the post-season.

It can be done.

But unless something changes in a big way over the next week or two, I can’t see the Ravens being very dangerous in the post-season.

They’ve just been too typical for my taste this season.

I hope I’m wrong.

But I didn’t see a switch down there in the locker room.