Maybe it was this way in Cleveland after "the fumble".
Maybe it was this way in Philadelphia when Tampa Bay and Carolina snuffed out their Super Bowl hopes in the NFC Championship Game in back-to-back years.
Maybe it was this way in Indianapolis in ’05 when Pittsburgh beat them in their building in the AFC playoffs.
Did their team and their fans take more than 10 months to recover from those defeats?
If so, then maybe what’s happened in Baltimore since January 13, 2007 makes sense.
Throughout this season – and particularly over the last three weeks – I am sensing that people in Baltimore have not yet recovered from the squandered opportunity that was the AFC playoff game at home last January vs. the Indianapolis Colts.
I don’t have any hard documentation that the players and the Ravens organization aren’t yet "over it". That’s just a gut feeling I have. But I have concrete proof that the fans haven’t been able to put it behind them. Just today alone, I took two more phone calls from listeners who insisted on bringing up that game last year and making their own self-evaluation that things "haven’t been the same" ever since we lost to the Colts.
As for the team, I’ve had this feeling ever since the 3rd game of the year that something isn’t quite right. You can check the archives of my blog and refer back to the piece I wrote immediately after the Arizona game on September 24th. The title, in fact, was "something’s not right with our team."
Sure, we’ve all been able to see the evident issues and we can all pretty much sum up what’s wrong — they’ve had 9 starters out for a good portion of the season, the quarterback play hasn’t been very good, they invested a $7 million signing bonus on a running back that they haven’t given the ball to in crucial running situations and, in general, the team is just not that good.
But those are the EVIDENT things that are wrong. Maybe losing has just taken its toll this year, but I’m not sensing that the players have all been "together" over the last 15 weeks, including training camp. Perhaps the team is just more "business" this year – but I don’t feel as if the locker room is as "buddy-buddy" as it was last season. Maybe the veteran players who felt last January was their final shot at glory are just a tad bit less enthused this year knowing that you rarely catch that 13-3 lightning in a bottle season two years in a row.
Whatever it is — I’ve sensed a sort-of-funk over there this year at times…and perhaps that might have something to do with the "edge" they lost when the Colts came to town and wrecked their trip to Miami for Super Bowl 41.
As for the fans, and last Sunday’s mass exodus proved they have no idea how to react when the team starts losing a few games in a row, maybe it’s just the bad year that is 2007…maybe the unmet expectations are just too much for people to handle…but I hear (and read) a lot of comments about last January and the loss to the Colts, and I can’t help but wonder "why can’t you get over that?"
It’s not like the Colts were a bad team. I just went back and checked the records again to make sure — yep, they won the Super Bowl over Chicago. Sure, the game was in Baltimore and the Ravens were – at least to us here in Charm City – destined to win, but the Colts didn’t win the Super Bowl by accident. They went on to beat a team called the New England Patriots the following week — you might have heard of them before.
There’s no doubt McNair had a poor game against the Colts last January. After a regular season that validated the team’s efforts to acquire him in the ’06 off-season, the playoff disaster vs. Indy is the ONLY thing people remember about Steve McNair’s first year in purple. That’s sad – but very true.
I’m telling you that almost a day doesn’t go by when some caller or e-mailer doesn’t refer back to McNair’s poor play against the Colts and cites that as an indication that he doesn’t have it anymore. More and more, I hear people talk about that Indianapolis loss when talking about Brian Billick, Steve McNair, Ray Lewis, etc. One e-mail I received today from Gary (who says he’s a PSL holder…I’m not so sure) included this gem. "Ray might be a great player, but last year in the last 8 minutes of that game against the Colts, Dominic Rhodes ran the ball down his throat. Where was Ray then? When we needed him to stop the run and get us the ball back, Ray couldn’t do it."
"Where was Ray then?". What the hell kind of question is that? Was he the only guy on the field? I didn’t know he was solely responsible for stopping Dominic Rhodes. And I don’t know if Gary remembers this, but a guy named Manning is the QB in Indy — and he’s "pretty good"…kind of hard to stuff the box with 9 defensive run stoppers when Manning can throw for 400 yards against any team in the league. I don’t always like having to be the Instructor in Football 101 class, but I sent Gary a response today that hopefully taught him a lesson about Ray, Indy, football and losing.
I realize that playoff loss last January still weeps of puss in a lot of people’s soul because it came at the hands of the Colts. I get that. Had that been a 15-6 loss to the Chargers, most everyone would probably be dealing with it better 10 months later.
Let’s get over that loss, huh? Their playmakers made plays that day. Remember how Ray stripped the ball from Eddie George in Tennessee back in the 2000 playoffs? That was OUR playmaker making a play. That’s the difference in those types of games. Manning did it to the Pats in last year’s AFC title game. He and Dallas Clark did it to the Ravens in the final minutes of the playoff loss last January.
It’s time to put that loss aside and move on. I can’t really say that to the players, ‘cuz they have to figure out their own way to deal with it. And maybe they’ll NEVER get over throwing away a "silver platter" opportunity to host the AFC Championship game in Baltimore.
As for us, it should be easy. We have real lives to worry about…bills to pay, diapers to change (at least SOME of us do!), games to watch and seasons to remember.
Make a decision right now to NOT bring up that Colts loss anymore, OK?
That is, unless you want to prove Aubrey Huff right.