It wasn’t to be for the Ravens in the AFC Championship game against the Steelers. Baltimore gave 60 minutes of effort, but costly mistakes were the difference.
Before we all break down the result and what caused it, everyone should take a moment and cheer what the Ravens accomplished this season with the lack of expectations from the 2007 finish, the new coaching staff and the unsettled quarterback situation in training camp.
Many in the media said the Ravens would not contend, and that they would be hard-pressed to have a .500 record with the competition in the AFC North. But Cleveland and Cincinnati — expected to be factors — never materialized as such. Pittsburgh was as good as advertised, and the two games between the bitter rivals in the regular season were classics.
But behind rookie QB Joe Flacco, the Ravens caught fire, and but for a disputed TD catch by the Steelers to beat Baltimore in M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens might have hosted the AFC title game.
All in all, from the hiring of John Harbaugh, to the continued defensive dominance of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, and success at the hardest thing to do in the NFL — win on the road — the Ravens went 11-5 in the regular season, secured a Wild Card berth and won a pair of road playoff games to finish just short of the Super Bowl.
The postseason galvanized the city of Baltimore into a purple paradise once again, and cries of “What’s our name?” were as plentiful as talking about “Festivus” during the 2000 postseason.
Despite the disappointment in the Baltimore locker room and in the living rooms of those who are Ravens fans, there is much to be excited about for 2009. Change is a constant in the NFL, and GM Ozzie Newsome will have many crucial roster decisions to make. He will do them, not in the glow of good feelings about the season, but in the harsh glare of game tapes and coaches’ evaluations.
Next season for the Ravens starts tomorrow. Time to go back to work …