After today’s late afternoon debacle, I had the honor of walking from one end of the Ravens’ locker room to the other and I heard at least six guys say the exact same thing over and over again:
“We need to learn to finish games,” was echoed from Jarret Johnson to Joe Flacco, from Bart Scott to Willis McGahee.
For the second time in six days, the Ravens let “the better team” come back from a hole and beat them with late errors and breakdowns.
NFL coaches always accept physical breakdowns. If a guy beats you on a straight play, you tip your cap and get back in the huddle. But mental mistakes and stupid late penalities? Well, until the Ravens stop taking their licks 15 yards at a time at key junctures against teams with a lot of talent, they’ll never consistently win in this league.
The Titans clearly woke up on the wrong side of the Inner Harbor this morning, picking several chippy, dirty fights in the first half. But in the end it was the Ravens and late hits to the head that cost the team a 3-1 start to the 2008 season.
John Harbaugh now finally knows what Brian Billick went through with the tough-guy image the Ravens’ defense has grown up with over the last few years. Terrell Suggs will no doubt be hearing from the NFL on his post-game comments regarding officials and their getting drawn into the energy of the purple crowd.
“I was nowhere near his head,” Suggs said. “I think they had a big momentum shift. It was third down. We’re the bad boys of football. They’re always going to look at it like that because of the physical style of defense we play. They’re always going to have that close eye on us, (looking) for anything that’s too much.”
Suggs later even said the officials are looking for a big situation to call something.
But it’s never one play or one person.
The phone calls will come all day on Monday at WNST regarding:
• Joe Flacco’s brutal pair of interceptions. The second one ended the game. The first one put the Ravens defense on a short leash and gifted the Titans three points and might have contributed to the next gaffe…
• Harbaugh’s downright weird decision to kick a not-such-a-sure-thing 45-year field goal on 1st down with 14 seconds remaining in the half. It’s the NFL. If you can’t dirt the ball or even attempt to find a quick out and pick up a few yards and get out of bounds, you probably have the wrong players on the field.
• Ray Lewis’ unbelievably inspired play during the 2008 season. Sure, it’s a contract year for Ray-Ray, but he’s flying around the field like a man possessed (and/or half his age). It’s impossible to not admire No. 52’s greatness and see his passion in the October of his career.
• Ed Reed’s shoulder. It ain’t a secret anymore, this aversion Reed has to contact. His right arm is hanging ala Peter Boulware circa-1999. It’s a heroic effort but I’m not sure that he’s really helping the team if he can’t tackle at that position. Which leads to…
• The rest of the secondary. Especially given the lack of deep depth in Frank Walker, Fabian Washington and Corey Ivy, it’s a crushing blow having Dawan Landry and Samari Rolle be out while Reed plays on one wing. For the most part, Chris McAlister has played quite well but the lack of depth across the backfield has been an invitation to pick on Walker and others.
• Matt Stover. He’s been shaky this season and longer field goals have never been his strength. The miss today will get even more attention because of the playcall to even attempt it at that spot in the game, but Stover has to make that kick. You can blame Scott, Flacco, the secondary (or all of the abover) but if Stover hits that kick it’s a different game.
Hey, they’re 2-2. It could be a lot worse.
But blowing two nice leads against “quality opponents” isn’t encouraging especially when you consider the rough second half of the season the Ravens will have without a bye and having to take on the entire NFC East after mid-November.
Today’s loss doesn’t end their season by any stretch. But 3-1 sounds a helluva lot better headed to Indianapolis than 2-2.
These losses snatched out of the jaws of victory are tough to take.
And whatever you do, don’t look at the stats from the Titans game today.
You’ll be scratching your head until Wednesday trying to figure out how they lost this one.