One of the things I’ve learned in my lifetime involved in sports – whether it’s been playing, working for a professional team or watching games on TV – is this: The toughest thing to do is to stop losing.
Losing gets in your DNA, both as an organization and a team.
Just look at the Cleveland Browns offense and their woeful Sunday performance in Baltimore as a prime example.
This was the same Browns team that showed up here with Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and Pat Shurmer. The coach has changed but nothing else has, really. Same old, same old. Offense stinks, defense tries, team goes home with a loss.
The Browns are horrible. Again.
The record will reflect the Ravens won Sunday’s game 14-6 over Cleveland and that they did. The standings will show that John Harbaugh’s team is 1-1 and, of course, they are. You are, after all, what your record says you are.
But, they’re only 1-1 because Cleveland showed up for their annual toe-stubbing at M&T Bank Stadium.
Houston won’t be the spitting image of The Little Sisters of The Poor when the come to town next Sunday, I can assure you of that. And if the Ravens’ offense stumbles and bumbles for the better part of sixty minutes next week like they did on Sunday against the Browns, the Texans will cruise to a win in Baltimore.
I bumped into John Harbaugh in the hallway outside of the Ravens locker room after the game and he only said three words to me but they were interesting: ”That was huge…” the coach said as we shook hands and he headed inside.
That was huge, alright.
It was huge because Cleveland is terrible. And, if the Ravens would have lost this game, Harbaugh knows what that would have meant about his team.
John won’t say it, of course, because he has to coach against Cleveland later on this season, but just those words alone – “That was huge” – tells me all I needed to know about the victory. Losing to the Browns, in your building, would have been disastrous.
It’s amazing how some of these franchises get the stink disease and can’t figure out a way to get rid of it.
The smell not only affects the team, it affects the coaching staff and everyone else.
Case in point on Sunday: With the score 7-6 in favor of the Ravens and the Browns on the Baltimore 39 yard line, Cleveland elected to go for it on 4th and four on the first play of the fourth quarter.
I said at that moment it was stupid to go for it there…and that’s before they didn’t get it.
Here’s what you do: Punt. The. Ball.
You try and pin it down there close and flip the field, putting the pressure on the Ravens to protect the ball.
That’s what a smart coach would do.
Chudzinski, though, went for it. And lost. That was game, set and match.
Afterwards, the rookie coach said, “Well, what we don’t want there is to punt it and give them the ball on their own 20 and only gain 18 yards or so.”
First off, are you saying your punter isn’t adept enough to punt the ball up in the air and try and give your special teams unit a chance to get down there and get under it? What do punters do all day while the football players are practicing? Shouldn’t they be punting 25-yard balls up in the air to replicate that scenario in a crucial situation?
I think so.
Even if the Browns would have punted there and the result was a touchback, the Ravens starting on their own 20 is gobs better than the Ravens starting on their own 39 having just seized the momentum with a 4th down stop.
Chudzinski screwed the pooch there, as some first year coaches are prone to do when they get too caught up in fire and brimstone and lose track of their football acumen.
Here’s where I should mention that I’m not getting $2 million to coach a pro football team and Chud is, so we all know the joke is on me in the end.
But, going for it there was dumb. It gave the Ravens decent field position, which they utilized to move down the field and salt the game away with a Marlon Brown touchdown catch. I didn’t hear anyone in the Cleveland media whisper about the decision afterwards. Someone did ask the coach about it in his post-game press conference and he soft-peddled his way around an answer that only satisfied you if you didn’t care about the question in the first place.
That said — going for it there was also what Cleveland Browns teams do. As was not actually picking up the first down on the crucial play.
They do stupid stuff like that and lose games because they don’t think clearly. And when they make a mistake, instead of scratching together four yards to let the coach off the hook, they compound it by not only failing to pick up the first down, but the Ravens promptly marched 61 yards to the backbreaking final touchdown.
It’s just unreal how Cleveland shows up in Baltimore every year and puts on this horrid display of offensive football. I felt like I was watching a game from 2009 today.
Fortunately, for the Ravens, the schedule makers gave them a lay-up in week #2. Now, though, the varsity games return when Matt Schaub and Company show up next Sunday.
Gary Kubiak is a good coach.
The Texans have a good team.
Next Sunday, the Ravens will have to do a lot more than they did against the hapless Browns on Sunday.