Ok, I think I’m finally thawing out from Monday Night’s Thriller at M&T. What a great game to attend! It was so much fun, except for the final score. While I don’t believe in conspiracy theories I still believe that the call on Winborne was ticky-tacky (but holding by definition) and I still don’t think Gaffney controlled that ball with two feet in bounds on the winning TD but the Ravens had numerous other chances to put that game away and didn’t do it so I won’t use the referees as the excuse for the loss. However, the referees did have a BAD night! (For instance, on Ed Reed’s interception the Ravens held/mugged Wes Welker during his route).
Here are some thoughts I have on the game and about the state of the Ravens two days now removed from one of the best football games I have ever seen:
– Could the Ravens have used Todd Heap in the game/4th quarter or what? Everyone knew McGahee was probably getting the ball those last 3 drives and New England was able to run blitz their linebackers because they had no fear of a tight end coming across the middle or in the flat for a quick short pass. Heap would have been the perfect weapon to keep one or all of those drives alive. This offense has missed him terribly this year.
– I don’t think enough has been made about the weather’s impact on the game. If you were there you saw how much wind was in the stadium. Down in the end zone where the band sits it was just howling and any pass or field goal on that end was an adventure. So to say that Boller’s interception or Ed Reed’s fumble definitely cost the Ravens at least 3 points, in each instance, is a stretch. For Stover to make a FG in that end zone that night the Ravens would have had to get to at least the 20 yard line, in my opinion (heck, the 29 yarder he made earlier was barely good). Ed Reed fumbled on the 27 yard line and Boller’s INT came after a false start penalty that forced the Ravens into a 3rd and 14 on the NE 30 yard line. Boller and the Ravens definitely should not have been trying for the end zone on that play because of the wind. I’m not sure if that was the play call or Kyle chose to throw deep on his own. Also, the wind took away any chance of touch passes being thrown all night. I believe this played more into the Ravens hands because Boller struggles on those short touch passes while New England excels at the screen/flat pass. The wind took away Tom Brady’s ability to throw the touch passes that the Pats like to use. Pretty much all throws Monday night had to be zipped in there and that is one of Kyle Boller’s strengths.
– What a great game by the offensive line, particularly Jonathan Ogden and Jason Brown! At the end of the 3rd quarter when the Ravens switched ends of the field JO was waving his arms up and down in an attempt to get the crowd going (and they responded). Clearly he was pumped up and having fun and he looked like his old self on Monday. One can only wonder what this season would have held had he been able to play like that from week 1? I guarantee you the Ravens would be competing with Pittsburgh for the division title if he had been able to play at that level all season and based on Monday’s performance we likely would still have a chance at all of the organizations (and fans) goals. So given the great game JO had on Monday I am still waiting to hear/read what he or the team has to say about his overall health? Was this game a case of him finally getting in game shape after overcoming the foot injuries? Does this give him motivation to come back next year? Will the foot need surgery or has he finally turned the corner with it? Our local newspaper was too busy ripping the Ravens to provide us some solid journalistic work on the re-emergence of Ogden (more on that coming up)
– Kyle Boller played one of his best games ever yet the grade in the Baltimore Sun still only gave him a B. He should have been at least a B+ but Mike Preston can’t stand Boller and will always downplay his ability. While I don’t think Boller is the long term answer at QB you have to give him his due when he plays well and Preston is too biased to do that.
– After the best game the Ravens played all season we have been subjected to a bunch of negative columns from the likes of David Steele (called the Ravens chokers), Preston (continued his diatribe about no discipline, firing Billick and also downplayed the referees words to Rolle simply because Preston identifies with the referee) and Rick Maese (did his usual trashing of Billick and the Ravens). The three of these guys are a disgrace to this city and journalism, in general. I’m not sure who the editor is over at The Sun but the image I have of him (or her, if that is the case) is of an out of towner who has no connection to Baltimore and prefers to run the sports page like it is a tabloid. There is a lack of in-depth analysis in the paper other than the occasional tidbit from Edward Lee or Jamison Hensley. Why do these guys think they have to sensationalize things in every story? They should pick up a John Feinstein book or go back and read his columns from the 1980’s in The Washington Post to learn how a real sportswriter covers a team and provides a quality story.
– I heard some quotes from Tom Brady from the radio this morning (via ESPN) and to paraphrase he said that had he been in the Ravens players shoes (lost a close game late) he probably would have felt the same way about things concerning the officiating but that is a natural feeling for an athlete to have when they lose. As I said above, the referees stunk but they didn’t solely cost the Ravens the game. The Patriots made the plays when they had to and the main reason they are 12-0 is because of #12. He always seems to make a play when he needs it most (especially when he gets 3 or 4 extra chances). Love him or hate him, he is the best player in football and one of the best QB’s ever. In my mind, he was the reason the Pats won the game.
– The Colts come to town this week and I fully expect the Ravens to be pumped up. With Dwight Freeney out and Marvin Harrison likely still out this is a good chance for the Ravens to get revenge for last year’s playoff loss. If the Ravens can string together another good effort and even win then we will get a glimpse of what might have been this year had the team been healthier. We also might not be as far away from the NFL’s elite as we thought after the previous five losses.