Just a warning: This is going to be one of my ranting posts where I may eventually touch on everything that’s wrong with the world.
What a sad excuse for a game. Tom Coughlin said that his Giants’ game against the Chargers was “a one-game season.” The Ravens’ game was just as important. They’re now 2 games behind the Bengals in the division, soon to be 2 behind the Steelers unless they pull a Cleveland Browns and lose to the Broncos, who have no shot at infiltrating the defensive jaggernaut Pittsburgh has. Now the Ravens have two losses to the team that they may have a shot at competing for the Wild Card with if they get their act together. That’s two division losses against a contender, and even worse, an archrival.
Two games. Two games the Ravens have lost to the Bengals. One could have been a win (the first one in Baltimore), with many chances to put it away. Great defense was wasted by poor game management on offense, and solid offensive possessions late in the game were wasted by stupid penalties by the defense who has been more disappointing than any unit in the NFL this season (sans the whole Titans team). When Ray Lewis, your unquestioned leader, a guy who everyone in the NFL respects, costs you a game with a frustration penalty, you know there’s something wrong with your team. Maybe Rex Ryan was actually that great of a defensive coordinator. Maybe the linebackers and defensive backs can’t be replaced like nothing happened anymore. But being a team who many thought would be a Super Bowl contender coming into the season and flushing one game against a division rival down the toilet, and then not showing up to the rematch which may determine the fate of your season is inexcusable.
Joe Flacco has been better than anyone could have expected, and better than many thought he needed to be, and yet here we are. After 8 games, the Super Bowl contenders are 4-4, with all 4 of those losses coming from complete breakdowns of one unit (defense vs Vikings) or terrible actions on the field (penalties vs Bengals in first game). Of the 4 wins, two are against worse than mediocre teams (Browns, Chiefs), one is against a team that doesn’t show up for half their games (Chargers) and one is against a mid-level team that’s had an easy schedule (Broncos). An optimist can say that the young core of the offense (Flacco, Rice, Gaither, Oher) are becoming stars three years earlier than anyone would have expected. A realist would say that the defense has been mediocre at best, that many of the players don’t seem motivated and that this team can’t help from regularly committing drive-killing and game-losing penalties.
A fan from another team who has had an even more disappointing season thus far, say the Titans, may read this and ask “Why are you so upset? Your team has a fairly decent shot at a playoff berth if things go right and your offense is finally as good as you’ve always wanted. What more do you want?” The fact is, this team should be at least 6-2. 8-0 wouldn’t be a huge stretch. No key player has been injured, and if they have, they’ve only missed one game (Ngata). All the pieces are in place for a championship-caliber squad. Good coaching, great talent and a proven track record of winning. So what’s wrong? Is it a lack of motivation? Is the team too tired late in games? Can they not deliver in crunch time? I don’t know, I don’t think anyone will. I’m sure Coach Harbaugh, Flacco and Ray Lewis are thinking the same things.
Sunday it’s the Browns. If they lose on Sunday, this season is over. In Week 10. Right now, all the Ravens can hope for is a win on Sunday, some luck and some sort of inspiration. Because right now, I personally can not bear seeing a team this good with this much potential embarrassing themselves like they’ve done. They can win every single game on their schedule from now to the end of the season. Indy, Pittsburgh, they can beat those teams. The question is not if they can, but will they. It’s possible for this season to end at 12-4, it really is, but not if they show up like they did yesterday. Yesterday is over, and nothing can be done about changing that. It’s time for the real season to start and for this team to show whether they want to win or not.