Wow did we suck. After riding high all week on a series sweep of the much maligned Steelers, we seemed to have forgotten to pack our lunch pails. A rumor must of spread in the locker room that we can buy our lunches at the stadium. Wrong. In a league where parity is the goal, and only one elite team is the reality (the Packers), the term ‘Any given Sunday’ is the rule not the exception.
What happened to us? We used to be the exception to the rule. Under Harbaugh, we lost to good teams and took care of business against bad ones. But this year is different. We step up and go toe-to-toe with playoff contenders and then get slapped around like little girls (figure of expression – sorry ladies) by the teams at the bottom of the barrel. Jacksonville. Arizona! Seattle!?
Look, I know if David Reed held on to the football (and his head, i.e., taunting because he was so excited he didn’t fumble – barely returning the ball to the 20 yard line) we would be sitting pretty at 7-2 hosting Cincinnati with an opportunity to take control of the division and probably the conference. But Reed had his worse day as a pro and his teammates couldn’t pick up the slack.
The defense stepped up big to limit three turnovers to three field goals, and yet they worried me. In the fourth quarter, on their opponent’s 10-yard line they couldn’t get the 29th ranked offense off the field starting 1st-and-20.
Seattle is one of the worst offenses this year. And I don’t need stats to prove it. I’m talking Tavares Jackson with an injured pectoral muscle on his throwing side, an in-game injury to Sydney Rice (whose only threat is jump balls which Ed Reed ball-hawks all day), rookie wideout Something Baldwin, and Marshawn Lynch the guy we game planned for all week but forgot to tackle….
Terrell Suggs was flat or lazy; I couldn’t tell which. Haloti Ngata is unequivocally hurt. He is the best DT in the game and made no impact plays. And Chris Carr looks awful as the nickel back in zone coverage. He is blowing assignments left and right. You can tell because Lewis yells at him when he messes up (just rewatch the Steelers game). Kruger was the only bright spot as he got consistent pressure and beat his man one-on-one. He needs more snaps. And so does Jimmy Smith. If Carr isn’t going to play mistake-free football, then I want Smith’s superior athleticism to counterbalance the mistakes that are coming from the nickel position. Playing these two guys now will make us a more dangerous team in January — if we make the playoffs.
That is no longer a forgone conclusion. After we beat good teams, there is always one comment about how we’ll see them again in January. This has to stop. That is not the talk of a team who takes their season one game at a time. Our players are overlooking teams and the coaches know it. Hell, we’re overlooking the regular season in general. When we play soft teams, coaches spend all week making them sound like an elite All-Madden super team. And because our players don’t buy in, these soft teams look every bit the all-stars our coaches make them out to be – at least for one week. I want the old Billick fines for the “p-word” reinstated, maybe that will inspire our locker room to step up against a week schedule. Among AFC North teams, we have the easiest remaining schedule but that is not necessarily comforting for the 2011 Ravens.
We are consistently inconsistent. We’re a great team then we’re a bad team. Our defense carries us (Jets game) then the offense brings us back (Arizona). We have offensive lineman who are maulers and want to eat, and then Flacco has more than 47 pass attempts in three straight games. We have two ‘great’ special teams coaches in Rosburg and Harbaugh, but we give up returns for touchdowns, have no threat at punt returner, and have an oft-injured kick returner whose fumbled three times in the past two games.
Speaking of coaches, it’s not just special teams. Why did Cameron abandon the run in the second half when it was a two score game? I know it worked for us the past two weeks, but against Seattle, our offense did not pass the old eyeball test in the second half. Cameron calls plays from the field to get a feel for the game so he can make adjustments. But last week he became complacent or overconfident and lost his touch. The only thing we had going for us was drawing penalties for first downs.
Chuck Pagano had his worst day coaching this year. Tavares Jackson looked great, and this bottom-feeder quarterback was seriously hurt to boot. It’s like the game plan assumed his pain shot wouldn’t work and he would be unable to throw the ball deep, not that focusing on the short passing game and stuffing the run helped. We never challenged the flats. They were wide open all game, and Lynch BEASTED us.
Maybe I’m overreacting or misguided. I don’t know what makes our team tick. I don’t know much about X’s and O’s. But I think claiming we overlook bad teams, had a bad game plan, or fail to get up emotionally sounds better than saying we can’t beat the 4-3, we take games off, or we can’t win on the road anymore.
We have great talent on this team. If the coaches play their cards right, they should be able to inspire us to a deep playoff run. However this team needs some desperation or some swagger. We can’t be the little guy who steps up to take down the bully and then recoils back into a weakling without a challenge to rekindle us. To win games we need to be consistent with our craft; and one of our favorite tools is allowing emotion to fuel our physicality. But we need to be the bully, not the Incredible Hulk. Otherwise, this team will be no better than the Chargers, the Jaguars, or the Texans of yesteryear spending the last few days of the holiday season sitting on the couch wondering what happened?
Lets get up for a divisional game against a questionably “great” opponent, who happens to play the (second) best 4-3 defense in the league. Lets show the NFL that there is still half a season left and consistent or no, teams could have their butts handed to them any given Sunday they have to play the Ravens. The Bengals should be asking themselves “who dey” after we put on our big boy pants and knock them out.
Maybe next year they’ll make up their own chant and send a letter of apology to the city of New Orleons for stealing their early 20th century jazz inspired idiom.
This one’s for Ray…