I was there.
I watched the Ravens crumble in the fourth quarter against the Steelers. I can still feel the inevitability of the loss settle over the fans at M&T Bank Stadium as the Steelers converted a 3rd-and-7 from their own 18-yard line with 4:52 remaining. A few Terrible Towels accelerated their rotations as the time-out-less Ravens then watched their opponents march down the field. Kruger’s 15-yard personal foul sealed the deal, and grimaces adorned the faces of all in purple as Suisham lined up the game winning kick. We all know the result.
I spent most of Monday avoiding anyone but close friends and family, and purposely stayed away from any and all media. Admittedly, this wasn’t a difficult task since I spent the majority of the day strapped to a table receiving an eye surgery – which was only slightly more painful than Sunday’s loss. I started breathing normally again on Tuesday, and spent the next few – medicated – days surveying the opinions of commentators and fans around the infosphere.
All of the standard fare was represented. The Ravens are overrated. The defense lost the game. The offense lost the game. The Ravens couldn’t stop the run. The Ravens couldn’t stop the pass. The Ravens couldn’t manage the clock. Charlie Batch and Ben Rothlisberger swapped bodies (maybe the medication was affecting me…) Flacco should be fired. Cam should be fired. Ray Rice didn’t get the ball enough. And so forth. About the only people that did not receive any blame were the fans, Mishael Miller (the Ravens’ National Anthem singer), and my ophthalmologist.
Regardless of the cause, the Ravens lost last weekend’s game to the Steelers. At the same time they ended a 16-game home winning streak and a 12-game unbeaten record against division opponents. This was a tough pill to swallow, but I’m over it. Now, my most sincere hope is that the team can get over it, and play the last 25% of the season as if a Super Bowl berth is riding on each game – which might very well be the case.
The next contest, and therefore the road to redemption, begins just 30 miles southwest in Landover, MD. The Ravens are sure to have their hands full against the RGIII-led, 6-6 Redskins. Indeed, the contest pits the NFL-leading rushing game of the Redskins against a banged up Ravens defense that has had difficulty against the ground game all year. Additionally, the remarkably multidimensional play of RGIII is likely causing Dean Pees to medicate for both headaches and ulcers. And finally, while the Redskins pass defense has not played extremely well this year, the return of London Fletcher and a very strong run defense should have Cam sweating.
All of this said, however, the Ravens can absolutely defeat
the Redskins. At this point, the team understands both its strong and weak points. I trust that the sting of losing to Pittsburgh in front of over 71,000 hometown fans has motivated the squad, and I’m hoping to see that motivation manifest itself in the form of excellent execution on Sunday. If that sting has the effect of shaking something loose in the Ravens’ psyche, re-motivating them to excel, and re-focusing them toward disciplined execution on both sides of the ball for the rest of the season, then perhaps cutting a 4-game division lead to 2 was an acceptable price to pay at this point in the season.
No predictions, no fluffery. It’s time to see which path the Ravens will follow: the one to redemption, or the one to mediocrity. We’ll find out Sunday.