AFC Championship Aftermath: The Ravens, Media Need to Accept This Loss

Ben ShapiroAnalyst IIIJanuary 26, 2012

Billy Cundiff's miss was just one of the reasons the Ravens lost this past Sunday.
Billy Cundiff's miss was just one of the reasons the Ravens lost this past Sunday.Al Bello/Getty Images

In case anyone needed any reminding, the final score of last Sunday's AFC Championship Game was 23-20, New England Patriots over the Baltimore Ravens

Sometimes a final score doesn't tell the whole story, but in this case it's important to recognize one indisputable fact. 

The Ravens lost this game and the Patriots won.

Generally this wouldn't be much of an issue, but in the aftermath of the game, certain individuals on the Baltimore Ravens and in the media have chosen to somehow extrapolate that the Ravens were wronged in this game. 

First, there's the matter of the missed field goal.

It was very honorable for kicker Billy Cundiff, to initially just accept all the blame for the miss. Cundiff was stoic and honest when he did that. 

It's even acceptable for Cundiff to claim that the scoreboard was wrong, so he didn't know the down before attempting a very makeable 32-yard field goal. That's not really an excuse as much as a revelation into how a kicker is trying to be focused in advance of a big kick.  

Kickers have routines, and in that circumstance, clock-watching is not what Cundiff should have been doing.  

No one will ever know for sure if that was the case, and if it was the case, we'll never know for sure if it was an honest mistake, or as some have suggested, "cheating" by the Patriots.

Bernard Pollard gets to sit at home and root for the Giants on Super Bowl Sunday.
Bernard Pollard gets to sit at home and root for the Giants on Super Bowl Sunday.Larry French/Getty Images

Here's the big problem though.  It was obvious that Cundiff was rushing onto the field as the play clock was ticking down. 

This was not just another 32-yard field goal.  This was the biggest field goal of Cundiff's life, and probably the biggest field goal in Baltimore Raven's history.

The real question here is: How is it possible that no one on John Harbaugh's coaching staff recognized all these things? 

One thing to keep in mind here is that, earlier in the fourth quarter when the Ravens were faced with a fourth-and-six and decided to go for the first down instead of allowing Cundiff to attempt a 50-plus yard field goal, television cameras captured Ravens coaches in a heated debate just before the critical play was run. 

That debate caused Harbaugh to call a timeout, and then following that timeout, the Ravens promptly took the field and turned the ball over on downs. 

So there was already evidence to suggest that the Ravens' sideline was not exactly all on the same page heading down the stretch in this game. 

The Ravens had a timeout though.  One would have to wonder why in the world no one on the sidelines knew what down it was, or saw that Cundiff was rushing on the field for a kick of this magnitude.

Perhaps they anticipated that the Patriots would call the timeout in an attempt to ice Cundiff.

John Harbaugh and his coaching staff may have been a bit disorganized as the clock ran down in the AFC Title game.
John Harbaugh and his coaching staff may have been a bit disorganized as the clock ran down in the AFC Title game.Al Bello/Getty Images

Then again, why would Bill Belichick call a timeout when he could clearly see that Cundiff was already coming onto the field late? 

We all know what happened next; no timeout was called and the field goal sailed wide. 

Lost in the aftermath of a lot of these musings are a few key facts. 

The Ravens probably should have never have been in a situation in which they needed to kick a field goal to tie the game.  

This wasn't Super Bowl XXV when the Bills could have won it all had Scott Norwood hit a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining in the game. (He missed wide right and the Giants won 20-19).

The field goal that Cundiff missed would have only tied the game. 

Despite Ravens safety Bernard Pollard's claims that the Ravens surely would have prevailed if the game had gone into overtime, that's really just sour grapes. 

There's no way to know which team would have won if the game had gone into overtime. 

Possession would have been determined by a coin flip.  A touchdown can win the game.  Had the Patriots won the coin toss, they may have scored, or they might not have.

We'll never know for sure and it doesn't really matter.  The Ravens had their chances to put this game away.

It's always easy to pin the blame for a loss on the Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick.
It's always easy to pin the blame for a loss on the Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

With 3:26 left in the third quarter, the Ravens recovered a Danny Woodhead fumble on a Patriot kickoff return. 

The Ravens started the drive at the Patriots' 28-yard line and ran six plays before settling for a field goal.  A touchdown there would have been a very big development.

Then there's the failed fourth-and-six that gave the ball back to the Patriots with only 2:46 left in the game.  That down should never have been a fourth-and-six. 

It was third-and-three when the Ravens decided to run Ray Rice up the middle and forgot to block the best defensive player on the field that day, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork exploded through a gap in the line of scrimmage and tackled Rice for a three yard loss.

Even after all that, the Ravens were in prime position not just to kick a game-tying field goal, but score a game-winning touchdown. 

Instead of scoring the touchdown, Lee Evans had a touchdown pass batted out of his hands by Sterling Moore, a defensive back who had spent nearly as much time on the Patriots' practice squad as on the field.

All of these things happened fast, as Slate Magazine has detailed.  But isn't that NFL football?

Things happen fast, the action is hard-hitting; that's NFL football and it's part of the reason that millions of fans tune in every week.

If the Ravens must blame someone, then they should probably start with themselves.  They did have their chances.  They didn't make the necessary plays when needed. 

The Patriots certainly gave the Ravens plenty of chances to win this game and the Ravens certainly did not take full advantage of those opportunities.

If the scoreboard was a problem, the Ravens should have gotten home field throughout the playoffs. 

Instead, the team had inexplicably weak performances on the road against the Jaguars, Seahawks and Chargers.

Ravens players, fans and kicking consultants should probably reflect on the numerous missed opportunities over the course of last week's game and the regular season, and less on their theories regarding scoreboard conspiracies and the Patriots' coaching staff. 

It doesn't matter what Pollard thinks about the Patriots' offense, or that he's rooting for the Giants to "put a thrashing on the Patriots." 

Just like the rest of the Ravens, Pollard will have zero say in whether or not that happens because he'll be watching from home, just like the rest of the nation, as the Patriots take on the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.