Although the names and faces have changed, the story reads eerily the same.
As the Baltimore Ravens prepare to take on the Oakland Raiders this Sunday—a win to get in scenario for a postseason berth—it might just be in their best interests to seek some consulting advice from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers team of last year.
For those that don’t remember, let us reflect on the happenings of Dec. 28, 2008 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The Bucs started last season white-hot, going 9-3 through their first twelve games. A trip to the postseason was seemingly imminent. But after suffering three straight embarrassing losses, they found themselves in the same precarious situation that the Ravens will face this weekend.
Tampa Bay’s Week 17 matchup was against the Oakland Raiders, a team who had fired their head coach Layne Kiffin earlier in the season. At 4-11 heading into the game, the Raiders had nothing to play for and nothing to lose. The Bucs were playing for their postseason lives and laid it all on the line.
Yet who emerged victorious?
"To be 9-3, and you lose four in a row when all you have to do is win one and you're in, it's tough to swallow,” said Buccaneers Running Back Warrick Dunn after the loss. “The guys in this locker room have prepared hard, played hard. Things haven't gone our way. There's disbelief. There's shock. There's emotions, I'm sure, that I can't really describe.”
Those are not pleasantries from Warrick Dunn; those are truly deep sentiments, especially coming from a seasoned veteran like himself.
It is safe to say that if the Ravens are uttering words like "disbelief", "shock" or "emotions…that I can’t really describe," after their game on Sunday, they will have suffered the same ugly fate as the Bucs.
As a team, the Ravens would be wise to consult game film and players and/or coaches from Tampa’s squad last season as a scare tactic to help prevent them from making the same mistakes the Bucs did in taking Raiders too lightly.
An uninspired performance this weekend would result in a long offseason and post-game comments echoed to the sound of this tune:
“This collapse in this last month of the season is something that none of us ever would have expected," said Bucs Quarterback Jeff Garcia. "It definitely hurts. It's going to stick with us for a long time after this day."
Be wise Baltimore—and recognize what is truly at stake here this weekend.