Those numbers may not mean a lot to the average person, but to true fans of the Baltimore Ravens, at least for this week, 0-8 stands for the number of consecutive losses—in a row no less—to the Indianapolis Colts.
Yes, the same Indianapolis Colts that knocked the No. 1-Seed Ravens out of contention on route to a Super Bowl victory in 2006.
What makes this lopsided defeat even more bitter than just the margin of wins over the last couple years is the fact that the Ravens entered this game riding a swell of confidence after destroying the Colts biggest rival and arch-nemesis the New England Patriots just last week.
Now, I could make any number of excuses as to the reason why the Ravens didn't lose the game but rather gave the game away, but that would truly be just splitting proverbial hairs when it came down to the final score: 20-3.
The truth of the matter is, the Ravens did what they had been doing all season this year...playing inconsistent football on both sides of the ball.
Our much maligned defense, typically the heart and soul of the team, actually played very well with all things considered. I mean honestly, how many people believe Chris Carr or Frank Walker would actually be able to stop the high-powered Indianapolis passing offense...or even slow them down in the least?
The problem actually came down to the things that have been killing the team all season. The offense was spotty and couldn't sustain long drives, let alone score points, even though there were moments in the first half where they looked like they might be able to get something started.
Also, a number of horrendous penalties further hampered any chances of evening up the score, including a few like the pass interference call that negated an Ed Reed interception AND the personal foul on Ray Lewis in the end zone that were for lack of a better description, completely biased and total horse manure calls.
Either way, right or wrong, the penalties in addition to the sputtering offense/inability to get into the end zone came together to derail the Cinderella-story hopes of the Baltimore Ravens.
Looking to the future now, these are the grades I have assigned each position on the Raven's roster after careful consideration. Also, I have included a short side note at each position on what could and probably should be done to give the team a better chance at a deep run into the playoffs next season:
QB: B- (For most of the season, Joe Flacco was a very solid quarterback, giving the team a solid chance at victory in a number of close games. Hopefully he will continue to develop as a QB, becoming more productive and accurate in the postseason, where he has continued to struggle.)
WR: D- (The Achilles heel of the offense, the Ravens absolutely need to upgrade the receiving options for Joe Flacco. With the sole exception of Derrick Mason, the Raven's receivers do not have the ability to get open on a consistent basis and the team lacks players that can challenge cornerbacks and stretch the field regularly. This needs to be addressed immediately.)
OL: A- (Michael Oher and Matt Birk are the best of the offensive line, which remains solid and typically good to great all around... although better at run blocking than pass protection. Not a lot needs to be done in this area, perhaps some more quality depth at the OL positions could help...especially in the pass protection area.)
RB: A+ (The best and most consistent threats on the field, the Ravens have arguably the best tandem of RBs in the league. Rice and McGahee have home-run hitting ability and continue to gain yards after contact...as long as they remain healthy. McClain is a force at both the FB and RB position and remains a monster between the tackles when the opportunity presents itself.)
DL: A (Pro-Bowl DT Ngata leads a talented front three that includes Gregg and Edwards, the only thing that could be upgraded at this position would be depth.)
LB: A- (The versatile LB corps, led by Pro-Bowlers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, continue to be the lynch-pin of the Ravens defense. Although Lewis is getting up there in age, his abilities are still fully intact, as his 09 statistics can attest to: 134 tk, three sck, seven pass def, two ff. Again, depth and continued development of young talent is all that can be done to solidify the LB positions)
DB: C+ (Rumors of All-Pro safety Ed Reed's possible retirement leave the DB positions in chaos. CBs Frank Walker, Fabian Washington, Domonique Foxworth, Chris Carr, and Corey Ivy will probably be battling all off-season for the right to remain with the team. If Reed remains with the team next year, Reed and Landry are excellent safeties, with decent depth at the position. The CB position most certainly NEEDS to be addressed in both free-agency AND the draft this year.)
If at least some of these issues are addressed, in particular the CB, WR, and OL position, I believe this team has the necessary players to again make the playoffs and be in a good position for a deep run into the postseason next year.
PS: Great job this season, I am very proud of the way the Baltimore Raven's fought with tooth and claw to even get this far, including the lopsided beat down of Tom Brady and the talented New England Patriots to clinch a spot in the AFC divisional round.
Even with all the issues surrounding some of our key skill positions, Head Coach John Harbaugh and Sophomore-QB Joe Flacco found a way to struggle through early season kicking problems and a lack of either a true No.1 WR or CB to come within striking distance of a berth in the 09 AFC Championship game.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES GUYS AND GOOD LUCK NEXT YEAR!!!