Stop whining, Ravens fans. Last night's Monday Night Football was exciting. Millions of fans watched as our team blew a 21-point lead for the first time since 1997. The Houston Texans would score on drives of 99 and 95 yards, convert a two-point conversion, tie the game and force overtime.
I am as diehard as any Ravens fan and as concerned as the next one. I'm sick of the fact that the Ravens have blown eight fourth-quarter leads this season, giving up 105 fourth-quarter points in the process.
However, we are 9-4 and currently own the top Wild Card in the AFC.
I, like most diehard fans, am dumbfounded over the decision not to kill clock with late fourth-quarter leads, especially in back-to-back games. Every Texans safety that blitzed last night—and there were a lot of them—looked like Troy Polamalu coming off of the edge. We seemed powerless to stop them. It seemed the coaching staff learned nothing from last week’s crushing defeat and how it happened.
However, we did win a game on the road in December and that’s not an easy thing to do in the NFL.
I am as frustrated with Cam Cameron’s play-calling as anyone. He must have something on John Harbaugh because for the life of me, I can't figure out why this guy is still employed with the talent on this offense. The Ravens offense continues to put Harry Houdini to shame in the second half of games recently: they just disappear.
Even former Ravens head coach and king arrogance himself Brian Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel after six games in 2006. The Ravens were 4-2 when head coach Brian Billick fired Fassel. Billick took over play-calling duties and the Ravens would finish 13-3. Billick would say it was the hardest thing he’s ever done, firing his best friend, but a move that was necessary to get his offense going. This is the same Brian Billick that lived and died with Kyle Boller.
This current Ravens offense just needs to play four quarters and finish a game.
With all of that said, somebody is responsible for Joe Flacco's improvement. Flacco didn't throw an interception on the road last night and when given the chance, made some big throws. Flacco has a lot to work on, but a quarterback from Delaware isn't a quarterback from USC.
The back-shoulder fade touchdown pass to Derrick Mason on 3rd-and-long, just before halftime last night, was as clutch a play as Flacco has made in his brief career. Flacco was sacked for a 10-yard loss on the play before and Joe Flacco from earlier this season doesn't convert the 3rd-and-16 for a first down much less a touchdown.
Flacco would have taken another sack or thrown the next one away and the Ravens may have come away with just three points. Considering the outcome, I'd say it was huge play.
I am, like most Ravens fans, beginning to come to the realization that our once-dominant defense is merely average. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed looked slow last night. Reed was beaten badly and blew the coverage on the touchdown pass to Andre Johnson just before the half. Terrell Suggs is the only pass rush we have to speak of and our secondary, while improving, is far from dependable.
However, we are still the 10th ranked defense in the league and (this is going to sound crazy) held the NFL's leading rusher to just 100 yards. Arian Foster picked up 30 of those yards on draw plays in the fourth quarter when the Ravens were dropping eight into coverage. The defense did win the game and after those last two Texans drives, who would have thought that?
Reading the Baltimore newspapers and listening to sports talk this morning on the Internet, you would think this team was 4-9 and not 9-4. It could be worse Ravens fans...you could be Texans fans. The Texans set an NFL record last night. No other team in NFL history has ever come from behind to tie or go ahead in the fourth quarter and has then gone on to lose the game four times in one season.
You could be a Panthers fan. You could even be a Yankee fan this morning (I had to throw that one in there. Thank you Cliff Lee, we don’t get a chance to laugh at the Yankees a whole lot anymore and maybe that’s why we are so hard on the Ravens).
This could be even worse. For 12 straight Decembers we watched as other NFL teams blew fourth-quarter leads on Monday Night Football. For 12 years we watched other teams battle for playoff spots in meaningful late-season football games. If you're older than 30 then you remember Bob Irsay and the Mayflower trucks pulling out in the middle of the night and heading to Indianapolis.
Do remember when then-mayor William Donald Schaeffer and the city of Baltimore tried to use eminent domain to keep our beloved Baltimore Colts? I remember and I know you're upset about this underachieving Ravens team, but let's not act like football snobs.
Let’s look at the glass as half full right now. We have a football team that is probably going to the playoffs for the third straight season. This has not been done in Baltimore since Bert Jones led the 1974, '75 and '76 Baltimore Colts to three straight playoff berths.
We have a young quarterback that is improving every week, even if his offensive coordinator does handcuff him. We have watched arguably the best linebacker to ever put on a pair of cleats for the last 14 years play in Baltimore. Don’t be spoiled football brats.
I live in Florida now and with the use of technology I never miss a game, newspaper article, press conference or sports talk radio show that comes out of Charm City. I love the Ravens and, like you up in Baltimore or anywhere else, am frustrated at what could be with this team. However, it’s not that bad. We could be stuck with no NFL team and the Orioles to look forward to.
Will the Ravens make the playoffs?
Another tough battle is ahead against the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints this Sunday at home. This is a must-win and the type of game we all missed when Baltimore was void of football for 12 years.
They will make us mad as hell at some point in the game. Let’s just hope if the situation is 2nd-and-1 from the Saints 35, in the fourth quarter, with three minutes to play, nursing a three-point lead, that the Ravens break the huddle and run the right play. The key word in that sentence was run.
Run the ball and kill some clock, keep Drew Brees off of the field, get a first down and for once preserve the victory.
If they don't and Flacco is stripped on a sack fumble or throws an incomplete pass stopping the clock, just remember what it was like for 12 years when all you could complain about was not having a team to complain about.