Baltimore Ravens Loss Is Harder To Swallow After Jets Victory over Patriots

Alan Zlotorzynski@@zlotsportsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 17, 2011

Joe Flacco leaves for the off season
Joe Flacco leaves for the off season

The Baltimore Ravens have never hosted the AFC Championship game but they would have this week. As a Ravens fan you try to justify how you can make a stinging loss feel better.

You rationalize and say to yourself, "it would have been tough to go to New England and win next week anyway", Then the New York Jets bounce the 14-2 number one seeded Patriots from the playoffs and the "what if's" start all over again.

Once again if the Ravens took of care of business on a playoff Saturday, Sunday's title game would have been played in Baltimore. A thought that makes Ravens fans sick, again.

The Jets were the sixth seed, the Ravens a number five.

It feels like the 2006-07 post season all over again. Or as Derek Mason called it today while cleaning out his locker “Ground Hogs Day”.

In the 2007 post season the 13-3 and number two seeded Ravens earned a bye and hosted a divisional round playoff game.

All the Ravens had to do was beat the Indianapolis Colts at home and if somehow the Patriots could upset the 14-2 Chargers in San Diego the AFC title game would be played in Baltimore.

The Patriots held up their end of the bargain, the problem was and just like on Saturday, the Ravens did not.

Five Colts field goals and three weeks later it was Payton Manning winning his first Super Bowl, as Indianapolis became the first ever dome team to host an AFC title game.

That was the year we all thought, the year we would beat the Colts when it counted and move on. It felt eerily similar headed into Saturday's game didn't it?

This was the year; Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers luck had to run out eventually. It even started to look that way on a crazy play that resulted in a Ravens defensive touchdown early in the game.

The kind of play that always seems to go the Steelers way finally played out in the purple and black’s favor.

The Ravens held a 14 point lead at the half, despite just 96 yards of offense. It seemed as if Big Ben and the Steelers were on the ropes, it only seemed that way.

Apparently they had us right where they wanted us or the Ravens brief luck simply ran out.  Ray Rice's first fumble of the year, the first fumble in 400 plus touches started the Steelers onslaught. Then came what forever will be known in Baltimore as 3rd-and-19.

Some other Steeler not named Roethlisberger, Ward or Head and Shoulder’s beat the Ravens this time, Incredible to think but painstakingly true.

Yes Big Ben threw the ball but even he admitted he just heaved it in what’s his name’s direction. Antonio Brown somehow managed to get behind a defense called to “prevent” just that very thing from happening.

It was over just like that. A holding call on a punt return for a touchdown, an Anquan Boldin dropped touchdown pass, yes the same Boldin that held on to a touchdown in Arizona while getting his jaw broke in the process.

Then the 4th-and-18 play where the sure handed TJ Houshmanzedeah dropped Joe Flacco's right on the money 19 yards pass, ending any chances of a comeback. Which brings us to today.

Today was clean out your locker day at the Ravens Owings Mills, MD training facility dubbed "The Castle". It was a somber day.

The Ravens have a lot of work to do to get back to this point, a lot of money to spend to keep some of their own superstars, like Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata.

John Harbaugh announced Cam Cameron would return to the chagrin of many fans in Baltimore. There was the usual frustrating end of season quotes from upset players like last year when Ed Reed promised retirement.

This year it is LeRon McClain saying goodbye.

McClain an unrestricted free agent was asked if he was returning, McClain responded, "It’s up to what the Ravens organization decides. But I doubt it, though. I doubt it," 

McClain continued, "If I was (coming back), I would probably have been used a little bit more this season and the past two years,”. "It is what is. I’m over that now. Four great years in Baltimore. Now, I’m just looking forward to the future."

The Ravens have 17 potential unrestricted free-agents and some once the collective bargaining agreement gets settled are the type a lot of teams will shell out big bucks to get.

The Ravens will have a busy free-agent period once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached.

The Ravens list of UFA's includes seven starters (cornerback Chris Carr, guard Chris Chester, safety Dawan Landry, fullback Le’Ron McClain, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, cornerback Josh Wilson, offensive tackle Marshal Yanda) and two specialists (kicker Billy Cundiff and punter Sam Koch).

The Ravens will select 26th in this year’s upcoming draft and the Baltimore Sun reports the Ravens are nearing a deal on a contract extension for head coach John Harbaugh who will be entering the final year of his deal in 2011.

This is a team that will contend again in 2011 for the division but it doesn't hide the bitter feelings today.

Yes Ravens fans we have been down this disappointing road before, another bitter loss to the Steelers and eight more months to think about what may have been.

If you’re like me then you didn't even turn on ESPN today or anything else that would even whisper anything about the weekend’s loss.

I thought this was the year, I thought this time we had the Steelers number. Maybe next year!


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