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When Steve McNair was a Tennessee Titan he engaged in some memorable battles with the then arch rival Baltimore Ravens. There were times when McNair struggled mightily against the Ravens but then somehow just when he needed it most, he was able to step up and avoid a big hit from Peter Boulware or deliver a pass to Frank Wycheck through the tightest of small windows or maybe he somehow managed to eek out that extra yard to gain just enough for a drive sustaining first down.
It wasn’t always pretty but it was often effective, particularly when the game was on the line.
Back in 2000 during Week 8, the Ravens hosted the Titans and dominated them everywhere but on the scoreboard and in the turnover department. McNair avoided the big mistake, made a play when it counted the most and managed the game and the 14-6 win despite leading the less impressive team that day.
Yesterday’s game against the Browns invoked such memories. Only this time, McNair was wearing desirable colors.
Steve McNair has never had a rocket arm. He’s never seduced scouts or opponents with raw physical skills. He’s never been fleet afoot. Despite it all, throughout his career, McNair has found ways to make the right throw or to make plays with his legs – he’s found ways to overcome adversity and he finds ways to win.
But there was something about yesterday’s win that was special. The Ravens ventured into territory that they hadn’t experienced since December 1, 2002 when they beat the Bengals 27-23, coming from behind to win a divisional game on the road. This win had a much sweeter aftertaste than the 28-6 win just a week ago against the Raiders. That win didn’t test the Ravens’ mettle.
Yesterday’s win did!
The Ravens won a football game yesterday that perhaps they shouldn’t have. They won a game yesterday that last year and the year before and the year before that they wouldn’t have. But yesterday they did, snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat and in the process they discovered something about themselves behind the guidance of Steve McNair.
"If we would have won any other way, we wouldn’t have grown up today. We wouldn’t have understood what adversity is," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Today, we faced adversity dead in the face. For us to respond the way we did, you have to tip your hat to our team right now."
A loss to a team that on paper had no business being on the same field with the Ravens may have sent the team into a tailspin. It may have planted a seed of doubt in their minds and perhaps there may have been some finger pointing given a few questionable decisions and the overall offensive game plan. And such finger pointing may have stoked the ambers of an unsettled locker room.
That last minute drive, as unattractive as it may have been ending with a wind blown 52 yard field goal may have created a very dangerous Baltimore Ravens team – a team that now clutches a collective resolve.
“We grew up,” said Bart Scott. “It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done. We showed a lot of heart and believed in each other.”
In the future when we look back on last week’s 28-6 win over the Raiders, on paper, that one might look a lot more impressive than the 15-14 win in Cleveland during Week 3. But those of us who watch the team closely just might look back on yesterday’s victory as the one that galvanized a team and brought them together as one.
The defense delivered when they had to as Chris McAlister intercepted Charlie Frye in the end zone to give their offense a chance. And finally, the offense answered in a way that they hadn’t before.
"All that plays a hand in how good this football team can be", said McNair.
A team that believes in itself is a team to reckon with and yesterday the Ravens served notice to the rest of the NFL.
It’s funny how the wind at your back can change so much.