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For years now, Cleveland, Ohio has worn the unfortunate moniker of â€œThe Mistake on the Lake.â€ As I watched the debacle unfold on Sunday, it became apparent that another Mistake on the Lake was taking place â€“ only this time it wasnâ€™t being committed by the City of Cleveland, its citizens, or its football team.
The Baltimore Ravens came to Lake Erie unprepared, unmotivated, and got their clocks cleaned, pure and simple, by the Browns. You can dissect the loss any way you want, but as a fan I can reduce my comments to four simple questions:
1. Tempo? Do the Ravens know the meaning of tempo? This has been a consistent gripe of mine ever since the Billick era began. Their clock management stinks and they burn at least one time out a game when they canâ€™t get a play off in time. The drives in the 3rd and 4th quarter looked more like walks in the park than efforts to get back into the game. You do this when youâ€™re 3 TDs up, not 3 TDs down. Iâ€™m tired of pounding my fist on the table every time they slow-walk to the line of scrimmage. No urgency? Evidently, no problem!!
2. No Huddle? The Ravens were nearly done-in two weeks in a row when an opponent went no-huddle on the Ravens D. Donâ€™t you think it might occur to the Ravens offensive brain trust to try the same thing? This is, after all, the ultimate copycat league. Against a defense that was missing several starters and was ranked in the bottom of the league for yards allowed per game, the Ravens passed when they should have run and vice-versa, and put absolutely no pressure on the Browns defense.
3. What Passing Game? Whereâ€™s the innovative passing, the slant routes, the fly patterns that the fans were told about during training camp? How about a flea-flicker once in a while? Dink and dunk doesnâ€™t cut it any more. Fades and button-hooks donâ€™t do it. We need 8 yards on 3rd down, the Ravens pass for 5. Itâ€™s 3rd and 20, and Steve McNair goes â€œdeepâ€ for 10. Opponents have absolutely no respect for our receivers or our passing game.
4. Whereâ€™s the Defense Beef? No sacks, no quarterback hurries, no pressures. You can make an excuse for Kurt Warner â€“ especially after his gun-slinging exploits against the Ravens and the Steelers. The guyâ€™s still got it in my opinion. But no pressure against Derek Anderson, known as â€œBig Footâ€ for his size 17 shoes and lack of mobility? I know part of the answer and heâ€™s sitting out for most of October with a broken wrist. But whereâ€™s Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs? Whereâ€™s Rex Ryanâ€™s innovative scheming?
My game ball this week goes to Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals, whose win prevented the Steelers from pulling away from the rest of the division.
For the Ravens? Just some well-deserved Raspberries for the following stellar performances: Dwan Edwards, for being finally exposed for what he isâ€¦a rotational lineman and not a very good one, either. Chris McAlister should be ashamed of himself for biting on Braylon Edwards fake. Steve McNair gets a wet one for his underachieving passing. Never have so many passes accomplished so little. Ray Lewis, whose mouth is getting bigger than his game. But Brian Billick gets the biggest wad of all for his spectacular play calling, getting the red flag out late on Jamal Lewisâ€™s phantom touchdown, and having his team, like himself, totally unprepared.
Sunday Prediction: The Ravens travel to the West Coast to play against their former defensive coordinator and Super Bowl winning quarterback, whoâ€™s still pissed at Brian Billick. (Hint: let it go, Trent). The early line has the 49ers as a 3 1/2 point home dog with a 35.5 over/under .â€¦ Hmmmmmm…until the Ravens get untracked, Iâ€™m going with the home dog and the under again. (Itâ€™s paying off.)