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Can we consider the loss to the previously winless Miami Dolphins to be the low point in the history of the Baltimore Ravens? Itâ€™s really hard to think of another more embarrassing moment.
Sure there were those woeful games during the Marchibroda era but then the expectation level for the team was nowhere near what is was at the start of the â€™07 campaign. Expectation clearly is a measuring stick for disappointment and after a 13-3 season in â€™06, few if any ever expected the Ravens to be visiting South Florida this past weekend sporting a 4-9 record. Consequently the disappointment has reached unprecedented levels.
And that is the story of the 2007 season for the Ravens â€“ a season during which anything that could have gone wrong almost did.
The loss to the Dolphins is hopefully rock bottom and in a way that may be just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps the entire organization needs to stare into the abyss and each individual member needs to determine what can be done to fix a team that suddenly has an alarming number of holes.
Ravens fans in Miami didnâ€™t seem all that upset by the loss. Perhaps theyâ€™ve grown accustomed to losing. If you think about it the team is fortunate (or unfortunate depending upon your perspective) to be 4-10. Take away a dropped pass here and there and the Ravens could easily be sitting at 2-12 right now.
The Buffalo Bills who probably thought they would be receiving a low third round draft pick in the Willis McGahee trade are undoubtedly having a private chuckle over the Ravensâ€™ misfortunes. Who could blame them?
Yet McGahee is one of the few bright spots for the Ravens this season. Given an offense that brings about as much firepower as a Red Ryder BB Gun and the high level of transition on the Ravensâ€™ offensive front, McGaheeâ€™s accomplishments are just short of a modern day miracle. When we look back upon this season when it is thankfully over, McGahee will be considered one of the few Ravens who actually performed as expected.
But back to Miamiâ€¦
What wasnâ€™t expected on Sunday was a Ravensâ€™ loss to the winless and hapless Dolphins. What will make this an even more embarrassing loss for the Ravens particularly as time goes on is that they will be remembered in perpetuity as the team that enabled the Dolphins to escape a winless season. And they did it behind the quarterbacking prowess of yet another Ravensâ€™ reject, Cleo Lemon.
It didnâ€™t have to be that way.
Most coaches will tell you that you play for the win on the road and the tie at home to force overtime. Brian Billick, just as heâ€™s done so many other times in so many situations bucked conventional wisdom and went against the grain.
Down by 3 with 0:12 to go from the Dolphins 1 foot line, Billick opted to kick the field goal on fourth and goal. A 4-9 team with nothing to lose plays for the tie on the road.
"I know this: had we gone for it, if they could have snuck a 12th man onto the field, all 12 would have been up in the gaps and sold out totally for the run," Billick said.
"That’s from our analysis. I guarantee it, knowing Dom Capers, that’s exactly what they would have done. Not a commentary on us offensively or on the line or the ability to run the ball, but they were going to shove everybody in there."
And fans have three more years of this cowardly decision making to look forward to?
What kind of message did he send to his team?
The message that reverberated like a hymn throughout Dolphins Stadium just after the game ended was Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphinsâ€¦
The fans were jubilant and it had the feel of a playoff victory. The Dolphins faithful got what they deserved. Fans who sit through a 0-13 season and still show up in support deserve to be rewarded and the great Greg Camarillo did exactly that when he scampered past Ed Reed and Jamaine Winborne after snaring a short slant pass and taking it 64 yards for the winning score.
Folks that enjoyed the trip to Miami will probably get a chance to do it again next year. If the Ravens finish in last place in the AFC North (and thereâ€™s little reason to think they wonâ€™t) they will travel to take on the Dolphins again in â€™08. Other non-divisional road games in â€™08 include Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas and the NY Giants.
Letâ€™s just hope that next year the Ravens are as ready to travel as their fans who showed up in numbers nearly 10,000 strong in Miami.
Here’s to a better 2008 season under your Christmas tree this year.