The past two games against the Lions and Bears might have been laughers, but it was no laughing matter in Pittsburgh on Sunday as the Ravens assaulted and grinned their way to 11 penalties, dropped crucial passes, mismanaged the clock, and appeared to clown their way through another road loss to the Steelers.
The table was set: Titans, lost. Dolphins, lost. Jaguars, lost. Broncos, lost. Jets? Well, that’s a story told further on. But what more could we ask for? In a game that would have vastly simplified their playoff chances and knocked the defending Super Bowl Champions out of the playoff hunt, the Ravens proved once again that they couldn’t beat a quality opponent when they had the chance to do so.
We have met the enemy, and He Is Us.
No more jokes here, no sidestepping a poor performance that might cost us a place in the post season. I’m pissed, so without further ado, here’s my TV generated Studs and Duds.
Todd Heap again caught two touchdown passes. He answered my question from last week. We saw him in the backfield and downfield at Heinz Field. It’s time for an encore performance by the suddenly resurgent Heap against the Raiders next Sunday. We’ll need it.
Ray Rice: There is no sophomore slump for the Rutgers Rocket. He was the first back to gain 100+ yards against the Steelers in 33 games.
Defensive Backfield: I’m making them Dudes this week for the simple reason they didn’t embarrass themselves. They held Ben Roethlisberger to 1 TD and a 75.2 quarterback rating. For a patched up unit, not a bad job.
Where do I start? Let’s begin with the 11 penalties for 113 yards that took the Ravens out of the game while they simultaneously kept the Steelers in it. This includes two boners that negated touchdowns by Domonique Foxworth and Willis McGahee. Haloti Ngata, Oniel Cousins, Kelly Washington, Frank Walker, Terrell Suggs; Nice job, guys. Keep it up and you’ll smile your way into the off season.
Derrick Mason for dropping an ice-cold touchdown pass early in the 4th quarter that would have put the Ravens ahead by 7 points in a closely contested game. I hate to put my favorite Ubermensch in this category, but the way the defenses on both sides were playing, that missed TD probably was the game winner.
Bad Timing: Troy Smith and his agent have now requested a trade while the Ravens are on the cusp of the playoffs. No problemo, Troy. Just wait a couple more games, collect a game check or two, and then watch Ozzie Newsome cut your sorry ass faster than a hot knife through butter. See you in the CFL.
NEWS & NOTES:
The Grinch that Stole Christmas. Thanks for the nice tank job, Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell. They pulled the Colt starters early with only a 5 point lead, and all but handed a playoff spot to the New York Jets. I have no problem with the Colts resting their starters and bypassing a chance for a potential unbeaten season. Fine! Just do it next week against the Buffalo Bills, not against an AFC Playoff Contender! Here’s why:
If, as expected, the New England Patriots beat the Houston Texans on Sunday and gain the 3rd conference seed, we’ll see Marvin Lewis, Chad Ochenta y Cinco, and the Bengals mail it in against the Jets for the simple reason that they cannot improve their playoff position. Rex Ryan and his boys will walk into the playoffs as the 5th seed.
Broncos Bucked. Remember when the Broncos came to town with that shiny 6-0 record and got punked by the Ravens? Since their unbeaten start, the Broncos have played to a 2-7 record and need a ton of help to make the playoffs. Finishes like this usually get the head coach fired. See Mike Shanahan.
The Bloom is off the Fleur-De-Lys. The New Orleans Saints lost at home, again, this time to the inferior Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All of a sudden they can’t play defense, can’t play special teams, and, more importantly, can’t win in the Super Dome. Their passage through the playoffs is far from assured.
Ragnar Falls Off his Motorcycle: The Vikings botched a chance for home field advantage when they let Jay Cutler and the Bears beat them Monday night. Ragnar the Vikings mascot will fall off his bike and onto his battle axe as Brett Favre pulls his 2008 déjà vu act.
Free Falling: Tom Petty’s classic lyrics are very appropriate for the Saints and Vikes. Everything looks up for grabs. The NFC playoffs will provide the best entertainment this post season.
Here comes the Black Hole. The Ravens travel to Oakland next Sunday with a chance to secure a playoff position. Win, you’re in. The Raiders are their usual Al Davis-mismanaged mess, but 4 of their 5 wins have come against quality teams such as Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Denver. John Harbaugh can get as chippy as he wants to when the subject of penalties comes up at press conferences, but this crap has to stop. It’s a direct reflection of the job he and his coaching staff have done with this squad, and blaming it on holdovers from the Billick era doesn’t hold water. If we make the same mistakes in Oakland as we did in Pittsburgh, the off season will begin on January 3rd. Remember, we can’t back in.