It is frustrating being an NFL fan. In a league that truly is all about “Any Given Sunday”… and as a fan, that can make it frustrating, as you never know what you will get from your team.
For Baltimore Ravens fans, it seems that the frustration level might be higher than the average fan. Over the years the talent on this team has been tremendous and the amount of Pro Bowlers usually leads the league. But each year, the Ravens continue to come up short with players not playing up to their level of talent. Missed field goals, dropped passes, missed tackles… it’s left fans of the purple and black scratching their head every Sunday for a number of years. The last two weeks, losses to back-up quarterbacks after having a lead late in the 4th quarter, seem to be the icing on the cake.
At the beginning of the season, I said this team needed to be 5-2 at the bye, because the second half of the schedule looked extremely difficult. It’s proven to be just that. Winning the next four after the bye proved to be of extreme importance to set the team up at 9-2. But even with that great record and the #2 seed in the AFC, fans in Baltimore were not happy at all. The team was not playing well, and many said it could have been the worst 9-2 team ever. Baltimore sports talk station hosts were left defending the team while fans were ready to fire all the coaches and cut the players… for a 9-2 first place team.
It appeared that 10 wins would be next as the Ravens hosted the Steelers, who were playing their 3rd-string quarterback. The Ravens never lose at home, and certainly not to a guy who hadn’t started an NFL game in years. But late in the game, the defense got soft and the collapse was on. Then on Sunday in Washington, the Ravens look fantastic in the first half and never lose two in a row, but with an 8 point lead late in the 4th quarter, a rookie QB comes in to throw a TD and run in for a game-tying 2-point conversion. It got worst when the one part of the Ravens that had performed well all season, decided to lay down as the Redskins took a punt in overtime for 50 yards to get into field goal range.
So now the team that didn’t look great at 9-2, is not good at 9-4. Now, they have to face one of the hottest teams in the NFL… the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. And then they are playing Eli Manning and the Giants, who just scored 52 points yesterday. With the amount of injuries they are facing, and with the way they are performing, 9-6 with a four-game losing streak is a very real possibility. That could make the final game of the season in Cincinnati extremely important… and you know how the Ravens play on the road.
You can continue to second-guess Cam Cameron (where was Ray Rice in the 4th quarter? Why is Pierce replacing Rice for an entire series?), you can question the clock management by John Harbaugh (what was with the last 44 seconds of the 1st half? And the wasted time-out on the fake punt?), and you can scream about the terrible tackling of the defense… but this team has not been as good as their record has said all season. With a possible 4-game losing streak on the horizon, the Ravens need to figure things out in the hurry, or this will be another disappointing season from a talented team in Baltimore.