The opening game of an NFL season holds hope and promise. As each team takes the field across the board every one without exception has Super Bowl aspirations.
Some are legit, others are mere fantasies.
When opening day arrives, all of the expectations crystalize on the field. To many that first game sets the stage for what the rest of the season will be like.
This morning, how many of you said, “It’s going to be a long season?”
Relax! It’s one game. The teams that performed well in week 1 aren’t as good as they appear and those who didn’t probably aren’t as bad as you think.
And then there’s the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens.
In hindsight, with the turnover in the roster and the injuries, it’s unrealistic to expect the Ravens to be firing on all or even most cylinders to start the new campaign. There’s no rhythm offensively and the defense had not yet had an opportunity to play together for a full four quarters.
Enter Peyton Manning.
That loss in the Divisional Playoff Game burned in Manning’s soul. After a devastating defeat players can’t wait to take the field again, to mend their ways and exorcise the demons.
Manning had to wait 214 days.
Here’s a man who prepares like no other. Here’s a man who in the twilight of his career is stronger in September than he is in December. His release is quicker; his passes a bit more accurate. The pitch count in that 37-year-old arm is not yet an issue.
Mix it all together and a defense worn down by the Broncos rapid-fire offense and the thin air was shredded.
Manning left no stone unturned. He wanted nothing to do with sitting on a lead. After all he was throwing the rock for a first down up by 22 points with less than 70 seconds to play.
It’s just one game. Perhaps Terrell Suggs said it best when he quipped, “All this game tells us is that we won’t go 16-0.”
Naturally there’s going to be a meltdown in Baltimore today, the home of the World Champions. Last night was the equivalent of having someone run into the side of your brand new car. But like that new car, the Ravens are fixable.
But you won’t hear much of that on sports talk radio today or on our message board.
“They should never have let Anquan Boldin go.”
“We are really going to miss Ray Lewis’ leadership.”
Can either of them cover Wes Welker? Can either get a push up front to help the running game? Play safety?
“This one is on the NFL and the Orioles. The Ravens should have played at home.”
There’s a measure of truth to that but would the outcome have been that different? Almost certainly the game would have been closer but are you sure the Ravens would have emerged victoriously? Is a close loss at home better than a blowout on the road?
“We could have used Ed Reed last night.”
Now there’s some credence to that! The Ravens safeties had no clue. Maybe that’s why they are carrying an unprecedented five of them. And not that Ed Reed is the answer – he’s not. But after first blush the pairing of Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo couldn’t have had a worse debut.
The offensive line is a concern. There’s little depth and if Michael Oher misses any time, it could get worse before it gets better. They generate little to no push in the running game and that puts more pressure on the passing game, one that isn’t in synch because there’s not enough familiarity between the pitch and catch combos.
There’s not much trust.
But there’s plenty of time to get it right and the Ravens will. They are too talented. Last season they were annihilated in Houston during Week 7. Isn’t it better to take the woodshed beating in Week 1?
Week 2 serves up the Cleveland Browns and the early line lists the Ravens as 6 ½ point favorites. Week 3 the Texans visit, followed by road trips to Buffalo and Miami. When the Ravens return home on October 13 to host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers sporting a 4-1 record, last night’s pasting will be a distant memory.
If and when the Ravens face the Broncos in the playoffs, this game will have little to no bearing on the outcome of the postseason contest. It certainly didn’t last year.
Come down from the ledge and keep in mind that the race to the finish is a long one. Horse races aren’t over at the 1/16th pole.
And neither are NFL seasons.