In a word – embarrassing.
The World Champion Baltimore Ravens had an opportunity to make a statement against perennial playoff contenders, the New England Patriots. Instead of seizing the opportunity as proud defenders of the crown, they looked like shameful pretenders.
They were outplayed, outhustled, outcoached, out-planned, out-executed and probably ousted from the post season while being outscored in record fashion at M&T Bank Stadium.
There was nothing good about the game except the fact that a fan could comfortably sit in the stands in shorts and a t-shirt on a late December Baltimore evening. The rest was pretty much partly bad to mostly ugly.
I have to admit that I got caught up in the notion that the Ravens were a team of destiny and that somehow their best games had yet to be played – that they were gelling at just the right time and that other teams, seeing what the battle-tested Ravens accomplished last season, would dread drawing John Harbaugh’s troops in the 2013 playoffs.
“Here Come The Ravens!”, the national media opined this past week. We bought in, willingly – intoxicated by it. But really, what a crock!
Today, “There Go The Ravens!” would seem pretty fitting.
If the Ravens somehow stumble into the playoffs, other teams won’t be leery of the champs in the way we all deliriously romanticize about and Colin Cowherd ranted about. Not a chance! Those teams will be chomping at the bit to draw the curtain, unveil all of the warts and expose the Ravens as a team that is LUCKY to be 8-7.
Who wouldn’t want to host a severely flawed team, one-dimensional offense and an inconsistent defense whose best playmaker (Terrell Suggs) has disappeared for nearly half the season and wasn’t even on the field during crunch time last night?
Suggs could be playing his way off the Ravens roster in 2014. Parting ways with him would represent a $7.8M cap savings, but that’s another story for another day.
Back to the mess at hand, it is quite possible that the team’s luck could continue and they do get to punch their ticket to the postseason dance if they can beat the motivated Bengals in Cincinnati where the hosts have yet to lose in 2013 and where they still have a shot at the No. 2 seed and an all-important bye.
It’s not going to be easy in the Queen City against the newly-crowned AFC North Champs.
Besides playing well enough to win in Cincy, the Ravens would also have to hope that either the Jets can knock off the Dolphins in Miami or the Chargers lose to the Chiefs in San Diego. Good luck with that one – the Chiefs regardless of what they do are the No. 5 seed and as the Ravens proved last year when taking on the Bengals in the 2012 regular season finale, you can mail it in for a game and still go on a playoff tear.
In other words, KC has nothing to play for and the odds makers agree, listing the Chargers as 10-point favorites.
So really the team’s hopes rest in beating the Bengals and with old friend Rex Ryan who will do his best to rally his Jets team in South Florida as part of an effort to save his job.
It’s not a pretty picture but as far as eyesores go, it pales in comparison to the horrific performance yesterday when we witnessed:
- An obviously hurt Joe Flacco lock in on receivers and misfire regularly
- An offensive line that couldn’t get traction against a banged up Patriots defensive line and the league’s 31st ranked rushing defense
- An offensive coordinator that simply refused to exploit the middle of the field and who regularly emptied the backfield on third and fourth and short with a gimpy quarterback while facing said 31st ranked rushing defense
- A defensive coordinator frightened by Tom Brady’s reputation, tucking his tail and refusing to challenge him even without Rob Gronkowski and receivers that aren’t long ball threats
- A head coach who continues to be rather clueless on the sidelines, opting for a field goal attempt down 20-0 in the 4th quarter while facing a 4th and 5 from the Patriots 19. Was the threat of a shutout that intimidating?
There’s much more but why belabor the point.
Maybe we should all just be thankful the Ravens caught lightning in a bottle in 2012 and hoisted The Lombardi after Super Bowl XLVII. Because let’s face it, the 2013 Ravens have yet to give us four solid quarters of football in any single game this season – not once.
And they’ll need it on Sunday if they want to keep their rapidly fading playoff hopes alive.
The Fat Lady hasn’t sung yet, but she has taken the stage.