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“It’s only a preseason game.”
No doubt if you are a Ravens fan these words of hope fill any vacancies in the forefront of your mind right about now. 
Gee, if it was only that simple.
Simple would describe the Ravens offense.  Simple would describe the Vikings game plan yesterday and the Ravens simply had no hope from the very start.
The Vikings came out aggressively and the Ravens had no answer for the intensity level of Brad Childress’ gang.  Relatively speaking they looked docile something that is quite disturbing on many levels.
This game was supposed to represent the final full dress rehearsal for the Ravens first unit.  It was supposed to be the next building block in Jim Fassel’s offense.  It was supposed to be Steve McNair’s chance to redeem the offense’s red zone ineptitude shown in the preseason game against the Eagles.  It was supposed to be the continuation of the offensive line’s reclamation project.  It was supposed to be an opportunity to get that road monkey of the team’s back.
What it wasn’t supposed to be was a train wreck. 
Last night may have been just a preseason game, but it was a disaster from the opening kick and a total regression for the entire team, particularly the offense.
The game did nothing for the Ravens except to allow old fears to resurface.  Steve McNair was supposed to bring respect to the Ravens offense and that respect would take pressure off his offensive mates and open things downfield.  That respect would also take away the 8 men in the box which choked the Ravens rushing attack last year.
Last night all of the ugliness came back with a vengeance.
The plan of attack against the Ravens was marvelously executed by the Vikings.  The Ravens uncertainty left them with no tempo in and out of the huddle and that eliminated check down opportunities for McNair.  The absence of any rhythm on offense helped to inspire a partisan crowd and that prevented McNair from altering his cadence, something he has used successfully at The Vault.
The Ravens offensive line then became sitting ducks for the Vikings speed rushers and they were clearly overmatched.  Ogden was embarrassed, Pashos’ head was reminiscent of Linda Blair in the Exorcist, Vincent was overpowered by defensive tackles with a head start and McNair had no chance.  Without the ability to set or audible or keep the defense off balance with an irregular cadence, the Vikings front seven along with a rather regular safety blitz suffocated the Ravens.
We’ve seen this before.
Bring intensity.  Get the crowd into the game.  Suffocate the line of scrimmage.  Take away the run and the short passing game and the ability to make offensive line calls.  Go ahead and try to go deep (something that the McNair led offense seems very reluctant to do). 
This is the blue print to beating the Ravens on the road.  This is why they haven’t won a road game in nearly 22 months.  And unless they answer early, unless they establish the run, unless their body language suggests confidence and unless they pick up their tempo, it will be much of the same on the road this season against tough road opponents like Tampa, Denver, Kansas City and of course Pittsburgh.
So now what?
There’s one preseason game left and that is generally set aside to study players on the bubble so that the club makes the proper roster decisions and chooses the best 53 man squad available to them.
Yet the Ravens can’t go into Tampa on September 10 and hope that all of this bad mojo miraculously vanishes.  They have to get the first unit out on the field for extended reps on Thursday against the Redskins at Dan Snyder’s playground.  But if they do and they are successful, will it even be a moral victory if the success comes at the expense of the Redskins’ second unit?  Won’t the seeds of doubt still linger?
Last night was bad.  It was very, very bad and the Ravens have a steep and slippery slope to climb to be ready for the Buccaneers. 
It’s true, yesterday was a preseason game and in that the Ravens can take solace.  But they shouldn’t get too comfortable – certainly not as comfortable as Terrell Suggs was on the sidelines.  In fact they should be worried because game 3 let me reiterate, is supposed to be a dress rehearsal. 
If last night was any indication, the dress rehearsal was that of a tragedy, not a feel good coming of age story.
Thankfully it was just a preseason game, right?

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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