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This offseason will be a long one for the Ravens. It will be painful. And it should be!
The players were embarrassed by their performance on Saturday night. Chris McAlister said as much. Yet the one who should be most embarrassed is Brian Billick.
Billickâ€™s performance and planning and decision making on Saturday night cost the Ravens the game. When he sits to review the game film should he dare, his pain should be acute. It should be the equivalent of salt in a gaping wound. It should cut to the bone and flare up throughout the offseason and serve as a reminder that he blew it!
Remember this gem?
"When you go in the lions den you don’t tippy toe in, you carry a spear, you go in screaming like a banshee, you kick whatever doors in, and say, ‘whereâ€™s the SOB.’ If you go in any other way youâ€™re gonna lose."
And so the Ravens did.
Everything the Ravens wanted in the post season, all the cards they hoped to be dealt were dealt. The hopeful scenarios unfolded perfectly. But like a poker player with a noticeable bead of sweat on his brow, they folded. Billick folded.
A man who prides himself on being prepared wasnâ€™t. The Colts lost four in a row on the road in large part because their opponents ran the ball down their collective throat. Dallas ran it 36 times, Tennessee 35 times, Jacksonville 42 times and Houston 42 times. The Ravens ran it 20 times, 6 times in the second half.
Not only did they abandon the run against a team that canâ€™t stop it, they threw the ball short of the sticks and underneath the Cover 2 umbrella.
"[Those plays] actually are designed to get the first down," said Billick in his previously abandoned condescending way. "As odd as it may sound, defenses, they know [the down and distance] as well. If it’s third-and-seven, they’re going to do everything to keep you from getting the ball to seven. Sometimes you have to throw the ball underneath and you just have to make a play."
The Ravens played right into the hands of Tony Dungyâ€™s defense.
Kicking in the doors? Please! It seemed more like sheepishly ringing the doorbell.
Ding-dongâ€¦Hey Brian, is anybody home?
The Ravens took two deep shots against the Colts. One to Todd Heap in the first quarter and then in the second half to Clayton. The ball to Heap was overthrown but at least it sent a temporary message. The ball to Clayton was completed and although it was eventually negated by an unusual sequence of a penalty and a fumble, the double move by Clayton worked and it was certainly deserving of at least another try or two.
Apparently Coach didnâ€™t think so.
The Ravens in the first quarter came out of the huddle once, sending Demetrius Williams wide left, Heap wide right, Wilcox tight to the right and the backs set in the I-formation. The Colts looked a bit confused. The I-formation suggested a run and as a result Bob Sanders crept inside the box, leaving Antoine Bethea alone in centerfield to cover both halves of the field.
If McNair drops back to throw there with play action, he would get single coverage on one side or the other. One on one Iâ€™ll take my chances all day with Williams or Heap who both have solid hands and excellent ball skills. Strike deep and even with a poorly thrown ball, either receiver is capable of becoming the defender.
The Ravens ran it for a short gain.
One could argue and with reason, that Billick isnâ€™t solely responsible for the offensive inefficiencies because of course he doesnâ€™t execute the plays. But itâ€™s his job to coordinate and put his players in position to make the plays. Itâ€™s his job to exploit an opponentâ€™s weakness with his play calling.
The only weakness exploited on Saturday was Billickâ€™s own. He played not to lose and when you do, you usually lose. Billick and the Ravens did just that.
Muhammed Ali once said, "The man who has no imagination has no wings."
The Ravens had a crash landing right in their own backyard.
At the end of the first half with 0:57 to go and two timeouts on the board, the Ravens tucked their tails in at their own 20 yard line and retreated to the comfort of their locker room, down by 6. Do you think Tom Brady would have done that? Peyton Manning? Drew Brees? Even Jeff Garcia?
Not a chance.
These are the moments quarterbacks live for. These are the moments Steve McNair was brought here for.
Billickâ€™s decision sent the wrong kind of message. It suggested fear or confusion or both. It raped the offense of any remaining swagger and he wasted an opportunity to establish some momentum heading into the second half while adding to the enthusiastic crowdâ€™s growing trepidation.
"Yeah, there was a possibility that we could have moved down the field and gone 80 yards and scored a touchdown," Billick said, "or have to punt and give them one more opportunity with a field-goal kicker who’s having a good day."
How weak is that?
How feeble is that?
The meek shall inherit the Earth but not a Super Bowl Championship.
Billick changed this season for the better. He did what Steve Bisciotti not so subtly suggested. He had the entire â€˜06 offseason to think about that woodshed beating and embrace the changes necessary for success this season. And no one could argue that Billick had a successful year.
Yet there needs to be more change and the hope here is that he learns as much from his lack of gumption on Saturday as he did from last yearâ€™s beat down.
You will always miss 100% of the shots you donâ€™t take.
Remember that coach as you think about what could have been and tippy toe into the offseason.