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The only thing uglier than the Steelers throwback jerseys on Monday night was the play of the Baltimore Ravens. Once again in front of a national audience the Ravens embarrassed themselves and the city that so passionately supports them.
ESPN was unmerciful in their criticisms of the Ravens, particularly Steve Young and Tony Kornheiser. And really if you check your purple goggles at the door itâ€™s hard to blame them.
The Ravens had 15 days to prepare for their arch-rival in a pivotal game with major post season ramifications. And if you think that itâ€™s too early to think post season, you havenâ€™t been paying attention. The defending AFC North Champion has now lost to each divisional foe.
Instead of being rested, sharp and prepared the Ravens looked more like a team that collectively punched the clock. The only thing they did right against the Steelers was show up on time.
Maybe they shouldnâ€™t have.
After all that â€œpreparationâ€ the Ravens mustered up 104 net yards of offense (slightly outdistancing their 85 yards in penalties) and five first downs â€“ both team records in offensive futility. Take away Willis McGaheeâ€™s 33 yard TD run and youâ€™ll find an offense that produced 71 yards on their other 50 plays â€“ 1.42 yards per play on average. Steve McNair had the fewest yards passing in NFL history (63) by a quarterback that completed 13 passes. And the vaunted Ravensâ€™ defense tied a team record with five touchdown passes allowed.
This is a team that regularly boasts about its collection of Pro Bowlers. On Monday they were simply bowled over producing the largest margin of defeat in the nine-year Brian Billick era.
Yet what should be a devastating loss that amounts to a bitter pill to swallow, doesnâ€™t seem so bad if you listen to the coaches and players.
"[The players are] going to be disappointed and they’re going to be embarrassed," Billick said. "But this team has a lot of faith in itself. And they’ll get ready for the next opponent."
You mean like they did for the Steelers coach?
Steve McNair was flat out awful. It might be time to check his birth certificate because he moves and throws like a man who just might be eligible for Social Security benefits. But McNair isnâ€™t pressing any panic buttons. After all, you have to give the other team credit right? They get paid too, right?
"We played against a good defenseâ€, said McNair. â€œThat’s how it happened. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not a time to panic. But there is a sense of urgency."
A sense of urgency? Now thatâ€™s pretty funny coming from a guy whose walk to the line of scrimmage triggers flashbacks to Dawn of The Living Dead.
What do you think coach?
"I wouldn’t begin to know how to characterize this," Billick said. "You have days like that. I won’t try to justify it or try to explain it. You just can’t do the things that we did."
Yeah, no kidding!
Letâ€™s face it, this season is kissing up against the brim of an implosion similar to that of 2005 and the finger of blame might soon get busy in Owings Mills. Clearly thereâ€™s plenty of it to go around.
The Ravens are far too talented to perform as they have. Maybe the mix of talent is wrong. Maybe Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta have delivered the groceries for Billick and his staff but they canâ€™t blend them the right way. Is there a new chef in the house?
This week the Bengals come into town and when Carson Palmer sits down to watch the tape of Monday nightâ€™s game, heâ€™s going to feel like a sailor at a Victoriaâ€™s Secret convention.
On the heels of the Bengals come the surging Browns followed by the Chargers, Patriots and Colts. A month from now the much anticipated 2007 season could look like a mushroom cloud and when it does it will be interesting to see who the survivors are.
Meanwhile if you are looking for a silver lining in this looming cloud think about this â€“ at least you wonâ€™t have to shell out money during the Holiday Season for playoff tickets.
Until then, do yourself a favor and seriously drop your expectation levels for the 2007 season. It might help to cushion the pending fall and help you to enjoy the remainder of the season albeit in a very tempered way.