My preview and pick of yesterday's game in Miami was right on target, from the comments to the score, except I just got the teams mixed up. If you traded names, then I hit the proverbial nail on the head. I predicted the score would be 23-13, while it ended up 22-16 (pretty close). I thought the Ravens were bad, but the Dolphins were the worst team in football, but I had that backwards as well. The Dolphins tried to give the Ravens the game, but we just didn't seem to want it as bad. So now, Miami has a one game winning streak, while the Ravens have the longest losing streak in the entire NFL, which makes it very clear. The Baltimore Ravens are now the obvious choice as the worst team in the NFL!
It hurts so much to say that, but there is no other way to look at it. If you can't beat the worst team in the league, then you must be not as good as them. The Ravens tried to win conservatively, and they almost pulled it out. Matt Stover's first ever miss of a field goal in overtime wasn't a gimme by any means. You have to give him a pass, as without him, the Ravens wouldn't have even won all four of the games they have this season. Besides, he's been our biggest offensive weapon since the Super Bowl season seven years ago. Without Stover, this game would have been over long before overtime began.
However, it should have ended without the necessity of an extra period of play. If Ravens coach Brian Billick had any balls, he would have gone for the win on 4th and six inches on the last play of the game. Despite what he and others on TV and radio may be saying, it's very simple. You're 4-9 on the season, with the game on the line. Your running back has had almost 100 yards so far and has run well most of the game, although the offense was virtually non-existent in the second half until rookie Troy Smith came in for the last two series. If your offensive line cannot allow your star running back to gain six inches when it needs it the most, then they deserve to lose to a winless team. I know the mantra of coaching is to play for the tie on the road, but these circumstances dictated otherwise. Once again, the coach choked on a crucial game changing call, consistent to what he's done all season long.
Since it's obvious that he's coming back in 2008, this team is in trouble as it is being led by a person whose leadership does not earn him the respect of his players, fans and media. The owner is giving him a pass, supposedly, because he blames the season on injuries and poor player performance. Meanwhile, everyone else seem to hold the coach culpable for the players poor performance, as well as his horrendous gameplan, playcalling and clock management. Too bad Arkansas didn't want him more than Bobby Petrino!
Anyway, for now the team has hit rock botton. You thought it was bad when they embarrassed themselves against the Steeelers on Monday Night Football? You thought losses at home to both Cincinnati and Cleveland was bad? You thought that after almost upsetting the Patriots on national television, they hit bottom when wiped off the field by the Indianapolis Colts? WRONG!!! This is rock bottom, as now they can proudly wear the title as "Worst Team in the NFL." Too bad they won't get the #1 pick, as that will still go to the Dolphins, and don't forget that the Patriots own the 49ers pick, which may be as high as #2 overall. No, the Ravens have won just enough to be picking anywhere from 7-12, although they really need all the picks from #7 through #12 to have any chance of respectability next season.
Two years ago, some Ravens fans cheered when Kyle Boller hurt his leg at home against the Colts, opening the way for replacement Anthony Wright (who?) to take over. I wonder how many fans were silently or openly cheering from their living rooms when he went down with a slight concussion late in yesterday's game. Rookie Troy Smith came into the game and after a difficult situation of starting inside his own five yard line, he engineered a near perfect drive at the end of regulation to allow Matt Stover to tie the game and send it into overtime. He then drove the team down the field behind the rushing attack and a few well thrown passes, putting them in position to win the game. Even with the loss that now puts this team firmly in last place in the AFC North, he still deserves the chance at starting the final two games to determine whether or not they should use their first round pick on a franchise QB in next year's draft. What else does Kyle Boller need to do to tell this team's brain trust that he is not the answer? He's proved it for five years now, and although signed through 2008, it should just be for insurance purposes, unles he pulls Grbac and retires (along w/ Billick)!
They say the coaches use a limited playbook to allow a rookie QB to get his feet wet in the NFL. If so, then Troy Smith is in the perfect offense, as Billick's playbook is probably only around 8 pages long. Run right, run left, run up the middle, short pass to the right...you get the picure? Trust me, I promise the Ohio State University's playbook is thicker than Baltimore's. If Smith can't master that, then he deserves to go home and get a job. Until then, give him the ball. However, if your coach doesn't have the gonads to go for the game winning TD that sits six inches away, then he'll never make a good decision like that, unless Boller's concussion is such that won't allow him to play next week and the choice is made for Billick.
Two more sure losses and this team finishes the season at 4-10 with a franchise record losing streak continuing. The decision to blog every day during this mess was not exactly what I expected when I agreed to assume the position following the Ravens 2006 13-3 season. What a long, strange trip it's been!