I am absolutely miserable. I don't know where to start. Don't give me the stuff about playing a good team and staying in it until the end, that this is something to build on, that we never expected to be competitive before the season started. Blah, blah, blah. Just like 2007's last minute loss to the Pats when we were double digit underdogs, when you get close enough to win and should have won, I'm never satisfied with coming close- again! After the last Steelers game, when the Ravens blew a ten point lead within 15 seconds, perhaps you could have given them a pass for that game. However, after leading by seven in the fourth quarter and having the ball almost within field goal range, then to give up two length of the field drives that result in a field goal and game winning touchdown!? Sorry, but that's the difference between a contender and pretender, and we thought we were the former but now realize that we are the latter.
What went wrong? Like I said, where do we start? Overall, I was surprised by the vanilla offensive gameplan of Cam Cameron. At some point, I thought Matt Cavanaugh had returned to run the offense It was so boring and predictable, the fans around me agreed that we had "turtled" and were trying not to lose, rather than go for the jugular vein. Where were the passes over the middle? There was one excellent pass to Demetrius Williams for the Ravens longest play of the game from scrimmage. Other than that, every single pass play was to a receiver running anywhere but towards the end zone. By that, I mean that all of our pass plays seem to be to a receiver standing still, curling back to the line of scrimmage, or to the sideline. While it was nice to see Todd Heap get into the offense and catch a couple of passes (without flipping head over heels and fumbling!), they are so predictable and this has been a trend the past two games whenever they get the lead. I guess the coaches are less than confident that Flacco can stay out of trouble when the game is on the line.
Speaking of Flacco, when will he learn to throw the ball out of bounds when running to the sideline? His insistence on trying to be sneaky and force the ball in rather than play it safe has cost us. He should have had two early interceptions but was lucky when one was reversed on the replay. For whatever reason, the coaches continue to run plays having him roll out, which always seem to end up with bad results. He is not a scrambling QB, but should remain in the pocket under all circumstances, even if it means taking the sack or throwing it away. Until he limits his mistakes, we will always be one bad play away from implosion.
Speaking of implosion, I can't stand hearing our fans whine and complain about the officals' poor calls that gave the Titans a new set of downs late in the fourth quarter and resulted in their game winning drive. Funny how the Ravens fans seem to forget that both scores we had were the direct results of Titans penalties that extended our drives for all ten points we scored. As I've said repeatedly in these blogs, that until the Ravens learn that the entire league and officials are just waiting and baiting this undisciplined "me-first" group of players, then we will continue to be the target and never given the benefit of the doubt. Sure, the Titans were pretty thug-like as well, but face it, we either start or more frustrating, retaliate more often than any team in the NFL. I'm curious to see, although I doubt the public will, how Harbaugh handles our continued lack of poise and control after the plays have ended. I totally agree that the officials were horrible all game long, but the Titans' fans will agree, as they were also called for a ton of penalties and the referees arms must be sore from throwing their yellow bean bags way too often. This includes that phantom call on Suggs on the third down "incompletion/false start/roughing-the-passer" play that jump started the Titans final TD drive. I, for one, will never blame the officials for a loss, nor give them credit for a win. Ever.
Even more disturbing was the incredibly poor clock management at the end of the first half. The coaching staff, and the responsibility falls directly onto head coach John Harbaugh, looked embarassingly confused and poorly prepared. That's two weeks in a row that the rookie head coach has made obvious poor decisions. The Ravens were driving for a possible score and had just run off a huge gain to get into field goal position. They had one timeout and there were 45 seconds left in the first half. Harbaugh chose to try to get the team up to the line for either another play or to spike the ball to stop the clock and save the timeout. However, with half the team 15-20 yards downfield the obvious call would be to use the timeout, for which I was screaming for from the stands. This would have put the ball in field goal range and we would have had 40 seconds to run a couple of plays and then spike the ball if needed to stop the clock. Instead, he tried to do what he did and the clock ran all the way down to the 14 seconds that started his decision-making mess. The Ravens were penalized and had the option of losing a timeout or take a ten second runoff which would have put the game clock down to four seconds. For whatever reason, he chose the timeout to keep the clock at 14 seconds, then unexpicably went for the field goal anyway! Matt Stover missed a key opportunity to add to the Ravens lead, and his lack of success this season at shots he has usually been money on has me and the rest of the fans concerned that he may be losing it real fast. Stover has been one of the most valuable Ravens in history, but his age and limited distance on both field goals and kickoffs are becoming an obvious liability.
All in all, this game sticks in my craw like the powdered mash potatoes my mother raised me on and never let me leave the dinner table until I ate every last disgusting bite (yeah, I got issues, so what!?) One loss and perhaps it's excusable. Two, in a row, and we have a trend. The Ravens cannot win the close games against good teams. Our defense cannot shut down the underneath pass, as our secondary blankets the wideouts, while the tight ends and running backs continually outrun our linebackers and get open for critical gains when the game is on the line. The Titans offensive line deserves some impressive props as they held us without a sack, which allowed Kerry Collins to wait until the underneath options broke into the open for first down receptions over and over again. Don't also forget, penalties or not, that the Titans drove 80 yards twice in a row in the fourth quarter for scores, when we had the chance to put the game away with a long drive or another score. Once again, we couldn't get it done, which combined with the Steelers going on the road in Jacksonville and winning, put us in a position that has us playing five of our next six games on the road. At one point, I could see us competing for the AFC North title, based on our play and Pittsburgh's hellacious schedule. However, contenders (Steelers) find ways to win close games, while pretenders (Ravens) find ways to lose them.