The Baltimore Ravens improbable season came to an end yesterday in cold and snowy Heinz Field, where the Ravens put up a heck of a fight, but couldn't make it all the way back from a 13 point first half deficit and lost to the Super Bowl bound Pittsburgh Steelers 23-14. The game was still up for grabs deep into the fourth quarter, until the Steelers Troy Polamalu took a pick to the house to drive the final nail in the coffin. The emotional end came a few plays later when RB Willis McGahee was "de-cleated" by safety Ryan Clark on a pass over the middle that not only resulted in a fumble recovery for Pittsburgh, but sent McGahee to the hospital strapped to a stretcher. Willis should be fine and deserves a rest from what might have been his most impressive physical performance of the season, running for two short TD's, but playing all the while when he was obviously injured and in pain. He sure earned some props from me on this game, even though he had a rough season and is questionable to return as a Raven in 2009.
I honestly thought we were going to win this game, before, during and right up until the Polamalu interception. I had posted threads saying I didn't care that the Steelers were dominating the stats sheet, as I just wanted to kick a game winning FG to get out of town with a 17-16 victory. I actually thought we were on our way to do that after the first down pass from Joe Flacco to Todd Heap on that ill fated drive. I didn't care that Flacco was having a pretty horrible day, but don't lay it all on Joe, as you have to remember he was up against the #1 defense in football, and yesterday they played like it. Looking at the game overall, the defense didn't give up a ton of points, but they constantly were broken down and picked apart for the key third down or big plays by Ben Roethlisberger. Despite the loss of Hines Ward early in the game, the Steelers did what they had done all season to the entire league, but expecially the Ravens in the three games against us, and that was to make the play when they needed it.
This game could easily be blamed on the defense as much as you'd like to put it on Flacco's rookie shoulders. I'm not buying that. Sometimes you just have to admit that another team has your number and is a better team than yours is. The Pittsburgh Steelers proved that yesterday and to me are by far the best team in the NFL. They might have had four losses throughout the year, but are still standing and going to Tamps to represent the AFC and specifically the AFC North. As difficult as it may be, you sort of have to root for them to rep our division and prove that we are not alone in failing to beat them. I'm not going to get into how much great football is ahead of this team, as so much has to go right to reach this point of the season. Twenty-eight other teams sat home yesterday, watching football on TV, while we were one of four that earned the right to play for such high stakes. However, the off season proves to be so exciting, starting today with the probable loss of defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, who is finally going to get the head coaching job that he so richly has earned and deserves. The front office will probably be raided, as well as Ryan taking some of his assistants with him to the Jets. So with all the upcoming moves, free agency decisions and the draft in April, I guess it would be fair to say there is no off season in football.
I can't wait for it all to begin and will continue to blog through all of it. I hope you all will continue to come back here on a regular basis, post your opinions and make your fun and sometimes biting comments. I thank you all for a great season, the making of unseen friends with a common purple passion. There is nothing to be sorry about this season, as it has been one of my most satisfying and exciting ones ever, although I'd love to be going to Tampa to see this defense up against the Arizona Cardinals. Unfotunately, that is just not going to happen, so we will just have to tip our hat to the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and hold our collective Ravens heads up with pride. It will be somewhat anticlimatic but interesting to see how the Steelers defense matches up against the upstart Cardinals prolific passing offense.
Tomorrow begins an incredible historic chapter in American history. Who would have thought either of these things would have happened a year ago? Let's just sit back and enjoy them both. Peace.