You can blame it all you want on the referees and even the Ravens for so many stupid penalties that cost us key field position much less actual touchdowns. However, if the players executed the plays as called, not only would we have won Sunday's game at the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a few other ones this season that we came so close in losing. While it does seem that the playcalling switches to a more conservative mode the moment we play in a big game against a playoff contender, had we made the plays as they were called, we still could have, should have and would have won if the players on the field did what they were supposed to.
Making the right block, throwing to the right place and holding on for the reception has been the difference in at least two games this year that had we won, we'd be fighting for playoff positioning instead of our playoff lives.
Unfortunately, we have just not been executing like a playoff team and therefore, we have not beaten any playoff teams since week three. There have been 10 games against teams in 2009 that are either in or playing for a post season spot and the Ravens have won just three of them. The rest of them, they were in every game going into the fourth quarter only to let the games either slip away through a combination of ill-timed penalties or more importantly, a lack of execution The penalties have been costly but in almost every case, we still had a chance to win the games but failed in our execution as the clock wound down. Thus, our frustration rose as the losses did as well. Losing by a wider margin might have made us mad or even had us saying that those teams were all better than ours However, coming so close only to have our hearts ripped out through our throats only added to our angst.
Finger pointing would be fruitless, much less time consuming. This lack of execution is a team wide issue and cannot be pinned on any one player on either side of the ball. However, when we talk about execution, most times it means the lack of making the play on the offensive side of the ball. Offensively, there have been a bunch of players whose lack of execution has cost the team dearly at such key moments of the game. Dropped passes, missed blocking assignments, field goals and fumbles have killed drives and taken points off the board that might have made the difference.
Unfortunately, when you play the highest profile position on the team, the spotlight always shines brightest or darkest upon you. That is why the lack of execution seems to rest most noticeably on our young QB, Joe Flacco. Flacco's lack of execution has single handily cost this team more than the lack of contribution from any other player. You can take away any of the dropped balls and missed blocks, the fumbles and stupid penalties and we still can point the finger at QB mistakes in so many forms that ended up the primary reason the game was lost. Don't get me wrong, I'm not pinning the loss solely on his droopy shoulders, but he has just not made the plays that a Super Bowl QB should, could and would make. Regardless of the other problems, that alone is the primary reason we are not where we thought we would be when we opened the season 3-0 and thought we would be Super Bowl bound in February 2010.
Hopefully, the Ravens will win this Sunday and get into the post season. We won't expect much success if and when we get there, but the more critical game experience that Flacco can get against the better teams will help him and the rest of the team as they grow and mature. The faces around Joe will begin to change in many areas and this team should only improve as they do. When they click, it is a beautiful thing and we can see the potential in this group that also gives us the level of frustration we feel when they don't. Until then, be prepared for more disappointment and "what-if's."