Once again, what were we Baltimore Ravens fans expecting? To go into enemy territory, much less the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field and upset one of the best passing offenses and the number one rated defense in the NFL? Taking an offense that has scored only two offensive TD's in the past seven weeks in the first half up against the Packers, the weather, the prime time audience, the referees AND the announcers? Seemed like the entire world was against the Ravens last night, didn't it? Well, guess what, they weren't and it was just the Ravens themselves that were their own worst enemies.
If the Green Bay Packers weren't almost as bad as the Ravens in accumulating penalties, this game would have been the blowout that many Green Bay fans said it would be here on The Beatdown all week long. There was a huge difference between these two teams and it showed on the field in the plays when yellow bean bags weren't being thrown all over in record setting embarrassing numbers.
Green Bay showed it is absolutely a serious playoff contender, as any offense that can spread the ball around and score like that can compete in any game and their defense is solid and very athletic with as good a defensive player in the league this season in the veteran CB Charles Woodson. Conversely, the Ravens are absolutely not a serious playoff contender, regardless of whether or not they sneak into the post season as a Wild Card, which surprisingly, they still could.
There were so many things that went wrong last night, and that was just a microcosm of the Ravens frustrating season. Perhaps it would not have been so frustrating had the expectations not been so high at the beginning. I actually truly believed that we were a Super Bowl contender rather than a playoff pretender. However, we are exactly what our record states we are, an average team. We beat the poor teams that we are supposed to beat and lose to the better teams that look to be better than us (because they are). To me, that is as good a definition of average and hence our 6-6 record.
Our defense is nowhere near the one we had last year but is still not the reason this team is losing these close games that are getting us closer to the edge of the ledge. The offensive line has looked great some games and flimsy others. There are so many issues related to why it appears that Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain have not been used to their abilities, as well as all the positives regarding the stunning growth of 2nd year RB Ray Rice into one of the league's best all-purpose players.
The finger can be pointed at the coaches and I would not try that hard to push it in another direction. The play calling has been questionable, the personnel moves suspect and the seemingly lack of motivation and urgency just not there. However, if the poor playcalling had been executed and the suspect personnel delivering on their chances, then we might not be pointing the finger at the guys on the sidelines.
For the reason we loved him so much last year and hailed him as the Franchise Quarterback we never had, it appears that many Ravens fans are reluctant to point that finger in the direction of Joe Flacco. However, it is very hard not to place more blame on Joe than any other individual player for the team's poor showing in 2009. Flacco may have put up more passing yards, TD's and other passing stats, mostly because he is throwing the ball so much more. However, his progression of slowing down the game like so many successful veteran QB's seem to talk about has not appeared to have happened with him. Too many times he is intent on throwing the ball when he breaks the huddle that no matter how the play develops, he still forces the ball into areas that he has no business doing so. His four Red Zone interceptions in critical times have contributed more to those losses than any other player. It has gotten to the point that it is now expected, which was the exact issue when Kyle Boller was under center. Why this team doesn't just run the ball up the middle or at worst off tackle confounds me but for whatever reason they pop it outside for losses and make horrible passing decisions time and time again that kill drives, momentum and end with frustrating losses.
How does this team rebound? It beats a woeful Detroit Lions team and then perhaps even beats the disappointing Chicago Bears as well, both home games. That puts us at 8-6 and surprisingly still in the playoff race. But this will continue to be a mirage for the Ravens, as they will need to not only go to Pittsburgh and beat the revenge-minded Steelers but then to Oakland, who has proven that they are not the pushover that some teams have thought they were. You just know that somewhere along that way, the train is going to find another way to derail itself and the hope will be squashed and the level of frustration will continue to rise until this nightmare of a season is over and the team can address all the holes, problems and needs it obviously has seen this year.