It's one thing to look at the schedule before the season started and be satisfied to be 4-2 after the first six games of the 2010 NFL season. It's another thing to watch those games unfold, come so close to winning yet losing to teams that we knew we could have and should have beaten.
The Baltimore Ravens lost yesterday to a very good New England Patriots team, but everyone watching the game, be it Ravens or even Patriots fans, knew the Ravens were well on their way to winning this game. However, something inexplicably happened that seemed to put the Ravens into slow motion while giving the Patriots new life. At that point, many Ravens fans saw this outcome creeping up in their rear view mirror.
Allowing quarterbacks like Tom Brady to stay in the game is part of the reason that quarterbacks like Tom Brady win Super Bowls and are considered among the best to ever play the game. The Ravens played the latter parts of the game more trying not to lose than trying to win, and the blame for that must be spread throughout the players and the coaching staff, not on the shoulders of just one player or even one coach.
Sure, it looked like Joe Flacco lost his field vision and all too often just dumped the ball off to Ray Rice over and over for short, worthless gains. Sure it looked like Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron went into his late-game shell that he has all too often been accused of in these types of close games. However, where was the execution of the rest of the eleven players on the field each time a drive fizzled that if extended, could have ended in a victory?
Where was the decision-making that could have let our defensive backs creep up closer to the line of scrimmage and stop the quick passes and slants to the little, yet tough Patriots wide receivers that went on all day long? Finally, where was the input of the head coach, John Harbaugh, who leads this team and has the final say in what plays are called on both sides of the ball and can make adjustments as he sees them unfolding?
How many times do we wake up Monday mornings after tossing and turning all night long, knowing this was just another one of those games that the Ravens seemed to have in hand, only to back off the throttle and watch their opponents gather new life and fight harder for the victory that the Ravens seemed to be? We are just fans and as much as we think we know what goes into the game planning and in-game decision-making, we are clueless in how to coach and run a pro football team. If so, then why are we yelling at the TV not to do that QB sneak, stop the silly five yard check downs on third and ten, and so many other calls in so many situations we will regurgitating all week long?
Perhaps te best thing would be to remain optimistic that we are at 4-2, with the toughest part of our 16 game schedule behind us, a home game versus the Buffalo Bills and then a much needed Bye week ahead of us. Perhaps knowing that we can compete with the best of the NFL on the road and even win a couple of those games should satisfy even the most die-hard Ravens fans.
The problem is that had we lost by ten points or more, we could walk away from the game knowing that those teams were better than us and we had work to do before getting up into their class of play. Ravens fans surely know that we are good enough to win those games but the inabilities to do this on a consistent basis has not seemed to change regardless of the QB or the head coach, as it has happened under Brian Billick and gulp, yes, even Kyle Boller, just as it continues under Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh. Don't misunderstand me, we are a much, much better team under the leadership we currently have both on the field and on the sidelines. However, the lack of consistency in winning these close, tough games against the better teams in the NFL is why the blame for these losses need to be equally shared by the players, coaches and Front Office personnel, as we fans also seem to share the same pain they feel.