Mythbusters: Baltimore Ravens Edition
Well it's taken a week, a few trips to the doctor and a few more trips to the liquor store, but I am finally ready to talk about last Sunday. I had a long argument with Gary Stein on Friday before the Blast game (You don't call a timeout, Gary, and I'm not looking you up) and it awoke in me my arguments to two key myths that I feel need to be dispelled moving forward:
Myth No. 1: Cam Cameron Needs To Go
Hey, Baltimore, read the stats and let's break the myth that Baltimore has no offense anymore. This isn't the 2000 Ravens. The 2011 Ravens finished 15th in the NFL in yardage and 12th in scoring offense. Sure, there are inconsistencies in the play calling and we'd all like to see an offense that looks like Green Bay, but the bottom line is that is not how this team is constructed. You do not make your two offseason priorities a guard (Marshal Yanda) and a fullback (Vonta Leach) if you intend to go five wide and chuck it downfield.
Cam Cameron used the weapons he had and put the Ravens in the best position to win. He did a great job of mixing in Ricky Williams as the season wore on, and for all the yelling about Ray Rice not getting enough touches, let's not forget that every carry Williams takes is one more carry we get out of Ray down the line. Running backs have a finite shelf life and managing those carries is important to the long-term health of this franchise.
Let's not overlook the biggest argument for keeping Cam, even more important than using and managing personnel: the Ravens are winning. For the first time in Baltimore sports history, a major sports team has gone to the playoffs for four consecutive years. Cam has managed a rookie QB and RB into the winningest tandem in NFL history through their first four years. He has guided an offense that has appeared in as many AFC Championship games during four seasons as the Baltimore Colts appeared in during their entire existence.
And don't give me the argument that it's the defense that is responsible for the winning and they are doing it in spite of Cam's offense. Let's not forget that during the last two playoff losses, the offense built leads that the defense surrendered late during the game. Blame bad luck. Blame poor execution. Blame God. Blame the New England scoreboard operator. But please, Baltimore, stop blaming Cam Cameron.
Myth No. 2: Billy Cundiff Is The Reason The Ravens Aren't In The Super Bowl
This argument is slightly more esoteric than the first. Yes, Billy Cundiff screwed up. You HAVE to make 30-yard field goals no matter what the situation is. I don't care if he didn't know what down it was or if he was rushed in getting out on the field, the bottom line is, you have to make a 30-yard field goal.
My point, though, is the Ravens weren't perfect before Cundiff's kick. There were hundreds of moments throughout the regular season that would have resulted in the Ravens winning one more game and clinching home-field advantage. Anyone think that game comes down to a field goal if it's in M&T and not in Gillette? David Reed's meltdown in Seattle. The debacle in Jacksonville. The letdown in Tennessee. Avoid any one of those and the Ravens just touched down in Indy.
How about the AFC championship game itself? The Lee Evans play has been discussed ad nauseam, but what about when Ed Dickson forgot he was allowed to use his hands when trying to make a catch? Terrell Suggs jumped offsides and negated what would have been Tom Brady's third INT. The refs awarded an absolutely ridiculous illegal-contact penalty that negated what should have been Brady's fourth INT. Ray Lewis guessed wrong and lined up too far away from the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-goal from the 1-foot line. If any one of those plays had gone the other direction, we wouldn't think twice about Cundiff.
Cundiff's mistake is the most glaring because it came last during a long timeline of events that resulted in Baltimore not going to the Super Bowl, but by no means is it the only reason or even the biggest reason. The bottom line is every player on the Ravens roster had an opportunity to make a play that would have sent them to Indy. Cundiff was just the last to miss his.
Posted Jan. 30, 2012