NFL Rumor Mill: It Isn't The End Of The World, Or Maybe It Is
By Tony Lombardi
The only thing uglier than the Steelers’ throwback jerseys on Monday night was the play of the Ravens. Once again in front of a national audience, the Ravens embarrassed themselves and the city that so passionately supports them.
The ESPN announcers were unmerciful in their criticism of the Ravens, particularly Steve Young and Tony Kornheiser -- and if fans check their purple goggles at the door, it’s hard to blame them.
The Ravens had 15 days to prepare for their archrival in a pivotal game with major postseason ramifications. And if you think that it’s too early to think postseason, you haven’t been paying attention. The defending AFC North champion has now lost to each divisional foe.
Instead of being rested, sharp and prepared, the Ravens looked more like a team that collectively punched the clock. The only thing they did right against the Steelers was show up on time.
Maybe they shouldn’t have.
After all that “preparation,” the Ravens mustered up 104 net yards of offense (slightly outdistancing their 85 yards in penalties) and five first downs -- both team records in offensive futility. Take away Willis McGahee’s 33-yard touchdown run, and the Ravens produced 71 yards on their other 50 plays -- an average of 1.42 yards per play. Steve McNair had the fewest yards passing (63) in NFL history by a quarterback who completed at least 13 passes. And the vaunted Ravens’ defense tied a team record with five touchdown passes allowed.
This is a team that regularly boasts about its collection of Pro Bowlers. On Monday, they were simply bowled over, resulting in the largest margin of defeat in the nine-year Brian Billick era.
Yet what should be a devastating loss doesn’t seem so bad if you listen to the coaches and players.
"[The players are] going to be disappointed, and they're going to be embarrassed," Billick said. "But this team has a lot of faith in itself. And they'll get ready for the next opponent."
You mean like they did for the Steelers, Coach?
McNair was awful. It could be time to check his birth certificate because he moves and throws like a man who just might be eligible for Social Security benefits. But McNair isn’t pressing any panic buttons. After all, you have to give the other team credit, right? They get paid too, right?
"We played against a good defense," McNair said. “That's how it happened. It's not the end of the world. It's not a time to panic. But there is a sense of urgency."
A sense of urgency? That’s pretty funny coming from a guy whose walk to the line of scrimmage triggers flashbacks to "Dawn of the Living Dead."
What do you think, Coach?
"I wouldn't begin to know how to characterize this," Billick said. "You have days like that. I won't try to justify it or try to explain it. You just can't do the things that we did."
Yeah, no kidding!
Face it, this season is kissing the brim of an implosion similar to that of 2005 and the finger of blame may soon get busy in Owings Mills. Clearly there’s plenty of it to go around.
The Ravens are far too talented to perform as they have. Maybe the mix of talent is wrong. Maybe Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta have delivered the groceries for Billick and his staff but they can’t blend them the right way. Is there a new chef in the house?
This week the Bengals come into town, and when Carson Palmer sits down to watch the tape of Monday night’s game, he’s going to feel like a sailor at a Victoria’s Secret convention.
On the heels of the Bengals come the surging Browns, followed by the Chargers, Patriots and Colts. A month from now, the much anticipated 2007 season could look like a mushroom cloud, and when it does it will be interesting to see who the survivors are.
Meanwhile, if there is a silver lining in this looming cloud, think about this -- at least fans won’t have to shell out money during the holiday season for playoff tickets.
Until then, do yourself a favor and seriously drop expectation levels for the 2007 season. It might cushion the pending fall and help Ravens backers to enjoy the remainder of the season, albeit in a very tempered way.
Why get too upset about it?
After all, it’s not the end of the world, right?
Tony Lombardi is a writer and managing editor for ProFootball24x7.com and hosts "Gametime" and "The Hot Sauce with Bart Scott" on ESPN 1300 and 105.7 HFS.
Issue 2.45: Novemeber 8, 2007