Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ravens Shoot Off Foot...Again

Derrick Mason's drop of a pass in the endzone was one of 3 touchdowns the Ravens cost themselves in a loss against the Steelers.

The common theme in Ravens' losses against quality opponents has been the Ravens tendency to shoot themselves in the foot, costing themselves a win. This was no different last Sunday, as the Ravens choked their way to a 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens had 3, count 'em, 3 touchdowns called back because of penalties or dropped passes. There was the Dominque Foxworth interception and touchdown, which was called back because of a Terrell Suggs block in the back on the return. There was Willis McGahee's TD, called back because of a Kelley Washington holding call, and then there was Derrick Mason's drop of a pass in the endzone in which he was wide open.

In total, the Ravens had 10 penalties for 103 yards and are still the NFL leaders in penalty yards, by far. And that, my friends, must be laid at the feet of head coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh has gotten rid of players he couldn't get along with (Chris McAllister) and it's been widely known that players such as Willis McGahee and Todd Heap have been in Harbaugh's doghouse. So, if Harbaugh has the guys he wants on this team, then he must shoulder the blame for the Ravens chronic penalty problems.

Last year, the Ravens appeared to be a more disciplined team than the Brian Billick-lead teams, who seemed to do their own share of melting down (see the 2005 Lions game and the 2007 Patriots game). But now we appear to be back to a Ravens team dominated with players who play sloppy football and can't control their emotions. Like O'Niell Cousins, who hit Steelers linebacker Lamar Woodley long after the whistle blew, knocking the Ravens out of a potential game-tying field goal.

As for the impact this loss had on the Ravens playoff hopes, at the time of the loss, it was decimating. But, after the Broncos and Janguars both lost, and the Colts let the Jets win, the Ravens still control their own destiny as the #6 playoff team. So if they win in Oakland this weekend, they are still in the playoffs.

But will Harbaugh be able to reign this team in for a playoff run? That is the question.

Aside from the maddening mistakes, penalties and dropped passes that cost the Ravens this game, there were some standout performances. Joe Flacco hooked up with Todd Heap for 2 TD's and his 1 INT came on a tipped pass. Ray Rice had the first 100-yard rushing game against the Steelers in almost 2 seasons, rushing for 141 yards. And Derrick Mason hauled in 7 passes for 77 yards, the sure-fire TD pass he dropped the only blemish on an otherwise stellar day for the veteran wide receiver.

On defense, Dominque Foxworth had an excellent game, the abovementioned INT his biggest play of the day, and he was also in on several pass defenses. Chris Carr had a shaky start to the game, but stepped up as time went on. Frank Walker, as usual, was picked on all game, and failed to step up.

So, there you have it. Another excrutiating Ravens loss which came at the hands of themselves. But if they can beat the Raiders this weekend, they will still get into the playoffs and face either the Bengals or Patriots.

Remember, Oakland has beaten Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Denver this season, so assuming the Ravens go into Oakland and demolish the Raiders could make an ass out of you and me. But, the Harbaugh-lead Ravens teams have never lost to a team with a losing record.

It would just be nice if he could beat teams with a winning record a little more often.


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