Another lost afternoon in Indy

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If there was any doubt about where the Ravens stand amongst the elite teams in the NFL, this afternoon’s resounding thud in Indianapolis made it clear as most in the locker room said in the postgame: “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

It was all beer, girls and giggles for a little while, John Harbaugh’s arrival as the new head coach of the Ravens and the likeable rookie from tiny Delaware leading the charge to a 2-0 record and near-wins in Pittsburgh and at home last weekend against the upstart Tennessee Titans.

Today’s three hours in Indy (and it felt like the game lasted three days) made it clear that the stakes are a little higher as teams starts figuring out tendencies, weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Oh, and that Peyton Manning guy is still pretty good, especially when he has time and healthy receivers.

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To a man, there were 53 very embarrassed and abused football players in the purple locker room at Lukas Oil Stadium. It was a licking of the century, by far the worst and most disappointing loss in team history, reminiscent of the waning days of the Ted Marchibroda era in 1998. The only game I can remember that was this lopsided was the Jacksonville first-half drubbing at home in that final year of Teddyball.

But Manning has had a few dozen of these almost-too-easy cakewalks en route to Canton over the course of this decade, picking on the likes of Corey Ivy, Frank Walker, and yes, even Chris McAlister.

I shot plenty of videos for wnsTV about my still inexplicable disdain for Indianapolis, the Colts, the Irsay memories and just sitting in their new palace all day brought back the anger of Mayflower vans for me.

(I know, I know…I should be over it. Maybe I need a shrink, because I turn 40 on Tuesday and the Colts are celebrating their 25th season in Indianapolis and my blood still curdles at the first sight of my father’s stolen horseshoe on the bodies of these Midwestern hillbillies. It still sucks and perhaps like a few of the folks left in Brooklyn with Dodger blue, I guess I might never “get over it.”)

I still have a deep hatred for the concept of the Indianapolis Colts and I probably always will.

Oh, and the stadium was beautiful, more gorgeous than the city and the franchise probably deserves, especially considering the first 15 years of ineptitude and empty seats in the heartland.

Oh, and there was the game? There’s really not a lot to say about the game.

You saw it.

It was a trainwreck come to life. Play after play, mistake after mistake, breakdown after breakdown. There wasn’t much most of the players could say except that they’d fly home and attempt to have collective amnesia as they head to Miami next week to attempt to rectify last December’s embarrassment that cost Brian Billick his job and brought Cam Cameron north to run the Ravens’ offense.

Joe Flacco’s play was unacceptable.

Chris McAlister’s play – as well as the secondary in general — was unacceptable.

And the eight guys who missed tackles on the play before the two minute warning of the first half should hang their heads in shame for that effort.

And the team’s general lack of execution in every phase of the game – Derrick Mason went as far as to say that even the cheerleaders kicked the Ravens’ glutes – was clearly irritating to Harbaugh, who was quite chippy in the postgame Q&A.

Hey coach, we just ask the questions. How you choose to answer them is your deal!

“Let me tell you right now: we’re not about pointing fingers,” Harbaugh said. “So if anybody thinks I’m gonna stand up here and point the finger at one guy or another guy, ‘This guy played well and this guy didn’t play well.’ You can just pack up your tape recorders right now.”

I guess that’s our job, huh, “pointing fingers” and “looking for reasons”?

It was 24-0 at halftime.

It was 31-0 soon thereafter.

Much like at Billick’s darkest hours – Detroit in 2005 and the Miami debacle last year come to mind, but I’m sure there are more – taking the heat ain’t easy. Answering the questions for abominations like this turd in Indy ain’t easy.

But the questions WILL be asked. And the answers might not be easy or they might not come at all. But they show up in the standings, one way or another.

Flacco, for being just five games into his career, was more even in the postgame than his coach and accepted full responsibility for the mistakes at the podium.

McAlister, as his usual custom, took no questions at all. But Harbaugh maintained, “Chris is not hurt.”

So, if Harbaugh wants to know “what kind of men” he has, he’ll have 11 more weeks to find out. Right now, his men are 2-3 and reeling from a surprising knockout punch in Indy.

We didn’t expect much from this team in August. Perhaps the quality of play over the first four hours of the season foolishly fooled us into thinking the team is better than we thought. Or maybe the Indy incident is a blip on the radar and they’ll go back to playing well next week and get to .500 before coming home to play Oakland in 13 days?

But this is Coach Harbaugh’s first test of wills, seeing if he can keep the finger-pointing, distractions and division from bubbling to the surface in a room full of embarrassed players. A 31-3 thorough ass-kicking will do that.

The fans always spend the hours and days after these kinds of losses in a deep funk and civic depression. For the players, it doesn’t work like that. They can’t afford to be distracted.

Tomorrow is a new day in Owings Mills. The team is 2-3 and could easily be 4-1.

At this point, we’d all settle for 3-3 with a good week of practice and play against the Dolphins.

Let’s see how Harbaugh, Flacco and the rest of the gang respond to the crisis.

As Harbaugh said yesterday (and I concur), “That’s what it’s all about!”

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