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Purple Reign 2: Chapter 12 “Oh, where is the ‘O’ in October?”

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Tackling remained an issue, but the Ravens defense was getting beaten at the point of attack, and the losses of Jarret Johnson in the offseason and then the injury to Suggs appeared a lot to absorb for an already aging unit with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and a banged up Haloti Ngata. Suggs, specifically, was an edge setter in the running game and sought to contain a rusher to the edge like Charles. Ngata was not his usual dominant self, and Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones were not playing well, creating huge problems in the middle of the line.

Suggs was talking about coming back after the Week 8 bye, and the team knew he was working hard on his rehab but no one knew for sure when he’d be ready. You just don’t come back from Achilles injuries quickly.

At 4-1, the team had a lot of problems and room for improvement. Harbaugh was challenging everyone on the defense to step up against Dallas at home.

“I think we did what we needed to do to win the football game, and in the National Football League, that’s really what’s important,” Harbaugh said about the less-than-stellar win in Kansas City. “That’s the main thing. I think we should celebrate that, and our guys did find a way to win. If you look at it … we won four on the road [last year], and they were against teams that maybe we weren’t supposed to win against. And the ones that we lost, they were over teams that we [were] favored against, right? This was one of those games that we didn’t win last year, and this year we did. To me, that’s the important thing, and that’s the big thing. Playing better? Absolutely. We have to play better, no doubt.”

By time the Ravens made it to the field on Sunday, October 14th, the Orioles had already been eliminated from the American League playoffs, having lost a Game 5 heartbreaker to the Yankees in The Bronx on Friday night. A dual-sport love-in and first ever massive cheer for the Orioles at a Ravens game occurred as manager Buck Showalter came onto the field for the coin toss and was introduced to a crowd that loved the gritty way the 2012 Birds battled on the field.

“All of a sudden, I looked back and, bam, there he was,” Harbaugh said. “It’s like, ‘That’s Buck Showalter!’ ‘Hey, Buck! I think you’re great!’ I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to talk. We’ve got to talk.’ So, he’s like, ‘Yeah, OK, good luck.’ I’ll tell you – I don’t know, you’d have to ask him – but this is my take on it: He was a little bit taken aback by the response of the crowd – both on the field and when you saw him up top in the suite up there. It looked to me like he was pretty moved by it. It was really cool.”

The Cowboys brought the return to Baltimore of once-thought-to-be-head-coach Jason Garrett, who turned down owner Steve Bisciotti in January 2008 when he was offered the job. Also in the stadium that day was former head coach Brian Billick, who was in the booth with partner Thom Brenneman calling the game for Fox-TV. So you had the coach who got fired, the coach who took the job and the coach who didn’t want the job all in one place.

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And whatever the game in Kansas City lacked in the way of excitement the previous week was more than made up for by this Ravens and Cowboys battle.

And once again, the Ravens’ glaring weaknesses on defense were exposed. The Cowboys ran left, they ran right, and they ran up the middle, with Tony Romo’s offense holding the ball for 40 of the game’s 60 minutes. Fundamental issues like tackling at the point of impact and alignment and assignment were the most frustrating part for Dean Pees and the defensive staff.

The Ravens took an early lead on a 38-yard Tucker field goal, but the Cowboys responded when Felix Jones scampered 22 yards, shedding Ravens defenders en route to a 7-3 lead. Later in the quarter, the Ravens felt the first big injury blow of the season when cornerback Lardarius Webb fell to the ground in agony covering Dez Bryant on the right side, an injury that would quickly be diagnosed as an ACL tear, the second of his career. Webb’s season was over.

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