I suppose it was too much to ask for this season, this 3-0 thing.
We went to Pittsburgh 57 strong on the Miller Lite Purple Roadie. We sat in the upper deck. We raised hell as the videos will attest. We really had a lot of fun and cheered a lot and had a lot of high fives.
And when the Ravens were winning 13-3 at the half, it was one big freaking party as we looked out over the bright lights of Pittsburgh. Drew and Glenn were talking smack. The Steelers fans were strongly considering not returning to their seats in the second half and Joe Flacco was running around like Fran Tarkenton on the Heinz Field sod.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier. (Well, at least not since 13-3 two years ago!)
But the NFL is an unforgiving roller coaster as those few seconds of torture in the third quarter showed us. A bad punt, a bad penalty, a busted coverage, a missed tackle, a slip and sack and fumble combo for the quarterback – and voila – it’s suddenly a long ride home from Western Pennsylvania.
Another loss in Pittsburgh. Another knife from Ben Roethlisberger in overtime.
But, we could hang our hats on the good things over the next six days:
The Ravens had the lead for much of the game and really kinda manhandled the Steelers in their own crib. If not for two plays – the Fabian Washington whiff to the Chris McAlister miss to the Ed Reed slip, and the subsequent Joe Flacco fumble on the sack – the Ravens beat the black and gold up pretty good last night.
The place was silent much of the evening and even when the game was tied 20-20 late in the fourth quarter, at least 10,000 of the Steelers’ “faithful” had made their way to the exits. I’ve been making this trip for 12 years now and the crowd was the lamest I’ve seen in the new ballpark.
And even after “blowing the lead,” Flacco led the team back down the field to score the tying touchdown. And before that, the defense even chipped in with a goal line stand to force a field goal from 1st and goal inside the 5-yard line.
For those of us who thought 8-8 this season would be a moral victory, it’s nights like these that make us believe the team might be better than we think.
After 180 minutes of play – and maybe I’m delusional here – but I think the Ravens might be pretty good. And I’m as sold on Flacco (or WHACKO 4 FLACCO) as the next guy.
By the way, you might want to join Brent Harris and Brad Jackson and the Purple and Black Attack out at High Topps in Timonium from 6 til 8. Joe Flacco is tonight’s live guest. (Hint: order the chicken fingers…they’re really good!)
I’m not printing playoff tickets just yet and I realize they’re staring down the barrel at undefeated Tennessee and a trip to Indy over the next 12 days, I’m not even sure they won’t be 2-3 by the time I turn 40 on Oct. 14th, but I am at least hopeful.
We’re going to have a real season and this team is fun to watch and fun to cheer for.
I saw nothing last night in Pittsburgh that embarrassed us as Ravens fans. John Harbaugh and his new staff have clearly been a nice changeup and the team is playing well and playing hard and staying competitive. You can make a case that they deserved to win last night and go 3-0.
And Joe Flacco has shown over the last three games that he’s the real deal. Or as real as anything we’ve had under center since the team left Cleveland 13 seasons ago.
Now, the bad news and reality check from last night:
They lost again in Pittsburgh. Right now, as I type this, we’re in Monroeville, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh and we’ve got four-plus hours of highway ahead and we lost.
And it makes me sick.
The aggressive penalties hurt. The inability of the offensive line to protect Flacco long-term worries me. The injury to Willis McGahee worries me. The age of the team and the breakdowns and depth issues in the secondary also concern me. And the missed tackles and their inability to corral Roethlisberger when it counted just killed them last night.
But at 2-1 with their loss coming in overtime in Pittsburgh on a nationally televised game where the rookie quarterback led a valiant comeback to score a game-tying touchdown, I think as a Ravens fan you have to be satisfied. Well, perhaps not “satisfied” but at least “upbeat” about the 2008 season.
But, no doubt, a 3-0 start sounded a helluva lot better back at halftime. But, alas, it was not meant to be.
The Ravens are on a short clock this week.
Bring on the Schwartzes. Bring on the vaunted Tennessee defense. And bring on Kerry Collins!
We’ve got a big week ahead and plenty to dissect from the loss in Pittsburgh.