My Mom always told me that good things come in threes. On Sunday in Baltimore, the number was enough to steal the show and win the football game. Three was great math for the Orioles – not so much for the Ravens.
At the clock struck four – and with the dreaded and departed Colts of the Irsay family proving peskier than we thought – it was the Orioles who whittled their Magic Number down to three. And it was the Baltimore Ravens who needed the magic trey that never came from the foot of Justin Tucker to win the game. Oh, sure, around here the lovable RoFo chicken eater and coffee drinker is The Goat and headed straight for a bust in Canton under any circumstances. But for one afternoon, The GOAT would have to nod his long horns and turn the sprinkler in the direction of Indianapolis kicker Matt Gay, who outkicked and out pointed the singing local legend.
“Song sung blue, everybody knows one…”
And when did kickers become Dudes in the NFL? And with the hideous weather forecast, what kind of odds could you have landed for five 50-plus field goals being successful in the wet, windy remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia that we believed would impact the game far more than it did. And Tucker begging to kick a 64-yarder after missing a 61-yarder?
The next time the Ravens play at home, they might be 2-4 or even 5-1 – but if the Orioles play their bullpen and the ALDS fates the right way, the biggest controversy in town will be how the Detroit Lions visiting the Ravens will wreak havoc on the scheduling of Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Well, unless the Orioles wrap it up in five games and let the Ravens play in peace while the city plots a World Series Halloween weekend?
And Baltimore sports fans, get your arms around this fun fact: the Ravens would literally play at home just once – and on another disputed calendar day for the stadia parking lot on October 21st in that Lions game – before the Orioles would wrap up a World Series parade by Sunday, November 5th when Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks appear at the south end of Camden Yards.
Yes, it’s the Orioles magic time, this time. After a long time.
And as my man Jamie Costello of WMAR-2 News astutely pointed out on the social media web on the weekend of the 50th Anniversary of my first Baltimore Colts game at Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street: “Freakin’ Bert Jones beat us!!!!”
An unlucky seven.
Meanwhile the real Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson was a perfect 10 in completing his early passes but between fumbles and gaffes, the offense didn’t possess the ball or run enough plays. And the sloppiness with the football was evident on a day built for ball security with a patchwork offensive line and mounting injuries on both sides of the ball.
And then, of course Coach Hardball left three seconds on the clock at the two minute warning, opening the door for studious Shane Steichen to play and win the clock game with a kicker and a big leg.
The football stadium was half empty and tickets were $10 online for all of the dreary Sunday morning. Meanwhile, the baseball stadium is filling up this weekend – as are the playoff ticket debts of everyone I know who has been saving their bird seed for the orange Birds this October.
As for the Ravens: the offense was terrible and Lamar Jackson running the ball is still their best play six years into this experiment. It’s their only reliable play and the “go to” when they really need yards – divide and conquer, just like 2019 except when it doesn’t work because the team is so pocked with injuries. And as was pointed out – and disputed by No. 8 in the aftermath – Lamar was errant and late on too many occasions on Sunday. He doesn’t see the field well under duress and standing still to try to do that doesn’t always buy him an escape hatch or enough time to find one. That pocket has been collapsing quickly when the Ravens try to play long ball with all of their fancy first-round wide receivers. Three games into this and it’s apparent that getting the ball into Zay Flowers is their second best play after the Lamar RPO.
The wounded bodies are stacking up after they mounted up and shortly after they began. It’s hard to win without seven starters getting on the field in Week 3, even against the lowly Irsay Colts of Indianapolis.
As predicted here, the defense appears to be the better side of the ball thus far. Certainly the pass rush can get home when Mike Macdonald loads things up with Kyle Hamilton while Ja’Daveon Clowney does his best re-emerging act in purple thus far. Roquan Smith remains impressive and Patrick Queen is playing inspired, pay-me-my-money football. Now if they could only get Marlon Humphrey back on the field.
It’s hard to assess where this team would be healthy. Better than this 2-1 start, I suppose, but the team is going to take a strange, civic nap for a month playing key road division games while the baseball team tries to buy back its squandered ownership of the soul of the city with a daily orange October miracle.
The stakes are high. The Ravens could beat themselves on Sunday but they can’t beat the Orioles this month. Only a lousy bullpen will do that.
Cleveland proved to be a helluva problem on the baseball diamond on Thursday and (especially) Friday night. Now, the Browns are 2-1 and feeling heady will attempt to derail a beleaguered 2-1 Ravens team fighting its injury and oopsie demons – internally and in the infirmary.
Gus Bradley won the Gus battle on Sunday with a stout defensive effort against the Todd Monken offense and bottling up Jackson, who was his own worst enemy most of the day. Gus Edwards and Rashod Bateman sustained injuries so that’ll add to the offensive problems for the Ravens, who will give Willie Nelson a run for his money on the road again the next month.
At Cleveland. At Pittsburgh. Against the Titans at Tottenham in London. Only Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks will play a home game on the southside next Saturday – and even that might in dispute once the Orioles wrap up the magic three they need that the Ravens couldn’t provide on Sunday against the franchise that left played its last season here in 1983 – the last time we had a baseball parade here.
That was 40 years ago. Forty days from now, the Orioles could be hosting a Game 7 of the World Series at Camden Yards.
Where will the Ravens be in the AFC North by then? And will it really matter if the Orioles are planning a parade down Pratt Street for the first time since 1983?
The Orioles now have a month to re-paint this town orange.