Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ravens Need to Know When to Hold 'Em...When to Fold 'Em

It’s interesting that Ray Lewis’ so called “camp” has reported that Ray played Monday Night with a torn triceps. The Ravens organization places supreme confidence in its medical staff – one that would never put one of its athletes at risk no matter how determined the player is to play. Even if that player is Ray Lewis.

I find it very unlikely that Ray’s triceps is torn – at the very least not the same part of the arm that almost immediately sidelines every player who suffers such a tear. Ray is a pretty tough guy and without question he’s a warrior and a gladiator. But Superman he is not. A torn triceps is Kryptonite to any football player.

That said, clearly Ray was in obvious pain. When he was hit with the deserved horse collar tackle penalty, Ray looked up at the official like a kid with his hand in an off limits cookie jar. It was the only thing that Ray could do to bring down Rudi Johnson and at that very moment I wondered if No. 52 was down for no less than the night and possibly a lot longer.

But Ray stuck it out and in doing so he sent a message to his teammates. They banded together and eventually held the Bengals vaunted offense to 236 total net yards, only 50 of which came after the break. The effort was one originating from the heart. Rex Ryan’s unit showed an incredible amount of grit and determination while placing the greater good of the team above that of the defense’s.

I discussed this with Bart Scott on The Hot Sauce with Bart Scott. He said a few interesting things which could factor into the Ravens success later on this season. First Bart said that Ray’s ability to stick it out and fight through the pain was a classic case of leading by example. If the leader of the defense can do it, so too can everyone else.

Bart also said that through his willingness to play through the pain, as the leader of the defense Ray earned the right to encourage an injured teammate to do the same.

I also wondered how the Ravens defense could continually refrain from pointing the finger at a consistently inconsistent and frustrating offense. In so many words Bart said, “That’s what we do!”

But we don’t go for 2 ~ There has been some speculation that if Todd Heap’s touchdown nullified by offensive pass interference had counted, Brian Billick was preparing his team to go for 2 to win the football game. Conventional wisdom suggests that you play for the win on the road and the tie at home.

Those conventional wise men are obviously not familiar with the Ravens lack of success in short yardage situations.

There’s no way I would go for two in that situation. The Ravens aren’t exactly a well oiled machine when it comes to two point conversions. They are more like the tin man after a rain storm.

You take the tie in that situation and then you let the Ravens defense continue punching Carson Palmer’s offense square in the mouth just as they had for the previous 29 minutes of the second half. Keep in mind that Bengals’ kicker Shayne Graham was a bit banged up too.

Forget that deuce – I’d put my money on Ray & Co. and the leg of Matt Stover well before an offense that has scored a grand total of one touchdown over the past three meaningful games.

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.
Photo by Sabina Moran