Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ravens need to step up or step out of way

There has been a ton of debate over the decision by referee Walt Coleman to overturn the call on the field during the final minute of the Ravens v. Steelers game on Sunday evening. Clearly a case could be made that the Steelers’ Santonio Holmes broke the plane of the goal line during his catch at the 0:50 mark of the fourth quarter. Yet just as easily you could make a case that he didn’t break the plane.

The point is if the call is that close, then there’s no irrefutable evidence and if such evidence does not exist, the play on the field should stand as called. This isn’t any new revelation. It is simply how the replay system works.

Er, make that it’s how the replay system is supposed to work.

In the legal system, criminal cases are tried and the accused is convicted when there’s evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of said crime. If there is reasonable doubt, the defendant is set free.

On Sunday reasonable doubt existed on the field and in the replay booth and the choice by Coleman to ignore the rules – ignore the NFL laws, was a crime. He shouldn’t be allowed to be judge, jury and lawmaker.

The bad news for the Ravens is that the “crime” in question could potentially sentence the team’s post season aspirations to death by lethal injection.

But since Coleman’s call and the game’s demoralizing ending, John Harbaugh’s team has collectively taken the high road. To a man, they all say that if they had done what they were supposed to do during the preceding 59 minutes, the blurred observation by a part-time NFL employee (Coleman) would not have impacted the game’s outcome.

And you know what – they are right!

The most disturbing thing that happened in the Steelers’ game (and it could be argued that this is a trend because it’s happened before), is the Ravens’ inability to put a good team away. It has happened twice against the Steelers and it also happened against the Tennessee Titans. Each of those games was a winnable game for the Ravens and the truth is, they blew them – each and every one and THAT is not irrefutable evidence.

The team’s failure to finish games against better teams is interesting in that the Ravens do just the opposite against weaker teams. Offensively against inferior teams, the Ravens aren’t bashful at all about throwing gadgetry at their opponents and they boldly stick in the proverbial daggers to kill any hopes for a comeback. Defensively, when the Ravens smell blood against less inferior competitors, those teams have survival rates – particularly at M&T, on par with seal pups trying to navigate shark infested waters.

Yet go up against a tough opponent and both Cam Cameron and Rex Ryan seem to get a little skittish with their play calling, particularly against the Steelers when they held a huge field position advantage for most of the contest.

Admittedly the Ravens did go up against the league’s No. 1 defense and yes the Steelers are the league’s stingiest bullies. But if you want to beat a bully, sometimes you have to punch him in the mouth before he gains confidence. Cameron opted to go conservative, to orchestrate a physical running game and attempt to beat the Steelers at their own game. He stole a page from Brian Billick’s formula for success – win the game of field position, protect the football, eat up the clock and hope the defense bails you out.

Well I’ve got news for you Cam, that formula is a poison pill when you face Super Bowl caliber teams like the Steelers.

Why not throw more on first down and give your rookie quarterback a chance to get a rhythm going? Why not pass early to set up the run and place the team in more manageable third down situations, thus opening the playbook more? Why not throw out some gadgets and get the Steelers extremely capable defense to play a bit on their heels and slow down their reaction time? The reason that you implement these gadget plays isn’t to beat bad teams. Those teams can be beaten without the slight of hand.

The gadgets are supposed to catch the good teams off guard. In baseball, you don’t throw a change up to a hitter with slow bat speed. You do it to the good hitters to keep them off balance.

On the other side of the football, Rex Ryan attacked on defense until Fabian Washington went down. After that, the Ravens went with the tender touch approach as Ryan morphed into Mr. Softee calling in defensive formations and sub packages that I assume were intended to protect the flank being manned by Frank Walker.

How many times have we heard, “Next man up”?

Like it or not, it was Walker’s turn and it was time for him to step up and for the rest of the team to continue to execute their assignments in a game plan that was working. Why change it before given a reason to change it? When they threw Walker’s way, he reminded no one of Deion Sanders in his prime yet he wasn’t exactly Willie Gaston. If anything the conservative protect- against- the-deep-ball approach seemed to shake Samari Rolle’s confidence a bit.

If you want to play with the big boys, you’ve got to act like one. In every chance they’ve had to do just that this season, the Ravens have failed.

What they do against the favored Cowboys (-4.5) this week will tell us once and for all if the Ravens are genuinely a playoff caliber team or simply just a pleasant surprise in ’08.

It’s time that they step up and attack for four quarters against a good team.

Otherwise it’s time they step out of the way and let the big boys play.

10 comments :

Anonymous said...

Where were the screens, draws, & quick slants? Why even suit up McGahee? He's useless. They went out and got Parmele. Why not use him? And why, on the last drive from the 27, not go for a run up the middle, and turn the game over to your kicker to at least make the score 12-6, instead of leaving McGahee out on the right side to block on some stupd, ill-timed pass after having been conservative the entire game?

And what is the deal with Ryan going to the 3-man rush with everything on the line? And Rolle playing 10-12 yards off the WR IN THE RED ZONE? The game is 60 minutes long; something Ryan seems to conveniently forget every time we're playing top caliber teams. He had success for 57 minutes putting pressure on Roethlisberger; then, with everything on the line, he dials up some prevent crap that only prevented the Ravens from winning one of the biggest games of the season.

Watching that game was like watching the 2006 Ravens-Indy game all over again. It was a disaster on so many levels, it was disgusting. To see such a great season thrown away because of lousy coaching is just a tough pill to swallow. As good as this season was, it could have been so much better if only the coaching staff had done it's job 100%. What a damn shame.

Alonzo L said...

Tony,

You really nailed it in the bottom half of your critique of Ravens/Steelers. Yes, against a lesser ranked opponent, the Ravens pull out more stuff than the flying Walandas. But they go against the big boys and suddenly they wanna try and lull 'em to sleep. I wish they'd grow a pair! Where was all the creative attack? Where were all those dynamic plays we've grown accustomed to? I watched the first half and thought, well they've got them set up for something. But they continued to try and sledgehammer they way down the field. With what? One fullback! Shame on them for relying on Magahee. Shame on them for not trying long passes. Are those Steelers DB's in the HOF already? They made themselves so easy to defend. I hope Harbaugh finally has HIS breakout game. Why're they continuing to think Magahee will bust something open. It ain't happening. And if they go to Dallas and start off the same way, game over, cause the Cowboys will pounce.

Tony I gotta say you're about the best writer around in terms of observations. Nobody from the Sun or anywhere else (Not even Aaron Wilson, who's pretty damn good) can touch you.

Jerry B said...

You da man, TL!

The hallmark of Cameron's offense up until Sunday was imagination, variety and unpredictability, which is why our offense had become prolific. He changed that Sunday with predictable results. Sure, Flacco had passes "sail" on him, just like Roethlisberger "short-hopped" many passes, but the latter kept throwing while the former only threw when he had no choice; ergo, we played right into Pittsburgh's strength.

And, on defense, the best way to protect an inept Walker is with an all out pass rush. Having played QB, I know for a fact that any receiver, given time, will work his way open! Conversely, a QB pressured is apt to make an errant throw because he doesn't have time to find an open receiver. Oh, well, these "geniuses", so called, all resort to the same dumb things ("prevent defense") almost in an act of desperation to protect a lead when, in fact, they should continue to relentlessly pressure the QB.

When I buy my team or you buy yours, you can run either the offense or defense and I'll run the other! LOL!

Dallas is "peaking" at just the right time, with their defense now playing as well as their offense; in fact, their defense is playing better than their offense, which means the Ravens will lose on Saturday. But, I look for them to finish at home with a win against Jacksonville for a 10-6 season, which would not only be great any season, let alone one with a "rookie" head coach and QB, but also is usually good enough to get you into the playoffs! But, apparently not this year........

Hey, keep those letters comin', TL, 'cause I enjoy every one of your columns.

Purple Reign said...

Now is not the time to hold back. And you are right TL, step up or step aside. Either way 2008 was a great ride but I want more.

Anonymous said...

Here's a great post from the official Ravens message board that shows -- graphically -- just how ridiculous the defensive formation in our red zone was.

http://boards.baltimoreravens.com/index.php?showtopic=5870

donnaj said...

Tony,
I agree with much of your assessment. I am so tired of the McGahee apologists on the radio this week. Anita and Wally keep saing he isn't playing in the his kind of role - well guess what a GOOD RB adapts to what is asked of him and what is best for the team. Wally said his 6 touches in the last game wasn't enough to break a sweat! If that's the case then Willis shouldn't bee running to the sideline and taking a knee huffing and puffing to catch his breath, but that is exactly what he does after carrying for 2 - 3 yards a carry. The fact that our offense was handicapped by not having Ray Rice should tell everyone who is more valuable to this team. I do not doubt that willis has talent, but I do question his heart, his passion, and his dedication to the team. He should have come to camp prepared/in shape and should have attended OTA's to confirm is intention to buying into the new team philosophy.
In addition to my disgust for Willis' play, I was very disappointed in the 4th quarter decisions by both Cam and Rex. We should never have taken the pressure off Ben and I hope Rex learns from his mistakes and pressures and sacks Romo early and often. Cam should recognize that we practice those gadget plays to utilize them and catch defenses off guard - use all that you have to win the game that's what got us to 9 - 4, changing our game plan and playing too conservative is what made us 9 - 5.

Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 Dec 17th
First, Tony, well put. I believe if you are in a fight with a bully, try to land the first punch, right in his mouth. Cam MORPHED into Billick for one December afternoon; and it killed us;
.. I was at the game and if just 2 passes were completed..one to Mason in the End zone..and a middle screen that was dropped by MCCLAIN.. you have 14 pts there and a win.
I know what Don Meredith used to say about "IF'S ANDS AND BUTS>>" but I saw the Replay of the last drive by the Steeler's. on the NFL Channel on Tuesday,,,.and I wonder if anybody realizes how Close ED REED came to getting the Ravens a SAFETY on the first play of the winning drive? Ed was a 1/2 Second too late of Sacking BEN for a Sure Safety. Very sad when the Breaks do not go your way..and then the REFS compound things.. by changing Rules in the middle of the game.
it sort of makes you wonder sometimes doesn't it?

Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 Dec 20th
I was feeling really good about the Game in Dallas tonite, until I read AARON WILSONS piece about , Teams Closing out Stadiums are 11-2, and won by 20 points or more.
Lets Pray to GOD that the Ravens Find a Way, to REVERSE that TREND

Anonymous said...

Well...the Ravens did step up tonight -- as a team. It was a team effort, and a team win. At the same time, certain individuals stepped up as well. I've never seen a guttier performance than the one turned in by Dereck Mason. He could barely even move his left arm, but he hung in there and helped us win. So did McClain, and even McGahee. This is definitely one for the ages.

Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 DEC 21st
An enjoyable day of Football for this Ravens Fan.
First, we are still savoring the Terrific BEAT-DOWN of the Boyz Saturday nite. Second, having watched, the SQUEELERS get beat-up by the TITANS was icing on the cake for me. Now, watching the Panthers give the GIANTS all they can handle.
... What I found really interesting, about the events OUTSIDE the game, was that JERRY JONES InadevertAntly provided bulletin-board material for the Ravens, by Influencing the NFL to schedule the woe-be-gone 5-11 (2007) Ravens as Cannon Fodder for the big closing party on TEXAS Stadium.
... I think McGahee said it best! We turned it from a party into a Funeral. I agree! And I say that WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND.