Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What exactly does "Play Like a Raven" mean?


Last season John Harbaugh came on to the scene in a way that would make Brian Billick proud. He entered the lion’s den (aka the Ravens locker room) screaming like a banshee looking for that son-of-a-bitch!

That SOB was attitude and discipline – or lack thereof.

The team’s attitude was shaped by the defense and its members essentially ruled the roost. That had to change. The “us” (defense) and “them” (offense) had to go. The special privileges and cliques had to be put to rest. Sound disciplined team football would be the rule.

What’s OUR name?

Ravens!

It worked. The team banded together, played hard-nosed football. There was accountability and they overachieved in large part because they paid attention to detail.

This season Harbaugh’s troops adopted the mantra, “Play Like a Raven.”

Maybe they should stop playing like a Raven because it apparently means making boneheaded plays in close games and generally being an undisciplined and fundamentally inept football team.

During yesterday’s 23-20 loss in Pittsburgh, the more talented team lost.
The more disciplined team won.

Ultimately that is a reflection upon the head coach and at the moment John Harbaugh’s team looks a lot like the Billick teams that melted down against the Lions in 2005 and the Patriots in 2007.

This isn’t what Steve Bisciotti bargained for.

This isn’t why the Ravens’ owner was willing to bite the bullet and pay Billick $5 million per year to go away. He wanted more discipline and a more consistent brand of football to prevent those proverbial windows of opportunity from opening and closing.

Harbaugh’s 2009 version of Ravens’ football is hauntingly familiar. It is nearly identical to the Ravens teams that struggled after good seasons when playing with reckless emotion and swagger meant more than playing smart and focused football.


The penalties, the mental miscues and the carelessness with clock management and timeouts are nearly identical to the Billick teams that lacked accountability. The only difference really is that Harbaugh has the luxury of having Joe Flacco while Billick saddled himself with Kyle Boller.

When will it end?

How will it end?

Harbaugh needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask himself what he’s done differently in 2009 v. 2008. Are they practicing the same way with the same attention to detail? Do they work to mitigate penalties? Are the players being held accountable for repeat offenses? Is the coaching staff as prepared? How can they be more efficient with their sub packages and play calling in order to minimize wasted timeouts?

These things are essential to winning close football games against higher caliber opponents.

Consider the Ravens’ losses this season by three points or less…

Week 5 v. Cincinnati: The Ravens blow the game in the waning seconds after committing a senseless personal foul and an inexplicable pass interference penalty because they failed to comprehend down and distance at a critical point in the game. And it gave the Bengals new life. Result: Bengals 17, Ravens 14.

Week 6 @ Minnesota: Questionable play calling and clock management down the stretch forced the Ravens to settle on a 44 yard field goal attempt to try and win the game. Despite moving the ball almost at will through the air, Harbaugh chooses to run the football on second and 10 with 26 seconds left in the game from the Vikings 29 yard line. But even if you do run it, shouldn’t they have run to an area of the field that the inexperienced kicker Steve Hauschka preferred? By his own admission he had a case of the yips from the left hash. Result: Missed Field Goal and a 33-31 walk off loss.

Week 11 v. Indianapolis: Ravens are leading 15-14 with 9:10 left in the game. Paul Kruger takes down Pierre Garcon for a 7 yard loss leaving the Colts with a 2nd and 17 at the Ravens 48. Haloti Ngata applies a late hit and then gets hit with an unnecessary roughness penalty resulting in a first and 10 at the Ravens 33. The Colts end up with a field goal on the drive to go up 17-15 which eventually would be the final score.

And then there was Sunday against the Steelers…

Each of these losses by three points or less was a winnable game and each slipped through the Ravens’ fingers because of their undisciplined brand of football, both on the field and on the sidelines.

The Ravens can be a really good football team. It’s right there.

You might even say they can be an elite team if they can bring in a stud pass rusher and a playmaking wide receiver. But even if they do there will be more frustrating losses to good teams during close games should they continue with their sloppy, undisciplined brand of football.

And when they do, Bisciotti’s windows will continue to slam shut!

Better watch your fingers Mr. Harbaugh.

8 comments :

Sean from Indian Head said...

Tony,

Loved the article.

To me, the issue seems to be that Ravens management is either unwilling or unable to hold the players accountable for their stupidity and lack of discipline. Therefore, I have an "off the wall" suggestion: How about Pro Football 24x7 hold the players accountable by establishing a "Bone Head Player of the Game Award." Just like the Player of the Game voting that occurs on this website, Pro Football 24x7 will submit nominees and allow the fans to vote on the idiot of the game. This will be an award for stupidity, not poor play. Bad games don't qualify, but stupid plays do. God knows that we could have had a lot of nominees this year. The "winner" would have his official team picture on this website for a week. He could be wearing a dunce cap or a clown outfit. We could call it the Darren Stone award.

Yes, I am having a little fun with this but I make the suggestion in all seriousness. Maybe being ridiculed for a week on a fan website is not that big of a threat to a player. However, it appears to be more than what the Ravens are doing and, as a fan, I am pretty desperate.

Jerry B said...

At the start of this season. I commented that the Ravens looked
like a good team that was capable of beating anyone, including themselves.

If you look at their 7 losses this year, they have invariably beaten
themselves every time (penalties, dropped passes, missed kicks, etc)! As this team heads for what appears to be a playoff berth, I will reiterate that statement: they are still capable of beating anyone, including themselves!!!!

When I read Harbaugh's defense of Ngata this morning, it reminded me of what is wrong with this team....no accountability!!!

Isn't that why Billick got
fired?

Happy New Year!

ravcolt said...

The answer to bonehead plays is simple. Fining the millionaire's won't work, nor will private or public humiliation (Harbaugh has proven he has no stomach to call his players out regardless of idiocy), benching may get a point across, but with a team already depleted it may do more harm than good. No, the answer goes back to our teen years. When one was called on the carpet to pay for a dumb transgression the threat and use of good ol' fashioned gasser's is the ticket. Those players who continue to commit stupid penalties like Ngata, Walker, Suggs, Washington and Reed (a few years worth) will line up at the end of practice on the 50 yard line and run sprints for the next thirty minutes in cold weather as the rest of the team looks on in non-envy. If you continue to make bonehead mistakes you continue the next week to get the gasser's again. The worst that can happen is Suggs finally gets in shape.

Anonymous said...

Play Like a Raven means Ray Rice. He's a classy kid, good in the community, great on the field. Started from humble beginnings with little opportunity for success and has overcome every obstacle in his way. He's an underdog and we should be proud to have him in our community and on our team. He's a Pro Bowler and i look forward to watching him here in Baltimore for a very long time.

Dan said...

Great blog and even better writing. If any of you guys want a Pittsburgh take on the game and everything else NFL, check out our latest post including some superbly idiotic Ravens fan comments I found online.

http://www.theunsportsmanlikes.com/2009/12/pigskin-pigout-vii.html

As for the Ravens, they just HAVE to draft a big, downfield receiver. And I think they really miss Bart Scott.

Harryos29 said...

HARRY OS 29 Dec 29th
...Wow.. lots of good points.. and YES; many of the issues surrounding the RAVENS point back to the Billick era....
.. Look, I don't have the answers, but I endured a lot of CORPORAL punishment during my 12 years of private schooling in the 1950's and 60's. It made me a better person, because I was accountable. With the million dollar Salaries, what motivation does a coach have? What kind of stick can he hold over their heads? Answer=NOTHING. Either they are motivated to play the game right and be accountable, like Ray Rice or they are the FRANK Walkers of the world, who indulge in the gratification of the minute and show the TV world that they smacked-down an opponent. No matter that it costs the team yards and yes the game. It doesnt' matter to people with this mindset. THEY want the instant gratification of getting back at an opponent. I say to OZZIE.. identify these players and send them packing for 2010.
Happy New year to all, and many many thanks to TONY LOMBARDI, without, whom, us fans would not have this venue for experessing out thoughts and frustrations during this NFL Season.

Dan said...

One other thing - I challenge the notion that the Ravens are the "more talented team" and the Steelers simply the "more disciplined." I hear this all the time from Ravens fans who live up here. Though on Sunday, Baltimore was the better team, the question of talent level is another issue and one that is inconclusive at best.

Tony Lombardi said...

Dan,

Not sure if you are referencing what I wrote but to restate:

"During yesterday’s 23-20 loss in Pittsburgh, the more talented team lost.

The more disciplined team won."

The Ravens on that day were more talented. Perhaps talent should be substituted with a derivative of strength...