The Baltimore Ravens remind me of another absurdly arrogant Beltway team — the Washington Capitals.
Both behave as if they have won something of signficance when everybody knows they haven’t.
Not unless you go back 11 years, anyway, and the only player left from the Ravens’ 2000 Super Bowl team is Ray Lewis.
Check that. I’m sorry. The Ravens did win a Super Bowl recently. You probably saw the footage. Their coach giddily flapped his arms during the final minutes of the blowout win. Players laughed and danced on the sidelines.
I would have sworn the Ravens popped champagne and threw a ticker-tape parade, too, until I remembered one key detail: The game took place in early September.
It was the first game of the season.
Even now, eight weeks after their 35-7 victory over the Steelers, the Ravens obviously need a reminder that seasons aren’t made before Thanksgiving.
Check out this quote from running back Ray Rice, as his team prepped for a visit to Heinz Field: “If we win, we’ve swept them. We don’t have to worry about Pittsburgh no more the rest of the year.”
Really? Somebody should tell Rice that even with a win, the teams would be separated by a single loss with two months left in the regular season, to say nothing of a possible third meeting in the playoffs.
The biggest games are yet to be played, but it would be silly to minimize the importance of this one. Especially for Baltimore.
Forget about their sour playoff endings, this is the victory the Ravens have been unable to secure under John Harbaugh– the critical regular season win that could help earn them a bye and some home playoff dates.
Though the Ravens tout their 4-3 road playoff record under Harbaugh, it’s more of a blemish than a badge. That many road games prove they haven’t taken care of business in the regular season.
Three factors traditionally ruin the Ravens:
1. The Steelers.
2. A self-destructive offense.
3. A lack of humility.
Taking the last issue first, you might remember some Ravens players laughing and waving to the Heinz Field crowd as they ran off with a 21-7 halftime lead in last year’s playoffs.
Or you could simply refer to the season-opener. Have you ever seen the Steelers celebrate a regular-season win — let alone one in September — like that?
The Steelers were mum on the subject this week, but they are often mum on such topics until after the fact.
Exhibit A: Last year’s AFC Championship, when Mike Tomlin played nice all week with Rex Ryan, who said the game “wasn’t personal” to him, as opposed to the previous week’s game against the Patriots.
Well, there was Tomlin afterward, greeting his players outside the locker room and shouting, “Maybe next time it’ll be personal!”
You know he pounded the disrespect angle that week.
All you need to know this week is what Hines Ward said after the loss in Baltimore: “We’ll remember everything.”
Not that there was much love between these teams, anyway. Steelers tackle Max Starks is no fan of Baltimore’s boastful style.
“It’s just a different type of demeanor down there in Baltimore, amongst their players,” Starks said. “They have their way of doing things. Fine. But I don’t condone it.”
As for the Ravens’ offense, well, some things don’t change — even if Baltimore did break out a no-huddle attack to beat woeful Arizona.
I asked linebacker Terrell Suggs on Wednesday the same question I asked him before last year’s playoff game: Why should anyone believe the Ravens’ offense will finally rise to a critical occasion?
“That’s a good question,” Suggs said. “Why should anybody believe it’s going to be different, until we show it?”
I’ll believe it when I see it. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was alleged to have shed his Steelers demons last season, when he finally won at Heinz Field. Four months later, he disintegrated on the very same patch of grass.
After the season-opener, it was “Flacco finally beat Big Ben and got the monkey off his back.”
I mean, until he finds a way NOT to kill his team when it matters most, Flacco will have done nothing more than shoo a baby orangutan off his back. The gorilla’s still there.
Nobody should be shocked if the Ravens offense implodes again, in a game that should go a long way toward deciding the AFC North. The Steelers, remember, still have their secret weapon: Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
On the other hand, it is entirely possible the Ravens exploit a wounded Steelers defense and win the game.
And then carry Harbaugh off the field.