An Ode to the Baltimore Ravens
The season for the 2014-2015 Baltimore Ravens is over, and it really, really sucks. But it was one heck of a ride and kind of makes you think, “this team is going to be scary come next year.”
The season started off pretty much on a slippery slop, the whole Ray Rice fiasco controlled the sports world and the national media for the majority of the off-season. Once the 2 game suspension was handed out by the league office, mixed reaction came forth from the public (who seemed not to care until the punishment made national news [shows how much people pay attention], but let’s move on). Then you have early injury to Lardarius Webb’s back, kicking off the beaten up secondary they had to deal with the entire season. You have the early lost to the Bengals at home, cutting Rice from the squad, having the head coach and the front office blasted in the media and we haven’t even made to the halfway mark.
This team had more questions than answer and it’s fair to say that some of those questions had to do with whether this team will even have a winning record let alone making it to the playoffs.
Then out of no where, Joe Flacco and the offense turns it on.
The offense of the Ravens over the past several years have functioned quite simply, if they run the ball more than 20 times they’ll win the game, less than 20 they usually lose. Now without Rice in the back field you didn’t really know how that game plan would work for the Ravens, of course they weren’t expecting Justin Forsett to have the monstrous season that he did (1266 rush yards, 8 TD, 5.4 AVG). The addition of former Carolina Panthers wideout Steve Smith and the coming out of Torrey Smith halfway into the season made the offense one of the more successful groups in team history as well as the entire league. And let’s not forget about Flacco and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and how well these two worked together, having one of the more efficient rushing teams’ in the league and possible pushing Flacco to that “elite” status he constantly has to remind all of us, but his numbers show he’s moving in the right direction (3,986 YDS, 27 TD, 12 INT).
In my opinion, though the luxury of having a running game again was nice, the play of Steve Smith was just what the doctor ordered for this squad. The departure of Anquan Boldin during the 2013 off-season left a gaping hole in the offense as well as the leadership role on the team as a whole. His hard-nose style of play makes him one of the more feared wide-out for any defensive back to have to deal with, he might not kill you with speed but he’s going up for the ball and coming to knock you out on the way down. NO player the following year had the characteristic within them and was visible out on the field, until Smith Sr. showed up. He was known as a fiery guy, but he was going to make you work in order for you to beat him, he lost a few steps as the year’s pile on but he brought the physically and emotionally play that left Baltimore when Boldin left, and his success pushed this team to new heights offensively.
But like any team, you’re hit with adversity throughout the season that slows you down, for the Ravens it was injuries, and they seem to come in handfuls with each game. At least 18 players were placed on IR throughout the season, including their No. 1 corner Jimmy Smith, starting tackle Rick Wagner, corner Asa Jackson, long snapper Micheal Cox and of course tight end Dennis Pitta who went down with a hip injury for the second straight year. The injury bug hit the defensive secondary the hardest, an area that was a concern heading into the season, claiming 6 DBs total. Usually with this many injuries happening in one season that team is preparing to pack it up and get a head start on off-season planning, but this team just never gave up, win or lose.I mean they literally were pulling guys from off the street, back alleys, wherever and just piecing together and filling up holes left by injured players each game and still pulled off a 10-6 season.
The fact that they made the playoffs after all the adversity they went through is a testament to the team, the players and the coaches. They accomplished so much with what little they had, winning another playoff game against archrival Pittsburgh Steelers, winning at least a playoff game 6 out of the 7 years under head coach John Harbaugh, and came within a touchdown (again) from beating “Pretty Boy” Tom Brady and the New England Patriots up in Foxborough, Mass.
This team went all out right up to the end of the game, though they fell short the lost seemed different than any of the other playoff loses in recent years. Yes, playoff loses hurt and takes time to heal for both the team and their fan base, who can forget how long it took to heal after the 2012 AFC Championship game up against (you guessed it) the New England Patriots. But, those other loses seemed hurt more because of the guys that were on those teams, an aging Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Willis McGahee or a Todd Heap. We had great teams come and go with talent that could have one multiple championships, but we always seemed to fall short to a Manning, a Brady or a Big Ben. That AFC champ game was like that boiling point where you either win it all next year or you’ll never win it. PERIOD. This team was a young,talented team that was hit hard with injuries, adversity and at times missed opportunities. But again, they came with a touchdown from going back to a AFC championship game and possible a Super Bowl.
Now, image this team with a healthy secondary, a Dennis Pitta running down the middle against that same New England defense, Forsett or even a first/second round picked running back coming out of that back field, the O-line all prepared for a playoff run. Hey, even give them a playoff game at home, this team has a chance to be as dangers or even more dangers as say the Seattle Seahwaks or Green Bay Packers.
The words “We’ll be back” could be heard from the leaders on this team, that’s why I’m not as upset about this game.
John Harbaugh’s locker speech after the lose to the Patriots, a similar situation when Ray Lewis addressed the team after the AFC championship loss the year before they won Super Bowl 47 the following year is a reason I’m not upset about this game.
The way this team played and fought all the way to end is the reason I’m not upset about this game.
I’m not upset about this game because they have been here before, took their lumps but still was able to prove the world wrong before. They have the pieces already in that locker room and in that front office, now they have to put it all together show up the world that again, and they very much can.
Thanks Baltimore for a great season. See you in August.