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Eisenberg: Hair-On-Fire Panic May Benefit Ravens

Posted Dec 18, 2012

After the word 'lackadaisical' was used Sunday, a new mental approach could be useful.

The Ravens have a lot of guys who have been through the football wars, the ups and downs, and won a lot more than they have lost. Not surprisingly, they have developed a distinctly professional mindset, an even-keeled attitude that prevails even when things aren’t going their way.

Their response to almost any situation is to just go back to work and keep plugging because things tend to work out.

Panic? Worry? Those words aren’t in their vocabulary, it seems.

After they absorbed a shellacking from the Denver Broncos Sunday to run their losing streak to three, receiver Anquan Boldin was asked if he felt the season was slipping away. He disputed the idea.

“I still feel like we’re going to win this division. We’re still going to make noise in the playoffs, but we’ve just got to cut out the dumb stuff,” Boldin said.

Center Matt Birk offered a similar thought: “This team, we know what it takes, we know it’s a long season and there are always going to be ups and downs. That’s just kind of how this thing works; it doesn’t always go the way you want it to, but that’s OK.”

Their calmness is impressive, and again, it’s what they’re paid to do and understandable in the wake of them clinching a fifth straight trip to the playoffs Sunday – the longest active streak of any NFL team. Their “stay the course” philosophy does work.

But having said that, I’m wondering if they might benefit from a little old-fashioned, hair-on-fire panic about now.

I raise the issue after having listened to safety Ed Reed basically accuse the team of taking its success for granted after Sunday’s game.

“It’s like you’re out there lackadaisical, like you are just better than everybody. You are not,” Reed said. “You have to come to play football every week. This is the NFL. You have to be on your game, and nobody is safe. That’s why we lost a coach last week. There has to be a sense of urgency for every man. There has to be something to every man to know that your job is on the line, including me.”

I don’t know about you, but when the word “lackadaisical” gets thrown around, I hear alarms.

Of course, the Ravens had found a way to win a handful of games earlier in the season despite not playing well, and they also had won 15 straight games at home before this month, so maybe it’s understandable that they felt – before Sunday, at least – that they would always be fine, thank you, as long as they put in their usual work. Things had always worked out before, right?

But those days are over. Their circumstances have changed. Their injury-depleted defense is ranked No. 26 in the league, and their offense isn’t playing well enough to pick up the slack. They trailed Denver, 31-3, entering the fourth quarter Sunday.

They might be a playoff qualifier again, which is a lot better than not being a playoff qualifier, but they have shortcomings that could easily lead to them making a quick exit from the postseason unless fixes are made.

In light of that, a higher sense of urgency, bordering on panic, might actually be useful.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh gave an interesting answer Monday when asked if quarterback Joe Flacco was pressing.

“I hope everyone is pressing, I really do,” he replied quickly. “I’m for pressing.”

That’s what I’m talking about. Some teams flee from the concept of showing weakness of any kind, but there are times when the fear of failure can be useful, even constructive.

The Ravens offense didn’t exhibit any urgency early in Sunday’s game. That was one flat unit. The defense had more pepper but eventually flattened out too.

I think Reed is right and the Ravens did look like a team that expected things to work out. That approach has worked magnificently, but now it’s time for someone to stand up and throw a chair. Forget the old bromide about cooler heads prevailing. Urgent screaming and bug-eyed concern can work wonders when you’re trying to keep the sky from falling.

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