Ravens fans always circle the Pittsburgh games in red when they first see the schedule for a season, knowing those will be the emotional high points.
But when the 2012 schedule was released last April and fans saw that the New England Patriots were coming to Baltimore on Sept. 23, the Pittsburgh games had to take a back seat, however briefly.
A cry echoed through Ravenstown – time for revenge!
The emotion was understandable. Less than three months before the schedule was unveiled, the Ravens had suffered an excruciating loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game, a dropped pass and missed field goal botching their shot at going to the Super Bowl.
With the scars from that defeat still fresh, the idea of the Ravens getting another shot at Brady, Belichick and company – in Baltimore this time – generated more thoughts of bloodlust than a smiling poster of Ben Roethlisberger. The NFL’s schedule maker pitched in, ratcheting up the drama by putting the game on Sunday Night Football, for all to see.
But now that the game is here, next on the docket, reality is setting in. The game isn’t about revenge. The Ravens can’t make up for last January’s defeat in this rematch.
My guess is the r-word won’t even come up as Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh prepares his team for the game. By my count, 16 of the 53 players on his roster are new to Baltimore this year. That’s a full 30 percent that didn’t even experience the frustration of New England last January. How can that memory motivate them now?
It’s a new year and a new team. So many things have changed. Lee Evans, who dropped the pass, is gone from Baltimore, as is Billy Cundiff, who missed the kick. The Ravens’ premier Pats-busters,
The Ravens have other concerns now. They’re 1-1 after losing in Philadelphia Sunday. They don’t want to go 1-2. They’re trying to get their pass rush going and calibrate their entire offensive approach. What happened eight months ago has sunk low on the list.
Here’s a secret: Pro football players move on from games in an eyeblink, much faster than fans do. As soon as a game is over, players file it away. They don’t have a choice. They aren’t paid to bask or wallow; they’re paid to get ready for the next game.
The Ravens have already put last Sunday’s defeat behind them, and it just happened. While those who experienced New England last January will always remember it, any defeat from last season, even a galling one, might as well have occurred when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It’s ancient history.
That’s not the case with fans, of course. Fans aren’t paid to move on. They’re allowed to wallow and bask and stew and get themselves riled up, as many will Sunday night, no doubt.
But here’s the realty: even if the Ravens win by 48 points, the victory won’t atone for last January’s defeat.
A trip to the Super Bowl was on the line that day. Those were truly high stakes. This is just an early-regular-season game between .500 teams. Anything that happens can be overcome.
For the Ravens to deal New England an eye-for-an-eye blow, they need to knock the Pats out in the playoffs, preferably in the conference title game, and preferably in excruciating circumstances. That might leave the Pats similarly bereft. But since when is the world ever that perfect?
The Ravens will be fired up Sunday because they need to win and it’s a national game and the Patriots are good and have dealt them plenty of misery, 2009 playoff upset notwithstanding. The Ravens have never beaten New England in the regular season, and the last four games between the teams have been in New England.
It feels like an opportunity to settle a few scores, and it is. But some scores can’t be settled.