HERE'S WHAT YOU DIDN'T SEE
What a ride last night!
Lows, highs and a downer in the end.
Fantastic, playoff-type environment with two of the NFL's best teams slugging it out on national television.
Along with a strong contingent of Ravens' fans at the Georgia Dome – and we salute you guys for joining us in the battle – we could almost feel the energy from Ravens fans watching at home when Joe Flacco hit Todd Heap for what could have been the winning touchdown with 1:05 left in the game.
And, we certainly know that you felt our hurt, disappointment and frustration when Matt Ryan threw the 33-yard TD to Roddy White with 20 seconds left in the contest.
Did Michael Jenkins juggle the ball as he went out bounds? Did White, who indicated after the game he did, get away with a push on Josh Wilson on the game winner? Doesn't matter. It's over. We lost.
(And, note, that despite much prodding from reporters – who were doing their jobs when asking our players and coaches about officials' calls or lack of calls in the fourth quarter – our guys didn't gripe.)
Gut-wrenching defeats like this hurt the most and put the head coach in a difficult position after the game. Minutes earlier, John Harbaugh was doing everything he could to win a game that turned into a loss. Now, he had to face his team and deliver a message to our emotionally-charged team.
After a team prayer (the "Our Father"), John asked everybody in the locker room to get in close. "Let's stand shoulder-to-shoulder. I'm proud of the way you fought tonight." After a pause as the men formed a tighter huddle in the middle of the cramped room, "Harbs" continued: "We will learn from this. This is a tough loss. Feels like a playoff loss on the road in a rough environment. I know this: We will come back. We will get better. We have to get better to win games like these, and we will.
"Give credit to the Falcons," Harbaugh continued. "They deserve it for finding a way to win this game. They're a very good team."
With that, Ed Reed stepped into the middle of the circle. "Coach, I got something. Guys, tough, tough game in a tough atmosphere. We all know it's a tough loss. Let's remember how we feel right now and learn from this. We don't want to feel like this again. Like Coach says, we will get better."
After Ed spoke, Coach Harbaugh turned to Joe Flacco: "Joe, break the huddle for us." The big quarterback, who was spectacular in the last 25 minutes of the game, stepped into the middle of the group and said in a commanding voice: "We'll build on the good things we did tonight. Family on three. One, two, three." And the chorus shouted: "FAMILY!"
Family: that's what a football team is that has outstanding leadership from players, coaches and front office. Inside that huddle stood Ozzie Newsome, Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, Cam Cameron and Greg Mattison, Jarret Johnson, Haloti Ngata, Dick Cass, Derrick Mason, Ray Rice and Matt Birk, and more. Strong men. Smart people. A resilient group.
I'll ride with these guys any time.
This journey has a lot of miles left. For sure, there will be more twists and turns. Bends in the road that we can't predict today. I like the car the Ravens are driving. Fasten your seatbelts. Like Coach, Ed and Joe said in the huddle: WE'RE MOVING FORWARD!
Talk with you next week.
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.