Byrne Identity: If You Don't Have Issues...


If You Don't Have Issues …

You probably don't know what to think about the Ravens right now.

Are we a serious playoff contender? Can we earn the postseason for the sixth time in seven years? And, even if we are playing games in January, can we beat any of the other contenders?

To be honest, some of us in the Ravens are like a lot of fans. We're wondering who we are and what are our prospects.

What we do know is that we'll all understand a lot more about the Ravens by around 4 p.m. Sunday when our game at Miami should be ending or finished.

At 8-5, the Ravens' world will look different than today. At 7-6, we'll still be in the hunt, but our confidence will be shaken.

Last Sunday

Before we talk Ravens/Dolphins, let's talk last Sunday's Ravens/Chargers. (It still hurts even to think about the 34-33 loss to San Diego.)

At about 4 p.m., I felt pretty good. We were near the two-minute warning and had just taken a 33-27 lead on Justin Tucker's 31-yard field goal. It appeared that the Steelers and Browns would lose, and I was told that Tampa Bay, down 14-13, was at the Bengals' 20 with less than a minute to play.

No doubt that we were all nervous because that was Philip Rivers directing the talented Chargers' offense. Reporters from CBS-TV, ESPN, Comcast, WBAL/98 Rock and the NFL Network were gathered near our bench area making requests to interview the heroes of the winning Ravens. Flacco, Forsett, Torrey, Suggs … yes, we'll get them for you.

You know what happened. And then I heard Tampa had a penalty and never got to try the winning field goal. We were stung. Damn. And the Patriots lost to the Packers later that day … What could have been! One play better against the Chargers, and we would have been sitting at 8-4, just one game behind the best records in the AFC (New England and Denver at 9-3).

Instead, we're back in the pack at 7-5 with lots of question marks. Still contending, for sure, but with very few people believing we'll be there in the end.

We have problems, but doesn't every team? Don't we all? I have a little sign on my desk that says, "If you don't have issues, you're dead." The Ravens aren't dead.

You Never Know

In 2012, when we won Super Bowl XLVII, we played at San Diego in a game that became famous with our 4th-and-29 play that helped save us. We ended up winning that contest, 16-13, in overtime.

We then crumbled, losing four of our last five, including a humbling 34-17 loss to Peyton and the Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium. We finished with a 10-6 regular-season record, earning the playoffs and then swept the Colts, Broncos, Patriots and 49ers to win the championship.

If you're a "glass half-full" type of person, the current Ravens are OK, and you're getting ready for a heck of a finish to the season. If you're a "glass half-empty" individual – well, maybe we'll surprise you.

Our December journey is difficult, and it will be for other AFC contenders, too. The Bengals have both games against the Steelers remaining, plus a trip to Cleveland and a visit from the Broncos. The Steelers are at Atlanta and host the 7-5 Chiefs, who also play Arizona and San Diego. The Chargers might have the toughest road – the Patriots, Broncos, and then at San Fran and Kansas City.

There will be a lot happening in the next four weeks.

Can it be good? Sure. But, I hear that "half-empty" guy. "Your secondary is awful. You don't score enough touchdowns in the red zone. You have too many players hurt. You have to go on the road to play in the heat and humidity of Miami."


Holy Schnikes!

Team Meeting

This "half-full" guy attended yesterday morning's team meeting. I wanted to see what the players' reaction would be when Coach Harbaugh announced the Ngata suspension. "Some news here," Harbs opened. "Haloti has been suspended for four games because he used Adderall. He'll miss the rest of the regular season, but he can play for us in the playoffs. Haloti asked me to share these words with you. …"

Not a ripple in the room as John scanned the 2014 Ravens. "OK, let's go to work." The head coach then looked over at a section where most of the defensive linemen sat. "You men will have a lot to do with us winning this game. They're good at running the ball inside behind combo blocks. This is a great opportunity for you, and you're ready for it."

My eyes scanned the rest of the men in that room. Flacco, Torrey, Steve Smith, Owen Daniels…

There are the men from our offensive line: Yanda, Zuttah, Kelechi, Wagner and Monroe…

Tucker and Koch nodded. Jacoby sat confidently. Lardarius was among some of the criticized secondary.

C.J. Mosley, Will Hill, Daryl Smith, Canty … Marlon Brown and Juszczyk.

Then my eyes scanned back to defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, along with Pernell McPhee, who plays inside and out on the line.

In the back of the room were the coaches, including coordinators Dean Pees, Gary Kubiak and Jerry Rosburg – a trio considered among the best in the NFL at what they do.

Lots of accomplished men. Lots of determined, highly-competitive and talented men. A group bent on finding a way to win this game in Miami. My glass looks pretty good. Let's beat the Dolphins.

Talk with you next week,


P.S. For you half-full fans out there, this from Sports Illustrated's Don Banks: "At this point of the year in the NFL, your outlook can change dramatically in a week, and that means the Ravens have every reason to believe they might be riding high again if they can go to Miami and pull the upset against the sixth-seeded Dolphins. Or barring that, Baltimore might still be playoff worthy if it goes on a three-game winning streak to close the season – a feat that sounds manageable enough. With memories of 2012 still fresh in my head, I'm not remotely ready to count the Ravens out."

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