Look, we – the Ravens and the fans – want to win every game.
And, when we don't win, someone is to blame, and something has to be fixed. That's the public reality.
And, when you lose two games in a row, even if both happened in the last minute of each game, we all have ideas on what needs to be fixed.
After getting much acclaim for starting the season with three straight wins, we all react to the two losses.
We've either said it, read it, or heard it recently:
"The Ravens have to run the ball more."
"The Ravens can't cover down field."
"We have to get the ball to Willis or Le'Ron."
"We have to get the ball to Mason."
"We have to attack more on defense. We need more blitzes."
"Please trade for a game-breaking receiver."
There are a few more, like "Why did you let Bart Scott go," but the above list hits a lot of the second guessing we all do as we discuss the team we want to win every game.
Our problem, and, yes, I include myself, is that we can't do anything about it. We can discuss. We can complain and point fingers. But, in the end, we aren't coaching, we aren't playing, and we're not bringing the players to the Ravens. That's all done by guys named John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison, Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and on and on.
After losses, we stew, we vent, we holler, we get angry, we second guess and, of course, we hope for better things in the next game. And the next game is at Minnesota this Sunday. It's in the very loud Metrodome against the undefeated Vikings, a team one of the Ravens' personnel experts told me "has as much talent as any team in the league."
I really want to win this game. You want us to win. Neither of us wants the misery and angst that comes from losing a third straight game, especially with the bye coming up next. Do I think we can win? Without a doubt. And I'm encouraged with what I've seen the Ravens do this week.
On Monday, I was very curious to hear what message Coach Harbaugh would bring to the team meeting the day after the difficult 17-14 loss to the Bengals. John would have to be critical, encouraging, inspirational and unifying for this week's common cause – beating the Vikings.
"Harbs" speech was a good one. He basically said "the message today is the same message we would discuss if we had won these last two games. We have to get better at these things… Are we close to being 5-0? You could say that. But, we're not. We are 3-2." The coach then took the team through a series of plays that needed to be better. The assistants then took their players to separate rooms and stressed the same message: "Here's how I have to coach you better. Here are things you need to do better."
It's a simple message: "If we work to improve on the things that will make us the best team we can be, we will win." It's a communication that reminds all: "Do something to make yourself better. Let's help each other get better. Let's be accountable for what we do to help us win."
I saw signs all week of people taking responsibility for what the Ravens are today. I'll share one with you that you may have already noticed. Last Sunday against the Bengals, Derrick Mason did not catch a pass for only the second time as a Raven.
(And, I love the competitive zeal of Mason. His everyday attitude brims with confidence. He walks around this building oozing a confidence that says, "If you want to win, give me the ball every play.")
Mason was asked by reporters on Wednesday about Joe Flacco not throwing to him last Sunday. Mason answered: "That's on me. I've got to run better routes. I've got to find a way to get open, even if I'm doubled or coverages are rolled to me."
On Thursday, reporters asked offensive coordinator Cam Cameron about not getting the ball to Mason. Cam responded: "That falls squarely here – on me. It's unacceptable for that to happen. It's my responsibility, period. We'll do everything we can to get him the ball. We've got to get the guy involved. He's one of our best players, if not our best player. You asked the right question. I know Derrick only cares about winning – he's sincere about that – but we have to get him the ball."
Accepting responsibility. Working to improve. Pushing each other to higher levels. Let's hope our Ravens take this call to action to victory over the Vikings. We all could use the rest from our second guessing during the bye.
WATCH "THE BAND THAT WOULDN'T DIE"
Baltimore's Barry Levinson, famous for making movies like "The Natural," "Rain Man" and "The Diner," produced the documentary "The Band That Wouldn't Die." It's now being shown on ESPN, with the next airing coming this Monday, Oct. 19, at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2.
I could not recommend watching this show more. Levinson is a great storyteller, and he captures the journey of the former "Baltimore Colts Marching Band," which has become "Baltimore's Marching Ravens." The story revolves around the departure of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis and the arrival of the Ravens and how the band stayed alive during the 13 years the NFL didn't reside in Baltimore. More than anything, the documentary shows the bond a pro team has with a community. Levinson made me laugh, brought me to tears and had me cheering for "The Band That Wouldn't Die."
Let's go beat the Vikes. I'm taking earplugs. Talk with you in two weeks.
Kevin Byrne is in his 31st NFL season and is the Ravens' senior vice president of public and community relations. He has worked in the NFL since 1977, when he was the then-youngest public relations director in the league (for the then-St. Louis Cardinals), except for the two years he was the Director of Public Affairs for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He has been with the Ravens since they began, and before that was a vice president with the Cleveland Browns. He has won a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens and an NCAA basketball championship with Al McGuire's Marquette team in '77. He was on the losing end of historic games known for the "Drive" and the "Fumble." He has worked closely and is friends with some of the best in the game: Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick, Ray Lewis, Bill Cowher, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Marty Schottenheimer and Shannon Sharpe to name a few.