Seventh Straight Year Ravens End Season With Meaningful Game
Think about this.
Since John Harbaugh became the Ravens' head coach in 2008, the team has never played a "meaningless" game. Every game we have played over the last seven seasons included some sort of playoff implication.
That's the good part, and it's pretty cool.
Of course, the down side this Sunday is that we can win, reach a 10-6 record, and not make the playoffs. (Come on Chiefs, one time, beat those Chargers.)
What we don't want is to become the first team in Ravens history to reach double-digit victories and not make the postseason.
That would be sad. For those of us who do this for our living, it would be more than sad. It would hurt a lot.
But, in the meantime, it's the season of merriment and fun. It's holiday time. Let's enjoy the showdown with the Browns this Sunday while glancing at the updates from Kansas City. Let's make this a thrilling game day!
For the 70,000-plus coming to M&T Bank Stadium, let's make it miserable to communicate for whomever Cleveland starts at quarterback. Let's remind former Ravens assistant Mike Pettine how raucous and intimidating our crowd can be.
Let 'er rip!
We all want the same thing. We want to be back in the playoffs again – for the sixth time in seven years, which would tie for best in the NFL. We don't want the season to end. We want to be one of those elite playing in January.
Loved what Joe Flacco said on Tuesday to the reporters: "The success we've had around here, and the team that we feel like we have, I don't think we can think about, 'Let's win the game so we can feel good about the way we ended the season.' We don't care about that. We believe we have the team to win it. We're going to go play and hope to continue to move on. I could care less about how we end this season, other than the fact I don't want it to end. I want to keep playing."
And then Joe added: "We definitely have the ability to play good and make a run and do anything we want to. We do have that ability. We do have that team."
Then Flacco was asked what he would consider a successful season. "The longer you've been around the league, and the longer you realize what an offseason feels like when you didn't win the whole thing, it's tough to consider it a real successful season unless you win the Super Bowl. That's just what it is viewed as these days. That's kind of the mindset that we take and what we work toward from the very beginning of offseason workouts."
Joe knows. He helped us win the Super Bowl two years ago when he completed a historic playoff run that included 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions and the Super Bowl MVP award.
For those who don't care what Flacco says and point to last Sunday's loss at Houston as an example that Joe is not special, go watch that game again. Sure, Flacco missed some throws. (They all do. Anyone watch Peyton Manning Monday night?) Joe wasn't the only Raven having troubles against the Texans defense. Steve Smith Sr. said it bluntly and correctly: "That defense kicked our ass."
(Sorry for the tangent here, but it is all about winning. A reminder about Flacco: since 2008, when Joe began his streak of starting every game the Ravens have played, our quarterback has more wins (80) than any other NFL quarterback. Right behind Joe are two future Hall of Famers, Tom Brady with 78 and Peyton with 77.)
Yes, we've had some unusual situations this year. You know them, both on the field with some injuries, serious issues off and difficult endings in some dramatically close losses. But, you have to love Coach Harbaugh's leadership through all of this. Earlier this week, he told reporters the same message the players are hearing. "We are a very determined football team. It's a team that has put a great deal of effort into everything we do no matter the adversity we face.
"I don't feel as somber as some of you," Harbs told reporters. "There's no success without failure. You come up short some times. We did last game. It gives us an opportunity to do something even greater. Surprise everyone even more. That's what we plan on doing. That's what we're going to try to do."
That's from our head coach – the one who has the second-most wins in the NFL since Steve Bisciotti hired him in 2008.
Ravens defensive end Chris Canty has played for three NFL teams: four seasons with the Cowboys, four with the Giants – where his 2011, 9-7 regular-season Giants won the Super Bowl – and now two seasons with us. Canty is a respected leader in our locker room.
Listen to what this 6-foot-7, 320-pound man said this week about the current Ravens:
"This football team has done a great job of dealing with adversity and different challenges throughout the season. I think when it comes to the guys in that locker room, they are men of high character, and they'll be up for the task at hand, and they'll have tunnel vision. We'll pay attention to the details. We'll do everything that we can during this week of preparation to give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful on Sunday.
"It's tough to think about the opportunities that we let go, and that's not on anybody's doorstep but our own," Canty continued. "We had some lapses in focus, and we've made some mistakes that have cost us some football games throughout the course of the regular season, and you can't get them back. That's the thing about the National Football League – you only get 16 opportunities in the regular season. You have to take advantage of each and every one of them in order to guarantee that you have an opportunity to play in the postseason. Unfortunately, we haven't done enough thus far to do that, but Sunday presents another opportunity, and we're looking forward to it. An opportunity is all you can ask for. In football, in life, an opportunity is all you can ask for."
We have that opportunity Sunday against Cleveland. Let's beat the Browns. Let's get to 10-6. And, in this season of merriment and hope, let's have the Chiefs beat the visiting Chargers. Wouldn't that be a great finish to this holiday weekend!
Talk with you next week,