Remember the good ol' days when prominent reporters were picking the 2015 Ravens to go to the playoffs and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl? (That was just five or six weeks ago.)
Chris Berman, Peter King and others – not just amateurs – reporters who have earned reputations for knowing the NFL realities, were proclaiming for the Ravens.
Much of this optimism was based on the Ravens' recent history of success: six of the last seven years in the playoffs. (One of only four teams – Green Bay, New England and Indy – to achieve the feat.)
They remembered the two 14-point leads we had over the Super Bowl champion Patriots in Foxboro in the divisional playoff earlier this year.
They praised our draft, claiming Breshad Perriman would be an adequate replacement for Torrey Smith, and our young and talented defensive front seven would make up for the departure of Haloti Ngata.
We had earned this high praise, and these NFL experts trusted the proven abilities of Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh to assemble, teach and motivate a team to the highest levels.
Then, 0-3 happened. Ouch! You guys were hurt by that. Imagine how we felt.
Losing sucks. Losing close games with the opportunity to win each one at the end of the fourth quarter sucks even worse.
Losing to teams that have accumulated a combined 8-1 record doesn't make it feel any better. And, oh by the way, the Bengals are pretty good. We played well last Sunday – at home with a crowd that was pleading for us and helping us win. We took two different fourth-quarter leads and still lost. There are plenty of fingers pointing at us, telling us why we dropped a third straight, and those pointing are correct. But, no doubt, Cincinnati looks impressive right now.
Every season has its own storyline. Heck, every game has one. (And what a story it was last night in Pittsburgh!) Can there be a happy ending? We'll see.
We're certainly getting advice from lots of folks. Run the ball more. Throw deeper. Pick up the blitzes. Sit in zones, you've shown you can't cover one-on-one. Put 'em in pads. Take the pads off.
CBSSports.com's Jason LaCanfora, who lives in Baltimore, wrote earlier this week, "They have massive issues on both sides of the ball. They have suffered a talent drain that has caught up to them, and frankly, after having to pick so low in the draft for so long, the best thing for this organization might be a 5-11 season that allows them to re-stock through the draft. ... The coaching staff and the front office is among the most accomplished in the game, and the Ravens won't be down long. They have dug themselves a hole that I don't believe they will be able to fully overcome."
We won't be the team throwing in the towel. It's not who we are. It's not the type of people who make up the Ravens. Newsome became a Hall of Fame player because he backed down from no challenge. (That and a whole bunch of catches.) Harbs? Please. In a world of tremendous competitors, he's at or near the top of the heap. Don't tell him he or the Ravens can't do something. And, wasn't last night's victory a microcosm of the team's heart and determination?
Take a look around the locker room. There's that 36-year-old receiver over there. "Losing is not frustrating. Losing pisses me off. I don't like losing," Steve Smith Sr. said earlier this week.
"We believe we can overcome any adversity. We have before. We will again. I don't care what walk of life you're in, you're going to go through tough times. You're going to go through adversity. You're going to walk through darkness, and you know that you have to keep walking. We're going to keep going. We're going to find a way out. We will come out of this the other way. That's what you have to do with hard times, and that's what we plan on doing."
Guess who? That was Coach Harbaugh to reporters on Monday.
Don't think the head coach or the team will be slowed by our poor start.
What to think? Bill Parcells said you are what your record is. We are a 1-3 team that just a few hours ago was 0-3.
What a story we could write. That's our mindset. We'll have to do this one game at a time ... No, wait, one practice at a time. We haven't been good enough. The young guys will get better; the vets know how to win. Let's have a little fun with these Ravens. We have our reliable heroes, and there will be new ones like Brandon Williams, Will Hill III, Maxx Williams and Kamar Aiken. My guess is that we'll go for it on more fourth downs, have more special teams and offensive tricks. This could be a lot of fun.
"I think we've been within a whisker – a play really – of winning all three of the games we lost. That doesn't count for a hill of beans when it's all said and done, and you look back, but it does count for something going forward," Harbs said before the win over the Steelers. "We're not a finished product. We're building. Our foundation is strong."
Justin Tucker doesn't kick that impressive game-winning 52-yard field goal last night – or, was it this morning – without his "Wolfpack" partners – long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch. When Justin hit the ball, Cox sprinted to the end zone. Some of us wondered what he was doing. He retrieved the ball from a Steelers' attendant behind the end zone, sprinted back and handed it to Tuck.
Pretty cool. That's a good teammate. Tuck was still carrying the ball when he got on our charter early this morning. Justin was smiling and joking, "Where's Ozzie?" (Tucker is seeking a long-term contract.)
We're taking the team picture this afternoon. Don't think we'll have to coax guys to smile. That was a good win. Let's do more of those!
Talk with you next week,