Shortly before kickoff Thursday night, the news broke about Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh signing a contract extension that would keep him on the job through 2016 as one of the NFL's highest-paid coaches.
His new deal is a reward not only for the job he has done and but also what Owner Steve Bisciotti expects him to continue to do, and by the middle of the second quarter Thursday night, I couldn't help thinking, "Man, he is going to earn that salary this year."
There was already a lot going on with his team at that point – yes, even before things unraveled in the second half of the Broncos' 49-27 win. On top of the many new pieces they already had in place entering the game, the Ravens lost Jacoby Jones and Michael Oher to injuries in the first 30 minutes, and suddenly, well, it just seemed there was newness everywhere, on both lines, at wide receiver and tight end, in the secondary … everywhere but at quarterback.
It was to the Ravens' credit that they took a lead into the second half before their circumstances caught up with them and Denver knocked them out. And hey, it could have been a competitive game for a lot longer if just a few plays had turned out differently, like Dallas Clark catching the touchdown pass from Joe Flacco instead of dropping it just before halftime.
But in the end, the Ravens just had too much going on, too many subtractions and substitutions and chemistry still developing, as opposed to being established.
It was just one game, one defeat at the start of a long schedule, but with so much ongoing transition in so many places, it's fair to wonder how the Ravens plan to fix things. Where does the solution lie?
Let me begin the answer to that question with a statement: This is not baseball. You can't call up someone from the minors and plug them into the lineup. Nor can you find a difference-maker on the waiver wire; all those players already have jobs. In football, once you set your roster and kick off a season, you're pretty much stuck with your guys, for better or worse.
And the Ravens are fine with that. They lost their opener, lost it badly, but they still have 15 games to go and a ton of quality pieces, more than most teams. They just have to dig in and work on developing that chemistry, coaching up some of the new people, getting everyone together. Things can change dramatically over the course of a season, and often do.
Bottom line, the solution isn't as sexy as what some fans want in the wake of Denver. Heads aren't going to roll. A white knight isn't going to ride into town and save the day. The Ravens are going to do what they always do, go back to work, continue to grind, take steps in what Harbaugh thinks is the right direction and keep taking those steps until they get somewhere.
While the rest of us spend the next week looking back and fretting about what we saw, the drops, the blown coverages, the players and coaches will look forward, to their home opener against Cleveland, intent on making fixes. And the narrative of their season will change again that day, take new turns just as unforeseen as those that occurred Thursday night. It's what happens in the NFL.
Yes, there's plenty to debate after Denver. Does Joe Flacco have enough viable targets? Can he get in synch with Ed Dickson? Is the offensive line going to hold up, especially if Oher is out? Is the secondary better than that? Where might lineup changes be needed?
All you can say is the Ravens have built up a lot of equity with their five straight playoff trips culminating with last year's Super Bowl title. They have a way of doing things, and it has worked. They make tough roster calls in the offseason, take their guys and slowly build something. That's their plan for 2013, same as always. They're going to need to do more building than usual this time, no doubt about it. But their hammers are out.