Eisenberg: Losing To New England Made Ravens Very Cranky

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Terrell Suggs used a nifty adjective, "edgy," but I'm going with a slightly more telling description of the Ravens' mood in and around the Under Armour Performance Center this week.

Cranky.

Steve Smith Sr. tossed his helmet during practice, and when asked why, said, "Because I felt like it." John Harbaugh lectured the players with the media in earshot.

Harbaugh later dismissed it all as business as usual, but collectively, the vibe around the Ravens was distinctly NOT pleased.

Listen to Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees expressing bitter disappointment over the fact that his unit had a rough outing in the loss to the New England Patriots Monday night:

"Nobody is happy about the performance we put out there on Monday night. I'm not happy about my performance on Monday night," Pees said. "I'll tell you this: I probably have not prepared harder for a team than I prepared for those guys. I've never wanted to win more – maybe the Super Bowl – than I wanted to win that game. I think our players were that way too. It had nothing to do with effort, nothing to do with attitude, nothing to do with preparation. We just didn't play as well as we can play."

Listen to Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg also express regret – in his case, over the fact that returner Devin Hester was released a day after the game:

"I take responsibility for this happening. I take it very personally," Rosburg said. "It's my fault that he didn't have better opportunities to return and really show what he can do. We didn't block well enough for him. We didn't coach well enough for him."

The release of Hester, possibly a Hall of Famer one day, made for "a rough day," Rosburg said.

In all, a cranky week.

It was the loss to the Patriots that put them in such a state, no question. The Ravens sailed into Gillette Stadium on a high, believing they could win, and instead, they laid an egg, finding themselves down by 20 points in the third quarter.

Yes, they kept competing and turned a rout into a close game by taking advantage of several New England mistakes, but no one in the Ravens' locker room was fooled. They didn't really measure up against a serious Super Bowl contender. That kind of disappointment tends to sour your mood.

"It was an emotional loss. We really wanted that one," Suggs said

And the fallout from the performance was just as frustrating as the performance itself. Before kickoff, the Ravens still had some margin for error in their quest for a playoff berth. But not anymore.

Now, they almost surely have to win out, beat the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Day and the Cincinnati Bengals in their season finale. (If they don't sweep, they'll need serious help from the football gods, starting with the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins losing enough to throw the race for the AFC's second wild-card spot wide open.)

Finishing with three straight wins will be a challenge, particularly since the final two games are on the road, where the Ravens have lost four straight and 20 of 30 since the Super Bowl. Those kind of odds probably would make me cranky too.

Nonetheless, there's also some beauty in the Ravens' circumstances, an element of fortune any 7-6 team should feel blessed to possess. They still control their fate. If they do win three games, they'll win the AFC North and make the playoffs, regardless of what else happens.

My guess is the chance to put New England in the rear-view mirror, combined with the knowledge that they're still in control, could lead to a strong showing Sunday. The 5-8 Eagles have lost four straight games, and the Ravens have dominated non-playoff-caliber opposition in 2016, winning five of six games against teams currently under .500. (They're 2-5 against teams that currently have winning records.)

If they start fast, run the ball more (please) and don't look ahead to Pittsburgh, they should be able to close out their home schedule with a win. That would advance them to the position they probably figured they'd be in all along, needing to beat the Steelers to get where they want to go.

There's no telling what might happen then, but a win on Sunday would at least improve everyone's mood.

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