Although I was technically alive when the Ravens won their first Super Bowl 13 years ago, I don’t think I qualified as a real football fan then. This was the first offseason when I could enjoy all the perks that come with your team hoisting a Lombardi: bragging rights, and that overall sense of calm and joy. I knew we were probably going to lose to Denver on Thursday night, but I didn’t mind because MY WORLD CHAMPS WERE COMIN’ BACK, BREAK OUT THE BOH.
The Denver game was a tale of two halves. For the first 30 minutes, it looked like it might be good, tight, and entertaining. Pitta was clearly missing (and missed), but the offense held its own with Jacoby as the #2. The defense looked capable, and Webb was picking up right where he left off before the injury against the Cowboys last year. Clark’s drop before the half was horrible, and overall Clark is horrible, but WITH GLEE I took 17-14 going into the half. I still thought we’d find a way to lose (I’m a pessimist, which is why most people detest me), but I was allowing myself to enjoy the game.
But that’s when things went to the shitter. After Clark’s drop the game was a black hole of suck and fail and death for anyone who derives any sort of pleasure from watching the Baltimore Ravens play professional football. I don’t want to or feel like going into the specifics of anything that happened after it got ugly, but it’s worth dwelling on the moments right before the Ravens fell off the cliff.
In truth, the path to the cliff was paved by two things: Clark’s HIDEOUS drop at the end of the second (all caps, now, because the more I mention it the fucking ANGRIER I GET WHY IS PITTA INJURED), and before that, the equally belief-defying injury to Jacoby, who was done in by some dude we cut for Bobby Rainey, who was a baller and a positive contributor. Speaking of some dude, some dude’s name is apparently Brynden Trawick. First of all, BRYNDEN, your name is bad and you should feel bad. Secondly, Brynden, you had one job. ONE JOB. And while the coaches may have told you that one job was to block for Jacoby on punts, what they actually meant and left unsaid because they assumed it was obvious was that your one job was NOT TO DEVASTATE HIM WITH AN INJURY.
To continue with my derailed metaphor, once at the cliff, the Ravens were pushed off by Harbaugh himself, who celebrated his fat new contract with a non-challenge so egregious I knew then and there (as every Ravens fan did) that it was over.
Let’s look beyond the fact, for a moment, that the NFL, which prides itself on being a paragon of sports leagues, employs old men who can’t see a ball literally BOUNCE OFF THE FIELD, and that those old men, following a system enabled/encouraged by the NFL, then allow the players that benefit to run to the line and call a quick play so they can basically cheat during a game. LET’S LOOK BEYOND THAT, OKAY? What is Harbaugh doing not throwing a flag there??? It was a pivotal moment in the game, and the Ravens player covering the Bronco (Welker, I think, not that it matters) was telling Harbaugh the pass was incomplete. Now, I grant you, players motion incomplete all the time after they’ve been thrown on, and I’m sure the Denver Jumbotron or whatever it’s called nowadays wasn’t showing the replay. But how is a Super Bowl-winning franchise with loads of big game experience not ready and equipped to challenge an obvious incompletion? At the most crucial moment of the game to that point? It boggles the mind.
And while I know all high-profile coaches and players have dumb tics or faces they’re known for making, the expression on John Harbaugh’s face almost every time something goes horribly wrong for the Ravens makes me want to strangle something. It’s the perfect combination of disbelief, haplessness, and resignation, as if he’s thinking “How could this have happened?” at the same time as, “Of course it happened, we’re the Ravens,” and “OMG, what do I do??? DEEERRRP.” (Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great coach who flashes brilliance. But his Fail Face, on full display Thursday, makes Olympus weep.)
There really isn’t much to say about this game other than that it gave just about everyone who wasn’t a Ravens fan what they wanted. I’m sure Steeler fans are celebrating in their shanties with their cousin-spouses, and I’m sure the Patriot fans who didn’t attend Thursday night’s Klan meeting were also thrilled. Niner fans also got some vicarious joy, which is nice for them since their whole state caught on fire this summer. But none of that really matters, because, most of the time, it really is a compliment when other teams spend their time thinking about you, and this is one of those times. Denver clearly spent months seething and butthurt over the Flacco Fling, and, because I’m mean I guess, that gives me satisfaction. Peyton’s seven TDs, while gaudy, do not erase what happened eight months ago, and do not dictate what happens in any game from here on out.
For real though, that Ravens offense? Despite the promise of young Marlon Brown, we’re probably effed on that front for the foreseeable future. I’m sure to get some heat from fellow Ravens fans for saying so, but the literal, dictionary definition of “being effed” is having an offense featuring a 37-year-old wideout and two tight ends who can’t catch. God help us.