By Samuel Njoku
Is there a more puzzling team in the NFL than the Baltimore Ravens? Since the confetti fell in New Orleans nearly eight months ago, the Ravens have been a different team. It’s been the case for every team that has won a championship before them. In the end, it always boils down to one question. The lingering question that every champion must answer at some point during a championship defense: What do you do once you’ve reached the mountain top?
The players won’t admit it and the coaches won’t speak of it, but it’s clear as day. The Ravens are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover.
If Ray Lewis were in that locker room, Baltimore would not be having this problem. He was the one of the few players in all of sports that understood what playing football was all about. His passion for the game was infectious. He demanded the best not only from his teammates, but from himself. However the era of Ray Lewis is gone, and Baltimore will have to deal with this issue alone. And that’s just the way it should be.
The Ravens are far from being considered a bad football team. The talent is there. In fact, a case can be made that this year’s Ravens team is superior to that of the one that hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy a few months ago. But issues have mounted for Baltimore and the team has yet to respond. The Ravens running game is a disaster. The passing game is sporadic at best. The play-calling has been questionable and the defense has been inconsistent.
With the way things were going this season, it was easy to see that the Ravens were destined to be average and perhaps slip into the postseason. But then last Sunday the Ravens lost to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and everything changed. Simply put – the Ravens hate losing to Pittsburgh. The players hate it. The coaches hate it. The fans hate it. And the owner hates it. For Baltimore, a loss to Pittsburgh is the wake-up call you never wanted.
Last season, Baltimore’s home win streak was snapped by Pittsburgh and it led to the firing of Cam Cameron a week later. It wasn’t the loss to Washington the next week that did Cameron in. Losing to Pittsburgh is unacceptable for the Baltimore Ravens. Especially when they consider themselves to be the superior team. Now, after losing to the previously 1-4 Steelers in Pittsburgh, similar actions seem destined to take place.
“We know what we gotta fix,” stated a passionate Terrell Suggs after the loss. “[It’s] special teams, offense, and defense. We’re at a state of emergency now.”
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh statement to the media was just as passionate.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes,” stated John Harbaugh on Monday. “We’ll trade guys. We’ll cut guys. We’ll sign guys. We’ll coach guys. We’ll change schemes. It doesn’t matter! We’re going to find a way to get better. And that’s the business we’re in.”
The Ravens have already held true to that promise as they traded away Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional late round pick the same day. But throwing away overweight lineman won’t be enough to get over the Super Bowl hangover. It’ll take more than that. And it appears Terrell Suggs has the right idea.
“It’s time for all of us to take a good look at ourselves,” stated Suggs.
He’s absolutely right. For Baltimore to succeed, every player and coach on the team will need to look in the mirror and ask themselves one question. The lingering question every champion must answer at some point during a championship defense: What do you do once you’ve reached the mountain top?
The answer will dictate the rest of the season for the Baltimore Ravens.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.