Save suspense for Super Bowl

The Kickoff

September 25, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Don't know about you, but I liked it better when the Ravens were beating bad teams by 20-point margins and Haloti Ngata was one of their top ball carriers. It was way more fun than what happened yesterday.

If I want suspense, I'll rent Dial M for Murder. I don't want to see Matt Stover lining up a field goal 3 yards shy of his career best, even if he hasn't missed one since the Anthony Wright era. I don't want to see Steve McNair getting up slowly after a nasty hit in the final minutes of an early-season game.

Save that kind of drama for the Super Bowl - not the winless Cleveland Browns.

The only thing that kind of game says is that it's going to be very difficult going to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which are reputed to have real NFL teams. The Browns are going to win three games this year and one of them can't come against a team that has illusions of playing deep into the postseason.

Nobody's complaining about 3-0, but we can't forget that the three teams the Ravens have played are a combined 0-8. If you're thinking Super Bowl, you have to chew up Charlie Frye and spit him out. If you're the best defense in the NFL, you can't let him throw for nearly 300 yards.

Now for the good news. Stover has ice water in his veins and a lot of players took responsibility for protecting the Ravens' undefeated record. McNair struggled with his accuracy throughout the game, but when the going got tough, his toughness oozed out of every pore and clearly re-instilled confidence in his teammates. Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton battled for big catches at big moments. Chris McAlister saved the game with his end-zone interception.

That's how you go from a winless record on the road in 2005 to a two-game road winning streak early in the 2006 season.

This game proved that the Ravens have some issues that will need to be addressed if they are to get where they want to go, but it also showed that they have the kind of character that just might get them over the rough spots on the road to a very successful season.

Enemy territory

Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was the celebrity sideline reporter on the Ravens' radio broadcast, which was an interesting touch considering the role he played in bringing the old Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.

Schmoke apparently enjoyed the assignment and even went over to the Dawg Pound to talk to Browns fans, but said on the broadcast that no one believed him when he told them he was the mayor of Baltimore. That's probably a good thing.

Foul play

I can vouch for Orioles designated hitter Jay Gibbons when he says that he long ago called on Orioles management to raise the screen behind home plate. What a strange quirk of fate that he injured his wife with a foul ball Saturday night.

During the controversy that erupted in 2005 over the new brick walls down each base line, Gibbons vigorously called attention to the additional danger posed by foul balls into the family section behind home plate. The walls were eventually padded, but the club apparently determined that it was impractical to raise the screen.

Veni, vidi, vindication

Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell had been under fire after two sluggish performances to start the season, which left room to wonder whether it might be time to turn the offense over to quarterback of the future Jason Campbell. Brunell answered his critics by setting an NFL record for consecutive completions (22) in a game during the Redskins' easy victory over the Houston Texans.

Until we meet again

The last home game at Camden Yards was emblematic of the 2006 season. Adam Loewen gave up three earned runs over six innings and struck out eight, but got little offensive support and took the loss. Fans can look forward to his return and further maturation next year, but they probably saw the final Orioles appearances of Russ Ortiz and Bruce Chen in Baltimore.

Paws that refresh

Congratulations to the Detroit Tigers, who clinched their first playoff berth since 1987 yesterday. It's almost hard to believe that this team lost 119 games in 2003, but maybe the Tigers' return to glory is a sign that the same thing can happen in Baltimore.

And maybe not.

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays.

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