If Ravens do get healthy, it might not be in time

Ravens Gameday

November 06, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

PITTSBURGH — PITTSBURGH-- --Obviously, things are not going well.

The stock market has turned south, Pakistan is under martial law and the war goes on in Iraq.

Placed in its proper context, the Ravens' confidence-shattering 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last night and their disappointing 4-4 record might not amount to very much in this crazy, mixed-up world, but if people really cared about putting things in their proper context, they probably wouldn't waste time reading sports columnists with redundant names.

So go ahead and panic.

You've earned it.

The days of bemoaning the unusual string of injuries that has beset the Ravens' roster this season have given way to the realization that they probably won't get healthy in time to salvage the season. And maybe it wouldn't make enough difference if they did.

The Ravens came back after the bye and - you could make the case - waved bye-bye to the early-season presumption that they are legitimate playoff contenders. The Steelers exposed every weakness, as if any of them should come as a surprise by now, and quickly dispensed with the silly notion that the Ravens might end the night with a share of the AFC North lead.

Until last night, we could delude ourselves about their lackluster performance against a series of lackluster teams. Until last night, there was the possibility that a healthy Steve McNair and a sort-of-healthy Trevor Pryce would change the dynamic of an offense that couldn't score and a defense that could not get real pressure on the opposing quarterback.

So much for that. The Ravens still were playing short-handed. Cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle were not available. Neither were tight ends Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox. They still can say that they will be a much better team when everyone gets back, except that it's just as possible that they are an aging team that simply will replace today's injuries with tomorrow's until the tomorrows run out.

They certainly were wearing a lot more purple at the end of the game than they were when it started, with Willis McGahee, Yamon Figurs and David Pittman joining the long list of walking wounded.

McNair came back from his various ills and channeled his performance from the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, a mistake-filled loss that also was put on national display on Monday Night Football. Pryce returned and put some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, but not enough to keep him from climbing up several Steelers all-time lists with a performance that featured five touchdown passes in the first half.

If you want, you can chalk that up to the absence of the two starting cornerbacks, who probably would have limited the carnage in the first half. It has just reached the point where it doesn't matter who's out there and who's not, because the opportunity that was presented by the Ravens' supposedly soft first-half schedule has been largely squandered.

The Ravens needed to get out of the first half of the 2007 regular season with at least five - and preferably six - victories. Instead, they stumbled through Buffalo before the bye week and got stomped on last night by a team they totally dominated a year ago.

If you want, you can cling to the math. There's still a decent chance they will be 6-4 after the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns visit M&T Bank Stadium the next two weeks, which would keep them mathematically viable going into that scary string of games against the Chargers, Patriots and Colts.

Maybe there will come a day this season when they have everybody back and everybody in game shape and can give a proper account of themselves against a quality opponent. Maybe they'll even steal a face-saving victory against one of the Big Three in late November or early December.

Or maybe what you saw last night is what you're going to get for the rest of this sad, deteriorating season - a beat-up, aging team going nowhere fast.

peter.schmuck @baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.

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