Don't like what Lewis said? But try to deny it

November 08, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

On Monday night in Pittsburgh, in a typically agitated post-defeat mood after a nationally televised butt-whupping, Ray Lewis called out the Ravens' offense. Two days later at the Castle, the Ravens talked out the last remnants of the loss and, in their own words, without referencing their teammate ... acknowledged that he was right.

Who wouldn't? If you have eyes, how could you disagree with the premise of what he said, even the specific words and how he said them?

Steve McNair couldn't even disagree, and he was practically turning the ball over all night. And, as Lewis pointed out in what's becoming an instant classic of a post-game interview (commented upon by every major sports Web site and on message boards all across America):

"You played on three or four short fields. It's football. Make people beat you. Don't give them games. This is the National Football League. You cannot make that many mistakes in championship football and expect to win."

That wasn't all he said, it was just all he said while punctuating his words with hand claps. Throughout the four-plus minutes of venting, Lewis figuratively used those hands to slap around an offense so inept that it made the defense, bad as it was, resemble the one from 2000. It was riveting and engaging. In many eyes, it was also selfish and irresponsible.

Maybe. But it wasn't wrong. And you can only be but so critical of anyone, even the polarizing Lewis, for pointing out the obvious.

Lewis was not made available to reporters yesterday. McNair and several teammates were. None of them mentioned Lewis or his words, but they didn't have to. They weren't angry or confused or divided over what he said, because they all said the same thing, unprompted.

"We're giving our defense too many chances to give up points," McNair said in an animated, passionate session of his own. "We can't afford for our defense to keep going out there and have chances to give up points, even a great defense like ours. It's up to us [on offense] to keep our defense off the field."

Still, the point had to be raised that the specter of a divided locker room, a stellar defense angry about the offense holding it down, was surfacing again. It's a tradition for the issue to come up, like wearing all-black uniforms and chanting, "Move those chains." In fact, it almost always starts with something Lewis says. He even acknowledged that in Pittsburgh: "I play defense. I've been trapped by that [question] before."

His teammates weren't falling for it.

"There's a saying that when you point a finger, you have four fingers pointing back at you," Terrell Suggs said. "A coward can point fingers and say, `They did this and they did that,' but you also have to look at yourself."

Added Bart Scott: "They threw five touchdown passes. Who are we to point fingers at anybody?"

Don't read too much into their rebuttal of their defensive leader; there's no revolt taking place inside the unit or against the other unit, it seems. The accountability is refreshing, actually.

At the same time, don't just dismiss the anger Lewis displayed in the Heinz Field locker room. Once again, he has reason to be furious about the signs of another season sinking toward oblivion while he and his defensive teammates still are playing, for the most part, at a Super Bowl-contender level.

It was the same two weeks earlier, after the loss in Buffalo, when Lewis took a shot at Brian Billick on the radio; the immediate reaction was, "Shut up and play, and take care of your own business."

That's never bad advice. Still, the reaction, at some point, also should have been: Well, he's not making it up. If he wants to keep it in-house or put it in the street, that's for him to live with. But we're not stupid, and now we know he isn't either. And we know that he isn't spraying room freshener at the landfill.

If Lewis were entitled that week, then after a game in which the Ravens gained 104 total yards and committed four turnovers that presented the Steelers with touchdown drives of 20, 28, 36 and 44 yards ... he's even more entitled now.

Nobody responsible for the offense can dispute him. All they can do is what the gripers are saying about Lewis: Shut up and play.

"At the end of practice," McNair said, "we say one of two things - we say either `family' or we say `team."'

That's a plus. That's the right thing to say. If on Sunday, they're saying "touchdown" a few times, then all will be forgiven. But Lewis' post-game interview might not be as compelling.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.