How low can they go? Now Ravens know

Ravens Gameday

December 17, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

MIAMI -- This is the sound of a team hitting a new low, the background music for the worst team in the NFL: thumping and laughter.

The thumping came from the fists of Ravens officials pounding the tables in the back row of the Dolphin Stadium press box. It began when Greg Camarillo was at the 30-yard line, pulling away from the last defender, nothing in front of him but the end zone, a 22-16 victory and a playoff-level celebration by his Miami Dolphins teammates.

The laughter came from Derrick Mason.

"You want me to be truthful? I just laughed," he said of the moment yesterday when he and the Ravens realized that this wasn't a nightmare, that they were wide awake, that they had lost to an 0-13 team.

"I couldn't do anything but laugh, just laugh and sit on the bench," Mason added, then paused. "Try to embrace it all, and go from there."

Immediately, where Mason and the shellshocked Ravens went was the locker room. Inside, there was mostly silence. No speeches this time. No bragging about how one unit or the other had performed in defeat. No second-guessing. No conspiracy accusations. No bitter tirades against referees or coaches or reporters or teammates.

There was mild distress about not going for a game-winning touchdown from the 1-yard line at the end of regulation. Otherwise, it was widespread resignation. Or more accurately, grim acceptance. This team flat-out stinks - worse than any in the NFL right now.

Oh, the Dolphins are still horrendous, deserving of their disgraceful record and, yesterday, eager to keep it alive with more boneheaded plays. You know what they say: On any given Sunday, one team can send its kickoff out of bounds with two minutes left, just after taking the lead.

Nevertheless, the Ravens are the worst team playing right now. They have not won a game since October, and that was at home against the St. Louis Rams, who were so beaten-up and wretched, it might even make Brian Billick pause before giving out his now-traditional "They're an NFL team" compliment to the pitiful team that just beat his.

Speaking of which, it's a good thing Billick's job status for 2008 was settled, huh? Free from speculation that the Ravens would lie down to get Billick fired, they went out and got humiliated on their own merits.

But c'mon, you might say, are they really the worst? They did play most of the second half and overtime without Ray Lewis, remember. That actually seals the deal: If this team doesn't have Lewis, they're almost unrecognizable, and practically without hope.

Before Lewis injured his finger, the Ravens led 13-3. He got hurt sometime during the Dolphins' third-quarter touchdown drive, around the time of the fourth-and-short conversion, on the Lorenzo Booker option pitch. The way things turned out, the Ravens could have started the bus right then and there.

OK, Mr. Cynic, what about Troy Smith? Now that you mention him, he should start the final two games. The concussion that knocked Kyle Boller out of the game, the result of one of the offensive line's most sieve-like showings of the season, gives Billick the cover to give Smith a full shot. That's not sarcasm, and not a backhanded shot at Boller. If it's not going to get any better than this, and if Smith can stay upright the way he did yesterday, why not?

There's nothing left to lose.

There was one other tune to add to the losing soundtrack: teammates lining up to congratulate Smith. "Man, why are you hanging your head?" said Willis McGahee, stopping by Smith's locker to encourage and console him. From Smith's downcast expression and posture, it didn't seem to be working.

There was nothing else positive to say, except that very little negative was said. It could have been an uglier scene, befitting one of the franchise's ugliest losses.

"This is how we've been playing all year. Getting upset with each other now is unproductive," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said on his way out of the room. "It doesn't help anything. We've been through all that."

Is there any way a hint of a silver lining can come from this?

"Now, no," Odgen said, turning to leave. "I tried to think of a way, but I couldn't think of a way."

There is none. The Ravens are at rock bottom.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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