... But miscues will shut it

FACEOFF

Faceoff: Can The Ravens Make The Playoffs?

October 01, 2008|By PETER SCHMUCK

Everybody knows I'm a glass-half-full guy under normal circumstances. I watched Monday night's game and was very impressed with Joe Flacco's poise and the persistence of the Ravens defense. If they had beaten the Steelers - and it would have taken only a couple of more favorable bounces for that to have happened - I would probably be fighting with Ken for his seat on the bandwagon.

But they didn't, and the reasons they didn't are the same reasons I can't get all puffed up and predict that we'll be watching them in the playoffs come January.

John Harbaugh has instilled a great team concept during his short time as coach, but real team discipline is going to take a little longer. The play that best illustrates my point was the personal foul by Jarret Johnson, who let Hines Ward goad him into a shove that cost the Ravens 15 yards at a critical juncture, but you could also go back to the first quarter and the costly head slap by Antwan Barnes. The Steelers probably played just as nasty, but they were smarter about it and they were at home, and when you add it all up it probably cost the Ravens a huge divisional victory.

The difference between being a playoff team and an also-ran might be one more squandered game, which means it can come down to one or two key plays, and the Ravens are building a history of being on the wrong side of those kinds of plays. They're in fine shape to make a run right now, but only if they get their heads on straight before things get really tough. Their playoff hopes have already been dealt a blow with the loss of their bye week. They simply cannot afford to keep tripping over their own feet.

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