How does Ravens' world turn now?

November 17, 2008|By RICK MAESE

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - To extract any morsel of meaning from the Ravens' lackluster 30-10 loss to the New York Giants, we turn to Terrell Suggs. He doesn't mean to, but at times Suggs falls into a nice little rhythm in which he poses a question and then immediately answers it. It certainly makes a reporter's job easier.

Here are excerpts from an exclusive Suggs-on-Suggs post-game interview:

Question: Was there a possibility that we could lose today?

Answer: Most definitely.

Q: Did we play like the Ravens today?

A: Absolutely not.

Q: Am I embarrassed?

A: Definitely. Definitely embarrassed.

Q: Is it the end of the world?

A: Absolutely not.

Let's focus on that last answer a bit because whether the Ravens subscribe to Suggs' theory that, in fact, the world might somehow continue spinning will ultimately tell us how damaging yesterday's loss to the Giants really is.

It wasn't a pretty one to watch. Not just because the running game had four flat tires or because the defense was uncharacteristically ineffective, but because it revealed how much work the Ravens must still do in a relatively short period of time.

For the third time this season, we've seen what separates them from the league's elite teams. Against the Tennessee Titans, it was three points. Against the Indianapolis Colts, it was 28. And yesterday it was 20.

As the Ravens review film today - no doubt choking on popcorn and spitting out soda on multiple occasions - the question that matters most is, can this team can bounce back? Two pieces of evidence suggest they might.

First, they've already done it once before. After the Colts manhandled the Ravens on Oct. 12, the Ravens reeled off four consecutive wins. Second, to hear players talk in the locker room after yesterday's loss, it sure sounded as if many had already put the debacle behind them.

As you might guess, linebacker Ray Lewis didn't need any cue cards to focus on his talking points. He contends the Ravens always bounce back from losses, which isn't exactly true. Of their three previous losses, the Colts game was the only one the Ravens followed with a victory. But Lewis says he has seen enough this season to know that his teammates will answer the challenge. That's my word, not his.

"I don't even call it a challenge," Lewis said. "I call it, 'OK, throw this one away and let's keep on playing football.' "

Such a loss might seem tough to wad up and forget entirely. The Ravens entered the game against the defending Super Bowl champs with not only a four-game winning streak but also heightened focus and intensity. Though players bit their tongues in the days leading up to the game, they knew yesterday was a chance to stake a spot among the NFL's top teams.

Instead, they now find themselves comfortably in the middle of the pack, destined to grind their way through the remaining six games, their playoffs hopes likely to go down to the wire.

Getting whipped by 20 points at this stage of the season could set many teams back a few steps. The Ravens can't afford a long recovery period. Four of their final six games come against teams with winning records.

"It's not like we haven't lost a game this year," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We know how to regroup when we lose. We'll continue to fight the way we fought when we were on the winning streak."

Yesterday their defense gave up 207 rushing yards - which could have been 1,007 if Brandon Jacobs had been healthy enough to contribute in the second half. And on offense, their leading rusher was quarterback Joe Flacco, whose 57 yards on the ground were more than running backs Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain had combined.

Suggs didn't seem worried in the least. He noted that younger players - guys like him, and also Flacco, McGahee and Rice - have plenty of veterans around to keep them on point.

"What do you do?" Lewis asked yesterday. "Do you drop your head? Or do you come back to work Monday?"

The question was rhetorical. Lewis thinks he already knows the answer. Fans who saw how the team responded to the Colts loss have reason for optimism, but expectations are tempered by how this team has performed against quality competition.

Suggs' turn as an interviewer didn't last long. He turned his frustration on the assembled tape recorders and microphones. "You all can have fun with it," he said. "Go back and write your stories about how bad we are - 'The Ravens are 6-4. They're terrible.' We expect that. But we're right back to where we started the year at. Everybody's against us. All we got is ourselves. Enjoy it. Because you aren't going to see this too many more times."

I wish he were still asking himself questions. There's one more answer everyone's dying to know.

Q: Can the Ravens really bounce back?

A: [To be determined.]

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