PITTSBURGH — The theme in the Ravens' locker room was understandable. From Ray Lewis to Ray Rice to John Harbaugh, all the Ravens wanted to do was put their 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers behind them.
It was on to Oakland in the pivotal game that could determine the Ravens' future in the postseason.
But it really makes no difference. Whether it's the Cleveland Browns or the Indianapolis Colts, you can't commit 11 penalties, or you're probably going to lose.
And if you have two touchdowns called back and a touchdown pass dropped in the end zone by your star receiver, you're probably going to lose. And if you give up four sacks, and your special teams stink, you're probably going to lose.
If, if, if ...
Merry Christmas, Pittsburgh Steelers, courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens.
At a time of the season when the good teams start to peak, the Ravens self-destructed before an announced 64,068 at Heinz Field. The Ravens' bid for the playoffs has boiled down to one game, but we don't want to talk about playoffs.
Let's talk about the Great Meltdown.
Let's talk about all those penalties Harbaugh has been warning about since training camp and the ones that came back to haunt the Ravens on Sunday.
The Ravens got nailed 11 times for 113 yards. Terrell Suggs blocked someone in the back, which nullified a touchdown after an interception by Domonique Foxworth.
Suggs got called for being offside on a third-and-12 from the Pittsburgh 4-yard line late in the first half, which led to a 45-yard reception and ultimately to a 24-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes.
It wasn't a good day for Suggs, but it would be unfair to single him out. You don't have enough toes and fingers to point at all the culprits.
There was Frank Walker, Oniel Cousins, Kelley Washington and Haloti Ngata. Anybody see Washington dancing after his holding penalty nullified Willis McGahee's touchdown run? They should have given Ngata two penalties for his late hit and tossed him out of the game. He's the same person doing the same stupid stuff.
After the game, Harbaugh was feisty with the media.
Maybe he should be as feisty with his band of mighty, mighty men.
"I think you guys can go to the penalties if you want. You can point the finger at whatever you want. We're going to Oakland," Harbaugh said.
Here's a place where you can go, Coach Harbaugh. Go to the locker room and tell your team this: "Hey, fellas, we're a .500 team with .500 talent, and if you continue to make bonehead plays, then we can't make the playoffs and some of you guys might not be around next year."
Simply put, the Ravens choked.
How can receiver Derrick Mason drop a 21-yard touchdown pass on the opening play of the fourth quarter and then drop a pass over the middle on the next series?
Matt Katula had a high snap on a punt that Sam Koch kicked only 21 yards. Five plays later, the Steelers score on a touchdown drive of 43 yards. The only thing missing was the gift wrapping.
"We competed like crazy to try and win a football game the best we can. You make plays; they make plays; go back and forth; you fight for it. That's what we do. We fight our hearts out. We came up a little bit short," Harbaugh said.
Quarterback Joe Flacco came up short. He took some sacks because instead of moving or getting rid of the ball, he was patting it, waiting for someone to get open like in high school. He's too old for that stuff.
Harbaugh's game was weak, too. He should have been using a timeout on the Steelers' next-to-last possession of the first half, but instead he sat on it. Asked why he didn't move right guard Marshal Yanda to right tackle to replace Cousins to start the second half, Harbaugh said that move was discussed but Yanda had not taken repetitions at right tackle during the week.
Two years ago, Yanda was the best right tackle on the roster. Harbaugh knew Jared Gaither might not play this week, so wouldn't it have made sense to get Yanda some work at right tackle during practice? He also knew Cousins would probably struggle with Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, so Yanda should have been ready.
That's an indictment of Harbaugh and offensive line coach John Matsko. We can go on.
But we'll stop here. It was frustrating watching a game the Ravens should have easily won. The Ravens had more yards and an edge in time of possession. They ran the ball well, and the secondary held together. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison came up with new blitzes, and the Ravens kept the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.
It makes no difference if the Ravens play the way they played Sunday. They can go to Oakland, Miami or Cleveland, but if they make the same mistakes, they'll lose again.
After next week, where do they move on to?