Who would have thought even five days ago that a Week 3 game against the winless St. Louis Rams would suddenly become a referendum on the long-range potential of the Ravens' new-look offense?
Certainly not anyone who wears purple to work on Fridays, because the resounding victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener seemed to prove that the Ravens had finally established themselves as an elite offensive team. Cam Cameron unveiled the game plan and Joe Flacco executed it to near perfection against one of the league's best defensive teams, and everyone around here assumed that all would be right with the football world, at least until the playoffs.
Of course, the Tennessee Titans disabused us of that happy notion Sunday and now the Ravens need to re-assert themselves in St. Louis to prove that they really are who we thought they were.
Flacco needs to spread the ball around and consistently convert on third down. Cameron needs to keep a hungry Rams defense guessing enough for that to happen. They certainly were on the same page in Week 1, but you had to wonder after the way the offense sputtered Sunday … and you had to wonder even more after Flacco's ambivalent response Wednesday to a question about the supposed lack of "urgency" on offense late in the disappointing loss to the Titans.
"I don't know what to really say besides that's what we were doing,'' Flacco said. "I guess that was the plan. It's not really my job to kind of question it and say that and say that we weren't. We needed to go down there [in the fourth quarter] and score a touchdown and we didn't score a touchdown. I did ask about maybe going for it on fourth down there rather than kicking the field goal, but it's what we decided to do."
This doesn't exactly qualify as open rebellion, but it does reveal that Flacco and his offensive coordinator aren't always on the same wavelength. They don't need that to be on display this Sunday when the Ravens go indoors against a Rams team that desperately needs to win and clearly is better than its 0-2 record.
John Harbaugh will insist that he'll take a win on the road any way he can get one — and that's just fine.
Ray Lewis said Wednesday that the ups and downs are all part of the "journey," and that the approach to the next game should never change. That's fine, too.
But if the Ravens really believe they are Super Bowl-caliber, they need to go into that hostile environment Sunday and show they can put the hammer down on an inferior team. Harbaugh isn't going to come right out and say that, but he knows that the Ravens are still developing their offensive identity and they need to show that last Sunday bore no relation to it.
Flacco never said anything explicitly critical of the game plan last week, but he didn't hesitate to describe the attitude the Ravens have to take into St. Louis this weekend. He said the Ravens need to play with the same abandon the winless Rams will bring into the game.
"I don't know if anybody really, really needs to get a win [in Week 3], but [the Rams] are going to be feeling like they do,'' Flacco said. "When a team is feeling like that, and when a team has that pressure to get a win under their belts, they will probably play a little bit more like they don't have anything to lose, and they will probably come after us a little more.
"It is going to be our job to play the exact same way. Just because we have one win … we still have a loss. You don't win football games in this league unless you go out there and play to win. You can't sit back on your heels and just really play not to lose and hope to win football games. You have to play to win football games. If you don't do that, you are not going to win a lot."
It's difficult to say whether Flacco was just stating fact or calling somebody out, but it doesn't matter. Job One is still the same. Inquiring minds want to know whether the real Ravens stood up in Week 1 or stood down on Sunday in Nashville.
The Rams may not be the ultimate test, but they're the next team up, so they'll have to do.
Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and wbal com.
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