With Ravens' win, Cameron gets reprieve … for now

Offensive coordinator directed Baltimore to largest comeback in franchise history

October 30, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

Cam Cameron emerged from the coaches' lockers looking like something out of GQ, resplendent in a gray sports coat, black shirt, jeans and cowboy boots.

The man looked sharp. And he felt sharp, too. You could tell. And why not? A half-hour earlier, the Ravens had pulled out a gutty — and ugly — 30-27 win over the lowly Arizona Cardinals in the chilled air of M&T Bank Stadium.

On one hand, it was the greatest comeback in team history. Down 24-6 at halftime, with the offense seemingly in the throes of narcolepsy, Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin had combined to put on a passing clinic that led to Billy Cundiff's winnng 25-yard field goal as time ran out.

On the other hand, it was fair to wonder why the Ravens offense got off to another horrible start, the kind of start that would doom them if they play like that against the Steelers Sunday night at Heinz Field.

But now wasn't the time to break down all the mistakes. Now wasn't the time to worry about the Steelers.

Now the Ravens locker room was all smiles, and no one was smiling more than Cameron. And smiles sure had been hard to come by recently for the Ravens' much-maligned offensive coordinator.

"At halftime, no one blinked," he was saying now of the Ravens offense, of Flacco and running back Ray Rice and Boldin, who caught seven passes for 145 yards and so thoroughly torched the Cardinals secondary that it was almost cruel to watch. "No one panicked. It was like: 'What do we gotta get done?'"

A whole lot, as it turned out. Which is what happens when you turn the ball over and get stupid penalties and don't execute and trail by 18 points at the intermission.

I can only imagine what Cameron was thinking in that locker room, the Ravens coming off that 12-7 horror-show loss to Jacksonville less than a week earlier and the offense stinking it up now against Arizona, looking like 11 guys with 11 different playbooks.

Surely, he heard the boos raining down from the crowd of 71,000 as the Ravens left the field.

Surely he sensed the media wolves circling, knew they'd be carving him up on talk radio and the message boards Monday morning if the Ravens didn't turn things around.

Oh, sure, Cameron is used to taking heat for this offense, used to being the bad guy for Ravens fans whenever the team's struggling.

You know how a lot of coaches are always saying they pay no attention to criticism? People who cover this team every day will tell you that's not Cam Cameron.

He reads the newspapers, they say. Hears the fans on talk radio. Reads the nasty stuff about him on the Internet. His wife hears all the abuse, too. So do his kids. And don't think that's easy, your kids coming to you, wondering why everyone says you stink, why everyone wants to run you out of town on a rail.

Bu he knows it comes with the territory, too. It's what happens when you're a big-time coordinator in the NFL and your team isn't moving the ball. It's why they pay you the big bucks.

"Our fans are brutal when we do what we did the other night," he was saying now, referring to that awful loss to Jacksonville. "And rightfully so, because they're so passionate about what we do. Maybe I'm getting goofy at this stage, but I appreciate the brutalness of our fans in a way, because it's so important to them. I've got no problem being the target, because I got great guys" here.

So now the Ravens move on from the Arizona game and start preparing for the Steelers.

On Monday, John Harbaugh and Cameron and the rest of the coaches start working on the game plan. And what they better figure out in a hurry is why this offense keeps struggling out of the gate.

"We can't continue to do that — that's a given," Rice said. "We can't come out and start like that. But I'll take this kind of finish any day."

No, you couldn't blame the Ravens for wanting to savor this one. Couldn't blame Cameron, either.

Rice was right: that was a great finish against the Cardinals. And that's what good teams do. Good teams might struggle, but they find a way to win. They gut it out. And maybe, with time running out on the clock, they watch their kicker put one through the uprights that makes all the struggling worthwhile, makes them forget the critics and all the gloom and doom.

"It's been a hard week for all of us," Rice said. "If you're a Raven, it's been a hard week."

No one had it harder than Cameron. But at least for one day, he allowed himself to smile.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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