What, Ravens fans worry? Of course they will

Even though the Ravens are playing their best ball of the year, fans will spend week fearing dreaded letdown

November 28, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

Let's agree, for the sake of argument, that Ravens fans are among the most neurotic in the NFL.

Let's agree that if you put your average Ravens fan on an analyst's couch, within 10 minutes the shrink would throw his hands in the air and shout: "No, stop! I can't help with all this!"

For some Ravens fans — at least the ones that call talk shows and take to the Internet on autumn Sundays with six Heinekens swishing around in their gut — the glass is always half-empty. Disaster lurks around every corner. Defeat can always be snatched from the jaws of victory.

So what will these people worry about this week?

At first glance, it's hard to tell.

After all, the Ravens are 8-3. They're on top of the AFC North with three big wins over divisional foes, two over the arch-rival Steelers and one over the Bengals.

They're in great position to get home-field advantage in the playoffs. And they just came off a big victory over the San Francisco 49ers, who were 9-1 before getting spanked at M&T Bank Stadium Thanksgiving night in the Harbaugh Bowl.

Not only that, but the Ravens have even won lately without their great middle linebacker, Ray Lewis, who now gets an extra week to heal his turf toe.

Yep, it's pretty much football heaven around here right now.

Which means it's hard to imagine anyone obsessing this week about Cam Cameron screwing up the offense.

Or Ray Rice not getting enough touches. Or Joe Flacco looking confused when the pocket breaks down. Or Ed Reed not getting enough picks.

Or whatever the meltdown du jour is on gab-fest radio.

But that doesn't mean these Ravens fans won't find something to fixate on. And I think I know what it'll be.

What, you're still stumped? OK, here's a hint. It begins with an l and ends with an n.

That's right: this week, the civic obsession around here will be on whether the Ravens have a let-down Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

And you can't blame people — even the talk-show crazies — for worrying about it, either.

An away game against a lightly-regarded opponent after a big win? Those games have been the kiss of death for the Ravens.

Look at their track record. They beat the Steelers in their season opener and promptly lost to the Titans the following week in Nashville. They beat the high-flying Houston Texans Oct. 16 and lost the next week to the lowly Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Then they followed up another euphoric win over Pittsburgh a few weeks ago with a stinker against the Seahawks and their shaky quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, in Seattle.

You go figure that out. I can't.

And neither, quite frankly, could the Ravens.

Oh, they said all the right things before each of those disappointing losses.

Before each loss, they insisted they wouldn't lose their focus and take the other team lightly, no matter how much it was struggling.

Before each loss, they talked about how important it was to get off to a fast start and take the other team's fans out of the game.

And when none of that happened, when they came out flat in each of those games and couldn't move the ball and the crowd noise sounded like a U2 concert for 60 minutes, they insisted afterward that this time — this time! — they had learned their lesson.

So we'll see what happens Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. But until I actually see the Ravens come off a big win and put a pounding on a team they should beat easily, I'm not buying anything they're selling about focus and fast starts and the need to treat each game with urgency this late in the year.

The good news is that the Ravens are coming off their best defensive showing of the season, a stifling nine-sack performance that tied a franchise record. And they did it against one of the top teams in the league, no matter the weak-sister division the 49ers play in.

Terrell Suggs, the Pro Bowl outside linebacker, was an absolute beast against the Niners. And when a team is playing the kind of smothering, lights-out defense the Ravens are playing in late November and December, I like its chances to go deep into the playoffs.

I like the way Joe Flacco is playing now, too. His stat line wasn't dazzling against the 49ers, but the Ravens quarterback threw with accuracy and confidence into small windows in key third-down situations. He seems to be getting hot at just the right time, too.

But, again, we'll see how the Ravens play Sunday against the Browns. Until then, Ravens fans can't help but worry.

It's in their DNA.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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

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