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News » In 2000, close loss provided super fuel

In 2000, close loss provided super fuel

In 2000, close loss provided super fuel

In a bruising game where every hit seemed to bring a rousing oooh or an appreciative ahhh, there was only one sound to be heard as stunned fans filed out of M&T Bank Stadium: a curious hmm.

As in: Hmm, do I know the NFL rules as well as I thought? Or, hmm, do the officials?

And when the shocked Ravens players and bewildered Ravens coaches awake this morning: Hmm, what exactly does this all mean moving forward?

Make no mistake, they've no choice but to move forward. Sure, plenty of whining and questioning might be in order, but the final result yesterday won't change.

I don't understand how the officials felt they had sufficient evidence to overturn the call on the field and award Santanio Holmes with a touchdown in the game's final minute. Replays that I saw -- and that every soul not wearing black-and-white stripes saw -- seemed to show that Holmes might've been close to a touchdown. But nothing was conclusive.

"We're moving on," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said later.

Until the final two minutes of that game, so much of the Ravens' performance in a 13-9 controversial loss yesterday to the Steelers was reminiscent of the Baltimore team that won the Super Bowl eight years ago.

So is this a team destined to follow in the footsteps of the greatest Ravens team? Or is it one that's snake-bitten, destined to come close to replicating the franchise's finest day, but ultimately fall just short?

We'll know more in a couple of weeks, but as it stands now, the standings indicate that despite great strides and impressive growth, there's still a giant line separating the Ravens from the league's elite teams. Yesterday was the chance to crossover, but instead, the Ravens will have to claw their way into the playoffs via a wild-card bid. With two games remaining, the Indianapolis Colts are 10-4 and the Ravens are one of three teams with 9-5 records. (If the season ended today, the Ravens would hold tiebreakers over the Dolphins and Patriots, but not the Jets, who have fared better against common opponents.)

The idea is to peak in late December and January. In a game that could have validated the Ravens position as a contender, the loss instead reinforces some of the doubts surrounding them.

These Ravens, dominant against the likes of Oakland and Cincinnati, have struggled nearly every time a formidable foe has lined up on the opposing sideline.They might feast on guppies, but they're little more than live bait for the league's sharks.

These Ravens are still in favorable position for the postseason, but they have to perform these next two weeks. Not only do they need to win, but they need to shrug off the loss yesterday and grasp some of the momentum that helped them win six of their past eight games.

In their favor is emotion and scheduling. You get the sense that the perceived injustice yesterday might simply motivate this team more. Plus, they close the regular season against two teams that could potentially provide some coasting into the playoffs.

Next week, though they travel to Dallas, they will face a Cowboys team that's coming apart at the seams. The Ravens close the season playing host to Jacksonville. The Jaguars' season has been largely a disappointment, though they did win at Indianapolis earlier this year and squeaked by the Packers at home yesterday.

To even have a chance, players and coaches will have to leave the moaning to fans and the protesting to their front office. They'll have to realize they can't change the final two minutes of the game; they can only affect their future.

"Keep going," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Win, lose or draw. The season still has two games."

The championship team of 2000 lost, 9-6, to the Steelers. They then used that as fuel. Didn't lose another game, in fact.

This year's squad had a chance to win 9-6 against the Steelers. Instead they lost. They must now use that fuel. Can't lose another game, in fact.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 16, 2008

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