John Wooden's admonition that more games are lost than won applies to the Baltimore Ravens this morning. The Ravens had the favored New England Patriots on the ropes in yesterday's AFC Title game. Baltimore outgained New England by 42 offensive yards and dominated time of possession 33:33 to 26:27. Joe Flacco flat outplayed Tom Brady.
Baltimore's last shot ended when kicker Billy Cundiff's chip shot field goal attempt missed wide left. Cundiff must feel terrible this morning, but he had help losing the game.
Two plays earlier, wide receiver Lee Evans had the game-winning touchdown in his hands before DB Sterling Moore stripped it away. Baltimore's O-line failed to measure up. New England laid three sacks, five tackles for losses and seven quarterback hits on the Ravens.
When Baltimore signed Lee Evans, I believed that the Washington Redskins missed the shot to upgrade its receiving corps. Evans delivered a nice performance on the day up until his fourth-quarter flub. His three receptions nearly duplicated his entire regular season performance (4 receptions, 79 yards) and his missed catch would have been his first score of the season.
Washington got a better performance from Jabar Gaffney who, like Rex Grossman, had the best year of his career in Mike Shanahan's offense. Gaffney's 68 receptions and five touchdowns profile him as a good No. 2 wide receiver on any other team. The No. 1 wide receiver on a pro team should deliver 90 receptions and 10 touchdowns.
Fans appreciate Gaffney's performance and effort, but the entire passing game—passing, catching, blocking— was not good enough to compete in the NFL East. Nothing about Evan's performance in the title game or over the season suggests that he would have been better than Gaffney. I don't think the Bills miss Evans much, either.
New England DT Vince Wilfork had a monster day at nose tackle, which got me wondering. Why did Bill Belichick need Albert Haynesworth in the first place? Can we all agree now that the Tennessee Titans made Haynesworth great and not the other way around?
Belichick did what Mike Shanahan did not do in 2010. He dumped Haynesworth as soon as it became clear that he was not a contributor.
I feel badly for ex-Redskins DE Andre Carter, a major contributor to the Pats' success. He is finally on a Super Bowl team, but injury prevents him from playing. Good guy. Good player. Deserved to go. Another former 'Skins player who starts for another Super Bowl caliber team.
Washington gets good players—and good coaches. Something happens to them when they get here; something about how they are managed. The Redskins title drought has more to do with boring organizational flaws than with the athletes.
Three of the four teams in the conference title games are known for stability in the front office and the coaching staff. Those owners pick the right people in the first place and stick with them in good times and bad. Toughening it out in the bad times is part of the process.
Rivalry? What rivalry?
Hog Heaven has been a consistent denier of a Ravens-Redskins rivalry. We argue that any resemblance of such has more to do with Baltimore's cultural antipathy to Washington that predates the Civil War. That one-sided feeling expresses itself in both football and baseball. And we always said it was one-sided. Most of the Baltimoronic statements about it betray an inferiorty complex that I never understood. I like Baltimore, especially the Inner Harbor waterfront.
There is some canard that Jack Kent Cooke had somethind to do with keeping the NFL out of Baltimore after the Colts abandoned the city. I defy anyone to find a single shred of evidence of that. Most of the origins of this unrequited rivalry lay in Baltimore's proud blue collar heritage and the Washington area's white collar government class. Hey, we didn't vote all those people here because...District of columbia residents cannot vote.
Things may be changing. There was lots of discussion on sports talk radio on whether it is proper for Redskins fans to root for the Ravens against the Patriots. It was a silly thought. The Ravens loss does no more to make the Redskins better than sweeping the Giants makes the Redskins better. Either way, Washington lost to nine of 13 teams they faced. The Redskins have to win fan allegiance on their own.
If fans have an adult memory of the Redskins last Super Bowl win after the 1992 season, then they are lifers even if they now keep their wallets shut. Anyone under age 39 is fair game for Baltimore and every other NFL team, thanks to the Internet.
That's the way it's supposed to be. Allegiance is more than customer loyalty. Baltimore may win DC customer loyalty for a period until the Redskins start winning again. If the Redskins keep losing, some of that Ravens loyalty will (and should) flip to fan allegiance and the 'Skins will never get them back. Winning keeps that from happening. After a decade of Snyderrato, even diehards know how hard that is to do. There are no short cuts to building perennial contenders. it cannot be properly done in one or three seasons. You do it by taking the right steps over time, like Baltimore has done since their arrival in Maryland.
Next year, the Redskins should forget about sweeping the Giants. Win all the home games instead. The Ravens are on the home schedule, by the way.