The winner loses: Body count is in the Ravens house
About 20 years ago, I was really into a band called Body Count.
For those that don’t remember, this was rapper Ice-T’s heavy metal side project that got into massive hot water due to the song “Cop Killer,” whose lyrics were about what the title implies (and were once hilariously read aloud by Charlton Heston).
Body Count was one of those bands that only someone young, dumb and rebellious could love. When I was 13, I thought they were the coolest thing in the world. These days, I am old enough to realize that most of their songs were terrible, although I still dig the riffs to “Body Count’s In The House” and “There Goes The Neighborhood.” The highly controversial “Cop Killer,” which Ice later removed from the album, was probably the best song. I practically chuckle today at Ice-T’s over-the-top violent lyrics, where he screams/shouts profanities as if he’s being paid by the swear word.
It’s a fitting symbol of how time flies that the man who once performed songs like “Momma’s Gotta Die Tonight” and “Cop Killer” is now widely seen by middle-aged housewives on “Law and Order: SVU” portraying a cop.
The most hilarious song on the album was a track called “The Winner Loses,” which was an attempt at a balland and a serious commentary on drug addiction.
So how does all this tie in to the Baltimore Ravens? Well, while the Ravens are currently tied for the best record in the AFC, they certainly don’t have the look of winners right now. The team has survived its last three games against the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, not exactly the cream of the NFL crop.
The defense is a shell of itself, giving up massive amounts of yards on the ground, first to the Chiefs and then to the Cowboys. While the D managed to bail themselves out against Kansas City, in one of the most dreadfully boring games I’ve ever seen, they collapsed in alarming fashion against the Cowboys, with poor tackling, zero pass rush and zero penetration up front. Only the Cowboys mistakes bailed the Ravens out.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the defense suffered season-ending injuries to Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis. While the injury to Ray Lew got the most media attention, and will be the biggest in terms of the leadership void, the Webb injury is the most catastrophic to this team’s Super Bowl hopes. Webb was the team’s best cornerback, a guy who already came back from an ACL injury in 2009 to develop into a Pro Bowl-level corner.
How did Ice-T put it? The Ravens are the winner that loses, only without the off-key “My friend’s addicted to cocaaaaaaine.” The Dallas and Kansas City games were wins that truly felt like losses.
Now for some bulletpoints:
--- There’s been speculation that this could truly be the end for Ray Lewis, either that he’ll retire or won’t be with the Ravens next year. I have a hard time believing that.
Granted, Ray Lew is the sort of guy who, like Brett Favre, will need to be carried out of the game. But I also don’t believe he’ll go out on the injury list. He’ll want to go out with his head held high. Maybe I’m just being a sentimentalist, but after 16 years, it can’t end like this right?
--- While the Ravens will miss Ray Lew’s leadership, I actually think he’s more replaceable than Webb, the team’s best cover corner. The team did go 4-0 when Ray got hurt last year. They were 0-1 when Webb was out.
Webb had grown into a shutdown type corner and the team is now left with an unproven Jimmy Smith – who got torched in his one sub appearance for Webb in San Diego last year – and “3rd and Cary” Williams, who got picked on again against Dallas.
The Cowboys lined up Dez Bryant on Williams any time they needed a first down or a short touchdown. Just like how the Patriots lined Brandon Lloyd on Williams earlier this season. Only the fact that Bryant forgot how to catch on the Cowboys’ 2-point conversion attempt late in the game saved the Ravens bacon.
--- The less said about Ed Reed’s tackling against the Cowboys the better. Seeing Reed struggle to tackle Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray was out and out painful.
Allegedly, he’s playing with a torn labrum, which sounds like it hurts. If Reed is hurt and can’t tackle, John Harbaugh needs to get him out of there because he’s hurting the team playing like that.
--- The front four of this defense got manhandled again against Dallas after the Chiefs ran all over them the week prior. Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Ma’ake Kemoeatu just have not gotten it done lately.
I know a lot of fans want to lay the blame for the defense’s struggles at new coordinator Dean Pees’ feet, but the fact is, the front line has been pushed around, can’t get off blocks and can’t get any heat on the quarterback. None of that is Pees’ fault. He can only put the pieces out there, he can’t play for them.
--- The true end of the decade-long run of greatness for the Ravens defense: they have the Cowboys at 3rd and 27 and can’t get off the field. Simply put, that’s unacceptable.
The other way: Joe Flacco was miked up for the game and during Dallas’ late drive said, “Just put it on the 2-yard line and run the 2-point conversion, ‘cause that’s what its going to come down to.”
How telling is that for how far this defense has fallen?
--- With Lewis and Webb out, Reed and Ngata banged up with injuries and Terrell Suggs still on the mend, the onus is now on Flacco, Ray Rice and the offense to carry this squad. Flacco wants his big contract? Time to earn it now big man.
--- I always love those games where Anquan Boldin just takes over and catches everything. It happens maybe four times a season, but when it does, it’s a sight to behold.
--- The offense was solid for the most part against Dallas, especially with the late touchdown drive to put the Ravens up 31-23. That should have been the end of this game. I think they got out of rhythm there early in the second half because they only had one possession in the third quarter. But they made plays when they had to and were much better in the red zone than they were against Kansas City.
--- I think it was a good decision to bench Deonte Thompson as kick returner in favor of Jacoby Jones, mainly because Jones made the big play, a 108-yard kick return TD. Thompson fumbled in K.C. and wasn’t making big plays. Jones though needs to pick his spots better in running balls out of the end zone.
--- Once the Ravens escaped against the Cowboys my first thought was, “We are so going to get killed in Houston next week. Arian Foster might have 250 yards rushing by halftime.”
After the Texans got handled by Green Bay on Sunday night, my optimism went up slightly. The offense is going to have to turn this game into a shootout because I’m not sure this banged up defense can hold.
If the Ravens can get up a couple scores and make the Texans abandon Foster and the running game, they could pull this thing out. Of course, that might not matter if the Texans line Andre Johnson up on 3rd and Cary.
--- One last note of optimism, and believe me, after the defensive performances the last two weeks I need all the hope I can get: the Ravens are 5-1, two games up in the division. Along with Houston, they are the only teams in the AFC with a winning record right now. Even if they lose to the Texans, they will be 5-2 heading into the bye week. That’s not a bad place to be. And if they win, they will have a stranglehold on the race for the top seed in the AFC having beat Houston and New England already. That’s a good position with the likes of Pittsburgh (twice), San Diego, Denver and the Giants on the schedule.
So yes, I will try to drink the purple Kool-Aid and ignore the fact that our defense has become “Smoked Pork.”