Kenny: What role do you think the officiating played in Monday night's game?
Mike Preston: Let's face it. The Ravens and the refs have a lot of history. Problem is, the Ravens still haven't learned that the guy with the yellow flag alwaysgets the last punch -- oops -- I mean word in.
Do I think things would've been called differently if uniforms were reversed? No. Great players make great plays in crunch time. The Ravens didn't. The New England Patriots did. End of game. End of discussion.
Ben: The Ravens went three-and-out on two drives in the fourth quarter when they could have put the game away. While Willis McGahee was great all game, he was stuffed on those drives. Were the Patriots stacking the box, was Brian Billick calling the wrong plays or were McGahee and the offensive line just fatigued?
Mike Preston: Actually, Billick called a good game. He made the right calls on the first three-and-out. But on the Ravens' second possession of the quarter starting at the Ravens' 28-yard line with five minutes, 21 seconds left, the Ravens only ran 2:09 off the clock before punting away to New England. They ran two pass plays, one for 7 yards and the other incomplete on third down. In that situation, the Ravens have to at least get it down to two minutes or force the Patriots to use their timeouts.
Fatigue should never enter the picture for an offense. Late in the game with the outcome on the line, you want your offense out on the field playing smash-mouth football.
Eric: Was it Billick who called timeout when the Patriots had fourth-and-one at the 30-yard line late in the game? What was he thinking there?
Mike Preston: Wasn't it Joe Gibbs who called the timeout?
Actually, it wasn't Bri, Bri. Instead it was defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Bet ya he'll bescreaming in his sleep over that one for awhile. But I can't fault him. It was a spur of the moment decision, and those kinds of things happen all the time. He was just trying to get his team in the right defensive set.
Kyle: Mike, where has the team we saw Monday night been all year? Do you think they'll rally around this effort or self-destruct the rest of the way since they came up short?
Mike Preston: Santa came to town early this year and gave the Ravens fans a big Christmasgift. Win or lose, that was a great game. Maybe if the entire city gets together and blows Santa a few kisses, we can get one more gift when No. 18 (the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning) comes to town Sunday night.
Carlos: Mike, do you think the Ravens' effort Monday night showed that Billick hasn't lost this team? Does the coaching staff deserve credit for having a good game plan?
Mike Preston: What it showed was that the Ravens have talent, but the head coach couldn't bring it out. Monday night's performance wasn't about coaching. It was about pride and playing on national TV. Billick had a good offensive game plan and stuck to it for the first time this year.
I think another five-year contract extension is in order, don't you?.
Brad: Who's been the best player on the offensive line this season, and who has the best potential to take his game to the next level?
Mike Preston: Left guard Jason Brown has been consistent and is becoming a leader. Right guard Ben Grubbs has the potential to be a Pro Bowler.
Joe: Antwan Barnes looked great throughout the game. How bright is his future with the Ravens, and what will his role be next season?
Mike Preston: Barnes, with a year in the weight room, could be the perfect pass rushing complement to fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. He has great quickness and works leverage well. If he adds about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle, he could become a pass rushing force.
Chris: Mike, how ridiculous was the Bart Scott penalty near the end of the game? Why is this team so undisciplined? Is it Billick, or do the players just not listen?
Mike Preston: The league and the Ravens should fine Scott. It was embarrassing to the team and the city. Actually, this entire team has been whining for the past three weeks. When the Ravens started losing to the Chargers and Steelers, there was a lot of pushing and shoving. There were numerous mini-fights.
The Ravens lack discipline and self-control. They have no fear of Billick. None.
Jim: What did the Ravens' defense do to slow down Tom Brady? Could the Patriots be more vulnerable than most people thought earlier in the season?
Mike Preston: The Ravens played a lot of multiple fronts and blitzed from just about everywhere on the field. They changed up a lot to give Brady different looks and keep him on his toes. The Patriots are vulnerable against the run. If you gain some yards and control the clock, you've got a chance. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Patriots play Pittsburgh.
Frank: What did you make of Kyle Boller's play? Should they have even been calling a passing play on his one interception?
Mike Preston: It was not the play call that was bad, but the execution. Boller threw the ball to four guys on the other team. It's like he forgot that his guys were wearing theblack shirts. If Kyle had tucked the ball away and ran down that open field,he'd have been the star on top of the Christmas tree. Instead, old humbug, he helped blow a game again.