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Ravens lifted hopes; now fans feel let down

The Baltimore Sun

The more I watch the Ravens in their first season under coach John Harbaugh, the more they remind me of what happened to the Orioles this year and the more they validate my philosophy of life, so I hope you're ready to be enlightened:

Never raise the bar so high that it will hurt when it falls on your head.

Trust me. I've made a career out of setting expectations low and struggling to meet them. The Ravens looked as if they were all set to do the same thing this year, but young Joe Flacco beat the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns and all of a sudden fans were tossing around the "P" word. One day, they were throwing a rookie to the wolves in a quarterback emergency. The next day, they had found the new Ben Roethlisberger and were bound for playoff glory.

Which brings us to the day after Sunday's 13-10 loss to the undefeated Tennessee Titans and some of the comments that started to pop up on the blogs and the Ravens' message boards. There are actually fans out there who have decided that Harbaugh is a bust and Flacco is the new Kyle Boller. They're ready to throw their baby coach and their baby quarterback out with the bathwater because the Ravens lost two very close games to two very formidable playoff contenders.

Here's a sample from my blog, which - by the way - is called The Schmuck Stops Here and should immediately be placed at the top of your "My Favorites" drop-down list if it isn't there already:

Please don't mention this year's Ravens and "playoffs" in the same sentence. It's not happening. We're a .500 team at best. Young QB, poor coaching/clock management, one WR that's a deep threat, a VERY suspect secondary (without Landry & Reed @ 100%), McGahee running like a dead horse, I could go on all day. Bottom line, that offense is just bowling-shoe ugly with or without Billick calling the plays. It's going to be a LONG season and we need to do some house cleaning afterwards.

That wasn't the most negative post after Sunday's disappointing loss, but it illustrates my point. Nobody was talking playoffs when the Ravens were auditioning journeyman quarterbacks and wondering whether Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed would ever play again. Nobody was too optimistic after Willis McGahee missed the entire preseason and a long list of other players missed time during training camp.

Now, we're hearing from fans who are livid that Harbaugh and the coaching staff failed to challenge the out-of-bounds call on that supposed touchdown by Derrick Mason in the Pittsburgh game and mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half of the close loss to the Titans. They're upset because the Ravens were a handful of better decisions - by Harbaugh and Flacco - from being undefeated.

Undefeated? Might these be the same fans who predicted in the spring that the Orioles would win no more than 50 games but are ready to call the club's 1-year-old rebuilding program a failure after they won only 68?

Let's go back to the blog and hear from a guy named Rick, who watched the Titans march down the field to score the winning touchdown:

As long as the Ravens retain that Rex Ryan on defense, you can expect much more of the same! I was infuriated by that stupid timeout he called during last year's Patriot game when he called a timeout during a Patriots fourth and short with seconds left in the game. GET RID OF THIS BOOB!

It's about time somebody exposed Rex Ryan as a fraud. He has the top-ranked defense in the league this year, and the Ravens ranked first in total defense in 2006. They fell to sixth among the 32 NFL teams last year because of injuries to their two top cornerbacks. Who needs a guy like that?

To be fair, there are plenty of fans who understand what's going on here. Flacco has played in four NFL games, and he has won half of them. He is making some rookie mistakes, but that's because he's a rookie. Harbaugh has hit a couple of rough patches over the first month of the season, but he is kind of new at this, and the real fans understand that he's not going to be perfect.

Still, it's funny to look back at the start of the season, when people were underrating the Ravens and overrating the Browns, and remember that there were fatalistic fans who thought the Ravens had a chance to be 1-4 going into Week 6 (before the postponement of the Houston game). Now, some of those same fans are looking at 2-2 and wondering how it all went wrong.

Which proves my point about the peril of raising expectations early in the season.

Just ask Dave Trembley.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.


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Line: Colts by 4 1/2

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