Maybe this is what happens when you've won 16 straight games in your own house and then another team gums things up by having the nerve to knock you off, as the Pittsburgh Steelers did Sunday with their surprising 23-20 win over the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
Maybe it throws off your normal routine or disrupts your rhythm or reorders the team karma, a word that probably makes John Harbaugh gag. Whatever the reason, the Ravens post-game locker room had a weird vibe to it last night.
It started right after an obviously-irritated Harbaugh delivered his post-game remarks in a side room. Ray Rice was supposed to follow the Ravens coach at the podium. But so many media types made a bee-line to the Ravens' locker room that team PR officials shrugged and said: "OK, we'll make Ray available in there."
Still, how many times do you see the local and national media blow off a big star like Ray Rice after a game to get at other players? Especially after Rice scores a touchdown on a dazzling 34-yard cutback run in the third quarter for a 20-13 Ravens lead?
But I guess that's what happens when the big star doesn't touch the ball at all in the last quarter, setting up the Ravens – and especially offensive coordinator Cam Cameron – for the usual second-guessing that follows all NFL losses.
Once inside the locker room, the media was also treated to the rare sight of Terrell Suggs blowing us off.
Normally the most affable and approachable of Ravens, the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year was polite but firm in saying he had, well, nothing to say about why he left the game late in the fourth quarter, holding his right arm and grimacing in pain.
"I'll be all right," the big linerbacker told two or three reporters. Which only added to the mystery, as Harbaugh had just stonewalled us about Suggs' injury a few minutes earlier, saying he had no immediate word" on the subject.
In the far corner of the locker room, Joe Flacco was quickly surrounded by reporters who wanted to know, in no particular order, why:
- He stunk.
- The offense stunk.
- The play-calling stunk.
Flacco didn't really have the answers that everyone was demanding of him. Instead, to three different waves of media, he talked about the Ravens putting "ourselves in some situations that weren't good" and missing "a couple of opportunities early in the game" and watching in frustration as "we hurt ourselves a little bit."
No matter how many times the questions were asked or how artfully they were phrased, it was clear Flacco seemed as puzzled as anyone else as to why the Ravens' offense had struggled so badly – this time not on the road, as has been so thoroughly chronicled, but in the comfort of their own house.
And maybe the last bit of weirdness to come out of the locker room was another tired rant from Ed Reed about the mean old NFL, this in a venue where his remarks smacked of sour grapes, considering the Ravens had just lost a game they were heavily-favored to win.
According to ESPN.com and former Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Van Valkenburg, Reed said the league is turning into "powder-puff football." Which makes you wonder what in the world the Pro Bowl safety has been watching out there.
Didn't he see the monster hit Vonta Leach laid on Steelers nose guard Casey Hampton in the first half, a block on a Ray Rice run that sent Hampton flying before he crashed to earth like a steer swept up in a tornado?
Didn't he see Anquan Boldin's huge hit on Eric Weddle last week, which obliterated the San Diego Chargers safety and helped Rice get a few more yards on that miracle 30-yard catch-and-run that saved the game for the Ravens?
The NFL a "powder-puff" league?
Nothing was weirder yesterday than hearing that one.