The words “Left Out” graced the front of the Baltimore Sun Monday morning. The bold title was in reference to a missed 32-yard field goal attempt by Raven’s kicker, Billy Cundiff, which would have put the Ravens into overtime against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. To the shock and utter disbelief of almost any Ravens fan watching, as the Baltimore Sun’s title says, the kick went wide left, ending the Ravens season in New England. Before the kick though, the Ravens played a solid game. Joe Flacco, who was taking on loads of criticism earlier in the week, out-played the “future hall of fame” quarterback, Tom Brady. Flacco threw for 22 completions out of 32 pass attempts (identical to Brady), two touchdowns (Brady had no passing touchdowns), one interception (Brady had two), and 306 yards (Brady had 239). While at face value, the 23-20 score says that the Patriots won the game, but if closely looked at, the Ravens were the real winners and just couldn’t finish the game. The Ravens never fell far behind, always keeping pace with the praised high-powered offense of the Patriots. What this game came down to was a dropped touchdown pass by wide receiver Lee Evans and a missed kick by Cundiff.
Evans went out of the locker room saying he “felt like he let the entire team down” in his press conference. Cundiff met a furry of reporters and cameras, not shying away from questions. “I get paid to make field goals, not miss them,” he said somberly. What was so remarkable about the end-of-game press conferences, tweets, and status updates of the players was that not one single player on the Ravens squad threw either Cundiff or Evans under the bus for the heart-breaking loss, unlike the New York Jets, whose team blamed each other for the loss to the Miami Dolphins that stopped their playoff run before it even started. The general vibe from players like Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice was the classic “we win as a team, we lose as a team” motto.
So what’s next? A generally interesting off season for both the coaching staff and the players. Ray Rice, Jarret Johnson, Ben Grubbs, and a few other key players are free agents as of this year. Joe Flacco wants a contract extension, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s contract is up this year. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano interviewed in Indianapolis for the head coaching job of the Colts. It is also uncertain if center Matt Birk, a ten-year veteran, or Ed Reed, a ten-year veteran as well, will return for another season. Through all the uncertainty of the off-season for the Ravens, one thing is certain. The emotional and defensive leader of the Ravens Ray Lewis will return for his 17th season. Why is this so important? Well, the way he puts it in his post-game huddle is, “The fact is, we gotta comeback to work to make sure we finish it next time, that’s all we got to do,” and you can be sure he wants to be there to finish it.