POOR TIM­ING

You can blame the coaches, the play­ers and the de­ci­sion-making. The at the worst pos­si­ble time of year.

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Mike Pre­ston

The Ravens just picked the wrong day to have a bad game.

If they had played as poorly as they did Satur­day night against the Cincin­nati Ben­gals or the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, they might have won, but in­stead they lost, 28-12, to the Ten­nessee Ti­tans in the AFC di­vi­sional round.

In the days since the train wreck, there has been a lot of blame, most of it di­rected at coach John Har­baugh and his staff.

I can’t de­fend Har­baugh or the de­ci­sion by his of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Greg Ro­man, to switch the Ravens from a run­ning team to the pass-happy San Diego Chargers of the 1980’s.

The Ravens were clearly out­coached. But there is more to the Ravens’ de­feat than just coach­ing er­rors.

In sports, some­times the best team doesn’t al­ways win a one-game play­off or a cham­pi­onship se­ries. For those of us old enough to re­mem­ber, we can go back to 1969, when the New York Jets up­set the Bal­ti­more Colts in Su­per Bowl III, or when the New York Mets beat the Ori­oles in the 1969 World Se­ries, four games to one.

In the Colts’ loss to the Jets, Bal­ti­more was fa­vored by 18 points, but New York pulled off what many still con­sider the great­est up­set in NFL his­tory. The Ravens en­tered Satur­day’s game as the most bal­anced team in the league and were fa­vored by as many as 10 points by some sports­books.

And they fell apart in the great melt­down.

Did his­tory re­peat it­self nearly 50 years later?

By mid­day Sun­day, both Har­baugh and Ro­man had to be ask­ing them­selves why they had aban­doned the run so quickly. The Ravens had the best rush­ing at­tack in league his­tory, yet half­backs Mark In­gram II and Gus Ed­wards car­ried the ball a com­bined nine times for 42 yards.

In­gram had a calf in­jury and his con­tri­bu­tions were go­ing to be lim­ited, but Ed­wards gained 19 yards on his first carry. Then, poof, he dis­ap­peared. The Ravens de­fended him bet­ter than the Ti­tans.

I’ve seen this be­fore. Ro­man did the same thing ear­lier in the year once the Ravens fell be­hind against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was clear that the Ravens were go­ing to go pass-happy to open the third quar­ter Satur­day de­spite only trail­ing 14-6 at half­time. In the sec­ond half, quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son threw 37 passes com­pared with 22 in the first.

We can blame Ro­man, but Har­baugh is just as guilty. It’s his team and he could have or­dered Ro­man to stop toss­ing the ball all over M&T Bank Sta­dium. Worse yet, Har­baugh was in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion a year ago and waited too long to turn Jack­son loose or in­sert quar­ter­back Joe

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ravens coach John Har­baugh re­acts af­ter a Ti­tans touch­down in the third quar­ter Satur­day night at M&T Bank Sta­dium. The Ravens aban­doned the run in fa­vor of more pass­ing.

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