By Stan "The Fan" Charles
We all know when we receive an invitation to a party, wedding, bar mitzvah, or any type of social gathering where the hosts are spending a lot of dough, they ask for an RSVP. That is from the french rpondez s'il vous plait meaning the person doing the inviting is asking the favor of the recipient's reply.
Well, while I dont intend to closely compare the NFL Playoffs to a wedding or bar mitzvah, because in the NFL you have to truly earn your invites. But, believe it or not, there is still a connection here. Teams still have to respond to earn those few invites that can possibly pan out to being a Super Bowl combatants invite.
When using the word respond in football, while it's not exactly the same as it is in the world of party invites, it is a reply of sorts. On this past Sunday, the Ravens seemed to be somewhat in charge of their game against Houston in the first quarter. But, as so often seems to happen to Baltimores sometimes-bewildering offense, they went into a slumber in the second quarter and well into the third.
The offensive issues allowed a tough, combative Houston squad to hang around, and even briefly take a scant 14-13 lead with 8:36 left in the 3rd quarter. That's when a team with a Super Bowl on their minds had to reply in kind and then some.
If the Ravens make a deep march into the playoffs come winter, Baltimore fans may look back at that stretch of football -- from the moment the Ravens fell behind with 8:36 left in the third until the final whistle blew -- as the defining moment for this team.
Announcers love the clich "we have to see how they'll respond when a team loses control of a game that was seemingly in its grasp is tasked with turning momentum back in their direction. And this past Sunday, the Ravens response was nothing short of stunning.
Joe Flacco and Company took the football and ran off 5:06 on the clock, gaining a total of 79 yards on eight plays, capping the drive with a 25-yard field that put them back in front 16-14. Including that drive, the Ravens closed the game by gaining 222 yards on 31 plays, while scoring 16 points. Those 16 points were met by 0 points and just 81 yards over 24 plays, that included two four-and-outs by the Texans.
Through the Ravens first four games, prior to the bye, one could argue that their three wins really never presented them with a character defining section of a game. They dominated the Steelers, Rams and Jets so decisively, there never came a time, when everyone said, "Now, let's see what we are made of. The one loss in the season, was such an anomaly for a John Harbaugh-coached team, that no clear-cut moment existed there as well.
Character is forged through the crucible of those moments when you can run and hide or recede from doing what it takes to push on through to greatness. The Ravens faced just such a moment in their, 29-14, win over Houston. And how they responded may have been an early sign that they are beginning to feel as though they are going to earn an invite.
This probably will not be the only such opportunity for the Ravens to demonstrate that they have that something extra in their veins. And failing to succeed in all such opportunities is not in and of itself a harbinger of how the end game will be played out.
But, in witnessing it for the first time this season, it was quite remarkable and a thing to behold.