Baltimore Ravens: Mental Toughness Pushes the Ravens Foward


Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports 12/8/2013

What a crazy ending to the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings game. The crazy ending fits perfectly to the crazy weather they had.

It’s because of that crazy weather I had to listen to most of the first half again. As the cars could not move on the snowy roads, both the Ravens and Vikings could not move the ball very well. Only 10 points were scored in the first half between both teams.

The fourth quarter was the defining quarter, and is what I believe is defining the Ravens season here in the last weeks of the years.

We saw that against the Pittsburgh Steelers the Ravens were determined to win no matter what happened. And against the Vikings, I believe this was tested beyond the line of believability.

It certainly tested the limits of the fans.

There were six lead changes in the fourth quarter, five in the last 2:05. After Dennis Pitta caught a touchdown pass to take the lead, I bet the Ravens were feeling confident. Then the true Ravens fans were separated from what is left from the bandwagon fans.

The Ravens allowed only their third rushing touchdown of the year, from 41 yards out. I believe the week 1-12 Ravens would have given up and lost this game. This is late-season football and the Ravens are playing for the postseason.

I saw confidence from the Ravens, and this was proven when Jacoby Jones ran 77 yards to retake the lead. There we go, the Ravens are mentally tough, and are going to win the game easily now.

Too easy. The Ravens need to be tested again, and this was mentality straining for even my head. I wasn’t even playing in the game.

45 seconds left in the game and another long score by the Vikings. And let me remind you that Adrian Peterson left the game in the second quarter and did none of this.

It is mentally taxing to take the lead, then losing it, taking it, then losing it again. Most teams are emotionally drained at this point, and having to retake the lead again, with less than a minute to go. I like to call these teams playoff teams.

Before playing the Steelers and the Vikings this week, I heard a lot of talk from the Ravens, the normal talk players give, but no action. They didn’t play like they wanted to try to repeat as champions.

Now, there is something much different about the Ravens. Against the Steelers, the Ravens biggest rivals often have come back in the last seconds of the game to beat Baltimore. On Thanksgiving night, the Ravens had one failed goal-line stand, but stopped the 2-point conversion to win the game after preventing an on-side kick recovery.

They did it once or twice before, but now it’s consecutive weeks.  

Against an ailing Vikings team, who already lost all playoff hopes, lose the lead not once, not twice, but three times in the fourth quarter.

If there is no mental toughness here, I’ll stop writing.

(Did you think I was going to stop?)

The Ravens are finding ways to win late in the season. They didn’t do it early in the season, but they’re playing for something and they are determined. By golly are they determined.

Coach John Harbaugh described it as “amazing stuff” in the locker room after the game. He is right, and even more so when he said “We have to fight like crazy.” Of course, this is in regards to getting into the playoffs, by winning the next three games.

The Ravens seem to be backing up their talk with action. Of course fans would like to see games not quite as close, but with the determination the Ravens have going, they can do it.

Two key factors are going to be Ray Rice and Dennis Pitta.

This probably was not the best game for Pitta to make a comeback, and it showed in the first half. He warmed up quickly with six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. This included an amazing diving catch, showing off his great hands we all love.

The second half showed what we should expect from Pitta for the final three games of the season. Hopefully in non-snowy situations, Pitta will become an outlet for Joe Flacco to throw to in time of need.

Rice ran 17 times for 67 yards — a great improvement for him; but he also had five catches for 42 yards. He had 109 total yards, which is what the Ravens need from Rice. He can do so much — from running the ball to catching the ball.

If Rice can keep up his own momentum, the Ravens will be in a better spot offensively, and especially with Pitta back on the field.

They both can be security options for Flacco in his times of need.

But, then there is Flacco. In the midst of the snow, he threw for three touchdowns, but also four interceptions, though one was negated by a passing interference penalty on the Vikings.

The Ravens defense may slip at times, even at key moments, but Flacco will be the deciding factor in the Ravens playoff run.

The Detroit Lions have a decent run defense, so Flacco will have to be good to get past them. If the defense fails, it could become an offensive shootout.

Flacco did come through against the Vikings when it mattered most, I just hope he realizes the entire games to come are the moments “when it mattered most.”