Baltimore Ravens: The Call that Changed the AFC North


The Baltimore Ravens have been the reason I sometimes go to work Monday mornings on cloud nine or hopelessly miserable. They really do have the power to make or break my weekend. Yesterday was no exception as the Ravens lost a heartbreaker to the Cincinnati Bengals 27-24.

However it wasn’t the Ravens who disappointed me. It was a game-changing call and the aftermath of said call that altered the Ravens’ status and the AFC North.

Baltimore came into Paul Brown Stadium needing a win over a division opponent in their most important game yet this season. The winner would come out on top, first place in the division, separating each team by a game. At this point, I think the division will come down to the end of the regular season.

Cincy came in after a horrible three weeks in which they went 0-2-1, and the Ravens were in prime position to assert their dominance over the division. I underestimated the Bengals’ ability to bounce back after their recent losses as we watched a game that the Bengals controlled significant portions of.

Joe Flacco, after coming off two of his best performances to date, did not have such a great day — a mere 17-of-34 for 195 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions against his counterpart, Andy Dalton, who went 21-of-28 for 266 yards and only one interception.

But Flacco’s woes were not the source of the loss or the current state of the AFC North.

Down three points with 32 seconds left in regulation and the entire length of the field to travel, Joe Flacco threw a pass to none other than Steve Smith, who took it 80 yards for a touchdown. Elation is what we all felt. This play will define the Baltimore Ravens’ season. A testament to the Ravens’ perseverance and the will to win.

Then we saw the flag.

The flag that dictated the course of this game and the division. Steve Smith’s touchdown was called back after he was penalized for offensive pass interference when he “pushed off” Cincinnati defender George Iloka.

Now while I’m well aware this isn’t the first time any of us have seen a questionable call, I wager this is the first in recent regular season memory to carry so much weight with its implication. This isn’t just a “ticky tack” call, this is a blatant “Let them Play!” moment we all saw. It is giving fuel to the naysayers who think that the game has become too soft.

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Well, there’s obviously no going back. The Ravens lost, and we all have to suck it up and move forward. I wish I could give a “There’s no crying in football” type speech but I don’t have Tom Hanks’ number to ask if he’ll switch sports for the purpose of my small-time blogging.

So what does this loss mean? Cincinnati sweeps Baltimore and moves into first place in the division. Baltimore now has to rely on simply winning more games than the Bengals to take the division.

But it actually gets worse. The Pittsburgh Steelers surprised us all when they hosted and hosed the Indianapolis Colts. The win puts them at 4-3 and in position to take second place. The Baltimore Ravens can no longer focus on Cincy and must put their attention toward a road game against the Steelers next week in a division contest that looks to be even more important than yesterday.

From first to third, there are no guarantees in the NFL. Now while some of the other highly-talented writing staff at The Baltimore Wire are doing their analyses of the Baltimore Ravens here at the mid-point of the season, the only point I feel I must add is the second half of the season is going to have to yield better results than the first, regardless of all the positives we can take away.