Brian Billick just can't shut his mouth. Three days after a league-high eight Ravens players were named to the Pro Bowl, Billick can not stop talking about it. In fact, the talk has gotten so relentless that neighbors have stopped inviting Billick to their Christmas parties. Players turn up their Walkmans just at the sight of the coach. Even sports radio talk show hosts in Baltimore have stopped taking Billick's calls. Assistant coaches have gone so far as to hire a Buddhist meditation specialist, who teaches the Ravens staff to hum a centering mantra whenever Billick begins to speak.
Ravens assistant coaches hum to themselves during a pre-game briefing.
The technique may have saved the sanity of the Ravens coaching staff, but it could cost Billick his job. With the score tied 0-0 early in the first quarter, Billick is in full throat. He's chatting with the refs, he's jawing at opposing players, he's chasing down hapless sideline reporters offering expert insight. But when Billick notices the Browns assume an unusual defensive formation, he runs over to offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh to call an adjustment. Problem is, Cavanaugh is humming his centering mantra. The assistant never hears Billick's direction.
Moment later, Gerard Warren stunts to the outside, crashes through Todd Heap like a meteor, and absolutely crushes quarterback Anthony Wright. There's a blinding flash followed by a blast of scorching hot air. When the smoke clears, there's nothing left but a pair of melted cleats and a few shards of Banks' helmet embedded in the turf. Slow-motion replays reveal that Banks actually fumbled the ball moments before it was incinerated by the impact. So the Browns once again find themselves rewriting the NFL rule book. Officials on the field decide that if a fumbled ball is vaporized by impact, it will be returned to the offense at the spot of the fumble.
The home crowd boos lustily, but the call is just fine by Warren. With Courtney Brown out for the year, the heralded first round draft pick is finally living up to his billing. On third and forever, Warren purees offensive guard Ed Mulitalo before launching him straight back into reserve QB Chris Redman. Mulitalo, Redman, and the ball fly in three different directions. Browns MLB Andra Davis is there to scoop up the ball run it in for a quick Browns score.
The crowd roars its approval. Dog treats, snow balls, and D cell batteries arc through the cold December air. Three enterprising fans with a can of lighter fluid and a giant sling shot launch a flaming, life-size effigy of Art Modell onto the field. The Goodyear Blimp falls under a barrage of liver flavored Milk Bonez treats that fouls one engine and disables the airship's rudder.
Ray Lewis, meanwhile, goes ballistic. He's flexing, screaming, stomping, and otherwise handling the adversity with the kind of grace and maturity you'd expect from a veteran Pro Bowler. When Billick ambles over to proffer a little advice, Lewis shoves the coach into a table full of Gatorade cups. A moment later, Lewis gets caught up in a camera cable and smashes the unsuspecting operator over the head. CBS game announcers approve heartily, pointing to the assault as an example of what makes Lewis such a great football player.
Half a minute later, Lewis is face down in the icy muck, watching helplessly as Lee Suggs blazes past his outstretched arms. When Ravens CB Chris McAlister moves in to make the stop, Suggs puts on a move that is so violent and quick, it actually warps the space-time around the running back. McAlister's knee gets caught in the folded space-time fabric and is instantly transported to a spot just beyond the event horizon of the Saggitarius. A black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. McAlister's season, predictably, is over, but Suggs' run is not. He trots the remaining 75 yards for the second score in less than five minutes.
If Ravens team doctors hope to get McAlister back onto the field, they'll need to send a probe to the center of the galaxy to retrieve his knee.
Butch Davis is no fool. It takes him less than five minutes to fire Bruce Ariens and uninstall the Browns' modified West Coast Offense. In its place, Davis installs the General Relativity Offense, guided by new offensive coordinator Stephen Hawking. Hawking goes right to work, sending speedsters Dennis Northcutt, Jamel White, and Lee Suggs into a series of intricate pass routes designed to open a wormhole right in the middle of the Ravens defensive alignment. Half a dozen Ravens players, including all four linebackers, are sucked into the wormhole and lost for the season. Tim Couch walks through the gaping hole for a touchdown.
Stephen Hawking explains the frame drag option pass to a thoroughly confused press corps.
Billick and his staff have no answer. His team was supposed to run over the Browns (just like it was supposed to run over the Raiders). Instead, he's losing guys to wormholes, folded space-time, black hole singularities, and the odd gamma ray burst. When a Browns defensive alignment creates a significant frame drag effect--slowing the space time just outside of the rotating Browns players--Billick watches in disbelief as his team is reduced to running in slow motion.
The game catapults the Browns to international stardom. Dennis Northcutt appears on the cover of Scientific American magazine. Butch Davis and Stephen Hawking share the Nobel Prize in Physics. Gerard Warren publishes an article in Nature detailing the effects of high energy particle collisions on the human anatomy.
Ravens: - 8.7966E+12
And that's the way I see it.