Ravens Insider message boards have expressed since Sunday's thrashing by the Steelers.

Opinions expressed by fan commentators do not neccessarily reflect those of the Ravens Insider staff."> Ravens Insider message boards have expressed since Sunday's thrashing by the Steelers.

Opinions expressed by fan commentators do not neccessarily reflect those of the Ravens Insider staff.">

Fan Commentary: Hope for a miracle

Once again, in this week's commentary, Ravens fan Steve DeClue expresses the sentiments that many fellow fans in the <A HREF="http://mb2.scout.com/bravensinsider"> Ravens Insider message boards </A>have expressed since Sunday's thrashing by the Steelers. <br><br> <i>Opinions expressed by fan commentators do not neccessarily reflect those of the Ravens Insider staff.</i>

I still believe. That's what I kept telling myself before kickoff Sunday morning. I thought the Ravens would dig deep and find some way to upset Pittsburgh and sneak into the playoffs, but that faith in my team came crashing down with the Steelers' dominating 20-7 victory at Heinz Field.

After the previous loss to the Colts, I talked about the number of chances the Ravens had to win that game, and how they managed to squander each and every one. This week, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave the Ravens a late Christmas present by losing at home to the Texans and opening up a possible playoff spot, but we declined the gift.

Yes, the Ravens will still be mathematically alive when they take on the Dolphins to wrap up their regular season, but I can all but assure you there will be no postseason play this year.

The Ravens hung with the Steelers early, but were manhandled in the second half. After marching down the field on their second possession of the game and scoring a touchdown to knot the game at 7-7, the Ravens failed to see the end zone the rest of the day.

Brian Billick's excuses for the consistent offensive failures of this team are getting old quick. He loves to talk about the "profile" of this team as being tough, physical and smash mouth, yet somehow the Steelers dominated on the offensive and defensive lines and ran the ball right down the Ravens' throats all afternoon.

The offensive line for the Ravens has under performed all year, and this week was no exception. Kyle Boller was the leading rusher. Remember that guy who ran for over 2,000 yards last season? Oh yeah, Jamal Lewis. He had 14 carries for just 26 yards. Terrible.

Even worse was the play of the defensive line, which was pushed three and four yards backward on run plays and allowed the quarterback to sit comfortably in the pocket without any type of a pass rush. With Jerome Bettis running for 116 yards, it marks the fourth time this season that the Ravens have allowed a 100-yard rusher. Remember those days when the defense didn't believe in 100-yard rushers? Yeah, just another stroll down memory lane.

The tackling at the beginning of the second half was atrocious. Missed tackle after missed tackle allowed the Steelers to run right down the field and score a touchdown, stretching the lead to 10 and setting the tone for the rest of the game. This team didn't seem focused coming out of the locker room, showing little desire to match the Steeler's physical play.

As for the play of quarterback Kyle Boller, he continues to be inconsistent, showing flashes of brilliance before missing open receivers down the field.

He does play with a lot of heart and grit, something that can't be taught and something that often seems to be missing from this offensive unit. He was getting hit after every throw, a result of receivers who couldn't get open and an offensive line that doesn't know the meaning of pass protection.

The wide-outs getting the bulk of the playing time seem to change from week to week, which never allows Boller the chance to develop any chemistry with his receivers. Clarence Moore showed once again why he is a rookie, dropping a couple of well-thrown balls that would have been first downs and could have changed the momentum of the game. Randy Hymes was suddenly reinserted into the starting lineup and had a few catches, but also dropped a first down that could have put the Ravens inside Pittsburgh territory.

Boller's best weapon, Todd Heap, re-injured his ankle and was unable to play most of the second half, which made the poor receiver play all the more obvious. Travis Taylor didn't play, but no one seemed to notice he was missing.

Then there was the play calling. Let's get one thing straight. The coaches don't play, they coach. With that said, some of them do a lousy job of it and don't put their players in a position to succeed, particularly Matt Cavanaugh. Explain this to me Mr.Cavanaugh. How do you possibly throw the ball on 2nd and 7 and then run play-action on 3rd and 7. Play-action on 3rd and 7? Not even the NFL's worst defenses will bite on that. That just makes no sense.

When is the last time the Ravens ran a screen play? You would figure that the Ravens would throw some screens to Chester Taylor or Lewis with a young Boller facing an aggressive, blitzing defense like the Steelers. Not with Cavanaugh as the offensive coordinator.

What about running some play action (and no, 3rd and long doesn't count Matt)? For a team whose supposed "profile" (there's that word again) is pounding the football with Lewis, it is mind-boggling how the Ravens under utilize the play action pass in their offense.

All the problems make me wonder whether the Ravens are headed toward mediocrity in the future, or if this underachieving season was an anomaly and simply the result of numerous injuries to star players that affected the team's chemistry. At any rate, there is still one game left to be played, and maybe one last chance to fight for a final playoff spot.

As a Ravens fan, all you can do is hope for a miracle, because that's exactly what it will take. The Ravens' playoff fate is no longer in their hands.

 Steve DeClue is a junior journalism major at the University of Maryland College Park. If you are a fan of the Ravens and would like to see your thoughts in writing here on RavensInsider, drop us a line.

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