It's a matter of smoldering with healthy intensity rather than bubbling over
with self-destructive lava as the Ravens did last week with a franchise-record
21 penalties along with two ejections during a 35-17 loss to the Detroit Lions.
"We have to maintain the passion and the intensity, but also maintain a certain level of control," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "At this point, I am less concerned about the players carrying their passion too far. I think we have a very clear set of parameters as to what that looks like. I am concerned that they may reel it back too much.
"What has happened to the whistle -- the way we've played, what we have done, the intensity -- I have no problem with. It's what you do after the whistle."
While confronting their inner demons, the last-place Ravens don't seem to want to change their trademark style. Even in losing 7 of their past 10 games, they've continued to strut, dance and taunt their opponents.
"You want to show you're the bad-ass out there," offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. "That's my thing. You want to walk with a swagger."
Against the Lions, among other transgressions: cornerback Chris McAlister flung the football down at Kevin Johnson after an interception, nose guard Maake Kemoeatu was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for an obscene gesture and rush end Terrell Suggs was ejected for arguing with and appearing to bump into official Mike Carey.
"We're not going to stop being passionate," McAlister said. "We don't know any other way to play."
When receiver Derrick Mason said it resembled the WWF with all the ejections, he could just have easily been referring to the Ravens' misbehavior that resembled professional wrestling tactics. Including Mason's $5,000 fine for flinging the football at a wall, the Ravens were hit with four fines for a grand total of $40,000.
Are the Ravens hurting their own cause with this edgy approach? Or was last week a one-game aberration?
"I think the fans know what we're about," running back Jamal Lewis said. "You can't take that one time and say that we're bad or we're not a good team, that we don't have any control.
"People are going to make what they want to make out of it, but we're still going to be the same Ravens. We're going to go out there and play football like we do every Sunday."
That's a dangerous statement.
Particularly if the Ravens continue to rank 31st in turnover margin (minus-9) and 31st in scoring (11.8 points per contest.)
Meanwhile, the Browns are winning games even without tight end Kellen Winslow, running back Lee Suggs and wide receiver Braylon Edwards. They are playing scrappy football embodied by Dilfer, who started for Baltimore during its Super Bowl campaign.
"We will fight," Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel said. "We are not the most talented team in the NFL, but we try to hang in there and we try to persevere."
With their season at a crossroads, the Pro Bowl-laden Ravens are going to need to keep their composure and begin playing up their potential. They could borrow a few pages, or chapters from the Browns' blue-collar approach.
"I'm really surprised, but things happen," Lewis said regarding the Ravens' lowly status. "We've always fought from the bottom, and we're in a deeper hole than we thought we'd be in. You just have to keep fighting."
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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