Eeriness Lurking in Ravens Lair?

Many an observer would describe the eleven-year tenure of the Baltimore Ravens as nothing short of an incredible experience. With fun on and off the field both intermingled with the fans, the Ravens have always provided a captivating and exhilarating fantasy come true. What we witness for 16 or more Sundays every autumn truly does make up our lives.

We have lived and breathed vicariously through the Baltimore Ravens, reaching euphoric proportions at times, while at other times nearly enduring heart attacks.

Perhaps that's a bit too hyperbolic in the ongoing epic POEm that the Ravens have created. After all, last year, a fan of our arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers literally almost had his life taken when Jerome Bettis simultaneously fumbled near the goal line. But we too cheer on our team each and every week, and nothing with this team could be marked impossible.

With that said, it is quite evident that this is exemplified and amplified when the Ravens clash with the Tennessee Titans. We all probably vividly recollect little known Anthony Mitchell racing toward the end-zone for a go-ahead score of 17-10 on January 7, 2001, during the AFC Divisional Playoff round. That is of course when Keith Washington blocked his second field goal attempt of the game, bearing yet another peculiar moment at Adelphia Coliseum.

At that time, Tennessee by most accounts was considered the best team in football. They had the record to prove it with the AFC Central title firmly gripped at 13-3, which was also the best record in football. However, little did the Greek gods themselves know what the football gods had in store for them, so to speak. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it what you will, but the Ravens along with eeriness were lurking just behind the Tennessee Titans.

As it turned out, a team that lost no home games in their history at Adelphia Coliseum until facing the Ravens earlier in the regular season, concluded their season in that very home stadium. That made only two losses ever there for the Titans. Both were by their current arch nemesis at the time, the Baltimore Ravens.

Perhaps there really is something more to this. Perhaps, much like Mel Gibson's character alludes to in the movie Signs, there really are no coincidences. Perhaps it is all just meant to be. One does not have to believe in the superstitious, the supernatural, or superbly divine intervention.

However, try asserting that to Shannon Sharpe! We witnessed two freak occurrences going for long touchdowns in two different playoff games, the AFC Wildcard showdown of his former Denver Broncos team hosted at then PSINet Stadium in Baltimore, and in the AFC Championship versus the Oakland Raiders, respectively.

In the first game, a possible pass reception bobbled out of Jamal Lewis' fingertips and ricocheted into the hands of Shannon Sharpe. Sam Gash lived up to his name when he threw a block on Bill Romanowski that somehow did not leave a gash on Romanowski's then-muffled head. When Romanowski got himself up off the ground, it is almost certain that he was able to see Shannon Sharpe racing down the sideline for a long-stride score through a purple haze. Two games later, Sharpe would look sharper than ever gliding into the end-zone from 96 yards away to make AFC Championship history with an extra push from Wide Receiver Patrick Johnson.

Fast-forwarding to where we stand now, it is quite easy to behold some eerie reminiscence in our current Baltimore Ravens. We have made key acquisitions in the last two off-seasons that have brought two of those former 2000 Denver Broncos to our team in Mike Anderson and Trevor Pryce. The latter has been a main contributor already, and a great presence on the field. He quipped during a training camp interview that he really doesn't even know what position he plays here, what with a myriad of Rex Ryan's defensive schemes causing for some "organized chaos" as the defensive players like to deem it, most notably Bart Scott.

Pryce has now earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. He essentially earned this with one play in the final seconds of last Sunday's ferocious battle between the Ravens and who else, the Tennessee Titans. Pryce was able to yet again do something he has excelled at in the past, blocking a field goal attempt by Tennessee. Albeit Trevor is no longer wearing number 93 since Dwan Edwards, despite rarely dressing, bears that number, he indeed still reminds us of our former number 93, Keith Washington with a game-clinching field goal block.

Some of us were wary of Trevor being an older veteran and coming to Baltimore. However, we have seen, much like we did with another former Broncos star in Shannon Sharpe, that this could be a key signing in our goal of Super Bowl aspirations. Look no further than another key veteran signing in the 2005 off-season of Derrick Mason, a vocal leader the likes of Sharpe when it comes to continuous production and leadership on the offensive side of the ball. This year's off-season inking of Steve McNair to reunite with Mason further proves key to going deep in the postseason. Those two were prominent parts of that incredible 2000 Titans team, on the losing end of what just might have been something truly fateful.

Now, they can be vital aspects of our game en route to further glory. McNair and Mason have long been awaiting their share of the glory, and now paired with former rivals and friends who they've come to know so well, perhaps the Baltimore Ravens can once again be called a team of destiny. The similarities are simply uncanny. Miscues, missed opportunities, and missed field goals, whether by our own hands or by Al Del Greco's leg, continually occur when we play the Titans. It was all too fitting when McNair hooked up with Mason for a touchdown for the first time all season, after a couple of shots Mason has had but could not come up with. It would go on to be the winning touchdown at 27-26.

Just six years earlier, Mason was slamming his helmet in disgust on the sideline during that fateful playoff game when McNair was picked off by an icing interception touchdown score by Ray Lewis, hushing the crowd with a finger to his mouth. It was a 14-point fourth quarter for the Ravens. When McNair came here, he assured Ray Lewis he can get him those 14 points on offense in the fourth quarter alone.

Call it cocky or confident, McNair has brought a ripple effect to the Ravens. In fact, he did help us to a 20-point comeback win at his former home this past Sunday, when we accounted for 10 of that in the fourth quarter. McNair threw for 373 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Rarely have we seen an event like that in what is vastly renowned as a quarterback carousel in Baltimore.

With former Titans and former Broncos as our primary veteran free agent signings, we have once again shown we could have the right recipe for success to be a team of destiny. We have the key ingredients and a perfect mix of "old" and "new." Young up-and-coming stars like Mark Clayton learning from veteran leaders like Derrick Mason further incorporate this idea into our minds.

We once again conjure up the memories. We remember the Titans, as the movie title demands. We remember handing them their first loss ever at the Coliseum when Trent Dilfer hooked up with Patrick Johnson for the 24-23 victory. Ironically, McNair rumbled down the field, scrambling for his life with great gains to set up a potential game-winning field goal. However, just as Del Greco had missed an earlier extra point that put them in this predicament in the first place (no division-winning pun intended), he again missed wide, and the Ravens flocked together with smiles on the field, just like this past Sunday.

What's even more coincidental? That was Sunday, November 12th, just like this past Sunday marked the same date. Vince Young, affectionately called Steve McNair by CBS announcers Don Criqui and Steve Beuerlein, more like mistakenly so, also scrambled for yards to set up a field goal. And this time, as aforementioned, the kick was blocked, which more reminisced of the playoff game, but still reminds us all of the regular season bout with them in 2000 as well, since both had so many similarities and both culminated in a one-point victory for Baltimore.

All these stars seem to be lining up, player-wise, as in 14 Pro-Bowlers, and astrologically speaking as well. This, along with kicks flying anywhere but between the uprights and dates matching up, could mean we are on a fateful mission again. Perhaps there truly is some eeriness lurking, wrapping on that chamber door in Baltimore. Perhaps fate, destiny, and irony have told coincidence, "Nevermore!" Perhaps it is all part of some kind of designed plan for Baltimore to be rewarded.

For so long, Baltimore fans had to endure figurative suffering, until it was all justified seventeen years after the Baltimore Colts left. Now, we're viewed as bullies and maybe we have even been slightly picked on since we handily defeated the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

It is time that we get motivated again with Coach Brian Billick, a proven motivator, and take on the mentality of us against the world. It is time we avenge, if we have felt unfairly treated since 2000. While the balls have bounced our way, and we have gotten much better faring calls this year, we must still do battle with a chip on our shoulder. Maybe that will be yet another ripple effect from McNair, in that he has a chip on his shoulder from being locked out of the Titans' doors and he wants that glory that he was about one yard shy of possibly enjoying.

We have opened new doors though for McNair (as well as Mason and plenty others), the chamber doors of Baltimore. Perhaps what are behind the chamber doors are more feelings of eeriness, but certainly good eccentricity at that. All we want in Baltimore is another championship and the "12th Man" will be shrieking loudly as usual come Sunday.

If the Titans game was indicative of the past, it is time we buckle up. Bobbled balls, forced fumbles, and intriguing interceptions galore look to continue to be successful methods of an ongoing ensemble of strange happenings for our beloved Ravens. And all we want to hear is the resounding voice of destiny ringing through, along with 70,000 screaming loud, accompanied by graphics on the Smartvision screens and a speaker system that makes Bruce Cunningham sound Presidential.

All of this possible outside influence may just have us recalling former Ravens voices Scott Garceau and Tom Matte blaring, deeming us a team of destiny! At 7-2, perhaps eerie destiny lurks like an ugly raven, uglier than some of the team's victories, perched beyond the chamber door in Baltimore! But hey, we'll take being "King Ugly", so long as we're wearing destiny's crown in February!

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