There was a time when playing the Baltimore Ravens elicited fear in the opposition. Hell no wide receivers didn't want to go over the middle with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed patrolling the grounds, and get the "F" outta here being a quarterback stepping into a throw with Terrell Suggs barreling toward you. But the mystique those three created, along with many others, is no more, replaced instead by a team of floundering fake tough guys as easy to push around as the fish itself.
In the Ravens' latest installment of playing "the artist formerly known as the Ravens," they were bullied by Derrick Henry and the Titans hogs up front to the tune of 173 rushing yards. The performance was highlighted by a 29-yard touchdown run in overtime that completed the Titans 11-point comeback win. That it happened in Baltimore less than a year after this same Titans squad upset the No. 1 seeded Ravens in the playoffs says a lot. That it happened after the Titans disrespected the Ravens logo in pregame says even more.
Tough teams don't get bullied on the ground at home. Tough teams don't blow 11-point leads in the second half. Tough teams don't allow an opponent to drive 73 yards in six plays and win in overtime. The Ravens are not a tough team.
It's important to point out this isn't an aberration. The Ravens were similarly manhandled by the Patriots the week before, giving up 173 rushing yards in a 23-17 loss. In Week 8, they blew a 10-point lead against the Steelers, with Lamar Jackson fumbling the ball on the Steelers' 8-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. Their other loss was a 34-20 home beatdown at the hands of the Chiefs after the Ravens players spent all week talking about how they wanted to prove they could compete with the best the NFL has to offer. Turns out they can't.
Speaking of Jackson, he's suddenly become something of a liability himself. He's already matched his interception total (six) from his MVP season a year ago and has also fumbled the ball six times. He's made headlines by saying opposing defenses are calling out the Ravens plays and offered this gem after their loss against the Titans:
Of course people want you to lose. That's what happens when you're successful one year. Everyone gives you their best shot the next. Guess no one prepared him for that. Meanwhile, Jackson went out of his way to be a fake tough guy against the Titans, purposefully bumping into Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler after the Ravens took a 21-10 lead early in the third quarter. We all know what happened next.
Butler, as you may or may not know, got into a verbal altercation with Ravens coach John Harbaugh before the game after Harbaugh confronted the Titans as they did a little pregame dancing on the Ravens' logo at midfield. Beyond the silliness of caring that an opponent was dancing on their logo, Harbaugh's attempt to conjure up a rallying cry for his team had no effect. The Ravens grabbed the early lead, but couldn't impose their will on the Titans during crunch time. That's become a pattern.
Different teams have different identities and those identities change during a season. A pass-heavy team can become run-focused late in the year and an offense-first team can hang its hat on defense and special teams by the time the season ends. The Ravens' identity right now is that of the fake bully. They push and prod their opponent to start, but as soon as they get hit in the mouth they don't know what to do. That could change over the final six games of the season or it could be who they are all year.
The only certainty right now is their tough-guy act isn't fooling anyone and the only elements of the authentic bully that once was are the photos and tributes to their past stars hung on walls around the stadium.