Suggs, the pass rusher, and Mason, the pass catcher, also knew the main reason they let the Steelers get away, 13-10, and likely doomed themselves to a third straight year of clawing out of the wild-card hole to get to the Super Bowl, instead of giving themselves a chance to be the top seed in the AFC, with home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
The reason they lost, they agreed even from opposite sides of the ball and, then, opposite sides of the room, was also the reason they and so many others had favored the Ravens in the preseason to get the Super Bowl in the first place: the high-powered offense the Ravens supposedly had assembled had fizzled out again.
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Miraculously, this was not the basis for a rift splitting the locker room. It was too obvious a fact for that. The Ravens -- with Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, Mason, Michael Oher and all the other pieces that were supposed to complete a Super puzzle -- had scrounged up just a touchdown and a field goal on this night; had grown conservative late in a game again; had perplexed many with play-calls that ended up backfiring; and ultimately had handed the Steelers the game and the AFC North lead with four games left by allowing Troy Polamalu, of all players, to go unaccounted for on the most critical possession of the game.
It was gruesome, but it also was a microcosm. The Ravens (8-4) had tried to win with just the barest hint of scoring, putting the weight on the defense once again, just like in the bad old days of the previous decade when they, literally, seemed to not even care about scoring as long as Ray Lewis and Co. were beating opponents down.
Thus, it was impossible for anyone to mount an argument against what Mason told reporters afterward. Not after Sunday, not after beginning this season of supposed pyrotechnics by beating the Jets 10-9, and not with the baffling grind-them-out wins and gut-wrenching losses in between.
"All these people that we've got on offense -- I might get crucified for this one, but all the people we got on offense, we're not a good offense at times,'' the veteran wide receiver complained.
With thoughts of games in which they barely hung on at the end, or blew it open very late, or gave up a lead in the fourth quarter, Mason added: "I'm tired of playing tough games, man. Let's just go and blow somebody out, because we're capable of doing it. For whatever reason, I don't know what it is -- I don't know if we relish playing in games like this or not.''
Not only was he not done, he got more heated, even while keeping his voice even-keeled. "It's got to come to a point where, you know, stop all the (B.S.) and just play football. Put some points on the board, and not allow teams to be able to come back in the second half, not put the pressure on our defense to try to stop somebody in the last minute of the game. Just (bleeping) put some points on the board and move forward.''
When Mason talked of being capable of scoring, he had examples from that game. The explosive potential of the offense was realized on their lone touchdown drive, in the first quarter, featuring a 61-yard completion to Boldin and a 14-yard scoring pass to Boldin in which Flacco had enough time to count the stitches in the netting behind the goalpost before throwing. It was a 10-play, 92-yard drive.
From then on, the Ravens' possessions were relative disasters. After a 67-yard completion to Stallworth got them to the Pittsburgh 27, they didn't score at all. A trip to the Steelers' 6 ended with three straight incomplete passes and a short field goal. And, of course, the last two times they had the ball -- once when clinging to a 10-6 lead, then trying to rally from 13-10 down -- drives ended with the Polamalu uncontested strip sack of Flacco (which set up the go-ahead score) and Flacco's one-hop pass to Ed Dickson on fourth-and-2 at the Steelers' 31.
The defense was completely justified in speaking the truth about the offense this time, and who dared contradict them? All Suggs was, was completely correct.
"We find ourselves in a position that we should not be in,'' he lamented as he dressed. He was angry that the defense let Pittsburgh score after the fumble, and angry that he couldn't stop Ben Roethlisberger one more time despite being in the backfield all night.
But he couldn't sugarcoat things, either: "We can't do that to ourselves, If we want to have any chance to get to where we want to be, we can't allow things like that to happen.''
Since he was in a blunt mindset, he was asked, who should the responsibility fall on? "I'm not an offensive player, I'm not an offensive coordinator,'' he said, "but I do know this -- we cannot let things like that happen.''
Things like the fumble in their own territory when they're trying to seal the game. "That's the equivalent of us (on defense) giving up an 80-yard run or an 80-yard bomb,'' he said.
Again, Suggs reiterated, the defense was required to make one more stop regardless of why. But that was nothing new in Baltimore. What was new, by all reasonable expectations, was the offense that could hold its own. It has not. On the most critical night of the season, it did not.
The bar for the offense is set too high for the Ravens to settle for winning the way they had before -- the way they had won a Super Bowl a decade before. That was not the way they planned to get there this season. The old way was not good enough, not this time.
"Good offenses make it to the playoffs,'' Mason said, as something of a final word on a team that may have bobbled away its once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. "Great offenses make it to the Super Bowl.''
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