Week 10 NFL Wrap-up: Edgar Allen Poe Meets Steelers-Ravens
Editor’s note: This fall, Sam Ennis and Nathan Schiller will cover the 2012 NFL season with a blog called “Vinatieri, Back to Kick It Off.” (If you don’t know why we’re calling it this, you obviously didn’t play excessive amounts of Madden ‘98.) Each week, they’ll exchange thoughts on the previous week’s games, examine developing and ongoing league trends, bring in guest writers to irrationally breakdown their favorite teams, and unravel many more features. Imagine the format to be like a radio show, except written. (In other words, not like a radio show at all.) The blog will run every Tuesday at Construction.
NATHAN: Part of our mission here is to never get too reactionary, but it’s entirely possible that last week will be remembered as the time three Super Bowl contenders lost their starting quarterbacks (and the time Michael Vick’s comeback officially ended). Okay, fine, by Sunday everyone will have forgotten this week. But the fact remains that Jay Cutler and Alex Smith suffered concussions, while Ben Roethlisberger seriously injured his throwing shoulder on a tag-team sack. Taken together, injuries are a high-profile reminder that, no matter how many “Heads Up Football” videos are created to perpetuate the myth of safe tackling, football is, by nature, a brutal and uncompromising sport.
On a less dramatic scale, the injuries can also be seen as a wealth equalizer that contributes to NFL parity. Without Cutler, the Bears lost a home game to the Texans (to be fair, the weather was miserable, and Matt Schaub passed for only 95 yards). Without Smith, the 49ers tied the inferior Rams at home. Most representatively, without Roethlisberger, the Steelers—starting Byron Leftwich, who I believe is still winding up to throw his first pass—needed an overtime interception to beat the Chiefs at home.
The Chiefs are now one of two lowly 1-8 teams; the other is the Jaguars. There are also two 8-1 teams: the Falcons and the Texans. And just as there are two 2-7 teams (Browns, Panthers), there are two 7-2 teams (Bears, Ravens). There are 9 teams with six wins, 7 teams with six losses. There are 9 teams with four or five wins and 10 teams with four or five losses. Three-win teams? 4. Three-loss teams? 5. What does this mean?
The current NFL standings resemble a bell-shaped curve, with a caveat: while the teams at the bottom are truly terrible, and the bottom-middle is, as always, a mess of mediocrity, from the middle-top and up, there is no clear favorite. In fact, most people would probably agree that the two teams with the best records aren’t likely to win the Super Bowl. Why? History: neither Matt Ryan nor Matt Schaub has won a playoff game. But at least they’re healthy.
By this time next week, all teams will have had a bye. (Like the homophonic symmetry of that sentence?) We’ll also have had five compelling games that will have (presumably) started to sort out the mess of records (and all of them are late or night games):
- Saints at Raiders: will New Orleans suddenly be 5-5?
- Chargers at Broncos: will Philip Rivers start his customary late-season push?
- Colts at Pats: what if Andrew Luck goes into Foxboro and beats the 6-3 Patriots?
- Bears at 49ers: will either quarterback have recovered from his concussion?
- Ravens at Steelers: who controls the AFC North?
Sam, I know you have something special in honor of this last game, so I’m ceding the rest of the post to you. Please proceed, counselor.
SAM: As you may have figured out from your devotion to Construction, Nate and I are both Steelers fans. Two of the Steelers’ next three games will be against our arch-rival, the Baltimore Ravens, a prospect looking increasingly grim now that Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder has apparently fallen off. But though I don’t look forward to the pending beatdown(s), at the very least, I have some historical dominance to reflect upon and get me through the month.
In the past decade, the Steelers are a perfect 3-0 against the Ravens in the playoffs, though none of those games have done much for my blood pressure. Particularly, on January 15, 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers mounted a crazy comeback to beat the Ravens at Heinz Field in the AFC Divisional game. Watching the game alone from my apartment in Juneau, Alaska, I ran a wild gamut of emotions that, upon our pulling off the win, included . . . uh . . . a lot of beer. Waking up from a fever dream at around 2 a.m., I decided that I should write a knockoff of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” to commemorate the big win, because obviously that made sense. In honor of this week’s Steelers-Ravens game (and in light of the fact that per their play against Kansas City and the Roethlisberger injury, the Steelers won’t be sniffing any AFC Divisional playoff games anytime soon), here’s that poem. Please excuse dated references to Steelers ex-cornerback William Gay and ex-guard Chris Kemoeatu, whose utter inability to play led many a remote control to be thrown through a window.
“Quoth the Raven: Here we go!”
Once upon a weekend dreary, while I expounded my sad theory,
That the Steelers couldn’t win a game against foul Baltimore
While I rambled, my friends napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some team gently rapping, breaking down the Dallas door.
“’Tis the Ravens,” I muttered, “tapping at the Dallas door—
As 89-7 will be this football score.”
Ah, distinctly I remember two weeks after bleak December,
As the Steelers season seemed to wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—turned the game off in my sorrow
Certain that the Heinz field crowd was silenced by the score
Due to play by William Gay (nameless here for evermore).
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each black and purple curtain
sickened me—filled me with fantastic terrors felt each Sunday before;
So that now, I stood repeating, “’Tis the visitors entreating entrance from our Pittsburgh
door—Some wild card entreating entrance to the AFC Championship door;—
Steelers D, you fucking whores.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; DVR could wait no longer,
“Friends” said I “truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, until so gently Wiz came rapping,
‘Black and Yellow’ marking each successive Steelers score,
That I scarce was sure we weren’t losing”—here I dared re-check the score;—
Losing we were not, no more!
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no Steelers fan had ever dared to dream before;
Could it be that we were winning? Only one man could stop the spinning
Spinning of my head that almost spilled my stomach on the floor
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the words, “Big Ben!”—
It’s up to you to save Pittsburgh once more.
Back to CBS I went turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard the crowd roar somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something lousy:
Our DBs play like they’re drowsy —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
Because of Willie Gay this game’s no more.”
Open here I flung the TiVo, just in time to catch a great throw,
From aforementioned Ben over the birds of Tlingit-Haida lore;
Not the least obeisance made he; but, with mien of Terry Bradshaw,
Crushed each black and purple whore—
And led to shouts heard far outside my door—
The neighbors thought we’d gone to war.
Our beatdown of the Birds beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the sloppy, drunk decorum of the yinzers at Heinz Field.
“Though Ben’s nose be bruised and broken, truer words have not been spoken
That the second quarter made me think our football team would yield—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on Lombardi’s seventh score!”
Quoth the yinzers, “WE JUST SCORED!”
Much I marveled these ungainly ’Burghers to spark discourse so plainly,
Though its gibbered shouts of “Ziggy!” little coherence bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing Ben throw for a 56-yard near-score—
On third and nineteen, with hope dwindling
And AFC Championship dreams no more.
But turns out the Ravens’ secondary,
truly sucks ass, and are not scary.
Despite the aging Ray Lewis’ best try to faith implore.
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “other friends I’ve texted before—
With such anger, ’tis no wonder that they will not answer!”
Then a reply came: “STEELERS SCORED!”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only lies and nothing more,
The Steelers bleak, unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till our playoffs routine bore—
Beat the Ravens or the Jets, only to travel to Gillette
To watch that jackoff Brady make our season nevermore’.”
But the Ravens still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a six pack from the refrigerator door;
Then upon the couch went sinking, I betook myself to linking
My sobriety to the outcome and the score—
But then to my surprise and cheer, as I guzzled my ninth beer
Steelers had the ball with goal to go, tied up at 24.
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
My retained belief that we would somehow fuck it up
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
While Big Ben from the blood of Ravens began to sup.
As Ray Lewis took his Geritol, Steelers moved and worked the ball
What third effort from our fearless workhorse Mendenhall!
Then methought the air grew denser, fouled by words Fox News would censor
as Kemoeatu’s late hit wrecked my joy like none before.
“Wretch,” I cried, “Satan hath lent thee—by the Furies he hath sent thee
Jumping piles later than a teen returning from the mall!
Don’t you realize from the fifteen we must now kick the ball!?!?!?”
But quote the Yinzers, “LET’S WIN IT ALL!”
And then it seemed my fears fulfilled—
As Suisham’s squib kick made me ill,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on the Heinz Field turf enchanted—
On this home by horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there a chance Flacco could tie it?—Tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth my friend’s text, “they’re gonna score.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by the Steelers that we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, though not to fault dear Big Ben,
Flacco shall take the Ravens to the promised land whence comes the end—
For our defensive backs a sane man into madness they can send.”
Quoth our secondary, “oh, they’ll score.”
But Ziggy Hood and Lawrence Timmons made a fool of douche Bill Simmons,
Who prematurely tweeted of the pending Ravens win.
And into frozen Heinz Field tundra, drove Joe Flacco’s ass like thunder
Their combined effort staving off my pending death from too much gin.
And though William Gay tried hard to blow it with his awful CB play
T.J. Houshmandzadeh sealed the Ravens pissing the whole game away.
And the Ravens, never winning, home we sent them, heads still spinning
Much joy I took in Harbaugh’s “fuck, we lost again” visage;
And through this pillaging of Poe, there’s one thing left that we all know
Though next week the Jets await, to make our sorrow likely great,
Quoth the Yinzers: HERE WE GO!