EDIT: Alright, some good points were made in the comments and I am relenting on everything except the Oher-Taylor incident. But I'll leave this post here so I can take my lumps. A man should know when he has been defeated! Thanks most of all to BAL_Hawk, your points have been well made.
All week long, it seemed like the Baltimore Ravens were, for once, taking the high road. There was no media circus. There were no bold predictions. There wasn't a single Raven taking cheap verbal shots.
But then the score got out of hand Sunday, and John Harbaugh's motley bunch showed their true colors.
I will gladly give credit where it is due: Baltimore was far more prepared and showed a greater sense of urgency. They had a great gameplan and they executed it with few mistakes. They deserved the win.
But they didn't need to take so many unnecessary shots.
Case in point: with the score already a lopsided 27-7 early in the third, Harbaugh called for a fake kick, instead scoring an unneeded two points and making the game 29-7. Okay, you could argue that a comeback was still possible, but it started the ball rolling.
Following that score, with a 22-point lead, Harbaugh called for 12 throws on Baltimore's remaining 33 plays, including a deep attempt to Anquan Boldin with less than 10 minutes to go. Flacco also threw to the end zone with four minutes remaining when the margin was already four scores. The pass was actually caught, but only because Boldin so forcefully pushed off that the defender was sent sprawling to the ground. For once, the officials actually called him for what he does on nearly every play.
You could even argue that the late field goal, when the game was clearly out of reach with two minutes to go, was nothing more than running up the score.
There were a hundred other little things, too. There was the constant cheap shots after the whistle -- nothing new to the Ravens, but it's not the thing you normally do when you are winning.
If you ask me, he should have aimed for his crotch instead of his head. The NFL indicated Thursday night that crotch shots are fair game when they failed to flag Charles Woodson for just that, indicating that a man's juevos are not off-limits.
The biggest one of all, though, was the cheap shot by Michael Oher that ultimately resulted in an penalty against Ike Taylor. It occurred simultaneously with the Polamalu-Rice incident. After the play was over, Taylor began walking to the sidelines. Replays clearly show Oher, who was sitting on the ground, follow Taylor with his eyes and, when the cornerback was within reach, punch Taylor in the ankle.
Yes, Taylor should have been the bigger man. He said as much himself after the game. But the bottom line is Oher's actions were completely uncalled for, should have resulted in his ejection from the game for throwing a punch or at least an offsetting penalty, and served as nothing more than evidence that John Harbaugh is only outdone by his players when it comes to behaving with no class.
I will grant that emotions were high, particularly for a coach who had been outdone by his nemesis by a count of 6-2 entering the game. But in the same situation, do you think Mike Tomlin would have made the same calls? You can look back to 2007 for the answer, when the Steelers jumped out to a 35-0 lead on the Ravens in the first half. I have long maintained that at no point in the first half can someone be accused of running up a score, but once the second half has started, piling on makes you look like a jerk.
In that 2007 contest -- admittedly before Harbaugh became a head coach, though the person on the opposing sideline shouldn't matter -- the Steelers threw eight passes in the second half, with six of them being on third down merely attempting to extend the drive. Contrast that with Sunday's game, where nine of Flacco's 12 second-half attempts occurred on first or second down.
In Pittsburgh, players and coaches win humbly and, in the 33 or so percent f the games in which they lose, they do so with dignity. Conversely, in Baltmore, players talk smack even when they lose, and their coach shows he can't even win with class.