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Sports At Large: Will The Ravens Roller Coaster Ride Be Torrey Smith's Last In Purple?

In those first minutes and hours after the Ravens’ 35-31 loss to New England Saturday, there was a palpable sense of sorrow around town. And it was understandable. For three hours, fans had been taken on the proverbial roller coaster ride.

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Credit Mary Rose Madden / wypr
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  First, there was joy, as the Ravens raced out to a two-touchdown lead against the Patriots. Then, there was dread, as the Patriots erased the lead. Then, there was elation again as Baltimore went back up by 14 in the third quarter. That was replaced by anxiety as New England caught and then passed the Ravens in the fourth quarter. There was plenty of time for hope, though, as the offense took the field for what felt like a winning drive, but that finally gave way to frustration when an ill-advised JoeFlaccopass was intercepted with less than two minutes to go.

And just like that, a season that moved in fits and spurts, with a little progress here and a lot of inconsistency there and the specter of Ray Rice thrown in for good measure, ended. The shame was if the Ravens could just have cleared this one hurdle – albeit a significant one – they could have gotten back to the Super Bowl. Instead, the curtain on 2014 came crashing down in the sameGiletteStadium where the 2011 season ended in a similar manner, a narrow miss.

This one does feel different, however. The truth is, with a rash of injuries to the defensive backfield, the Ravens seemed to overachieve all year. Beating the Steelers last weekend in the opening round of the playoffs and nearly knocking off New England actually puts a nice coda on a pretty nice 2014 on the Baltimore sports scene. Once the shock and awe of New England wears off, by, say, the end of the week, the Ravens’ brass will have to get about the business of laying the foundation for what the 2015 edition will look like.

One of the first decisions for owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the front office is whether to resign wide receiver Torrey Smith. Smith, a Maryland graduate, is at the end of his initial four year contract. He is a local product and a model citizen who is beloved in the community for all his charitable works. The problem is that Smith’s on-field performance hasn’t quite matched his off-field contributions. The brain trust will need to determine if he’s worth the investment. 

Likewise, a verdict will need to be reached on running back Justin Forsett, who, like Smith, will be an unrestricted free agent in March. Forsetthad a breakout year in replacing Rice and at a very salary cap friendly figure of $730-thousand. But he’s 29 years old, a prehistoric age for a running back. He could be replaced for a tidy sum.

It is a shame that the Ravens ride ended so abruptly and without a big payoff. But the great thing about sports is that there’s another ride right around the corner and pitchers and catchers report in about a month.

Copyright 2015 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.