Foxborough, MA I hate to play devil’s advocate, at least when it comes on the heels of one of the greatest wins in Ravens history.
The Baltimore Ravens’ 33-14 victory over the New England Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough was ABSOLUTELY amongst the greatest wins in Ravens history.
Never again will someone be able to ask this team about their inability to win a big game against an “elite” quarterback. Never again will someone be able to label John Harbaugh a “fluke” for reaching the AFC Championship Game in his first year as a head coach. Never again will this Ravens organization have to hear about how they’ve never beaten the New England Patriots in their history. (Although technically a postseason win doesn’t count in head-to-head standings, but we’ll worry about that some other time.)
Sunday’s win tremendously significant for the Baltimore Ravens at this stage in their history, and was equally ecstatic for those of us who had the pleasure to watch it.
And as big of a win as this was, it DOESN’T make the Ravens Super Bowl contenders-at least not yet.
The Ravens have won a Super Bowl in their history without needing much from their passing game-but if Joe Flacco’s hip continues to limit what they can call offensively, they cannot continue to count on their run game and defense to carry them to victories over the AFC’s best. Flacco completed just 2 passes to Wide Receivers Sunday-a short pass to Derrick Mason and a solid throw to Mark Clayton to pick up a major first down in the 4th quarter. He finished the day just 4-10 for 34 yards. While Joe and John Harbaugh continue to stress that the injury is not a factor (“Joe is very physically and mentally tough” says Harbs), it clearly is having an impact. This team is unlikely to be playing from 14-24 points ahead in Indianapolis Saturday night. They are much more likely to be playing at even scores or from behind. If that’s the case, they will need to throw.
John Harbaugh clearly pushed the right buttons with his team this week in preparing for a Wild Card showdown at Gillette Stadium, but that doesn’t mean he was at his best when the clock started running. His failure to throw a challenge flag after a muffed punt in the 2nd quarter with his team ahead 24-0 likely opened the door to allow the Patriots to get back into the game for even a few brief moments later in the game. Harbaugh said “we didn’t have enough” when asked about why he didn’t throw the challenge flag. His decision to leave his starters on the field as the clock tricked down in the 4th quarter was equally questionable, as it could have risked serious injury to Todd Heap. Was there any reason for Joe Flacco and his injured hip to even be on the field in that situation? Super Bowl-winning coaches cannot afford to make these types of mistakes. The Ravens are unlikely to win more games this month my multiple-score margins.
There were a couple of other issues, including penalties (like Chris Carr’s illegal contact to extend New England’s second TD drive); and snapping (although it did not lead to any Billy Cundiff misses this week), but there were quite obviously many more things that went right.
It was a beautiful performance.
In 6 days at LucasOil Stadium, they’ll have a chance to take another step towards becoming “Super.”
The Ravens reported no players leaving the game Sunday due to injury. Todd Heap’s late injury was a “stinger”, not serious.
Hear from John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Ray Lewis, Willis McGahee, Ed Reed and Cam Cameron NOW in the Audio Vault at WNST.net. Videos will also be available on WNSTv and YouTube.
The Ravens will play the Colts in the Divisional round of the AFC playoffs Saturday at 8:15pm. The game will be aired on CBS. Our bus trip to Indianapolis is on sale now by clicking the “Trips” tab at WNST.net.