One down, three to go

January 09, 2011 | Rick Moore

The Ravens dominated the Kansas City Chiefs to advance to what promises to be an epic showdown with the Steelers Saturday afternoon. All aspects of the game performed well. Flacco showed he has taken command of the Ravens’ offense, and had one of his best days as a pro. The defense once again created a bunch of turnovers. Cundiff and Koch showed once again they are the best kicking tandem in the NFL. (Think about what the Eagles fans are going through right now…)

For the Ravens to travel over 1,000 miles to a venue known to be very loud and intimidating, and totally dominate served notice to the other playoff teams that the Ravens are in it to win it. I’ll bet Brady and Belicheck are very relieved the Jets knocked off the Colts, because I doubt anyone wants to play us now. But there is a large guy who wears number 7, likes to hit on young girls and ride his motorcycle without a helmet whom the Ravens will have to get past to keep the dream alive.

Statistically, this game was a beat down. Time of possession a ridiculous 41:44 to 18:16. First downs 26 to 8. KC had only 53 net passing yards. Throw away last week’s dull show against the Bengals. The Ravens look like they are peaking at the right time.

The Ravens beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh early on, but that was sans Roethlisberger. They had the game won in Baltimore, but a combination of errors – Cam Cameron’s decision to call a pass play, Flacco’s failure to notice Polamalu ready to blitz, Oher’s failure to block Polamalu – set the Steelers up deep in Ravens territory for an easy go-ahead touchdown. Had just one of the three done his job properly, we would have had the day off today as the #2 seed.

But the Ravens seem to thrive on the adversity of road playoff games.  With world-class motivational speaker and greatest middle linebacker of all time Ray Lewis, along with fellow veretans Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg, just to name a few, this team is built for tough, hard-nosed games in hostile environments. How does this team measure up against the 2008 team that was within a few inches of reaching the Super Bowl, before losing to that aforementioned No. 7?

Offense – definitely the talent level now is a notch above 2008. Although Anquan Boldin has been underutilized this regular season, I think he will come up big, as he did today, in the postseason.  Ray Rice has emerged as one of the top 2 or 3 all-purpose backs in the league.

Defense – not as dominant as 2008, but still capable of causing opposing offenses fits. They have given up several 4th quarter leads, which has given the Ravens faithful night sweats.

Special teams – Billy Cundiff made the Pro Bowl, in part because of his record-tying number of touchbacks on kickoffs. kSam Koch has been a real weapon, helping the Ravens win the field position battle. Cundiff was 3-3 today on FGs, none longer than 29 yards. In 2008, we had Matt Stover, very reliable, but not very long.

Intangibles – Joe Flacco has now played in 6 road playof games, winning 4. In 2008, he was a rookie. He is a much better QB now, and in my view, is ready to take the Ravens to the promised land.

Conclusion – I think the Ravens are peaking at just the right moment. They have all the elements to be a Super Bowl champion. They have had the lead in the 4th quarter of every game. Everyone that matters is relatively healthy, including Todd Heap, who had his best game as a pro today. If the Ravens can avoid beating themselves, I think the season will extend into February. Hang on and enjoy the ride!!

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