For the past few years, we’ve been accustomed to witnessing some dismal, yet predictable outcomes whenever the Ravens play the National Football League’s best competition. Such shortcomings are undoubtedly tied to a few mitigating reasons, but most importantly, the opponents have simply been better teams.
Of course, for the purpose of this conversation, “best competition” = INDIANAPOLIS COLTS and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.
Dating back to 2002, the Ravens have amassed a collective record of 1-11 against the Colts and Patriots. You got that? ONE WIN and ELEVEN LOSSES.
If we’re searching for answers, a few likely conclusions come to mind …..
The Colts and Patriots have outcoached the Ravens.
The Colts and Patriots have outperformed the Ravens.
The Colts and Patriots have outgutted the Ravnes.
And, as we all know, the Colts and Patriots have these guys …..
While Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have merited the significant hand in matchups against a young Joe Flacco, Kyle Boller, Steve McNair, Anthony Wright, Jeff Blake and Chris Redman, an even greater reality exists in justifying such one-sided dominance.
The Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots have simply been been better teams. Heck, they’ve been the BEST teams of the last decade.
The Ravens have mounted some very spirited efforts against Indy and New England …..
Rewind the clock to December of 2007. On a blustery, snow flurried night, the Ravens nearly upset the undefeated Patriots, at M&T Bank Stadium. But, in the final seconds, the better team prevailed.
How about the trip to Indianapolis, in October of 2002? The Ravens lost a heartbreaker, thanks in part to an Oscar winning performance by former Raven, Qadry Ismail, on a disputable last minute pass interference call. But, once again, the better team prevailed.
The real reason the Ravens own ONE WIN against ELEVEN LOSSES in most recent matchups with the Colts and Patriots really boils down to the more talented team making things happen when it matters most. Indeed, this is a quality winners possess.
It also appears to be a quality the 2010 edition of the Baltimore Ravens are developing.
Yesterday’s win against the Denver Broncos didn’t really showcase any last minute heroics from Flacco & Company, but it did feature a well balanced offensive attack and this season’s first glimpse of a proposed powerful Ravens running game.
While Joe Flacco did not bring loud applause from his respective fantasy football owners, he did manage the game appropriately. He picked on a vulnerable secondary fill-in, when needed. And, he led an offensive effort that clearly wanted to win more than the Broncos defenders on the other side of the ball.
With exception to the hiccup in Cincinnati, the Ravens have improved their overall effort each and every week. And, the wins are coming with contributions from many facets of the team’s makeup. Yesterday, Ray Rice dominated. Last week, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Flacco stepped up at the biggest moment. Two weeks ago, Anquan Boldin burned the Browns.
This is exactly how the Colts and Patriots have exploited the last decade. While Manning and Brady figure into every game’s outcome, they’ve reliably spread the ball, opportunities and credit among teammates.
Past games against the Colts or Patriots did not feature such an exercised strategy and performance from the Ravens. Years ago, Jamal Lewis was the lone offensive weapon, and more recently, Ray Rice and Derrick Mason have been the only real threats. Of course, the team’s defense has been heavily depended upon in each and every game.
But, it appears things are changing …..
Next Sunday, the Ravens will march into Foxboro with a more lethal offense than Bill Belichick has ever witnessed. Such a reality provides an optimistic feeling on this side of the fence. The Ravens pounded a “Welker-less” Patriots team, back in January. And, last October’s game …. well, lets just say that’s the game that slipped or “bounced” (off the chest of Mark Clayton) away.
There is legitimate reason to believe the Ravens are every bit as good as the Patriots. For the record, I think the Ravens are a better, balanced team.
That said, the Patriots are coming off their bye-week. And, history suggests Tom Brady is a very hard guy to beat when his team has two weeks to concentrate on an opponent. Regardless of the loss of Randy Moss, the Patriots will not lay down like the Broncos, nor will they be as unimaginative as the Steelers and Browns.
Next Sunday serves as a true test of the Baltimore Ravens legitimacy as an ELITE team in the National Football League.
It’s been nearly 9 years since the Ravens defeated the Colts or Patriots in a regular season contest. In the near-decade of matchups, Ravens losses have occurred in nearly every imaginable way. From last minute disappointments, to lackluster performances, to total blowouts, the Ravens have walked away from losses against the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in nearly every possible scenario.
But, as I’ve suggested, that can really change next week. We could indeed witness the emergence of a couple of the NFL’s next BIG STARS …..
And, to be quite honest, that’s the way it has to happen. Ray Rice is already on the brink and with yesterday’s showing, he’s primed to renew his 2009 outburst. With Joe Flacco, he needs the stage of serving notice on one of the guys who has done it many times. Beating Tom Brady, on successive efforts would be huge.
Most of all, the Ravens need to beat the Patriots, because that’s what winners do; they beat the good and bad teams.
Beating one of the two teams that has dominated the NFL for so long would establish a new dominance for the Ravens, and I think it would serve as a psychological step in the belief they can beat any team.
The Ravens are better than the Patriots, and in 6 days they’ll have an opportunity to prove it …..