This past weekend, there has been a lot of talk concerning Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’ inspirational speech to the team and if that was the fuel behind Baltimore’s 30-24 victory over the world champion New Orleans Saints Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
And while linebacker Tavares Gooden-who joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Monday-said that his Miami Hurricane brother was a big part of their motivation on Sunday, Gooden ultimately said that the credit should go to the coaching staff for drawing up the perfect game plan to stop Drew Brees and the Saints.
“We had a game plan, and we stuck with it. The win was the result of that,” Gooden told Forrester.
Over the last several weeks in the Ravens’ struggles against their division rivals in Pittsburgh and a near-upset on the road against Houston, the Ravens have failed to show any kind of true identity and continued to move away from their brand of football-i.e. “Playing like a Raven”-and that ultimately showed in the frustration of Ravens players and the coaches alike in the following week leading up to Sunday.
“We all felt as a staff and players on this team that we weren’t being ourselves. We had to get back to ourselves,” Gooden noted.
Gooden, despite not showing up in the box score defensively on Sunday, was included in several of the blitz packages Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison drew up against All-Pro QB Drew Brees and was also a key component on special teams in trying to limit the return skills of one Reggie Bush.
Gooden received a ton of post-game accolades from his teammates and coaches, and when asked about that, Gooden threw the respect right back toward his coaches that he said put him in the best situations possible to succeed.
And he felt like Sunday was just another step in his progression toward becoming another elite part of this Ravens defense.
“It’s just a blessing from God,” Gooden said, “just having an opportunity to have my name called yesterday. It felt pretty good, and when Coach Mattison was calling those calls, I was licking my chops and opening my eyes like, ‘I haven’t blitzed this much all year’.”
Brees said post-game that at times he saw things out of the Ravens defense that he had not seen before on tape or in preparation.
Gooden replied to that saying that they did nothing different on Sunday; it was just he and several other Ravens players taking to heart what the coaches had drawn up, working on it fully in the week leading up, and having a little extra motivation on and off the field to play good football.
“I really took it to my own in the off-season to work on that stuff, and yesterday Coach Mattison let me go. All the stuff I was working on in practice, I just took it to the game. It felt great. It felt smooth.”
Gooden said the scheme was a lot easier than what it appeared to be.
“I was just running off of Double J’s block or running off Haloti cause they’re are going to double-team those guys. Little guys like me with a lot of speed are going to shoot through the hole and make a play. I give it all up to coaching. We had a great gameplan and we stuck with it, and it worked.”
Gooden said it right there. It was an all-around team win that originated at the top with preparation from head coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and was executed perfectly by the Ravens players.
Gooden told Forrester that this is a win that can definitely mean something to the team’s confidence with the final two games of the year coming up.
“I think that was a great team win, and I know that’s going to help us out in the future so that we can know we can beat teams like that in the playoffs because we have a great team chemistry.”
“And with it being the Super Bowl guys from last year, it gives us momentum,” Gooden said of the win. “It gives us something to fight for knowing that we can beat teams like that. We can go into the playoffs thinking that we’re going to win a championship because we can beat championship teams.”
The Ravens’ last two games against divisional opponents in Cleveland and Cincinnati are in essence playoff games, and with Baltimore still in the mix for not only a playoff spot but for the AFC North title with Pittsburgh, the next two games being in a playoff-like scenario are going to get the team geared up for potential football in January, says Gooden.
“I think that gives us confidence to go to our next game. With these last couple of games we’re playing, we want to win every game because that’s what you want to do in the NFL.”
“But let’s prep for the playoffs. We always say this is a playoff game, and if you have that mentality, that’s your practice for when the playoffs come. And then you know what kind of pressure you’re going to be under, and you know what kind of team you have. Right now, we’re playing great team ball and that’s what enabling us to make these plays.”
“I’m telling you how we’re thinking. These are playoff games. If we lose, we’re out. That’s how we’re thinking right now. We’ve got to get these next two. Let’s keep going. We’ve got to win it all, and that’s our thought process.”
Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens through the 2010 season into the playoffs! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore sports!