Morning After: Undefeated Ravens now will play role of favorite in AFC

September 21, 2009 | Nestor Aparicio

It’s hard to write these old-man “analysis” columns for the “morning newspaper” after I’ve been talking and Twittering and Facebooking and basically “analyzing” the game from every perspective imaginable literally every moment of the game.

(If you’re not following us on your mobile device during the game on Sunday, you’re missing the best “team” analysis of the games as the situations happen. God, I love the internet in 2009!)

But before I spend all day Monday flying back from San Diego and inevitably talking to more Ravens fans about the game on the airplane, I suppose I must sum it all by saying this: Sunday’s win has solidified Baltimore’s role as a leader of the AFC pack for a Super Bowl championship this year.

I haven’t looked, but I guarantee you that the Ravens will be No. 1 on many “power ranking” or “Fine Fifteens” all across the internet today and all week.

Sure, the Ravens 31-26 win at Qualcomm Stadium exposed some of the deficiencies of the team in the secondary, but it also showed the resiliency of the unit and their ability to make a play 3,000 miles from home with the game on the line and the home crowd on their edge of their seats anticipating a hocus-pocus victory.

Ray Lewis, with a play he even called the greatest of his career, made sure that the Ravens were not making the long flight home as losers.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldY2pInMyR4[/youtube]

It wasn’t a pretty effort on Sunday in San Diego, but beating division leaders on the road never is scored on beauty. It’s scored on guts, and the Ravens have that in abundance as their play the past two weeks has illustrated. The Ravens of 2009 have a lot of fourth quarter fight in them and they’ll need in throughout the long season.

It’s still quite early in the season but the Ravens have fended off two attacks and you’d like to think that with Cleveland en route to M&T Bank Stadium this weekend, the team should be 3-0 heading to New England for another showdown with an AFC favorite on the road where Lewis, Flacco and company will be tested under the glare of the national spotlight.

It’s impossible to discuss Sunday’s game in San Diego without pointing how bad the secondary looked in the victory. Prior to his concussion, Fabian Washington struggled mightily and Dominique Foxworth might’ve looked even worse. The big play was the bane of John Harbaugh’s existence yesterday as Philip Rivers threw for 436 yards with a handful of big plays and breakdowns that I don’t need to itemize here. The first touchdown when Darren Sproles was running toward Arizona was such a colossal meltdown that I couldn’t even figure out who to blame!

“We need to get better,” was Harbaugh’s postgame message and it will certainly be heard in the meeting room of Greg Mattison all week in preparation for the Browns.

You can’t give up that kind of yardage in big chunks and continue to win in the NFL.

But for now, we’ll consider yesterday’s many faux paus and defensive breakdowns a blip on the radar and hope that the pass rush will also be more effective vs. some of the lesser lights of the league. Brady Quinn should not be throwing the ball around like a sandlot game this week. At least we hope…

And despite Flacco’s late interception across the middle of the field deep into enemy territory yesterday, it hasn’t taken me long to become almost spoiled by his confidence, leadership and ability to be very consistent in the passing attack.

I’m confident that Flacco will continue to emerge as the reason the Ravens win games, not the guy who throws interceptions late on the road to open the door for the home team.

The running game will continue to be a weapon as Willis McGahee emerged yesterday as a factor and sometimes it seems like we just forget he’s even on the team. His 79 hard-earned yards yesterday were a huge factor in the win but Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain will be heard from plenty over the next 14 weeks.

It wasn’t a pretty victory – the stat sheet here will bear that out – but it was a major morale booster in a lot of ways and has certainly awakened the fans, the organization and the players to just where Ray Lewis stands in 2009 – 15 years into a Hall of Fame career.

With the game on the line, with enemy fans foaming at the mouth for a victory and with people always questioning how much tread is left on No. 52’s tires, he manages a way to shut us all up – again!

I walked from one end of the tiny, cramped locker room at Jack Murphy Stadium yesterday to the other and I couldn’t find a veteran player who said he’d ever seen a bigger play at more crucial moment of a football game than Lewis’ gap-shooting assault on Darren Sproles on fourth down with the game on the line.

Here’s what Trevor Pryce thought:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW5RTKCOzSQ&feature=channel_page[/youtube]

Sure, the secondary needs work. Sure, it’s only Week 2 and talk of being undefeated is premature.

But the Ravens are in first place and they’ve claimed a road victory over a team that is almost certainly headed for a division title in the AFC West.

The Ravens are Super Bowl contenders. The national media will throw the spotlight on the local boys this week.

Get ready for a wild ride this season.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q76uAYhdpA&feature=channel_page[/youtube]

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