Here it is two days after the Baltimore Ravens traveled north to Foxboro and crushed the New England Patriots in their first round playoff game and people are complaining about the team’s performance.
Why isn’t everyone happy?
The Ravens were there in week 4 and put up a valiant effort but fell 6 points shy of tying the game. A day after that loss, people wanted Mark Clayton’s head on a purple platter. Since that loss, the Ravens went 6-6 and struggled mightily to make the playoffs as a number 6 seed, meaning no home playoff games for the faithful in Baltimore.
Some say they backed into the playoffs. Some say they limped into the playoffs. Some even said they didn’t belong in the playoffs and would easily get bounced out by the Patriots. The 2009 Ravens fought long and hard and overcame injuries to key players to once again prove they belonged in the NFL ‘s version of March Madness.
Then the talk started. Joe Flacco was hurting and couldn’t move very well. Ed Reed missed games down the stretch with groin troubles. When you looked across the line at the Patriots, you see no Wes Welker, the NFL’s leading pass catcher, out with a torn ACL and MCL. Julian Edelman was taking his place. Wow… the Ravens may have a chance to actually win, even though the odds and mystique of the New England Patriots come playoff time were stacked against them.
In case you were out of the country and didn’t hear the news, the Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots in Foxboro 33-14 and will advance to the divisional playoff round, with the winner playing for the AFC Championship. Yawnnn….been there, done that.
The Ravens set the tone with Ray Rice’s 83 yard scamper for the game’s first score not even 45 seconds into the game. On the Patriots first possession, Terrell Suggs strip-sacked Tom Brady (no flags THIS time) and the Ravens found the end zone again for a 14-0 lead 2 minutes into the game. That lead vaulted to 24-0 afer the first quarter and although the Patriots mounted a little bit of a charge, the game was clearly in hand.
Only problem was, Joe Flacco completed only 40% of his passes for 34 yards. That is a problem? No.That means the team was controlling the ground game and used Rice, McGahee, and McClain to pound the Patriots stunned defense for over 200 yards. Flacco’s 4 completions were huge though, with I believe all coming on 3rd down conversions. Yes, the Ravens offense looked eerily like the Dilfer-led Ravens in the 2000 playoffs, throwing for less than 125 yards while pounding the opposing defenses on the ground with the combination of Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis.
This week the Ravens will travel to see an old nemesis in the Indianapolis Colts. You remember the Colts, right? Yeah, those guys who wear uniforms similar to what we used to cheer for here in Baltimore some 26 plus years ago. It’s hard to believe the Colts have been in Indianapolis just a few years less than they were in Baltimore. The Colts came into the 2006 playoffs as the lower seed facing the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium for the divisional. The Ravens came off the bye week and in the late Steve McNair’s worst game as a Raven, held Peyton Manning to 5 field goals but could only muster 2 Matt Stover field goals in a 15-6 loss that devastated this town and made us hate the Colt franchise even more than on March 24, 1984.
The talk is that there is no way the Ravens are going to march into Indianapolis and do to the Colts what they did against the Patriots. They beat a banged up New England team and Tom Brady made un-Brady-like mistakes and pretty much handed the game over to the Ravens. Last I looked, New England won the AFC East title and was 8-0 in the Brady era at home. Were the Ravens afraid? Hell no. “They went into the lions den screaming like a banshee and kicked the hell out of the lions.” If they do the same thing Saturday night they will find themselves, for the second straight year, playing for the AFC Championship. What a ride!!! But waiting in the wings is the great Peyton Manning and the Colts. This one is hard to swallow.
I actually heard people expressing the opinions that they Ravens better play Troy Smith if Flacco is still hurting. “Troy is our only hope because he can avoid Freeney and Mathis, plus he gives the offense a different look that maybe the Colts haven’t seen” Are you freaking kidding me? Troy Smith? Look at his records. As a starter he is 1-1. That’s it. Although he has seen action in quite a few games the last 2 seasons, he only started 2 NFL games. Basically he is a rookie when it comes to taking snaps from center. Flacco has started 36 games in his first two seasons, 18 times as many as Smith. And people have the balls to say Troy Smith should be playing in Flacco’s place? These people need to take the saliva test, as Charley Eckman used to say.
So why isn’t everyone happy and enjoying yet another post-season run by the guys in purple? Because we’re playing the Colts? So what!! They weren’t afraid of the Patriots and they aren’t afraid of the Colts. We’ll see on Saturday night. I think this team will come to play and hopefully catch the Colts off guard and punch their ticket to the AFC Championship game in either San Diego or New York. Many are saying the Jets don’t stand a chance against the NFL’s hottest team, but do you think the Jets are afraid of the Chargers? Maybe about as afraid as they were against the Bengals. How’d that work out for them?
Hey Baltimore, the Ravens are one of 8 teams remaining in the quest for the Lombardi trophy and guess what else? The hated Pittsburgh Steelers are nowhere to be found this time. Life is good here in Baltimore, unless you are the soon to be former Mayor, so get out and hug a fellow Ravens fan this week. Spread the love of the purple!!