But almost as surprising, from a historical perspective, was that the Ravens won a playoff shootout with Peyton Manning. Their offense was potent enough to outscore one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, the likely league MVP this year.
Until recently, the Ravens were more likely to wear tutus than win a playoff shootout with such a high-end quarterback. They were a defensive-minded team for more than a decade, a team that won despite fielding an offense that didn’t rank with the best.
But times are changing … finally … for real.
While the defense still contributes and has its moments, it is in more of a supporting role now , hoping to limit the damage and force turnovers, while the onus is on Flacco and the offense to deliver strikes, make plays and outscore whatever the defense allows.
They were up to the challenge in
There have been times this season when it didn’t seem the offense was capable of so much. It generated just nine points against
The organization was concerned enough to engineer a late-season offensive coordinator change, replacing Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell. Uncertainty about the unit reigned right up until Saturday’s kickoff.
But things look different now, after the Ravens set their single-game playoff scoring record in upsetting the Broncos. The pieces are coming together.
What has changed?
For starters, the line was reshuffled for the playoffs, with
Whatever the rationale was for holding him out, the line is plainly better now that he’s in. The O-linemen said so themselves after the Ravens’ opening-round playoff win against Indianapolis, and on Saturday the Broncos’ dangerous pass rushers barely touched Flacco while
The other changed variable is, of course, the coordinator. It’s been five games now since
But the biggest change is in Flacco, who has thrown nine touchdowns and one interception and averaged almost 50 more passing yards per game under
I’m not trying to pile on Cameron. To the contrary, the Ravens never would have beaten Denver without a big-shouldered passing game, and Cameron was the one who urged the unit in that direction philosophically over the years, forsaking the former smash-mouth mentality so much that he finally was fired at least partly because Rice didn’t touch the ball enough.
You just can’t win a Super Bowl anymore unless your offense can light it up, and while Cameron is gone, his fingerprints were on Saturday’s win along with those of Caldwell, Flacco and others.
To reach the point where their offense could score 38 points against a top defense and oust an MVP quarterback, the Ravens traveled a twisting road, took their share of detours, crashed a few times. Sometimes, it was so painful you just wanted to look away.
But suddenly, lo and behold, they’re there.