Shannon Sharpe: World Says Ravens Can't Win
Shannon Sharpe has heard it.
You've heard it.
The Ravens' players and coaches have heard it.
We – the Baltimore Ravens – can't win in New England.
Heck, I've seen a number of reports that say Bill Belichick's team has the easy path to the Super Bowl. The Patriots played at home against a Broncos team with a young quarterback that had been beaten up by the Steelers six days earlier. Now, New England gets a flawed Ravens' team whose "defense isn't what it used to be" and whose offense has been questioned all season. And, it's in the Pats' backyard.
"Nobody gives you a chance," the Hall of Famer Sharpe, who helped the Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV in 2000, told the team yesterday (Thursday). Sharpe was in town to interview Ray Lewis for a feature that will be part of CBS-TV's pre-game show on Sunday.
"Nobody thought the Ravens could win in 2000. Joe Flacco, if we had you then, we'd have won easily and more than one Super Bowl," Sharpe told the team in the middle of the practice field at the end of the morning "walk-through."
"I was on a Broncos team that couldn't beat Green Bay (Super Bowl XXXII)," Sharpe said. "They were 12 points better, that's what the experts said. We won (31-24). You're like that team. You know better than the experts. Nobody gives you a chance, and I sense you like that."
Just In Case, We're Going To Show Up
"I know what you're saying to all those experts: 'Just in case, we're going to show up.' I can see it. You're going up there with an attitude. You know how good you are. You're the most complete team in the league. I jumped on you early. I said that back in September, and I'm still riding you. Doesn't matter if anyone else thinks you can win in New England. You know you can. You know last Sunday wasn't your best, and you still won a playoff game." Sharpe said.
And, Shannon said a lot more that was meant only for the players and coaches who surrounded him while a cold wind blew across the middle of our Owings Mills outdoor fields. Like he was when he was a leader on the 2000 and the 2001 Ravens, Shannon was powerful with his words, and every one of those was worth hearing. It was a privilege to listen.
Sharpe did have some advice for the players on the Ravens, especially the younger ones. "Listen, before you get on that charter flight on Saturday, tell your girlfriends, tell the wives, tell your friends and relatives to leave you alone. Tell them you'll call them at 6:30 after you've earned a Super Bowl trip. This is business. This deserves all of your attention. That Super Bowl trophy you have in the lobby of your building, it's lonely. She needs a partner, a roommate. That's what you're going to do."
Phil Simms Weighs In
Phil Simms, the winning quarterback and the MVP of the Giants' Super Bowl XXI victory over the Broncos, is broadcasting the game for CBS. Phil called to set up some phone time with coordinators Cam Cameron and Chuck Pagano.
"Do we have a chance Sunday, Phil?" The former quarterback did not hesitate: "Are you kidding? You match up well against the Patriots. Chance? I think it has a chance to be a great game."
That's all Simms needed to get started: "All these experts talking about the way you beat the Texans. Come on! That's one mean, good defense you just played. They're good, really good, and they played well against you.
"And, don't get me started on Joe Flacco," Simms continued. "Did the experts watch the game? Joe didn't miss a throw, not one. I watched every play. Every time he had the opportunity, he hit the guy. And, he made some moves so he could complete other throws. Are these people watching? What was Joe supposed to do with Texans in his face? Throw it up and hope? Sometimes a sack is a good thing. The object is to win the game. You did."
Simms wasn't finished in his defense of Flacco.
"I'm not saying Joe played great against Houston, but he did play very well. I've watched and done many Ravens games. When people are open, and Joe is protected, he delivers. He is accurate. He is tough. He's one of the main reasons you guys keep going to the playoffs and win. Those who say Joe didn't play well against the Texans didn't watch the film. Has anyone talked about how well the Texans' defense played?"
Phil Simms and Shannon Sharpe, two people paid as NFL experts, have me even more fired up about going to New England. But, there's more...
Chris Berman, Who Picked The Ravens, Visited Too
In early September, ESPN's Chris Berman went on worldwide television and said: "The Ravens will win the Super Bowl this season."
We all loved to hear that.
A few weeks ago, Berman called and said: "I'll come visit you in a few weeks, when you're getting ready for the AFC championship."
"Well," I said, "I hope you get to make that visit."
Chris was right, and he was here Wednesday and interviewed Ed Reed for a feature that will be on ESPN's pre-game show this Sunday.
Chris Berman loves sports, and in particular, loves the NFL. And, he has fun with all of it. When he's around, he reminds you that weeks like this are supposed to be fun for teams and fans. His energy burst from his healthy 6-foot-5 frame. He's smart – a Brown University graduate – he's fun, and he gives everyone he meets an enthusiastic response. He's a joy to be around.
When Chris walked out to the indoor field to watch Wednesday's "walk-through," I heard a few "euoops" (the sound Berman makes when describing a fumble) from the players, and many of their heads turned. Coach Harbaugh noticed too. John asked Chris if he would say a few words at the end of the session.
"Boomer," as many of his friends call Berman, made sure (like Sharpe) he did not diss the Patriots. Chris stood in the middle of a large huddle and started: "I think some of you know that I predicted you would win the Super Bowl this year. Now, I can't say I'm rooting for you, but I like you – your coaches, your players – and you could make me look very smart if you win two more games.
"As kids, most of you dreamed of playing in the championship," Berman continued. "That dream is over. You're playing in the championship this Sunday. It's now time to do something about that dream. It's time to win that championship. And, if you want some advice from a guy who has been around for awhile: On Sunday, take 20 seconds and take it in. Maybe do it just before kickoff or in one of those long timeouts we in TV make you take. Look around. Feel it. Smell it. You're in a championship. You earned that. Enjoy that moment."
Well, I'm hoping for a lot of enjoyable moments in New England. I know it's not going to be easy. I know you'll be watching. Let's enjoy it. Here's what I know, there are four teams left. ... 28 NFL teams will be watching us. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are gone. A team we beat on Thanksgiving, the 49ers, said "Adios" to Drew Brees and the Saints. The Steelers are done. It's hard to get where we are, and we earned our right to be here. Let's beat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots. How much fun would that be?!
Talk with you next week.
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.