Kevin Byrne had shoulder surgery this week and is confident he'll be back before his doctor's prediction. He is listed as day-to-day. In the meantime, Ravens Super Bowl winning receiver Qadry Ismail steps in to write this week's "Byrne Identity."
The Makings Of A Super Bowl Team
A Super Bowl winner goes through three stages.
First, it's finding out where you stand in the rest of the league. Then it's going through adversity. Lastly, it's the run into the playoffs.
That's how it happened in 2000.
And if this year's Ravens are going to win it, they'll do the same. They've gone through two stages already, and now they're poised for the third.
In 2000 we started the season with a 16-0 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, then got a 39-36 victory over rival Jacksonville.
Then came the drought. Five games, no touchdowns, three straight losses. That was adversity.
Quarterback Tony Banks was benched and Trent Dilfer came in. Personally, I was coming off a major MCL sprain on my left knee. I remember sitting there in a 9-6 loss to the Steelers and I'm like, "My God. What are we? Who are we?"
We went into a Week 10 Cincinnati game and I remember Head Coach Brian Billick saying, "We're going to run the football. I promise you this: our wide receivers are going to be the best downfield blockers in the NFL."
I took that as a personal challenge. I remember going into Cincinnati and we literally ran the hell out of the football. We ran 25 times for 117 yards that day. We were destroying fools.
That created camaraderie and a bond that separated us from other teams from that point forward. We had that "moment." We were a football team.
From then on, we won 11 straight games, the final in Tampa to bring down the confetti.
This year's Ravens team is, for now, on a similar path.
It started in Week 1, also against Pittsburgh. There was unfinished business. The Ravens knew if they wanted to get to the Super Bowl and get a home playoff game, they had to beat the bully in their own division. The bully was on opening day, staring right at them.
After that 35-7 win, you knew you were looking at a very dominant ball club.
That went out the window (at least for people outside the club) after the Jacksonville loss and when they fell behind Arizona by 21 points. That was their adversity.
What I saw that day against the Cardinals was a team who grew up. If you don't have those grow-up moments, if you don't know how to win in the third and fourth quarter, if you don't know how to finish off teams, then forget about the Super Bowl.
Then they go into Pittsburgh, where they hadn't beaten Ben Roethlisberger, where they lost last year, and the game Joe played and the way the organization played as a team said everything. They had togetherness. Every Super Bowl team has those moments.
Fast forward to Cleveland. Now you have a team that's rolling, you have a gelling effect.
If they want to have that home playoff game, here comes the stretch run to take it to the next level. Now they can't flinch.
If they want to be a Super Bowl team, they've got to go on a run. We did it in 2000, the Green Bay Packers did it last year, winning their final six games. It's all right before the Ravens.
This is where December and January gets good. I'm sitting back and I'm about to enjoy this ride.
Can The Ravens Avoid Flinching?
I know they've got it in them. Here's why.
When you go in that locker room, you don't hear bickering. You don't see guys ready for the season to end. You've got a rare young group of guys that are coming together in there, and I think that boosts them down the stretch.
I was getting on the plane the other day and while some of the true rookies are experiencing a minor rookie wall, here's wide receiver LaQuan Williams saying, "I had a little bit of a rookie wall, but I fought through it." That's a mature thing to say. That's rare.
You have guys like tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta both having fabulous years. Neither one of them is complaining. They're competitively challenging one another and they're accountable to one another. That's rare.
You have a guy like defensive end Pernell McPhee, who has been getting knowledge poured into him by Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis all year. He's applying it every game. That game-winning sack against Cincinnati, those two sacks in Cleveland. They were set up in Week 3. Come on now, that's rare.
This team is poised to not flinch for this playoff run.
First Things First
The run begins Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. They're 0-12, but any team in the NFL can win.
Look at the Dallas Cowboys last week against the Arizona Cardinals. Because of two timeouts, the spiking of a football and a field goal that's wiped off, the perception of things changed at a moment's notice and they lost that game.
It can be a coaching call, it can be a player mistake. There can be so many little things that can derail you from week to week.
That's what's cool about playing such high-level football. It can be that fickle of a game. That's why you can't take anybody, anything or any moment for granted.
So let's beat the Colts and keep this playoff run going.