It was Wednesday before practice.
Anquan Boldin, still sweating from the sauna, stood with a towel hanging over his head, wearing a cutoff shirt and the red training room shorts. He was surrounded by about 30 reporters.
Speaking calmly and with little emotion, "Q" answered the questions:
How will* the game in New England be different than last year's AFC Championship?*
Boldin: "Because we'll make it different."
In what way?
"Oh boy," I thought to myself, I better let John Harbaugh know about that quote before he is asked about it or sees it in the media.
"Coach, think it went really well today with the media and the players, but you should know that Anquan, when asked how this game will be different said, 'because we're going to win.'"
Harbs didn't bat an eye. "That's what he believes. I hope that's what we all believe. I think we all believe that."
Whew! (That went better than I expected.)
Iron Sharpens Iron
Coach Harbaugh, as many of you have noticed, uses the Bible as a teaching tool with the Ravens. A number of times during his tenure in Baltimore, including in recent weeks, he has referred to Proverbs from the Old Testament: "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)
I've heard a few players use this quote with the media, including Torrey Smith last week.
This Ravens team is battle-tested, and they have "sharpened" each other. Think about what the 2012 Ravens have endured and powered their way through:
- Art Modell's death a few days before the season opener. (Remember Ray Lewis' head on Art's chest the day he died)
- Pernell McPhee dealt with the deaths of both his sister and the person who helped raise him
- The death of Torrey Smith's brother the morning of our victory over the Patriots
- The injuries to two former NFL Defensive Players of the Year, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs
- The depleted Ravens suffering through a three-game December losing streak, including heartbreakers to the Steelers and Redskins (in overtime)… And the proclamation from Boldin after a home-game thrashing against the Broncos: "We are going to the playoffs. We will win the AFC North."
- The change to Jim Caldwell
- The "short" week after the playoff victory over the Colts to go play against the rested Broncos. The bitter cold, the altitude, the fourth-longest game in NFL history … And wasn't it Boldin who said this before that game: "It will be different than when we played them last month."
Yes, the Ravens are battle-tested – iron on iron, teammates making teammates better. This is a group not intimidated by a trip to Foxborough. "This is a man's game. This is what it is. I'm going to call it as I see it. We don't fear no man. We fear no team. We're going in there with our heads high, ready to play," said the determined Bernard Pollard yesterday. "This is what we signed up for. In OTAs, training camp, we said the Super Bowl is our stop."
But, Patriots Are The Goliath
Yes, the Patriots are 5-1 in AFC Championship games – 3-0 at Gillette Stadium – with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
They are the AFC Goliath. They've earned that role with their postseason dominance.
But, we're still going up there to battle them. Here's what Ray Lewis said to the team in the locker room following the double overtime win in Denver:
"If you don't know David's story about fighting Goliath, he didn't walk up to fight him. He ran up to Goliath. He moved swiftly to make Goliath off balance before he hit him with the slingshot. This is our time. And, when we make up our minds to do things together as men, anything is possible. Nothing can stand before us. Not Goliath. Nothing. Let's enjoy this ride. This is our time. This is Ravens time."
Here are some numbers that might make you feel a little bit better about our chances in New England. Since 2008, when John Harbaugh became our head coach, Brady and Co. are 3-2 vs. the Ravens – 1-1 in the playoffs. Brady has thrown seven interceptions to five touchdown passes. His passer rating against Baltimore in this span is 74.1, far below his career average of 96.6, and his lowest rating against any other NFL team. In the two playoff games, Tom Terrific has thrown five interceptions and just two touchdown passes.
To beat teams featuring Hall of Fame QBs in back-to-back weeks: How sweet would that be?
Some Memories Of The Memorable Win At Denver
There were many snapshots I'll remember from the dramatic win over the Broncos: Steve Bisciotti's text to Harbs when we were down 35-28; Marshal Yanda lifting Ray Rice and the rest of the pile for a first down on the draw play in overtime to get us in field goal range; the practice kick by Justin Tucker with kicking coach Randy Brown holding at the end of the first overtime; the trajectory of Joe Flacco's touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones to tie the game in regulation – the ball kept sailing, and it was higher than most punts – no surprise the Broncos' safety missed it; Terrell Suggs talking throughout the game to the Broncos' fans behind our bench and then thanking them for coming at the end – he went and shook like 10 hands; and Harbs thanking Corey Graham and Jacoby in the post-game locker room for joining the Ravens, and both of those guys saying, "No, thank you for bringing me here."
It was fun.
It took Harbs awhile before he made it back to his locker after the game. We talked as he changed his clothes. The radio team of Gerry Sandusky, Qadry Ismail and Stan White joined us. John said "I'm still cold from the game. I was doing alright until about midway in the fourth quarter, and then I started shivering. I can't wait to get warm in the shower."
That was our cue to leave. But, I did hear John shout from the shower: "There's no hot water. Come on!" Have to admit I chuckled a little. Even cold showers are funny when you win a game like that.
When John finally arrived at the team buses, there were still about 100 Ravens fans standing out in the cold near us. As soon as they saw the head coach, they started cheering. After dropping his bags inside the bus, John stepped back out, and I could hear him say: "Let's do the chant. On the count of three – one, two, three."
And there it was, the familiar White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" chorus, with conductor Harbaugh, waving his arms, leading the song.
Let's be able to do that again Sunday night in Foxborough. Let's beat the Patriots.
Talk with you next week,
P.S. One more thing: we're the fourth seed; we were also the fourth seed in 2000 when we won Super Bowl XXXV; since 1990, fourth seeds are 6-1 in Conference Championships – would love to make that 7-1.