Eisenberg: A Two-Dimensional Attack Needed To Advance


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This season, they have already won one playoff game that way. (They did win last Sunday. Please spread the word. I'm not sure everyone got the memo.) But the issue now, of course, is can they win two more that way?

With the high-scoring Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints out, I think the Ravens could defeat the NFC champion – either the New York Giants or San Francisco 49ers – in a defensive-oriented Super Bowl. Shoot, they already beat San Francisco in such a game, 16-6, on Thanksgiving night. Nine sacks did the trick.

But using that formula to get past Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday in the AFC title game could be close to impossible.

Sure, the defense – the "big brother" of the team, as safety Ed Reed called it – is going to have to have another stellar day. Coming off a season in which he threw for 5,235 yards and a playoff game in which he threw six touchdown passes, Brady has never looked better. Asking the Ravens' defense to stop him cold is asking too much, but if it can slow him down a step or two, the door opens.

Then it's up to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense – the little brother, I guess – to usher the team through that open door.

The team is going to need to be two-dimensional, in other words. This isn't 2000. The NFL has changed. You can still get by with your defense leading the way, but you have to have more offense, especially in certain games. And this is such a game. Eleven first downs won't cut it. Even if Brady is slowed, the Ravens are going to need to move the chains and score.

There's no doubt Flacco, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron and their unit are capable of providing what is needed. They ranked in the top half of the league in offense during the regular season, the top 10 in rushing. Only five other AFC offenses generated more first downs.

On Sunday, they'll face a defense that isn't nearly as formidable as Houston's, having allowed an average of 411 yards per game during the season.

New England is taking an interesting gamble, trying to win a fourth Super Bowl with a brilliant offense and little defense, basically the Ravens' blueprint in reverse. The Saints and Packers also tried, but their lack of defense caught up with them last weekend. The Patriots caught a break, getting overmatched Tim Tebow in the divisional round.

The Ravens won't roll over in the same fashion. They have too much defense, too many veterans desperate to make a Super Bowl. And their offense can challenge the Patriots' vulnerable defense.

Does that offense stick with a style that has worked and pound away on the ground with Ray Rice? Or does it challenge a New England pass defense that is the second-worst in NFL history statistically? That's a decision for Cameron to make this week.

But either way, his unit has to stand and deliver. Somehow, it's only appropriate. To realize their dreams, get past Brady and make it to the Super Bowl, they're going to need both brothers.

John Eisenberg covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.

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