Some Ravens-centric thoughts on the Super Bowl:
Seahawks No Longer In 'Greatest Defense' Debate
The Seattle Seahawks have an aggressive, hawking defense, one of the NFL's best in years. And it's a relatively young unit, so it could rule for awhile. Still, I think the "Legion of Boom" has ceded its place in the "greatest ever" debate. The Chicago Bears' punishing 1985 defense and the Ravens' dominating 2000 unit generally comprise that conversation, at least partly because they were so impregnable in their teams' championship wins. The Seahawks defense was suffocating a year ago in the Super Bowl, but Green Bay rushed for 135 yards against it in this year's NFC title game and New England's Tom Brady passed for 320 yards and four touchdowns Sunday. Most importantly, Brady and the Patriots drove to two touchdowns with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. I can't imagine the great Bears or Ravens defenses yielding like that. Yes, the Patriots are a tough opponent, but no matter who you're playing or how good you are, if you bend and actually break in the Super Bowl, you're going to have a hard time convincing anyone you're the greatest defense ever.
'Defense Wins Championships' Mantra Is Dead
The game came so close to going the other way that it's dangerous to make sweeping judgments about what the outcome suggests. But even if the Seahawks had scored in the final minute and won, the game would have served as another nail in the coffin of the "defense wins championships" mantra. That's just not true anymore. The Patriots won with a defense that was ranked No. 17 against the pass and No. 9 against the rush in 2014. That's around where most recent Super Bowl-winning defenses have resided, with the exception of Seattle a year ago. The Ravens certainly didn't have a shutdown defense when they won in 2012. (They were ranked No. 17 in total defense.) Neither did the New York Giants in 2011, the Green Bay Packers in 2010 or the New Orleans Saints in 2009. And as noted, even though Seattle's defense is superb, it had a rough fourth quarter Sunday. Seattle's offense was on the verge of taking the game back until its mistake in the final seconds. What does it mean going forward for playoff contenders like the Ravens? You still need a quality defense, but given how the rules favor offenses these days, what you really need is the ability to keep pace on the scoreboard.
Roster Depth Made The Difference
I can't remember a championship game that was more about roster depth. With both teams electing not to challenge the other's outstanding pass defenders, the game strangely boiled down to matchups between their No. 3 and No. 4 receivers and cornerbacks. That's where both quarterbacks looked for targets. An undrafted rookie free agent safety, New England's Malcolm Butler, made the key pick. Seattle's Chris Matthews had zero career receptions until he amassed over 100 receiving yards Sunday. In Ravens-speak, it's as if Brynden Trawick or Michael Campanaro made the game's biggest plays. No one could have seen it coming, and if I'm Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, I started my next personnel department meeting with a long lecture about no decision being too small.
Super Bowl A Replay Of Ravens' Divisional-Round Loss
When NBC's producers threw it to Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh for his thoughts after the game, he could have said, "I've seen that movie before, unfortunately." In several ways, the game was a virtual replay of the Ravens' playoff loss to New England on Jan. 18. That day, the Ravens had a double-digit lead in the second half, only to see New England erase it and take the lead with a volley of offensive firepower. Then the Ravens still had a great chance to win in the end, but threw an interception. That's exactly what Seattle experienced Sunday. Critics will say the Patriots were lucky to win twice that way and needed help, i.e., mistakes by their opponents, but that narrative leaves out the fact that they made a bunch of huge plays to come back and avoided the fatal head-scratcher.
Forget Stats, Give Ball To Lynch
Almost as soon as the Seahawks didn't give the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the 1-yard line and lost, ESPN rolled out the surprising statistic that Lynch had scored just once in five carries from the one in 2014. That does make you think twice about criticizing the Seahawks' decision, as so many are doing. They actually were almost playing it safe, as no team in the entire league had thrown an interception on a pass from the 1 in 2014. This time, though, the Patriots' Butler read the play and made the interception. My two cents, I don't care what those stats suggest. With one timeout to play with, I'm giving the ball to Lynch, the game's premier power back.