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Five Super Bowl Thoughts From a Ravens Perspective


NFL championship Sunday featured two spectacular games, both decided in overtime, both won by the visiting teams.

While the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots look forward to Super Bowl LIII, here are five Super Bowl thoughts from a Ravens perspective:

It's difficult to do what the Ravens did in 2012 – winning the Super Bowl without a bye.

Winning the AFC North this season for the first time since 2012 was a major accomplishment for the Ravens. However, they didn't secure a first-round bye, which put them at a playoff disadvantage. One more win and an 11-5 record would have made Baltimore the No. 2 seed (ahead of the Patriots).

The 2012 Ravens were the last team to reach the Super Bowl without a bye. Watching Sunday's drama was a reminder that playoff football is emotionally and physically draining. Winning two playoff games to reach the Super Bowl is hard enough. Winning three playoff games just to reach the Super Bowl is a daunting task that no team has accomplished in six years.

The Patriots, Rams, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs all had first-round byes, which obviously helped them reach this year's final four. As the Ravens move forward in the Lamar Jackson era, they need to think bigger than winning the AFC North. They need to think first-round bye.

The NFL officiating didn't match the quality of play.

It would be hard to ask for more excitement than Sunday's games delivered, and any of the four teams would be worthy Super Bowl representatives. However, the officiating played a major role in helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl. The obvious pass interference by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman that wasn't called late in the fourth quarter left Saints fans feeling like they were robbed.

The frustration felt by Saints coach Sean Payton after Sunday's defeat mirrored the frustration that John Harbaugh and every NFL head coach has felt when a call was blatantly missed. Players and coaches put so much effort into winning during the week, they simply want the officiating to be more consistent. Ravens fans complain about officiating. Fans of every team complain, and many of those complaints are justified. The NFL needs to spend this offseason working harder to improve its officiating.

If you're rooting for ex-Ravens in the Super Bowl, at least part of you is rooting for the Patriots.

While the Rams have no former Ravens on their roster, the Patriots have three – linebackers Albert McClellan and John Simon, and defensive end Lawrence Guy.

Of those three, McClellan has the longest history with the Ravens, spending his first eight-plus seasons in Baltimore and becoming one of the franchise's best-ever special-teamers. McClellan was released by the Ravens in early September, re-signed on Sept. 17, only to be released again Oct. 30. The Patriots signed McClellan Nov. 6, and he made an immediate impact on their special teams. McClellan blocked two punts against the Miami Dolphins in Week 14,and he recovered a muffed punt in New England's playoff victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

McClellan still has plenty of friends in the Ravens locker room. Those friends may be torn between rooting for McClellan in the Super Bowl and rooting against the Patriots.

Simon was a fourth-round pick of the Ravens in 2013. He spent one year in Baltimore before he was released. Simon bounced to the Houston Texans, where he spent three seasons before signing a lucrative three-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts. He was released after one injury-shortened season and signed with New England last offseason.

Guy spent three seasons in Baltimore (2014-2016) before signing a four-year contract with the Patriots. He has started all but two games for the Patriots since and been a solid contributor.

Ravens fans are used to seeing the clutch kicking we saw Sunday.

Watching Greg Zuerlein boom a 57-yard field goal through the uprights in overtime to send the Rams to the Super Bowl was reminiscent of watching Ravens kicker Justin Tucker make so many huge kicks during his career.

Tucker was perfect in the postseason before he missed a 50-yard attempt in the Ravens' wild-card loss to the Chargers.

Tucker is the most accurate kicker in league history, and still very much in his prime, which bodes well for the Ravens moving forward. Anytime the Ravens face a game-winning field goal situation, having someone who is tested in that situation is a plus. By making the longest game-winning kick in playoff history, Zuerlein delivered for the Rams the way all kickers strive to deliver for their teammates.

Stopping talented quarterbacks in clutch situations will remain difficult for any defense.

The Ravens secured a playoff spot in Week 17 when linebacker C.J. Mosley made a game-clinching interception to thwart quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns on their final drive. However, it's never easy to stop a dialed-in quarterback in late-game situations.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes made some spectacular throws against the Ravens in Week 14 to steal a victory away from Baltimore. Tom Brady added to his lore Sunday by leading the Patriots downfield for their overtime touchdown against the Chiefs.

Baltimore had the NFL's best defense in 2018, but with the game on the line, it's difficult to keep top quarterbacks like Brady, Mahomes, Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, etc. from moving downfield. That's why the performance of the Ravens' offense featuring Jackson and new Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will be vitally important. Controlling the football and keeping the opposing quarterback off the field, especially in game-deciding situations, is never a bad thing.

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