Ravens Most Dangerous Team Remaining
In the playoffs, it's all about getting hot at the right time.
And the Ravens are heating up.
Last weekend's 38-35 victory over the Broncos showed that the Ravens can bounce back from just about anything – even being down a touchdown and having to drive 70 yards in 41 seconds with no timeouts – and they are the team nobody wants to play right now.
"The Ravens weren't the best group on paper when the postseason began, but they are the most dangerous right now," wrote ESPN's Jeff Chadiha.
The Ravens are playing inspired football and rallying behind their leader Ray Lewis, who is in his final run through the postseason. His impending retirement has galvanized the locker room, and the team has latched onto the mentality that they can overcome anything.
"The Ravens just played a game for the ages — and for the ageless Lewis, who has all of us pretty much convinced that God wears purple and black on game day," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck.
Every year there seems to be a team that comes quietly into the playoffs, then turns it on in the postseason and ends up riding that wave all the way to the Super Bowl. The New York Giants did it last year and the Green Bay Packers the year before that. The 2007 Giants and 2005 Steelers both came in as wild-card teams and won three straight road games before bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.
The Ravens have a similar kind of feel.
"There always seems to be a team that gets hot late and makes an improbable championship run," wrote ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley. "The hot team this season is the one that emerged victorious after braving 4 hours, 11 minutes in minus-1 wind chill temperatures. It's a Ravens team that is headed to its third AFC Championship Game in five seasons but never before in such improbable fashion."
Time To Pay Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco has the Ravens in their third AFC championship during his five-year career, and Sports Illustrated's Don Banks says that the impending free agent has done enough to earn a big payday at the end of the season.
"Time to pay the man, Ravens," Banks wrote. "Baltimore's Flacco is never going to reach free agency now. Not after leading his team to a third AFC title game in five seasons in Baltimore, and improving his playoff record to a gaudy 7-4, including five road wins in nine tries."
Flacco has played some of his best football on big stages, and he showed that again Saturday by throwing for 331 yards and three touchdowns to take down the Broncos. After the win, Lewis said that Flacco "grew up in the victory," and that he is taking over the role of the Ravens' general.
Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick also saw the game as a step for Flacco, who proved that he can carry his team.
"Flacco's maturation may have come to a head on Saturday as he put his team on his back and literally threw the Ravens into a second consecutive AFC Championship Game," Billick wrote. "In an offense that had previously been confused about whether to feature Ray Rice or Flacco, those questions were answered on Saturday and it is clear that this team will go where Flacco takes them."
Banks called Flacco's performance his "finest hour in Baltimore."
"He was superb in the cold of Denver on Saturday, is one of the game's top eight quarterbacks -- in the upper 25 percent -- and deserves to be paid like it," Banks wrote. "There would be plenty of teams lining up to pursue him in free agency if he got to the market."**
Also, Billick and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci say in the video below that they trust Flacco over two of the other remaining quarterbacks: Atlanta's Matt Ryan and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick.
Ravens Best Defender?
Lewis. Ed Reed. Haloti Ngata. Terrell Suggs.
Those four stars have 30 Pro Bowls between them, and Lewis and Reed are first-ballot Hall of Famers.
But it was a different player who caught the eye of Sports Illustrated's Peter King this weekend.
Cornerback Corey Graham. **
"I thought he was the best defensive player on the field, easily, in Baltimore's double-overtime win over Denver," King wrote. **
Graham had two interceptions Saturday, including a pick-six and the interception to set up Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal. He came into the season under-the-radar, but now he's shining on a defense crowded with superstars.
"Not bad for a guy who was pigeonholed as a special teamer only when the Ravens signed him from Chicago last spring in free agency," King wrote.
Practice Kick Didn't Break Any Rules
The game-winning field goal by Tucker has created a bit of controversy among fans (particularly Denver Broncos supporters).
Well, actually it was the warm-up shot Tucker took before the real thing.
Before Tucker drilled the field goal to beat the Broncos, he and Kicking Coach Randy Brown trotted on the field in between overtime periods to take a practice shot. While the Ravens have taken similar practice kicks before, the move caught some people off-guard and stirred up questions about whether the officials should have allowed the move.
However, the NFL confirmed that the kick was perfectly legal because it happened between overtime periods and didn't delay the game at all.
"The officials make sure the players are off the field and not delaying the next snap," NFL vice president of football communications Michael Signora told ESPN.com. "But they do not call a penalty, as long as there is no delay of game. With no delay of game, there is no penalty."
- Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback: "When the Patriots and Ravens met in 2010, Flacco and Brady each completed 27 passes. When the Patriots and Ravens met in the conference title game last season, Flacco and Brady each completed 22 passes. When the Patriots and Ravens met in September of this season, Flacco and Brady each completed 28 passes." [SI.com]
- Analyzing the [impact of Ray Lewis](file:///C:/Users/minkr/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary Internet Files/Content.IE5/A16N2009/• http:/espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_/id/63563/analyzing-the-impact-of-ray-lewis). [ESPN.com]
- John Harbaugh inspired the Indiana basketball team after last year's loss to New England. [YahooSports.com]
- @ravensinsider: "Agent changes for pending Ravens free agents: Paul Kruger to sign with Athletes First. Dannell Ellerbe now repped by Hadley Engelhard." [Twitter]
- Former Patriots assistant coach Brian Daboll has rejoined the team for the playoffs after getting fired as the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator. [Boston Globe]
- Ravens PR Manager Patrick Gleason (@PMGleason): #Ravens have averaged 450.8 total yards of offense over their past four games (188.8 rushing & 262.0 passing). [Twitter]
- Brian Billick says "I'd never say never" to coaching return. Billick has reportedly interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching job. [NFL.com]
- Check out this great light display honoring Ray Lewis on the downtown Marriot Waterfront in Harbor East.