The divisional round of the NFL playoffs just wrapped up* *with some exciting games that came down to the wire.
Below are six Ravenized takeaways:
1) Why Didn't Devin Hester Play Like That In Baltimore?
Daaaaaaang, Devin Hester.
What does Seattle have in their water that Baltimore lacked? Some secret formula for the fountain of youth?
In the NFC's divisional playoff round Saturday, the former Ravens returner looked nothing like the one we saw in Baltimore for three months. He suddenly came alive in the Seahawks' loss, churning out a whopping 194 kickoff return yards on five attempts.
Hi, I'm Seahawks Devin Hester, and I Have DirecTV.
While with the Ravens, Hester flashed an ability to still be explosive. The expectation wasn't for him to be the Chicago Bears' version of Hester, but nobody foresaw the problems he'd have in simply fielding punts and kicks.
He had five fumbles in the return game (one lost), shied away from fielding punts and often took a knee in the end* *zone. The last time Ravens fans watched Hester, he allowed a punt to bounce to the 1-yard line against the New England Patriots instead of calling for a fair catch, which led to a safety.
Baltimore released him the next day.
The Seahawks signed him on Jan. 4 after a late-season injury to their regular returner Tyler Lockett, and when Ravens fans flipped on the TV Saturday night, they saw Hester doing this:
The 80-yard punt return was negated by a holding penalty, but it may have been Hester's most impressive play. His blocker let a defender through, but Hester spun out of the tackle right after fielding the ball.
With the Ravens, Hester rarely gave his blocking units a chance to help him have big returns like these because of his shyness fielding the ball. He also dealt with injuries to both hamstrings that limited his effectiveness and practice time.
Twitter started floating out theories about Hester's sudden resurrection. Maybe he wanted to prove to his former team, the Atlanta Falcons, that he still had fuel in his tank. Maybe Ravens coaches got into his head. Or maybe he wanted to end his career with a bang.
The 34-year-old Hester is considering retirement after putting together an 11-year Hall of Fame-worthy career.
"I told my wife that this is pretty much my last year," Hester said after the game, per the Associated Press.
2) It's Called Football, Brady
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was doing Tom Brady things in the playoffs Saturday: winning, with a little dash of whining.
You have to respect the Ravens' nemesis, who is advancing to the AFC championship game for the sixth-straight year after Saturday night's 34-16 victory over the Houston Texans. Soak that in. Six consecutive times.
Saying Brady will advance to an AFC title game these days is almost like saying water is wet. But just as common as Brady winning is Brady complaining to the refs.
Ravens future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who battled Brady plenty of times, had a little advice for the quarterback after Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was a hair late in taking Brady to the ground after he released the football.
Brady was irate.
3) Ravens Fans' Worst Nightmare Has Come True
For Ravens fans, perhaps the only thing worse than missing the playoffs is watching their top two rivals battle in the AFC championship game. That's exactly what will happen as the Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.
Hensley pointed out that the Ravens have been knocked out of the playoffs five times since John Harbaugh became the head coach in 2008, and four of those times, the eliminations came at the hands of the Patriots or Steelers.
Ravens fans will have to figure out which team advancing to the Super Bowl is the lesser of two evils. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was asked earlier this season whether the Steelers or Patriots are the bigger rivals.
"That's pretty close," Suggs replied. "We've had some legendary games with both of them. But nothing is bigger than Ravens-Steelers."
4) All Offense In Playoffs
There's no doubt that defense can still win championships.
The Denver Broncos proved that last season, as Von Miller and company dismantled the high-flying Carolina Panthers led by quarterback Cam Newton. It's just that this year, the team that lifts the Lombardi Trophy will prove offense wins championships too.
"This season's four remaining teams — New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Atlanta — are proof that the Super Bowl pendulum tends to swing," wrote The Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer. "While each of those teams has had its moments defensively, it's offensive prowess that has gotten them this far."
As Farmer pointed out, the Falcons averaged a league-best 35.1 points at home this season, and the Green Bay Packer have notched 24 touchdowns and one interception since Nov. 20. By comparison, the Ravens scored 32 touchdowns all season. Meanwhile, the Patriots were the NFL's fourth-ranked offense and the Steelers were the seventh best.
Of course, defense was on display in last night's Steelers win over the Kansas City Chiefs. They became the first team to win a playoff game without scoring a touchdown since the Indianapolis Colts beat the Ravens 10 years ago, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
But it just goes to show* *that if the Ravens want to compete for a playoff spot next season, they'll need to get much more from their Joe Flacco-led offense.
5) Facebook Live In Locker Room May Not Be A Good Idea
When asked in last night's post-game presser if he had any early thoughts about facing New England next week, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin had a short one-word reply.
"None," he said.
He didn't have any thoughts to share with the media, anyway.
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown took viewers inside the post-game locker room with a 17-minute video on Facebook Live. During a portion of the video, which had over 900,000 views just a few hours after it aired, Tomlin was addressing the team and was heard saying the following about the Patriots:
"When you get to this point in the journey, man, not a lot needs to be said. Let's say very little moving forward. Let's start our preparations. We just spotted these a--h---- a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We're going to touch down at 4 o'clock in the f---ing morning. So be it. We'll be ready for their a--. But you ain't got to tell them we're coming. Keep a low profile, and let's get ready to ball like this up again here in a few days and be right back at it. That's our story."
It's tough to keep a low profile when a player is recording those remarks for the world to hear.
The MMQB.com's Peter King doesn't think Tomlin was trash-talking the Patriots, but instead had a larger complaint with the NFL schedule makers. The Patriots will already have home field advantage, but by virtue of playing Saturday afternoon, they'll now get a day-and-a-half of extra rest and preparation time.
"Not saying there's anything that can be done about it—except mandating that the two AFC games be played one day, and the two NFC games the next so neither team has an extra day of rest and preparation. But I believe that's why Tomlin said that," wrote King.
6) Joe Flacco Part Of An Elite Club
Take a look at the AFC quarterbacks who have advanced to Super Bowl over the last 14 years.
It's pretty much dominated by three Hall of Famers: Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.
Oh, and the one year that streak was broken was by Flacco.
Does that qualify as elite?