Six Conference Championship Weekend Takeaways
Even though the New England Patriots weren't dismantled like most of Baltimore would've liked, championship Sunday still delivered entertainment value.
Below are six Ravens-related takeaways from the two games:
1) Torrey Smith and Several Other Former Ravens Are Going Back to the Super Bowl
It was hard not to root for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game last night with several former Ravens vying for a return trip to the Super Bowl.
After the Eagles' dominant 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings, wide receiver Torrey Smith, safety Corey Graham and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe will now get a shot at a second Super Bowl ring after getting one together with the Ravens in 2012. Former Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan will make his first Super Bowl appearance after getting traded to the Eagles last offseason.* *
Philadelphia also has former Ravens scouts Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl and Ian Cunningham, who are now the Eagles' vice president of player personnel, assistant director of player personnel and director of college scouting, respectively.
While Ellerbe was inactive with a hamstring injury, both Smith and Graham made key plays in their team's victory. Graham nabbed an interception in the final six minutes, and Smith reeled in this spectacular 41-yard catch that received cheers in Baltimore.
While it's a happy moment to see a fan-favorite from Baltimore perform well on the big stage, it also made many wish Smith was still a Raven. When his rookie contract expired after the 2014 season, Smith signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
That was too rich for the Ravens, but Smith didn't live up to that deal, leading to his release last year. When he was a free agent last March, quarterback Joe Flacco said he reached out to Smith, but a reunion never materialized. Instead, Smith signed with the Eagles for three years and $15 million.
Smith's numbers this season have been on par with what Jeremy Maclin produced in Baltimore. The Ravens signed Maclin a few months after Smith agreed to a deal with Philly. Smith finished with 36 catches for 430 yards and two touchdowns. That's four catches, 10 yards and one touchdown fewer than Maclin.
"It's believed Smith chose the Eagles over the Ravens in free agency," wrote ESPN. "This decision appears to be the right one now, because Baltimore has failed to reach the postseason since 2014 and Philadelphia has reeled off two victories this postseason."
2) Joe Flacco Breaks AFC Championship Mold
It's really quite spectacular to see the dominance of three likely future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the AFC over the last decade and a half.
Since 2003, the New England Patriots' Tom Brady, Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning and Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger have each won at least three AFC championship games.
There's only one other quarterback to break the mold to put himself among the elite company … Joe Flacco.
The Patriots' dominance was put on display once again last night, as Head Coach Bill Belichick and Brady will appear in their eighth Super Bowl together, which is twice as many as any other head coach/QB combo. Brady has been in the league for 16 years, and he's advanced to the Super Bowl half of the time.
As much as Ravens fans wanted to see the Jacksonville Jaguars' top-ranked AFC defense dismantle the Patriots, it wasn't meant to be. That means the last time New England lost an AFC championship game at home was when Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the 2012 Ravens squad handed the Patriots a decisive 28-13 defeat on their way to Super Bowl XVLII victory.
3) Time for Ravens to Create New Playoff Memories
As fun as it is to look back fondly on those 2012 memories with Flacco having an historic playoff run and the Ravens taking down top quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Manning, Brady and Colin Kaepernick, it's time to create new memories.
The Ravens have returned to the playoffs once since lifting the Lombardi trophy in February of 2013, and they've come up short in three consecutive years. They were one fourth-and-12 play short this season, which makes it even harder to swallow.
4) You Can't Go Conservative Against the Patriots
The Jaguars had the Patriots on the ropes with a 20-10 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but instead of staying aggressive, the Jaguars went conservative.
The first hint of playing it safe was seen with 55 seconds left in the second quarter when the Jags elected to kneel it twice from their own 25-yard line, with two timeouts remaining. Instead of going for more points, Jacksonville seemed more concerned with going three and out or turning the ball over to give New England another chance to score.
Then, in the second half, the Jaguars stopped attacking downfield, and seemingly ran the same play up the middle with running back Leonard Fournette repeatedly. On defense, they didn't get after Brady and get in his face like they did early in the game.
"Conservative play-calling never wins," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Logan Levy.
5) Be Careful With Those Celebrations, Folks
For Heaven's sake, people! Enjoy the win, but BE CAREFUL!
City officials had light polls greased so that fans wouldn't climb them after the game, but it didn't work ...
And I don't know what city officials can do to prevent this. OUCH!
Hot Takes From Ravens Players
If you don't follow Mike Wallace, Tony Jefferson and Marlon Humphry on Twitter, you missed out on some fun commentary during both championship games.
But no worries, I have your back …