Late For Work 1/5: Mood In New England After Learning Of Ravens Matchup

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Mood In New England After Drawing Ravens

What was the mood in New England upon learning the Patriots would face the Ravens in the postseason … once again?

CSN New England's Tom E. Curran put it this way: Patriots fans had to be talked off the ledge.

"People are flat-out petrified up here," Curran said in the video below. "Immediately by 11:30 p.m. when that game in Pittsburgh was secured, Patriots fans were lining up on the Tobin [bridge] to jump off."

Well, that's dramatic.

Maybe showing them the Vegas odds could help. The oddsmakers posted the Patriots as a strong 7.5-point favorite heading into next weekend's playoff showdown at Gillette Stadium. Curran is offering his words of comfort to get fans to back away from the ledge, noting that it's not Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the 2012 Super Bowl Ravens team traveling to Foxborough.

"They just don't get it. It's not the same team," Curran said.

That's true, but it's not helping. 

New England remembers all too well that the Ravens have traveled up there to beat the Patriots twice in the playoffs, and came within a Lee Evans dropped pass of doing it a third time. The Ravens are 10-5 on the road in postseason franchise history.

Because of that history, The Boston Globe painted a similar mood in New England as Saturday night, as soon as Baltimore was in.

"It left Patriots fans shaking their heads and wondering, 'Why'd it have to be the Ravens?'" wrote The Globe's Ben Volin. "Of the four AFC teams still alive in the playoffs, three don't scare the Patriots."

I'll give you one shot at which of the four invokes fear.

"[Whoops](DAN SHAUGHNESSY)," added The Globe's Dan Shaughnessy. "There goes the Kraft-O-Matic, La-Z-Boy playoff plan. After a very un-Patriot-like series of events, your team is actually going to have to play Big Boy Football against a worthy adversary to advance to the AFC championship this year."

On paper, the Ravens shouldn't invoke fear, says Volin.

He wonders how a decimated secondary will cover tight end Rob Gronkowski. He's watched the Ravens offense perform "wildly inconsistent" this season. He says the Patriots have a "championship-caliber" defense.

When asked where the Ravens hold an advantage over the Patriots, Curran couldn't think of a single one. But after thinking about it, he came up with one where the Ravens *come close, *but still doesn't hold the advantage.

"Let's go with this," Curran said. "There's no coach in the playoffs better suited to come into New England and not be cowed or forced into bad decisions than John Harbaugh. I think the coaching  in terms of being able to be on a level playing field with the Patriots, John Harbaugh and Dean Pees are the closest the Patriots will see to a real fair fight."

Whether the Ravens hold any advantage on paper doesn't matter, especially during the postseason. Their 10 road playoff wins are tied with the Green Bay Packers for the best in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Oh, and Baltimore has done it in 75 fewer years in existence.

"Throw all [the Ravens weaknesses] out the window for Saturday's showdown," Volin wrote. "None of it matters. The Ravens, clearly, are a different team come playoff time."

Harbaugh Sets Off Another Elite Firestorm

Well, Harbaugh has set off yet another firestorm round of the "Elite Flacco" debate.

The Ravens head coach said franchise quarterback Joe Flacco is the "best quarterback in football" following Saturday's win in Pittsburgh.

"Let's be serious: Joe Flacco is not the best quarterback in the NFL," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith. "Or the second best. Or the third best. Or the fourth best. Or the fifth best. Maybe you could put him somewhere in the Top 10. Maybe. Did Harbaugh suffer a case of amnesia right after the Ravens' Week 16 loss to the Texans? Because anyone who saw that game couldn't possibly think Flacco is the best quarterback in football."

OK, yes, let's get serious. Flacco is easily in the top-10 of quarterbacks.

But we can agree to disagree.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley helps everyone find common ground with what he calls a "more appropriate title" for Flacco: The best postseason quarterback in football. 

The stats Hensley uses simply make that a fact:

  • 10 playoff victories since 2008 are twice as many as any other quarterback over that time
  • 7 postseason road wins are two more than any quarterback in NFL history
  • 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in last 5 playoff games
  • 105.9 QB rating since 2010 is tops among quarterbacks with at least four playoff starts during that span

The NFL Network crew discusses in the video below why people are so hesitant to call Flacco elite, especially when considering his postseason record.

Former Ravens and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders says it's because Flacco "isn't flashy."

Hey, Suggs! Can Steelers Use Bell As An Excuse?

The sports world is funny.

Last week, most analysts didn't seem too concerned that the Steelers would be without Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell. The large majority still predicted a Steelers win. Shoot, ESPN Steelers reporter Scott Brown actually suggested to "rest" Bell to save him for the next round of the playoffs.

But as soon as the Ravens beat the Steelers, the Bell excuse came out of the woodwork.

The Steelers were held to 46 yards on 16 rushes, and were forced into a one-dimensional passing game.  The same pundits that predicted a Steelers win also predicted the one-dimensional game they would have to play, but thought quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown could pull it off.

Terrell Suggs, what say you? Can Bell be used as an excuse?

Suggs paused before answering the question, posed by ESPN. After deep thought, the Ravens defensive leader said:

"It's definitely big him not being out there. He's a Pro Bowl player and he can do some special things. I think they definitely needed him tonight, but the show must go on. We weren't going to feel sorry for them that they didn't have their guy, just like they don't feel sorry for us that we don't have our guys. At the end of the day, it's the NFL, injuries are going to happen, but we got to win the game."

It should be noted that Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said it's not an excuse.

Harbaugh's Remarkable Gift

There are several Ravens who deserve credit for their upset win over the Steelers, including the head coach, says The Baltimore Sun's Child Walker.

"Harbaugh has a remarkable gift for getting the Ravens ready in the playoffs," wrote Walker. "What other conclusion can you come to when a coach has made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons and won at least one postseason game every time out?"

Flacco and Suggs also deserve a shout-out for their big-boy, clutch performances, but even as Flacco said earlier this season, the Ravens' ability to overcome adversity starts with Harbaugh.

"Harbaugh often says he's only concerned about the next practice, the next game, the next opportunity. And somehow, he gets his players to buy into that mindset year after year," wrote Walker. "Whatever happens from here, this performance was a credit to the coach and his team leaders, who held the Ravens together through obstacle after obstacle this season."

Osemele BULLDOZES Harrison On Flacco's TD Pass

The Ravens' makeshift offensive line played lights out Saturday night.

The unit was missing their two starting tackles and had three players either changing positions or subbing into the lineup. Flacco didn't get sacked once, and that's with two rookies, John Urschel and James Hurst, filling in.

"Not only do the Ravens have a keeper down the road in Urschel, but they might have the best combination for that right side of the line in these playoffs," wrote The Baltimore Sun's John Meoli.

On the left side, Hurst held his own against veteran outside linebacker James Harrison, who was a game wrecker the last time these two teams met.  And it didn't hurt that Hurst had guard Kelechi Osemele to help out.

Check out Osemele shoving Harrison to the ground, buying Flacco time to find wide receiver Torrey Smith in the end zone:

Why No Ejection For Worilds' Swing?

Many Ravens fans were wondering why Pittsburgh linebacker Jason Worilds didn't get ejected for taking a swing at tight end Crockett Gillmore.

Usually, players are ejected for throwing a punch, but apparently he didn't because he had an open hand as opposed to a closed fit.

Is Yanking Forsett Away From Ball Legal?

Another rules question to answer …

It's rare to see players pull each other away from the ball on a fumble like Pittsburgh's Ryan Shazier did to running back Justin Forsett in the GIF above. Usually everyone tries to pounce on the ball.

"According to the rules, Shazier is allowed to do this if he's trying to get to the ball," wrote SB Nation's Rodger Sherman. "It's not quite clear he was doing that – it looks like he's just trying to create some time and space for his teammates to get it – but the refs didn't call anything. It must not have been very fun for poor Forsett, though."

Quick Hits

  • Hensley: "There have been more talented teams in Harbaugh's seven seasons. But, after watching the Ravens stomp on the AFC North champions, it's clear that there hasn't been one mentally tougher." [ESPN]
  • Steve Smith Sr. talked about how cool it was to silence Heinz Field. [Baltimore Ravens.com]
  • We now know the Ravens draft pick in 2015 will fall somewhere between 25 and 32, with the final spot being determined by how far they advance. As for the rest of the AFC North, the Brown have the No. 12 pick, the Bengals will go at No. 21 and the Steelers at No. 22. [SB Nation]
  • The Ravens-Steelers contest drew the second largest TV audience in the last 20 years of AFC wild-card Saturday football, drawing an average of 28 million viewers. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • "Seeing Jim Harbaugh smile is kind of weird, seeing him in Ravens gear is definitely weird, but there's nothing weird about two brothers sharing a moment," John Breech said about the pic below. [CBSSports.com]
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