Late For Work 1/6: Time Has Come To Break Free Of Ray Lewis' Shadow

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Time Has Come To Break Free Of Ray Lewis' Shadow

In Baltimore, we're used to the Ravens being viewed as underdogs.

In fact, it would be downright weird if they got more respect than 7.5-point sleepers. The same type of thing happened in the Super Bowl XLVII season. Few were believers.

But the reason for being underdogs needs to change.

"It's tempting to think Baltimore can shock the world in the same manner it did two years ago, when they were falling apart at the end of that regular season before surging to a Super Bowl XLVII win over San Francisco," wrote ESPN's  Jeffri  Chadiha. "[B]ut don't count on a repeat of that ride."

Why's that?

"There is no Ray Lewis to offer the emotional motivation that drove those Ravens. That team's core leadership group also included big personalities such as Rice, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. This year's bunch is younger and more understated, a collection of rising talents looking to make their own names."

There it is again. The ole' Ray Lewis shadow.

The Boston Globe is casting the shadow, too.

"The Ravens, having lost Lewis (whose irrational, look-at-me sermonizing did seem to benefit the team from time to time) and Ed Reed, are not a better team than they were then," The Globe's Chad Finn wrote before the Ravens beat the Steelers in the wild-card round. "Their talent base shriveled right around the time Joe Flacco's salary grew exponentially."

There it is right on cue, the "Flacco is overpaid" line. That's about as tired as the "Ravens have no leadership without Lewis" line.

Hey, nobody in Baltimore would deny the future Hall of Famer's impact on the franchise, teammates and community. The city witnessed Lewis' leadership and motivation. Nobody would want to downplay his influence on the franchise's two Super Bowl wins and countless other achievements.

He is an icon.

But the organization didn't crumble into oblivion and suddenly cease to exist after his retirement either.

The Ravens were one game shy of the playoffs in the first season (8-8 record) after he left – hardly a typical "rebuilding" record with nearly half of the roster turning over – and now they are back in the postseason. They are set to challenge the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and they earned that right.

In many ways, Head Coach John Harbaugh, new defensive leader Terrell Suggs and Flacco have already proven they can carry the Ravens banner Lewis passed on after so admirably carrying it for 17 years. How else can you explain making the playoffs after the Ray Rice scandal, Haloti Ngata suspension and 19 players on injured reserve?

And yet, the ESPNs and Boston Globes of the world continue to doubt the Ravens' ability to win in the playoffs* *without Lewis.

Even Patriots quarterback Tom Brady alluded to it, trying to downplay the fact that Baltimore has beaten the Patriots twice in the postseason in New England.

"We can never change anything that's happened in the past, nor can they," Brady said Monday on WEEI.com. "You can't bring players out of retirement, they can't either."

That's right; Lewis isn't coming out of retirement. And that makes this the perfect opportunity to honor him, and break free from his shadow, with another upset victory against the Patriots.

Globe: 98% Of Country Will Root For Pats Because They Hate Ravens

Did you know that 98 percent of the country will be rooting for the Patriots this weekend?

Yup, that's because the nation hates the Ravens. This, according to The Boston Globe's Eric Wilbur.

"The most deplorable organization in American professional sports punched its ticket for a playoff rematch with the New England Patriots," Wilbur wrote. "They're also the most hated team in the NFL. Everybody hates the Ravens.

"Everybody."

Got it. Glad we got that straight.

Thighmaster 55: Vote On Name For Suggs' Interception

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This is great! I stared at this ballot on NFL.com for some time before deciding which name to pick for Suggs' incredible interception with his legs. Three hilarious choices:

Thighmaster 55
The Sizz-maculate Interception
The quadricpetion

I finally settled on Thighmaster 55, but you can cast your own votes here.

It's another excuse to watch it again.

Can Flacco Outplay Brady Again?

Hensley wonders if Flacco can outplay Brady again, just like the Ravens quarterback did in the 2011 and 2012 AFC championships.

"Even though Brady is considered one of the best postseason quarterbacks in NFL history, Flacco has outperformed him in their past two meetings in the playoffs," Hensley wrote.

Here are the numbers of the two games combined:

Flacco: 59.8 completion percentage, 546 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, 100.8 passer rating.

Brady: 56.6 completion percentage, 559 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions, 60.3 passer rating.

Flacco made his 14th career postseason start on Saturday when the Ravens topped the Steelers, which ties him with Brady for the most postseason starts by a quarterback in his first seven seasons.

PLAYER TEAM POSTSEASON STARTS IN FIRST SEVEN SEASONS
Joe Flacco Baltimore 14
Tom Brady New England 14
Brett Favre Green Bay 13
Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh 13
Donovan McNabb Philadelphia 12

Quick Hits

  • Ravens fans face ticket options from $170 to $60K in Foxborough. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Ravens are exempt from the list of NFL teams that could be drafted by the league to take part of HBO's Hard Knocks. [SportsIllustrated.com]
  • Flacco beats Ben Roethlisberger at his own game. [ESPN]
  • Ravens remain the class of the AFC North. [ESPN]
  • Steelers curiously ditch "Renegade" video in the wild-card game. [ProFootballTalk.com]
  • Against Ravens, did Steelers blow off NFL's concussion protocol? [CSNBaltimore.com]

  • In the video below, John Harbaugh stands by his assertion that Flacco is the "best quarterback in football" and doesn't care whether people agree. Plus, he recalls a hilarious story of the last time his brother, Jim, was on the Ravens sideline. Jim got flagged for being on the field. [CSNBaltimore.com]
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