Patriots Fall. Will Brady or Belichick Retire? Ravens' Super Bowl Takeaways
What an absolutely thrilling Super Bowl, with the Philadelphia Eagles coming out victorious in a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots.
Here are seven Ravens-related takeaways from the night:
1) Tom Brady is not retiring, and Bill Belichick appears primed for a return too. But Rob Gronkowski will mull it over.
For the Ravens to return to the Super Bowl, they'll still have to get through the greatest quarterback of all-time (in my estimation).
After the disappointing loss, Brady told reporters they can expect him to return for his 19th NFL season next year when he'll be 41. FORTY-ONE!
"I expect to be back, so we'll see," Brady said. "I mean, it's 15 minutes after the game, so I want to process it a bit. But I don't see why I wouldn't be back."
Me neither. Over the weekend, Brady was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player of the 2017 season, easily beating out competition nearly half his age, including Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Earlier in the week, Brady seemed dumbfounded that people would even want this to be his final ride.
"Why does everyone want me to retire so bad?" Brady said. "I don't get it. I'm having fun, the team's doing good, you know? I know I'm a bit older than most of the other guys, but I'm really enjoying it."
Should we explain it to him? Nah.
Meanwhile, Patriots* *Head Coach Bill Belichick dodged retirement questions after the game, but told reporters last month that he "absolutely" intends to be the Patriots head coach in 2018. Despite rumors about an internal feud between Belichick, Brady and Owner Robert Kraft, it would be surprising to see either the quarterback or head coach retire or leave before next season.
The question we don't have an answer to is who Brady will be throwing to next year. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, 28, wasn't sure he'd be back for his ninth season. Gronkowski was cleared only days before the game after suffering a concussion two weeks ago in the AFC championship game.
"I'm definitely going to look at my future, for sure," Gronkowski said. "I'm going to sit down the next couple of weeks and see where I'm at."
Perhaps the greatest tight end in the NFL, Gronkowski was asked why he would consider hanging it up at such a young age.
"I'm not ready for these types of questions right now. I'm just going to sit down, reflect on the season, talk to my teammates," he replied. "We fought all year long. All the receivers, running backs, linemen, I mean we put all the work in together. I'm just going to reflect on the season, probably with the boys, and see what happens from there."
Gronkowski, who had a massively productive Super Bowl with nine catches for 116 yards, has a long history of injuries. He's been placed on season-ending injured reserve three times.
"Gronk has endured a career's worth of injuries in eight seasons as a pro, and the tight end can't be blamed for walking away if that's what he feels is best," says NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman. "Players tend to speak in hyperbole following monumental games, win or lose, so we shouldn't take Gronk too seriously regarding retirement; in fact, he didn't even say the r-word. But considering the rumblings of discord at Patriots Place, the imminent coordinator diaspora and the coming end to the Brady-Belichick era, perhaps things will change quicker in Foxborough than we once thought."
2) Four former Ravens get Super Bowl rings.
Congratulations to receiver Torrey Smith, defensive back Corey Graham, defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
Smith, Graham and Ellerbe first earned rings by winning Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens five years ago, and this will be the first for Jernigan. Smith finished the game with five receptions for 49 yards, including a clutch "helmet catch" in the first quarter. Graham notched eight tackles, Jernigan added one tackle and a quarterback hit and Ellerbe played just three snaps after returning from a hamstring injury.
The Eagles' strategy to beat the Pats was in stark contrast to the Jacksonville Jaguars' in the AFC championship. The Jags frequently played it safe, particularly before the end of the first half by kneeling to kill the clock and protect their lead.
Philadelphia took the opposite approach. When they were down by one point with just over two minutes left, they opted to go for a touchdown instead of kicking the safe field goal. They also pulled out a goal line fourth-down trick play earlier in the game that ended with quarterback Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass.
"I knew that we were going to have to score a touchdown in that situation," Head Coach Doug Pederson said after the game, per ProFootballTalk.com. "A field goal wasn't going to be good enough, not against Tom and the Patriots, so we stayed aggressive."
4) Which quarterback has the best hands: Foles, Brady or Flacco?
In Baltimore's mind, it's Flacco. Of course.
Not only did Foles become the first player in NFL history to throw and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl, but he also upstaged Brady in the hands department.
Prior to Foles reeling in the TD, the Patriots tried similar trickery, but Brady couldn't reel in a nice touch pass that hit him in the hands. Twitter noticed.
People in Baltimore took it from there, saying Flacco had better hands than both. We all remember Flacco hauling in a more difficult catch from Troy Smith when Flacco was a rookie in 2008.
5) Justin Tucker > Stephen Gostkowski?
As exciting as the game was from start to finish, there were some early flubs in the kicking game that made Ravens fans even more grateful for Justin Tucker.
Both the Eagles and Patriots missed extra points, then the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal. Granted, the missed field goal wasn't totally his fault because the holder bobbled the snap. But that didn't stop people in Baltimore from showing love to their kicker.
Also, long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch should get some love too. As Tucker has often said, it's all about the entire operation.
6) Eric Weddle is jealous … and that's a good thing.
Players will often use disappointment to fuel them to work harder. That certainly appeared to be the case for safety Eric Weddle as he watched the game.
7) Beware of Drunk Kevin Hart, and stay clear of Philadelphia after a Super Bowl win.
Comedian Kevin Hart may have stolen the post-game celebration show last night, but not in a good way.
A huge Eagles fan, Hart stormed the NFL Network set and openly admitted he had a little too much to drink. He also tried to get on stage for the Lombardi Trophy ceremony, but was denied by security.
Also, why fans decide that lighting stuff on fire in public streets is good way to celebrate a Super Bowl victory, I will never understand. Alas, that's what happened last night in Philly.
Stay safe, people.
Messages for Ray Lewis' Hall of Fame Induction Pouring In
We all expected it to happen, and it did.
Linebacker Ray Lewis became a first-ballot Hall of Famer Saturday night, and messages from former and current teammates and former opponents poured in.
Will Ravens Go Three-for-Three in Hall of Fame With Ed Reed Next?
Among those eligible for the Hall of Fame next year is Ravens safety Ed Reed. He may not be considered a "slam-dunk" inductee like Lewis, but that has less to do with his play and more to do with his position.
"Ed Reed is expected to be a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year at this time, but the Baltimore Ravens safety will have to break a long drought to do so," wrote ESPN. "Reed would become the first pure safety in 33 years to get voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The last one to reach on the first ballot was Ken Houston in 1986."
Reed certainly has the credentials: a Super Bowl win, an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award (2004), nine Pro Bowls, three-time NFL interceptions leader and the NFL record for the most interception return yards (1,590).
If Reed does break the trend, he would be the third homegrown Baltimore player to be inducted following Lewis and left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who were the Ravens' first two draft picks.
Jets Expected to Pursue Ryan Jensen in Free Agency
It comes as no surprise that if the Ravens don't sign starting center Ryan Jensen before free agency opens in March, there will be plenty of competition for his services.
ESPN's Rich Cimini is already reporting one team that could be interested.
The Jets are still searching for a long-term replacement after cutting seven-time Pro Bowler Nick Mangold last year. The Ravens reportedly looked into signing Mangold, but never did, presumably because of his injury history and possibly money, and that's when Jensen won the job. Mangold didn't play for any team last season.
"With the Jets having the cap space and in need of a center, they are sure to be contenders for Jensen," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Evan Mazza. "This situation with Jensen could be similar to Ricky Wagner last year and other free agents. Baltimore will give Jensen an offer they feel matches his services, but if a team is willing to offer him the money he wants, Baltimore will surely be in the market for a center again."