Questioning the Enemy: Somebody Has to Finish No. 1

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With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town this weekend, visiting Head Coach Raheem Morris and quarterback Josh Freeman spoke with Baltimore media.
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Topics addressed were the impressive development of the young signal-caller, Tampa's 7-3 record and Morris' statements from a few weeks ago that his team was the best in the NFC.*
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Here are the highlights:*

Head Coach
Raheem Morris

What gave you the confidence to say your team was the best in the NFC a few weeks ago?

RM:"I don't think it was bulletin board material I was looking for; I think it was instilling a belief in my team. It was a mentality before it was ever reality, and if we don't believe we're the best, we've got really no chance at anybody else believing it. So when we go out and we play, it's more about us than anybody else. And somebody has to finish No. 1; why not us?"

Does Josh Freeman belong in the same class as Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan?

RM:"I don't know who does the 'class' stating and does all those things. I'd be more interested about playing smart, playing fast, playing hard and going out and playing consistent. And he's been able to do those things. He's been a stud for us, he's been clutch, he's been the ultimate closer, and we [are] just [hopeful that] one day he can get to those likes and people talk about him with those guys up there in the upper echelon in our league."

Do you look at Ronde Barber much like the Ravens view Ray Lewis?

RM:"Ray Lewis is an unbelievable football player; arguably one of the best to ever play the football game. And I respect him so much and love what he's been able to do over his career – both on and off the field – and both for his team and the guys that play in this league, it's hard to compare him to anyone. But if I'm going to compare him to anyone on my team, Ronde Barber certainly would be the closest in comparison, and those type of guys – those Ray Lewis', those Derek Jeter's, those Cal Ripken's – of any sport, you certainly want to have one guy on your football team like that, and Ronde Barber deserves that kind of credit and that kind of distinction."  

What was the difference in effectiveness of your run defense last week from previous weeks when they've struggled?

RM:"Stats are for losers. We go out and we play our game, and whatever it takes to win football games is the only stat that matters. You know, all those things will be critiqued at the end of the year. You've got to go out and do whatever it takes to win that football game, every single year, every single week, that's the only thing.By no means did I tell you we're a finished product. I've been saying that all year, we've been talking about it the whole time, [and] we'll go out and do whatever it takes to try to win football games."  

What are the challenges of trying to handcuff a pair of running backs like Ray Rice and Willis McGahee?

RM:"Whenever you're talking about the running game for the Baltimore Ravens – no matter who's getting the ball – you're talking about hardcore, downhill, power running game.How they've been built, that's how coaches made it. It's a tough brand of football all around; they're probably one of our more physical games that we play in, and we look forward to the challenge. We pride ourselves on trying to be the most physical and the most violent football team on the field every day, and the Baltimore Ravens present a great challenge for us this week."

QB Josh Freeman

Have your teammates teased you about having six fourth-quarter comebacks?

JF:"No. It's kind of a whole offensive thing. When I get the opportunity at the end of a game, I try to make the most of it. If you get the ball back with an opportunity to win the game, it doesn't matter how the rest of the game has gone. You've got the opportunity to get the win. Going into that situation as an offense, we have a lot of confidence. We really have the mentality of just going out and getting it done."

What do you see from the Ravens defense that makes you the most uncomfortable?

JF:"I wouldn't say it's uncomfortable. Obviously they have a storied history and a lot of talent. We know we have our work cut out for us, but we're approaching it like any other game.It's a matter of going out. We have a good plan in place, and it's execution. You can't get caught up in the history of what the team is. Obviously we respect the heck out of the Ravens* *defense. We know what they're capable of. But at the same time, we have a job to do as well. We're preparing to go out and try to win this game."

How much do you have to account for Ray Lewis when coming up with a game plan?

JF:"Obviously a lot. He's hit home on a number of blitzes. He's solid in the running game, very intuitive in pass coverage. Definitely you have to know where [he] and Ed Reed are almost every play."

Did the team appreciate Morris saying that Tampa Bay was the best team in the NFC earlier in the year?

JF:"It is what it is. You talk about bulletin board material, and it's kind of week-in and week-out. I feel like everybody gives it all they've got regardless. So, I don't feel like Coach Morris is going out and saying that gave any other team any added fuel. Since he said that, I think the only game we lost was the close one to Atlanta in Atlanta. We have, I think, five teams with the same record as us, and then Atlanta is [leading] at 8-2. I feel like we're right in this thing. And hearing Raheem say that, it gives the guys a lot of confidence being a young team and just knowing that coach believes in us."

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