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Ravens Enjoy Exciting Super Bowl

If you asked any Raven the day after the 2007 season ended, not one player would have expressed a desire to watch the Super Bowl. With the fresh memories of a disappointing season still deeply rooted, viewing a championship that they weren't a part of was too harsh of an experience.

But as the spectacle of a sporting event approached, most of the players found themselves doing the same thing the majority of Americans were doing - sitting on their couch for the big game.

After New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning's breathtaking last-minute heroics upset the previously undefeated New England Patriots, the Ravens that watched were glad they did.

"Wow, what a game," said tight end Daniel Wilcox, who was at the Ravens' training facility Tuesday for a light weight-lifting session as he rehabs a toe injury. "It was exciting to the end, and it was a close game. That's everything you can ask for in a Super Bowl."

The Giants, underdogs by a 12- to 13-point spread entering the game, nearly ended New England's flawless campaign in the regular season finale, building a 28-16 lead before the Patriots roared back with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in Giants Stadium.

The fact that the outcome was different in Phoenix, the site of Super Bowl XLII, sifted the Ravens into two different camps: those that expected a New York victory and those left in shock.

"I wasn't really surprised," said tackle Jared Gaither. "I was actually rooting for the Giants, for the simple fact that they've done it before. The Patriots just seemed like they were wearing down over the course of the season and they weren't firing on all four cylinders.

"I'm happy the Giants won."

Guard Jason Brown, on the other hand, was left scratching his head, a feeling shared by a majority of fans.

"I was completely surprised," he confessed. "Even though a lot of people were rooting for the underdog, I'm not sure they actually would have bet money on it and really believe in it. That's a very big difference.

"I went into the game thinking the Giants were definitely going to get beaten."

What the two offensive linemen did share was a perspective on how New York pulled off the upset: strong play from the defensive line, especially the front four.

With a relentless pass rush overpowering the Patriots' typically solid wall of blockers, New England quarterback Tom Brady was sacked five times (including four from defensive linemen) and hurried a dozen more. At one point, the Pro Bowler was on his knees with hands on hips, frustrated after another poor throw hit the turf.

"You could see the pressure from the beginning," Gaither explained. "I think he got hit the most times he's been hit all season. They just put together a good defensive game plan and executed against the Patriots in a big way."

Said Brown: "That's the way to frustrate a quarterback, especially a guy like Brady that likes to use the short passes in the flat and middle of the field. When you can get pressure up front, the linebackers can drop in coverage. That really helped them."

Most of the Ravens polled in the locker room attended small get-togethers for the Super Bowl. Gaither, a Maryland native, held his regular routine with a gathering of friends. Brown's wife threw a party at the couple's home in Durham, N.C.

But linebacker Edgar Jones enjoyed the Super Bowl with a very different experience, instead listening to the game in his car while driving back from Louisiana.

"It wasn't the same as watching the game on TV, especially missing the commercials," said Jones, who hails from Monroe, La. "But, even though you can't see it, you could still tell it was exciting."

His teammates agreed.

And, while it was fun to watch a game with so much suspense, the Ravens are looking to put it all behind them. The 2007 season. The intriguing playoff matchups. The Super Bowl.

They are not fans anymore. It's back to business in Baltimore, with an eye on XLIII.

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