Ravens Hope to Repeat '08 Playoff Run


The Ravens treat each season as a completely separate entity, but it is impossible to not recognize the similarities between their current playoff run and a march to the AFC Championship one year ago.

With the top-seeded Indianapolis Colts looming this weekend, the Ravens have an extremely similar road ahead of them.

In the 2008 postseason, the Ravens, then a sixth-seeded wild card, went to Miami and walloped the AFC East champion Dolphins 27-9. The Ravens then advanced past the divisional round by upsetting the No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans (AFC South) in their house on a late field goal to set up a road showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the conference title game.

Baltimore, again the sixth seed, began a comparable journey last Sunday by dispatching the New England Patriots (AFC East) 33-14 in the wild-card round at Gillette Stadium.

So, will the parallels stop with in New England? Or will the Ravens continue their eerie trend against a dangerous Colts team Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium?

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will leave such questions to the pundits.

"Every year is different," he said. "Obviously, the fact that most of our players have been in that situation before, I think our younger guys can draw on the experience of the guys that have been there before.

"But, it's a different year, it's a different team. We're a different team, and this is a new week. We'll just have to see how it plays out."

The Ravens made it to their current position with a pounding rushing attack that outmuscled the Patriots and a defense that simply suffocated NFL Comeback Player of the Year Tom Brady.

If the formula sounds familiar, it is probably because Ravens put themselves in a position to maul the Dolphins and Titans – and came within a few plays of defeating the Steelers. – using it.

The AFC South champion Colts, however, are a different type of opponent than the physical, run-oriented Titans were last year. Perhaps that is the most-glaring irregularity when looking at playoff comparisons at this point.

Led by NFL Most Valuable Player quarterback Peyton Manning, Indianapolis is as high-powered of an offense as there is in the league, averaging 282.2 passing yards (second) and 26.0 points (seventh) per game.

To keep their run going, the Ravens will need to draw on all previous experiences, both with the playoffs and in a 17-15 Colts win at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 11. That day, Manning completed 22 of 31 attempts for 299 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

And even though the game ended in a loss, Harbaugh believes the Ravens used it as a building block.

"To me, experience is important," Harbaugh noted. "We've been together. I think that these guys, all the guys who were in there last year, have been through a playoff run. We've been through the whole season this year. We've been through all the good things, the tough things, and all the different things that make you what you are, so we should be that much further along.

"It doesn't mean we're going to perform better, but we're going to try. We're going to work real hard to try to do that."

Harbaugh's forward-looking approach has carried over to the locker room.

Many players on the Ravens' 2008 playoff squad talk of their road as if it was ancient history.

"I really haven't thought about last year," wide receiver Mark Clayton explained. "It's just the next game. It's the Colts, and we know what they bring to the table. We just have to do whatever it takes to go into Indianapolis and come out with a win."

Such is the midset of a team focused only on the task ahead. Last year showed the Ravens that they could get deep into the tournament, but an AFC Championship appearance doesn't punch a ticket to this year's title tilt.

"That's cool, but it's two different teams," continued Clayton. "But it's a different atmosphere. This has nothing to do with last year. That was cool, but this is a completely different game."

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