It was an uphill battle from the start, but once the Baltimore Ravens were three quarters of the way through their AFC Championship showdown with the New England Patriots, they experienced a runner’s high and sprinted their way to Super Bowl XLVII and the franchise’s second ever Super Bowl appearance.
More importantly, the win means the Super Bowl now becomes a “Harbaugh Bowl”, as brothers Jim and John Harbaugh will square off in the ultimate sibling showdown.
But as for what happened in New England on Sunday, the Ravens proved they can ball with the best of them as they officially exorcised their demons from last year and dominated Tom Brady and the Patriots. It wasn’t easy the whole way through though, as twice the Patriots took the lead away from Baltimore. But those who were expected it to be a game where the Ravens had to claw their way back into things, what actually happened shows that this magical ride Baltimore’s on is something a lot more special than we all gave it credit for.
Usually when you play Tom Brady in the postseason, you have to beat him at the last second. Eli Manning has made a legacy out of doing that, which made us all think that’s the only way you can beat him. But Joe Flacco, a guy a lot of people have been comparing to Eli before he won his Super Bowls, showed that you can beat Brady by just punching him in the mouth.
Ray Rice scored the Ravens first points of the day, a touchdown that gave Baltimore a 7-3 lead in the second half. But Brady and company fired right back and eventually made it a 13-7 game at the half. But New England limped into halftime after Brady butchered his clock management and rather than scoring seven, the Patriots settled for three.
That didn’t make a big difference in the score at the end, but it radically changed the mindset of the Ravens. Before the game, the Patriots were being made out to be this unstoppable force, a clean-cut killing machine that shredded anything in it’s path. But by looking squeamishly mortal (and stupid) at the end of the first half, the veil was lifted and the Patriots were seen as just another obstacle rather than a challenge.
After scoring 13 points in the first half, the Patriots were shut out in quarters three and four, while the scoring couldn’t be stopped on the Baltimore side.
I said before halftime that once Tom Brady gets hot, he’s impossible to stop. Who would have thought that would end up being true about the other guy, Joe Flacco. After Ray Rice scored the first points for the Ravens in the second quarter, all 21 of the Ravens second half points came off the arm of Joe Flacco. He hooked up with Dennis Pitta once and he dialed up Anquan Boldin twice.
One of the reasons the Ravens won on Sunday was because they abused the no huddle offense. Two of the Ravens three second half touchdowns came on no huddle plays, and entire drives seemed to have been made up of no huddle action. The Ravens were literally trapping the Patriots in their own defense, not allowing them to make proper substitutions and therefore exploiting coverage assignments.
Plus, the Patriots just couldn’t catch their breath.
The road has been an interesting one for the Ravens, but it’s one that hasn’t seen an end yet. Sparked by Ray Lewis’ revelation that he’ll be retiring when this ride ends, Baltimore has launched itself into a motivated state that finds them in the Super Bowl. The great story-lines from the NFL regular season have survived until the final game, and when Super Bowl XLVII kicks off on February 3rd, we’re going to be in store for one of the best Super Bowls we’ve ever seen.