Words: Kyle Simpson
You know that numb feeling? The one of sheer disbelief? Well that feeling was strong with me on Sunday night as I watched the Baltimore Ravens clinch their first Super Bowl berth in 12 years. Once again, the Ravens pulled off the impossible. They are heading to the Big Easy for one last stop on the final ride of Ray Lewis, thanks to a 28-15 victory over the New England Patriots, logging yet another chapter of this story book season.
The game itself was very entertaining (less intense after the second half, unlike the last outing). Flacco and the offense continued their hot streak notching 28 points (21 of which where in the second half) and picking apart the Patriots offense. Anquan Boldin enjoyed two touchdowns, while Ray Rice and Dennis Pitta both got one a piece. Turns out Justin Tucker’s leg was not needed in the clutch like last week against the Broncos, which I am okay with.
What did this game prove? Flacco has arrived. Let me show you some numbers:
29/54, 320 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
21/36, 240 yards, 3 touchdowns
The top numbers are the product of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. The bottom were produced by Joe Flacco.
Would you believe me if I said in week 15 that the Joe Flacco that was laying face-down in the end zone after throwing a pick six would be the same Joe Flacco to out-duel two of football’s best quarterbacks of all time? I would not believe me. I would tell me that I am crazy. So what has happened to turn Joe around? Quite a few things.
First, The Ravens have finally found an offensive line that works, with Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher at right tackle (where he belongs, might I add), giving Flacco much more time to stretch plays and air the ball out more with his strong arm. Second, Joe is a MUCH better post-season quarterback. His levelheaded attitude really pays off in high intensity games when a team needs a level head under the center. And finally: Ray. Lewis.
Lewis told Joe something before the game in Denver. Something that, I think, will change Joe Flacco for good. Ray Lewis told Joe Flacco that he, Joe Flacco, was the general of the Ravens now, and Flacco had to lead the Ravens to victory. A position that Lewis has held for 17 years now rested squarely on the shoulders of the fifth-year player out of Delaware. Lewis commented after the game that he saw something different in Joe’s eyes during the game in Denver. A fire. I saw it too. I saw the same fire Sunday, as he picked apart New England and proved every pundit, analyst, hater and Skip Bayless wrong. He is Baltimore’s quarterback. He deserves a top five spot, and if it takes a Super Bowl ring to prove that that spot is his, then I’m inclined to believe he will get it.
He got the job done last year. He’s getting the job done this year. He has one game left between him, and what he has always deserved: respect.
This brings me back to number 52, Ray Lewis. The last game in his career will be the Super Bowl. Nobody could write a better ending to his storybook career. On his last playoff ride, he has participated in some of the best moments in Raven’s history: A double overtime playoff win and the vengeance upon New England to send the Ravens to their second Super Bowl. He will also never forget the last time he came out dancing into M&T Bank Stadium to the thunderous roar of 70,000 people. Hopefully he will add a Super Bowl win to his list of unbelievable moments on his last playoff ride in two weeks.
We are just under two weeks away from the Super Bowl, and I will have more coverage coming over the next two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.