Sunday was a beautiful day and undoubtedly one that will echo in eternity for Ravens fans.
We’ve basked in the glow for a couple of days now; marinated in the nectar of victory while reliving every great play and every Ravens score.
Months and months of tortuous ridicule from those black and yellow clad fans armed with an inflated sense of self-entitlement all exorcised within 60 minutes of magnificent execution by the hometown team.
We are Ravens Nation!
Yet this feeling that we share of glorious exultation must pale in comparison to that of none other than Joe Flacco.
Remember for a moment how you all felt around 4PM on Sunday. You embraced your friend; enthusiastically high-fived a relative stranger who shared your colors. Perhaps you were at home and you danced with your dog, wet-kissed your wife or body-bumped your Ray Lewis Fathead; maybe you took in the game at a local or out-of-town sports bar where celebratory music filled the air like a sweet symphony.
It was a moment you’ve longed for – one that was within your grasp last January only to slip through your fingers and into the opportunistic palms of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now take that feeling and give it an exponential boost.
Can you feel that? Can you imagine that?
That’s where Joe Flacco was late Sunday afternoon.
All of the Jamie Dukes and Warren Sapps and LaMarr Woodleys and Ryan Clarks and Casey Hamptons – every one of them zapped by the mute button and force fed heaping portions of humble pie courtesy of a chef from Audubon, New Jersey.
Some will say (probably Merrill Hoge for starters) that it was only one game. And while true for most, for Flacco and his teammates it could be THE game.
You see while the records and stats will show a decided edge to the Steelers in this heated rivalry (yes Ryan Clark it is a rivalry), particularly in the post season, those stats can be misleading. The media and naturally the northwestern PA fans will tout the popularly held opinion of Steelers dominance over the Ravens. Even the Steelers themselves have gulped down that tainted concoction of Pittsburgh KoolAid.
The Steelers have hardly DOMINATED the Ravens. That’s like saying Affirmed dominated Alydar despite winning each leg of the Triple Crown by 2 lengths – in total. They have simply been a team that knows how to win better than John Harbaugh & Company.
But after Sunday’s game the pendulum could be swinging the Ravens way.
I can’t help but to think of another bitter rivalry, that between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox that took a turn back in 2004. After falling behind 0-3 in the ALCS and down a run in the ninth in Game 4, the Sox amazingly took the series 4-3 en route to their first World Series title in 86 years. Since then, the rivalry has been fairly even with perhaps a slight edge to Boston.
And as pointed out by my colleague Steve Hamrick in his piece earlier today A Perfect Maturation, the Ravens experienced some similar issues with the Jacksonville Jaguars back in the late 90’s. But those evil spirits were cast out on opening day of the 2000 season when Tony Banks hit Shannon Sharpe for a game winning TD.
We all know what happened that season…
But back to this season…
I’m sure Joe Flacco was busting at the seams after his dazzling performance on Sunday and rightly so. Let me put it out there now – he is the Megan Fox this week not only for his performance but for his overdue redemption. That said, I’ve opted not to format this in the usual The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox way only because there was very little bad (I could get picky and criticize Domonique Foxworth for playing too soft or Chuck Pagano for going with a 3 man rush deep in the red zone…was Gregg Mattison nearby?) and absolutely no ugly.
And while Joe gets the MF (be nice) he had support – a ton of it! Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata were dominant… Bryant McKinnie was everything he was touted NOT to be leaving us all to conclude that he was a cap casualty – PERIOD!… Lee Evans although shut out helped to take the top off the Steelers defense and move Troy Polamalu outside of the box and away from the line of scrimmage…Anquan Boldin looked like the No. 1 he was hired to be…Ray Rice was possessed and followed a bulldozer named Leach…Ed Reed was “there”…Jarret Johnson might now be the most popular player amongst his peers and perhaps many Ravens fans after de-cleating Hines Ward…the list goes on.
For other NFL teams the scary thing about the Ravens win has to be the complete team effort delivered by the good guys from top to bottom particularly at the line of scrimmage. Both lines controlled the game so much so that they made the Pittsburgh Steelers look like creampuffs. They flat out beat up the Steelers and after you beat up the bully, more times than not you win physically AND mentally. And the later might be the team’s most compelling victory on Sunday.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote that, “In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm; in the real world, all rests on perseverance.”
The idea in 2011 is to hoist the Lombardi in Indianapolis in February. But to get there, Joe Flacco and his mates need to keep grinding and overcoming one obstacle at a time.
Sunday was one helluva start!