Had you known in advance that Joe Flacco would clearly outplay Tom Brady and that New England’s All-World signal caller would not throw a single TD pass chances are you would have marked your calendar on February 5 for the Ravens’ second Super Bowl appearance.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
A dropped pass, a missed field goal, an interception overturned due to a ticky-tacky call – alter any of these events and it’s quite likely the story, for Ravens fans, would have had a happy ending. But in the end we were left with shattered hopes and moral victories.
THE GOOD: Anquan Boldin had 6 catches for 101 yards and stepped up when it counted most…Torrey Smith may have had 3 TD’s if not for the disruptive force called Vince Wilfork. He is explosive and his experience in the AFCC will only serve to accelerate his maturation process…Dennis Pitta is maturing quickly and stepped up on the national stage with 5 catches for 41 yards and a score…Lardarius Webb is closing in on elite corner status quickly. Limiting Wes Welker to 53 yards and his acrobatic INT when the Ravens really needed a momentum shifter added to his burgeoning reputation as a playmaker…Bernard Pollard while not a flawless tackler in space did a nice job keeping the Patriots’ dangerous tight ends in check. He also gets a big assist on Jimmy Smith’s clutch interception to help set up a potential game winning/ending drive…Ray Lewis did a nice job of patrolling the short middle zones while chipping in with 12 tackles…Paul Kruger was active and explosive as an edge pass rusher and in hindsight should have taken some of Jarret Johnson’s snaps…Ed Reed’s presence influenced Tom Brady’s decision making throughout the contest and he made a clutch play breaking up a third down pass to Aaron Hernandez to force a New England punt.
THE BAD: Perhaps the single most disruptive force on the field yesterday was Vince Wilfork and the two players most responsible for his dominance were Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda. Yanda, perhaps not all that healthy, clearly slumped down the homestretch this season…Ed Dickson has become a very unreliable receiver. His hands have been consistently shaky over the course of the season’s final quarter pole. Yesterday was no different. Dickson mental lapse wasn’t exactly endearing either. Facing a favorable 2nd and 3 at the Patriots 30 yard line, Dickson committed a false start. Two plays later the Ravens turned it over on downs…Dannell Ellerbe was awful, regularly trailing plays and missing tackles in space. And his facemask penalty on a 1 yard second and 6 Benjarvus Green-Ellis run at the Ravens 15 yard line helped set the stage for the Patriots first touchdown…John Harbaugh should have called a timeout instead of rushing Cundiff out there for a game tying field goal. And by the way, why did they have to rush anyway. What was special teams coach Jerry Rosburg doing? Why isn’t that unit ready for what was the most important field goal in Cundiff’s and Rosburg’s career? And what’s up with Harbaugh pushing kicking coach Randy Brown?
THE UGLY: Let’s start with the National Anthem, a wretched, nails-on-the-chalkboard rendition by Joan Rivers’ older sister, Steven Tyler…Michael Oher just seems to get worse with experience. Maybe the Ravens should hire Sandra Bullock as offensive line coach…Lee Evans, had the opportunity of a lifetime to finish a play and put the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVI. Instead, he could go down as the Ravens answer to Bill Buckner…Billy Cundiff, what was that? When the Ravens lined up for that field goal on the right hash mark, it is hard to deny that I expected him to push it right like he has in the past. But that duck hook off the tee was disgusting – and so costly. Cundiff’s kickoffs were substandard as well and the kick coverage included its usual sloppy tackling.
THE MEGAN FOX AWARD: Yesterday while channel surfing all of the networks covering the NFL, by far the most discussed player was Joe Flacco. He was clearly in the crosshairs of the national media and the pressure to perform was enormous. Despite constant penetration up the middle from Wilfork, Flacco answered all his critics and delivered an outstanding and clutch performance. If Lee Evans finishes a perfectly placed back shoulder pass for what would likely have been turned in for a ticket to Indianapolis, Flacco would be the talk of the sporting world today. But Evans and Cundiff took that opportunity away. Flacco on the day was 22 of 36 for 2 TD’s and 1 INT and 306 yards and a 95.4 quarterback rating. He also contributed with his feet rushing for 27 yards on four carries, one for a key first down to help extend the Ravens’ lead to 4.
Earlier in the week when asked about how he is viewed by the media Flacco responded, “I don’t care. I will be wearing a ring, and we will be holding a trophy. The perception probably won’t change, but it does not really matter.”
You are wrong Joe. The perception has changed and you stepped up when it counted most. Count me among those who believe that it could be a launching pad to bigger things and better things for you.