When I was a kid, one of my favorite comic book series was Marvel Comics’ “What If…”. They’d take pivotal moments in Spider-Man or Captain America’s adventures and do a single issue about what would have happened if it had gone a little different. Looking at the match-up for today’s Super Bowl, and how extremely close we came to having a Baltimore / New York championship, I have to wonder…
What If… Lee Evans had made the catch?
Looking at a potential Giants vs. Ravens Super Bowl, it’s amazing how evenly matched these teams really are when considering the stats:
- Giants Offense: 9th in points, 8th in yards (5th passing, 32nd rushing)
- Ravens Offense: 12th in points, 15th in yards (19th passing, 10th rushing)
- Giants Defense: 25th in points, 27th in yards (29th passing, 19th rushing)
- Ravens Defense: 3rd in points, 3rd in yards (4th passing, 2nd rushing)
So if you look at it from those stats it’s the perfect matchup. The implacable Ravens Defense vs. the high-flying Giants Offense and the middling Ravens Offense vs. the mediocre Giants defense.
During the post-season however things changed a bit. New York’s defense got healthy, gelled, and started to make an impact and Baltimore’s offense, forced to go to the air, surprised most people with Flacco outplaying Brady. So let’s take a look at what may have happened…
Ravens offense vs. Giants defense:
In the AFC playoffs, both the Texans and the Patriots subscribed to the same philosophy on how to stop Baltimore, i.e. stop Ray Rice, and make Joe Flacco beat them. Both teams managed to stop Rice, limiting him to a meager 63.5 yards per game. Unfortunately for them, Flacco was up to the challenge, throwing for 5 touchdowns combined (remember Lee Evans made the catch). Huge numbers? No, but enough to put both teams away. Odds are, the Giants would go for the same strategy for two reasons, first, Flacco is still unproven, second, how do you not do everything you can to stop Rice?
Their results, on the other hand would have been much different. The Giants’ defense frankly could not have shut down Ray Rice anywhere near as effectively. There’s no one on the G-Men roster named Vince Wilfork. With Rice let off the leash, the Ravens win this head to head match.
Giants offense vs. Ravens defense:
The biggest question in this match-up is whether Ed Reed is healthy or not. Eli Manning, despite the fact that he looks like that slow cousin everyone has, is a very smart quarterback, and there is no way he’d be stupid enough to target a healthy Reed. Even with a healthy Reed though, Cruz would be a huge problem every time he got lucky enough to be singled up against rookie CB Jimmy Smith.
In the end, a frustrated, and likely battered Eli Manning still gives the Giants a slight edge in this head to head match.
Add it up and I think this Super Bowl would have been the most entertaining, back and forth championship in a long time. Who would have won? The viewers!
As for the game?
I think the Ravens would have pulled it off 23-20 in overtime, on the strength of a Billy Cundiff field goal.
Why the Ravens?
All things being equal, I think Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs’ locker room presence gives them the edge.