We’ve been there before, but it’s not going to be a repeat of last year.
After a late season slump that saw the Baltimore Ravens lose four of their last five games, fire their offensive coordinator, get blasted, at home, by another Peyton Manning-led team, reconfigure the offensive line, and get some walking warriors back on the field, the Purple & Black have finally put it all back together in a late season push that has them on the brink of Super Bowl XLVII.
What can a fan say that hasn’t already been said about the Denver game? Atrocious special teams play saved by some bombs-away heroics by Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and timely Broncos brain cramps by their coaching staff. 40 second to go in the game and you don’t have a sure-handed receiver playing center field in the Denver defensive backfield? Shortly thereafter there’s a half-minute left in the game, with two timeouts, Peyton Manning under center, and you take a knee to run out the clock?
Now you know why John Fox lost Super Bowl XXXVII and his teams haven’t been back since.
But that’s ancient history. I’ve scraped myself off the ceiling from Saturday’s game and I’ve been trolling the web sites for local and national angles on the AFC Conference Championship game. The Ravens, heeding Ray Lewis’ advice to not read anything about the game outside the Under Armor Center, are paying no attention to the pro-Patriots pabulum on the web.
But I am!
At this point it’s a foregone conclusion in New England that the Patriots will simply punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. The Vegas line is down to -8, national pundits are lining up like toy soldiers on the New England side, and even most of The Baltimore Sun writers are picking the Pats (most picked Denver last week, too).
I love being an underdog!
First of all, Brendan Ayanbadejo should have kept his idiotic, bulletin board-fodder about the New England’s play calling to himself. The Patriots blew his comments off but you know they’re hanging on a wall somewhere in Gillette Stadium. Instead, our so-called special teams “ace” should be talking to his teammates about tightening up the play of the kicking units who gave the Denver Broncos 14 gift points.
That said, I think the Ravens special teams, who have been universally excellent all year, got their bad game out of their system. I look for no repeats this week. And…..in Justin Tucker we have a place kicker that will not choke.
The Boston media are every bit as arrogant as the writers in The Denver Post, most of whom predicted a Broncos rout. Woody Paige went into hiding for four days before he showed his face on ESPN’s Around the Horn. Unfortunately we can’t read entirely what the Boston Globe chowder heads are writing beyond the by lines because they have put up the mother of all pay walls on their internet site.
But the Boston Herald (the junior varsity of New England journalism) is doing their part to pile on. They wrote that Sports Illustrated has jinxed Flacco by putting him on this week’s cover (a very nice article by Peter King, by the way). Oh, and SI picks the Pats to win 38-27.
Whatever. Let’s play the game.
With the exception of that 2010 33-14 blowout win in Foxborough, the Ravens and Patriots have played it extremely close, with either team winning by three or four points. I expect this game to be no different. Without getting overly analytical, it will be a duel of offensive & defensive coordinators, hot quarterbacks, and hard tackling on both sides with the game being decided late in the 4th quarter.
By now, many of you have seen the Boston billboard counting down to game time with the title “Ray’s Retirement Party.”
They need to add two weeks to that clock.
Ravens 27, Patriots 24.