Pardon me while I catch my breath.
It will difficult to put into words how truly great this victory was for fans of the purple and black. After years of getting close and coming up short this win makes next week feel like a forgone conclusion.
Can this team make it to a Super Bowl?
After tonight it’s hard to bet against them.
Here are some thoughts about tonight’s game.
- Joe Flacco. The Ravens “endured” another typical regular season from the Delaware grad. At times he’d show flashes of greatness while others he’d look confused and inconsistent. But make no mistake this guy took a giant step tonight. Last season he out played Tom Brady and couldn’t advance due to the shortcomings of his teammates. This year he outplays Peyton Manning and could end up dueling “Tom Terrific” once again for a shot in New Orleans. Flacco was 18-34 for 331 yds. with 3 touchdowns and was hurt at times by his receivers drops. Still, he hung tough and showcased his big arm on deep strikes three times to carry the day. Is there really any question that this guy gets paid and stays here a long time?
- The Offensive Line. I can’t gush enough about the job they did today. They held one of the sack happiest teams in the NFL to just one all night long. They kept Flacco clean most of the night and did a solid job in the run game as well. Ben Grubbs replacement was on the roster all along, Kelechi Osemele is his name. I also wonder if the Ravens can afford to let Bryant McKinnie walk after this season. He came up huge when they needed it. I will also give props to the much maligned Mike Oher. He took Von Miller’s best shots and did his job.
- I said all week that if the Ravens could run the ball they could win this game. 39 rushes for 155 yards (4.0 average) will get the job done against most teams. Ray Rice had 30 attempts for 131 yds. and a touchdown and even though he was non-existent in the pass game the threat to run was big setting up the deep shots downfield.
- After a tough outing in Week Fifteen the receivers busted out in a big way. Torrey Smith made Champ Bailey look old and feeble as he burst past him on two touchdown sprints.(3-98-2 tds) Anquan Boldin made some tough grabs (6-71) in traffic and Dennis Pitta (3-55) was the middle of the field presence that Baltimore needed. I have to mention the one catch by Jacoby Jones because it was so huge. How does he get behind the defense to tie the game with 40 seconds left? Stunning.
- The Defense played a game that was consistent with 2012, bend but don’t break. They gave up plenty of yards to Manning and company but made plays when they needed to. They won the turnover battle against the Broncos 4-1 and as always during the playoffs that can be big.
- Ray Lewis. He lives to play another week after 17 tackles against Denver. Some of those tackles were further downfield and he can’t cover as well but the will to win was always evident. Lewis gets one final chance at a Super Bowl next week.
- Terrell Suggs. Suggs has been playing at maybe 80% most of the season. Honestly I didn’t even expect him to play in 2012 or in the playoffs. But here he is out there gutting it out and while he had trouble sometimes he was able to make important plays. 10 Tackles, 2 Sacks and a Forced Fumble. Big players make big plays in big games.
- Corey Graham. I remember when the Ravens signed him. Maybe a Nickel back with Special Teams experience. Today he nabs two huge interceptions, one for a pick six. He also had 3 passes defensed. With Webb out for the season Graham has stepped in quite nicely.
- The Ravens Special Teams. This group may have been one of the best of the three all season but the coverage was awful. Not to take away from the thrilling performance of Trindon Holliday (2 Tds) but the Ravens coverage was pretty bad upon closer inspection. It’s amazing how things change in the playoffs. It truly is the second season.
- Justin Tucker. No Cundiff here as the Texas rookie booted the Ravens to another AFC Title game. Hook’em horns!