No chance. All week long, that’s what I was reading. Baltimore was going into Denver, and Ray Lewis was going into retirement. Denver owned Baltimore and that was that. Sure, the beat writers did their best to hype the possibilities of an upset; but if they spoke their mind, they didn’t really believe what they were saying. Even with a surefire blowout on the horizon, have to keep the fans watching. Baltimore had surely worn out the emotional boost of Ray Lewis’ retirement announcement they said. You can only go so far on emotion, it was written. The Ravens are too injured, old, mistake-prone and outmatched.
Then something happened: they played the game. And no matter who won, the real winners were we the fans.
Over the next four hours, my blood pressure and nerve endings experienced every sensation imaginable. Every aspect of the game was on display. Ray Lewis fighting time and fatigue to lead his team one more time. Peyton Manning fighting the cold to keep slinging the ball. All five feet and five inches of Trindon Holliday scoring on punt and kickoff returns in the opening minutes of each half. Demaryius Thomas making several future hall-of-famers look old and slow as he zipped through the defense en-route to a touchdown. Jacoby Jones catching Joe Flacco’s prayer in the closing minute of regulation. Double overtime. Special teams touchdowns. Turnovers. An afternoon of awesome.
I couldn’t watch the Green Bay – San Francisco game that followed. My nerves had enough. And no matter what they did, it couldn’t top what we had all just witnessed.
What happens next is anybody’s guess. We all hope Manning can come back and win another Super Bowl, but he could start the inevitable decline as age and injury catch up with him. I’d love to see the Ravens send Ray Lewis out with a Super Bowl victory, but after this week, they may really be too tired, old, beat up and emotionally drained to even keep it close next week. All I know is this: I will be watching.
Get out of your own way: On one play, Ray Lewis knocked down Terrell Suggs while both were trying to tackle the ball-carrier, the error allowed a five yard gain. On the the ensuing punt, Jacoby Jones was slowed when his own blocker ran into him.
Where did Ed Reed go? Considered one of the greatest active ball-hawks, and regarded as a solid return man; Ed Reed practically disappeared from the proceedings on Saturday. Practically, with two exceptions, neither of which will burnish his credentials. He can be seen whiffing on the Thomas touchdown. He came in to return a punt, leading to the offense having to start at their own five yard line. If anyone sees the Ed Reed that is a future hall-of-famer, please direct him to the nearest playing field.
Flacco: Joe Flacco had some great moments and was solid for most of the game, but the ugly and inexplicable mistakes that keep him from being considered a top 5 quarterback reared their head throughout the game. One fumbled exchange from center that the Broncos recovered in Broncos territory, two errant throws that should have been picked off, two third down plays where he rolled right and did absolutely nothing to help his team, and losing track of the play clock forcing his coach to call time out. Did I miss any?
While that excitement occupied our televisions, the coaching carousel continues…
This Chud is for you: Cleveland hired Panthers Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski to be what feels like their 438th head coach since returning to the league. Though he has no prior head coaching experience, this is a promising move. In two years with Carolina, he made Cam Newton look like a capable NFL quarterback. Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense haven’t been nearly as good since he left two years ago. And in his last stint with Cleveland, he got a winning season and productive offense out of Derek Anderson of all people. Certainly not a household name, but there’s more potential here than with half the retreads making the interview circuit…I’m talking to you, Lovie Smith.
The full Monte: A new defensive coordinator. Apparently that’s what the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert, I mean Jerry Jones, meant when he said changes were coming. Out goes competent and bombastic Rob Ryan and in comes Monte Kiffin, architect of the Tampa 2 defense. This may work out in the long run but there will be growing pains, especially for DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer having to play from defensive end. In the end it will all be for naught, because this team still has a quarterback that can’t win tough games when it counts, a head coach thats a glorified offensive coordinator and a general manager that doesn’t know football.
One more Sunday with a full afternoon of football to look forward to, followed by the media circus that is the Super Bowl. You can never know what kind of game you’re going to get, but if its half as good as what the Ravens and Broncos brought Saturday, we’ll be firmly in our seats watching.