By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens are going to the Super Bowl. They defeated the New England Patriots in Foxborough to earn their second championship berth in franchise history. Many expected this game to be close, and for a while, it was. But in the second half, Baltimore took over and sealed the game. No heroics needed. No last second field goal. No double overtime. The Ravens wanted to make a statement, and they did.
Has there been a bigger coaching change in all of sports more impactful on a team than the one made in Baltimore a few weeks ago? The Ravens dismissed Cam Cameron and promoted Jim Caldwell to offensive coordinator. Since that change, Baltimore hasn’t looked back. Caldwell’s gameplan against New England was simple: use the run to set up the pass. There was only one problem with that plan: Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t having any of that. So in the second half, Caldwell put the ball in the hands of Joe Flacco. The pass set up the run in the second half and Baltimore could not be stopped.
Defensively, this game was perhaps Dean Pees’ greatest game as a coordinator. Pees makes better second half adjustments than most coordinators in the NFL. The Patriots scored 13 points in the first half, but in the second half, they scored zero points–nothing! Credit Pees for having Baltimore switch coverage and finding a way to get pressure on Brady. It was a beautifully called game by Pees and is a major reason why Baltimore is heading to Super Sunday.
Joe Flacco continues to impress in the postseason. A week after outdueling Peyton Manning in Denver, he heads into New England and outplays Tom Brady. In the first half, Flacco was not in rhythm and the wind affected his deep ball play ability. In the second half, he took control of the game. Instead of deep balls down the sideline, Flacco settled for intermediate passes that gashed the middle of the Patriots’ secondary. The offensive line played well once again as Flacco was rarely pressured. This unit deserves a lot of credit for the success of the offense. Bryant McKinnie continues to protect Flacco’s blind side with authority.
Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce had sub par games individually, but as a combined force, they ran for 100 yards and one score. Bill Belichick wasn’t going to allow Baltimore to run the football, and the Ravens knew that going in, but the running backs found other ways to get involved. The backs were great in picking up blitzes and catching balls in the flats. Their task doesn’t get easier when they face the 49ers.
The defense struggled early against Tom Brady in the first half only to pick it up in the second. Brady sat comfortably in the pocket in the first half. The Ravens were unable to get any pressure on the QB. It was up to the secondary to blanket the receivers until their front 7 got it together. They would do just that in the second half and held the Patriots to zero points. Ray Lewis had 14 tackles, which gives him a ridiculous 44 tackles total in the postseason. That’s unreal for a 37-year-old linebacker.
Special Teams: A
The special teams unit didn’t have to do much today. In fact, the Patriots did a good job of putting the game out of their hands. High kicks and great coverage forced the Ravens to start inside their own 20 for most of the second half. Baltimore played it safe by having Ed Reed catch punts. He has the best hands on the roster. Sam Koch and Justin Tucker played well as always, but most importantly, the unit didn’t give up any touchdowns on returns.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.