By Samuel Njoku
As Marlon Brown snagged the game winning touchdown from Joe Flacco which inevitably capped off a six lead change snow fest in M&T Bank stadium, you could literally sense something special forming with this football team. The Baltimore Ravens — 10 months removed from a Super Bowl championship and yards away from perhaps missing the playoffs all together, seemed to have turned a corner.
Make no mistake about it. The Ravens are not a perfect football team — far from it. Their quarterback is suffering from one of the most bipolar seasons this league has ever witnessed with a respectable 18 touchdowns followed swiftly by an abysmal 17 interceptions. Their running back has gone from one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL to one of the most lethargic runners in the game. And to call their offensive line mediocre would be a slight handed compliment. But underneath the dirt and grime that can accumulate from a less than stellar football season rests a defending champion. And that’s what makes the Baltimore Ravens one of the more intriguing football teams in a league that is lacking on just that.
The Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, appear destined to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. And with Manning using the 2013 NFL season as his personal playground while continuing to break/create records that seemed impossible to accomplish months ago, it’s not hard to envision Denver in New York in February. The Patriots annual drubbing of the cesspool known as the AFC East leaves New England destined for the postseason on a yearly basis. But the Baltimore Ravens find themselves clawing to remain in the playoff picture. In a league that seems to have left their champion for dead, Baltimore is still kicking — still fighting.
“We are pretty much battle-tested against anything a team can throw against us,” stated Ravens LB Terrell Suggs after their win against Minnesota. “We just keep trucking along. This team is very tough and very mentally strong and this team has a lot of fight in it.”
Baltimore is indeed battle tested. The scars of those battles will often times leave them ugly and unappealing as made evident by their flexed out game against the New England Patriots in Week 16. Nobody wants to see the defending champions on prime-time television. But rest assured, nobody wants to see the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. Not the Bengals. Not the Patriots. Not the Broncos. Delve a little deeper into Baltimore’s season and it’s not hard to figure out why.
For starters, eight of the 13 games played by Baltimore have been decided by 3 points or less. That’s an incredible statistic. It’s also the calling card for a football team in an extremely delicate state. That’s what should make Terrell Suggs comments all the more reassuring for Ravens fans. A “battle tested” Ravens team is a dangerous one. And though Baltimore has a difficult challenge ahead of themselves with Detroit on Monday Night Football followed by two pivotal games against New England and Cincinnati, no one in the Ravens organization appears to be concerned. And why should they? Baltimore possesses a Super Bowl winning head coach in John Harbaugh and a big time quarterback in Joe Flacco, who just so happens to be a Super Bowl MVP. The Ravens have the talent to accomplish their goals and the determination to overcome adversity.
Of course no one is expecting the Ravens to win a second consecutive championship. And making the playoffs for a sixth straight season will be a challenge in itself. But to completely write this team off at this point in the year would be a mistake — one that many have made before.
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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. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.