Super Bowl Champs Down But Not Out As Season Finale Approaches
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By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens have been the model of consistency in the NFL for years. They always make the playoffs and they’re always tough to beat. And prior to Sunday it appeared as if we were heading down a similar path with the defending Super Bowl Champions. Then Tom Brady came to town and stomped out that fantasy and left M&T Bank Stadium with nothing but a cold reality.
That reality is simply that the Baltimore Ravens are average — pedestrian to a fault. The Patriots proved that the Ravens are very beatable at home. And though the 41-7 drubbing Baltimore took is clearly not the norm, it is a testament to how bad this team can unravel when things aren’t going their way.
The play in which Joe Flacco tripped and fell off his own feet is a clear representation of what the Ravens went through against New England. Baltimore stumbled early and could not recover. They simply fell — and fell hard. But the cold reality left behind by Bill Belichick and his AFC East Champions isn’t as harsh as it seems. Deep within the confines of despair lies hope for Baltimore. The fact remains that this team is wounded, not dead. Though the future of this football team may be full of doubt, their past suggests that we shouldn’t count them out yet.
They prepare to face a Cincinnati Bengals team that has already clinched the AFC North title. The Bengals are now fighting for a first round bye while the Ravens are simply fighting for one more week of football.
“Our job and our task as one single-minded purpose is to win the next game,” stated Harbaugh on Monday. “Obviously, we have everything at stake, and Cincinnati has got much at stake, too – not everything.”
Harbaugh knows that his team must win this game on Sunday. It’s playoff football in it’s cruelest form. For even if the team wins on Sunday, they still aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot. They’ll hope either Miami or San Diego falls on Sunday to get in. If the Ravens want to keep up their end of the bargain, they’ll have to rely on QB Joe Flacco, who has struggled a great deal this season.
Many have speculated that the knee injury Flacco suffered against Detroit has hampered his ability to throw the football. But the reality is Flacco has found it difficult to perform at the level he’s accustomed to for most of the season. This has less to do with his knee and more to do with the offensive line and the running game. Flacco is most dangerous when he throws off of play action. It’s almost impossible to be effective when the defense refuses to bite on the fake. It takes a way a big part of his game and is one of the reasons why Flacco has regressed in 2013.
But Baltimore has overcome a plethora of deficiencies this season to put themselves in position to play in the post-season. And everyone knows once you enter the playoffs, anything can happen. Baltimore just needs to get there. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s easier said than done.
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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.