Road to the Super Bowl: The Baltimore Ravens Catalysts to Postseason Glory
This season turned on that 4th and 29 play. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the play I’m talking about. Down 13 to 10, Ray Rice catches the ball with about 24 yards to get, and somehow manages to juke and drive forward for the first down. The Ravens go on to kick a field goal, and win in overtime. This jettisoned them to new heights; they stormed off that field a confident bunch, to blow through the rest of the season on their way to the playoffs.
Oh, wait… they lost four out of their last five after that one… Seriously? How does a team slide to the Super Bowl? One can only guess, so here are a few.
Ray Lewis Announces Retirement
Three days after their Week 17 loss to the Bengals, Ray Lewis announced this would be his final season. If this was a coincidence, then Jim Nance isn’t losing his hair. This was a genius move on the part of Ray Lewis. You have a team that’s downtrodden, slumping, and lacking purpose going into the postseason. Ray Lewis, the most iconic Raven of the past decade, gave them a reason to get riled up about this postseason and a grander reason winning football games. Secondly, have you ever seen Ray Lewis getting his team fired up before the game? I want to hit someone just watching, add his imminent retirement to that fire, now you really want to put a smack down on someone.
Firing Cam Cameron
On December 10th, the Ravens fired Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron after an overtime loss to the Redskins. They wallowed in offensive mediocrity for the final three weeks, never scoring more than 17 points. Well, you have to give Jim Caldwell a few weeks to get comfortable with this offense, but after a few weeks, they pulled it together at just the right time. They scored 24, 38, and 28 points in their three postseason games, a drastic change from the pedestrian totals that Cam’s offense was averaging. Cam Cameron even called the move “brilliant” after the Ravens made their run to the Super Bowl.
The play of Joe Flacco cannot be understood or understated either. Whether this is due to Ray Lewis (more doubtful) or Jim Caldwell (more likely), Baltimore fans couldn’t care less, as long as he keeps it up for one more game. He benefitted from the easiest first round game, when they got to host the Colts at home. I think winning one game gave him the confidence to step up in the next two games, and his confidence just grew from there. Whether he can keep this momentum up against the 49ers defense is another story.