Just dreaming about the possibilities if our Baltimore Ravens had upset the Indianapolis Colts and then went into the Meadowlands for one more game there and defeated the New York Jets to get to Super Bowl 44 in Miami in a couple of weeks. Many of us would be scrambling for tickets and reservations to South Beach and oh yeah, the Big Game. SB Nation has been fortunate enough to get media credentials for the lead writers of each Super Bowl team's blog (sorry guys) and I would be well on my way.
But how would our beloved Ravens fare in the game on the world stage against one of the best offenses in the league this year?
The Ravens went into New Orleans in 2006 and beat Drew Brees and some of the current guys 35-22. Brees actually had a great game against us, throwing for close to 400 yards and three TD's. However, he also threw three picks, with two of them being returned for touchdowns. In typical Ravens fashion, the Saints were limited to a total of 35 yards rushing, while Jamal Lewis led the Ravens rushing attack with 109 yards and Steve McNair played mistake-free football while throwing for two TD's. But it was the bend-but-don't-break defense that stiffened up in the Red Zone and came up with the game-changing turnovers that gave Baltimore the early lead and they never looked back.
If Baltimore wanted to have any chance in defeating this year's version of the Saints, they'd pretty much have to play an identical game to the one in 2006 if they expect to win this dream matchup. The defense knows that the Saints will air it out and they have so many weapons, the secondary would need a lot of help from the guys who normally get on the field once in a while (Frank Walker, ahem). There would have to be pressure on Brees and without the all-out blitzing that would expose our inability to cover one-on-one. A few tipped balls resulting in interceptions would be needed to combat the offensive fireworks we would expect to see. Limiting long gains from Reggie Bush and doing our best to keep the refs yellow bean bags in their waistbands would certainly help as well.
Offensively, Joe Flacco would need to make at least some attempts at showing he could air it out as well. The Saints were not that good of a run defense but you could be sure they would stack the line and dare Flacco to beat them. That would help New Orleans as they were among the best in the NFL at taking the ball away, with Darren Sharper leading the way. However, if Ray Rice were able to break through the line, he would have a great chance to rip off some huge gains.
Make no bones about it, this would be a tough matchup for Baltimore and New Orleans would certainly go into this game as the favorite, I'd say by 3.5 points. They say defense wins championships and this would have to be the case for the Ravens, but without a complementary offense, the Saints would overcome any turnovers by just throwing the ball to put enough points on the board to overcome anything we could muster. I'd like to think we would step up in this game and if we were able to hold down Peyton Manning and then the Jets offense, while scoring enough on New York's top rated defense, then we should be able to hang with anyone.
Anything can happen once you get to the next level and the Ravens certainly put it all together when they got to this point in 2001. While I'd never try to compare this year's defensive version to the 2000 one, we've played pretty solid the last part of the season and since this is my story, I'm picking the Ravens to get those needed turnovers and big games from Ray Rice with just enough from Joe Flacco to outlast the Saints and the Ravens stand atop the football world once again, 27-24!