Without meaning to irritate most Baltimore Ravens fans, this needs to be said. The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants did what the Baltimore Ravens almost did, but didn't, in beating the New England Patriots. They did it in basically the same way it appeared the Ravens were on their way to doing, except for one key thing. The Giants scored and the Ravens didn't.
New York moved down the field in the closing minutes and when they were on the brink of scoring, they did just that. They almost decided not to score in the manner that they did, but ended up do doing so and holding their breath for that one final Hail Mary that Tom Brady couldn't bring his Patriots back on the game's final play.
Some might argue that because of the score, Pats coach Bill Belichick told his team to let the Giants score, so they could get the ball back and have more time to try to stage a miracle comeback. Otherwise, he felt New York would take a knee to purposely not score and run the clock down until they kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired, never giving the ball back to the Patriots offense.
Solid coaching move by Belichick, but despite Ahmad Bradshaw momentarily undecided as to what to do as he temporarily wavered on the goal-line, but then fell through the plane, making that option irrelevant. Hence the last-second excitement for what otherwise was not such an exciting game, at least to Ravens fans.
However, Eli Manning made it all possible with his comeback wining drive, which he has done all season long. The pressure was on him and even when the Giants moved into field goal range, the team still decided to keep moving the ball towards the goal line rather than sit on it by calling conservative plays to be safe. Between the QB, offensive coordinator and head coach, the decision was made to keep their collective feet on the throats of the reeling Patriots defense and risk the pass along with the run to put the ball into the end zone.
Let that be a lesson to the Ravens leadership, which all too many times this season and in the past, took that conservative route, playing for the field goal rather than sticking the dagger in their opponent's throats. That lack of killer instinct needs to be a thing of the past and while it appeared that the Ravens were definitely going for the win rather than the tie in the AFC Championship Game, they still did not get it done.
Blame it all you want on the dropped pass by Lee Evans or the missed field goal by Billy Cundiff, but there were a plethora of plays you can point at the contributed to the loss. One play before the Evans drop, Flacco overlooked a wide open Vonta Leach in the flat and threw an incompletion to a covered Anquan Boldin in the end zone. Earlier in the fourth quarter, TE Ed Dickson was called for a false start on a third-and-three when the team was in field goal range.
Regardless of where the blame can and should be spread all around to, both with the players and the coaches, the simple fact is that the Ravens did not get it done. The New York Giants did, not only last week, but all along the latter part of the season after proving they could do it four years ago when they beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl on a last minute game-winner drive similarly engineered by Eli Manning.
People around Baltimore are now comparing Joe Flacco to Eli Manning but around the NFL they are comparing Manning to his brother, Peyton, and the other so-called "elite" QBs, such as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and of course Tom Brady. Manning absolutely belongs in that discussion and Flacco could very well join that group in the coming years. A win in the AFC Championship and another in last week's Super Bowl would have gone a long way to starting that conversation, but as long as the Ravens keep saying, "close but no cigar," that discussion will have to be put on hold.
Do what the Giants did and the Ravens couldn't, and then the comparisons can begin, for both the team and Flacco.