Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It took some time but the Ravens defense finally woke up this season.
On December 16th the Denver Broncos came in to Baltimore and embarrassed them on their home turf. In many ways this was the lowest point for this team and this season. Future Hall Of Fame safety Ed Reed even came out and said "I'm embarrassed for my city"
The team reportedly had a blow out in the locker room after the game but it ended in a calm productive discussion in which many players came away feeling better about themselves, their team and their coaches. I think that the fact that this "blow out" ended in a group therapy session for the team and that they ended up with a positive result is the reason they are here today. It is a testament to their coaching staff and the humility of their players that they were able to get past that public embarrassment and become better for it.
The very next game the Ravens faced the New York Giants, the reigning champions on the National Football League and they blew the doors off them. The defense was, once again, dominant and the offense, under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, found it's identity.
Since the late season slump, in which the Ravens lost four out of five games, the team regained Dannell Ellerbe, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bernard Pollard. They have also seen a resurgence in the play of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as he has been getting healthier late in the season. So, not only did the team regain its strength mentally, but physically as well. They got their best players back just at the right time.
Before the Giants game the Ravens were no shoe-in to win the division or to go anywhere in the playoffs, but after they came together and dismantled "Big Blue" they put themselves on a roll that would end with the Super Bowl. In beating the Giants the Ravens won the AFC North and ensured themselves a home playoff game to serve their loyal fans and to act as a tribute for the great Ray Lewis, who was already planning his retirement at seasons end.
The Ravens ended up facing the Indianapolis Colts in the first round and didn't give up a touchdown all game. They seemed to start off slowly but found their groove and laid the wood to the Colts in the second half, easily showing that they were the dominant team.
Then, they traveled to Denver as major underdogs to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos who were the NFL's hottest team and owners of the number one seed in the AFC. The Ravens forced three turnovers out of all world QB Peyton Manning and ended up beating the Broncos in double overtime, mostly because the tired and beat up defense was able to stop Denver's offense over and over again during overtime.
Then, last Sunday, the Ravens traveled into Foxboro Massachusetts to face Tom Brady and the NFL's highest scoring offense. The defense did it again, holding the Patriots scoreless in the second half and going on a 21-0 run on offense to assure themselves a trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.
The Ravens defense is back and just in time too. This group may not be the defense from 2000 that set records but they hit hard and work well together, keeping opponents out of the end zone. So far I'd have to name Joe Flacco the MVP of the post season but the defense as a whole is a close second. There is no doubt in my mind that they will bring it on Super Bowl Sunday as well.