Five members of the Baltimore Ravens were honored yesterday with their selection to February's Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Four of them were picked as starters, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Le'Ron McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo, while Terrell Suggs was picked as a reserve. Ray received his pick for the 10th time, and probably has a condo in Honolulu to crash at with his buddy, Reed, who received his 5th trip to Hawaii. This is the 3rd time for both Suggs and Ayanbadejo, while McClain is receiving this honor for the first time in his short two year career.
These guys have all been very valuable Ravens and are proven playmakers, in that they can decide the outcome of a game. Ray is a no-brainer, and both Reed and Suggs have turned takeaways into six points at least twice each. Ayanbadejo has earned his reputation as the game's top Special Teams' ace while McClain has went from unknown fullback to bruising tailback in one year.
However, the selection means little to me for a team with one of the most players selected to the Pro Bowl. The Jets lead with seven, while the Giants, Titans and Vikings each are sending six to Hawaii. The AFC North Champ Pittsburgh Steelers are only sending three to the Pro Bowl, which shows how much the ability to win is more of a team game than one based on individual stardom. The other teams with high numbers of players selected are pretty much assured of a playoff berth, while the Ravens are now left to fight for their playoff lives the next two weeks. We can blame our five losses on whomever you want, but now the chance to get in the post season sits squarely in our hands. If we can get out of Dallas with a victory, then to come home to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in the final regualr season game to nail down a Wild Card slot should be a gimme for this team. However, if we get out to a lead and then allow the Cowboys to come back, then we might end up putting the game back into the official's shaky hands once again.
We will need to open up the playbook and throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Dallas. Flacco has to be given every opportunity to show the national TV audience Saturday night, that he IS the QB of the present as well as the future. Our defense needs to be even more opportunistic than we were against the Steelers. Even though we did get the turnovers, we did nothing with them. Had Ed Reed eluded Pittsburgh's Max Starks on that fumble recovery deep in Steelers territory, he might have waltzed in for the six points, which might have put the game away. He usually does that and if he has that same opportunity in Dallas, he will need to do so. The Cowboys have an explosive offense, so don't expect 13 points to get the job done Saturday night.
Therefore, pull out all the stops, Cam and John. No time to play it conservative and wait for your defense to win it for us. That might have worked in 2000-01, but it won't work nowadays. The whole reason we are in the position to make the post season when we all never would have been bold enough to predict this back in September is that the offense has been reinvented and has opened up by throwing downfield and unveiling a chapter of wild formations and trick plays. None of that was evident against the Steelers for some unknown reason, and the results showed it. Unleash the offense as well as the defense. There is no reason to leave anything on the shelf this week. Nothing else matters other than a victory over the Cowboys in Dallas in the last game in Texas Stadium on national TV in front of the entire football world.
Playmakers? Let's see them make it happen.