Over the last two decades, The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the centerpieces of the NFL. Amassing 173 regular season wins, making the playoffs 10 times and winning 15 playoff games. They have appeared in four AFC Championship games and have won two Super Bowls. There aren't many franchises that can say they had that kind of success in their first 20 years. The Ravens fans have been very fortunate to see many great football memories from the team and hope there will be more to come.
Throughout any franchise's history there will be a year or years, where a fan looks back and says, "Wow, we should have won it all that year." It stinks that it happens, but it just comes with the territory of sports. As Ray Lewis once said during The NFL Networks: A Football Life, "When it's your time, it's your time, when it's not, it's not."
For the Ravens, those words and years aspire greatly to two of the best seasons in the history of the organization, those teams had a dominating regular season, great defenses, a balanced offense with an efficient quarterback and both won the AFC North division. They also both ended in heart-wrenching playoff defeats. Those years were 2006 and 2011.
In 2006, the Ravens were coming off a disappointing 6-10 campaign the year before and had major quarterback problems with Kyle Boller being a bust. With that, the Ravens turned to an old rival to provide stability and production to that position, Steve McNair. The team acquired McNair after The Tennessee Titans drafted Texas quarterback Vince Young for a 4th round draft pick in 2007. To assist the defense, the team signed defensive end Trevor Pryce and drafted one of the best players to ever put on the purple and black, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. '
With the likes of McNair, Jamal Lewis, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Jonathan Ogden and even Mark Clayton, the offense provided exactly the complement the team needed for the defense. What makes their playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts even more awful, was the fact that the 2006 Ravens defense was unbelievable to watch. They were the league's top rated defense and the unit produced 6 pro bowlers.
You could make the argument that the 2006 Ravens defense was better than the 2000 Ravens defense that won it all. Ultimately, it would be the offense that let them down in the 15-6 loss to the Colts and we are left with the question "If they won the Super Bowl, would that defense been considered one of the best of all time?"
It was a little different heading into 2011, the team was coming off a 12-4 season in 2010 and already had stability at the quarterback position when they drafted Joe Flacco in 2008 to go alongside with running back Ray Rice, whom they also drafted that same year. During that offseason, the team signed fullback Vonta Leach, who mauled incoming defenders for Rice and the newly acquired, Ricky Williams. They also signed left tackle Bryant McKinnie and drafted Torrey Smith.
The team had high Super Bowl dreams that year and showed why they were one of the best teams in the NFL by having an offense that can pound the football and run a defense into submission, or could throw the ball with a strong armed quarterback to weapons such as Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Dennis Pitta.
The 2011 Ravens defense was once again dominant as it ranked third in points allowed and third in total defense. Unlike 2006 though, this Ravens defense had the defensive player of the year in 2011 by the name of T-Sizzle, A.K.A Terrell Suggs. Suggs recorded 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles, to go along with two interceptions. The team defeated The Houston Texans 20-13 in the AFC divisional playoff game in Baltimore, which set up a fight for the Super Bowl against Tom Brady and The New England Patriots.
The Ravens, in a game not a lot of people, gave them a chance to win, went out there and gave The Pats everything they could ask for. They showed heart, guts, and the will to win up to the very last seconds of the game with the Lee Evans drop and Billy Cundiff's missed 32-yard field goal. That loss though would help propel and motivate the team to their eventual destiny the next year later.
The 2006 and 2011 seasons were ones to be remembered for Ravens fans with continuing a tradition of winning football in Baltimore and help to make the Baltimore Ravens into one of the best NFL teams in the last 20 years, but of these two teams, which one was the best to never capture the Lombardi? Comment below and discuss.