When the New England Patriots went up by nine late in the 4th quarter last night, it appeared that the Baltimore Ravens still hadn’t found a way to get the better of Tom Brady and company. After the way last season ended, to think the Patriots weren’t still in the Ravens head might be a little too optimistic. Especially when we all remember how last season ended between them.
But with a big come from behind win as time expired last night, has Baltimore finally stared down their demons and taken their place among the favorite in the AFC? It’s a good start, for sure.
Not only was starting in a dreaded 1-2 hole to begin the year with yet another loss to the now-rival Patriots a possibility, but the confidence level would have taken a hit, too, by not being able to protect home field. It’s a haven that Baltimore doesn’t lose at often, in fact, they didn’t lose there once in all of 2011, including the playoffs. By proving that they can finally find a way to top the Patriots, and with New England sitting below .500 for the first time since week 2 of the 2003 season, it almost feels as if the torch has been passed.
So how did they do it?
First off all, Tom Brady was having his way with the Ravens secondary all night. So to think that they were able to stop him in the crunch of the fourth quarter when they absolutely had to have a stop spoke volumes. I’m one of the few who felt like New England was playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. This was evidenced with them running the ball to eat clock instead of running their offense as normal. But you can’t fault the Ravens for that.
Next, even though I’ve raked Joe Flacco over hot coals for the past three years, he had a brilliant game. Again, the New England secondary isn’t exactly feared, but Flacco put the throws where they needed to be. 382 yards for 3 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 117.7 is tough to accomplish no matter how good or bad of a defense you’re facing. And for a guy who has been turnover prone for a large chunk of his career, he didn’t throw a bad pass in the second half.
Lastly, how can you not give some credit to wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was playing with the epitome of a heavy heart with the loss of his teenage brother less than 24 hours before the game. I’m still surprised he even played in the game, but he put in an amazing performance with six catches for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was as gutsy of a performance as I’ve ever seen and he performed admirably.
So does this make the Ravens the favorites in the AFC? Personally, I still think it’s too early to tell. The Patriots aren’t exactly going to just go away and there is a pretty good ball club down in Houston right now that might want to throw their hat in the ring.
But what the Ravens should be doing right now is feeling like they got that monkey off their back and proved they can beat this Patriots team after a couple of recent heartbreaking losses to them. They did whoop up on them pretty bad in a wild card game a couple of years ago, but that was a different team. I’m talking about this version of the Patriots that Baltimore has struggled with over the past three years.
If you think Baltimore isn’t feeling pretty good about themselves, you’re delusional. I don’t care if it was a win by 1 point of by 30, they’re feeling pretty good about where their season is sitting at. If not for a painfully close loss in week 2, they’d be sitting at a comfortable 3-0. With the New England demon exorcised, they now need to focus on finishing with home field in the playoffs. If that happens, they might be taking a road trip to New Orleans in a few months.