It can be said that the Baltimore Ravens have surprised us all this postseason. Sure, they beat the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots on the road as heavy underdogs. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the ferocity with which they have dominated the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. The Ravens were not nearly as strong defensively during the regular season as they have been as of late. Their physical style has now earned them a berth in Super Bowl XLVII.
The signature moment, in Sunday’s AFC Championship game was the catastrophic wallop that Ravens safety Bernard Pollard laid on Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. The collision was so resounding that, upon contact, Ridley went limp and crumpled to the turf, fumbling the ball to the Ravens. He did not return to the game due to head injury.
Sunday’s game also found New England receiver Wes Welker struggling get down the field on his passing routes due to Baltimore’s suffocating press coverage. With tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a re-aggravated forearm injury suffered in last week’s win over the Houston Texans and the aforementioned head trauma to Ridley, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was forced to play finesse football for most of the day without his complimentary battering rams that were desperately needed against the Raven’s stout, hard-hitting defense.
That is neither to provide an excuse for the Patriots’ loss nor to say that Baltimore didn’t deserve the win. They were the better team in all facets on Sunday. Ravens signal caller Joe Flacco out-played Brady for the second straight year in the AFC title game. The Baltimore offensive line has reduced some of the best pass rushers in the NFL in New England’s Vince Wilfork, Denver’s Von Miller, and Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney to the ranks of the anonymous role player. The Raven’s defense has man-handled the receivers, tight ends, and running backs of their opposition, “decleating” Patriots playmakers on a few occasions Sunday.
In a league where the rules have been skewed so far to the quarterback’s advantage and protect defenseless receivers from vicious hits (a necessary move, legally and financially), it’s nice to see that the game is still played with some semblance of violence, albeit controlled.