Baltimore Ravens: The Team I Never Saw Coming

Andrew FletcherCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2009

I would not normally associate myself as a bandwagon jumper.

I am not putting down my favourite two teams—the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets even though sadly they did not make the NFL Playoffs.

But this year’s best National Football League team has to be the Baltimore Ravens. At this point, it does not matter if they win the Super bowl or if they get knocked out by the Pittsburgh Steelers—as long as they are recognized as a contender.

The 2008-09 year started off with me watching my favourite quarterback, Brett Favre, move from my favourite to ironically, my second favourite team. The sad part was watching Chad Pennington get shafted to the 1-15 Miami Dolphins who also rival my second favourite team.

This year was incredible as we saw the toppling of  the 2007-08 powerhouses—the New England Patriots in the AFC and the Dallas Cowboys in NFC which was mainly due to a high percentage of injuries on each team.

We also saw the usual contenders struggle and then still make the playoffs—talking about the San Diego Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

But it was not until week eight that I finally saw that Baltimore had a chance at making the playoffs.

During that week, Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco and back-up quarterback Troy Smith lit up highlight screens with their trick play against the Oakland Raiders.

It was amazing to watch Flacco start the play in the shot-gun, gingerly hand the ball over to Smith, and then run down the field—catching the ball for a 42 yard play.

This was the first time that they had come up on my radar.

But just two weeks later, many pundits were ruling out Baltimore and the rookie quarterback's chances after they were nailed to the wall by the New York Giants— 30-10.

In the same week, the Jets had also toppled the undefeated Tennessee Titans and many of us were starting to think about a Subway Super bowl.

Yet again, we were wrong. Favre threw away several games and the Dolphins and Patriots drifted into the past.

The first game that I officially watched with Baltimore was against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 14.

While previewing this game, I heard that the two best defenses in the league would be going head-to-head.

The game did not disappoint.

The game was very defensive as both teams had only managed to score on field goals until the Steelers broke the plain late in the fourth quarter.

If it had not been for a controversial call on a Steelers' touchdown, this conference final might have taken place in Baltimore.

However, I am not here to question a very difficult call that gave the Steelers a 13-9 win.

The following game was on a Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys and both teams were desperate for a playoff position. This position that the Cowboys found themselves in was theirs to lose and lose is what they truly did.

The Ravens on the other hand were actually struggling to hold on to a playoff position as the Indianapolis Colts had bolted pass them for the fifth seed.

Baltimore played this game as if it were life or death.

The play that amazed me most was when they faked the field goal attempt on 4th-and-4 and ran for the first down.

Flacco would help the team gain the lead and it would stay that way—Ravens 33 and Cowboys 24.

But one cannot talk about the Ravens without looking at the defense.

Ed Reed has been one of the most impressive team figures with nine interceptions—including two returned for touchdowns.

Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs have also been impressive—Lewis with his speed as seen in the Miami game and Suggs with his ability to get past the offensive line and sack the quarterback.

On the offense, you also have Leron McClain and Willis McGahee who have combined for 17 rushing touchdowns. Then, there is Mark Clayton who had just four touchdowns during the year but made several big plays as wide receiver when the Ravens needed him.

It may have been a last minute 43 yard field goal by Matt Stover that gave the Ravens their win over the Titans, but it was drive of a winning team that defeated the best team in the NFL.

Could this rookie quarterback lead his team to the Super bowl?

My answer is yes, but even if they fail, they should be ranked as the best team this year.


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