Super Bowl 2013: Why Baltimore Ravens Will Keep Fairytale Season Alive

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Super Bowl 2013: Why Baltimore Ravens Will Keep Fairytale Season Alive
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens' season is playing out like a fairytale, with Ray Lewis' swan-song refusing to end last week against the Denver Broncos.

Somehow, and many still don't know how, the Ravens went into Mile High Stadium and toppled the highly-fancied, Peyton Manning-led Broncos.

Buoyed by self-belief and the determination to confound expectations, Baltimore kept its season alive and booked a spot in its second straight AFC Championship Game in the process.

Now, this week, against the New England Patriots once more, expect that fairytale run to continue through to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

The Ravens know the heartbreak of losing this game; they know how confident Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be of victory here this weekend.

And yet their fairytale run will continue, starting with one of the most criticized men in the game today—Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco has suffered heavy criticism over the years, and deservedly so, for his inadequacies under center when Baltimore needed him the most. He has been inaccurate, he has under-thrown passes to cost his side the game—those have been the hallmarks of Flacco's career so far.

But this year, the Ravens quarterback is showing something different. It's not perfect and it's nowhere near Manning-esque, but Flacco is slowly starting to get better down the stretch.

Slowly, and perhaps too slowly still for some fans, he is finally starting to become the clutch quarterback that he needed to be this season.

Slowly, he is starting to win playoff games.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Flacco now stands 7-4 in the postseason heading to New England—a fixture that he knows he should have won last year in the AFC Championship Game.

One dropped pass, one missed field goal—neither of those were on Flacco's back and yet the quarterback still took it as his personal mission to rectify those mistakes in 2012. Now, it seems, he is just one game away from redemption.

The Patriots rank in the bottom five for passing yards per attempt this season, and will be exposed by Flacco through the air in this one. After all, any quarterback who can throw three touchdowns and 331 passing yards against the top-five Denver Broncos defense is surely going to be able to open up the New England secondary from time to time.

Flacco's rise back to the AFC Championship Game, back to the place where all that hurt and frustration took place last year, is truly a fairytale run.

Yet for all its wonder, the real protagonist of this story can be none other than Ray Lewis, who will retire at the end of the Ravens season this year.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

For all the criticism Flacco receives, Lewis is praised and respected. He will go down as one the true greats of the game and will be remembered as a legend in Baltimore—whatever the outcome of the game this weekend might be.

What Lewis brings to the franchise and to the NFL is second to none; there simply isn't a player with his significance left remaining in the league.

He has achieved so much in the game, and yet he still wants more. He still wants more tackles, more success, more achievements, more reward.

Lewis tasted Super Bowl glory in 2000 and he wants more. 

He'll no doubt be out to stop Tom Brady from having his usual ways with defenses, and will surely have a huge impact on the game, whatever the result. The defensive legend will have just as much of a say in the result of this one as Flacco, Brady or any other player on the field, and there usually aren't too many options once Ray Lewis has had his say.

You either get on board or you get out of the way.

Get on board with the fairytale or don't stand in its way, because the Ravens playoff run truly is fairytale like this season from both Flacco and Lewis.

One is desperate to finally leave his best mark on the NFL; the other is making sure that the mark he has already left remains there forever.

Either way, it's a fairytale and it's one that will continue with a win in New England this weekend. The Ravens know what it takes to win there; they know how to beat Brady; they know the hurt that can be felt by not finishing the game off perfectly—and they won't let it happen again.

The fairytale story still has another chapter to be read.

 

Can the Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots this weekend?

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