Baltimore Ravens Football: 5 Reasons Why Super Bowl XLVI Is a Must-Win
The city of Baltimore could be described as a hybrid city. A small city with a big population; a clean city with a gritty interior; and, in the case of football, a pro football palace with a college football atmosphere.
The last three seasons the Ravens entered the playoffs in three different phases: turnaround, transition and tightrope walking.
In 2008, on the back of rookie head coach John Harbaugh, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, and Ray Lewis' hard-nosed defense, the Ravens went from 5-11 to 11-5 and an AFC title berth.
The following year, the team returned with a 9-7 record and perhaps ended the Patriots dynasty. Last year, the squad finished with a 12-4 mark, winning games by the skin of their collected teeth.
Now, Charm City must enter the next "T" phase: triumph. With that in mind, here are the top five reasons why the Ravens must win Super Bowl XLVI.
5. Black and Purple Are Seeing Red
Despite the Ravens clinching three consecutive berths for the first time ever (the first time a Baltimore team has done it since 1977), the natives, including Harbaugh are restless.
The Ravens lost the 2008 AFC Championship game, 23-14, to their heated rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2009, after shocking the nation with a 33-14 drubbing of New England, the Indianapolis Colts thumped the Ravens 20-3. But the biggest canker in the mouths of Mobtown was the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh.
Baltimore practically gave up the game to the Steelers, 31-24. They lost despite scoring a touchdown on an unusual Cory Redding fumble, forcing Steelers head honcho Mike Tomlin to waste both of his challenges and leading 21-7 at halftime.
Now with the tools the Ravens possess in their shed, including draftees CB Jimmy Smith and WR Torrey Smith (not related), they must bank on their first Lombardi in 11 years.
4. Time Is of the Essence
Raven veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Ed Reed (pictured) have multiple things in common.
Each of the three have made numerous trips to the Pro Bowl, have been involved in many of the most memorable moments in Ravens history, and not surprisingly, are perennial fan favorites. However, Mason, Heap and Reed share another inevitable trait: their time in Baltimore is running out.
Derrick Mason seems to constantly contemplate retirement each off-season. The Ravens drafting tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson last year shows that the writing's on the wall for Todd Heap's career with the Ravens. Ed Reed mentioned in a recent ESPN interview in late June that while he loves the game of football, he doesn't want to constantly have surgeries and therapy to continue to play.
With factors ranging from nagging injuries to personal tragedies, a Super Bowl ring could help each man ease his pain and find a good amount of closure. Not to mention, build upon their remarkable careers.
3. Running Off... at the Mouth
When Ellis Carver from The Wire said, "You can't call this [expletive] a war...[because] wars end.", he was referring to the War on Drugs. But, the same could be said for the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
In early June 2011, on the NFL Network's NFL Total Access, Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley (pictured #56) was asked if Joe Flacco will ever lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl. Woodley said that it was "not gonna happen in this lifetime."
About a week later in an interview with a Baltimore sports talk station, the normally mild-mannered Flacco blasted Woodley, saying that the linebacker had no idea what he was talking about. Flacco also stated that the Ravens have many more years ahead and will always "have a good chance to win it all."
Them's fighting words.
2. Ray Lewis Goes out on Top
Ray Lewis, the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens, will more likely than not retire within the next year or so. In April 2011, he told NFL Network in an interview that, "I can't see myself playing football past 37."
Lewis turned 36 in May of this year. With a Super Bowl victory, he could join the likes of Mike Ditka and Michael Strahan, retiring with a ring and awaiting the call to Canton.
1. It All Comes Full Horseshoe
For Baltimoreans, having Robert Irsay sneak the Colts out of Baltimore during that dark, snowy March night of 1984 was devastating. Though it's been over 25 years since that infamous event and Baltimore has regained an NFL team, it still leaves a scar on the city.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue disrespected Baltimore twice by not giving them an expansion team in the early 1990s, and said that the city should invest their money into a museum.
The Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996 and five years later, won their lone Super Bowl. Seeing Tagliabue handing the Lombardi Trophy to the Modells was a black eye for the league.
This year, Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl and watching Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Flacco, Harbaugh and the other Ravens hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in front of that horseshoe will not be a black eye, but a major groin attack.
In conclusion, the Ravens must beat the elite, as well as confront aging, trash talk and the ghosts of Baltimore's past to win it all this year.