Just less than a year ago, the New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 to advance to Super Bowl XLVI. This Sunday, the Ravens will travel back to Foxborough to take on that same Patriots team with another trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Most Ravens fans feel they let that playoff game slip right through their hands last season after Lee Evans dropped a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. Two plays later, Billy Cundiff missed a gimme 32-yard field goal, and just like that, the Ravens season was over and the Pats were moving on to another Super Bowl.
While everyone was busy placing blame on Evans and Cundiff, no one was pointing out the performance that Joe Flacco had. Flacco, who threw for over 300 yards on 22/36 passing and two touchdowns (and had a third, sure-fire game-winning touchdown dropped), has been the victim of plenty of fans and analyst criticism. I am not one of the people who believe he deserves that criticism. There's no doubt that Flacco has had some lackluster performances in his career--this season in Kansas City comes to mind.
However, what no one ever points out is that he has also shown up in a very big way in some very high-profile games, like week 3 of this season against--you guessed it-- Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Flacco was 28/39 passing for 382 yards and 3 touchdowns. With the way Baltimore's offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell, has been getting one of the league's best backs, Ray Rice, more involved in the offense as of late, it has really opened up things for Flacco and his trio of pass-catchers: Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and Torrey Smith. I fully expect Joe to have another great game Sunday in Gillette Stadium.
Smith has an act for reeling in the long ball from Flacco, who has one of the strongest arms in the league--which was shown off this past weekend in Denver when he found Jacoby Jones behind the Broncos defense and hit him for a 70-yard touchdown to send the game to overtime The Patriots have had a very tough time covering the deep ball this season, and the Ravens are sure to test them on that Sunday. Combine that with the fact that the Patriots come in to the game with one of the four worst pass defenses in the league, giving up over 270 yards per game, and I think that just may be the perfect recipe to propel Joe Flacco and his Ravens to the Super Bowl.
After all, the team is going to do anything they can to make sure hall-of-fame linebacker, Ray Lewis (who is retiring after the season), has an opportunity to do what not many athletes have ever gotten to do--ride off in to the sunset after winning a Super Bowl ring. Joe Flacco will be instrumental in that.