Of mice and ideology
If defense wins championships then the Baltimore Ravens should defeat Tom Brady and his Patriots. The Ravens defense is special and they have been for a long, long time. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs continue to lead this Ravens team through the Desert of Playoff Losses; these three players have been to the post-season 5 of the last 6-years and have no Super Bowl appearances to show for it.
Although Tom Brady is no David, the Ravens defense certainly resembles the Philistine's horde. The Patriots will score points, Brady and company are too good, but how many points? That is the question that burned through my mind at 3:39 this morning: how many points can the Patriots expect to score against a defense that was #1 in the red zone, #3 in points allowed, #2 on third-down, #3 in sacks/pass attempt, #4 in pass defense, #2 rush defense, #3 yards/game and has more talent than South Beach (sorry LeBron)?
But in a strange twist of ideology, because of the question offered above, I don't think this age old debate is as important as the debate's counterparts.
How many points can Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens offense score against a porous New England defense?
Unless the playoff game of 2009 happens again, where Tom Brady was sacked 3 times, harassed, intercepted 3 times, bludgeoned, and otherwise defaced in front of the nation in a 33-14 beat-down, one would expect the Patriots high- octane offense is going to score 24-27 points.
I don't think Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense has that number in them.
Although the Ravens can still run the ball, they don't rush it as effectively as they once did - certainly not as well as they did in 2009. The Ravens averaged 125-rushing yards/ game and 4.35 yards/carry this season, respectively #10 and #12 in the league. Those numbers aren't bad, but they don't come close to the numbers of 2009 where the combination of Ray Rice and Willis Mcgahee turned Foxboro and Boston into Sodom and Gomorrah. The Ravens rushed the ball 52 times for 234-yards (4.5) and 4 rushing touchdowns in that playoff game. Scorched earth? Indeed.
Joe Flacco threw the ball 10 times. He completed 4 passes. He had 34-passing yards. And he did throw a pick. And that's why I think the Ravens are in trouble.
Even though the Patriots give up huge yards and are mortal in their own red zone, they do one thing as well as any other team in the league: they take the ball from you. New England tied for #3 in the league in takeaways with 34. 23 of those takeaways were interceptions. They resemble the New Orleans Saints team that recently won a Super Bowl by scoring a ton of points and forcing you to throw the ball in order to keep pace, which generated interceptions; they got you into a shootout and then took your bullets.
This wouldn't be a problem if human nature wasn't so predictable. The Ravens would do nothing but run the ball and have Flacco throw it 10 times…again. But, as the Old Testament tells us:
Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.
I don't think Cam Cameron will run the ball 52 times. You can never look like a genius by running the ball and most offensive coordinators wish to look like geniuses in hopes of attracting the attention of owners.
That means Joe Flacco, fighting all his post-season demons, struggling to see his way through the shadows of playoff football, is going to throw the ball more than 10 times. In fact, I think he'll throw the ball more than 35 times in this game. The Ravens will move the ball, score some points and make the game interesting. But I cannot see the Ravens scoring enough points to beat the Tribe of Brady, especially with Flacco's past post-season performances.
New England's gameplan is simple: force Flacco to be better than Brady.
New England has used this formula all season to win 13- regular season games. The problem is Joe Flacco knows this…and he also knows this isn't the regular season.
This game might be less about defense winning championships and more about Joe Flacco's future in Baltimore: the Revelation of Joe Flacco.