Of mice and ideology
The AFC Championship Game is shaping up to be a
philosophical clash of Biblical proportions. Unlike last
week, where the New England Patriots played the role of
Goliath against Tim Tebow’s David, this championship game
has analysts/ideologues debating an old pigskin proverb:
does defense really win championships?
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
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
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.