Monday, January 4, 2010

Ravens beat Raiders, make playoffs!

McGahee rushed for 167 yards and 3 scores as the Ravens beat the Raiders to advance to the postseason.

It wasn't pretty, but the Ravens advanced to the playoffs for the second season in a row with a 21-13 win over the Oakland Raiders yesterday.

After the game, Ray Lewis could be heard saying "all we had to do was make the dance". Ray is correct in that thinking. Any playoff team can get hot and go deep into the playoffs -- see the 2008 Cardinals who made the playoffs with a 9-7 record, were playing poorly as the season ended and then suddenly rattled off 3 wins and then lost a close game against the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

However, it would have been nice if the Ravens had been able to win a few of their close losses, and gotten themselves a better seed in the playoffs. Maybe even gotten a home game. But that's all in the past. The fact of the matter is the Ravens did what they needed to do, and they are in the playoffs again -- the first time the team has gone to the postseason 2 seasons in a row since 2000 and 2001.

The Ravens will play the New England Patriots at 1 p.m. on Sunday, and you probably still remember the heartbreaking 27-21 loss the Ravens suffered to the Pats in October. It was the Ravens first loss of the season and a game in which could have been won if it had not been for a series of penalties that helped the Pats extend drives and score points. The game is also infamous for the Mark Clayton drop on 4th down and 3 yards with a few minutes remaining in the game. Had he caught the pass, the Ravens would have had 1st and goal inside the Patriots ten yard line.

That said, the Patriots team that the Ravens will face on Sunday is much different than the one they faced back in October. The Patriots stalwart #2 WR, Wes Welker, will miss the game with a torn ACL and MCL, the same injury that Tom Brady suffered at the beginning of 2008. Also, Brady is nursing three broken ribs and a broken finger on his throwing hand. Despite that, however, Brady will play on Sunday, but at what level?

Beating the Patriots in New England in the playoffs is an extremely hard thing to do. It hasn't happened since the Houston Oilers did it back in 1978...a year before I was born. But this is a banged up Patriots team that is like a wounded animal right now. They must be finished off.

As for the game yesterday, it's not exactly a game to raise your expectations for the Ravens in the playoffs. The Raiders made this a game from the kickoff, blitzing and pressuring Joe Flacco all day. The Raiders defense held Flacco to just 90 passing yards and sacked him 4 times. Thankfully, Flacco did not turn the ball over.

Luckily, the Ravens utilized the running game to great success yesterday, rushing for a total of 240 rushing yards, lead by Willis McGahee. McGahee totaled 167 rush yards with 3 TD's and ripped off a TD run of 77 yards. Ray Rice also gained 70 yards.

Yesterday proved that the Ravens can still be effective running the ball and the Ravens should keep that going against New England next Sunday. Despite Brady being banged up and missing Welker, the objective of the game should be to keep the Patriots offense off the field as much as possible.

So there you have it. The Ravens finished the season 9-7 and made the playoffs for the second year in a row. Although this season was very frustrating at times, they did what they needed to do to make it to the postseason where anything can happen. I don't expect the Ravens to win the Super Bowl, but that doesn't mean I don't think they can. I do believe they can get by the Patriots.

I am just thankful for more Ravens football. The way I see it, they are playing with house money right now.

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