The Ray Lewis factor propelled the Ravens to a spot in the AFC Championship Game.
At least that’s the popular notion, and while it’s true that high emotion can trump some minor deficiencies and matchups, it’s also true that the Denver Broncos’ loss last Sunday was more about the Broncos cowering to the Baltimore Ravens who brought physicality and motivation.
…and it brings up the question as to whether the Denver Broncos were who everyone thought they were and just got beat by the better team, or were they residing in a Hall of Mirrors – where nothing is what it seems – and weren’t that good to begin with.
It’s a fair question – one that no one I know is qualified to answer with any authority. But from the viewpoint of being a fan, it is an intriguing question and perhaps one that deserves a couple of paragraphs…
…especially in light of the point spread for this game. The Vegas sports books employ some knowledgable folks – and anyone who has ever placed a casual wager on a 9 1/2 point favorite in any sport knows what it feels like to walk out of the casino a few dollars lighter.
It’s a tough spread to cover – ask Peyton Manning and the Dever Broncos who took their field against the Ravens last Saturday on the working end of a 9 1/2 point bazooka and never came close to realizing a cover…and so these smart people that determine these spreads - how in the world did they miss that one so badly?
Perhaps they felt that with the Broncos defending their home turf in front of a hostile crowd against a team that had played a tough matchup with the Colts the week before while the Broncos had the week off that it gave a decided edge ot them over a Ravens’ team that limped into the post-season.
…The Patriots found out how emotionally inspired this veteran Ravens squad can be in week three, when New England limped into Baltimore the morning that Ravens’ reciever Torrey Smith lost his brother in a tragic accident, and melted down in the final minutes – just as Denver did last week – as the strength reserve from their emotions willed the Ravens to victory.
But there are a few things to remember here. First, that field goal that decided the game may or may not have been good – the call on the field could have gone either way…and that the Patriots were still beating up on the Ravens and fell victim to their own self-induced inefficiency. Secondly, emotions tend to ebb and flow, and they certainly fade over time…and the Ravens may well have spent every ounce of emotional energy they had in beating the Broncos last week.
It was clear that the Ravens were the better team last week against a Broncos team that were not battle-hardened, playing a schedule that built up their record to gain the first seed and home field, but set them up to ultimately fail – and they were nowhere close to being prepared for the heavyweight fight they got involved in.
Baltimore pushed them around like a bully would a weakling on the playground – shoved Manning to the ground and took his milk money and absolutely abused the Broncos’ defense, which in reality is a couple of good players and a bunch of guys.
The Patriots are battle-hardened, far more talented than Denver and will not be so easily pushed around. In fact, New England could well end up dominating this game on a physical level – they are younger, tougher and faster than Baltimore, which makes it difficult to buy into the experts’ opinions of a close game.
The illusion that the Broncos had been promoting as a Super Bowl contender was shattered by a tough Ravens team, but that was just a case of the bully Ravens tossing the Broncos out of the House of Mirrors.
The Ravens are still in there, and perhaps even deeper than before, as thier victory over Denver caused reality to become even more distorted – the heavyweight fight they are about to encounter at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night will undoubtedly prove that.
“There was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold – then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.”
Tomorrow evening, in just as grand fashion as Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher, the final fall of the House of Mirrors will occur, and the Baltimore Ravens will play again this season nevermore…