Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl XLVII Ring: Rich City of Tradition

The bauble earned for the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII.

The bauble earned for the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII.

So to conclude a reunion week of the team that vanquished the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl last February, the Baltimore Ravens were on tour again. First a trip to the White House where they met with President Obama where they presented him with a ceremonial jersey. Then to have the week culminate in the presentation of their Super Bowl rings in a gala on Friday night.  Ray Lewis and most of the players who have moved on from the organization, were back to bask in the evening commemorating their achievement sitting atop the NFL for 2012.

The first view leaked on the day by CBS Sports didn’t do the ring justice. This professional shot from the Ravens organization shows off the quality of the ring and downplays it’s size. The oval design of the top distinguishes it from the rectangular face of the first championship ring. This ring needed to say more where the typical design of a first ring is normally the team logo and a series of diamonds. With the oval face we see the off centered dual Super Bowl trophies layered beneath the logo amid a bed of diamonds.

The best aspect of the ring is it was made in white gold which gives it a clean and sleek look. Much like the Super Bowl trophy itself, it has a steely look to it. One that reflects the clinical moves that an organization makes with awarding a Ray Rice with a $35 million contract before the season, yet make Joe Flacco sweat it out in a contract year. Another that comes to mind is the steely resolve Flacco exhibited in his road performances in Denver and New England. Where he took the measure of the two best quarterbacks whose status kept his in question when you think of the AFC’s elite quarterbacks.

The ring will forever reflect the steely grit a team showcased once their leader in Ray Lewis announced he would retire after the 2012 postseason. Finally, it reflects the steely nerves a tired Raven defense had to display in the greatest goal line stand in Super Bowl history. Greater than the 49er stand in Super Bowl XVI?? Absolutely!! This one won the Super Bowl with seconds left where the one the 49ers put on was in the third quarter.

By doing so the Baltimore Ravens brought the city its fifth NFL championship. Just as Johnny Unitas used to attend Ravens games, those old titles belong to this city, not with the original franchise that sits in Indianapolis.

1958 NFL Championship ring

1958 NFL Championship ring

The championship team that put the city of Baltimore on the map forever was the one that won this ring right here. Arguably the most influential NFL Championship ever played was the 1958 epic where the Colts beat the New York Giants in overtime 23-17. In fact it’s moniker has been “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. Although there had been winning drives in championship games before, Johnny Unitas came of age as a quarterback during his. With the Colts down 17-14, where they hadn’t scored since the second quarter, Unitas took to the air. Through his will and determination he directed Baltimore on a long drive to tie the score on a Steve Myra kick. Forcing the first “sudden death” overtime in NFL playoff history.

You have to remember we were just two years removed from the New York Giants having won the 1956 championship with the league’s best defense 47-7 over the Chicago Bears. This was to be their era and the New York media was there en masse to cover their second championship triumph in 3 years. Yet as Unitas to Raymond Berry began to dominate the overtime period, media attention switched to; “Who is this skinny quarterback riddling the NFL’s best defense?” Unitas was inventing the “two minute quarterback” with his every move from quick passes, to his deft play calling. He had total command of the game and performed with glacial calm.

Unitas famous drive showcased his flair for the dramatic as well as his play calling taking advantage of what the Giants defense would think he would do. Once inside the 10 yard line where the Colts could kick the winning field goal, Unitas threw an out to TE Jim Mutscheller to get down to the 1. The Giants were out of position as they were geared to stop the run. Just as the Giants braced themselves for the customary fullback leading the halfback into the line, Unitas called the opposite. Alan Ameche crashed into the endzone behind a Lenny Moore block through a gaping hole.

The game was over with the city of Balitmore champions of the football world and Johnny Unitas was on the map forever. On the heels of the excitement of this game, Lamar Hunt formed the principles of what would become the American Football League. Football became the new American obsession after this game and began to rival baseball as the #1 sport.

Watch that was awarded to the 1958 NFL Champion Colts. Unsure if this went to the coaches and owners or the complete story.

Watch that was awarded to the 1959 NFL Champion Colts. Unsure if this went to the coaches and owners or the complete story.

In a rematch that concluded the NFL’s “Golden Age” of the fabulous 1950s, the New York Giants again faced the Colts for the league championship. This time the Colts would be at home. A city that famous Baltimore writer John Steadman once said “Baltimore was known for being the train stop between Washington DC and New York.” Tapping into the city’s inferiority complex. The Colts and principally Johnny Unitas gave the city a legitimacy on a nationwide scale that it hadn’t experienced before. Yet here they were again facing the evil empire that was New York’s Football Giants coming to take back the crown.

However in a dominating performance, Unitas and the Colts throttled the Giants 31-16 thanks to a 24 point 4th quarter. They were down 9-7 when the highest scoring team in football scored with a Johnny Unitas 4 yard scamper around end. Then Unitas found Jerry Richardson for a 12 yard touchdown to push the lead to 21-9. Then Johnny Sample, yes the same one that played with the Jets and intercepted Unitas twice in Super Bowl III, returned a Charlie Conerly pass  42 yards to push the Colts to an insurmountable 28-9 lead with half a quarter to go.

Richardson would go on to own the Carolina Panthers many years later.

Gino Marchetti and Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb and the Colt defense came up with timely plays to hold the Giants to 3 first half field goals by Pat Summerall.  In Tom Landry’s last game as the defensive coach (defensive coordinator) of the Giants, the Colts were held to only 280 yards of total offense to the Giants 323.

The NFL Championship ring of the 1959 Baltimore Colts.

The NFL Championship ring of the 1959 Baltimore Colts.

The Colts winning back to back championships made them a dynasty and one of the greatest champions in NFL history. Not bad for a team that had come into the league from a defunct All American Football Conference with the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns in 1950. In 10 years, these 3 teams from the inferior league won half the decades NFL championships. Winning the first in 1950, the last in 1959, and the Browns playing for 3 more championships. Yet it was the team from Baltimore that ushered football into the modern age as the 1960s dawned.

The ring commissioned for winning Super Bowl V.

The ring commissioned for winning Super Bowl V.

The last Colts team that won Super Bowl V for Baltimore was one that suffered from the fallout from having lost Super Bowl III. The turbulent 1960s were over and the merger between the NFL and AFL happened with a championship between the two leagues starting after the 1966 season.  The Super Bowl III loss to the New York Jets legitimized the AFL and the merger but the Colts suffered from the fallout that lasted the rest of their lives VIDEO.

The Colts were led by an aged Johnny Unitas who was getting by on guile. He now had All Pro Tight End and fellow Hall of Famer John Mackey on offense along with Roy Jefferson and Eddie Hinton at the wide outs. Gone were Raymond Berry, Tom Matte and familiar names with the Colts. They were transitioning from the team that won for most of the decade of the 1960s but couldn’t overcome the Green Bay Packers in the Western Conference. Now they found themselves in the first year of interleague play under the AFC along with former AFL teams and the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers who were paid $3 million to move from the NFL to the AFC. Each conference now had 13 teams.

After posting an 11-2-1 record, they bested the Oakland Raiders in the first ever AFC Championship Game 27-17 to make their way to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the Orange Bowl. Rookie Jim O’Brien kicked a last second field goal to win Super Bowl V 16-13 over the Dallas Cowboys. Unitas who would be gone from the Colts in less than two years was knocked from the game in the second quarter. The Colts put themselves in position for the winning field goal when Mike Curtis intercepted a Craig Morton pass with seconds left to put the ball on the Dallas 28 with seconds left.

This ring was the first for the city of Baltimore with it’s new team, the Ravens. Art Modell had moved the former Cleveland Browns (ironically) to town in 1996. Free agency had dawned after the 1993 season and teams were struggling to put offenses together. Yet the trend became one where a suffocating defense through free agency could be built, and the Ravens built one of history’s finest. After drafting Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Duane Starks, and Chris McAlister, they filled in the blanks with free agents Tony Siragusa, Robert Bailey, Corey Harris, and future Hall of Famer Rod Woodson to form a defense the league hadn’t seen since the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles.

The first ring won by the Baltimore Ravens after Super Bowl XXXV.

The first ring won by the Baltimore Ravens after Super Bowl XXXV.

The Ravens first ever foray into the NFL playoffs came after a regular season where they had given up a league record 165 points for the season. The old record had been 187 points allowed by the 1986 Chicago Bears.  Although the Ravens defense was ranked #2 on the year, they yielded the fewest points, highlighted by four shutouts. They had become the first team since the ’85 Bears to record back to back shutouts during any NFL season. How dominating were they?? If you include the 3 points allowed to Denver in the wildcard 21-3 win, the 10 points given up to defending AFC Champion Tennessee Titans in a 24-10 win, and the 6 points given up in the AFC Championship win over Oakland 16-6, in 19 games they still gave up less points than the Bears old 16 game record. (184-187 points) Yikes!!

Couple that with the fact the Giants only touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV had been a kick return by Ron Dixon, they would have ended the game with a fifth shutout which would have been a Super Bowl first. Ray Lewis was the 2000 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of the Super Bowl as well. Trent Dilfer, Jamal Lewis, and free agent acquisition Hall of Fame Tight End Shannon Sharpe powered an efficient offense. This was one of the greatest defensive champions of all time.

There you have it… Baltimore’s rich NFL tradition punctuated by championships from different eras. Ironically there is a lot more to the Cleveland Baltimore rivalry than meets the eye. They have been joined from the hip since their 1950 NFL inception and the present day franchise started in Cleveland. Yet here they sit as champions of the football world for another year. How will they fare in 2013?? Go read our previews.

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Ravens Rebuilding Defense With Dumervil and Huff Signings

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

The start of NFL free agency wasn’t kind to the Baltimore Ravens. They lost LB Dannell Ellerbe,  LB Paul Kruger, then both Safeties in Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. All of this with the retirement of Ray Lewis meant the defense would see a dramatic makeover. Yesterday they signed former Raider S Michael Huff just days after landing DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil. You can hear the “ahhhs” coming from the Raven fan base that there is life after Reed and Lewis. The question is did they get better??

Well upon further review… In Huff you have to measure his projected production vs what Ed Reed would have brought to the table. First things first they signed him  for $6 million over 3 years where Ed commanded $15 million from the Texans. They did get younger by 5 years going with Huff but they’ll need him to be more productive than he’s been. In 7 years he has averaged 58 tackles and only has 11 career interceptions. Reed had 15 in the last three years and 4 last year alone.

In some circles he has been considered a bust after being drafted so high out of Texas. He averages 8 passes defensed per season and needs to make more tackles. In that department Reed had 15 passes defensed in 2012 and averaged 12.5 per season. He has to show improvement and that is hard to do when learning a new system. He will probably be teamed with a rookie unless an experienced SS comes available later before the season starts. They signed a veteran safety but our CEO doesn’t think they improved the position.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn't offer in 2012.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn’t offer in 2012.

With the signing of Elvis Dumervil, GM Ozzie Newsome has pulled a coup. Not only did they rip the Broncos for one of the league’s best pass rushers, they took a defensive captain from a conference rival. What do you think that “C” means on his jersey. Don’t forget he’s only going into his 8th year, has been to the last three Pro Bowls and is just two seasons removed from a 17 sack season.

They saved $5 million in signing him v. Paul Kruger, whom has to live up to his contract and hasn’t been a full time starter yet. Dumervil is just in time to aid a Terrell Suggs who should be back to full strength and needs a bounce back year. Coming back from an Achille’s injury he was a shell of his former self. It might be ironic that his best game of the season was the 2 sacks he had against Denver in the playoffs with Dumervil watching.

Now its reported that Suggs helped recruit Dumervil and has a proven running mate to crash the pass pocket. Elvis is going into his 8th year and has averaged 10.5 sacks in his first 6. Which is good until you realize how good he was last year. He was a force across from Von Miller and had 11 sacks but more important 6 forced fumbles. He’s not only going to be able to duplicate the pass rush with two guys on the corners, there will be Haloti Ngata providing a push up the middle. He’s also reuniting with linebacker coach Don Martindale, who coached in Denver when Dumervil came into the league. He’s already played in a 3-4, is familiar with the coaching staff and has an effective pass rusher on the other side, this was a dramatic upgrade that should affect the overall defense.

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly "I got this" can't you?

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly “I got this” can’t you?

What Ozzie is hoping for is the improved pass rush to affect Huff in being a better center fielder as a safety. However there is a wait and see aspect to this because it hasn’t translated into better performance yet. In 2010, the Oakland Raiders were 2nd in the NFL with 47 sacks and he only had 3 interceptions. Last year they were 31st in sacks with 25 and he had 2 picks. However he can benefit from the standpoint of more crowd noise and Baltimore having more leads which forces opponents to pass.

Let it be known that Dumervil will draw the initial double teams and if Suggs returns to form, this could be a sack machine in 2013.  Haloti in the middle and these two from the outside and don’t forget they picked up Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to possibly emerge as a DE who can provide support.  This can be a 40 -45 sack team in 2013. The question remains who they have at the inside linebacker position. However now you get a sense that Ozzie might have something up his sleeve. Which leads to a question… Having built two different Super Bowl winners, is Ozzie Newsome the best General Manager in the NFL??

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Free Agency Day 1: Paul Kruger Signs With the Cleveland Browns

They need to re-sign Paul Kruger.

They need to re-sign Paul Kruger.

If you thought things couldn’t get worse for the World Champion Baltimore Ravens, it did as LB/DE Paul Kruger bolted for the Cleveland Browns. They thought he would be available if Dannell Ellerbe was snatched up. However they didn’t prepare for a team to offer Kruger a big deal on day one. He signs a 5 year $40 million deal with the Browns and stays within the division. They already lost Anquan Boldin in a trade to the San Francisco 49ers. Now you can almost guarantee S Ed Reed is gone as well. No chance he comes back to play for a rebuilding defense. The Ravens are definitely in transition now.

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Miami Dolphins Making Moves on Free Agency Day One

Danell Ellerbe has flown the Ravens coup.

Danell Ellerbe has flown the Ravens coup.

If  you thought it was going to be difficult for the Ravens to stay among the league’s elite, things just got worse. One day after trading away Anquan Boldin, they lose the free agent they most wanted to keep in linebacker Danell Ellerbe.  He just signed with the Miami Dolphins. Today he received a 5 year $35 million deal that takes him down to sunny Florida. They should have franchised him…now his 89 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks will be in the AFC East.

Wallace is on his way to South Beach.

Wallace is on his way to South Beach.

Now add to that the Dolphins also signed WR Mike Wallace to a 5 year $60 million deal to leave the Steelers. Right now his agent is with the Dolphins brass to solidify the deal. They gave Ryan Tannenhill a deep threat that should open a few things up for Davone Bess and other underneath receivers. However they signed him for a guaranteed $30 million. Will these moves pan out?? Will the Dolphins make a move in the AFC East?? Don’t forget they are probably going to lose Reggie Bush.

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2013 Baltimore Ravens Preview – A New Frontier

Baltimore's trophy case holding the Super Bowl XXXV & XLVII Trophies along with the AFC Championship units.

Baltimore’s trophy case holding the Super Bowl XXXV & XLVII Trophies along with the AFC Championship units.

When you hold up the trophy at the end of the season, everyone comes gunning for you the following season. However in Baltimore’s case they’re unsure as to who they’re going to be. As the confetti fell, the ink was drying on the retirement papers for Ray Lewis. Friday morning the inked signature of C Matt Birk was scrolled across retirement paperwork as well. Super Bowl XLVII hero Anquan Boldin has said he would retire from the NFL if the Ravens released him. He will not play for another team. Yet a contract restructure should keep his services in Baltimore.

All of this before we find out the fate of S Ed Reed and Linebackers Paul Kruger &  Danell Ellerbe with their unrestricted free agent status. Will one of them be franchised if they sign Joe Flacco to a long term deal or will Flacco be franchised and one of them walk away as a free agent?? Not since the 1997 MLB champion Florida Marlins have we seen defending champion with so many roster questions going into the next season. In that situation they were having a fire sale for half their roster, in this one it’s all the team leaders with half already gone and the spiritual / emotional leader in Lewis already out of the complex. These next few weeks leading into free agency will tell the tale. Who will the 2013 Baltimore Ravens be??

Even as late as this weekend at the combine, they are still negotiating Flacco's contract.

Even as late as this weekend at the combine, they are still negotiating Flacco’s contract.

Quarterback: Well, well, well… Looks like The Chancellor along with LaMarr Woodley had to eat their words when it came down to assessing Joe Flacco’s projected ability to win the big game. Where last year it looked like his career would be defined by the incompletion to Lee Evans in the AFC Championship, a new Flacco emerged gunning his team to a 28-7 3rd quarter Super Bowl lead. Even when things got tight he drove them to the game clinching field goal while eating up valuable time.

He finally came through and out-dueled Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get to that Super Bowl victory. The traces Flacco’s transformation began in that divisional playoff against Denver.

Last year our CEO challenged that Flacco wasn’t going through his progressions and just dumping the ball to Ray Rice where there were throws down-field that could have been made. For the season Rice was second on the team with 61 receptions. However in the playoffs, Rice only had 1 reception on a screen against the Colts, none in Denver, 3 in the championship against New England, and 4 in the Super Bowl. Three of those were when the 49ers were coming back and he started to regress a bit. Compare that to Boldin’s postseason, 22 rec. for 380 yards and 4TDs, and you could see how his play improved. He jelled with new play calling coach Jim Caldwell in the playoffs to the tune of 11TDs with zero interceptions in the postseason.

Finally, the Ravens are Super Bowl quality at the quarterback position.

Offensive Backfield: Now if it hit you during the playoffs that Bernard Pierce was getting almost as many carries as Ray Rice you weren’t seeing things. If you go back to the final two games and go through the playoffs, Pierce had 70 car. for 400 yards to Rice’s 108 car. for 521 yards and 1 touchdown. Pierce was the more physical runner as the season concluded and had an eye popping 5.7 yards per carry. He ran with good body lean and fell forward. Yet with Rice with the big contract he’ll get the majority of the carries in the upcoming season.

Bernard Pierce ran hard toward the end of the season averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Bernard Pierce ran hard toward the end of the season averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

With 1,527 touches in his first five years, the Ravens were coming close to burning Ray Rice out. Truth be told it’s good that Pierce has emerged to take a load off for various drives or even games where they can afford to rest him. As they did in the season finale against Cincinnati. For the season he did rush for 1,143 yards and 9TDs on 257 carries. However they can trim his work load thanks to second year back in Pierce.

They will rely on their running game a little bit more to offset a defense that won’t be as stout as it had in year’s past. The Ravens are in great shape if either were to go down for a stretch in the upcoming season. Depending on how they strategically need to be used to rest the defense.  The Chacellor sees a season where Rice / Pierce should see a 60/40 mix as the runners this season. They may want to re-work his contract but that will be going into 2014. As for now the Ravens are playoff quality at the running back position.

Receivers: Here is where the first of the question marks show up for the Baltimore Ravens. Restrictive free agent TE Dennis Pitta (61 rec. / 669 yards / 7TDs) and WR Anquan Boldin (65 rec /921 yards / 4 TDs) have question marks at the present time. Right now it looks like they’ll be able to re-sign Pitta, whom Flacco developed a bond with, but Boldin is another scenario. From his free agent contract after leaving the Cardinals, Boldin is due $7.5 million this year and the consensus is he’ll be released. Boldin has said if that happens he’ll retire from the game. Although he was clutch in the AFC Championship & Super Bowl, he would be going into his 11th season and gets by on will. He is going to have to take a drastic pay cut to remain a Raven which we think he’ll do. We’ll have to wait and see.

The difference in this team winning the Super Bowl and watching it was Jacoby Jones. While Torrey Smith has emerged as a bonafide playmaker with 8 touchdowns on 49 receptions, it was Jones who was a game changer. When the team needed a charge in the game against Dallas he broke through with a 106 yard kick return touchdown that was the margin of victory that swung momentum in a 31-29 win. When the Ravens took the field in Denver with a little over a minute to go, it was Jones who got behind the defense for the 70 yard touchdown to force overtime. In the Super Bowl when the question was if the 49ers could come back?? Boom he goes 108 on a kick return to boost the lead to 28-6.  He is the missing element that the Houston Texans lost when they let him get away as a free agent.  Jones will have a bigger role this season even with the return of Boldin. Look for Offensive Co-ordinator Jim Caldwell to unleash formations with Smith and Jones in bunch formations often in 2013. If they get Boldin back this is a Super Bowl caliber group. Without they are still playoff caliber.

Michael Oher should return to his native LT spot in 2013.

Michael Oher should return to his native LT spot in 2013.

Offensive Line: This is where the 2013 questions on the Ravens are the loudest. First of which, how do you replace a team leader and center in the retired Matt Birk?? Are they going to come to terms or even re-sign T Bryant McKinnie?? The Ravens had to shuffle Michael Oher from LT to RT and moved rookie RT Kelechi Osemele to LG and insert McKinnie at LT to replace an injured guard. For the season the team was 20th in sacks allowed with 38. There is no way that Osemele didn’t benefit from learning from Birk as he learned a new position on the fly. It takes more than coaching to do that.

This unit paved the way for 444 rushing attempts 1,901 yards and 17 touchdowns. The yardage was good enough for 11th in all of pro football but they could use a little more muscle in the middle. When it came to 3rd or 4th and two or fewer, or even 1st or 2nd down at the goal line, they pushed for a first down or touchdown 58% of the time as compared to 79% on the right. Up the middle is where they can improve on this to keep drives sustained with a younger center. Look for the Ravens to use a couple of draft picks on the offensive line and a pick up or two in free agency at either Center or Tackle. It’s not a given that McKinnie will come back. Until we know what they do once free agency begins we have to give them a below average grade. Replacing a center means to replace the man responsible for blocking audibles. Doubtful they would leave that to a rookie.

Defensive Line: For years The Chancellor has said that Haloti Ngata is the best defensive lineman in the NFL. Never was it as evident as in the Super Bowl a month ago. The comeback by the 49ers coincided with his leaving the game with an injury. Up until that point the 49ers were unable to sustain the run on the front side of their read-option. Once he went down you saw the Niners mount their comeback and Frank Gore gained the majority of his 110 yards rushing.

In 2012 Ngata made his presence felt again with 50 total tackles and 5 sacks while making his 4th straight Pro Bowl. However you have to worry about the mileage on Ngata’s knees now that he’s turning 30. It’s also time for Terrence “Mount” Cody to start performing like the high draft pick he was out of Alabama. He only started 3 games and had 25 total tackles yet is about to become labeled as a “bust”. Having been beat out by a 33 year old journeyman in Ma’ake Kemoeatu. The Ravens gave up a lot of yards against the run in 2012 and these guys were allowing offensive linemen to get out on linebackers as Baltimore finished 20th against the run.

The Ravens need to make a move here in free agency or the draft. Without a great camp it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cody be released. Lets face it the line in Baltimore is there to stop the run more than rush the passer but they can’t give ground and need to get off blocks. There Cody has struggled. They have to get younger and healthier on the line. If not they will be really beat up toward the end of last season. Right now the Ravens are average on the defensive line.

They need to re-sign Paul Kruger.

Can the Ravens retain Paul Kruger??

Linebacker: Did you ever think that we’d ever say the Ravens are weakest at the linebacker position??  Well with Paul Kruger, Danell Ellerbe both about to test the free agency market. That leaves Terrell Suggs as the lone cornerstone linebacker on the roster and let’s face it, he was a shell of his former self. He was only getting a quarterback pressure once every 14.5 rushes. That is not enough. Not for a former defensive player of the year. He came in with 8 games to go and only had 2 sacks on the season and 23 tackles on the year. Last year teams were able to block him one on one.

The most important re-signs are Kruger and Ellerbe. Kruger had 42 tackles, 6 passes defensed, and 9 sacks. Even in the Super Bowl when San Francisco made it in close to the goal line in the second quarter, Kruger made the sack to force SF to kick a field goal. He made plays from the outside. Ellerbe (89 tackles / 4.5 sacks) on the inside is crucial to maintain some continuity along with Jameel McClain 78 tackles. This is another place where the team may make a move to pick up a free agent linebacker and draft someone for the middle.

We see them re-signing Ellerbe and re-signing Kruger is a wish. They do have Shaun Phillips (Chargers), Anthony Spencer (Cowboys), Dwight Freeney (Colts), and possibly Osi Yumeniora (Giants) could be situational pass rushers if they can’t bring back Kruger and they await Suggs to get to full strength. With the questions they have at linebacker we have to say this group is below average if they don’t get Ellerbe back.

Secondary: Here is another position where the Ravens come in less than they were a month ago.  The looming loss of future Hall of Fame S Ed Reed is a big loss. However there are two safeties in Dashon Goldston (49ers) and William Moore (Falcons) are available for less money. At SS Bernard Pollard is ready to be a pro bowl player after last year’s 99 tackles 2 sacks, and an interception. They may lose CB Cary Williams who wants more than the 3 yrs and $15 million dollar contract that is being offered. The truth is LarDarius Webb and Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham are solid enough at the corner position. They are very good cover corners but they need to get more interceptions. Webb is their best corner but he is coming back from injury. If they can solidify the FS this group can be Super Bowl caliber. If they need to draft a FS they will drop down to playoff level at best…

Overall: Where other prognosticators are saying the Ravens have a legitimate chance to defend their Super Bowl title isn’t looking at projecting out to next year. This team is going to miss the leadership of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and C Matt Birk beyond what can be quantified. This team hasn’t had to motivate itself or get emotionally ready to play for the last 17 years. The coaching staff and the team will search to find those next leaders. This team had lost 4 out of 5 coming down the stretch before Lewis brought the team motivation with his retirement announcement. They do have holes in their defense and in the first year without a strong defense, The Chancellor doesn’t think the offense is ready to pick up the slack. The Ravens will really slip this year and they may be a 7-9 or an 8-8 team. They won’t come close to getting back to the Super Bowl.

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Super Bowl XLVII Recap: Ravens 34 – 49ers 31

Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII

Finally Super Sunday dawned like Christmas day for football fans and of course the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. However once the game kicked off the 49ers inexperience immediately hampered early success. After forcing a 3rd and nine where the Ravens didn’t convert, Ahmad Brooks jumped offsides giving the Ravens new life. The Ravens converted and scored with Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin from 13 yards out to make it 7-0 Baltimore.

As expected the 49ers came out in the Pistol offense and moved the ball for the next couple of drives but went 1 of 3 on their first third downs and kicked the ball several times to the Ravens. They did have Ray Lewis and the Ravens befuddled as they drove the football and kicked a field goal to cut it to 7-3 before inexperience hit San Francisco again. On a quick outside play, LeMichael James instead of going down, fought for more yards and had the football knocked loose and the Ravens recovered.

The subsequent drive had one of the highlights in Flacco’s career. While holding a pensive 7-3 lead Joe was flushed by a blitzing Aldon Smith and scrambled to his right. Where it seemed like a perfect time to throw it away, the new Joe Flacco heaved it for 30 yards where Anquan came up with the football. A huge first down that allowed the Ravens to keep the momentum and take a 14-3 lead. Even if you go back to the first play of the game, Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis with a 20 yard gain. It was called back with an illegal formation and they stayed a step behind Baltimore ever since.

Torrey Smith and the prettiest Ravens in the building.

Torrey Smith and the prettiest Ravens in the building.

Then the quarterback that swore he was never nervous about the Super Bowl, showed his nerves as he overthrew his receiver and S Ed Reed picked it off on the San Francisco end of the field. Frustration boiled over as a fight ensued. The 49ers have played on the edge being a defensive bully on the NFC block and they were getting beaten by a team that has been an NFL bully for 13 years. The 49ers thought they were the more physcial team and found out they had run smack into a buzzsaw. They were down 14-3 and were starting to sweat. After a botched fake field goal gave the Niners the ball back Kaepernick was jittery and nearly threw a second interception to a diving Cary Williams. Then the Jacoby Jones highlight reel started.

First Flacco hits him with a 56 yard bomb to put the Ravens up 21-3 and he totally had blown by the secondary for the catch. He then got up and raced into the end-zone and the Ravens were up 21-3 and it looked like they were headed to hoist the trophy. After a field goal by the 49ers to cut the lead to 21-6, the momentum was clearly Baltimore’s as the teams left the field.

Coming from halftime, the first thoughts were for the 49ers to stop the Ravens who were going to get the ball after the kick. Get the Ravens to  go 3 and…..ooops!! Jacoby Jones sets a league record by bringing the second half kick 109 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-6 and the ballon of confidence popped on the San Francisco sideline!!  A few plays later the lights went out…literally! We had a 36 minute play stoppage but the Niners were about to be blown out of the stadium.  Or so it appeared… It was eery watching the players try to keep warmed up in a semi-dark Super Dome. The only delay that was close to this was the “Fan-Man” incident during a Riddick Bowe v. Evander Holyfield championship match in 1993.

Ravens Brass holding the hardware.

Ravens Owner Steve Biscotti and Head Coach Jim Harbaugh hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy while CBS’ Jim Nantz looks on.

After the outage, the Ravens came out flat and the 49ers seized the momentum, outscoring the Ravens 17-0. First a touchdown throw from Kaepernick to Crabtree for 31 yards to first cut the lead to 28-13. On the next series Flacco is swallowed by Ahmad Brooks on third down forcing a punt. Then the game swung big time! First Ted Ginn Jr took the punt around midfield and ran it back to the Raven 20 yard line. Couple plays later Frank Gore took a handoff around right end on a counter and the 49ers had cut the game to 28-20. Over the next few minutes the 49ers had all the momentum and it looked like the Ravens were hanging on for dear life.

In a wild second half Colin Kaepernick found his groove. He eventually completed 16 of 28 for 302 yards and 1TD to Michael Crabtree. He also rushed 6 times for 62 yards and the touchdown to cut the Ravens lead to 31-29 with just over 7 minutes to go in the game. Kaepernick’s game was transcendent and elevated this Super Bowl into one of the greatest ever. He completed all the throws and shook off his second quarter jitters and being down 34-29 after a Ravens field goal, everyone held their breath as the Niners raced downfield.  With just over two minutes to go, Frank Gore burst around left end and gave the Niners a first and goal from inside the 10 yard line. San Francisco was on the brink of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. They just needed 8 yards…

The last play of Ray Lewis career. A 4th down incompletion in Super Bowl XLVII.

The last play of Ray Lewis career. A 4th down incompletion in Super Bowl XLVII.

That’s when the heart of a champion showed up in the form of the Baltimore Ravens defense. They stuffed one running play and played discipline football in stringing out two passes to the sideline. There were no openings for Kaepernick to throw the football. Then as it had on a two point attempt earlier, the Ravens blitzed on 4th down, Kaepernick lofted the ball for Michael Crabtree but the throw was errant thanks to the pressure. Baltimore escaped with a World Title thanks to a goal line stand to end Ray Lewis’ story career.

The MVP of the game was Joe Flacco and it could be argued that he almost played his way out of it. In the first half he was brilliant throwing for 192 yards with 3TDs on 13 of 20 passes. Once he was sacked by Brooks during the 49ers furious 3rd quarter rally he stopped throwing downfield and started to look like “the old Joe Flacco”. Yet once the Niners cut the lead to 31-29, Joe drove the Ravens on a 10 play 59 yard drive and gave the Ravens defense 5:29 of possession time to rest. On the drive he hit Anquan Boldin with three passes, one a critical third down that kept the chains moving. The subsequent 38 yard field goal by Tucker put the Ravens up by 5, 34-29 and no one was safe.

Ray Lewis, from The [[_]] hoists the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his last NFL game.

Ray Lewis, from The [[_]] hoists the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his last NFL game.

In the end, the Ravens gutted it out in that goal line stand and the difference could have been borne from the rest Flacco and the offense gave them from the previous drive. After three plays the Ravens took a ceremonious safety that gave them a 34-31 lead while effectively running out the clock.

World Champion Baltimore Ravens! The victors in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever. The vanquished 49ers had to exit the field as the purple and gold confetti fell on one of the most unlikely NFL champions ever. In one of our Super Bowl articles, our CEO said to “never underestimate what it means for a man to motivate other men.” Inside the 10 with just 1 minute to go, Ray got his guys to focus on those 4 plays. This team was flat coming down the stretch losing 4 of 5 to finish the season and it looked like another mid playoff exit was brewing.

Ray announces this would be his last go ’round and everything changed for the Baltimore Ravens. Cell phones were left out of meetings and players focused that much more on the game. The miracle double overtime win was one of the greatest in NFL history and one Flacco had to throw a 70 yard touchdown with less than a minute to go to tie it. In a year where former Owner Art Modell passes earlier in the season, OJ Brigance fighting ALS while working in the Ravens front office, Torrey Smith losing his brother and coming back to play for the Ravens with a heavy heart, they drew inspiration from within. Once Lewis admission to retire at the end of these playoffs and they were playing for something bigger than themselves. They needed every bit of spirit and motivation to upset the favored San Francisco 49ers by 8 yards.

The game won’t be the same without Ray Lewis but he leaves with another championship ring.

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