Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 NFL PLAYOFFS: COLTS V. RAVENS--Welcome Back, Ray Lewis!

Johnny J

Ray Lewis played and danced in his final game at M&T Stadium with a win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card game. While I can sit here and talk about Ray's dance and how electrifying his moves were to pump up the fans, I need to add that I was hoping to see him chase Paul Rudd around the field. It didn't happen, but, regardless, the Ravens' defense welcomed their defensive coordinator of 2011, Chuck Pagano, back home. The welcome was so warm, that they beat his new team 24-9.

The middle linebacker played in his first game since tearing his triceps in mid-October. Lewis looked dominant with his robotic arm (Oh, wait... its just a harness that made Lewis appear as some sort of half-man, half-Transformer), leading the defense with 13 tackles.  The defense played vintage, Ravens' football that ranked in the top ten as opposed to ranking 22nd, in terms of "weighted defense." The Ravens entered play giving up a total of 350.9 yards per game (ranked 17th) and 122.8 being rushing yards (ranked 20th). That doesn't sound like the viciously, terrifying, hard-hitting Ravens' defense that we know.

But that's what happens when your future Hall-of-Fame linebacker misses 10 games (makes me want to create a dance at work--maybe it will get my team pumped-up to reach, what should be, attainable metrics and goals). Now that he's back, I guess Ed Reed doesn't need to go out of his way to make "illegal" hits on opposing receivers in an attempt to terrorize them (I can hear him now: "Me and my wallet thanks you for coming back, Ray!").

Lewis has been the face of the Ravens' franchise for years and now, in his 17th season, he is calling it quits. He couldn't have picked a better time to make the announcement--win or go home--so why not try to ride this emotional, do-or-die, "win one for the gipper," adrenaline rush all the way to the Super Bowl? (think Ray Bourque when he played for the Colorado Avalanche--Ed)

This game had implications on both sides. Besides Ray Lewis announcing his retirement as soon as the Ravens' season was completed,Chuck Pagano returned to Baltimore as the head coach of the Colts. It was an emotional sight to see the Ravens' defense showing their old coach support and love.  Pagano coached his second game after coming back from his Leukemia treatment that forced him to miss the majority of the 2012 season. Pagano, along with offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians (who might be the Chicago Bears' coach in 2013?--Ed), revived a Colts' team that went from 2-14 last season to going 11-5 this season and making the playoffs as a 5th seed. 

A lot of the reason for their success is, while they went 2-14 last season, last year's struggles helped them obtain the number 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, in which they drafted Andrew Luck--who is pretty good (a lot better than "good"--Ed). I mean I drafted him in my fantasy league and sometimes even started him over Peyton Manning, which says a lot about the rookie's ability. In his first year, he threw for 4,374 yards breaking Cam Newton's record for a rookie. Newton threw for 4,051 yards (Hey, Cam--it looks like that kid really did warm up his arm!).

In his first playoff game, Luck threw for 288 yards and an interception (and it could have been 2 INTs if Ray Lewis' robotic hands could have cradled a tipped pass in the 2nd quarter--Ed). Luck had a hard time against the Ravens' defense only connecting on 28 of his 54 pass attempts. Reggie Wayne had 9 of those catches for 114 yards. Even though the Colts lost, they have a lot to look forward to as they try and build a team around Andrew Luck.

Pagano took over for Jim Caldwell last season who is the new offensive coordinator for the Ravens after Cam Cameron was fired late in the season. Caldwell was hired as the quarterbacks coach (Yeah I thought it was a joke when he was hired for that position as well--"Hey Flacco let me show you how to be like Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins."). No wonder Joe Flacco is garbage: his passing completions and attempts are far apart! He reminds me of Allen Iverson's shooting numbers: 9-25 from the field, but he did score 30 points because he shot the ball 25 times (Joe Flacco is the Allen Iverson of today's NFL? Unlike Iverson, Flacco can pass the ball.--Ed). Flacco was better today though, he was 12 for 23 for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ray Rice finished with 2 fumbles to go along with 70 rushing yards.

If the Ravens want to help Lewis finish his career with a Super Bowl ring, they're going to have to go through Denver and their defense ranks 2nd in total yards and 4th in points allowed. In order for that to happen, they need a combination of Ray-Ray: Ray Lewis and Ray Rice. I'm not worried about Lewis doing his part, but with Rice suddenly being a fumbles machine, I think that puts a lot on Joe "Sacko"--err-- I mean Flacco. Hey, maybe Lewis can do his dance in the locker room for motivation.

For more on the 2012 NFL Wildcard Weekend, click here.

Please welcome our newest contributor, Johnny J.  Even though Johnny is one of "Chi-town's finest," he is a Green Bay Packers' fan, roots for the Detroit Red Wings, follows the Seattle Mariners, and--the biggest sin of all--he bleeds orange and blue as he cheers on the New York Knicks.  Feel free to say "hi" to him on the comments section. 

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