This feature appears every week on the Baltimore Sports Blitz. It’s just like “What They’re Saying About the Ravens,” but it includes blogger Matt Vensel saying something about what those people are saying. Got it?
--- John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com said the best moment from Sunday’s game was unscripted.
“There were several scripted moments that helped make Ray Lewis’ final home game memorable, including his impassioned speech to his teammates when they gathered around him after their pregame warm-ups, and of course, the final rendition of his introductory ‘Squirrel Dance,’ which brought the house down,” wrote Eisenberg. “But the day’s best moment, certain to become part of Baltimore lore, was completely unscripted. After the final gun, Lewis circled the field acknowledging the fans who had roared for him for, in some cases, 17 years. It was a replay of Cal Ripken’s unplanned but unforgettable Victory Lap on the night of 2,131, which Lewis said he watched, and like Cal’s lap, it crystallized what occasions such as this really are all about: a city’s fans saying thanks for the happiness an athlete has brought to their lives.”
Matt’s take: Many will remember his dance after the final kneel-down as the day’s signature moment -- I can’t say I was a big fan of that -- but what will also stick out to me is Lewis lingering on the field after the game like a little kid who didn’t want to go home. Thousands of fans stuck around to watch Lewis leave the field, and he treated them to that memorable victory lap, his finger pointed toward the sky the whole way. It was a special moment.
--- Don Banks of Sports Illustrated thinks quarterback Joe Flacco earned himself some money with his Sunday’s performance.
“His best games tend to always get over-looked, but I think Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, the potential free agent, probably made himself some serious money on Sunday. (Probably from the Ravens, who almost have to re-sign him, I would think). Flacco wasn't outstanding, but he got the most out of his 12 completions on 23 attempts, getting 282 yards out of them (23.5 yards per completion), with two touchdowns, no picks and a sterling 125.6 passer rating,” he wrote. “Flacco has his flaws, but six playoff wins in his first five seasons are nothing to sneeze at. When he's on, he can do some damage against a defense, as the Colts can attest.”
Matt’s take: I thought Flacco played pretty well, but I wouldn’t say Sunday’s win was one of his best games. He was solid and his yards-per-attempt total was significant. That being said, if Anquan Boldin doesn’t bail him out on that desperation heave at the start of the third quarter or come down with that touchdown pass in the fourth, the perception of Flacco might be different. He can make himself “some serious money” if he plays well -- even better than he did in the second half Sunday -- against the Denver Broncos.
--- Ashley Fox of ESPN thinks that Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will easily end the Ravens’ season.
“Unless Baltimore can take out Manning and do it early, it won't matter how different or how much better the Ravens are,” she wrote. “It won't matter if Joe Flacco can throw the ball down the field like he did against the Colts. It won't matter if recently promoted offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell calls a sharp game. The Broncos with Manning will win, and it might not even be that close.”
Matt’s take: Well, after watching the Broncos blow the doors off the Ravens a few weeks ago, I can’t say that I will argue with anyone who thinks the Broncos will win. But the Ravens do have a chance. What happened in Foxborough three years ago should serve as a reminder that anything is possible in the playoffs, especially when you get off to a good start. Am I picking the Ravens? Nah. But I’m not burying them yet, either.
--- Clark Judge of CBS Sports tried to think of reasons why Anquan Boldin and the Ravens would want to play the Broncos.
“If you're only as good as your last game, Baltimore's in good shape. Flacco produced his second-best passer rating of the season (125.6) and averaged a staggering 23.5 yards per completion. The defense forced two Andrew Luck turnovers and wasn't hurt by anyone but Adam Vinatieri. [Anquan] Boldin ripped off 145 yards in catches, including one for a touchdown, after going the first half without a reception. Then, of course, there are those defenders who were missing last month,” he wrote.
Matt’s take: The Ravens are coming into this one with chips on their shoulders, and Boldin and Co. started puffing their chests out immediately after beating the Colts. They are playing better -- both on offense and on defense -- than they were a few weeks ago, and they are healthier than they were in Week 15. And having Lewis back is big. His play has diminished, but they need him for those pre-snap chess matches with Manning.
--- Marc Sessler of NFL.com says that the “Bad Ravens” can’t show up in Denver and escape with a victory.
“The Ravens were anything but a challenge to Denver in a 34-17 defeat in December. Baltimore's defense has improved down the stretch, but the Broncos haven't lost a game since facing the New England Patriots in Week 5,” he wrote. “We've seen plenty of Good Ravens/Bad Ravens this season, and the inferior version usually bubbles up on the road, when quarterback Joe Flacco is bounced off his rhythm and the offense gets away from Ray Rice and the ground game.”
Matt’s take: I don’t even know if the “Good Ravens” can get it done. The great ones need to show up if they want to beat Manning, their longtime nemesis, and advance to their second AFC title game in two seasons.Copyright © 2015, CT Now