The story of the
It was Dec.16 when the Ravens were booed by their home fans during an embarrassing 34-17 loss to the
"As a single player, as an individual, right now I am embarrassed to come out and perform the way we have," Reed said. "We're not the only team that lost today and we still have two more games. But as a player, I am embarrassed for our city."
A little more than a month later, that embarrassment has turned into a city-wide celebration. The Ravens rebounded from the Broncos' loss to beat the
How did the Ravens turn things around in time? Their postseason run can be traced back to four decisions made over the past six weeks.
Dec. 10: Ravens fire offensive coordinator
The timing of Cameron's dismissal seemed odd. A day earlier, the Ravens endured a 31-28 loss in overtime to the
It was the defense that faltered, allowing Redskins quarterback
"It's what I believe is best going forward for our offense and for our football team," Ravens coach
The reality was that the decision was based on more than just one game and any sideline disagreement between Cameron and Harbaugh — and television cameras clearly showed one such moment — just accelerated the move.
Flacco wasn't progressing as much as the team hoped and he was never going to fully be on the same page as Cameron. Rice was forgotten about in key spots too many times and the offense was way too inconsistent one drive to the next, never mind one game to the next.
Enter Jim Caldwell who has simplified the offense, utilized the middle of the field more, established the run early in games and impressed on Flacco the importance of moving around in the pocket.
Flacco has only one interception in six games since Caldwell has taken over play-calling duties and that was in the first half of Caldwell's first game in his new role. In three playoff games, the Ravens have totaled 90 points and averaged 425 yards of total offense.
Jan. 2: Middle linebacker
Lewis, a future Hall of Famer and the long-time face of the franchise, said that he made the decision when he was home in Florida rehabbing his surgically-repaired torn right triceps. He opted to let his teammates in on it four days before the Ravens' playoff opener against the
Lewis' announcement first stunned and then inspired many of his teammates who openly talked about wanting to send their leader off by helping him get to the Super Bowl.
"I think we all just put our pride aside, and if we are going to ride it, we are going to ride it," said Rice, Lewis' closest friend on the team. "But, we are going to go out there and give it our best shot for our guy. He's done it for us for 17 years and led our guys to one Super Bowl. You are talking about a pioneer that has laid a platform for the whole
Perhaps, too much has been made of the emotional lift that Lewis' announcement provided but it's hard to argue with the immediate results. The Ravens, who played so poorly in December, have looked like a completely different team since and the emotion and intensity in Lewis' final home game was too much for the Colts to handle.
Lewis has also made 44 tackles in three playoff games so he's providing much more than emotion and leadership.
Jan.6: Ravens unveil new-look offensive line in playoff opener versus the Colts.
We may never know whether Harbaugh would have juggled the Ravens' offensive line had left guard
What matters is that the current group with
"They are the heart of our team," wide receiver
During the regular season, Flacco was sacked 35 times. Only seven quarterbacks were taken down more.
Rice averaged just over 71 rushing yards per game. In the playoffs, Flacco has been sacked only four times in three games while Rice has averaged 82 rushing yards per game.
The offensive line didn't just limit vaunted pass rushers like the Colts'
Jan. 20: Trailing the
The Ravens waited a year to avenge last season's AFC championship game loss to the Patriots so the last thing they wanted to do was go down passively. That was the message in the visiting locker room at halftime after the offense looked especially sluggish for the first 30 minutes.
"In the first half, we were probably a little bit run-heavy and they did a good job of stopping it," Flacco said. "We didn't come all the way here to play it safe and hope to win. We came here to win the AFC championship game and you have to play to win."
Flacco was 6-of-12 for 81 yards in the first half as the Ravens accumulated just 130 yards of offense. All he did in the second half was go 15-of-24 for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
The Ravens' three second-half scoring drives lasted 24 total plays and Flacco, operating in a shotgun and out of the no-huddle, threw on 18 of them and scrambled for a first down on another.
The Ravens returned to a run-heavy attack late in the fourth quarter when they had a two-score lead and they were running out the clock. By then, their trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl was well in their grasp.