Some days, it’s incredibly frustrating to be a football fan.
Sunday was not one of those days.
After months of watching the Baltimore Ravens (my favorite team) stumble through agonizing losses to the best teams in the National Football League, I was not bullish on their chances in the playoffs. They had reached the postseason by the skin of their teeth, winning only two more games than they lost (9-7). To listen to the fans, it was a wonder this team ever won a single game. Among their faults:
- They were one of the most-penalized teams in the league, regularly giving extra yards to the opposition through sloppy or excessively violent actions.
- Second-year quarterback Joe Flacco was performing worse each week, and his receivers couldn’t get open and catch the ball anyway.
- The Ravens were vulnerable against star quarterbacks, thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness in the defensive backfield.
So it was that Baltimore’s club traveled north to Foxboro, MA, to face the New England Patriots, the most successful team of the past decade. The Pats, winners of three Super Bowls since 2002, had never lost to the Ravens in five previous meetings. Glory-boy quarterback Tom Brady had won 23 straight home games overall, and had never lost a home playoff game in eight tries.
When friends and family asked me for my take on the game, I threw up my hands and said, half-joking, that it was a matter of probability. All of those convergent streaks had to end sooner or later.
I didn’t know how right I was.
Mere seconds into the game, Ravens running back Ray Rice outraced the entire New England defense for an 83-yard touchdown, the team’s longest play of the year. I was cautiously optimistic, but the good times just kept rolling. Brady looked downright confused by an energetic Baltimore defense, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. Capitalizing on these mistakes, the Ravens tied a playoff record by scoring 24 points in the first quarter. The Patriots made a few attempts to get back into the game, but ultimately there wasn’t much drama. The underdogs from Charm City won big by a score of 33-14. Baltimore moves on, New England’s season is over.
I was mindful of one of my New Year’s resolutions — I didn’t do a lot of shouting. The Ravens made it easy for me, for once.