When: Saturday, Jan. 12, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Sports Authority Field
The Baltimore Ravens were one catch away from playing in their second Super Bowl last season. Then they missed the game tying field goal to send the AFC Championship into overtime. What wasn’t lost on the performance however, was the maturation of Joe Flacco. The Ravens quarterback finally got the praise of elite status after outplaying Tom Brady for most of the game. This season didn’t go as expected for Joe Flacco, but he still has the chance to make amends. Flacco finished the regular season with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On Saturday, Flacco's stature as a quarterback will be heavily scrutinized one way or another.
The Ravens were picked as one of the preseason favorites to win the AFC, and get back to the Super Bowl for the first time, since 2000. They were looking like a strong candidate until defensive injuries decimated the team.
Baltimore lost a huge showdown against, yet the Ravens still started (9-2) on the season. As more defensive players succumbed to injury, the Ravens offense went down the drain. A miracle victory over San Diego only masked what was to come for Baltimore’s final six weeks of the season. The Ravens lost five of their last six games, and their only win came against the downtrodden Giants. In the midst of their losing skid, Baltimore got pummeled by their divisional foe, Denver.
A team that boasts Ray Rice and Benard Pierce at the running back position couldn’t get any traction with the ground game. The Ravens only amassed 56 yards on the ground, and 278 total yards. However, the game was still in the balance when Joe Flacco threw a 98 yard interception returned by Chris Harris. Instead of a potential three point game at the half, Denver went up by 17 and the game was virtually over.
Last week the Ravens defense received a bit of good news when Ray Lewis imposed his will against the Indianapolis Colts. As of Friday night, there were still no setbacks to his repaired torn triceps muscle. Lewis will be making all of the calls to counteract Peyton Manning on Saturday afternoon. There will be a chess match going on during the pre snap read. The next loss by Ray Lewis will be his last, so he and the Ravens are sure to leave everything on the field.
Defensively, the Ravens have to worry about more than Peyton Manning. The Broncos have a strong running game, and they intend to use it to control the clock. Baltimore will try to keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines, so their offense has to be effective with Ray Rice running the ball.
The Ravens need to get pressure on Peyton Manning, but they don’t always get to the quarterback. Paul Kruger leads the Ravens with nine sacks, and Haloti Ngata is second on the team with five. If they bring the blitz, the defensive backs will be vulnerable to the Broncos’ receivers.
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