There’s probably not another sporting spectacle in the world like the Super Bowl – no game is more covered by the media and the week leading up to the game is filled with events. For the last week and for the next few days leading up to kickoff on Sunday there will be coverage and analysis on anything and everything related to the players, the coaches and the teams. But honestly, none of that stuff matters when it comes to the game that will be played. I have never really been one to throw around the term “team of destiny” when describing why a team is successful, however I have finally turned the corner and believe that not only are the Ravens destined to win Sunday, they deserve to win.
In his famous speech in the movie “Any Given Sunday,” Al Pacino says football is a game of inches and gaining the extra inch makes the difference between winning and losing. In addition to what Pacino said, it is also the seconds that can decide a game and nobody knows that better than the Ravens. Last year the Ravens outplayed the Patriots in the AFC Championship when the game-winning touchdown was in the hands of Lee Evans. A second later, it was on the turf and the Ravens would lose the game after a missed field goal. Had Evans held on to the pass just a second longer, it would have been the Ravens representing the AFC in the Super Bowl instead of the Patriots.
This season the Ravens had their ups and downs, but it was a couple inches and seconds that made the difference in their season. In week 3 the Ravens got revenge on the Patriots as Justin Tucker’s game winning field goal was good by inches. Later in the season the Ravens were on the verge of losing in San Diego until Ray Rice took a screen pass 29 yards, picking up the first down by a few inches and leading the Ravens to a win.
The Ravens were fortunate to win a game against the Cowboys in which they saw Dez Bryant fail to hold on to a two point conversion. The Cowboys also miss a field goal at the last second because their kicker was rushed due to a lack of time. A few seconds in the Dallas game and a couple inches in the New England and San Diego games all went the Ravens way. However, had they gone the other way, this team may not have been in the playoffs, let alone playing in the Super Bowl. Make no bones about it, the Ravens are not where they are because of luck – they have a lot of talent, but, like other past Super Bowl champions, they have come up on the right side of a few games that could have easily gone the other way.
The Ravens may be a team of “destiny” but I also believe they deserve to be here and they deserve to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night. No other team in the NFL has made the playoffs in five consecutive years and consequently no other team has lost in the playoffs in more excruciating fashion, thus leading many Ravens fans to wonder if they would ever see their team in the Super Bowl again.
During the year the Ravens dealt with the death of the man responsible for bringing the franchise to Baltimore and also watched one of their teammates lose his brother tragically a day before their game against the defending AFC Champions. They had to deal with the AFC Defensive Player of the Year getting injured before the season, leaving a rookie and some unproven veterans trying to fill his shoes. They also watched an elite cornerback in the making suffer a season ending ACL injury early in the season, leaving the secondary filled with a bunch of no names and retreads.
They also watched as their heart and soul, their leader, injured his triceps leaving many to think that would be the last time he would ever put on a Ravens uniform again. Certainly the Ravens aren’t the only team to overcome injuries, but it was overcoming those injuries that has helped give them confidence and belief and one of the reasons they are 60 minutes away from winning the Super Bowl.
For years the Ravens were viewed as trash talkers and bullies, but this year those words couldn’t be further from the truth when describing this team. They have handled their ups and downs with class and dignity, they were gracious in defeat and humble in victory. From the owner to the coach to a young receiver having to deal with people letting him know they are happy his brother died, to a quarterback who had to listen to everyone doubt him despite his record, the Ravens handled it all and let their play do their talking. They have persevered and they have one more hurdle left in their journey.
For the next week the Ravens will be fielding questions about Ray Lewis and his murder trial and there is no doubt in my mind that this team will do what they have done all season – handle it with class and believe in each other.
Seemingly the only people who believe the Ravens are going to be Super Bowl champions are the players in the locker room, everyone in this organization and the faithful fans. This won’t sound like hard hitting analysis, but if the Ravens do win Sunday it will be because they deserved it. They have persevered and they will send one of the best players in the history of the NFL out as a champion.
That is their destiny.