Let’s rewind time for a quick second. The date is Dec. 31, 2012. It’s New Years Eve, and the Baltimore Ravens just lost their regular season finale to their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, and have now dropped four of their last five games to end the regular season. The NFL playoffs are right around the corner, and few people are giving the Ravens the time of day when discussing possible Super Bowl matchups.
Fast forward exactly five weeks later, and here I am on the Monday after the Super Bowl, writing about the new football champions of the world, the Baltimore Ravens.
Crazy how the times change, isn’t it?
Over the course of the last month, we, as football fans, have learned a lot about Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens. Critics everywhere had questions about Joe Flacco’s ability to lead a team deep in the playoffs. They also questioned the health of Ray Lewis, who played the entire postseason on basically one arm. We questioned how mentally tough this Ravens team was. And in the end, all of our questions were answered.
Flacco, a fifth-year veteran from the University of Delaware, put together one of the most unprecedented and incredible four-game stretches in NFL postseason history. In four games, Flacco threw a total of 11 touchdown passes (tying Joe Montana’s postseason record) and put up a goose egg in the interception column. The same quarterback who had been telling the media that he is in fact “elite” has finally silenced his critics.
And then there’s Ray Lewis. Where does one begin when talking about the impact Lewis had on his teammates this postseason? Before the playoffs began, Lewis announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season, no matter where the Ravens finished. By doing that, Lewis ignited a spark under his teammates that eventually turned into a fire that no team could extinguish. Lewis exemplified exactly what it means to be a leader, both on and off the field. It could even be argued that Lewis is not only the best leader in football, but in all of professional sports.
The great John Wooden once said, “It’s amazing what a group of men can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit,” and I don’t think there’s a better quote to summarize the Ravens’ run. With the unveiling of the NFL’s newest “elite” quarterback and inspiration from Lewis, the Ravens were textbook examples of what can happen when players stop playing for themselves, and instead play for each other. After all, isn’t that what team sports are all about?
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