The Man in the Arena! Ravens in the playoffs for the 6th time in 7 years!

browns ravens

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Wow! What a game, what a finish at M&T Bank Stadium today! The Baltimore Ravens put away a feisty and willing Cleveland Browns team with an explosive 4th quarter! Quarterback Joe Flacco was lights out in that decisive 4th quarter, and ignited a comeback that – with the help of the Kansas City Chiefs – put the Ravens back in the playoffs for the 6th time in 7 years under John Harbaugh’s tenure!

Speaking of coach Harbaugh, after today’s gutsy win I couldn’t help but think a couple of years back during a presser, Harbaugh talked about “The Man in the Arena”, which of course was recited by President Theodore Roosevelt many years back!  That speech pretty much sums up the Ravens’ season…to this point.  With the Ray Rice situation, this team faced adversity early on. Then the injuries started piling up, at an alarming rate. Not only did Dennis Pitta’s surgically repair hip not hold up, but what seemed like the entire secondary was lost for the season as well.  Thank goodness for Will Hill, who missed the first 6 games due to suspension.  Don’t know that this team would be heading to the playoffs had it not been for his contributions.

Jimmy’s Smith injury was particularly devastating.  There aren’t many shut down corners in the league, and to lose a player of his caliber clearly had an adverse effect on the defense.  Ladarius Webb has also battled through injuries throughout the season, and seems to be playing his best ball at this time!  Then the team lost Asa Jackson and Terrence Brooks late in the season, and also lost All-Pro Defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata the last 4 games of the season to suspension over the use of banned PEDs.

After a tough home win against Jacksonville, the Ravens went up to Houston and got manhandled by JJ Watt and their defense! To make matters much worse, the team also lost BOTH of their starting offensive tackles in Eugene Monroe and Rick Wagner! That is why I knew today’s contest versus the Browns was going to be a tough one! James Hurst got the start at left tackle (undrafted free agent from North Carolina), John Urschel (rookie guard from Penn State) got the start at right guard, and All-World right guard Marshall Yanda started at right tackle!

The offensive line couldn’t get push and didn’t fire off of the ball in the first 3 quarters, but really got it together in the 4th quarter! They gave QB Joe Flacco ample time to set his feet and find receivers such as Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown, Owen Daniels and Kamar Aiken! They opened gaping holes – particularly on the right side – for running back Justin Forsett, and simply helped to put the game away!

Given all of the adversity and injuries the Ravens have been through, I make absolutely no apologies for them making the playoffs! It is fitting that they got help from Kansas City, since it was in fact Kansas City that knocked our beloved Orioles out of the playoffs! But back to football!

Give credit to the coaches and to the players! Give credit to the front office! Give credit to Ozzie Newsome for always picking the best player available, and landing one CJ Mosley, who’s going to be a cornerstone for the famed Baltimore Ravens defense for years to come!  By the way, that defense has not allowed a running back to gain 100 yards in 26 straight games and counting! In the NFL, if you can stop the run and run the ball, you give yourself a great chance of winning!

I’m looking forwards to the playoffs next week, no matter who we play! The Bengals you ask? It’s tough to beat a team 3 times in a season, and I don’t think the Bengals – having won 2 close games vs the Ravens – are going to be up to task.  I mean, come on! Andy Dalton is still their quarterback, still looking for his first NFL post season win!

The Steelers have an explosive offense, but their defense is nothing to write home about. Plus they’ve lost to the Bucs, Jets, and Saints! They win the award for the NFL’s most Jekyll and Hyde team of the year!

The Ravens have a “puncher’s chance” in the playoffs.  Yes they’re banged up, but they are playing with house money and they know it!  They get a healthy and rested Haloti Ngata back, and hopefully Eugene Monroe is a go.  Michael Campanaro saw some spot duty today, and will hopefully be more of a factor in the Ravens’ offense going forward.

The keys to the playoff are always the same – run the ball, stop the run, don’t turn it over.  Pack your defense and your running game. The Man in the Arena has been there before.  He’s seen this movie before.  This isn’t his first rodeo.  His quarterback gave a short – but fiery speech in the locker room today, a speech that obviously got everyone’s attention. Can’t wait for the playoffs to start!!!

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