Baltimore suits up and faces the Colts Saturday (Ravens @ Colts), but that doesn’t mean the Ravens – at least in spirit – are done for the weekend come Saturday night.
Sunday afternoon, even if in a different color and representing a different city, the Raven way is being showcased when head coach Rex Ryan’s Jets are in San Diego to face the Chargers (Jets @ Chargers).
Ozzie Newsome, after transitioning a roster from the offensive circus of the Testaverde/Marchibroda days, put a plan in place to enable his teams to run the ball and play “punch you in the mouth and then tell you about it” defense. His team did exactly that earning their first Super Bowl Championship and being immortalized on a SI magazine cover as the “Baltimore Bullies.”
The Ravens proved last week, while abusing the New England Patriots in Foxborough, that they can still work that formula to perfection. Run the ball, play tough defense and force turnovers. The biggest difference between this Ravens squad and the one from the Super Bowl, in my opinion, is that the swagger moved up I-95 to New York.
Ryan is becoming the media centerpiece, much as former Ravens head coach Brian Billick did, taking heat and attention off his players and allowing his charisma and confidence to soak up the spotlight and satiate the media’s need for a great quote.
Linebacker Ray Lewis has matured into the ultimate professional. #52 still gets animated as the unquestioned leader of his team and face of the Ravens organization, but the antagonistic bully of his brash youth is held in check. He just makes plays (sometimes of the spectacular variety) and inspires teammates. But that younger attitude lives strong in a Lewis understudy – former Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott.
December 2005 Rave-TV had Deion Sanders mic’d up – and the main thing I remember from that episode was “Prime” calling Scott a bully after a play. It was pure entertainment – and the whole time you heard #57 yapping away at the offensive player. If you watch the Jets at all, and follow what happens after each play, you’ve seen Scott get into it with almost every player on the field – face mask to face mask at the very least.
Those are just two samples. I could go into the Jets coaching staff including Mike Pettine, Dennis Thurman and Matt Cavanaugh. Former Ravens safety Jim Leonard and defensive end Marques Douglas now sport the green and white too, though they had their time in Owings Mills and Baltimore.
I’ve never been this excited for an AFC playoff weekend – and it is all bred out of a style of football that has been preached for years in Baltimore and has now been injected in New York, through some very talented, bright and passionate individuals.