It's a little bit zany to ask the question, but it's on the minds of a lot of Ravens fans in the wake of the takedown of the New England Patriots by the New York Giants in SB 46: Could the Ravens have shut down the Giants and Eli Manning?
We'll never know the answer, although in 2012 we'll get a chance to speculate as the NFC East divisional teams dovetail into the Ravens' regular schedule...
On the brighter side, it was nice to see Matt Birk, the Ravens veteran center, honored at the Super Bowl for his NFL Man of the Year Award, based largely on his literacy project and foundation for kids... Also, Terrell Suggs received a Defensive Player of the Year award, to which Suggs humorously responded, "I want to thank my parents for going through with it..."
As Sarah Ellison of BalltimoreRavens.com astutely reported, when the confetti dropped on Eli Manning and the New York Giants after their Super Bowl XLVI victory, you weren’t alone if you were imagining Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs hoisting the trophy.
“Watching them celebrate gave me goosebumps,” tweeted Ravens receiver Torrey Smith. Many can’t help but wonder how the Ravens would have matched up against the G-Men. Could Manning have pulled off the same heroics against the Ravens’ vaunted defense? How would Flacco have fared?
“You have to think the Ravens’ defense would have given the Giants a better game than the Patriots’ defense did,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Ron Fritz. ”Eli Manning was not flustered at all by the Patriots’ defense and picked them apart. Tom Brady and the Patriots had two great drives, but that was it. “The Ravens really can say, ‘What if?‘”
But the fact remains that teams have to make big plays in order to win big games. And you have to credit the Giants because they seem to be the team that somehow pulls out magical performances on the biggest stages.
After David Tyree’s “Catch 42″ that led to a Giants Super Bowl victory four years ago, New York notched another miracle catch from Mario Manningham last Sunday night that led to the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining.
“There was definitely something in the air because the parallel [between the two catches] was uncanny,” wrote ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini. “Manningham introduced ‘Super Mario’ into the lore of spectacular Super Bowl receptions.”
Yes, the Ravens had the talent and personnel for fans and pundits to legitimately argue they could have beaten the Giants, but Baltimore didn’t make the big plays in the final seconds of the AFC championship to get that chance. New York did make the plays, and that’s why it’s celebrating.
But at this point, asking “What if” questions is just torture. Instead, Torrey Smith is using his feelings as motivation. After tweeting he got goose bumps watching the Giants celebrate, Smith also wrote, “we will have that feeling in Baltimore soon enough.” “I have been able to watch this game without being a hater…just gotta work harder to get one next year,” Smith concluded.
Suggs, who was named the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year Saturday night, is on the same page. Charm city, #Ravensnation Thank You All! It’s a Privilege and an Honor to represent you,” he tweeted.“Next year the Lombardi!”
That's the spirit.
Matt Birk, who was named the 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Saturday for his community service and playing excellence, told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley that he will take two more weeks before deciding whether to retire. “The Ravens need to know at a certain point to make their plans moving forward,” Birk said from the Super Bowl.
The 35-year-old center is scheduled to become a free agent in March after completing his 14th season in the NFL. Even though he is free to pursue options with other teams, Birk said he “made it clear” to the Ravens that they would be his first choice. Birk has battled neck, elbow and knee injuries in recent years, but has remained a reliable option, starting 96 consecutive games.
“I’m certainly hopeful that I’ll be able to do it again at an acceptable standard, but also I have to do what’s best for my family and we’ll talk about it and decide it,” Birk said in the CSNBaltimore.com interview this weekend. “But there’s definitely a big part of me that wants to [return] because the Ravens are a special organization and we have a great team and great guys. So, we’ll see.”
Birk said that while it takes longer than it did in his 20's to bounce back from injuries, the desire to play is still there. “I know I have the passion to come back,” he said. “I will always have the passion.”