The Baltimore Ravens‘ run through this year’s NFL playoffs has been the stuff of Hollywood. With an aging legend that has been with the team for his entire career retiring at the end of the post-season, the team seen by many in the sports world as the weakest of the AFC‘s division champs coming into the post-season has made it to Super Bowl XXLVII. Along the way, the Ravens were able to exorcise their demons inside of Gillette Stadium against the New England Patriots and survived a shootout with the Denver Broncos in what was a major upset.
It’s easy to play with a chip on your shoulder. There’s always something in the game of football that can get a player riled up for and during a game. With the Ravens, it was a combination of circumstances that came together perfectly to give them the proper motivation to make a complete run through the playoffs while winning on the road against the cream of the crop in the AFC. It was Ray Lewis‘ retirement countdown, how they lost last year’s AFC title game, the fact that few outside of Baltimore expected them to beat the Indianapolis Colts, Broncos, or Patriots, and that this is a team that has fallen short on other occasions recently where they had the pieces to get to the biggest game in football. Remember when Lewis was asked in an interview how close he thought the Ravens were from the Super Bowl prior to last season? Remember his answer? Seconds.
The Ravens are a team that people can label as having a “playoff pedigree” the way the Patriots can be given that label. They are both teams that have dominated the AFC over the past few seasons and have now met twice in the AFC title game with predictions of a third straight meeting next season probably not that far off, and this season still isn’t over.
But the stuff of Hollywood? Yep. Absolutely. Team of destiny? Maybe. In today’s NFL, with the parity and difficulties making deep playoff runs in consecutive seasons, it truly is about being the sole survivor. And that’s the kind of stuff that sports movies are built on: being the sole survivor, rising up from adversity with success, coming together as a team for that common goal of winning. The Ravens have demonstrated all of this during their playoff run and during a season that saw injuries to their most important defensive players, an offense that had difficulties being consistent, the family tragedy surrounding Torrey Smith and all of it coming under the conventional wisdom that they couldn’t win the big games. Maybe not quite team of destiny. I’ve never been a fan of that term, though it may end up applying here if Lewis plays big and the Ravens are hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this time on Sunday.