Editor's note: This is Bill Burt's second column in the Baltimore Sun. He is executive sports editor of The Eagle-Tribune. He has covered the Patriots and the NFL for 21 years. He has covered six Super Bowls, including the Ravens’ win over the Giants in Tampa Bay in 2001. You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here we go again.
The only thing missing this morning is Bill Murray’s character, weatherman Phil Connors, in “Ground Hog Day,” slamming the clock-radio realizing he is reliving Feb. 2 all over again.
The Baltimore Ravens fans might as well be croaking that clock-radio.
The Ravens’ job was going to be hard enough this Sunday afternoon. They are facing the New England Patriots, which even with holes in their defensive backfield, are a force to be reckoned with.
Simply put, beating Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, particularly this year, in Foxborough is a losing proposition.
The Ravens, though, are a formidable foe in the AFC championship. Behind the Patriots, Steelers and Colts -- in that order -- the Ravens have been knocking on the door at elite status in the conference.
And this year, at 12-4, their quality wins (teams with double-digit wins) is the best in the NFL at 6-0.
And lest we forget to mention their defense, which has been towing the rope, sometimes better than others, for more than a decade now.
But enough with blowing kisses their way. Let’s get to the point: The Ravens are not going to win on Sunday.
Or let me put it another way, without six sacks or four interceptions or five fumbles, or some mini combination of the above, the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.
Why? Because the Ravens don’t get it. In fact, maybe that’s why this franchise has comfortable been the fourth best in the conference since the turn of the century.
They couldn’t shut up. They couldn’t do their talking on the field.
This time it was an unlikely source, Ed Reed, arguably the best player in the National Football League the last 10 years not named Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
Reed, for all intents and purposes, said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn’t cutting it and if he doesn’t up his play on Sunday, the Ravens are finished.
I understand Reed’s impatience. He’s on the 16th or 17th hole of his career, quite possibly the best to ever play his position of free safety with no rings to show for it.
But why now? Do you think Flacco, who didn’t know how to react to Reed’s criticisms, needed a future Hall of Famer looking over his shoulder?
This is what the Ravens do. They shoot themselves in the foot.
They haven’t been to a Super Bowl in 11 years, which means they’ve lost a lot of big games since.
It appears that coach John Harbaugh is good guy and a good coach. But is he in total control? Can he be in total control with larger than life veteran personalities like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed around?
Before anybody that owns a purple Ravens jersey points to the 2009 AFC divisional game at Foxborough, a game the Ravens won convincingly, from box-to-wire ... don’t go there.
That Patriots team was a mess. At 10-6, it lost three games at home that year. It wasn’t tough. It had a few malcontents. And, the heart and soul of the team, Wes Welker, who led the NFL in receptions (123) and was second in yards (1,348) in only 14 games.
These Patriots are tough and they’re ready. And, maybe best of all, they’ll do their talking on the field.