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Something special brewing with these Ravens

Peter Schmuck

8:29 PM EST, January 13, 2013

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When Justin Tucker's game-winning 47-yard field goal slipped inside the right goal post at Sports Authority Field and dismissed Peyton Manning and the heavily favored Denver Broncos from the playoffs, there was nothing to do but watch in wonder and then wonder about what we all just watched.

Apparently, revenge really is a dish served cold — very cold, in this case — but that was last week's storyline.

The word everybody likes to use when something so strange and wonderful happens in the world of sports is "destiny," and it was thrown around a lot Saturday night in the aftermath of a game that featured so many entertaining twists and turns that the Ravens may get a new dance named after them.

The stars certainly seem to be lining up for something very, very special.

Ray Lewis announces his pending retirement and the Ravens respond with two resounding playoff victories, the second of which will go down as one of the greatest NFL postseason games in history.

The San Francisco 49ers follow that up with a dynamic performance against the Green Bay Packers in the second game of the Divisional weekend to keep alive the possibility of a Har-Bowl in New Orleans three weeks from now.

Beloved former Ravens owner Art Modell, who passed away just four days before the Ravens embarked on this circuitous season, was announced as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Friday morning along with all-everything offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.

It was just the other day that former team president David Modell was pondering the possibility of the Ravens overcoming all odds in Denver and then ending up in the Super Bowl the day after his father might finally get his ticket punched for Canton. It sounded like he was trying to pick the right numbers for Powerball at the time, but just about anything seems possible now.

The Ravens just played a game for the ages — and for the ageless Lewis, who has all of us pretty much convinced that God wears purple and black on game day.

Of course, they have another big mountain to climb next Sunday, when they face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in another tough road matchup against a team that was looking down at them at the end of the regular season. The oddsmakers won't be foolish enough to post them as a giant underdog this time, but the Patriots will likely be favored on their home turf, which will be OK with the Ravens and their fans.

That underdog role fits just fine.

Really, during the day or so that everyone had to wait to find out whether the Ravens would play the Texans, who blew them out of Reliant Stadium in late October, or the Patriots, who wriggled off their hook in last year's AFC title game, did anyone really care which team would be the next speed bump on the road to the Super Bowl?

Clearly, this isn't about anybody else, as Lewis pointed out to his team throughout the week of preparation for the game they were not supposed to win in Denver. The Ravens are on their own personal journey to take Lewis to football's promised land before he rides off into the sunset.

The Patriots are a terrific team with great playmakers and their own motivational subplots, just as the Colts were when they came to M&T Bank Stadium last week and the Broncos were when they took the field Saturday with all the environmental and statistical ingredients weighing solidly in their favor.

It will take more than mojo for the Ravens to succeed in what will be their third attempt to win the AFC title game in five years. They'll need to get another big contract-drive tour de force from Joe Flacco and one more bend-but-don't-break performance by a defense that seems to get healthier and more Raven-like with every playoff round.

They'll need to shake up Pats quarterback Tom Brady the way they rattled Manning in the second half Saturday. They'll need to protect the football and run it effectively behind their rejuvenated offensive line. They'll need to contain the New England return game and wipe away the memory of their frightening special teams breakdown against the Broncos.

If they do that, they won't need any divine intervention, but it will probably seem like they got it.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

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