The Great Snowstorm of 2009 is over and the Ravens' playoff hopes are looking bright, and if you don't think the two are related, you weren't paying attention this weekend.

Look, this was the biggest December snowstorm to hit the Baltimore area since they started keeping records back in 1883. Twenty-one inches - that's like the end of the world around here.

But judging by the Ravens' 31-7 rout of the Chicago Bears on Sunday at M&T; Bank Stadium, I'm guessing this team is fine with a snowstorm hitting before every home game.

Let's start with how bad the Bears looked, which, for openers, was really, really bad.

In fact, they looked like a team that hadn't gotten much sleep lately.

I know, I know ... that's a cheap shot. But let's recap the whole strange saga of the Bears' trip here one more time.

For starters, they didn't arrive in Maryland until just before 11 Saturday night, which left them about 16 hours to get to their hotel, sleep, eat and get ready for the 4:15 p.m. kickoff, which was moved back from 1 after it became clear the White Death was on its way.

Originally, of course, the Bears had planned to fly here Friday to avoid the snow.

But their flight was canceled because of a mechanical problem, which I have no problem with. Personally, I don't want my plane taking off if there's a wobbly wheel on the beverage cart, never mind a problem with the landing gear.

The Bears tried changing planes, but by that time Baltimore was already looking like Siberia, with people running out to the supermarkets for the ritual hoarding of milk, bread and toilet paper.

(If you're an out-of-towner, don't ask about the toilet paper. It's ... complicated.)

So the Bears never left Chicago that night and didn't get back to their training facility until nearly 1:30 Saturday morning.

"We're not going to make excuses," said Bears coach Lovie Smith, to his credit. "We get paid to play. We got to the stadium and had an opportunity to play the game, so none of that matters."

"It's difficult, and we've been in similar situations like that," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the Bears' travel nightmare. "We were looking at Houston [during a hurricane] scenario last year, and you just have to find a way to get to the game.

"They were determined to get here and play. But it was obviously a crazy weekend in the Baltimore area."

Oh, you betcha.

In the meantime, the Ravens got plenty of sleep Friday night and awoke chipper and refreshed Saturday morning.

And they proved they weren't snow wussies, either, since they all arrived at The Castle by 7:30 a.m. for a meeting and walk-through.

In fact, Harbaugh said Ravens players were even involved in "a couple of wrecks" and still got to the meeting on time.

You talk about dedication - those guys must have left at 4 in the morning.

Meanwhile, over at M&T; Bank Stadium, the snowstorm was raging and a massive cleanup operation was under way.

Maybe you heard about the work crew of nearly 1,800 - including about 250 prisoners from two local slammers, whose services were, ahem, "volunteered" - who shoveled out the snow and stayed in the club suites at the Bank on Friday and Saturday nights.

When I first heard this, I thought: They stayed where?! Since when do the club suites turn into a Holiday Inn Express at night?

But it turns out the workers brought sleeping bags and slept on the floors or slept on couches and chairs. Hot food was brought in, and they could watch TV when they weren't shoveling.

It almost sounds kind of ... cozy.

"It snowed here for 25 hours straight," said Roy Sommerhof, the Ravens' vice-president of stadium operations, who oversaw the cleanup.

And there were times, Sommerhof acknowledged, when he wondered if the cleanup would be finished in time.

"There are some dark hours at 2 and 3 in the morning and it's snowing at the rate of 2 inches an hour," Sommerhof said.

But somehow the job got done, and done magnificently. By game time, there were only a few seats still snowed in, mostly in the upper deck .

"I saw one guy with a Bears jacket make a mini-igloo out of his seat and plop right down on it," Sommerhof said with a smile.

So the stadium was shoveled out from top to bottom and the snow was carted away in trucks and dumped on a runway at BWI-Marshall, right in front of the Bears' charter, effectively preventing them from leaving.

OK, I'm kidding about that. They actually dumped the snow wherever they could, in open spaces near the stadium and a nearby waterway.

So the Bears' charter took off without a problem.

And the Ravens are 8-6 this morning, with a great shot to make the playoffs.

It was a crazy weather weekend in Baltimore.

But you sure won't hear the Ravens complaining.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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