Here's a look at recent media coverage of the Ravens.
• The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz notes the absence of the Indianapolis Colts' name during games at M&T; Bank Stadium. His column continues with the difficulties that the Colts will encounter with the Ravens on Saturday night.
I mention this because, in a shocking lack of professional courtesy and maturity, the Ravens' stadium operations folks refuse to introduce the Indianapolis Colts on game day at M&T; Stadium as "the Indianapolis Colts," and on the scoreboard, use "Indy" rather than "Colts." Apparently, there is no statute of limitations when it comes to pandering to your fan base. And let's not hear how Baltimore was so noble by leaving the Browns' name and history behind when the franchise fled Cleveland. That was done because in a 1996 agreement, the NFL made Baltimore do it -- not out of the goodness of team owner Art Modell's frozen, little heart.
If most NFL scouts had believed Greg Schiano, Ray Rice wouldn't have simply been taken in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. The tailback, a star at Rutgers from 2005-07 who owns virtually every school rushing record, would have been a top 10 pick. "Matter-of-factly," Schiano said yesterday, "I told them he'd be one of the best in the NFL, if not the best."
• Gary Mihoces of USA Today ranks Ed Reed as the best safety in the 2000s on the newspaper's All-Decade Team.
By its name, the football position of safety implies a last line of defense. But in the past decade, players such as Troy Polamalu, Brian Dawkins and Darren Sharper have brought an attacking, big-play style to the role. Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens, voted by USA TODAY as the No. 1 player at the position in the 2000s, is the embodiment of all those aggressive qualities.
• Eric Crawford of The (Louisville) Courier-Journal says the Colts' decision to rest their starters in the final weeks of the regular season puts them in an interesting spot as they prepare to play the Ravens.
But when the Colts play host to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night, they won't have won a game in just less than a month. And they have heaped as much additional pressure on themselves as any unbeaten streak would have.
• CNNSI.com's Peter King recaps the Ravens' victory over the New England Patriots and offers a glimpse into this week's matchup with the Colts.
Now come the Colts, who have beaten Baltimore seven straight. The Ravens had a shot to win Indy's 17-15 verdict earlier this year. Several shots, in fact. If they don't turn it over, this will be a great game.
This will be an interesting contrast of styles. Baltimore will try to run the football and keep it a low-scoring game, while the Colts want to air it out and put a lot of points on the board. Manning has won most of those battles. He is 7-2 all-time in his career against the Ravens.
• In a separate post, Walker discusses the Ravens' competitive nature in the playoffs.
1. Baltimore is a tough out: We all knew the Ravens were tough. But it's something about the urgency of the playoffs that brings Baltimore's game to a new level. Second-year coach John Harbaugh improved to 3-1 in the postseason. His goal all along was to have his team playing its best football at the right time, and on cue Baltimore played it's most complete game against a quality opponent in Sunday's 33-14 win over the New England Patriots. The playoffs are about getting hot at the right time, and the Ravens fit that description.
• Walker also mentions three points to watch during Saturday night's matchup, including the play of the Ravens secondary.
3. Secondary is key: The Ravens don't have a lot of holes, but one glaring weakness throughout the season has been the play of their secondary. But Baltimore's most maligned unit responded well against New England, forcing three interceptions and holding Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady to just 154 passing yards. Players such as Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Domonique Foxworth and Frank Walker all made big plays Sunday. Manning will throw a lot as well. So it will be important for Baltimore's secondary to build off that momentum and continue to play well.
• ESPN.com's Kurt Snibbe shows the "True devotion of a Ravens fan" in a recent cartoon.
• USA Track & Field announces that Ravens special teams player David Tyree is scheduled to participate in the Super 60 at the 103rd Millrose Games, which will take place Jan. 29 at Madison Square Garden.
A new event highlighting the track speed of some of the NFL's most recognizable Super Bowl heroes, the Super 60 is expected to feature the New York Giant's Super Bowl XLI hero David Tyree, ex-Chicago Bear wide receiver and world-class sprinter/hurdler Willie Gault, and Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl kickoff return star Tim Dwight. To be held January 29 in Madison Square Garden, the Millrose Games is the first stop of USA Track & Field's Visa Championship Series. The longest-running annual event held at The Garden, The Millrose Games features some of America's and the world's top track and field talent. The meet will be televised live on January 29 on ESPN2 from 8-10 p.m. Eastern Time. The Super 60 will take that worn-out commentator's phrase, "this football game has turned into a track meet" and make it literal. Pride will be on the line as youth takes on experience in a field that includes athletes with both track and football chops.
• Howard Bryant of ESPN.com says the Ravens' 24 points in the first quarter might have signaled the end of the Patriots' long domination in the NFL.
The Ravens shattered the bedrock, the kind of natural foundation that can withstand earthquakes. Tom Brady was 8-0 at home in the postseason for his career, beginning with the blessed Snow Game against the Raiders that started it all, but couldn't escape constant pressure. There would be no miracles.
• CNNSI.com's Andrew Perloff also talks about New England's demise and notes the Ravens' similarity to previous Super Bowl winners.
Whispers about the demise of New England's dynasty could be heard all over Gillette Stadium after the game. While the Patriots have major issues heading into the offseason, focusing on their problems doesn't do justice to a Ravens squad that won't be intimidated by anyone in the postseason. Baltimore seems to fit the same mold as the Super Bowl-winning teams that have emerged from the wild-card round over the last two seasons. They're as physical as any team in the league, and their defense started to play its best toward the end of the season.
• Don Banks of CNNSI.com agrees that the Patriots are not the same dominant team from the past decade.
I'm not going to proclaim the dynasty is dead and start writing the obit. I'm not going to give into the sweeping overstatement, made for dramatic effect. As long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still around, the New England Patriots should remain both relevant and relatively successful. But it's not knee-jerk in the least to admit that these are not the same old Patriots. As the new decade opens, it's obvious that the NFL's team of the just-past decade is no longer the outfit that has inspired awe, admiration and a good bit of fear for most of the past 10 years. Nothing ever underscored that fact quite like the 33-14 destruction of the Patriots that Baltimore delivered on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Don't let the score fool you. It wasn't really that close.
• Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel writes about the Patriots' disappointing performance against the Ravens.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kelley Washington skipped off the Gillette [Stadium] field Sunday, down a tunnel underneath those Super Bowl reminders and shouted about what he thought of all of that. "The era is over," Washington crowed. Whatever New England once was is gone. Whatever it once stood for has been desecrated. It's not that the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Patriots can't ever rebound and become contenders again. They return great talent, have a number of young stars and a slew of draft picks in the upcoming NFL draft. It's just that if they are ever to be a feared team deserving the ultimate in respect, they'll have to re-earn it.
• ESPN.com's Scoop Jackson argues that Bill Belichick's decision to kick the ball after winning the coin toss can be attributed to his infamous decision against the Colts in Week 10.
In New England's AFC Wild-Card game against Baltimore, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a decision to begin the game that proved to be the difference. The question is: Why did he make that decision? Broken down, we can understand that Belichick's decision after winning the coin toss to open the game to kick the ball to the Ravens can be directly linked to the the infamous fourth-and-2 call he made against the Indianapolis Colts.
• Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com gives the Ravens an "A+" for their performance against the Patriots.
They ran it right through the defense all day, starting on the first play when Ray Rice went 83 yards for a score. The Ravens used three New England turnovers to jump to a 24-0 lead and were never really threatened. They won a game where Joe Flacco threw for 34 yards. The defense picked off Tom Brady three times and limited him to 154 yards. They owned this game from the start.
• CNNSI.com's Dom Bonvissuto ranks the Ravens by position for their victory over New England.
Running Backs: No position group had a better wild-card weekend. Ray Rice was spectacular from the start and finished with 159 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Willis McGahee carried 20 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Fullback LeRon McClain also scored. All told, the Ravens ran the ball 52 times for 234 yards. Total domination. Grade A+
• Yahoo Sports' Shutdown Corner blog writes about the most valuable players from the weekend, including the Ravens offensive line.
Again, Doug touched on this earlier, but the big fellas up front for the Ravens did quite the job on Sunday. There's always something satisfying about watching one of those games where a team's going to run the ball, the defense knows they're going to run the ball, and they just go ahead and jam the football down their gullets anyway. Joe Flacco might as well have been walking up to the line of scrimmage, and saying, "HEY! WILFORK! MAYO! WE'RE GOING TO RUN THE BALL, OFF TACKLE LEFT. RIGHT NOW. HERE IT COMES, LADIES. ON ONE. HUT!" And the Patriots still wouldn't have been able to do anything about it.
• In his "Wild-card Judgements" segment, CBSSports.com's Clark Judge mentions Washington's "throat-slash" gesture to Patriots fans as something he didn't like from the weekend.
Kelley Washington's throat-slash to New England fans. "It was just a messaqe that we're the team to beat," he said afterward. "That message was basically for the fans to know there's a new show in town. This is our era." Maybe, but you can't make that gesture without hearing about it from the NFL. The league outlawed it years ago, which means Washington can expect to be fined.
• The Sporting News lists Rice as the 2010 Value Pick of the Year for fantasy football.
Rice was the only player on all four of our ballots. Despite all indications Rice would get more carries, he was a seventh-round selection in our experts league draft. You'll notice I took the venerable Tim Hightower one pick later. Rice had 2,041 total yards (1,339 rush, 702 receiving) and played his way into a no-doubt-about-it, first-round selection in 2010. For the record, I would've spiked the ball against the Patriots.
[Compiled by Mike Catalini and Dean Jones Jr.]