The Patriots were aided by a few questionable calls on their first possession, but Tom Brady and company took the opportunity and never looked back. Throughout the first half the Ravens had difficulty slowing New England’s attack, and simply couldn’t get anything going on the other side of the ball.
Most fans in the stadium remained optimistic even as the Ravens muddled through the middle of the third quarter with a 20-point deficit. After all, this was the same team that scored 22 points in the final minutes against the Vikings. Most of those hopes were dashed, however, when this year’s Mr. Dependable, Justin Tucker, missed a 37-yard field goal attempt to cut the deficit to 17.
A few stopped heading for the parking lot when Flacco, gimp knee and all, squeezed across the goal line for the team’s only score of the night. This small jolt of fandom was short lived, however, and all hope faded when the Ravens offense once again fizzled and the Pats summarily put the game out of reach.
At 4:25 pm EST last weekend the Ravens were in sole possession of the AFC’s second wildcard spot and in control of their own playoff destiny. As the stadium lights dimmed that evening the men in purple and black licked their wounds from the worst home loss in recent memory, and found themselves off the playoff board, and no longer able to reach the post season without help from one of three teams.
One team that can help is Kansas City. They can do so by defeating the Chargers this weekend. On the surface this seems like a good bet since the Chiefs have played excellent football this year and have certainly earned their 11-4 record. Upon closer inspection, however, it is unlikely that Kansas City will come to the Ravens’ rescue. First, Andy Reid and company have already locked up the 5th seed in the AFC playoffs and win or lose they will travel to meet the 4th seed in January. Since winning won’t improve their lot, the Chiefs have a strong incentive to rest their key players for an upcoming title run.
On the other side of the field, the Chargers are actually playing for something. Namely, the same playoff spot the Ravens so desperately covet. Add this to the fact that Rivers and the San Diego offense have stepped up their game in the last half of the season and the odds of the Ravens riding the Chiefs’ coattails into the playoffs become a long shot.
Another possible ally in the Ravens playoff hunt is Rex Ryan and his New York Jets. While there is no love lost between Rex and the Ravens, he can do his part to assist his former employer by defeating the Dolphins on Sunday. This would certainly be a great story line (at least for the Ravens), but is not necessarily the safest bet in the house since the Dolphins handled the Jets in their first meeting in New York and Sunday’s game will be played in sunny Florida. Out of the two games mentioned, however, this one has the greatest chance to keep the Ravens’ post season streak alive.
The final team the Ravens need help from is their own alter ego. More specifically, they need the Joe Flacco from the final minutes of the Vikings game. They need the Ray Rice from the Chicago game. They need the Jacoby Jones from the second Steelers game, and they need the defense from the Jets game. In short, they need the team – and the fire – that went on a Super Bowl winning hot streak beginning in January 2013.
If most of this team shows up in the Jungle on Sunday, the Ravens can cast their vote in favor of playing football in January 2014. If the team that played against the Patriots last week arrives, then the Ravens’ vote will likely be a resounding “no.”
I know which team I’m voting for. Go Ravens!