|"It's the greatest feeling, ever." - Ray Lewis|
The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl XLVII champions.
Before the season, as knowledgeable pro football fans everywhere can attest, the likelihood of Baltimore winning it all resided somewhere between slim and none. I personally viewed the Ravens as a team seemingly unable to overcome Tom Brady and Peyton Manning-led teams in the AFC playoffs, where it mattered the most. For all of the defensive accolades which defined Ravens football on a whole, the team's routinely stagnant offenses had never overcome the high-powered units of Brady and Manning. And with a healthy Manning returning this season, to a solid Denver Broncos team that fell one game shy of The Big Dance last year, it was safe to assume that either one of these star QBs would once again send Baltimore packing.
Nevermind the fact that over in the NFC, the smash-mouthed San Francisco 49ers appeared even more formidable, equipped with a fearless young breed of quarterback that can run and gun with the best of 'em. Smart money bet against Baltimore. But I guess that's why they play the game, isn't it? The underdog Ravens traveled to Denver and New England and unbelievably slayed the ghosts of both QBs on the road to the Super Bowl. Once there, Baltimore won a thrilling matchup with San Francisco at the Superdome in New Orleans. Since the 49ers broke the hearts of my favorite team last season, I, for one, cheered the Ravens to leave them with that same empty what-could-have-been feeling. All of which appeared to be the sentiments of many on the NOLA streets this weekend.
So what happened? How were the Ravens able to do the improbable? Well, besides talent, hard work, good coaching and inspired play from QB Joe Flacco - named Super Bowl MVP, the players appeared highly-motivated to see the heart and soul of the team for many years, celebrated linebacker Ray Lewis, retire as a champion. Although my beloved New Orleans Saints were wrongfully forced to go without head coach Sean Payton this season, thus destroying all dreams of a home game Super Bowl as initially hoped, I still was able to appreciate the storybook ending career of Lewis, who now rides off into the sunset as one of the greatest defensive and motivating players the league has ever known.