FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -
COMMENTARY | After we crossed the border between New York and Connecticut we began to lose the signal of powerful radio stations we had listened to in previous states.
As ABC2 News anchor Jamie Costello turned the dial, it seemed only fitting that he eventually stop on sports talk stations.
Though several states and several hours away, news in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts centered around Baltimore topics. They all sounded the same…
“We want to talk Patriots and Ravens, but first, breaking news. Earl Weaver has died .”
As quickly as Weaver’s passing was shared, phone lines were opened for Patriots fans to call in and bash the Ravens – a team they hope to best in Sunday’s AFC Championship.
Patriots fans called shows and spoke of the Ravens as if they were a scout team – good practice for the Super Bowl. Occasionally a show host would redirect the conversation and to our surprise, remind callers that the Ravens are indeed, a good team that is capable of coming away from Gillette Stadium with a win.
As show hosts opened discussions on the Ravens’ strengths and suggest plans to keep the team at bay, many thoughts on impacting the team’s offense or defense were shared.
“Ice their kicker.”
“Eliminate big play situations from Torrey Smith.”
“Take Ray Rice out of the equation.”
Ravens fans listening probably got a good laugh. Because of all the discussions, rarely was the team’s postseason record-holding receiver mentioned. Is it possible that a defensive scheme to eliminate the Ravens’ run game or Torrey Smith could equate into more opportunities for Anquan Boldin?
In the wild card game against Indianapolis, Boldin had five catches for 145 yards. His effort in the team’s win entered the NFL postseason record books as all the catches were made in the second half.
The only player above Boldin on that list – Jerry Rice. In 1989 Rice had 157 receiving yards in the second half of the Super Bowl.
While talk last week centered around Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Ray Rice, Boldin was often overlooked. In the Denver game he became the team’s all-time playoff leader in receiving yards. He pulled in six catches for 71 yards. A few of those catches were balls many receivers in the league would have dropped, and five of them were for first downs.
Patriots fans on radio shows called the Ravens win in Denver a fluke. If any of them read this, they will probably say the same thing about Boldin.
Let’s remind them that there have been three 100-yard receiving days in Ravens postseason history. Both of those came from Boldin. The one before Indianapolis came in last year’s AFC Championship against the Patriots.
In the words of Jamie Costello, “We know Bill Belichick is going to take away something.” As fans wonder what that will be, the coaching staff of the Baltimore Ravens more than likely is hoping to eliminate fundamental mistakes.
Bottom line – if the Ravens execute on all fronts the way they have later in the season and into the postseason, what the Patriots’ wizard of a coach takes away has less of an impact.
Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell knows it . After practice Thursday, with a grin on his face, he admitted the team has gotten better as they are able to spread the ball around more on offense.
How do the Ravens get to the Super Bowl? Caldwell will tell you it’s by keeping with their normal plan and being able to mix things up with the run, short passes and deep tosses.
“We go in with the same mindset, no matter who we are facing,” he said. “Our job is to score points, regardless who we are playing.”
The Ravens play the Patriots Sunday at 6:30 p.m. for the AFC Championship. The winner will go to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
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