Ray Lewis is the face of the Ravens franchise. And not just this week. Lewis is the greatest, most heralded, loudest player since football returned to Baltimore. A short list of other top Ravens includes Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs. Tough guys, on a tough team.
The combination of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice defines 49er football. Perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time passing to with little debate the best ever to play wide receiver. Steve Young and Ronnie Lott were also Hall of Fame good. Beauty, pristine, and well orchestrated, that is the franchise in a nut shell.
But it is not 2001 when Lewis and the Ravens defense strangled the Giants into submission to capture the Super Bowl title. And it is not 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990, or 1995, when the Niners won five championships by an average of nearly 20 points per game. In fact, roles are reversed this year.
The Ravens defense was below average during the regular season. In six loses Baltimore gave up nearly 30 point a game. Meanwhile, San Francisco's defense ranked among the top five in nearly every statistical measurement. Seven times in 16 games the Niners allowed 14 points or less.
Baltimore has won three playoff game by outscoring Andrew Luck's Colts, Peyton Manning's Broncos, and Tom Brady's Patriots. The Ravens have averaged 30 points per game in the postseason. Baltimore has the top rated quarterback, running back, and wide receiver in this year’s playoffs. Four Ravens have caught passes in the playoffs longer than the 49ers longest postseason hookup from Colin Kaepernick to Frank Gore for 45 yards.
As much as we talk about Lewis and Reed, it might be Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith that hold the ticket to a title for Baltimore. While Kaepernick, Gore, and Michael Crabtree are the Niners marque names, it is likely that Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Navarro Bowman, and Patrick Willis will make be the difference between a championship, and a bridesmaid.