Ravens flock to Flacco's defense

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Ravens flock to Flacco's defense

On Monday, Ravens safety Ed Reed made some impolitic remarks about quarterback Ed Reed.
"I think Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense, Reed said. "I think a couple times he needed to get rid of the ball. I dont know how much of the play calling, he could have made audibles or anything like that, checks or whatnot, man, but it just didnt look like he had a hold on the offense, you know, of times past. You know, it was just kind of like they was telling him what to do, throw the ball or get it here, you know, get it to certain guys. And he cant play like that."
On Wednesday, the Ravens assembled to put the toothpaste back in the tube.Ravens coach John Harbaugh went first, saying of Reed, "Heand I had a chance to have a conversation. And I had a chance to talk to some of the other guys about it and I understand where we are. Were getting ready for Sunday.Asked if the timing could have been better, Harbaugh said, I understand where Eds heart is. All of our guys, when they say things and you get a chance to talk about it Were together all the time. We know each other. We understand where each other is coming from. Im sure there are some things he would have like to have said a little better.
"If you look at the whole context and hear the tone of his voice and the message he was trying to communicate, its a good message. But obviously, things could have been said differently. The way you read them and stuff like that, Im sure hes not really happy about that.Flacco acknowledged he was initially put off by the comments, saying,"When I first saw it, I was like, Whats going on? Like I said, we talked about it. We are a team around here. Its not really that big of an issue. I dont really take things that bad. It is Ed. It is what it is.

He spoke to Reed.Flacco also was aware that both Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis defended him. That's something that - because of Flacco's inconsistency - happens often.

"I wish those guys didnt have to come to my defense on all kinds of things," Flacco admitted. "I dont really think they have to. The way things are talked about, it just makes it that someone has to come out and say something. Terrell, all along, knows how to go out there and stick up for all of us.

Lewis was particularly impassioned in his defense of Flacco.

"There is no one player that makes the team great.," said the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer."It takes a team effort. For Joe, who came in here and did what hes done for us Ive told people from Day One when I first saw that kid throw the football, I said, That kid is special, You watch all of these guys who went in the top, first draft picks, and they arent even in football anymore. Youre talking about a guy who came into this league, has been to the playoffs all four years and has given his team the opportunity to win games.
"Joe doesnt play defense. So, when we gave up touchdowns on defense, that wasnt Joes fault. When people beat us on defense or scheme something against us, thats not Joes fault. The times that Pittsburgh was scrambling and made a big play on us, that wasnt Joes fault. So, a lot of things that people always try to put on the quarterback, I understand that, but it isnt about that. Its about the Baltimore Ravens. We are a complete team. We go into games and we win as a team, we lose as a team.

Said Suggs, I dont have to stick up for Joe. His reputation speaks for itself. I just say what people seem to forget sometimes. Thats all that its about. I aint even going to get into that anymore.
Flacco attempts to seem bemused by the whole situation but - given his comments this season about not getting credit -thereis a level on which the questions seem to bother him.

Will a Super Bowl championship back off the critcism?

"I dont care," he said. "I will be wearing a ring, and we will be holding a trophy. The perception probably wont change, but it does not really matter.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.