Nine games into the 2000 season, the Ravens’ 5-4 record was not looking too super. But from that point on, the Ravens won their last seven regular-season games and hosted a playoff game for the first time since coming to Baltimore, defeating the Gus Frerotte-led Denver Broncos, 21-3.
From there, the Ravens would then become road warriors, starting off with a 24-10 win against a solid Titans team in Nashville at Adelphia Coliseum. The Ravens then traveled to the former Black Hole of the NFL in Oakland for the AFC championship game at Network Associates Coliseum. The Raiders had gone 12-4, won the AFC West for the first time since 1990 and were the favorite in the game.
But as the game evolved, the Ravens were able to put the first points on the board thanks to a 96-yard Trent Dilfer connection with Shannon Sharpe, the longest passing touchdown in playoff history. Those seven points were all the Ravens’ defense needed. Baltimore held the Raiders to 24 rushing yards and just three points in the 16-3 win.
Two weeks later at Raymond James Stadium, which is also the site of this year’s Super Bowl, the Ravens would win their 11th consecutive game — a dominating 35-7 thrashing of the New York Giants.
Fast forward to Dec. 2, 2020. On a Wednesday afternoon, the COVID-ravaged Ravens fought gallantly before succumbing to the Steelers, 19-14, and dropping to 6-5. But, the Ravens — thanks to the schedule-makers and more than a little intestinal fortitude — won their last five games of the regular season against the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals — but also had the wacky win against the Cleveland Browns on “Monday Night Football” Dec. 14.
That run, coupled with some help down the stretch, allowed the Ravens to make the postseason. It seemed fitting that the Tennessee Titans would be their first-round opponent. Of course, it was the Titans who came to Baltimore for a divisional-round game last year against a 14-2 Ravens team that really looked and felt invincible.
Of course we know how that game ended. A frustrated Ravens team was easily beaten by the Titans, 28-12.
Well, now we are a few days removed from the payback victory on the road in Nashville. After a shaky start that saw the Titans take a 10-0 lead, the Ravens’ defense dominated the Titans, allowing just three points the rest of the way. The Ravens scored 20 points, including a dazzling 48-yard touchdown scamper by Lamar Jackson.
That sets up the matchup between the Bills and Ravens in Buffalo Jan. 16. The weather will, of course, be a tad chilly, with temperatures in the 20s. Snow may be falling.
Make no mistake about it — the Bills are a wonderful football team with a young, star quarterback in Josh Allen, who led his team to 501 points this season. (The Bills and Green Bay Packers are the only teams to score 500-plus points.) The Bills scored 142 points, an average of 47.3 per game, during their last three games of the regular season. Former Terps receiver Stefon Diggs has had a monster season, and Allen has three other prominent receivers in Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis and ex-Raven John Brown, and he has a rapidly improving tight end in Dawson Knox.
The Bills are a young, up-and-coming team. They are capable of winning this game. In fact, the Ravens were favored by 3.5 points against the Titans, but the Bills are favored by 2 or 2.5 points in this game. Both teams are on six-game winning streaks. The Ravens may not have scored 500 points this season, but even with Jackson missing a game due to COVID-19, they did tally 468 points. While the Bills scored 501, they allowed 375 points. The Ravens allowed 303 points, and their point differential of +165 is a notch or two above the Bills (+126).
The Ravens’ defense held Derrick Henry to 40 yards in 18 carries, just a 2.2-yard-per-carry average. The Bills have no real running game to speak of. It says here the Ravens are on one of those super rolls. If they can hurry and rattle Josh Allen and if the linebackers can play at a high level in pass coverage, this should be a Ravens win – say, 31-20.
If I am right about the outcome of this game, things will get even more eerily similar to that last Super Bowl trip to Tampa.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens and Kenya Allen/PressBox