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JOHN ERZAR BALTIMORE


February 20. 2013 4:48AM
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1. Lack of respect: Saturday brought more talking heads into our living rooms, basically saying that the Ravens shouldn't even bother showing up.


The reason? Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick can do this, Kaepernick can do that, Kaepernick can do the other thing. It's surprising the media didn't want him selected to the Hall of Fame on Saturday instead of those who were chosen.


Enough already. Kaepernick has the makings of a quality quarterback, but his body of work consists of nine starts. That's certainly not enough to appoint him among the greats like the two QBs who the Ravens defeated in their last two games – Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.



2. The music stopped: The Ravens played musical chairs with their offensive line throughout the season – using three different guys at left guard alone – but got the unit in harmony for the playoffs.


When the music stopped … rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele moved to left guard; left tackle Michael Oher moved to right tackle, where is better suited to play; and Bryant McKinnie too over at left tackle, where he played last season.


A weakness at times during the season became a strength in the postseason.



3. It's up and it's …: Say the Super Bowl comes down to a field goal. Who do you want kicking it, an undrafted rookie or a 14-year veteran? I'd take that rookie.


Justin Tucker won the starting job in training camp from Billy Cundiff – he of the shank in last year's AFC Championship game. Tucker has been outstanding, hitting 30 of 33 field goals during the regular season.


Meanwhile, the 49ers slogged through the season with David Akers, who made a 69 percent of his field goals. And just 57.9 percent on turf, a surface today's game will be played on. Akers was so bad this season that the Niners signed Cundiff for a brief time.


Plus, Tucker has a strong leg that will negate the return game.



4. A healthy defense: The Ravens had a middle-of-the-pack defense throughout the regular season based on statistics. Much of that, though, was due to a rash of injuries that required putting a piecemeal unit on the field week after week.


The postseason showed how good the defense is now. The Colts couldn't get in the end zone and the Broncos and Patriots – the NFL's two highest scoring teams in the regular season – combined for just four offensive TDs.



5. Ray's last dance: The Ravens have been playing at a different emotional level since Ray Lewis announced his retirement at the start of the playoffs. For two weeks, we've seen Ray dance, we've seen Ray pray, we've seen Ray pontificate.


But there are six other Ravens who could be playing in their final game as well, headed by 15-year veteran Matt Birk at center. So there will be plenty of players eager to walk off into the sunset as Super Bowl champions, and the younger players will help get them there.


John Erzar, a sports writer at The Times Leader, is an old Cleveland Browns fan who continued to follow the franchise when it moved to Baltimore for the 1996 season. He anguished over the bad times as a Browns fan – the Paul Warfield trade, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble and, of course, The Move. As a Ravens fan since their first season, he has collected more team memorabilia than a grown man should own.




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