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Weird, wild Ravens are ready to shake up the Super Bowl

After stifling Tom Brady's Patriots, 28-13, in AFC title game, Baltimore's team of destiny is taking its anything-goes, chip-on-shoulder attitude to New Orleans.

January 20, 2013|Bill Plaschke

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Super Bowl will host two teams of destiny, but only one of them ended Sunday by wearing that destiny on its head like a lampshade and blowing through it like a party horn.

The Baltimore Ravens' 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots was almost as entertaining as their postgame march to the locker room, the giant men bouncing through a crowded Gillette Stadium tunnel loudly laughing and cursing and praying, sometimes all in the same hoarse breath.

Bernard Pollard unfurled a poster declaring the Ravens AFC champions and screamed, "Oh my God, that's us!"

Ray Rice jumped and shouted, "Where's the trophy, where's the trophy? Is it metal or plastic? Where is it?"

Terrell Suggs finished the parade by pointing down the hall to where the Patriots were trudging inside and hollered, "Tell them to have fun in the Pro Bowl. . . . Arrogant bleeps!"

Just before reaching their locker-room door, the Ravens passed their No. 1 fan, swimmer Michael Phelps, who was proudly pulling up his shirt and shoving down his jeans and showing everyone his purple underwear.

"This is the most incredible thing I've ever seen," said a man with 18 Olympic gold medals.

Memo to those darling San Francisco 49ers: Are you ready for this?

The teams that will meet in two weeks in New Orleans share not only destiny, but family, as this Har-bowl will feature 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh versus his older brother, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh.

But after the Ravens swarmed and froze the great Tom Brady and hooded Bill Belichick like Sunday's chilly New England wind, it was clear that this team from Charm City stands alone.

Or, at least, sings alone, as afterward safety Ed Reed needed no music to croon, "We've got two tickets to paradise!"

They will even dance alone, as many Ravens did throughout a raucous postgame locker room, moving to the thumps of rapping teammates while others passed around the AFC championship trophy like it was a milk carton.

"This is all definitely weird," receiver Torrey Smith said. "This is the kind of team you see a movie about."

The Ravens lost four of their last five regular-season games, used a 70-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds to force overtime and eventually stun Peyton Manning's heavily favored Denver Broncos in the divisional playoff round, and then trailed 13-7 at halftime here.

Do you know how many home games Brady had lost after leading at halftime? He was 67-0. Do you know how many times a touchdown-or-more underdog has won both the divisional playoff and conference championship games? None.

Yet the Ravens pulled off both feats by shutting out the NFL's highest-scoring team in the second half while underrated quarterback Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes for the win. The veteran Ravens defense was smart, Flacco was nearly perfect, and the mighty Patriots were either knocked out, knocked flat, or knocked numb.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the game unofficially ended when, on fourth-down-and-desperate, Brady was knocked on his rump while throwing to an empty spot in the end zone.

By then, the stadium's heavy metal music had quieted, the standing and snarling fans were heading for the exits, and the Ravens were just getting started.

"The bandwagon is full!" Suggs shouted. "We want all you reporters to come down there in two weeks and bet against us again. Next question!"

It's a movie indeed, with the main character being a linebacker who was once charged with murder, has undergone a tremendous reputation rehabilitation, and is now retiring with the respect of a benevolent king. Yes, Ray Lewis' career now lives one more game, which he noted Sunday by falling to his knees and kissing the turf.

"Oh my God!" he shouted. "Oh my God!"

Then there is the special teams player, former UCLA linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who last week tweeted several rips of the Patriots offense, calling it "suspect" and "cheap" and a "gimmick." On Sunday he was given a chance to take back those words. He respectfully declined.

"I went out there and I told the truth," he said. "I do not apologize to the Patriots."

This team is such a movie, it even has a player whose life was actually turned into a movie, tackle Michael Oher, the inspiration for "The Blind Side." While he struggled this year such that he no longer protects the quarterback's blind side — he was moved to right tackle for the playoffs — Oher noted Sunday that his real-life guardian has not lost the assertiveness that Sandra Bullock portrayed so brilliantly in winning an Academy Award.

When asked what he was going to do with his AFC championship cap, Oher shrugged.

"I am probably going to give it to my mom, and the T-shirt," he said. "She usually takes them anyway."

In the end, the wisdom was whittled down to some wet simplicity from Harbaugh, the older brother emerging from the Gatorade shower and acknowledging the upcoming family feud in the most basic of emotions.

"I don't know if we had a dream this big . . . two great football teams squaring off," he said. "I can't wait."

He's not alone.

Twitter: @billplaschke

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