EARLY BIRD: Ravens and Pats proving they know how to win

EARLY BIRD: Ravens and Pats proving they know how to win
December 20, 2013, 7:00 am
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John Harbaugh and the Ravens prepare for the Patriots

EARLY BIRD – Friday’s wakeup call with the Ravens.

Today’s topic: The Ravens and Patriots – two organizations that figure out how to win.

As they prepare to meet Sunday, the Ravens (8-6) and Patriots (10-4) find themselves squarely in the playoff picture. Not a surprise, despite the challenges they have overcome. The Ravens lost a core group of players from their Super Bowl championship team, including Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger. Then in training camp, tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a fractured hip that forced him to miss the first 12 games.

When the Ravens were 4-6, many wrote them off. However, a four-game winning streak has left the Ravens two victories away from repeating as AFC North champs.

The Patriots’ problems were even more shocking. First wide receiver Wes Welker left for the Broncos in free agency, then former tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd during the summer. Then after star tight end Rob Gronkowski returned from a broken forearm, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Yet, the Patriots (10-4) look like they will win the AFC East again.

CBS analyst Phil Simms credits the coach and the quarterback for both teams – Bill Belichick and Tom Brady with the Patriots, and John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco with the Ravens – for keeping their teams on an even keel.

“Baltimore and New England are two of the greatest surviving teams there are in the NFL,” Simms said in comments distributed by CBS. “They survive. The best way to describe them is, they are battle tested. And that is not an overused phrase. In a pressure situation it’s just not a big deal to them. Why? The two things that stick out about both teams are the coaches and the quarterbacks. They don’t flinch. And they can play it right to the end.”

Ten of the Ravens’ last 11 games have been decided by six points or less. The Patriots have played five straight games decided by four points or less. Neither team is dominant, but both know how to win close games. Here they are in December, in position to make the playoffs, and ready for another pivotal matchup on Sunday.

Morning thought: “I do really think it’s overlooked oftentimes, in particular, when you talk about Joe. Everybody wants to look at the statistical information and determine that as the measure of a man, in terms of his position. What they should look at is how many wins he’s been involved in.” Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, talking about Flacco.

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