Over the last decade or so the Baltimore Ravens have been considered by many NFL fans and analysts to be the best defense in the entire league. In 2000 when they beat the New York Giants for the Super Bowl this team shut down one of the best offenses in the league holding them to only 1 touchdown and that came off of a kick return. The Giants offense barely managed to cross midfield in Super Bowl XXXV and only gained 152 yards the whole game. That year the Ravens went 12-4 even with their offense not scoring one touchdown over a 5 game stretch. They only gave up 60.6 yards rushing a game and only 5 rushing touchdowns all year. On top of that they started their year 5-1 including three shutouts all against division rivals. The biggest issue for this team was their offense and a lack of a quality starting quarterback. Many debate how many Super Bowls this team could have won if they just had a good offense.

As the years went by the defense stayed strong behind leaders such as Safety Ed Reed and Middle Linebacker Ray Lewis! But no matter how good the defense was the Ravens offense constantly cost them the opportunity to advance in the playoffs and make a Super Bowl run. The Ravens kept trying to find their quarterback but failed with men such as Kyle Boller (1st round, 2003), Josh Harris (6th round, 2004), Derek Anderson (6th round, 2005) and Troy Smith (5th round, 2007). But then came the 2008 draft and little did anyone know the Ravens found their foundation for a successful offense behind two 1st round picks in quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice. Flacco in his rookie year started all 16 games for Baltimore and with two road wins in the playoffs he became just the 8th rookie quarterback to start a playoff game and the first rookie to win two playoff games. In his second year he set single season franchise records for completion percentage and quarterback rating and by his third season he set franchise records for career passing yards and passing touchdowns. Meanwhile Ray Rice was quickly establishing himself as one of the best dual threat running backs in the NFL. In other words Baltimore found their offense and though the defense was getting older and running out of time the whole organization knew this team could go win a Super Bowl. Well in the 2011-2012 season the Ravens faced the Patriots in the AFC Championship game but in the final seconds Lee Evans dropped a touchdown that would have given Baltimore the win and then their field goal kicker pushed the game winning kick wide and Baltimore lost the game and many thought their last opportunity to win a Super Bowl. Well those people were wrong because with an aging defense it was the Ravens offense that carried the team to a Super Bowl win against the San Francisco 49ers. Flacco especially helped carry the 2013 Ravens by throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions through the playoffs. But all good things must come to an end!

We all know that all good things must come to an end and that includes great defenses in the NFL. In just a few weeks after their Super Bowl win the Ravens learned that their future 1st ballot Hall of Famer Ray Lewis was going to retire and their other long time leader on defense safety Ed Reed was leaving in free agency to play for the Houston Texans. In that time frame they also made Joe Flacco the highest paid player in the NFL when they signed him to a 6 year $120 million dollar deal. Just the year before they gave running back Ray Rice a 5 year $40 million dollar deal. With the loss of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and the huge signings of Ray Rice and Joe Flacco it’s obvious that a “Changing of the guard” is taking place in Baltimore. The only question is can the offense carry the defense the way the defense carried them for so many years. Only time will tell but I’m a firm believer that in football offense wins games but defenses win championships, now we have to see if I’m right!

By: David Hastings
www.facebook.com/SportsZoneonClubZone
SportsZone airs every Monday through Friday from 10am-12pm eastern (US) on clubzone.fm and the clubzone.fm app.

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