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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Evan Heffron: Round Three; Battle of the Dominating D's

Anyone who has followed football in their lifetime has heard it. Those three words.

Defense. Wins. Championships.

Throughout the history of the NFL, offensive juggernauts have come and gone. Not to downplay the influence these teams had on the culture of the game, but the 00' Rams, 84' Dolphins, or the 98' Vikings provide for warm fuzzy memories of Marshall Faulk running on fake grass or Dan Marino throwing TD passes on 80 degree December nights in Miami. This was all good and dandy to watch but what really gets an NFL fan's spine tingling late in the season is seeing Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene and the rest of the Steel Curtain walking off the field looking like they had just decapitated something or someone. "Monsters of the Midway", "The Purple People Eaters", "Gang Green", "Fearsome Foursome"; all these stage names for some of the most dominating defenses in league history still strike fear into the hearts of those who remember them. But these wrecking ball crews are long gone. A new age of the defender is upon us, and maybe, just maybe, the 2008 Baltimore Ravens and 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers are two of the best defenses we have ever seen.

What is special about these two defenses is the fact that they will stand toe to toe, on a frigid western Pennsylvania night in January to play for the AFC Championship, and a berth into Superbowl XLIII. The stakes are epic. No pardon me, they transcend epic, this match up is legendary.

This struggle has play makers on both defenses. For the visiting Baltimore Ravens, the down right absurd takeaway ability of Safety Ed Reed and uncanny leadership that LB Ray Lewis brings to the table seems to favor the Ravens because of the possibility of points off turn overs, but the Steelers counter right back with a one-two punch combo of their own. Defensive Player of the year James Harrison and ball-hawk Troy Polamalu can be a devastating, drive-halting presence looming in the back of young Joe Flacco's head.

Wait, Joe Flacco you ask? You mean, there's quarterbacks involved in this dog fight? Big Ben Roethlisberger is rolling right now and I must say the combination of he and Willie Parker could cause this Raven's D some trouble. But trouble is relative, especially for this Baltimore defense. My prediction is that Big Ben tries to do too much in this game. And as good ol' Chad Pennington knows all too well, Ed will be waiting. Rookie QB from Delaware Joe Flacco does what he has been doing all season long, playing within himself and doesn't give up the big mistake to big number #43 or #92. Facing the number one defense in the land twice already makes one mature at a more rapid level and should ultimately give a small boost of confidence to Flacco as he attempts to get his team over this hump. Coach Jon Harbaugh really has this crew believing in themselves and sorry to say, the third time isn't the charm for the Steelers. The Ravens have learned, adjusted, and are ready to soar into Tampa.

14-10 Baltimore. Seven safeties to Five safeties. *

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