For the Baltimore Ravens, 2014 was the year of overcoming extreme adversity. By Week 3, the Ravens were dealing with a whirlwind off issues, both on and off the field. On September 8th, backlash came down hard on the Ravens in the Ray Rice scandal, where the actual tape from the elevator was revealed for the world to see Rice striking his now-wife, Janay. On the field, they had to deal with a huge loss in TE Dennis Pitta, one of their high profile players who re-injured his hip in a win against the Browns.
As the season progressed, more issues followed. The Ravens suffered big losses with injuries to key players such as Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson. Eventually, more DBs began to fall. Terrence Brooks and Danny Gorrer eventually made their way to the injured reserved list, leaving an already struggling secondary depleted. To make matters worse, the Ravens lost their best defensive lineman in Haloti Ngata to a 4-game suspension at the end of the season, for violating the league’s PED policy.
Through every obstacle the Ravens faced, it was more than enough reason to pack it in and be done with the season. But this is one resilient team. They continued to push and eventually earned a playoff berth, after missing the postseason in 2013. Here’s why the Ravens were successful for 2014:
1. John Harbaugh- For anyone who questioned how good Harbs could be without big personalities’ Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, this season should have taken away any doubt left. This guy is a great coach. He never wavered when the Ravens faced a new challenge (which happened to be quite often) .Instead, he ignored the noise and kept his team ready to play every single week. Of the 6 losses they had, only 2 of them were solid losses (in which the game wasn’t winnable or out of reach for the Ravens), the other 4 losses could’ve easily been wins. Credit Harbaugh for getting his guys ready every single Sunday, despite every snowball thrown their way.
2. Gary Kubiak- In just one season, Kubiak completely turned the Ravens offense to one of the most potent in the team’s short history. The Ravens earned new records in most points scored and most yards, largely because of Kubiak’s system. 2014 was also the best year QB Joe Flacco had since coming to the league in 2008 and can thank the now-departed coach for his above average season. New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will try and continue to keep the fire that Kub lit in 2014.. This leads to my next X factor…
3. Joe Flacco- With a Ravens team that gave up a ton of yards defensively and, at times, blew leads, Flacco has been the key component to why the Ravens were so successful this season. Many will credit RB Justin Forsett, who was the dark horse in the offseason only to become the starting guy due to circumstance. But it is Flacco’s play that allowed this team to win 10 games, and possibly more with a slightly better secondary. Joe isn’t the media’s favorite guy to give compliments to, but sometimes you have to give credit to where it’s due.
The 2014 season was a year some of us would have liked to forget early, but the Ravens wouldn’t allow it. According to ESPN and PFF, the Ravens were two players away from advancing to the Super Bowl. From a roster that had 19 players on IR, that is a huge statement. With the free agency and the NFL Draft awaiting in the coming months, the Ravens are in excellent position to repeat as contenders for 2015 and beyond.