GREEN BAY—Ray Lewis had been the face of the Ravens franchise for all of its existence, until Super Bowl XLVII. In the Ravens' 34-31 win over the 49ers, the torch was passed to Joe Flacco.
The Ravens quarterback was the game's MVP. His picture graces the cover of this year's NFL Record and Fact Book, a distinction granted each year to the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Gone from the Ravens are the trademark Lewis dances and pep talks, replaced by Flacco's calm and reserve.
Different? Flacco says the Ravens are the same, just without Lewis' flare for the dramatic.
"We have a bunch of young guys on this football team. I think if anything, winning a Super Bowl makes you hungrier to get back there and do it again. You taste how awesome it feels and you know it's not easy and it took a lot of work. It took us five years of putting in a lot of work; we didn't do it any easy way. I think we're still the team we've always been. We have that same hunger," Flacco said.
The Packers will test that hunger on Sunday in Baltimore. At 2-2, this is a crossroads kind of game for the Packers. At 3-2, the Ravens will be trying to get a win that'll launch them into a three-game stretch of AFC North games.
"I think the biggest thing is that no one wants to let it go, everyone wants to talk about it and make something out of nothing that isn't on our minds anymore," Flacco said of dealing with the burden of being a reigning Super Bowl champion. "Other than that, the challenges are just as normal as you'd get with any other season."
The Ravens are dealing with injuries; so are the Packers, the most significant of those injuries being Clay Matthews' broken thumb.
"I think his replacement is a young guy who I think will be physical coming off that edge," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said of Nick Perry, who replaced Matthews at left outside linebacker in the second half of Sunday's win over the Lions. "He'll probably pattern himself a little after Clay, yet, he has his own unique talents. We've been studying him on tape and he does a great job. We expect to see the same very talented, very aggressive defense.
"I think they do a great job of using the running game to set up the passing game in terms of the play action stuff, all the fake runs, spreading you out and running the ball, and running screens and all those types of things. I think it makes it more difficult to defend," Harbaugh added of the Packers.
Terrell Suggs is the face of the Ravens defense now.
"It would be hard to imagine him playing any better right now. He's playing at a really high level," Harbaugh said of Suggs.
"It's pretty much the same. Ray was a big guy on Sunday, but in terms of some of his speeches and some of the things he said, the biggest thing is the way he played. I think people paid too much attention to the other stuff. The way he played was the biggest thing for us and the guys that we replaced him with are very good football players. That's really all we're concerned about as players," Flacco said.
To a large degree, the Ravens replaced Lewis with Flacco. Additional coverage - Oct. 9