BILL PLASCHKE

Weird, wild Ravens are ready to shake up the Super Bowl

After stifling Tom Brady's Patriots, 28-13, in AFC title game, Baltimore's team of destiny is taking its anything-goes, chip-on-shoulder attitude to New Orleans.

 

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Super Bowl will host two teams of destiny, but only one of them ended Sunday by wearing that destiny on its head like a lampshade and blowing through it like a party horn.

The Baltimore Ravens' 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots was almost as entertaining as their postgame march to the locker room, the giant men bouncing through a crowded Gillette Stadium tunnel loudly laughing and cursing and praying, sometimes all in the same hoarse breath.

Bernard Pollard unfurled a poster declaring the Ravens AFC champions and screamed, "Oh my God, that's us!"

Ray Rice jumped and shouted, "Where's the trophy, where's the trophy? Is it metal or plastic? Where is it?"

Terrell Suggs finished the parade by pointing down the hall to where the Patriots were trudging inside and hollered, "Tell them to have fun in the Pro Bowl. . . . Arrogant bleeps!"

Just before reaching their locker-room door, the Ravens passed their No. 1 fan, swimmer Michael Phelps, who was proudly pulling up his shirt and shoving down his jeans and showing everyone his purple underwear.

"This is the most incredible thing I've ever seen," said a man with 18 Olympic gold medals.

Memo to those darling San Francisco 49ers: Are you ready for this?

The teams that will meet in two weeks in New Orleans share not only destiny, but family, as this Har-bowl will feature 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh versus his older brother, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh.

But after the Ravens swarmed and froze the great Tom Brady and hooded Bill Belichick like Sunday's chilly New England wind, it was clear that this team from Charm City stands alone.

Or, at least, sings alone, as afterward safety Ed Reed needed no music to croon, "We've got two tickets to paradise!"

They will even dance alone, as many Ravens did throughout a raucous postgame locker room, moving to the thumps of rapping teammates while others passed around the AFC championship trophy like it was a milk carton.

"This is all definitely weird," receiver Torrey Smith said. "This is the kind of team you see a movie about."

The Ravens lost four of their last five regular-season games, used a 70-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds to force overtime and eventually stun Peyton Manning's heavily favored Denver Broncos in the divisional playoff round, and then trailed 13-7 at halftime here.

Do you know how many home games Brady had lost after leading at halftime? He was 67-0. Do you know how many times a touchdown-or-more underdog has won both the divisional playoff and conference championship games? None.

Yet the Ravens pulled off both feats by shutting out the NFL's highest-scoring team in the second half while underrated quarterback Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes for the win. The veteran Ravens defense was smart, Flacco was nearly perfect, and the mighty Patriots were either knocked out, knocked flat, or knocked numb.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the game unofficially ended when, on fourth-down-and-desperate, Brady was knocked on his rump while throwing to an empty spot in the end zone.

By then, the stadium's heavy metal music had quieted, the standing and snarling fans were heading for the exits, and the Ravens were just getting started.

CHICAGO

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