You can talk all you want about "teams of destiny", but it all boils down to one essential fact: winning teams usually out-work and out-practice their opponents.
Ray Rice's "Hey-Diddle-Diddle" 4th-and-29 conversion, Joe Flacco's 70-yard miracle bomb to Jacoby Jones with 30 seconds left in regulation in Denver... these sorts of things seem to reek of "destiny", but they do not happen if the team as a whole is not superbly conditioned and prepared to create them.
I found it remarkable about the Ravens that they just completed some of their toughest and most grueling practices since training camp this past Thursday and Friday...and with the Super Bowl still more than a week away.
John Harbaugh's work ethic is all over this team. If the Ravens don't get the big prize in New Orleans, it will not be because they lacked the will to work hard hard enough for it.
Terrell Suggs (OLB) talked a little about the Ravens' work ethic on Friday after practice:
On whether it has sunk in that he is going to play in the Super Bowl: “Nah, it hasn’t sunk in yet, because we’re still taking care of the logistics, if you know what I mean – especially with the kind of practice we just had. So, you never know. You would’ve never thought that’s the game we’re [preparing] for; we thought it was training camp out there. But we’re just kind of enjoying the ride. It’s pretty fun, so I’m pretty sure it’ll sink in when we get down there.”
On what he says to all the naysayers now who thought they’d never make it: “I don’t really have to say anything to them. I think the fact that we’re the last two teams playing says it all. So, I don’t have anything to say to them. We’re just going to keep chucking and keep our eyes on the prize. One more to go.”
On why they can be this far in the season and have a practice like that: “I don’t know. We’re a special group of guys, and we’ve never been immune to working hard around here. That’s pretty much the only way we know how to work. But it was pretty fun. It was pretty cool.”
On how much satisfaction he takes out of this knowing all that he’s been through personally this season: “None. Not yet. Ask me that question on February 4.”
On the play of some of the unheralded defensive players like CB Corey Graham and CB Cary Williams: “One unit. Through all our ups and down, like you all said, we’ve stuck together. We always believed, and we kept our eyes on the prize, and that’s what we just kept doing.”
On the emotions going into this game knowing this really will be LB Ray Lewis’ last game: “We haven’t thought about it yet. Right now we’re just taking it one day at a time, trying to enjoy the work. But I’m pretty sure, like I said, when we get out there, come kickoff, we’re all going to get a little emotional. But we’ve still got business to handle, and we’ll try to get it for him.”
On how QB#3 Dennis Dixon has looked imitating 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick in practice this week, and if he’s lifted his biceps up yet: “He did it a couple of times in practice – him and Tyrod [Taylor]. So, they’re having fun being him. It’s a fun offense to run; it’s not a very fun offense to play against. But they’re enjoying it.”
On if preparing for Redskins QB Robert Griffin III earlier this year helps in their preparations for Kaepernick: “A little bit, but they’re two different quarterbacks. They’re both great; they’re probably the only two quarterbacks in the league that can run that offense. But, I don’t know, I guess we’ll see how we fare come February 3.”
On how the 49ers’ offense is different than Washington’s: “I don’t know, they’re both pretty successful. So, you can’t really tell the difference, just that one is in the Super Bowl and the other one isn’t. But with that being said, it’s going to be a challenge to play against them.”
GM Ozzie Newsome (who rarely speaks to the press) puts his own spin on the work ethic of the team:
Ozzie, you are the architect of this team. You and your staff put this together, and what are your thoughts on the kind of football team you have because your depth was severely tested all year? (Aaron Wilson) “I think [head coach] John [Harbaugh] has used the word ‘resolve.’ [The team] has a lot of resolve. I think you saw that with those first four games in 17 days. That was a tough stretch. John did a very good job with his staff preparing the team for that stretch. You could see the resolve that the team had. They never blinked during those first four weeks, and we were able to come away 3-1. I think the resolve of the football team, I think we’ve got outstanding leadership on our team. And I think what they do in the locker room is we have a mentoring program, where some of the veteran players actually take and spend a lot of time with our rookie players. We’ve got great leadership also.”
Destiny? Meh...it's about conditioning, practice, preparation, correction of mistakes through hard work...and combining all that with talent and leadership. The two teams which combine all those elements in the best possible way over the long haul of an NFL season will meet in the Super Bowl. This year the Ravens are one of those two teams.