FOXBOROUGH — As the rejoicing Ravens streamed through the tunnel in the immediate moments after their 28-13 victory over the Patriots Sunday night in the AFC Championship game, it didn’t take long for the whooping and hollering to turn into instant commentary on their vanquished opponent.
“They didn’t respect us!,” yelled cornerback Jimmy Smith to a group of Baltimore fans, among them swimmer Michael Phelps and Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who were gathered between the tunnel and the visiting locker room. “They didn’t respect us.”
Receiver David Reed followed with a nod: “They’d better respect us now! They respect us now!”
Ray Lewis was next, surrounded by security and trailed by a camera man and a boom microphone. For once, he did not speak — he’d have more to say when the lights were brighter and the cameras had gathered around him.
But teammate Terrell Suggs could not wait. Once the Ravens had gathered in the locker room to receive the AFC Championship trophy, he had his say. “Shut them out in the second half!,” he hollered. “Tell them to have fun at the Pro Bowl. Arrogant [expletives].”
Other Ravens were more gracious than Suggs, who has never shied away from an opportunity to take a jab at the Patriots, particularly Tom Brady. Said center Matt Birk. “It’s unbelievable. When is the last time anyone shut out the Patriots in the second half in Foxborough? It’s unbelievable.”
Ed Reed, the brilliant safety who is making his first Super Bowl appearance at age 34, had nothing but respect for the Patriots.
“We went up against a great team today,” Reed said. “A great organization. They’ve been champions. I was standing out in the hallway looking at Super Bowl pictures and the parades. It was a hard-fought game, and I’m grateful to be on this side of it.”
Added coach John Harbaugh: “The New England Patriots are a great, great football team. A great organization, a tremendous coach, maybe the best coach in history. We admire them so much, the quarterback and so many of their players, and to come out and play the way we did means a lot.”
The Ravens overcame a 13-7 halftime deficit to the beat the Patriots, the first time in 68 games during their time together that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have lost at home when leading in halftime. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said the Ravens decision to throw the ball more in the second half was crucial.
“We realized we needed to put some pressure on them that way,” said Flacco, who threw all three of his touchdowns in the second half. In the first-half we were probably a little bit run-heavy and they did a good job of stopping it. We came out in the second half and decided to go with what we went with. We didn’t come all the way here to play it safe and hope to win. We came here to win the AFC Championship and you have to play to win.”
They did win, in convincing fashion. And once the Ravens had time to let it soak in, even Suggs was in a more gracious mood.
“They have the right to be [arrogant],” Suggs said. “You win three titles and have six Super Bowl appearances with 12 [Brady] under center, they have the right to be. We respect them. That is, even enemies can show respect.