Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Correspondent
The Mile High Miracle. That is the title that the Ravens game earned on Sunday after the Ravens upset the first seed Broncos 38-35 in double overtime. The Ravens shocked everybody by keeping pace with the explosive Denver offense helmed by Peyton Manning, tying the Broncos in every single quarter of the game, score for score. Let’s break down this victory that some are calling the best in Ravens history.
The first quarter started off on the wrong foot with Trindon Holliday returning a Ravens punt for a 90-yard touchdown. The Ravens answered with a 59-yard bomb to Torrey Smith to tie it up early. The next drive started very poorly for Peyton Manning and the Broncos, with the second pass being intercepted by Corey Graham for a touchdown. The Ravens had taken the lead. Manning then orchestrated a drive to tie up the game again near the end of the first quarter at 14 with a touchdown pass to former Raven Brendon Stokley.
The second quarter picked up right where the first left off. Denver drove and took the lead with a 14-yard pass to Knowshon Moreno. The Ravens answered with another 32-yard pass to Torrey Smith, again beating Champ Bailey to tie it up going into half time, which was crucial considering that Denver would get the ball to start the second half.
And get the ball they did. Tridon Holliday returned another kick for seven points and putting Denver up 28-21. The rest of the quarter was punt after punt until the waning seconds of the third quarter when Ray Rice ran it in to tie it up for the fourth time that game. It all came down to the fourth quarter. Sound familiar?
Half way through the quarter, Denver pulled ahead thanks to a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. The Ravens had seven minutes to score seven points. The first time they got the ball, Jacoby Jones (he’ll be important later) dropped the possible first down pass on third and five, forcing the Ravens to punt with about three minutes left in regulation. Most thought this would be the end of Ray Lewis’ last ride, but he saw it another way. The defense made a stand and forced a Denver punt with just over a minute and a half left to play. The Ravens had a few good passes and got the 30 yard line. They advanced eight yards and were stumped at third and two. With a little over 30 seconds left. Joe Flacco hiked the ball on a Hail Mary for overtime. He scrambled out of the pocket to avoid a sack and heaved it down field at Jacoby Jones. Jones beat the safety guarding him and caught the 70-yard catch for a touchdown to tie the game within the last 30 seconds. The stuff of legend. One ESPN analyst called it the “Flacco Fling”.
Now, it was overtime. The most stressful part of the game was upon us. The Ravens got the first possession in hopes of getting a game-ending touchdown. However, the Ravens were forced to punt on both of their first two possessions and the Broncos punted on their first. The Broncos would have the ball at the end of the first overtime, if the MacBook (Manning) had not glitched. Manning rolled out of the pocket and tried to hit Brendon Stokley in stride, but instead found Corey Graham. This put the Ravens within ten yards of field goal range in the second overtime. Thanks to a great run by Ray Rice, the Ravens got there. Justin Tucker lined up the kick and split the uprights from 47-yards and the Ravens’ upset was complete. They were moving on the the AFC Championship for the second year in a row.
That was Saturday. What are the Ravens heading into this week? The New England Patriots. Deja Vu. Here we are, it had to go down this way. Could you see it going any other way? Not me, personally. And I am a really glad that this opportunity has risen again. I will be going more in depth later this week as the magic day approaches, but for now: the Ravens are nine and half point underdogs, again.
Many people are saying that this week was a fluke, that the Broncos mistakes were the reason the Ravens walked away victorious. That is a lie. The Ravens played just as hard as the Broncos did. And what makes good teams good? The ability to capitalize off of other team’s mistakes and miscues like interceptions, bad play calling and gaffed field goals. Joe Flacco out played Peyton Manning (by the way, Peyton Manning is considered “Elite” if you did not know). And let’s be honest with ourselves, if the Ravens special teams came to play, Denver could possibly lose 14 points oof of the kick returns. People hate to admit it, but the Ravens are here and they are ready to play in New Orleans.
I will close with this: the Ravens have just as good a chance as anybody to make it to the big dance on February 3rd. Saying the Ravens win on Saturday was fluke is a joke. Saying the Ravens will get smashed on Sunday is an even funnier joke. The boys in purple are just as fired up as ever. They feed off the energy of being the underdog, and this Sunday they are out for vengeance (without Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff this time). They will not give up. That is just who they are, they stick around to the bitter end. Ray Rice told reporters after the game Saturday: “We are a team of destiny. I’ll say it again: we are a team of destiny.” The Ravens players do not say die either.