Saturday’s thriller of a victory over Denver was honestly one of, if not the most exciting game I have ever witnessed as a fan of the NFL. The slugfest never had either team leading by more than 7 points at any time, and the score at the end of each quarter was tied. You cannot get much closer than that. To make it even more shocking for Ravens fans, they weren’t even given a shot. Denver came into this game as nearly 10 point favorites. That is a huge line in any playoff game, but that is just how good Denver was supposed to be going into this game. They had won their previous 11 games, defeating some of the elite teams in the NFL including a trouncing of the Ravens just a month before. They were coming off a bye, while the Ravens were coming off a short week after just defeating the Colts. The Ravens had not defeated Peyton Manning in over a decade. The stars had to align for Baltimore and they did.
There were a few stars in this game that deserve a little praise. First off, Joe Flacco once again played an outstanding game. Dating back to last years playoffs, Flacco has played sensational for two straight years in the games that really matter. His regular season stats aren’t exceptional, but when he gets to the postseason he steps up to a whole new level. This game was no exception. It looked like the game may have been sealed when the Ravens couldn’t convert a late 4th down when Pitta could not haul in a tough reception. However, the Ravens were able to get the ball back and Joe threw a beauty to Jacoby Jones for the game tying score. He found a weak spot in the defense and took a shot deep, and it worked. That was huge for Joe and the Ravens offense.
Next I have to give some praise to Torrey Smith. Torrey has struggled against elite corners in previous weeks. He had one of the best of all time lining up against him in this one, and had two huge scores in which he simply out played him. He had the Ravens first score in which he simply out ran him. He then had the score just before halftime in which he slowed up and leaped in front of Bailey to haul in the ball and trot in for another score. He finished with only 3 catches, but those went for 98 yards and a score. He is an incredible deep threat, which he put on full display of Saturday.
On the defensive side of the ball you have to first look at the guy that came up with the turnovers. Corey Graham got a little lucky on his first pick. The ball was tipped and happened to land right in his hands. However, he ran the right route after the catch and found his way into the end zone to take full advantage of the tip ball interception. The second turnover was even bigger though. He played tight coverage on Brandon Stokely and was in the exact right position to snag the ball on an ill advised throw from Peyton Manning. That interception in overtime ultimately led to the game winning field goal. Corey Graham came up huge.
Finally, you have to be impressed with Ray Lewis and Justin Tucker for two different reasons. Lewis tallied 17 tackles in his second game back from a torn triceps. I was a bit worried that Lewis might have exhausted himself a bit after last weeks emotional game against the Colts. That was not even close to the case for the future hall of famer. He continues to shock the world even when he has been doing it for so long. The rookie kicker should be getting some praise for nailing the game winning 47 yard field goal. That is an extremely high pressure kick for anyone, let alone a rookie. 47 yards is no chip shot, especially in the playoffs at Denver with the crowd erupting the stadium all screaming for you to miss. It was a high pressure kick that a former Ravens kicker may not have hit…
Baltimore will not travel to Foxboro for a rematch of last years AFC Championship. There are a ton of great story lines going into this game, which I will get into later. For now though, Baltimore will get a chance for revenge after losing in a devastating manner. The two big culprits for that loss are no longer on the team, but believe the rest of the team is still well aware of how that game went down. Baltimore will have a short time to celebrate their huge win this weekend, but the Ravens will have to prepare for another huge game in New England Sunday.