|Image courtesy of AP|
Trindon Holliday’s 90-yard punt return seemed to set the tone early for the Broncos/Ravens divisional playoff.
But Baltimore answered.
His 104-yard kick return to open the second half seemed to just reaffirm the fact.
But Baltimore answered.
Being stopped on a 4th and 5 with less than three minutes to go and being forced to use a timeout due to Quarterback Joe Flacco’s lack of awareness seemed to award the Broncos a 35-28 victory.
But after a defensive stop, Flacco got the ball back with 1:09 remaining and, with just 35 seconds left, threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones.
In the face of adversity disguised as the Denver Broncos and their raucous fans, once again, Baltimore answered.
And after a full overtime period that was a microcosm of the game itself—back-and-forth—rookie Kicker Justin Tucker kicked the Ravens into the AFC Championship game with a 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the extra period.
Tucker, who hit a 67-yarder during the pregame warmups, gave much credit to Long Snapper Morgan Cox & Holder Sam Koch.
“A big thing for us is sticking to our routine,” he remarked. “With Morgan’s snaps & Sam’s holds, it’s pretty hard to miss.”
Quarterback Peyton Manning’s Broncos hadn’t lost a game since October 8th, but even though they led for most of today’s game, they couldn’t outlast the Ravens, whose big plays kept them in the fight. Manning also threw two costly interceptions to cornerback Corey Graham; one in the first quarter that was returned for a touchdown and one with time winding down in the first overtime that led to Tucker’s game-winning field goal.
Flacco threw for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns, two to Wide Receiver Torrey Smith, while Running Back Ray Rice complemented him with 131 yards on 30 rushes. On the other side, Manning threw for 290s and 3 TDs, and rookie running back Ronnie Hillman had 22 carries for 83 yards.
Linebacker Ray Lewis is on his last ride in the NFL, and he made as big of an impact as he could today, leading all players with 17 tackles. He did what leaders do and made sure his team wasn’t brainwashed by outsiders, who thought a Denver win was inevitable.
“I challenged my team to not listen to anything outside of our building,” Lewis said. “[I wanted them] to buy into who we are as a team.”
The Ravens, down 7, gave Denver the ball back with 3:12 remaining in regulation. They had two timeouts. After a quick Broncos first down, they were able to force a 4th & 7 after the two minute warning. And in just 34 seconds, Flacco was able to connect with Jones on a four verticals play call. Broncos safety Rahim Moore, who sagged off of Jones on the play, blames himself for the loss, but teammates weren’t so quick to play the blame game.
“It’s not [Moore]’s fault at all,” said Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley. “It’s a team game and there’s plenty of blame to go around all of us. We all just didn’t play well enough.”
The story early in the game was Torrey Smith versus Champ Bailey; Smith had a step on the future Hall-of-Famer every step of the way. He could’ve had up to four touchdowns had Flacco’s throws all been on the money.
Flacco’s bomb, Smith’s dominance of Bailey and Peyton’s two costly picks were integral to the Ravens victory, but this victory was an ode to the leadership of Ray Lewis. The never-say-die attitude he’s had wore off on his team tonight. He’ll retire when the season comes to an end, and he’ll retire thriving off the doubters his team’s had his since he became a Raven in 1996.
“If I will probably miss anything about my career, it would be to listen to people say what you can’t do, and then go do it.”