TOP 10 PLAYS: Ravens’ memories from an exciting 2008-09

Street Talk TOP 10 PLAYS: Ravens’ memories from an exciting 2008-09

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Without a doubt the Ravens’ 2008 season exceeded everyone’s expectations.  The players might tell you now that they believed in the team’s ability and its potential to knock on the Super Bowl door. Yet I’m sure if they were really pressed, each of those players inside the Ravens locker room would admit that on the heels of a rather bleak preseason they like the rest of us and no idea what was in store.

The season was filled with surprises. A previously uninspired Jared Gaither found inspiration and made us all forget about Jonathan Ogden; Le’Ron McClain had 8 carries for 18 yards in 2007 yet led the team in rushing in ’08 with 902 yards; Jim Leonhard seemed like a long shot to make the team during the summer but proved to be a playmaker in the fall and into the winter; Ed Reed’s career was in peril due to a neck and shoulder nerve impingement yet he performed at times like Superman; Joe Flacco grew before our very eyes.  The list goes on.

The surprises brought excitement and exhilaration and those emotions also characterize the season’s top 10 Ravens’ plays.  In our list we consider those emotions plus the relative importance the plays had on the game in which they occurred or even more importantly the impact that the plays had on the success of this amazing season – this scintillating ride.

With that in mind we present to you our list accompanied by videos.

10. Todd Heap v. Titans Divisional Playoff Game: Facing a 3rd and 2 at their own 32 yard line with 2:52 remaining in the Divisional Playoff Game against Tennessee, Joe Flacco hit Todd Heap with a crucial 23 yard pass.  The play was a controversial one in that many believed the ball was snapped after the play clock had ticked down to zero.  Visually it was hard to argue but NFL officials claimed that the clock on the field was a split second behind.  The Ravens clearly were fortunate yet they still had to finish the play – and they did.
 
9. Mark Clayton @ Bengals: The Bengals started Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback on this last day of November and as a result, the outcome of the game was really never in doubt.  Yet on this afternoon, Mark Clayton showed just how versatile he can be if given the opportunity.  Clayton had 5 catches for 164 yards including a one handed 70 yard touchdown reception. He also completed a perfectly thrown 32 yard TD pass to Derrick Mason.  Both Clayton and Mason sold the run extremely well and the Bengals’ defenders bought it, only to be duped by the bookend WR tandem for an easy score.
 
8. Jim Leonhard forces fumble against the Titans in Divisional Playoff: The Ravens were clinging to a 10-7 lead with 9:08 remaining in their Divisional Playoff Game against Tennessee. Facing a second and 9 from the Ravens 13 yard line, Kerry Collins hit Alge Crumpler on a screen that would have resulted in a first and goal at the four or at worst a third and 1 at the Ravens 5 yard line.  Instead, Jim Leonhard with some able bodied assistance from Bart Scott forced the fumble which was recovered by Fabian Washington helping the Ravens protect their 3 point lead in a game that could be described as scoring impaired.
 
7. Ed Reed’s 2nd Interception in Wild Card Playoff Game: The Dolphins’ hopes were fading yet they rallied to put together a nice drive against the tough Ravens’ defense.  Down 20-3 late in third quarter, Chad Pennington faced a second and 12 at the Ravens 15 yard line.  They had to come away with some points to have a chance. Ed Reed put an end to the Dolphins’ fleeting hopes.
 
 


 

6. Ed Reed INT v Eagles: When the clock struck zero to close the third quarter, the Ravens held a slim 12-7 lead.  At the 11:39 mark of the 4th quarter they were ahead 22-7 following a 53 yard TD pass from Flacco to Clayton.  The Eagles, led by Kevin Kolb in for the benched Donovan McNabb marched 69 yards to the Ravens’ 1 yard line and trying desperately to get back in the game. With 7:44 to go the Eagles were one play removed from being one score behind.  It was not to be.  WR Reggie Brown was lined up in the tight end position which the heady Haruki Nakamura pointed out.  Brown’s positioning near the line of scrimmage indicated pass.  Ed Reed lurked behind Brown waiting for Kolb to commit to the throw. Upon Kolb’s release of the pass, Reed broke on the ball and a record 107 yards later the Ravens held a commanding 29-7 lead. The would go on to win 36-7.
 
5. Matt Stover’s FG v. Titans in Divisional Playoff: Matt Stover has been the club’s most reliable and consistent offensive weapon since the move to Baltimore. He has been money inside of 45 yards seemingly forever – until this year. Stover struggled at times in 2008 and outside of 40 yards even the most devout fan of the only kicker the franchise has ever known couldn’t watch with a high degree of confidence as Stover readied himself to attempt a 43 yard field goal which would give the Ravens a 13-10 lead with less than a minute to play. The future Ring of Honor inductee nailed the kicked and the Ravens were off to the AFC Championship.
 
4. Derrick Mason’s TD Catch v Titans in Divisional Playoff: The Ravens were struggling mightily on offense and trailed the Titans 7-0 with a little more than a minute to go in the first quarter.  Facing a third and 13 against a very well prepared Tennessee defense, Joe Flacco and Derrick Mason connected on a big play that the Ravens desperately needed.  One big league throw and 48 yards later, the Ravens knotted the game at seven.
 
3 & 3a. Terrell Suggs’ Pick 6’s v Dolphins & Browns: The Ravens started the season 2-0 after beating the Bengals and the Browns. But after two tough consecutive losses to the Steelers (23-20) and the Titans (13-10) and after being thrashed by Peyton Manning and the Colts 31-3, the Ravens traveled to Miami to take on the Dolphins in what amounted to an early season “must” win.  With the scored tied at 3 in the second quarter, the Dolphins were on the move until Terrell Suggs stepped in front of a Chad Pennington pass and went 44 yards for the score in a game the Ravens eventually won 27-13. That play was a major pivotal point in the Ravens season.  Two weeks later, Suggs picked off a Derek Anderson pass and returned it 42 yards to seal a 37-27 win for the Ravens despite trailing earlier in the game by the score of 27-13.
 
 
2 & 2a. McGahee/McClain back to back TD’s v. Dallas: After losing another closely fought game to the Steelers in week 15 to fall to 9-5 on the season, the Ravens traveled to Dallas to take on the hot Cowboys – winners of 5 of their last 6 and sporting a four game home winning streak.  Fresh off the heels of annihilating the World Champion New York Giants the Cowboys looked to close out Texas Stadium in style.  The Ravens were clearly not willing victims as their post season aspirations hung in the balance.  Twenty-three points were scored by the two clubs in total through three quarters.  In the fourth all hell broke loose.  Leading 19-17 with 3:42 left in the game, the Ravens’ Willis McGahee broke off a 77 yard TD run to stake the Ravens to a 26-17 lead.  The Cowboys answered quickly and with a 1:33 to go Dallas was again within 2 points, 26-24.  One play later, Le’Ron McClain raced 82 yards for the game’s final points and a Ravens’ 33-24 win.  The two runs are the longest back to back rushing plays for a score in NFL history.
 
1. Ed Reed TD interception v. Dolphins, Wild Card Playoff Game: In his first winning effort in the postseason as a professional, Ed Reed was the star.  He provided deep support to Samari Rolle who had close coverage on the speedy Ted Ginn, Jr. Reed drifted over just at the right time and was in perfect position to make the over the shoulder interception.  But he was hardly finished with the play and assumed an offensive role.  He zigged and zagged his way from one sideline to the other until he found a wall of purple jerseys waiting to escort him into the end zone.  Haloti Ngata put a devasting block on the Ginn and afterwards, only Chad Pennington stood between Reed and the end zone.  Terrell Suggs would see to it that Pennington was taken care of. The Dolphins never recovered and the Ravens had their first playoff win in 7 years. 

 

Honorable mention:


 

For sheer physical dominance, props go to Le’Ron McClain for trucking the Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons on a short TD run and to Ray Lewis who broke rookie Rashard Mendenhall’s shoulder on another goal line scoring attempt…Kudos to Troy Smith and Joe Flacco who connected on a razzle-dazzle play for 43 yards against the Raiders and to Ray Lewis for a devasting hit on Kellen Winslow which proved to be a major momentum swing in the Ravens favor during Week 3…and then of course there was the TD run from Joe Flacco on opening day.  Little did we know at the time, it would be the first of several highlights from the Ravens rookie signal caller.
 
 
 
 


 

Clearly it was a fun and productive season and hopefully it sets the stage for an even more rewarding one in 2009.

 


 


 

Steve Hasler, Brian McFarland, Scot Kleinfeld and John Gehrig contributed to this article.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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