It’s been more than 24 hours since the Ravens pulled off one of the memorable wins in NFL Playoff History and my heart rate is still through the roof. I tossed and turned in bed last night as I replayed Flacco’s 70-yard TD heave to Jacoby Jones in my head.
How did we get here? No one wanted to see the Baltimore Ravens move past Peyton Manning on Saturday. Baltimore’s team was supposed to be a stepping-stone on the journey to #18 cementing his legacy.
Ray Lewis couldn’t beat Peyton Manning. Joe Flacco couldn’t complete passes against the great Champ Bailey. The Ravens offensive line had no shot blocking Denver’s Dumervil and Miller.
But then they played the game. And what a game it was. As the two teams traded body blows I kept saying, “Damn, this is a good game.”
It was clear that the Ravens had come to play and despite seemingly backbreaking special teams letdowns Joe Flacco’s sideline demeanor was as light as the Denver air. He was patient and fearless. He was Baltimore’s Quarterback.
Ray Lewis told media after the game that he had passed the torch to Flacco and that he was only there to facilitate. The defense facilitated three turnovers, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
However, the outlook on Saturday wasn’t always sunny. When Flacco’s 4th and 5 pass to Dennis Pitta fell to the ground I was sure that we were done. It was an awesome season and we fought hard, right?
Ok, the defense has a chance to get one more stop. I was hoping that Joe would get one more chance to touch the ball no matter how improbable the circumstances would be once he got it. The Broncos called three straight runs and punted the Ravens the ball with under a minute left and no timeouts. Impossible…
But let’s see what he’s got. After a 7-yard run and incomplete pass the Ravens had around 30 seconds left and the slimmest of hopes.
On 3rd and 3, Flacco dropped back in the face of a three-man rush and was forced to step up. As Flacco loaded up to fling the ball downfield I could feel myself saying “NO! NO!” But then I saw Jacoby Jones. They said this man would let me down. He’ll look good for a while but sooner or later he’ll break your heart. I’d assumed that Jones drop on 3rd and 5 on the previous drive was the moment he had shown his true colors.
It wasn’t. Jacoby hauled in the Mile High Miracle and raced into the end zone to tie the game at 35. It was a huge moment. So huge in fact that the potential Dancing With The Stars candidate forgot to do a TD celebration.
I’m sure fans at home didn’t forget to celebrate. I was a madman. I’ll never forget that moment.
I felt a weird calmness and sense of peace as the Ravens played overtime. This team had fought their ass off. Every player had done something significant and all I felt was love for my team.
I have lived and died with this team for years. I have an unhealthy emotional connection to the outcomes of their games. I have felt the agony of defeat. I wasn’t afraid to feel it anymore. The joy that this team has brought me extends far beyond wins. I was watching history and I was grateful.
Justin Tucker lined up for the game winning field goal and I wasn’t nervous at all. My kicker is a winner and so is my team. The ball split the uprights and there it was… the thrill of victory.
Who knows how long this feeling will last? I just want to keep watching my favorite team.