The game clock read 1:44 in the fourth quarter with the Ravens trailing 23-20 and 2 timeouts remaining. After a big defensive stand to force a Patriots punt the Ravens took over on their own 21 after a 4-yard Lardarius Webb return.
Forty-six seconds later the Ravens faced a third and 1 from their own 48 and called their second timeout after which, Joe Flacco connected on a short pass to Anquan Boldin who navigated the New England secondary for 29 yards down to the Patriots 23.
Boldin was having his way with makeshift DB Julian Edelman hauling in another Flacco toss to take it to the 14-yard line with 27 seconds left. On 2nd and 1, Flacco threw a back shoulder pass into the end zone that Lee Evans had momentarily. As we painfully know, he couldn’t complete the catch.
Following a failed 3rd and 1, kicker Billy Cundiff took the field and he too failed on 4th and 1, missing a 32-yard field goal.
It was then that the Ravens 2012 season began.
This season has been about solidarity. It has been about focus upon a common goal. It has been about playing for the man beside you.
It has been about TEAM.
The Ravens have persevered and they’ve tackled adversity head on and with resolve. It hasn’t been pretty. It hasn’t been easy. And oftentimes it hasn’t been effective. Yet here they are, right back where they were on this very same weekend a year ago.
Many on the team will tell you that the bitter taste left by the loss in last season’s AFC Championship game has never gone away and in many ways it has propelled them for this return visit on Sunday.
Many counted them out. I counted them out.
We looked at the stats, particularly late in the season. We looked at the injuries. They just didn’t have enough to get to the finish line. Or so we thought.
But fortunately for the Ravens, you can’t measure heart.
Not only is this team driven by a chance for redemption, there’s also a finality to this season that can’t be denied. Ray Lewis is retiring. Each time he takes the field with Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, who like Lewis are former Defensive Players of the Year, it could be their last game together. Only a win on Sunday changes that.
Reed may follow Lewis down the path of retirement or he may simply move on to another team. Others will join him. Given the limited cap space the Ravens will face and pending free agents who will want to capitalize on this season’s success, the turnover of the roster may be the most extreme the team has seen since 2002.
And the departures might not be limited to the field.
As has been the case at this time of the year annually, teams with changes in the front office come knocking on the Ravens door asking about the availability of Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta. In the past DeCosta has handled these kinds of requests with class, dignity, style and professionalism.
DeCosta has always made it clear that he’d like to assume the reins from Ozzie Newsome as the team’s GM. And just as clear Steve Bisciotti has said that the job is his when Ozzie leaves.
But when will that happen?
It may happen during the next 30 days!
Think about it, Ozzie and Ray go out together if they win the big one. With all of the rebuilding that is likely to take place this offseason, it may be a couple years or more before the Ravens knock on this door again. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Maybe Ozzie won’t want to go through the rebuilding.
Maybe he’d like to go out on top with Ray and possibly Ed.
Maybe like Ray, Ozzie wants to pass on his torch as well.
DeCosta may have given us the first clue recently when he answered a Larry Rosen question during the Rave TV show, Game Plan.
Larry asked Eric about his future.
“This is where I want to be”, said DeCosta. “And I’m a Raven for life, hopefully.”
With all of the interest in DeCosta at the tail end of every season, his rapid refusal of the advances by other teams coupled with such finite words could be the hint of even more offseason change than we expected if the Ravens hoist the Lombardi again in a little over two weeks.
And if it goes down that way, with Ray, Ed and Ozzie riding off into the sunset, let’s just count our blessings that they were ours for so long and hope that their respective torches were passed on to capable hands.
In the case of Ozzie there’s little doubt.