Folks, we’re down to the final 5 agonizing Ravens games of the John Harbaugh era. This article has been one of the most nostalgia-inducing writing I’ve done since I started at RSR. Not in a good way, but we are fans, and the whole point of our existence is to torture ourselves.
So let’s get down to the infuriating five. I’ll warn you; these last five are very painful to re-live, and may not be fit for the office. If you are perusing this at work, I suggest you take a few deep breaths after each recap, and for your sake, do NOT take your ANGER out your employer’s computer!
The date: November 30, 2014
The stakes: A West Coast team had never won in Baltimore before. With both teams headed into the contest at 7-4, there were serious playoff implications. With a win, either team would ensure a head-to-head tiebreaker in the event that it came down to the two teams for the final Wild Card spot.
Like many of the games included in this list so far, things looked good for the Ravens early. They got off to a 10-0 lead, and the offense was clicking. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around, the Ravens up 23-13. The Ravens rarely surrender a lead that late in the game.
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen had been on the same page all day, but Rivers started to connect with Eddie Royal just as much in the 4th quarter. A couple of completions to Royal set San Diego up for a score, and Ryan Mathews delivered to close the gap to 23-20. The Ravens responded, but San Diego fired right back after that to get the deficit back down to 3.
Neither team looked like they were going to stop the other…until the Chargers did. After the Ravens were unable to convert a 3rd and 4 from the San Diego 13, they faced a difficult choice. They could either go for it, since it was clear they weren’t going to stop Rivers and the Chargers offense, or take the points and try to hold on for the win.
They opted for the latter, and it made me queasy. Without missing a step, the Chargers drove down the field and, predictably, scored. Eddie Royal was interfered with by Anthony Levine. It was an iffy call since both the receiver and defender were hand-fighting for position, but I didn’t have much hope for stopping that team anyway. They would score the next play on a WR screen.
The Ravens had a chance to respond, but a Jacoby Jones 4-yard return that lasted an eternity put the Ravens at only the 14-yard line with no timeouts and 46 seconds left to go. They would do a fine job of getting into possible – but very long – Justin Tucker field goal range, Unfortuantely, Kamar Aiken was tackled before he could make it to the sideline. The clock ran out with the ball at the San Diego 43, and it put the Chargers in great position to take a Wild Card spot from the Ravens when the time came.
The Ravens did end up with the final spot, but this game put such a dent in the hope for that spot at the time -and in such heartbreaking fashion – that it deserved a spot this high on the list.
Final score: Chargers 34 Ravens 33
The date: January 10, 2015
The stakes: The AFC Divisional Round game. The winner goes to the AFC Championship game for a shot at the Super Bowl. The Ravens held a 2-1 record against the Patriots in the postseason and were looking to make that mark 3-1.
The Ravens came out of the gate hot. On their first possession, they drove down the field to score on five plays, and Joe Flacco capped it off with a touchdown pass to Kamar Aiken. The Patriots went three-and-out on their first drive, and the Ravens scored again. This time, it was Steve Smith, which gave the Ravens a 14-0 lead 10 minutes into the game.
The Patriots responded on the next drive to draw within one score. After a few punts back and forth, New England tied it up at 14-14 with less than 4 minutes left to go in the first half. But after gaining possession with just over a minute left to go in the half, the Ravens scored on a touchdown pass over the middle to Owen Daniels.
21-14 at halftime.
On their first possession of the second half, the Ravens gained their second two-score lead of the game on a swing pass to Justin Forsett. 28-14 Ravens. Things were looking pretty for another shot at a Super Bowl after missing the playoffs the previous year.
Yet again, the Patriots had other plans. First, because, well, they’re the friggin’ Patriots, New England used a few deceptive tactics – that have since been outlawed – to move down the field, including this formation:
The running back moved backward to give Brady a lateral option if he stepped up. Since it’s so difficult to hear the stadium PA system from the field, the Ravens weren’t aware that the tackle on the other side of the field was an eligible receiver.
This play would move the Patriots down to the 5-yard line, and a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski would cut the lead to just 7.
The Ravens secondary could not stop Tom Brady anymore. By adding some more trickery on top of the air assault, the Patriots were able to even the score on their next possession.
And the game was all tied up. But the Ravens offense wasn’t doing too shabby either. After driving all the way down to the 7, Joe Flacco threw a pass to Owen Daniels that looked like a sure touchdown (at the 6:28 mark).
Right through his hands. Justin Tucker would kick a field goal to go up 31-28. But the bad secondary play of the day reared its ugly head again. A pass down the left sideline to Brandon LaFell gave the Patriots a 35-31 lead.
The Ravens still had time to drive down the field, and drive they did. With just under 2:00 left to go in the game and the offense marching down the field, Joe Flacco took a shot to Torrey Smith down the left sideline. The pass was intercepted, and the game was all but over. Many have cast blame on both Torrey Smith and Joe Flacco. To me, it seems like both deserve it, but who deserves it more? This video will show you:
Final score: Ravens 31 Patriots 35
And Deflategate would happen the very next week, but the Patriots would win their Super Bowl championship anyway.
The date: October 14, 2012
The stakes: The Ravens were sitting pretty. They had won 4 out of their first 5 games. But…they weren’t exactly the prettiest of wins. The week prior, the Ravens had won by the score of 9-6 in Kansas City. The offense needed to turn things around in this one. Suggs had torn his achilles training in the offseason (or playing basketball, depending on what you believe). The three players besides him the Ravens could least afford to lose would probably be, in order, Joe Flacco, Lardarius Webb, and Ray Lewis.
Closing in on the end of the 1st quarter, the Ravens were up 7-3, and the Cowboys had the ball. Tony Romo completed a pass to Dez Bryant along the sideline, but what happened to the cornerback? He was nowhere near the receiver…Ugh, there he is.
That’s Lardarius Webb writhing in pain. He was coming off his best season as a pro in 2011, and he had just signed a big deal. The Ravens could ill afford to lose his reliable presence in the secondary. He was definitely going to be missed through the rest of the season; it looked like an ACL tear.
Still, at least it looked like the Ravens were going to win this one. In the 3rd quarter, after Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey put one through the uprights, Jacoby Jones, in typical Jacoby fashion, housed a return 108 yards. That put the Ravens up 24-13. So at least the Ravens looked like they were going to pull this one out, even after the devastating injury to Webb.
But then the Cowboys started to come back. They closed the gap to 4 after a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Dez Bryant (that will become a theme). Dan Bailey later added a field goal to close the gap to just one point. The Ravens tacked on another score on a good-looking, long drive, so the Ravens were still in good shape.
On the next drive, though, tragedy struck. The Cowboys were driving, and it looked like they couldn’t be stopped, but something much, much worse happened.
Ray Lewis tore his triceps. The leader, the legend, the General, Ray Lewis would miss the rest of the season. The prospects of his return for the playoffs looked bleak, too. This might be his final season, and an injury might end his career. In the minds of many Ravens fans, including me, the Super Bowl was a distant, far-off dream. There is no way that they could make it all the way without the NFL’s Mufasa leading the defense.
To make things all that much worse, Romo and the Cowboys kept driving, all the way into the endzone for a touchdown. The score was 31-29, Ravens. The Cowboys needed 2 points to tie it, and there were just 36 seconds left to go in the game. Romo looked and found a wide open Dez Bryant. The two-point conversion was good – WAIT! NO! HE DROPPED IT! YES!
And hope was restored. There would be no overtime! All they would have to do is just recover the onside kick and –.
The Cowboys recovered. This relentless, merciless, painful game would go on. Chykie Brown (there’s a pattern of bad cornerbacks being the goat of the game here, huh?) interfered with Kevin Ogletree to put the Cowboys at the Ravens 34. Two plays later, the Cowboys attempted the game-winner.
And Baltimore breathed one enormous, collective sigh of relief.
But they had lost their best corner and their General for what they thought was the rest of the year. Looking back, it’s much easier to appreciate this game. Ray Lewis would come back to lead the team to a championship, but at the time, this was the worst I’d ever felt after a win.
Final score: Cowboys 29 Ravens 31
Is it okay to quit before I start these last two? No?
Alright, I guess I’ll go on then…
The date: January 15, 2011
The stakes: It was the Divisional Round of the 2010-11 playoffs. The Steelers had edged out the Ravens for the division through tiebreakers and had home-field advantage. The winner would get a shot at the AFC Championship game.
The Ravens and Steelers started off the contest by exchanging touchdowns. Then, with a minute left to go in the 1st quarter, things got interesting!
At this point, I was jumping around in my friend’s living room yelling, “That was a fumble!” and “WILL SOMEONE PICK UP THE DAMN BALL?” Cory Redding finally obliged, and Tomlin throw out the emotional challenge flag and lost. Three drives later, Rashard Mendenhall (boy, did he fall off the map quickly) fumbled, and it was recovered by Ed Reed. The Ravens turned that into a Todd Heap touchdown, and they would take the 21-7 score into halftime.
Right now, I’ll take the time to point out this.
Notice the last column? Ray Rice hadn’t fumbled all year up until this point. Wouldn’t it be just great if he just fumbled now, at this point in the year, in the biggest game so far? WOULDN’T IT!? (Mobile users watch here.)
He did. And sure enough, the Steelers put the ball in the end zone two plays later to close the gap to one score. Three drives later, it was Flacco who turned the ball over on an interception to Ryan Clark. The Steelers converted that one into a score, too, and the game was tied in a matter of 9 minutes.
But that wasn’t enough giveaways for the Ravens, apparently. Brett Keisel forced a Joe Flacco fumble. Fortunately, the Steelers only converted that one into a field goal, to give the Steelers the lead. The Ravens later tied it up. The score stayed that way for a while, until…disaster – true disaster – happened.
Facing a 3rd and 19, it looked like the Ravens were going to get the ball back. The dominant Ravens defense wouldn’t let up a first down, right? Oh, wait, this is Mattison’s unit. Still, though, 19 yards? That’s a long way to go. This seems like a time to make sure their two best receivers, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace don’t get behind the defense. And now seems like a good time to go get the quarterback with such a long distance to go!
Christ, three men again, Mattison, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! What a bad time to blow your assignment, too, Lardarius! Did someone tell him that it was 3RD AND NINETEEN?! Oh well, at least, they can keep them from getting into the end zone and have all three of their timeouts to stop the clock.
Except Terrence Cody drew a defensive holding on a RUNNING play and give the Steelers an extra down. They punched it into the endzone with Rashard Mendenhall, and of course it was on 3rd down to maximize the timeout usage. Chris Kemoeatu did give the Ravens a gift with an unnecessary roughness penalty, so Pittsburgh had to kick the ball from the 15-yard line.
There was still time, but it was desperation time. The Ravens didn’t do much with the ball after getting good field position and were facing a 4th and 18. Yep, the game looked like it was pretty much over. Except T.J. Houshmandzadeh, HE’S OPEN!
…I’ve got nothing.
Final score: Ravens 24 Steelers 31
The date: January 22, 2012
The stakes: The AFC Championship game. The Ravens were the #2 seed and the Patriots were–. I can’t do this. Sorry, I can’t write about this. I can’t put this feeling into words. I don’t think there’s an adjective on the planet to describe the utter despair of this game.
So we’ll torture you with video.
UGH, LEE EVANS!
I STILL HATE YOU, BILLY CUNDIFF.
Really, though don’t be a hater. There’s not a person on the planet who feels worse than ol’ Billy. Just remember some of the good times. THE GOOD TIMES, PEOPLE! *throws laptop*
Anyway, that’s it for me. Maybe next time I’ll write about something that isn’t so painful.