Let’s start with the definition of “exciting” (I really shouldn’t have to do this):
1. Game involved gut-wrenching tension for a long period (was your gut in a knot over the 9th sack of Ben in 2006? Mine either.)
2. Impact on playoff race or an actual playoff game is also a bonus
3. Wild crowd, if at home
4. Lots of screaming at the TV if on the road
5. Close, OT, and multiple lead changes are all positives
6. Big comebacks are a bonus
7. Quality of the opponent is not a factor save for the impact that has on 1 or 2 above
8. The Ravens win (redundant when in the title "Most Exciting Ravens Wins")
1. The Ravens beat Tennessee in the divisional playoffs 24-10 in Del Greco II. Until Washington’s block and Mitchell’s return, the game was a long, uphill struggle to keep the Titans out of the end zone and regaining field position on missed FG attempts by Del Greco. Even after Mitchell’s TD, the game remained in doubt until Ray Lewis’ INT return sealed it. Those were arguably the 2 most important plays in Ravens history. I was fortunate enough to be there, and it’s my greatest football memory (narrowly over the 1975 fog game vs. Miami).
2. The 39-36 win over Jacksonville on 9/10/00. The Ravens won their first game ever against their divisional nemesis. The Ravens trailed 23-7 at halftime, but Tony Banks threw 4 2nd–half TD’s to key the comeback. Jacksonville scored a go-ahead TD on a weird tipped pass that found its way from Keenan McCardell into the hands of Jimmy Smith (15 receptions, 291 yards, 3TDs) with 1:55 to play, but Banks led the team 75 yards on 7 plays, capped by his 29-yard TD to Sharpe.
3. The 44-41 overtime win vs. Seattle on 11/23/03. The Ravens trailed by 17 with 6:56 to play when…Reed blocked Tom Rouen’s punt and ran it in for a TD, Lewis stripped Seahawks FB Matt Strong, Wright completed a 4th and 28 pass with a tipped ball to Frank Sanders for 44 yards, Marcus Robinson caught his 4th TD pass of the game, the Ravens were the beneficiaries of a clock stoppage by the referees, the defense stopped the Seahawks on 3rd and inches then again on 4th and inches with Orlando Brown at NT to get the ball back with 39 seconds remaining, Anthony Wright heaved a long bomb to Robinson inducing a 44-yard PI penalty on Marcus Trufant to advance the Ravens to the Seattle 25, Matt Stover converted a 40-yard FG as regulation expired to tie it, Seattle won the toss and inserted Trent Dilfer at QB when Hasselbeck was hurt, Boulware sacked Hasselbeck for 15 yards to force a punt, Wright converted a 3rd and 15 to Marcus Robinson for 19 yards, and Stover hit the 42-yard FG to win it. Perhaps half of the crowd had left, but those remaining made the noise of a full stadium. It was one of those games where the energy level was so high, people outside the stadium were still screaming and high-fiving each other.
4. The 24-23 win at Adelphia in Del Greco I on 11/12/00. Trent Dilfer gave up an 87-yard TD on an interception return to Perry Phenix, but Del Greco missed the extra point to keep the Tennessee lead at 6. Dilfer then led the Ravens 70 yards on 9 plays for the go ahead TD with 0:25 remaining. The drive included a 19-yard PI penalty on 4th and 2 that set the Ravens up at the 2-yard line. Stover’s extra point put the Ravens up 24-23. After a kickoff return to the 44, McNair drove the Titans 31 yards on 2 plays to set up Del Greco. However, he would miss wide right to give the Titans their first loss in their 2 years in the new stadium. The Ravens were 7-4 and would not lose again.
5. The 16-13 win over San Diego on 10/1/06. The Ravens entered the game 3-0 for the first time in team history. San Diego outplayed the Ravens for most of the game, holding them to 156 offensive yards prior to their final drive. McNair led the Ravens 60 yards on 6 plays culminating in his 10-yard TD pass to Heap/Sean Merriman’s missed tackle.
6. The 33-24 implosion of Texas Stadium on 12/20/08. The Ravens needed a win to maintain control of their own playoff destiny. The Cowboys cut the Ravens lead to 19-17 on TO’s 7-yard TD grab with 3:54 to play. Willis McGahee then answered on the next play from scrimmage with a 77-yard TD run that featured 2 fine blocks by Chris Chester. It tied the record for the longest TD by an opponent in Texas Stadium history. Romo then hit Witten to cut the lead to 2 again with 1:21 to play. With the Cowboys still having 3 timeouts, the Ravens needed a 1st down. Le’Ron McClain took the handoff on the next snap 82 yards for the sealing TD. McClain’s run was one of the great individual efforts I’ve ever seen and included a terrific stiff arm of safety Ken Hamlin. McGahee’s share of the record lasted just 2:14, but Wade Phillips would be shaking his head in disbelief for considerably longer.
7. The Ravens 13-10 win over the Titans in the divisional playoffs on 1/10/09. In a game eerily similar to #1 above, the Titans outplayed the Ravens for most of the game but squandered several scoring opportunities on turnovers. With the Ravens leading 10-7 and the Titans threatening, Jim Leonhard forced a fumble from TE Alge Crumpler that Fabian Washington recovered at their own 1. The Titans would tie the game on the subsequent drive, but Flacco led the team 51 yard on 9 plays to set up Stover. The Ravens had the wind in the 4th quarter and Matt converted the biggest kick of his 19-year career on what is likely to be his last ever attempt.
8. The Ravens win in their first game 19-14 over the Raiders on 9/1/96. Earnest Byner’s 1-yard TD run put the Ravens ahead for good in the 4th quarter. Ray Lewis was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in his 1st NFL game, and Jon Ogden played the 1st game of his HoF career at left guard. Football was back and for 1 week I can recall thinking how the Browns had been a playoff team the year before the move was announced.
9. The Ravens 16-10 MNF win at Tennessee on 11/12/01. Tennessee got the ball back with 3:06 to play at their own 22 and drove to the Ravens 6 with 0:14 to play. McNair completed a pass to Dyson at the 1-yard line and the Titans hurriedly lined up to get off a 4th and goal play. Boulware was late getting back onside and touched one of the Tennessee linemen as McNair took the snap and plunged in for the apparent TD. After a discussion of more than 5 minutes, referee Bernie Kukar delivered one of his great soliloquies beginning with “On a play of this magnitude…” and penalizing the Ravens half the distance to the goal line for encroachment. On the subsequent untimed play, McNair was then stopped on a QB sneak (Harris and Sharper) to end the game.
10. The Ravens 27-26 win at Tennessee on 11/12/06. The Ravens trailed 26-7 in the 2nd quarter before scoring 20 unanswered points. McNair connected on the go-ahead TD to Mason with 3:36 to play. Vince Young drove the Titans into FG range with 0:42 remaining on a drive featuring an 18-yard pass and his 17-yard run. However, Trevor Pryce blocked Rob Bironas’ 43-yard FG attempt to seal the win. If you are date conscious, you’ll notice 3 of the Ravens top 10 wins came at Tennessee on November 12th. Were I president of the Titans, I’d call the league to request that a home game against the Ravens not be set for that date. By my accounting, 5 of the Ravens 10 most exciting wins came against the Titans in their house.
11. The Ravens comeback win against the Jets at the Meadowlands on 11/14/04. This game was immortalized by NFL Films’ narrator-less Game of the Week broadcast which features 11 different miked-up players and coaches who were at the game as well as both radio announcers. With 1:56 left in the 1st half and the Jets leading 14-0, Lamont Jordan took a handoff and ran right looking to throw. As that video rolled, Herm Edwards can be heard telling Jordan not to throw the ball then finally saying “no, that’s Ed Reed”. Reed intercepted the ball in the end zone and ran it all the way back for an apparent 104-yard TD only to have the ball returned to the Jets 36 due to a holding penalty on Will Demps. Nonetheless the Ravens scored a TD and went on to win 20-17 in OT. NFL Films has done some very fine work, but in my opinion, that is the single best piece they have ever created. It’s simply so much access to hidden football. You can hear Rabach complaining that another lineman is pressing on his crotch while getting up, Reed and Demps playing rock/paper/scissors to see who blitzes, an insight into the sychophantic world of coaching politics in the Ravens’ defensive box, Ray Lewis second-guessing some of the defensive play calls in the huddle, and Nolan having Mike Singletary chew out Lewis for not selling the calls to his teammates.
12. The Ravens 15-14 win at Cleveland on 9/24/06. The week before their big win over the Chargers, the Ravens trailed the Browns 14-3 as the 4th quarter began, but scored 12 unanswered points to win. With the Browns leading 14-12, Chris McAlister ended a Browns drive that had reached the 4-yard line with an end zone interception. The Ravens then drove 47 yards on 12 plays to the Cleveland 33. Stover’s 52-yard FG with 24 seconds remaining was good and the Ravens were 3-0. If you have the video to that game, you’ll notice the stadium is very quiet after the kick and you can pick out a single screaming female voice. That’s my sweetheart Maureen who works with me on the weekly data entry and collection for these articles.
13. The Ravens 37-27 win at Cleveland on 11/2/08. In a pivotal game to return to playoff contention, the Ravens led 10-0 then fell behind 27-13 before scoring 24 unanswered points to win. The Ravens season hopes looked grim with 6:00 to play and 3rd and 16 at their own 15, but Flacco completed a 20-yard pass to Mason and consecutive TD drives to tie the game. Braylon Edwards dropped what could have been a very long reception with the game tied and 12:36 to play. The Ravens would subsequently drive for the go-ahead FG and seal the game on Suggs’ pick 6 with 2:52 to play.
14. The Ravens 37-31 OT win over the Rams on 10/27/96. Testaverde capped a 429-yard passing day with a 22-yard TD to Jackson in the final minute of OT. The Ravens no-huddle was very effective in 1996, but the defense struggled terribly with excessive time on the field. That’s a significant reason the Ravens blew so many 2nd-half leads that season (they led in the 2nd half in 8 of their 12 losses). If you ever feel helpless with the Ravens secondary, remember that 1996 team had Brady, Jenkins, and Langham as their 3 corners in the nickel. No lead was safe.
15. The Ravens 13-12 win over Tennessee in 2002. Ed Reed blocked a punt and returned it for the game’s only TD. The Ravens kept a talented Titans’ team out of the end zone. The Titans would not lose again until the AFCC. The cap-purged and injury-riddled (McCrary, Lewis, McAlister all missed significant time) Ravens would stay in the playoff hunt until the final week.
Some other games that didn’t make it:
10/26/97 @ Washington 20-17. Very nice to beat the Skins. Bam Morris had a big game.
11/8/98 vs. Oakland 13-10. Sloppily played game with the Ravens out of contention. It was Duane Starks’ 1st NFL start. He was used by Jett and Brown, but came back to make a game sealing interception in the end zone on Oakland’s final offensive play.
10/3/99 @ Atlanta 19-13. Justin Armor’s long TD reception was the game winner.
10/28/01 vs Jax 18-17. Randall Cunningham leads a comeback from down 17-6.
11/4/01 @ Pitt 13-10. The Ravens scored 2 4th quarter FGs to come back from 10-7 and benefited by 4 missed Pittsburgh field goals by Brown.
11/25/01 @ Jax 24-21. The Ravens blew a 17-7 lead in the 4th quarter, but came back to win on Grbac’s TD to Sharpe with 0:09 remaining.
10/10/04 @ Washington 17-10 Comeback keyed by Ed Reed’s sack/FF/FR/TD
11/20/05 vs Pittsburgh 16-13 OT. One of only 2 years since 1999 that the Ravens were out of the playoff race at this point in the season.
9/16/07 vs NYJ 20-13 as Jets miss several opportunities near goal line. It was the most tense win of 2007, but it doesn’t make the all-time list.