Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker nailed a 47-yard field goal to upset the No. 1seed Denver Broncos, 38-35, in double-overtime of a wild AFC divisional round game Jan. 12 in Denver, Colo.
Baltimore was a nine-point underdog coming into the game, with most experts predicting a repeat of the teams’ Week 14 faceoff, which the Broncos won, 34-17 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Instead, the Ravens overcame Denver’s frigid weather and sent the game into overtime with a long, last-chance touchdown pass. The Broncos and Ravens exchanged drives in the first overtime until the waning moments.
The winning field goal was set up when Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning tossed his second interception of the game, which was picked off by Ravens’ cornerback Corey Graham, giving the ball to Baltimore in Denver’s territory. Ravens running back Ray Rice broke a 15-yard run several plays later to put the team well into field goal range, and Tucker drilled the ensuing kick.
Most Outstanding Player(s) of the Game:
Nobody outshined Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been criticized for not making plays during big games. He answered those complaints against Denver, outgunned the future Hall of Famer Manning by completing 18 of 34 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 116.2 passer rating.
His third touchdown literally saved the game for the Ravens, as he heaved a 70-yard bomb to Jacoby Jones to tie the game at 35 with only 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
On defense, it was Graham who had the biggest impact; he picked off Manning twice, including an interception that was returned for a defensive touchdown in the first quarter. His second interception stopped a Broncos drive cold, and led to the winning field goal.
Unsung Hero of the Game:
Flacco may be the MVP of the game, but he’d probably be the first to say he owed his success to his offensive live, especially veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who kept his quarterback upright for most of the game. McKinnie didn’t start a single game during the regular season because of ongoing problems with his conditioning, but he was given the start in the first round of the playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts. He played well in that game, and followed it up with another excellent game against Denver’s elite pass rushers, including Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, who both recorded double-digit sacks this season. Denver was held to just one meaningless sack against Baltimore.
More Game Notes:
Flacco wasn’t the only player to have a productive game for the Ravens. Ray Rice also played well, rushing for 131 yards on 30 carries, including a one-yard touchdown.
Early in the first half, it was the Ravens’ speedy receiver Torrey Smith who dominated, burning Denver cornerback Champ Bailey twice for two deep touchdown passes, including a 59-yard bomb in the first quarter and a 34-yard catch right before halftime. He finished with three catches for 98 yards and two TDs.
Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin led the Ravens in catches with six receptions for 71 yards.
In his final matchup against Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis recorded a game-high 17 tackles, 10 of them solo. Manning completed 28 of 43 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 88.3.
Neither the Ravens nor their diehard fans could have thought of a more satisfying way to win a big-time playoff game. Flacco silenced his doubters by out-gunning a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Ray Lewis finally beat his arch nemesis, Manning, before retiring at the end of this postseason. Manning defeated the Ravens in their last nine meetings, but this win makes up for that suffering. The Broncos and Ravens played what was easily the most exciting football game this season, and the Ravens were victorious at the end of it. Even Ravens owner Steve Biscotti agreed, sending a text message to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during the game to tell them that he was proud of them—even though, at the time, the Ravens were still trailing, 35-28, in the fourth quarter. It was the first time he had ever sent a text during the game, but he wanted to let his team know that they had played their tails off, win or lose. It simply doesn’t get any better than that for Ravens Nation.
The Ravens advanced to the AFC Championship game for the second straight year, and the third time in five seasons. They will face the winner of the New England Patriots-Houston Texans divisional round game, scheduled for Jan. 13.