As the clock ticked down late in the fourth quarter with the Baltimore Ravens trailing the New England Patriots 30-21, most Ravens fans expected the Ravens to lose as they have all too often in the team's history. Another loss to a good team in a game the Ravens could have and should have won. But wait,...not this time.
Looking back in Ravens history, fans have seen Baltimore snatch defeat from the jaws of victory over and over again. Be it in the regular season or the playoffs, losses, especially to these same Patriots or the Ravens arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers, games have come down to one or two plays that usually ended in frustration and anger for Ravens fans.
However, Sunday night's come-from-behind 31-30 victory may have exorcised those demons once and for all. QB Joe Flacco calmly brought the team back from the brink of disaster first by finding WR Torrey Smith for a clutch TD pass to bring the Ravens within two points.
Then the Ravens defense, which had been burned for over 450 yards of total offense by the Patriots, held and force a punt. That left Baltimore 80 yards away from victory, setting the team up for disappointment similar to not only last week's 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but seen multiple times over the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco era.
Instead the most amazing thing happened. Flacco played like the guy the Ravens envisioned when they traded up for him in the 2008 NFL Draft. He methodically found his receivers and managed the clock to get the team onto the Patriots side of the playing field.
Even though fans now have a ton of confidence in rookie placekicker Justin Tucker to make a long field goal when asked, it would be nice to get in range for a shorter shot at the game-winning field goal. The Ravens did just that, thanks to an obvious pass interference penalty on New England, one that no one, even Patriots fans, could ever blame on the replacement refs.
Tucker barely squeezed the 27-yard FG inside the uprights and the dark cloud was removed from over the Ravens heads. This one single game could be the one that changes everything and sends the Ravens on a streak that just could end in New Orleans on another Sunday night, this time holding the Lombardi Trophy aloft, celebrating a Super Bowl victory.
The old Ravens lose this game, almost every time. In fact, most fans actually expected them to find a way to disappoint and end up a 30-28 loser Sunday night. The fact they won surprised Ravens fans as much as it shocked Patriots fans, and sorely disappointed Steelers fans.
This could be the game both players and fans look back on that sealed the deal to not only put the Ravens on another level, but make them the favorite to go on to repeat as AFC North champs, claim the AFC Championship and then give Ray Lewis his second Super Bowl trophy.