I got to talking with all the writers here at Baltimore Beatdown about what everyone's favorite game was. It was interesting to see what everyone chose and for what reason. So we decided to write up everyone's favorites and why.
September 7, 2008, Week 1 vs. Cincinnati Bengals - "The Flacco-Harbaugh Era Begins"
"Look at the big man run," went the commentary from Kevin Harlan - giving a beautiful soundtrack to Joe Flacco's unexpected athleticism. And boy did he run... 38 yards to his first NFL touchdown... In his first NFL start... In his first regular season game at M&T Stadium.
This game is one of my favorite Ravens games due to it's significance in the history of the team. This game marked the beginning of Joe Flacco's tenure at quarterback, which brought a stability to the position that the team had never truly seen. It marked the beginning of John Harbaugh's time as head coach, following the end of Brian Billick's era. This, when the Mile High Miracle was but a twinkle in Flacco's eye, was the beginning of one of a record breaking streak of playoff wins and starts for the young quarterback out of Delaware. Le'ron McClain led the Ravens in rushing with 86 and the Ravens moved to 1-0 (They would finish the season 11-5). Though the early stages of what has been a rewarding career, this game marked a significant transition for the team and signaled that perhaps Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh would be a winning combination.
January 12, 2013, AFC Division vs. Denver Broncos - "The Mile High Miracle"
No other game can make me respond with more emotion than the 2012-13 AFC Divisional. Depression, distraught, despair, hope, anxiety, joy, and praise.
Opening drive stalling, no biggie, we can't score every possession (although I wish it worked that way). Sam Koch takes the field, punts to the ten yard line, and Trindon takes it all the way back 90 yards for the score. What a gut check to see the Broncos put up 7 and Manning hasn't even put on his helmet. Kickoff and Jacoby then muffs the punt on the 6 yard line. With two very bleak plays in a row I started to get the feeling Ray was going to retire 3 victories short. They really just felt like a bad omen. I switched seats in the house, paranoid that the football gods were mad I was on the wrong side of the couch. We then get a pass interference call, so obviously it was the cushion I switched onto. And just like that, BOOM Torrey caught Champ Bailey with his shoes untied, and scores a 59 yard Flacco bomb. The Broncos offense finally takes the field and Manning tosses one to Corey Graham for a Raven touchdown. Any doubts from earlier were erased. Back and forth we go now, Manning scoring one and I accepted the score, knowing we couldn't contain that offense all game as opposed to the Colts the previous weekend. Another drive for the Broncos comes up short and Prater misses a field goal, and as any fan I was filled with hope and some cockiness thinking, "That's going to be a bigger factor than 'just a missed field goal' "! Baltimore takes the field now with 1:16 on the clock and with three plays goes the distance, once again Torrey beating Bailey for 32 yards. Second half comes up and I'm ready, we're tied and Trindon quickly ends that with 104 yards of boost. We start to creep back on a fumble and Ray takes 5 handoffs in a row and ties it up. We don't drive for another score, as we turnover on downs. They run the clock and force our time outs. Finally getting the ball back with less than a minute. I remember just sitting there lost and confused. We couldn't do it. There is 77 whole yards from the endzone, no timeouts, no run game is available. Third and Three. All I could think was, "This is it right here" as negatively possible.
"From the gun... Denver rushes three... Flacco.. steps up.. Throws.. Deep.. Far sideline Jacoby Jones HAS IT AT THE TWENTY (OOO) JACOBY JONES TOUCHDOWN (OOOO) RAVENS! NO FLAGS ON THE PLAY AND THE MIRACLE IS ANSWERED!"
The reaction I had was just screaming YES THEY DID IT THEY DID IT YES! I went from room to room yelling and celebrating. The play was absolutely unbelievable. We tied the game with 31 seconds left. Then the kneel from Coach Fox sends this to OT.
Ravens are stopped; punt. Broncos are stopped; punt. Ravens are stopped; punt. Paranoid that every play for Denver will be the last play for the Ravens. Peyton rolls out to the right under pressure as Kruger chases him down. Manning throws on the run and Corey Graham makes the catch again. His second interception of the night, both being massive plays. Soon enough the clock winds down to double overtime. Ravens are stopped and Tucker is forced onto the field. A 47 yard attempt in the fridgid air. The ball soars until finally hitting the netting and in between the goal posts, sending the Ravens to the AFC Championship. More screaming ensued. Tucker running and punches the air in celebration, Lewis completely kneeled over as Ray Rice comes over celebrate the moment with his teammate. Before I knew it I was also kneeled over, almost in tears as the Baltimore Ravens had become victorious.
September 11 2011, Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - "The Baltimore Beatdown"
Need I explain why? So much emotions ran through this game. it was the season opener, it was the tenth "anniversary" of nine eleven and we were playing the team we had lost to in the playoffs , in the most despicable fashion, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After a bizarre off-season featuring a lock-out and the loss of several veterans including Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, the Ravens took the field with a revamped offensive line and the feeling that the Steelers would not escape. It was our time.
And was it ever. Ray Rice, who had never scored a touchdown versus the Steelers ripped up the left side of the line for the thirty-six yards on the very first play. He then ran for two. Joe Flacco proceeded to unleash a twenty-seven yard touch throw up the left sideline to a well covered Anquan Boldin. One handed catch, touchdown. Yeah, it was our time. Flacco repeated the pin-point passes throughout the game, notably tossing a touchdown to Ed Dickson ( who could apparently catch) at the start of the second half. He played, what i thought at the time was the best game of his career.
The defense also returned after a two year hiatus under Gregg Madison. Pagano's boys were on fire. Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis played like the stars they were and lead the defense to force seven turnovers. They played fast, aggressive and pro-active, taking the ball away instead of waiting for turnovers to simply happen. Most importantly, they played angry. It was clear the divisional lost was still fresh in memory. Terrell Suggs delivered a hit on Roethlisberger that set the tone for the game. Watching that play again, the hit and sack-fumble still make me cringe.
Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams performed well. A welcomed sight to see after the days of Dominique Foxworth and Fabian Washington.
However what made it one of my all time favorite game was the pre-game hype. the talk of "Flacco couldn't beat Big Ben" had run it's course. Heath Evans, Merrill Hodge and others all ate crow.
September 11 2002, Week 4 vs. Denver Broncos - "The field goal return"
While the 2002 season was a rough year overall for the Ravens, I specifically remember this game for being the last live game I've been to. Monday Night Football... A game we weren't supposed to win. In fact, it wasn't even going to be close. John Madden was in the booth and without saying it outright, he was heavily hinting that it would be a good game if the Ravens just didn't get blown out.
However, like the Ravens always like to do, there would be none of that in their house. Highlighted by a monster hit from Ray Lewis on a missed field goal, Chris McCalister returned it 108 yards (later changed to 107, boooo) seconds before the half. A half in which the Ravens absolutely destroyed the Broncos, outscoring them 31-0 in the second quarter alone. The stadium was rocking the entire game, but reached a fevered pitch the second that McCalister got the ball in his hands and started running. Lewis' block elicited a massive and deep "OOOOO" from the stadium that I'm sure set some type of record at the time.
The Ravens beat the Broncos in every facet. From blocking a punt to returning the missed field goal to bashing Brian Griese into three interceptions and pissing off Pro Bowl corner Deltha O'Neal into pushing a ref and getting ejected. The offense was led by Chris Redman and Jamal Lewis and was efficient, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for one more. This game more than any other that I can remember epitomizes the Ravens' underdog mentality that sticks with the team even now.
This journal entry is from January 25, 2001. Yes I have 11 books, yes I still write, but I digress...
"New York Giants vs Baltimore Ravens gonna win!! I bet dis dude $2."
He hasn't paid me back yet. This game taught me two things. One. Defense wins championships (yawn). Two, Trent Dilfer is a great ... person! Watching the Ravens defense obliterate the Giants almost made me feel guilty for enjoying the embarrassing loss. Lord have mercy, the Ravens harassed Kerry Collins into throwing four interceptions and sacked him four times. They stuffed Tiki "Lightning" Barber, holding him to 2.2 yards-per-carry. (He ran for 49 total on 11 carries, but only because his "long" went for 27 yards.) Not only is this one of the best defensive performances put up by their unit, but they executed perfection on the world's greatest stage.
September 11 2011, Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - "The Game of Thrones"
There are many good choices and it would be easy to choose one of the playoff games from the 2012 Super Bowl run but I cannot because there was a game prior to it that really changed things for Baltimore and remains my favorite game. It was a game that showed us and everyone else that things were going to be different in the AFC North and that we were just as deserving of a place at the head of the AFC as anyone else. That was the 35-7 domination of the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 1 of 2011.
In 2010, the Ravens had blown a game that they had command of to cost themselves what I believe would have been a Super Bowl appearance. Letting that game get away created the perception that somehow Baltimore couldn't win the division because it couldn't compete with Pittsburgh and as a result couldn't close on a Super Bowl.
The Ravens showed up in 2011 angry and played like it. As former NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi, currently a front office executive with the Patriots, wrote at the time:
"Baltimore played the best game of any team this weekend. No matter who the Ravens faced on opening day, they were going to win -- and win big. Their pad level was down, they were physical and most of all they were determined."
As Lombardi goes on to correctly note, Joe Flacco was deadly accurate, throwing daggers everywhere. His first pass was a perfect throw to Boldin for a touchdown. He had another to Ed Dickson on a deep cross. Ray Rice and the offensive line made plays all day, dominating the Steelers defense in a way that no one had seen done in a long time. The defense brutalized Roethlisberger and Mendenhall repeatedly, causing fumbles and interceptions with the ferocity of their hits.
The Ravens played this game like a team that was fed up with what had been going on. This game showed everyone that Baltimore was more than just a dangerous wild card team, destined to do some damage before falling to the likes of Brady, Manning, or Roethlisberger.
Flacco and the Ravens put an exclamation point on it eight weeks later in their big-time comeback at Heinz Field, still Flacco’s best drive of his career. The Ravens were different and determined in 2011, carrying that attitude to the AFC Championship where they again outplayed elite competition. Despite blowing it in the final seconds, it was impossible not to conclude that Flacco and Baltimore possessed the championship mettle to get the job done eventually – which they would do just one year later.