Let first me say that I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving with their loved ones.
Thanksgiving and football go very well each and every last Thursday of November, and the Baltimore Ravens have been a part of this tradition in recent memory. Two times to be exact, in 2011 and 2013, with both coming out as Baltimore wins. Both were rather memorable in their own way, whether it was because of a football family or another chapter in a heated rivalry.
2011's case was not only a matchup of head coaching brothers, but a mini-preview of the following season's Super Bowl. John Harbaugh's Ravens took on Jim Harbaugh's surprising San Francisco 49ers at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens entered the game at the top of the AFC North and swept the Pittsburgh Steelers a few weeks prior, while the 49ers were riding high on a eight game winning streak led by a strong defense and a quarterback in Alex Smith who was resurrected from the quarterback graveyard. The work that Jim Harbaugh did on Smith in his first year as head coach after Smith was a proverbial bust his first six seasons was nothing short of remarkable.
Harbowl I was exactly as you would have expected from two of the best defenses in football during the 2011 season. It was the Ravens defense that shined the biggest on this Thanksgiving night. Baltimore held the 49ers offense to two field goals, and sacked Smith nine times. Three of them came from Terrell Suggs, who would go on to win Defensive Player of the Year for that season. The defense held running back Frank Gore to 39 yards on 14 carries, and the Ravens offense, while not great, was able to hold their own against a great 49ers defense. The offense didn't turn the ball over and played well in the fourth quarter with Joe Flacco completing a touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta which put the Ravens up 13-6. Later in the fourth quarter, the offense drove the field again with big conversions by Ray Rice and Ricky Williams, finished with a field goal by Billy Cundiff to give the Ravens a 16-6 lead that they wouldn't let go.
John Harbaugh won round one in a game that was special for both the Ravens, 49ers, and the entire Harbaugh family on a holiday. The game of course would be a prelude of things to come just 15 months later in the Superdome.
The Ravens 2013 Thanksgiving matchup was more personal, as the team faced the Steelers in Baltimore. Both teams were fighting for a wild-card berth with the Cincinnati Bengals in control of the AFC North division. With both teams being below .500, a lot was on the line again between these two. The game was as wild and as crazy as you will see in a game between the Ravens and Steelers. Justin Tucker kicked five field goals, and the defense held the Steelers on a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game. During that final drive with the Ravens up 22-14, Pittsburgh actually scored twice on touchdowns to Heath Miller and Le'Veon Bell, but both were overruled. Miller was ruled down at the one, and Bell's was infamous due to him being hit by Jimmy Smith that caused him to lose his helmet and ruling the ball dead.
Ben Roethlisberger would throw a touchdown pass to Jericho Cotchery which cut the lead to 22-20. However, Emmanuel Sanders dropped the two-point conversion being covered by Chykie Brown and the Ravens escaped with a win.
This chapter of the rivalry however, is of course remembered for the incident that occurred Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. On the ensuring kickoff after a Steelers touchdown, Jones took it 73 yards to the Pittsburgh 27-yard line, but controversy ensured as Tomlin was standing very close to the field of play and jumped out of Jones' way at the last second. This spread attention that Tomlin intentionally was trying to interfere with Jones' return to give his team an advantage, and it has caused many debates and uproars between the two fan bases of whether or not it was intentional.
Tomlin said after the game that he always looked at the JumboTron's during returns, and also saying that he lost his placement. Whatever the case, the play added more fuel to the rivalry, and made Jacoby Jones and Mike Tomlin parallel to each other when it comes to Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
What is the most memorable Ravens Thanksgiving game?
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2011 vs. 49ers
2013 vs. Steelers