Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens throws a 32-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game. He also had touchdown throws of 59 and 70 yards the last to Jacoby Jones (below) with 31 seconds left in regulation. (Photo: Doug Pensinger , Getty Images)
It took 76 minutes and 42 seconds in in freezing weather conditions. The game went into the second overtime period, but Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis led the elderly Baltimore Ravens to an upset win in Denver Saturday evening in the 1st AFC Divisional playoff game. The 13-3 Broncos led by future Hall of Fame Quarterback and his high octane offense as well as one of the best defensive units in the league were prohibitive favorites having won their last 11 games before the playoffs.
Temperatures hovered around 10 degrees most of the game and as darkness fell snow began to fall. In the thin air and cold weather conditions it seemed that the Ravens had little chance. However the Ravens had more in them than most people or experts gave them credit.
Joe Flacco had an outstanding day throwing for 331 yards and had touchdown passes of 59, 32 and 70 yards, the last coming with only 31 seconds left in the game. The Ravens cut through the Broncos defense for 479 net offensive yards. The Ravens defense gave up almost 400 yards against the Bronco offense but held when they needed and provided the first Ravens score when Corey Graham intercepted a Peyton Manning pass and ran it back for a touchdown.
The Broncos appeared to dominate most of the game holding an edge in time of possession and number of plays going into overtime. However, every time they went ahead the plucky Ravens found a way to come back.
Manning was 28-43 for 290 yards with 3 touchdowns, but also had two interceptions, including the pick six by Graham. The Broncos defense which gave up an average 290.8 yards a game in the season bas battered by a relentless Ravens running game and gave up the deep ball for touchdowns too many times and gave up almost 14 points more than their average of 18.1 during the regular season. The Broncos scoring was helped by Trindon Holloway who returned a punt for 90 yards and a kick off 104 yards for touchdowns.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones (L) catches a pass behind Denver Broncos free safety Rahim Moore and then scores a touchdown with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter in their NFL AFC Divisional playoff football game in Denver, Colorado January 12, 2013. (REUTERS Photo Rick Wilking)
The game went to overtime in a late game offensive flurry. Manning threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 1:09 remaining. Not to be deterred Flacco threw a 70 yard bomb to an open Jacoby Jones to tie the game 35-35 with 31 seconds left in the game. Flacco’s throw to Jones, which some are now calling the “Flacco Fling” ranks up with Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary” in the 1975 NFC Championship, the “Immaculate Reception” thrown by Terry Bradshaw against the Oakland Raiders in the 1972 AFC Title Game and “the Catch” thrown by Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship between the 49ers and the Cowboys.
After a scoreless first overtime period the Broncos appeared to be driving again. However Manning was intercepted again by Graham. The Ravens were able to move the ball into field goal range and Justin Tucker kicked a 47 yard field goal to give the Ravens the victory.
The game was one of the longest playoff games in NFL history and was a devastating defeat for the favored number one seeded Broncos who were Super Bowl favorites. Manning and the Broncos will now go home while the Ravens will go on to play the winner of the Patriots and Texans game.
Future Hall of Famers Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (R) speaks with Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis after the Ravens defeated the Broncos in their NFL AFC Divisional playoff football game in Denver, Colorado January 12, 2013. (REUTERS Photo, Jeff Haynes)
For the Ravens it was an emotional win in what is not an ordinary post-season. A 9 1/2 point underdog going into the game they played with pride and determination. With the oldest roster in the NFL it is doubtful how many players will return for another year. Future Hall of Fame Linebacker Ray Lewis has already announced his retirement and for many of these players this season could well be their last chance at NFL Super Bowl glory.
Despite the loss I expect that the relatively young and healthy Broncos will be back next year as Peyton Manning has demonstrated his ability to recover from what many thought would be career ending neck surgery. Expect John Elway to strengthen the Broncos roster and again dominate the otherwise weak AFC West.
After the dismal games of the Wild Card weekend it was good to see an exciting and competitive game. We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes, but this game marked a good start to the rest of the NFL post-season.