Oh, the gall. The audacity. The sheer effrontery! Those Baltimore Ravens have some nerve making it to the Super Bowl after tormenting me all season. How did they do it? Oh, let me count the ways.
Let’s see, there were those six losses during the regular season. Two were blowout losses, to the Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos.
Three were close losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins. One was a meaningless season-ending loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.The Ravens won 10 regular season games, enough for them to win the American Football Conference North Division title. Oh, they tried to blow it, but the Steelers and Bengals were simply too accommodating.
Three of the victories— over the Bengals, Oakland Raiders and New York Giants— were blowouts. The other seven victories were skin-of-the-teeth affairs that made me almost lose what’s left of my hair.
The game that stands out most among those is the one that left me with the sneaking suspicion that these 2012 Ravens— with all their deficiencies— just might make it to the Super Bowl.
That was the game against the San Diego Chargers. Remember that one?
The Chargers gave the Ravens a smack around pretty much the entire game, but still led by only three in the closing moments. That’s when, on fourth and 29 from deep in Ravens territory, Ray Rice caught a pass for about two yards and then ran 27 for the first down.
If I live to be 247 years old I will never figure out how that happened. I have been a professional football fan for 50 years. (Got my start watching National Football League games and games from the old American Football League.) I’ve never seen a pro team convert a fourth down and 29.
A team that can do that, I concluded, could probably do just about anything. And I’ll be darned if that isn’t what those underdog Ravens did.
With about 37 seconds left in the playoff game against the Broncos, the Ravens were on their own 30-yard line and trailed 35-28. All the Broncos had to do was prevent the Ravens from throwing a deep pass for 37 measly seconds.
Didn’t happen. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco heaved a 70-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jakobi Jones. The extra point tied the score and the Ravens won in overtime.
That victory was a surprise. Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback, had beaten the Ravens in, I believe, nine consecutive games, probably because he had a knack for reading the Ravens defense the way a Phi Beta Kappa could read a grade school primer.
Manning’s knack helped neither him nor his team. These 2012 Ravens seemed like a team on a mission and, by now, we all know what that mission is— Ray Lewis’ last ride to the Super Bowl.
Number 52 tore his triceps muscle in the game against the Dallas Cowboys and was thought to be out for the season. Then the Ravens— and the rest of us— learned this would be Lewis’ last season.
Just when we thought we had seen the last of him, there was number 52 again, taking the field against the Irsay Colts in the first playoff game and leading the team in tackles.
He did his last dance in M&T Stadium and then took that famous victory lap. Football “experts” swore we had seen the last of him, that the Broncos would dispatch the Ravens the next week.
However, Lewis and his teammates had other plans, as the Broncos soon learned. So did the New England Patriots, who fell to the Ravens in the AFC championship game.
Now number 52 leads his Ravens into the Super Bowl for his last run. I have no idea how it’ll turn out, but I know I’m hoping for an ending Hollywood couldn’t match.