A 70 yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 0:31 seconds left in regulation tied the game to send it to overtime, and a 47 yard Justin Tucker field goal in double overtime helped advance the Baltimore Ravens to the AFC Championship game for the second straight season as the beat the heavily favored Denver Broncos 38-35.
In a game that was full of surprises, the 70 yard game tying touchdown grab by Jones with just half a minute remaining was the biggest of them all. Broncos safety Rahim Moore jumped up to try and intercept the pass, but could not leap high enough as the ball went over his hands and right into Jacoby's chest for the touchdown. The pass itself was something to behold as Flacco threw it about 60-65 yards in the air to Jones to show that he does have the best arm strength in the NFL.
During Denver's second overtime possession, Manning was scrambling to his right when he decided to throw across his body in the direction of WR Brandon Stokley, but Ravens CB Corey Graham was a blanket on Stokley and made the interception at the Broncos 45 yardline that would set up the game winning drive, when Tucker nailed the 47 yarder for the victory.
''Yeah, bad throw,'' Manning said. ''Probably the decision wasn't great either. I thought I had an opening, and I didn't get enough on it, and I was trying to make a play and certainly a throw I'd like to have back.''
It was the second interception of the game for Graham who returned a pick off of Manning 39 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Late game big plays and heroics shouldn't have come as a surprise seeing as how the entire game was filled with big play after big play. Broncos' kickoff/punt returner Trendon Holliday became the first player in NFL History to return both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game. Holliday returned a punt 90 yards for a score in the first quarter, and then returned the opening kick of the second half back for a 104 yard touchdown, an accomplishment that is certainly overshadowed by the caliber of the game.
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith was the star of the show for Baltimore in the first half as he was consistently beating All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey. Smith completely burnt Bailey in the first quarter when he ran right passed him for a 59 yard touchdown reception that Flacco led him perfectly on. Later, in the second quarter, Flacco and Smith hooked up again for a 32 yard touchdown that saw Smith beat Bailey on the sideline and make a great adjustment to make the grab and walked into the end zone.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who seems to get more criticism than any quarterback in recent memory, at least for one day, shut those people up. He had one heck of a football game throwing for 331 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He showcased his arm strength on the game tying touchdown pass to Jones, constantly make spectacular throws on third downs in the second half and overtimes to extend drives, and made the plays when they mattered. Flacco showed Baltimore that he is the quarterback he said he was before this season began.
Ray Rice had a very nice day as well for the Ravens offense as he ran for 131 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown, while Smith reeled in three grabs for 98 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Baltimore receiving core. It was easily the best performance on the road for Baltimore's offense, who struggled to be consistent all season as they put up 479 total yards and was backed by another strong performance from their enhanced offensive line that only allowed one sack in 74 offensive plays.
In what many thought would be Ray Lewis's last game, as no one seemed to give the Ravens any chance at winning this football game, Lewis led all players with 17 tackles in the game and will see his ride continue on. Graham, as aforementioned had two interceptions including one for a touchdown and Terrell Suggs had two sacks in the game as well. Baltimore's defense did a fantastic job at disguising their defensive looks and held the Broncos to just 398 total yards even though they had 87 offensive plays.
The Ravens will now enjoy an extra day of rest before hitting the road to either Houston or New England next Sunday for the AFC Championship game. It will be Baltimore's second straight AFC Championship appearance in a row and will most likely be doubted again, but if you ask these Ravens, they couldn't care less.
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