In what was one of, if not the greatest football games that I personally saw, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos 38-35 in double overtime to advance to their second consecutive AFC Championship game and third in the past five seasons.
In a game full of momentum swings, huge plays, excitement, emotion and points, there were several plays that could be looked at as key plays of the game, but I have broken down the film and here are my top six plays that determined the game for the Baltimore Ravens:
- #6 Broncos Matt Prater misses 52 yard field goal – This play was huge for a couple reasons, one, I was shocked that they even attempted the field goal as opposed to punting the football. Denver was up by a touchdown with 1:21 left in the first half, and could have pinned the Ravens deep in their own territory and basically go into halftime up seven, but instead attempted the field goal, which Prater missed, giving Baltimore great field position to attempt to score before the end of the half (which they did and tied the game). Second, if he makes it, Baltimore would have been down ten points, which would have been the biggest deficit for either team the entire game. Lastly, it swung momentum in the favor of the Ravens, which in a game like this, is huge.
- #5 Failed 3rd and 7 conversion with two minutes remaining in fourth quarter – The Broncos were up seven at the two minute warning in the fourth quarter and were facing a 3rd and seven. If they convert the game would have been over as Baltimore was out of timeouts. Instead of trusting himself to make the play, Peyton Manning audibled to a run play which was stopped by Baltimore and Denver was forced to punt the ball back to the Ravens with 1:09 left in the game.
- #4 Justin Tucker's 47 yard game winning field goal – You may be asking yourself, how is this number four?! Well let me explain, basically without the top three plays, this play doesn't even happen. Tucker lined up for the field goal and all of Baltimore was having horrid flashbacks of last year's AFC Championship game when then Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed the potential game tying field goal and sent the Ravens home, but Tucker drilled the 47 yarder with plenty of leg and a little bit of room to spare inside the upright.
- #3 Corey Graham's interception in overtime – No surprise here, Graham had picked off Manning earlier in the game and took it to the house, but this interception was even bigger. Graham, who had actually gotten beat on the play, recovered quickly and snagged Manning's pass attempt to give Baltimore the ball on the Broncos 45 yardline and giving the Ravens offense the chance to win the football game.
- #2 Joe Flacco's first quarter touchdown pass to Torrey Smith – This play was huge in my opinion, not just because it tied the game early on and exposed that Torrey Smith owned Champ Bailey, but it couldn't have come at a better time for the Ravens. Denver had just exploded with a huge special teams play as Trendon Holliday returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown that erupted the already raucous crowd in Denver. The Ravens hadn't had a punt or kickoff returned on them all season, and many people around the football world thought, "well there goes the game for Baltimore," but in just one minute and 43 seconds, Flacco orchestrated an answer as he hooked up with Smith for a 59 yard touchdown and the game was on. Without this play, I do not know if the Ravens are able to get back into this game.
- #1 Joe Flacco's 70 yard bomb to Jacoby Jones – Really? Did you expect to see any other play at number one? I know all of Baltimore erupted when Flacco overthrew the Broncos defender and the pass landed right in the chest of Jones for the game tying score with just :31 remaining in the game. Not only was it one of the more clutch passes I have ever seen, but the pure arm strength that it took to pull it off was impeccable. A pass that was throw a good 55 yards in the air is one thing, but the height at which he had to throw it was unreal, I mean it looked like a punt as high as it was and if the pass were not thrown that high, it doesn't get past the Broncos safety and we are not having this discussion. For all you Joe Flacco haters out there, Joe unquestionably shut you up with that throw!
There is no question that there are probably 15-20 other plays in this game that could have been noted, but I believe these were the six most important. What do you think of this list? What play should have made the list? What play doesn't deserve to be on this list? I would love to hear what your list would be, so post a comment and let your voice be heard.
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