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Faceoff: Recapping the Ravens

6 February 2013 By Jeff McDonough, Contributing Writer, and Matt Hamilton, Staff Writer No Comments
Looking back at Baltimore’s fairytale season

Ravens in review

Jeff McDonough, Contributing Writer: The final chapter of the Baltimore Ravens’ 2012 championship season was written Tuesday during a celebratory parade where an estimated 200,000 people lined the streets and packed the stadium to cheer on their team. The joy and enthusiasm of this town has been emphatic and resounding.

Now we can begin to reflect on how exactly this journey ended with a Lombardi Trophy.

Going into the 2012 campaign, the Ravens were feeling confident. If it had not been for what I have dubbed “the worst missed field goal in NFL history,” the team well could’ve played for a Super Bowl the previous season.

Two weeks after the opener, tragedy struck when Torrey Smith’s brother died in a motorcycle crash the morning of a Sunday night game against the Patriots. With a heavy heart, Smith authored an inspirational performance, catching six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help the Ravens avenge the loss to the Pats in the AFC Championship months earlier.

Baltimore started 5-1 and even Suggs was nearing a miraculous comeback. Fans were on cloud nine until shortly after the Ravens’ fifth win when the team announced four top defensive stars sustained major injuries, most notably Ray Lewis.

The depleted bunch was absolutely throttled in Houston, suffering a 30-point loss. This is the moment I hit rock bottom as a fan and declared the Browns would win more games than the Ravens.

But the team rebounded, reeling off a four-game win streak, This streak saw a gritty win in Pittsburgh, where Jacoby Jones scored the Ravens’ only touchdown, and a 4th and 29 conversion by Ray Rice in San Diego sparked a remarkable overtime win.

The Ravens lost their next three games, though, to fall to 9-5. The most startling turn of events was when their 16-game home win streak turned into a two-game home skid after a Charlie Batch game-winning drive and a Flacco pick-six in successive home efforts.

But the Ravens pounded the defending Champion Giants the next week to clinch an AFC North title.

As a fan, I entered the playoffs like a punch-drunk prizefighter: battered, bruised and ready to throw in the towel. This just didn’t seem like our year.

All of that changed on a dime when Ray Lewis, the leader of this franchise for its 17-years existence, announced his retirement just before the playoffs began. This was no longer “just another year.” Losing was no longer an option. And as Torrey Smith said, neither was failure.

The team looked impressive in a home win vs. Indianapolis and Ray Lewis did what we thought would be his final dance as the clock expired. We saw one more bonus dance during Tuesday’s post-Super Bowl bonanza.

The next week was maybe the best football game I’ve ever watched. Joe Flacco and his rocket arm propelled the boys in purple to a monumental upset in double overtime over Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. With 31 seconds left Flacco hurled the ball 50-plus yards in the air to Jacoby Jones to tie the game in a play now known as “The Rocky Mountain Rainbow.”

The following week the Ravens came full circle, upending the Patriots in Foxboro to claim the AFC crown. Flacco shined once again and the defense held Tom Terrific scoreless in the second half.

As if all the previous storylines hadn’t already engrained this improbable run into sports lore, Super Bowl XLVII saw two brothers facing off as opposing head coaches.

The stars aligned and the Ravens prevailed over the 49ers thanks to two unbelievable touchdowns by Jacoby Jones, some more big-arm heroics from Flacco and a nerve-racking goal line stand to end the game.

A lot of questions face this team as we go forward, none bigger than Flacco’s contract, but I’m not ready to start thinking about all that quite yet. I want to soak all this in.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said it best Tuesday. “I don’t know how many more times we can do this, bringing championships home, before Baltimore loses that chip on its shoulder. I hope it doesn’t ever happen.”

12-year skid is over

Matt Hamilton, Staff Writer: I sit here, sucking on what seems like my 10th cough drop of the day, trying to bring my voice back so I can communicate with people again, and I wonder, is this real life? Did the Ravens really just win the Super Bowl?

I feel like it still hasn’t sunk in yet that my hometown team has just brought the most coveted trophy in American sports (second in the world to the World Cup trophy) to Baltimore. Honestly, I don’t know if it will ever sink in.

However, what I do know is how much this championship meant to my city, the city of Baltimore. I may live in Harford County, but I was born in the city and lived there for two years, so I will label myself a proud Baltimorian.

I went to the send-off rally and saw thousands of fans scream at the top of their lungs for the Ravens on a soggy, cold Monday morning.

When the Ravens won, I immediately ran out of my house and sprinted around my neighborhood in my lucky Ravens slippers.

I heard screaming and hollering ringing out from all directions, equipped with fireworks and the banging of pots and pans.

It really was a remarkable scene to be a part of. Every Ravens fan was united at that one moment of ecstasy. Whatever hardships these fans were facing were brushed aside for that brief time.

I went to the parade Tuesday and I was in awe the entire time. I stood on the field at M&T Bank Stadium, among 200,000 other fans all with the same goal: to thank the Baltimore Ravens.

Fans in Baltimore had waited 12 years for this moment. Although 12 years doesn’t seem like long for some teams (*cough, cough* Redskins and Jets fans), I swore it lasted an eternity.

Baltimorians everywhere watched the Ravens draft Joe Flacco in 2008 and watched the success begin.

We made it to the AFC Championship in the first year under Flacco, only to be gutted by those cruddy Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baltimore wept collectively on that day.

After two more depressing playoff losses, we arrived back in the AFC title game. This time against Thomas Brady and the gang, and we all know how that went.

Baltimore wept collectively like little girls on that day.

I suppose this doesn’t seem so bad when you think about the Buffalo Bills of the early ‘90s, but no one is, so it seems pretty bad.

This entire season just had a sense of urgency to it.

Whether it was unfaithful fans crying for Flacco’s job after a losing streak, or the impending free agents whose current contracts would end with the season, the Ravens knew it was now or never.

Then there was Ray Lewis.

Simply put, he is the Cal Ripken of the Ravens.

Lewis was the king of this town for 17 years and his reign was ending. We had to get him a Lombardi trophy as a going away present.

We did.

After four thrilling games, Ray Lewis stood on the podium with that shiny silver trophy. Everything stopped at that moment, and Baltimore wept collectively once again. This time, they were tears of joy.

In my opinion, the city of Baltimore is closer to its teams than any other in America. We never gave up on our Ravens, and we deserved that moment of ecstasy.

I was too young to savor in the victory in 2001, but I imagine it felt like this.

But I will gladly wait another 12 years for a championship. The longer the wait, the better the feeling.

Until then, let’s go O’s!

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