Against all odds, the Baltimore Ravens are your Super Bowl champions! Despite a season filled with adversity and struggles, the team banded together to peak at the right time, riding an emotional tidal wave on the way to a championship.
Naturally, their path to the championship came down to the final few minutes. The Ravens blew a 22-point lead, but never actually trailed in the game, as they won 34-31.
Like the entire season, though, this game was a nail-biter.
This season was truly a roller-coaster ride for the Ravens. Let's take a look at the full timeline on their path to the Lombardi Trophy.
A Bright Start to the Season (Week 1, 1-0)
The Ravens were expected to be a competitor this season, but nobody saw their initial dominance coming. The unveiling of the Ravens' no-huddle attack went off without a hitch, as the team put up 430 yards of total offense in a 44-13 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Finding flaws in the Ravens' performance is nearly impossible. Joe Flacco was picture perfect, throwing for 299 yards on 21-of-29 passing, while the running game was efficient on limited carries.
The defense, meanwhile, excelled. Ray Lewis racked up 14 tackles and a sack, while Lardarius Webb held A.J. Green to just 70 yards and no touchdowns. As a unit, the Ravens racked up four sacks and two turnovers, showing a penchant for splash plays.
According to Sports Illustrated, the team's stellar performance led coach John Harbaugh to proclaim, regarding Joe Flacco's contract situation, "Pay the man!"
Hopes were high in Baltimore after Week 1.
First Signs of Trouble (Week 2, 1-1)
The dominance of the Ravens’ season opener evaporated by the second week of the season. Against the lowly Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens blew a 10-point lead at the half to lose 24-23.
Blame went all around for this game. The pass defense surrendered 371 yards to Michael Vick, who eventually got benched later in the season.
Cary Williams struggled badly in coverage, allowing DeSean Jackson to have his way in the short passing game to the tune of seven catches for 114 yards.
Further, Brent Celek went off for 157 yards, exposing the Ravens linebackers in coverage.
Finally, although the Eagles only accumulated two sacks, they also racked up a total of 20 pressures for the game.
Looking at the Ravens’ season, these problem areas would persist. The offensive line would continue to struggle in pass protection for much of the regular season, while the Ravens pass defense was continuously abused.
Their flaws were exposed in this game. The Ravens had to make a quick turnaround to show that they could overcome those flaws.
An Emotional Victory (Week 3, 2-1)
Revenge was on the Ravens’ minds as they hosted the New England Patriots in Week 3. Just nine months prior to this game, the Patriots handed the Ravens their exit ticket from the playoffs in dramatic fashion. Needless to say, the Ravens had this game circled on their schedule.
Upon hearing about the death of Torrey Smith’s brother, the Ravens would be sure to crank up the emotion.
Crank up the emotion they did. Despite falling behind early, the Ravens clawed their way back, keyed by spectacular performances from Joe Flacco and Smith. Smith was especially impressive, catching six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
The Ravens’ strong passing game brought them within two points of the Patriots heading into their final drive. Flacco led the Ravens down the field to set up a 27-yard field goal.
The scene was all too familiar. A key field goal against a hated foe would decide the game. In the 2012 AFC Championship Game, former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed badly on a game-tying field goal, sending the Ravens home for good.
Justin Tucker had replaced Cundiff in the offseason, but he had yet to prove himself on a key kick. Would he falter like Cundiff?
Though the kick may have been too close for comfort, Tucker’s kick was clearly good and provided the Ravens with a brilliant 31-30 win against one of the best teams in the NFL.
Little did we know this emotional performance would foreshadow the Ravens' entire season. Faced with near insurmountable odds, this team would always band together to come through in the most crucial situations.
Winning Ugly (Week 6, 5-1)
Emboldened by their big win, the Ravens looked prepared to excel in 2012. They came crashing back to earth, however, in their next several games. The Ravens reeled off three more wins after their emotional victory over New England, but they were hardly convincing.
Week 4 saw the Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns 23-16, but they needed a lucky Cary Williams pick-six to make it happen. It was hardly a convincing win for a team supposed to be among the AFC’s elite.
The next week was even worse. The Ravens were only able to put up nine points against the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, winning 9-6. Flacco and the Ravens offense struggled badly, while the run defense allowed Jamaal Charles to eat up clock and keep the Chiefs competitive in a game they had no business being in. The Ravens began an ugly streak in this meeting, giving up 200-plus yards in three straight games from Week 5 to Week 7.
This streak is especially embarrassing since the Ravens took on the Dallas Cowboys and their lowly rushing attack the following week. DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones thrashed the Ravens defense, and even a strong performance from Flacco was not enough for Baltimore to pull away. Ultimately, the Ravens were benefactors of a Dan Bailey missed field goal to seal the unconvincing victory.
Questions abounded in Baltimore at this point, but coaches and players alike maintained that wins were wins, and they were happy with where they were.
A Key Loss (Week 7, 5-2)
Happy though they were to be 5-1, the Ravens were devastated to lose Ray Lewis in their win over the Cowboys. Not only would the Ravens lose their defensive leader, but they would lose their best player at a position where the depth was hardly consistent.
The losses began to compound, as the Lewis-less Ravens were thrashed 43-13 by the Houston Texans. The return of Terrell Suggs was a nice story in this game, but it was offset by the brutal loss that saw Flacco once again struggle badly on the road.
Flacco’s accuracy was scatter-shot throughout the game, while the rushing attack failed to generate any consistency or momentum. The Ravens offensive line once again proved to be a weak point, and the team gave up 200-plus passing yards for the third straight week.
Despite being 5-2, the Ravens were a team with more questions than answers.
Another Winning Streak (Week 11, 8-2)
The Ravens' brutal loss to the Texans served as a wake-up call, and they proceeded to rip off four straight wins.
In a 25-15 win over Cleveland, the Ravens demonstrated that even a mediocre performance was enough to beat most teams. For sure, the Ravens seemed to sleepwalk through this one, yet they came away 10-point victors.
The following week saw the Ravens host the lowly Oakland Raiders. Fifty-five points later, the Ravens offense had put forth its best passing performance of the season, as Joe Flacco ripped off 341 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense, meanwhile, was opportunistic, forcing three turnovers and getting to Carson Palmer for three sacks.
A 13-10 victory over the hated Pittsburgh Steelers the next week virtually guaranteed the Ravens a divisional championship and set the team up nicely for a deep playoff run.
A Sense of Something Special (Week 12, 9-2)
Riding a three game winning streak, the Ravens seemed poised to crash back to earth the next week in a trip to San Diego, where they would take on the Chargers.
Everything about this game screamed trap: The Ravens always struggle on the road, the Chargers had the passing game to take advantage of the Ravens’ porous pass defense and Baltimore simply seemed due for a loss.
At the half, that script seemed to be accurate as the Ravens trailed 10-0. Flacco and the offense couldn’t put a drive together.
Something clicked in that second half, though, as the Ravens began a fast and furious comeback. Flacco began to get into a rhythm, starting with a big play on a drag route from Torrey Smith. There seemed to be hope after all.
All hope seemed lost, however, when the Ravens faced a game-deciding 4th-and-29. Flacco dropped back to pass, the offensive line protected well…then Flacco dumped off to Ray Rice.
I’ll admit, at this point, I was screaming about Joe Flacco's idiocy. How could a franchise quarterback make so stupid a decision as to dump off on a game-deciding 4th-and-29?
Well, Flacco may have been crazy, but he was crazy like a fox. Rice weaved around and through the Chargers defense, diving to get to the first-down marker. By the skin of his teeth, Rice made it, and the legend of “Hey Diddle, Diddle, Ray Rice Up the Middle” was born.
The Ravens eventually won the game in overtime, making fans and analysts alike wonder if there was something special about this team. I was not alone in thinking that Baltimore had something special that it lacked in year’s past: the killer instinct to win in the most unlikely situations.
The Wheels Fall Off (Week 14, 9-4)
The Ravens were 9-2 and riding high. There were still questions about their defense and their offensive consistency, but they seemed to have a winning edge that would keep them at the forefront of the AFC.
They couldn’t outrun their issues any longer, though, as the Ravens proceeded to fall completely apart.
Starting with a 23-20 loss to the Steelers, the Ravens went 1-4 in their last five games.
Three of those losses stand out as particularly embarrassing.
That loss to the Steelers was pathetic considering that the decrepit Charlie Batch was under center for the Black and Gold, and the game was in Baltimore. It was the Ravens' first home loss since 2010, and it couldn’t have come in more embarrassing fashion.
The next week, the Ravens blew a 14-point lead to the Washington Redskins, culminating with a successful two-point conversion by backup quarterback Kirk Cousins. Both Cousins and starter Robert Griffin III were able to have their way with the Ravens defense, while the Ravens offense fell completely apart in the second half.
A Season-Defining Move (Week 15, 9-5)
Disgusted with the Ravens’ offensive inconsistency, the decision makers elected to fire Cam Cameron, replacing him with Jim Caldwell. The move came as a shock, as the Ravens were ranked 18th at the time on offense, not great but not awful, and were still considered Super Bowl contenders.
The move didn’t keep the Ravens from their third embarrassing loss in a row, as they fell 34-17 in a home game against the Denver Broncos. The new offense never got going, while the defense was unable to contain Peyton Manning for the entire game. Knowshon Moreno had a career day as well, guiding the Broncos to that dominant victory.
The Ravens finally got back on the wagon with a dominant win over the New York Giants in which they put up a season-high 533 yards of offense. The win cemented the Ravens’ second consecutive AFC North Championship.
The Ravens' last game against the Cincinnati Bengals is hardly worth discussing, as they barely played their starters. Tyrod Taylor had some good moments, but his passing was highly suspect. The one-dimensional Ravens lost the meaningless game.
Welcome Back (Week 17, 10-6)
They knew it was coming, but to truly get No. 52 back on the field must have seemed surreal for the Baltimore Ravens. Get him back they did, and the playoffs grew in importance for this team.
Before their first game, Ray Lewis declared he would retire. When the Ravens hosted the Indianapolis Colts, it would be Lewis’ last home game.
An Emotional Farewell (Wild Card Round)
Lewis’ final home game and final performances have been dissected repeatedly. One video sums up what he has meant to this team:
Look how the team swamped him in his final dance out of the tunnel. This team responds to its emotional leader, and it has shown in its play.
In the first matchup against the Colts, Joe Flacco and the Ravens looked in control for the most part. The Colts’ proved a worthy foe, as they were able to dominate the time of possession battle, possessing the ball for 15 minutes more than the Ravens. Still, the Ravens’ big plays were too much for the Colts to overcome, as Flacco passed for 282 yards on just 23 attempts.
The Ravens would advance, but few gave them a chance against the Denver Broncos, the No. 1 seed in the AFC and probably the best all-around team in football.
The Mile High Miracle (Divisional Round)
The Ravens were on their toes this entire game. The Broncos opened the game with a Trindon Holliday kickoff-return touchdown, forcing the Ravens to respond to Broncos scores the entire game.
Seemingly, just as the Ravens would tie the game, the Broncos would pull back ahead. If they took a lead, it would evaporate almost immediately.
The Broncos took a 35-28 lead with 7:11 left in the game, and the Ravens' next drive stalled. The end seemed to be in sight.
A defensive stop set the Ravens up with time, but they still needed a massive touchdown drive to even tie the game. Enter Jacoby Jones and the Mile High Miracle.
Blame Broncos safety Rahim Moore if you want. He certainly took a bad angle and a poorly timed jump. Certainly, the throw wasn’t great from Flacco, but give credit where credit is due. He got the ball there, and Jones showed tremendous focus and fortitude to come down with the ball. That 70-yard touchdown pass would go down as perhaps the most brilliant play in franchise history.
The Ravens went on to win in double overtime, thanks in large part to Corey Graham’s second interception of the game vs. Peyton Manning.
Revenge (AFC Championship Game)
The Ravens lost to the Patriots in last year’s AFC Championship Game because of missed opportunities. That the Patriots would do the same a year later is only fitting.
Once again, this looked like a mismatch on paper, but the Ravens’ intensity was starting to be taken seriously.
Their intensity was put to the test early, as the Patriots led 13-7 after two quarters that they had largely dominated. Conservative play calling and a struggling running game were killing the Ravens. They needed to open up their offense to contend in the second half.
That’s exactly what they did, allowing Joe Flacco to come out and dominate. Flacco threw three second-half touchdowns, while the Patriots surrendered three turnovers to send the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Champions!
The Ravens picked up where they left off in the AFC Championship game, dominating the 49ers early. They accumulated a 21-6 lead at the half, then extended it to 28-6 after a 108-yard Jacoby Jones touchdown return to begin the second half.
That's when the Ravens' problems began to show again. The offensive line began to deteriorate, the defense couldn't contain the 49ers' speed and drops plagued the receivers. They couldn't sustain drives, kill time or stop the 49ers.
Suddenly, Flacco began to take over again. Along with a running game that did just enough, the offense sustained two nice drives to kill time and put up a pair of field goals.
The 49ers would not quit, though. They drove down to the Ravens' 5-yard line, where the Ravens held them on the first three downs.
It all came down to one play. Colin Kaepernick lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone, and it fell incomplete! Jimmy Smith had some physical coverage on the play that kept Michael Crabtree from scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
This Super Bowl could not have been more perfect for the Ravens. Ray Lewis went out on top. Ed Reed picked off a pass and won his first championship. Joe Flacco asserted himself as MVP and a star. What could be better?
If you're a Ravens fan, nothing.