The Top 10 Moments of the Baltimore Ravens' 2012 Season
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has been emphatic and consistent when talking about the Super Bowl victory. It's old news.
He has made it clear that he has moved on, telling the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec that any talk of defending the Lombardi trophy is meaningless at this point and will continue to be irrelevant, at least until next year's Super Bowl if the Baltimore Ravens make it that far again.
Luckily for us fans, we don't have to move on. We can bask in the glow of the storybook ending and relive the best moments from the season in our minds.
Well, now you don't have to do it in your head. Here are the top 10 moments, plays and memories from the Baltimore Ravens' 2012 season.
*Note: The NFL is very protective of their footage, so you can't embed their videos onto another site, and any YouTube clips showing highlights are quickly taken down. The clips on NFL.com are very good quality, however, so I have provided their links to all of the relevant clips. I'm sorry that it's not accessible here on Bleacher Report.
Honorable Mention: Jacoby Jones' 63-Yard Punt-Return Touchdown in Pittsburgh
The rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers is so fierce that any big play in their games is a memorable one. Joe Flacco's game-winning drive in 2011 was immortalized because he did it against the Steelers.
Any time you can get yourself a win and simultaneously hand a loss to a divisional foe, it’s a big deal. Jacoby Jones’ return touchdown in Week 11 did just that.
The Ravens offense struggled all day against the No. 1-ranked Pittsburgh defense. Joe Flacco passed for only 164 yards, and Ray Rice could only gain 40 yards on his 20 carries.
Jones’ return touchdown was the only one the Ravens could muster on that day, and it was the reason they beat the Steelers.
10. Sizzle's Comeback Sack
Injuries are a part of football. They're unavoidable, and as a fan you just hope your players are spared from any major injuries.
Baltimore Ravens fans weren't so lucky last offseason (or this one for that matter) when news broke that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, had torn his Achilles.
According to ESPN, the average length of time from tearing an Achilles to playing in an NFL game is 11 months. Suggs was back on the field five months and six days after surgery, suiting up in Week 7 against the Houston Texans.
His timing couldn't have been better.
He provided an emotional lift to a Baltimore Ravens defense that had lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb to season-ending injuries the week before (Lewis' torn triceps was thought to be season-ending at the time).
It didn't take him long to make his presence felt. He needed just seven snaps before he broke through and sacked Matt Schaub. Baltimore would go on to lose that game badly, but Suggs' amazing recovery and this sack boosted the morale of a team that had lost their leader.
The Ravens team physician, Dr. Andrew Tucker, told Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com that Suggs has set the standard for recovery from this injury. He wasn't just a token either, playing 44 snaps in the game and assuring the team that he was back.
He never seemed fully healthy, but the fact that he worked so hard to get back spoke volumes about his commitment to the team and kept everyone motivated.
9. Jacoby Jones' Record-Tying Return Touchdown
When the NFL moved the kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, the thinking was that it would increase the number of touchbacks and reduce one of the most dangerous plays in the league—the kickoff return. The NFL was right; the number of touchbacks almost tripled according to ESPN's Marty Callinan.
Well, the NFL didn't take Jacoby Jones into account.
Jones didn't seem to care where he caught the ball. If he was still in play, he liked his chances. Now I do too.
In Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys, Jones started deep in his own end zone. In a matter of seconds he had burst through the Cowboys' special teamers and was dancing in the end zone at the other end of the field.
The 108-yard return tied an NFL record and helped put Jones' name in the record books. ESPN reports that only two players in NFL history have multiple touchdown returns of at least 105 yards. Both of them were Baltimore Ravens when they scored these touchdowns, as Ed Reed has two of them. Jones recorded three last season alone.
Introducing Jacoby Jones—king of the ridiculously long touchdown return.
8. Justin Tucker's Game-Winner vs. New England
The circumstances were eerily familiar. Joe Flacco had led the Baltimore Ravens down the field against the New England Patriots in the last two minutes of a tense game. He had given them excellent field position for what would be a 27-yard field-goal attempt. Now, it all depended on the kicker.
Terrifyingly similar scenario, different kicker, different result. Barely.
Justin Tucker was an undrafted free agent who was brought in to compete with Billy Cundiff after the latter had ended the Ravens' 2011 season with a shanked 32-yard field goal.
Just eight months later, Tucker had won the position battle and was faced with the opportunity to prove the Ravens' coaching staff right in Week 3. His kick sailed directly over the right post, and Tucker never looked back.
Tucker had a phenomenal rookie year, connecting on 91 percent of his attempts and converting all of his kicks that were 50 yards or longer. He also demonstrated his clutch kicking again later in the year, making two more game-winners (one of them in the playoffs).
The irony of this situation gave the Baltimore Ravens something they probably never thought they would get: a little closure about the Billy Cundiff miss.
7. Jacoby Jones Dances Past Chris Culliver into the End Zone
This may have been the play that landed Jacoby Jones his gig on "Dancing With the Stars." The sequence of this play is what makes it so special in my mind.
Jones blows by Chris Culliver initially and is wide open down the field. Joe Flacco recognizes this, steps up to avoid the pressure and heaves the pigskin down the field.
Only it's a little underthrown. It hangs in the air and Jones has to come back to make the catch. Somehow, Culliver jumps over Jones and doesn't touch him. Then the magic happens.
Jones has the presence of mind to quickly jump to his feet and try to gain more yards. He jukes Dashon Goldson off his feet with a quick spin, freezes Culliver with a jab step and then uses his speed to get around Culliver one more time.
It should have been an easy touchdown. Jones made it a spectacular one.
6. Jacoby Jones Sets a Postseason Record with a 108-Yard Return
The Baltimore Ravens played a spectacular first half of the Super Bowl. They had scored three touchdowns, limited the San Francisco 49ers to two field goals, forced two turnovers and led 21-6.
But you knew the 49ers weren't going to crumble and give up a Super Bowl ring without a fight. You can blame the power outage (it certainly stalled the Ravens' momentum), but I think the Niners were going to make a run at some point anyway.
That's why Jones' return was so monumental.
It would have been easy for the Ravens to get complacent at halftime. The Niners did indeed make a big run and made the game a nail-biter. Jones' second touchdown of the night gave Baltimore just enough breathing room to win a championship.
Not to mention that it was an NFL postseason record.
5. Torrey Smith's Emotional Game Against the Patriots
The night before the Week 3 tilt against the New England Patriots, Torrey Smith received tragic news. His 19-year-old brother, Tevin Jones, had passed away from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Smith left the team to be with his family, and the last thing on his mind at that point was football. He didn't know if he was going to play until 4:00 that afternoon, but he somehow summoned the strength to suit up for his team.
He did more than just suit up. He caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in an emotional victory for the Baltimore Ravens.
His courage and determination on that heartbreaking day were unbelievable and inspirational.
4. Ray Lewis' Last Squirrel Dance
It was a chilling moment when Ray Lewis took the field in Baltimore for the last time. There were many tears, from players to fans to parking attendants at the stadium.
As Lewis wanted, he left the M&T Bank Stadium with a win, and he was on the field with the offense for the final kneel-down.
It was a nice gesture by Coach Harbaugh, giving Lewis a final moment to remember and giving the fans a chance to give No. 52 a standing ovation one last time.
He rewarded them with one last squirrel dance.
3. Hey Diddle Diddle
Last year, it was common to see the Baltimore Ravens play dominant football at home and then struggle in away games. Consequently, it wasn't a surprise to see the Ravens floundering on the road against the San Diego Chargers.
Baltimore's offense couldn't get anything going, and the Chargers scored early and held onto their lead for the majority of the game.
In the fourth quarter, the offense started to get rolling. The Ravens scored 10 unanswered points to cut the lead to three. The defense got the ball back quickly, and suddenly the Ravens had a chance to tie or take the lead.
That momentum was short-lived, however, as a holding penalty and then a sack-fumble backed the Ravens up to their own 37 with a 4th-and-29 to convert to have any chance at winning the game.
That's when Coach Harbaugh drew up the "Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice up the middle" play. With four receivers running straight down the field, the middle opened up and Flacco dumped it off to Rice, who caught it at the line of scrimmage.
Rice then somehow managed to avoid all the Chargers who flooded towards him and, with a little help from Anquan Boldin, he managed to just clear the first-down marker.
His 29-yard conversion was voted the play of the year at the NFL Honors ceremony, and it will forever be one of the most improbable plays I've ever seen.
2. Super Bowl-Clinching Goal-Line Stand
Joe Flacco’s arm carried the Baltimore Ravens through the playoffs. It was an unusual sight for Ravens fans, who were used to watching their team grind out wins by relying on their defense.
In fact, with the Baltimore defense having a down year (finishing the season as the 17th-ranked defense in the league), the narrative was starting to shift. Ray Lewis’ retirement would most probably signify a changing of the guard, with a high-scoring, big-play offense leading the Ravens forward.
Over the course of the playoffs, the Ravens allowed a whopping average of 428 yards per game. They negated this with a high-octane offense that gained 410 yards and scored 31 points per playoff game.
With everybody questioning the defense, it was fitting that the Super Bowl came down to a goal-line stand.
The 49ers had four plays to gain seven yards, and they couldn’t do it. They only ran the ball once, and Colin Kaepernick looked to find Michael Crabtree on each of the remaining three plays. The coverage was sound, and the Niners offense was shut down.
It was an incredibly dramatic conclusion to the biggest game of the year. With everything on the line, the Ravens defense did what it had done all year: It bent, but it didn't break.
1. The Mile-High Miracle
When a play gets a special name, you know it must be pretty spectacular.
The Baltimore Ravens were not supposed to beat the Denver Broncos. The Broncos had won 11 straight games and boasted one of the most complete squads in the NFL.
They had demolished the Ravens in Baltimore just one month before, and nobody was giving them a chance—not even Vegas, as the line had Denver as 9.5-point favorites.
The Ravens showed up, however, and it was a back-and-forth tussle. Neither team could gain separation. The difference between the two teams was never more than a touchdown. But how long could the Ravens keep up with a prolific Peyton Manning-led offense?
Demaryius Thomas' touchdown with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter gave the Broncos the lead, and on the Ravens' ensuing drive they turned it over on downs, leaving 3:16 on the clock. It finally looked like Baltimore had run out of gas. Could they stop the Broncos? Even if they did, could they drive the length of the field and score a touchdown?
The first question was answered relatively quickly, but the Ravens had used all of their timeouts to get the ball back. After the punt, Joe Flacco had one minute and nine seconds to drive 77 yards with zero timeouts.
On second down, he scrambled to avoid the sack and quickly had to get everyone back to the line with the clock still running. All the Denver Broncos had to do was not give up a touchdown, and they would take a 12-game winning streak into the AFC Championship game.
I must admit, I thought it was over. It would take something crazy to get out of this one. Even crazier than Ray Rice's 4th-and-29.
Watch, listen and soak it all in. This was one of the greatest playoff games in NFL history, and Jones' miraculous touchdown was a play for the ages.