In the most epic game of the 2012-13 season, the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the AFCs number one seed, the Denver Broncos, in scintillating fashion with a Justin Tucker 2OT field goal which will go down in Ravens football lore as one of the biggest playoff upsets ever.
With so many stories to expand upon in this game I feel that it would be a disservice to try and cram them all into one caffeine induced Saturday night writing spree, and will instead weave an elaborate tapestry of this tale over multiple articles. Part 1, detailed below, will focus on how the Ravens defense, having been given little to no chance against Peyton Manning, put in one of the grittiest performances of all time.
As Demaryius Thomas practically walked a quick wide receiver screen into the endzone with just under five minutes left on the clock, the commentary team vocalised what every football fan was thinking (and I paraphrase) “the Ravens defense is tired and doesn’t have much left in the tank”, and at that time I concurred. However, Bronco nation didn’t count on the resilience that this Ravens defense has built up after possibly one of their most trying seasons with a combination of injuries and poor play leading to a campaign that has often seen them on the back foot and criticised by ‘”experts”.
Baltimore neither shut down Peyton Manning nor a mostly Knowshon Moreno-less running game, but in the end they made the plays when it mattered the most, and when it comes down to the big time football games, it is these well timed plays that can alter and ultimately define the game.
When I talk about these big plays, I am of course referring to both Corey Graham interceptions as well as the Paul Kruger fumble recovery. Graham was ultimately the star of the Ravens defensive show by bookending the entire defensive game with interceptions; the first he took back to the house to put the Ravens up 14-7 early on, and the second was the play that Peyton will be seeing in his nightmares, which effectively ended the game by giving the Ravens the necessary field position to go on and win.
Whilst the two Graham interceptions may be the most pertinent defensive plays of the night, the performances of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger must be commended. Lewis racked up 17 total stops in Denver (taking his 2013 playoff total to 30!!), Suggs recorded his first ever sack(s) of Manning and forced a fumble that Kruger recovered after being a nuisance all night for the Denver offense.
In the end, the Ravens defense conceded a total of 21 points, not bad after spending a total of 40 minutes facing a Manning led offense, and they showed the heart, grit, determination and will to win at all costs that could see the Ravens into the Superbowl.