[caption id="attachment_21859" align="aligncenter" width="448"] Kirby Lee / US Presswire[/caption] What a year the Baltimore Ravens had. Written off by many after finishing the 2012 regular season 1-4, they engineered an improbable playoff run that resulted in the ultimate prize: a Super Bowl championship. There were many hallmark things that occurred during the Ravens’ year, but here are five that truly defined their season.
The Death of Art ModellOn September 6, 2012, 87 year old former owner Art Modell passed away. As owner of the Ravens from 1961-2004, Modell had a great impact on the franchise. His biggest decision came in 1995, when he moved the historic Cleveland Browns team to Baltimore, and rebranded them the ‘Baltimore Ravens’. A controversial (and for many, heart breaking) decision at the time, the move seemed to ultimately pay off, as Baltimore went on to win Super Bowl XXXV following the 2000 season. A man beloved by the Ravens’ organisation, his death was considered a tragedy by many Ravens staffers and player alike. In honour of the impact he had on the team, Baltimore decided to dedicate their 2012 season to his memory, shown by the wearing of a patch reading “Art” on the left side of their jerseys. With the emotional impact of Modell’s death at their backs, the Ravens played their hearts out, and started their season off with a 5-1 record.
Ray Rice runs 30 yards on 4th and 29In a November 25 game against the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore found themselves in an improbable situation. Trailing by 3 points, and with only 1:59 left in the fourth quarter, they needed to pick up a first down on 4th and 29 in order to have any chance of winning the game. With no receivers open, QB Joe Flacco took the seemingly insane option of dropping the ball off to RB Ray Rice at the line of scrimmage, who had released on a check-down pattern. With eight Chargers defenders bearing down on him, Rice made a pair of cuts and, with the help of a massive block by Anquan Boldin, got 30 yards up field to keep the drive alive. The Ravens would go on to kick a tying field goal, and then another field goal in overtime to win the contest. Without winning this game, Baltimore would have at the very least lost their hold on the number one spot in the AFC North, and would have been a good chance of missing the playoffs. On a day where their offence had been lacklustre, Rice beat all the odds to get his team over the top.
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is fired.In what was a very bizarre move, in the aftermath of a 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins in week 14, the Ravens elected to cut ties with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, citing the poor performances in recent weeks, where Baltimore managed only 49 points across three games. The Ravens were coming off back-to-back losses and average offensive showings in five of their last seven contests. Nonetheless, the firing came as a surprise. Only four weeks beforehand, the Ravens had dealt a 55-20 beat down to the Oakland Raiders, and at that point were averaging 25 points per game and 344 yards per game – both serviceable totals. Even more worrying was the fact that the man who replaced him, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, had never been an offensive coordinator at any level, gaining his head coaching job in Indianapolis based off his work as a Quarterbacks and assistant head coach. Indeed, the Ravens got off to a rocky start, managing only 17 points and 278 total yards in a week 15 loss to the Denver Broncos, 34-17 That was all the time the Baltimore offence needed to click, coming out the following week and dominating the New York Giants, 33-14. The Ravens rolled into the playoffs, and averaged 31 points per game, more than enough to seal their way to the championship.
Ray Lewis announces his retirementWith the 2012 regular season done, and the Ravens limping into the playoffs with a 10-6 record that featured losses in 4 of their last 5 games, arguably the greatest inside linebacker to ever play the game announced his retirement. After 17 seasons, 13 pro bowls, seven all pro selections, and two defensive player of the year selections, Lewis stated that these playoffs would he his ‘final ride’. Having played for the Ravens since their very first year in Baltimore, Lewis has been the face of the franchise, and with not only his playing excellence, but also his extensive community work, he developed into one of the most loved people in Baltimore City. There is no doubt that emotion factors greatly into every performance that we see on a football field, and with such a big part of the team hanging up his boots, the entire franchise was emotionally charged, and driven to give Lewis one final championship before he called it a day. Lewis’ imminent departure became the storyline of the playoffs, and ignited the fire that propelled the Ravens through their final four games.
Jacoby Jones reels in a 70 yarder in the Divisional PlayoffsThere’s no way a safety is going to let a receiver get behind him when that team is on their own 30 yard line and needing a touchdown to at least tie the game, right? Well, that’s the mistake Rahim Moore made, as he let Jacoby Jones run past him and catch a largely underthrown pass, before cruising untouched into the end zone. Baltimore trailed 35-28 in their AFC Divisional round showdown against Denver Broncos, and with a ticking clock showing just 41 seconds, Joe Flacco scrambled around in the pocket before unleashing a deep bomb down the right sideline. Jones, who had just run a double move, sprinted up field before almost stopping dead and waiting for the ball to fall into his arms; mere centimetres away from the outstretched arm of Moore as he desperately tried to extend backwards and break up the pass. The Broncos, who had scored earlier in the quarter to go up by seven, had the momentum, and looked in a good position to win the game with Baltimore needing to go 77 yards in 1:09 with no time outs. Instead, the touchdown forced overtime, and the game ended up in double overtime, which the Ravens won on a field goal kick from Justin Tucker. The victory gave the underdog Ravens a pass to the AFC Championship game over the favourite Broncos, and epitomized the crazy, unpredictable, and sometimes incredible season that Baltimore had experienced.
The triumph of the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII brought to an end the final chapter of a storybook season. I’m already looking forward to this year’s version of “America’s Game”.