Not like that.
Not. Like. That.
That’s the mantra I just kept repeating to myself over and over, for a good 30 minutes after the clock struck zero on the AFC Championship game, and on the Baltimore Ravens 2011-12 season.
It can’t end like that. A 45-10 beating like the Patriots handed the Denver Broncos a week earlier would have been infinitely easier to swallow.
Instead, to drive nearly 80 yards in the game’s final two minutes, only to have the potential game-winning touchdown pass dropped in the end zone and then the game-tying field goal flutter wide left from only 32 yards out?
This game will go down in infamy in Baltimore. Hell, I had Steelers fans on twitter after the game telling me they wouldn’t wish that kind of loss upon their worst enemy.
Sympathy from Steelers fans.
You know it’s bad.
If Lee Evans could have held onto that ball, we’d all be worshiping at the altar of Joe Flacco this morning. Sure, I’ve heard that the Patriots’ DB made a great play to strip the ball from Evans’ grip, and that’s true. Another case of “the other guy tries too.” But for Evans, the forgotten man on the Ravens’ WR corps all season, who had come to Baltimore after never playing a postseason game in his NFL career, this was the catch of his life.
It should have taken New England’s entire 53-man roster, plus every coach, trainer, ball boy, and front office member to pry that ball from #83’s fingers.
Pull it in. Fall down. That’s the ball game. The Ravens are headed to Indy.
Instead, the Ravens for some reason eschewed trying to simply pick up a yard on 3rd-and-1, which would have given them several more shots at the end zone. An incomplete pass later, the field goal team was – for some unknown reason – rushing onto the field to attempt to send the contest to overtime.
Meanwhile, the Ravens’ third and final timeout sits unused. Still.
After the game, John Harbaugh said that using the timeout never occurred to him.
Good to know.
Flacco, for his part, played the game of his life. Under intense pressure to perform (some of that pressure of his own doing), he did just that. The Ravens’ quarterback was 22/36 for 306 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Granted, he missed some throws. He should have had Torrey Smith for a long touchdown in the first quarter, but instead of planting his feet and launching it, threw on the run, and Smith had to come back to the ball.
Later, after the Ravens had recovered a Danny Woodhead kickoff return fumble, Flacco had Vonta Leach in the flat for a likely touchdown. Instead, he threw to the end zone for Kris Wilson, the pass fell incomplete, and the Ravens had to settle for a field goal to take a 20-16 lead.
As we saw, those four points would loom large.
The Ravens’ defense played well, intercepting Tom Brady twice and holding him without a touchdown throw. However, New England was able to run the ball effectively, picking up 96 yards on the ground. They got a yard when they needed it most, scoring on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter to regain a lead they would not again relinquish.
And just like that, it was over.
In Baltimore, we’ll always remember. “Lee Evans, Billy Cundiff” will forever bring back terrible memories of a day when our season was again, ended prematurely. When again, we seemed to have the better team only to watch them fail in the game’s final moments.
We can talk more about it later.
Right now, the pain is just too fresh.
Not like that.