Sometimes, great teams are just the teams that come up with timely late scores and have an uncanny knack of not leaving their opponent enough time to respond.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals to win Super Bowl XLIII, they didn’t win the game by making a crucial defensive stand. In fact, the last full possession the Cards had ended with a 64 yard touchdown from QB Kurt Warner to WR Larry Fitzgerald.
But when the Steelers got the ball back with 2:37 to play, they had no problem shaving the clock down to 0:35 before QB Ben Roethlisberger connected with WR Santonio Holmes on one of the greatest touchdowns in Super Bowl history.
The same thing happened one year earlier in Super Bowl XLII.
The New York Giants allowed New England Patriots QB Tom Brady to hit WR Randy Moss for a TD on the Pats’ final FULL possession. When the Giants took over with 2:42 to play, QB Eli Manning didn’t find WR Plaxico Burress for what would ultimately prove to be the winning TD until they had shaved the clock again down to 0:35.
You see, it isn’t ALWAYS on a defense to finish off a championship performance, or even a win in a big game.
The Ravens faced a very tough situation with 1:10 to play in Thursday night’s game.
Facing 2nd and 8 from the Falcons’ 9 yard line, the Ravens knew that they needed to get a touchdown to go ahead, but the Falcons still had one timeout and 70 seconds to play with.
Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged the difficulty of the situation.
“You can’t turn down an opportunity to score. Obviously we’d love to run it down to one second and score on the last play if you could. It didn’t work out that way.”
It didn’t. Flacco found Heap with over a minute to play, and the Falcons had plenty of time to drive down and finish off a victory.
Of course, when they gave the ball back to the Ravens, only 16 seconds remained on the clock.
Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron could have chosen to run the ball again from the nine, but they would have been risking a stop and only two plays to score a touchdown. BUT-they could have forced the Falcons to use their final timeout and ran more time off an already expiring clock.
Had a field goal been enough to win the game, that’s probably exactly what they would have done.
Maybe the Ravens have learned enough about Flacco in big situations that it’s time to treat the two situations the same way.
In fact, they’re probably going to have to.
If presented with the same situation against a capable offensive team (like the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans or Pittsburgh Steelers-who all remain on the Ravens schedule during the regular season), the Ravens are going to have to look at things a different way.
They’re going to need to play for the final touchdown the same way they’d play for a final field goal.
They’re going to have to step counting on the fact that their defense will just be able to finish off games.
It’s going to have to be on Flacco and the offense moving forward.
That’s how great teams win big games.
If the Ravens are going to be great, they’re going to have to do it the same way.
Things have changed a great deal for the Baltimore Ravens this season. But not all change is bad.
Had the Ravens changed that mindset before Thursday night, they might still be in first place in the AFC North.