Twenty years from now when an outsider goes leafing through the 2009 NFL Record Book, they’ll have no idea what REALLY transpired on November 29 when the Ravens beat the Steelers, 20-17, in overtime.
The entire season — regardless of what happens from here — could have changed on one play with a little over three minutes to play. Faced with 4th and 5 from their own 46, the Ravens initially set-up to punt…then called time-out and sent Joe Flacco and the offense back on the field for a daring gamble. What followed was a 44-yard gain, on a short pass, by Ray Rice and a field goal that tied the game with 1:56 to play.
That Ray Rice played a major role in the game’s big moment wasn’t a surprise. He’s the team’s MVP at the 11-game mark of the season.
But the hero in overtime was the most unlikely of sources. With the ball at the 50, Pittsburgh gambled themselves, calling for rookie QB Dennis Dixon to go to the air on 3rd and 7…and Paul Kruger stepped in front of the throw and returned it 26 yards deep into Pittsburgh territory. It was the first time all season Kruger did anything of note for the Ravens. And it came at a great time.
The Ravens worked their way down to the 11 yard line and Billy Cundiff connected on a 29-yard field goal to end it and give Baltimore a huge win.
Some would say, based on the flow of play in the game, it was an “unlikely win.” But 20 years from now, no one will know the difference.
The analysis that will follow this week will lead many to critique the Ravens poor pass protection on Sunday night. Some will wonder if Joe Flacco has regressed in his sophomore season. Many will point to the fact that the Steelers, using a QB making his first-ever start in the league, extended the Ravens to overtime in their own building before losing.
None of that matters going forward.
The Ravens won on Sunday night. They didn’t lose.
And now, with five games left, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are both deadlocked at 6-5.
That’s the only fact that really matters now.
With their backs still against the wall, Baltimore will need to produce a better effort than tonight if they want to compete with the Packers in Green Bay next Monday night.
Occasionally, though, you win when maybe you didn’t deserve to win.
The Ravens have lost one or two this year that perhaps they didn’t deserve to lose.
By season’s end, games and outcomes have a way of evening themselves out.
Tonight in Baltimore, the Ravens escaped with a win.
They’ll take it.
As Pittsburgh can tell you, it’s much better than losing.