The Ravens faced a crucial 3rd and 10 with just over a minute left on the road during an important December contest. The Ravens had a little ways to go before getting into presumed “field goal range.” Baltimore ran a draw play to Ray Rice, which gained only two yards. The Ravens faced a 4th and long with the clock still running and Joe Flacco trying to get a play call to his teammates on the field. Coach Harbaugh finally called a timeout with 43 seconds remaining on the clock.
Ravens fans were questioning the draw play call on a third and long situation and were left even more puzzled when kicker Justin Tucker marched onto the field after the timeout. Tucker had kicked a perfect 5 for 5 during the game, responsible for all the teams’ points. Tucker told Coach Harbaugh he could make the kick, so the coach trusted the kicker and put him on the field.
It was a 61-yard field goal attempt that Harbaugh decided to go with instead of taking a chance on a long fourth down conversion. Both sidelines holding their breath as the snap went back to the holder and the kick was up. As close as it got, Justin Tucker made the 61-yard field goal game winner, the longest kick in a dome in NFL History. Detroit was in complete disbelief, but still had a chance to go up field with several timeouts left. Matthew Stafford on the ensuing possession, overthrew Calvin Johnson across the middle, right into the arms of rookie Matt Elam. What a coincidence, Matt Elam intercepting the game sealer off of the arms of the “old” Calvin Johnson.
The last two weeks for Baltimore have been as bizarre as it can get for a franchise this late in the season. It is not every day you see a coach trust his kicker to make a 61-yard field goal with the playoffs on the line. Harbaugh took the chance and was rewarded for the gutsy call.
This was not a pretty win for the Ravens, as they were 0-3 in the red-zone during the first half, settling for field goals. They kept Detroit around the whole game, despite three turnovers by the Lions. Even with being handed good opportunities by the defense, the offense still could not convert throughout the game. Instead, Baltimore relied on their kicker to single-handedly outscore the NFL’s second best scoring offense. It was not a pretty win, but by all means, a win is a win in the NFL. It is so hard to win today in the NFL, especially when it counts in December.
The Ravens now have a tremendous opportunity for the rest of the season; they control their own destiny. In even better news, they control their own destiny for not the wild card, but the AFC North title. It almost seemed impossible at mid-season that Baltimore could get back in the hunt for the North title. They turned near impossibility, into a reality after last nights win. The rest of the way will not be easy for Baltimore; they will have to earn it. They face the New England Patriots at home next week, who had just lost the previous match-up to the Miami Dolphins. Both teams extremely hungry, as a win would do wonders for both franchises in the playoff race. Then the regular season ends at Cincinnati, where Baltimore will have the chance to take down the current division leaders. The next two weeks of the regular season will be challenging for the Baltimore Ravens, but it is fully up to them if their season ends during the regular season or if their season is just beginning once again, for a chance at repeating as Super Bowl champions.