Despite the loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, the 2008 Ravens season was certainly one of the best sports experiences of my life. And in an effort to delay thinking about the dreadful upcoming baseball season, in my next few blogs I will be counting down my top 20 Ravens memories from 2008. It’s never too early to start looking back on such an exciting season.
20. Clayton Goes Crazy In Cincy – Mark Clayton snagged 5 balls for 164 yards, including a 70 yard one-handed touchdown catch on a bomb from Joe Flacco, as the Ravens pummeled the Cincinnati Bengals in The Jungle. Clayton also threw a touchdown pass to Derrick Mason on a wide receiver reverse option in the 34-3 route. I personally think that Mark Clayton has been a 1st round bust. He has a great performance every 5 or 6 games…but, in all fairness, when he has a great game, he blows the roof off the house. These are the typical makings of a #3 receiver (see also Steve Breaston in Arizona). I think he would be a great slot receiver along side Derrick Mason and ::insert name here::…TJ Houshmandzadeh? Steve Smith?
19. Rice Runs Wild - In a comeback win against the Cleveland Browns, Ray Rice showed us all why the Ravens drafted him in the second round. Rice rushed for 154 yards on 21 carries and also caught 3 passes from Joe Flacco, one of which converted a big 3rd and long play. He could possibly be the Ravens’ feature back in the future (doesn’t he remind you of Maurice Jones-Drew?), and he showcased his talents in week 9.
18. “Next Man Up” – One of the most impressive aspects about the 2008 Ravens season is how every man on this team was accountable for how they played as a group, no matter who was injured or who was on the field. Justin Bannan, Jim Leonhard, Fabian Washington, Marques Douglass, Joe Flacco, Chris Chester, and Frank Walker all stepped up to fill in for starters this season, as the Ravens were near the top of the league in players listed on IR. Granted, that’s not a stat that anyone should be proud of, but the Ravens persevered. The motto preached in the locker room all season was: “next man up.”
17. Flacco Ties The Game In Pittsburgh – In week 4 of the season, when the Ravens outplayed the Steelers in every facet of the game, they still found themselves down 20-13 in the fourth quarter on Monday Night Football with 9 minutes remaining. Against all odds, rookie Joe Flacco marched the Ravens 76 yards down the field, and ate up about 5 minutes of clock in the process, to tie the game and force overtime. With three key first down throws to Mason, garnished with some jaw-breaking runs by Le’Ron McClain, Flacco finally gave Baltimore a reason to believe in their quarterback. Ever since Bert Jones was last under center for the Colts, Baltimore has been desperately searching for a quarterback of this caliber. And despite the overtime loss, for the first time in Ravens history, a quarterback wearing a Ravens jersey had truly proven himself. This moment showed Ravens fans that this would be the first of many game-tying/game-winning drives orchestrated by #5.
16. Suggs Seals Win in Cleveland – In a game where a lot of the media were picking against the Ravens, Terrell Suggs sealed a come-from-behind Ravens victory by intercepting an errant Derek Anderson pass. The Ravens found themselves down 27-13 in the 3rd quarter, and despite the heroics of Browns’ star return man Josh Cribbs, a pass from Flacco to Mason tied the game at 27 early in the 4th quarter. After a Matt Stover field goal put the Ravens up by 3, Terrell Suggs picked off an attempted screen pass with 2:49 to go in the fourth quarter and took it to the house, giving the Ravens a 37-27 win over the Browns in The Dogpound.
Check back tomorrow for nos. 15-11.