After Thursday night’s final score, it’s easy to forget the Ravens had a three-point lead at the end of the first half.
The Ravens could have gotten a big stop at the start of the second half too.
But a missed opportunity for a challenge that almost assuredly would have gone the Ravens’ way proved to be a turning point in the game. Instead of a punt, the Broncos scored a touchdown that put them on top for good.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was unaware of the hubbub surrounding the challenge until he was told about it by Senior Vice President of Public and Community Relations Kevin Byrne just before his postgame press conference.
“That’s something that we’ve got to see,” Harbaugh said after the game. “It would have been nice if NBC would show that. Then we would have had a chance to look at it in time. We never saw that."
Peyton Manning hit wide receiver Wes Welker for a 10-yard gain on third-and-9 on the Broncos’ first drive of the second half. Television replays were a bit slow, but showed that the ball hit the ground before the next snap got off.
The referees didn’t see it, but cameras did. It was difficult to see that the ball hit the turf because it happened under Welker and he covered the ball and rolled over with it in his arms.
Since the Ravens were playing at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, they did not show a quick replay in the seating bowl for strategic reasons.
The Ravens rely on the television broadcast, and a coach upstairs in the booth must then relay to Harbaugh to throw the challenge flag. That communication perhaps never came, or did not come in time.
Manning hit wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 34-yard gain on the very next play, off the quick snap. The next play was a 7-yard run by Ronnie Hillman. On the third play after the missed challenge, Manning hit Andre Caldwell for a 28-yard touchdown.
The Ravens were successful with a challenge in the first half when the referees did not see that ball bounce into the hands of Thomas.