The Ravens experienced plenty of bumps in the road on their way to the second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
The team had to overcome much adversity to become the Super Bowl XLVII champions.
"There's a lot of turning points in the season," Head Coach John Harbaugh said after a Week 9 victory over the Browns. "There's a lot of things that make or break your season."
Here are some of key turning points for the Ravens this year:
Torrey Smith's Big Game Against New England
Less than 24 hours before the Ravens played the Patriots in an AFC championship rematch, Smith learned of the tragic death of his younger brother, Tevin, who died in a motorcycle accident. Smith decided to play in the nationally televised game at M&T Bank Stadium, and ended up having one of his biggest games of the season. Smith caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns on an emotional night where the Ravens won 31-30. After the game, Smith gave a heartfelt speech in the locker room, thanking his teammates for their support during such a tragic time. Smith's courage stuck with the Ravens throughout the season.
The Halloween Team MeetingThe Ravens were coming off a 30-point loss to the Houston Texans when the team gathered Halloween morning for their first meeting after the bye week. Harbaugh told them they would be practicing in full pads, and some players expressed frustration about that decision. The response led to an open discussion between the head coach and his players, and Harbaugh's handling of the situation drew praise from the team for the rest of the season. "He humbled himself," safety Ed Reed said. "It was just something we had to go through as men and understand each other and understand the process together." The meeting brought the team closer together, and the Ravens went on to win their next four games, putting them in favorable playoff position.
Firing of Cam CameronThe Ravens had lost two straight games – to the Steelers and Redskins – when Harbaugh decided to make a bold late-season move by replacing Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell. The decision was analyzed, scrutinized and criticized, but it proved to be the right call. Harbaugh said at the time it was the hardest decision he'd ever made as a coach, but that he thought it was the best move for the football team. He was correct, as the offense blossomed under Caldwell during the playoffs. Even Cameron said it was a "brilliant move." Quarterback Joe Flacco flourished under Caldwell and led the Ravens on a historic playoff run, throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Lopsided Victory over the GiantsThe Ravens were riding a three game losing streak – the longest of Harbaugh's tenure – heading into the Week 16 matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Most pundits had written the Ravens off by this point, following their 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos the previous week. But the Ravens played inspired and delivered a convincing 33-14 victory over the Giants. The win started off a tremendous run for Flacco, where he threw 13 touchdowns and no interceptions over the next six games. The victory clinched the AFC North and guaranteed the Ravens a home playoff game, allowing them to rest their starters in the regular-season finale against the Bengals. Having a week to get healthy was exactly what the Ravens needed at the time.
Ray Lewis' Final RideAs the Ravens prepared for the wild-card matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, the legendary linebacker shocked the team when he announced at a meeting that he would retire at the end of the season. Lewis then told the media later in the day that the Ravens' postseason run would be his "last ride." The news coincided with Lewis' return to the football field 10 weeks after tearing his triceps, an injury that was initially feared to end his season. The announcement brought extra motivation to the team, as Lewis' swan song was the story of the NFL postseason. Terrell Suggs said that the Ravens probably wouldn't have won the Super Bowl had it not been for Lewis' announcement. Lewis rallied his troops, elevated the play of those around him, and capped off a 17-year career with his second Lombardi Trophy.