Wildest Two Minutes In NFL History
(Jacoby Was Arguing with a Vikings Fan)
Years from now, some of us will be talking about where we were and how we reacted when the Ravens and Vikings set an NFL record for the most points scored (36) in the final 2:05 of a game.
I was in our bench area, with icy pellets falling from the sky.
When the Ravens offense finished the nine-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that ended with Joe Flacco hitting Dennis Pitta for a 1-yard score to give us a 13-12 lead with two minutes, four left in the game, we all felt pretty good. When Joe then fired that dart to Torrey Smith for the two-point conversion for the 15-12 advantage, we believed the worst that could happen was overtime. The Vikings weren't going to go the length of the field for a touchdown in those weather conditions – particularly not at M&T Bank Stadium.
The fun was just beginning.
Before Pitta could accept all the "welcome-back" and "thank-you" pats on his back, the Vikings took a 19-15 lead on Toby Gerhart's 41-yard TD run through the slush and ice.
There was now 1:27 left in the game.
On the sideline, I heard various combinations shouted after the word "Holy." We were stunned.
Our kick return team quickly huddled around assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. He warned the players, "Watch for a 'sky' kick!"
Returner Jacoby Jones had left the huddle before the warning. Jacoby had already headed to the back of the end zone to begin his pre-kick pacing routine. "Then I saw their kicker place the ball on the right hash (mark) and knew they would 'sky' (high and short) the kick. They had done that earlier this season," Rosburg said.
He began screaming, "JACOBY, JACOBY!" while sprinting down the sideline. A few feet behind Rosburg came the racing John Harbaugh, also yelling, "JACOBY!"
At that point, Jones had his back to the coaches, and I could see him pointing at some fan.
"There was a guy who was yelling some bad things to me, and I looked up to see who would be doing this at our stadium," Jacoby said on Wednesday. "He had a Vikings' jersey on, and I told him to go home. He said more bad things. I might have said some bad things … and then I heard the coaches. I turned, and Jerry was screaming at me and pointing to the sky.
"Oh, we practiced that. I gotta get going," Jacoby explained with a chuckle.
(The Ravens practiced returning the "sky" kick so often last week that when they did it again on Saturday morning, Flacco said to Rosburg, "Jerry, how much more do we have to see this?")
The timing worked perfectly. Jones caught the kickoff in stride at the 23-yard line and sprinted up the left side for a 77-yard TD. Disaster averted. Ravens win, 22-19.
But, there was still 1:16 on the clock.
After two incompletions, the Vikings faced third-and-10 at their 21-yard line. I turned to Wilbert Montgomery, our running backs coach, and said: "We pick this one off." I was wrong. Quarterback Matt Cassel threw a screen pass to the right to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who raced right in front of Harbs on his way for a 79-yard touchdown. "Harbs," who was mic'd for NFL Films, said, "You've got to be kidding me."
Oh man! … There were 45 seconds remaining, and we had two timeouts left.
After the kickoff into the end zone, we started at our 20. Talk about bad karma, Joe hit Marlon Brown perfectly over the middle, and Marlon had a clear path to the end zone. … But he slipped down on the wet field. Still, it was good for a 35-yard gain to the Vikings' 45.
After an incompletion, Flacco saw Pitta over the middle and threw Dennis a precise dart. … But, all I saw was Pitta falling to the ground calling for interference. It was called, and it was the right call. Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway had grabbed Dennis around the hip and spun him. (Here's good karma: each week the NFL officials' office sends a points of emphasis video to teams. Last week's version contained this type of play with a warning that said if defenders try to maneuver the lower body of receivers, it will be called. Yes!)
Joe went right back to Pitta for 18 yards on the next play, and we now had the ball on the 9 with nine seconds left in the game. "One time Joe!" Terrell Suggs shouted from the sideline.
On the winning touchdown play, here's what Joe saw when he scanned the Vikings defense: "They looked like they were trying to take away some throws to the outside, and the linebackers were a little deep to take away the middle. When the snap was coming to me, I noticed the linebacker take a step back, and that was going to make it harder to throw to Marlon, who lined up on the left between Jacoby and Dennis.
"I took a quick glance at Jacoby when the play started and thought it would be too tight; noticed the inside linebacker was a little shallow in the end zone and threw it high to Marlon over the linebacker's reach. You saw him go get it. Outstanding catch," Joe explained.
Game over, Ravens win, 29-26.
What made the winning play more interesting for me was what Joe said to FOX-TV's Tim Ryan at last Friday's production meeting. Ryan asked: "Tell me about Marlon Brown. I don't know much about him."
"I don't know how we get a guy like that," Flacco answered. "He wasn't even drafted, and he could be a great player. Stand next to him, he's a big man. It's not too big for him, even from the beginning. He can catch and run, and he's strong enough to just run over people. He's going to help us over these last four games."
Watch The Reporter Run
The sideline reporter for FOX-TV last Sunday was Jennifer Hale. One of her responsibilities is to interview the star or stars of the game right after it concludes. She works with PR staffs, setting these up in the final minutes of play. Imagine her life at the end of our game.
"I was running laps around the field," Hale said. "I was sliding on the ice." Her run from one bench area to the other is about 140 yards. She asked for Flacco and Pitta at the two-minute warning. "But the game kept changing. As soon as I made it over to the Vikings side, you guys scored, and then the other team would score. I was racing back and forth. I did get my exercise in!"
And we were sure happy to see her on our sidelines at the end asking for Joe and Jacoby.
How Come We Got Flexed?
We were a little surprised when the NFL took us out of the NBC-TV/Sunday night slot for our game against the Patriots next week. It's usually just about the numbers – late in the season, the league wants the Sunday night game to be the one that will be the most watched. You would think a matchup between Baltimore and New England, two marquee teams with QBs who have been Super Bowl MVPs, would be hard to top.
But, the Chicago/Philadelphia game is attractive, too. Plus, with the Eagles, you also get the fans from the NFC East watching – that means huge markets like New York, D.C. and Dallas. Chicago brings you Detroit, Minnesota and all of Wisconsin because of the NFC North playoff battle. Will this game bring more viewers than a Ravens/Patriots' game? Maybe.
There's another factor. When the NFL flexed the Denver/Kansas City game to Sunday night on Nov. 17, they took a much anticipated game away from CBS, the network originally scheduled to carry that attraction. I know that executives at CBS were not happy about losing that game. Our Ravens/Patriots clash might be part of a payback to CBS, which is most excited to get our matchup.
And, we're excited with our three wins in a row – and four of our last five – as we head to the Lions' den to play Detroit. They're good with some outstanding weapons. So are we. Can't wait. Let's beat the Lions.
Talk with you next week,