Late for Work 12/15: Ravens' Surreal Victory 'Will Be Talked About for Decades'

121520-LFW
Ravens defeat the Browns 47-42 on Monday Night Football

Ravens' Surreal Victory 'Will Be Talked About for Decades'

The Ravens' exhilarating, nerve-racking, 47-42 comeback victory over the host Cleveland Browns last night is being called the game of the year. For Ravens fans, it's undoubtedly a game that will be talked about for many years to come.

The instant classic had so many dramatic moments and plot twists that one would've thought they were watching WWE's "Monday Night Raw" instead of "Monday Night Football," but not even Vince McMahon's scriptwriters could've come up with this stuff (and I would know because I used to be one).

There was a plethora of clutch plays by both teams, some record-breaking performances and a Lamar Jackson subplot that will become the stuff of legend (more on that later).

"We'll be talking about this one for decades," The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote.

"That was quite possibly the best football game I've ever watched," added Russell Street Report's Aidan Griesser wrote.

After Justin Tucker's game-winning, 55-yard field goal with two seconds left, Ravens fans still had to sweat out the Browns' seven laterals on the ensuing kickoff (which ultimately resulted in a safety) before they could finally exhale.

"On Monday night we had the game of 2020, if only because like the year itself, it contained too many wild vacillations, obscure tentacles and we-have-no-choice-but-to-laugh moments to digest in one watching," Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr wrote. "Too many oddities to run through. Too many bad jokes about things we'll never know the truth about. The final score, 47–42, a score that has never occurred in the history of the National Football League, was just the beginning.

"Even the final play, a flitting, drawn-out attempt at multiple laterals by the Browns in a last-ditch comeback effort, swung betting lines across the country, sinking the hearts of anyone who took the Browns at +3 while they watched Cleveland slowly retreat into their own end zone for a safety. It cost at least one poor soul $40,000."

Not only was it a thrilling win, it was a crucial one for the Ravens (8-5), who greatly increased their postseason chances. They leapfrogged the Las Vegas Raiders (7-6) for the No. 8 seed in the AFC. The Miami Dolphins (8-5) are clinging to the seventh and final playoff spot.

The Ravens moved within a game of the Browns (9-4) and Indianapolis Colts, the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively, which is significant because Baltimore holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over both.

"The Ravens' playoff hopes seemed on life support on a night that epitomized their entire bizarre season," Walker wrote. " … Instant classic. Playoff hopes alive. What else can you say?"

Yes, Lamar Jackson Can Lead the Ravens to a Comeback Win

With the Ravens trailing 35-34 and facing fourth-and-5 at the Cleveland 44-yard line with two minutes to play, Jackson — who had been receiving salt solutions after suffering from cramps in his legs — emerged from the locker room.

Backup quarterback Trace McSorley suffered an injury on the previous play and was out of the game. Wide receiver Willie Snead IV was taking practice snaps on the sideline.

Jackson calmly threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown to put the Ravens ahead. Before that clutch play, Brown had dropped three passes. Talk about a "Hollywood" ending.

Except it wasn't the end.

Baker Mayfield and the Browns answered with a four-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 42-42 with one minute, 42 seconds. Jackson then completed four consecutive passes to move the Ravens 38 yards to the Cleveland 37 to set up Tucker's game-winner.

With a performance of mythic proportions, Jackson shattered the myth that he can't lead the Ravens to a comeback win with his arm.

Before his late-game dramatics, Jackson ran all over the Browns. He rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. It was the most yards a quarterback ever rushed for on Monday Night Football.

"On this night of dramatic performances and compelling action, Jackson battled through Browns, through injuries and deficits to emerge as the conquering hero in a showcase of just how special he can be," NFL.com's Grant Gordon wrote.

"Lamar Jackson went from being the reigning NFL MVP to being the Baltimore Ravens' new superhero," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote.

Adding to the bizarre nature of the contest, Jackson changed his cleats during the game after repeatedly slipping during the first half. And, of course, there was all the speculation on social media about why Jackson had left the game in the fourth quarter, which he addressed after the game.

Justin Tucker Underscores the Importance of Having a Great Kicker

When Tucker lined up for the game-winning field goal, there were probably two thoughts going through the minds of Ravens fans:

  1. Tucker is automa-TUCK.
  2. Thank god Joe "The Jinx" Buck isn't calling the game.

"Whenever anyone doubts the importance of a great kicker, it seems as though Justin Tucker reminds them just how crucial having one can be," Gordon wrote. "On a night in which the Browns' Cody Parkey missed an extra point and his only field goal attempt, Tucker also missed an extra point due to a block (not his fault).

"But when Jackson and Co. roared down the field, there was little doubt when Tucker lined up for a 55-yard game-winning attempt that Baltimore would come away with three points. Tucker sent it through and the celebration of a phenomenal game reigned, but was there truly any shock about the kick floating the Ravens to victory? Tucker isn't perfect, but in the NFL world of kickers going through a revolving door, he is as close to perfect as one can be."

Defense Is Becoming a Concern?

For the second week in a row, the main concern coming from a Ravens win was the performance of the defense.

After allowing nearly 400 yards of total offense to the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Ravens gave up 493 yards to the Browns. It was the most yards the Ravens had allowed since the Kansas City Chiefs gained 517 in Week 3. Cleveland scored 22 points in the fourth quarter.

"Baltimore's defense has been the strength of their team for most of the season but [last night], they struggled to do much right — especially down the stretch," Baltimore Beatdown's Frank J. Platko wrote. "There were a handful of occasions throughout the night in which defenders were out of place and out of sorts.

"The Browns didn't do anything very out-of-the-box offensively but managed to move the ball effectively nonetheless. The Ravens brought pressure at times but failed to finish plays and get sacks. Mayfield managed to move around the pocket, buy time, and extend plays. … It's understandable to be riding high after such a momentous win, but it goes without saying that the defensive performance was concerning to say the least."

The Ravens won't make any excuses, but injuries to cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith and backup Davontae Harris didn't help matters. Mayfield attempted 47 passes and wasn't sacked once, though the Ravens did get five quarterback hits.

Quick Hits

  • The Ravens, who ran for 231 yards, matched a franchise record with five rushing touchdowns. The two teams combined for nine rushing touchdowns, tying the all-time NFL record for most in a single game.
  • Marlon Humphrey set a franchise record for forced fumbles in a season.

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