If you were watching Sunday night’s Ravens win thinking, “Here we go again,” as the Browns drove down the field to potentially kick a game-winning field goal that would knock Baltimore out of the playoffs, you weren’t alone.
“The last two years I’ve been here flashed before my eyes,” safety Eric Weddle said.
The Antonio Brown extension over the goal line on Christmas Day 2016. The Tyler Boyd 49-yard touchdown on fourth-and-12 on New Years Eve 2017. They were both absolutely gut wrenching.
Now the Ravens were right back in the same situation, staring a similar result in the face. But this time, they scripted a different ending.
C.J. Mosley intercepted Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on fourth-and-10 with a spectacular play, reading a short pass over the middle. Mosley dropped into coverage, tipped the ball up and caught it himself.
Knowing he had just sealed the game, and division title, Mosley sprinted all the way to the opposite end zone, where he was mobbed by his teammates.
The Ravens talked about “chasing the lion” all season, a metaphor for attacking their tormentors. Mosley just slayed it, and was presented with a blade by Head Coach John Harbaugh in the postgame locker room.
“Right place at the right time,” Mosley said. “It felt like [the pass] was in the air forever.”
The Browns’ final drive seemed to last years to nervous Baltimore fans. Harbaugh joked that he was totally useless in the fourth quarter, just praying that his team would pull it out in the end.
After two replays were ruled in favor of Cleveland, the Browns had first-and-10 at Baltimore’s 39-yard line with plenty of time left to get into position for a game-winning field goal. Cleveland was already in position for a 56-yarder. The Ravens couldn’t give an inch.
So what did Baltimore do? They stayed aggressive. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale dialed up four straight cover-zero, pedal-to-the-metal blitzes.
“It’s the way we’ve been all year,” Martindale said. “To win the game, we’re not playing some zone.”
“That’s unheard of,” Weddle said of all-out blitzes on four straight plays.
Asked what was different this year, veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said, “Don Martindale.”
The players loved it. Martindale said they were literally laughing as they came to the sideline, knowing that their fearless coordinator was going to put the pressure on Mayfield, the rookie first-overall pick.
Last year, the Ravens dropped just about everyone in coverage and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton still found Boyd open in the middle of it all. The Ravens were going to be the one dictating the action this time around.
“We felt like as the game was going on, it was going to come down to that last series. Are we going to learn from our mistakes?” Weddle said. “That has been the driving force for us the entire season since this point last year. We got back in the same situation and we wanted to make the play.
“There was no way we were going to lose that game, not with what we’ve been through the last couple years, all the talk, the plays that we haven’t made. It’s been on our minds every day for the last year.”
What makes it even sweeter is that Mosley made the play. Mosley was on the wrong end of the recent Ravens defensive lapses.
He bounced off Brown before the Steelers wide receiver extended the ball over the goal line in 2016. Mosley was just a whisker away from tipping Dalton's pass to Boyd in 2017. Even this year, a fourth-down desperation throw from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to wide receiver Tyreek Hill was just out of reach of a diving Mosley in a tough Week 14 loss.
Mosley just kept working. The four-time Pro Bowler isn’t all that flashy or loud, but he’s beloved in the locker room and has been a consummate pro. It was his first interception of the season, and couldn’t have come at a better time.
“That’s why he’s our captain and that’s why he’s a Pro Bowler, man,” linebacker Matthew Judon said. “Big players make big plays.”
The play that sent the Ravens into the 2018 playoffs lifted a collective weight off the shoulders of Baltimore. It wasn’t just Mosley’s teammates that mobbed him in the end zone. Judging by the pandemonium at jam-packed M&T Bank Stadium, there were a lot more people in that celebration.
“Yeah man, when you do something great, and the whole city and the whole team is behind you, there’s no better feeling,” Mosley said.
“At the end of the day, we deserved it. All the things we’ve been through all year, the ups and downs of the season, the naysayers out there, all the people on social media that said I can’t cover… We’re in there. Like I always said, we just needed a chance to get in the playoffs. We’re in there, so let’s keep rolling.”
Check out the best photos from Sunday's Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns.