Game balls usually go out to individual players. After the Baltimore Ravens' third comeback win after trailing by double digits in the second half, Head Coach John Harbaugh dedicated a ball to "faith."
The Ravens' 34-31 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium was just the latest in what has been a wild season for the Ravens, who sit atop the AFC North at 6-2.
Half of Baltimore's wins have required major comebacks – something the pundits once doubted the Ravens could do with Lamar Jackson as their quarterback. That narrative has not only been crushed, but rather reversed.
The Ravens are the NFL's comeback kings this season.
"It's going to go up in the locker room to faith; I think that's the star of the game," Harbaugh said.
"I told the guys, I said, 'We had a bunch of guys playing out there. … We had a bunch of guys that were praying. I promise you I was doing some praying, and a lot of our fans were doing some praying, too.' Just really with that, the idea that they stick together, they don't flinch. Kevin Zeitler was talking about it. He's been on teams [where] you're down 14 points like that, and you really just kind of know the game is over. Not this team; it's like nobody even bats an eye. Shrug your shoulders, and let's go."
In Week 2, Baltimore came back from 11 points down midway through the third quarter to beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 36-35. In Week 5, the Ravens came back from 16 points down with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter to beat the Indianapolis Colts in overtime, 31-25.
In a season when even the best teams have been inexplicably toppled (did you see the Bills lose to the Jags?), the Ravens have resiliently fended off a couple of upsets on their home turf.
Jackson, of course, appreciates another win, but said he hopes this isn't becoming the Ravens' style.
"I'm not trying to be going to overtime every week. Oh my God," Jackson said with a laugh. "But, I just feel our team did a great job, going to three overtimes this season. We didn't lay down. We saw the score was tilted early in the game. Our guys just fought. We made a comeback."
It couldn't have started much worse for the Ravens. After a potential touchdown was missed by tight end Mark Andrews on the opening offensive drive, the Vikings struck with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson.
On the Vikings' next drive, running back Dalvin Cook ripped off a 66-yard run on third down that put them in position for a second touchdown to take an early 14-3 lead.
A defense that ranked last in the league in passing yards allowed was gouged yet again and Baltimore suddenly had its back against the wall.
"We definitely got together and talked, did a lot, and really just calmed down," veteran linebacker Josh Bynes said.
The offense wasn't doing much to inspire confidence that it could come back either. The entire unit, including Jackson, looked out of sorts for much of the first half. Jackson was often running from pressure, unable to get comfortable in the pocket and find targets downfield. The Ravens punted three straight times and then Jackson threw an interception.
The Ravens scored a touchdown during a two-minute drill at the end of the half, drawing to just seven points behind. But when the second half kicked off, another blow was delivered. Vikings returner Kene Nwangwu returned the opening kickoff of the second half 98 yards for a touchdown, putting Minnesota up 24-10.
"We made a point in the second half; we said, 'We want to see the kind of team we're going to be in terms of playing winning football. Error-free football with all of our physicality and all of our execution,'" Harbaugh said. "And then the first thing that happens is the kick return goes back to the house. That's a gut punch, but we've been there before."
There's something powerful to the notion that a team is never out of it. The Chiefs rode that wave to a Super Bowl two years ago and the Ravens seem to be forging the same kind of identity.
"That's like our motto this season – no matter what happens, we're never going to attack each other or blame others," fullback Patrick Ricard said. "We just keep fighting, keep playing and see what happens. Whenever we have a quarterback like Lamar, you want to play incredibly hard for that guy, and you know he's going to make something happen."
The problem for the Vikings was the touchdown before halftime heated up Jackson and the offense. The Ravens started picking at the underbelly of the Vikings, who were intent to not let Jackson and his receivers beat them deep.
Jackson obliged, leading the Ravens on three straight touchdown drives in the second half to put Baltimore on top.
Jackson was 8-of-17 for 65 passing yards in the first half. In the second half and overtime, he went 19-of-24 for 201 yards with two touchdowns.
"It can be going bad, and [at] any split second, it could go good," Marquise "Hollywood" Brown said. "And when it's going good, it feels good. But with [Jackson] you just … Any play – like, this next play – could be a touchdown. This next play could be a big play with him."
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the offense after halftime, however. The Ravens had an opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation as they neared midfield, but a holding penalty and sack ended that.
The Ravens won the coin toss and got the ball first in overtime, and again started marching down the field, but Jackson was intercepted by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr when he leapt into the passing lane and tipped the ball to himself before diving for the pick at Baltimore's 38-yard line.
"Everybody knew what was at stake, and what was the mission, and what we had to do, and to not panic," Bynes said. "We did such an awesome job in that situation to go out there and get a stop and get the ball back to our offense."
The defense rose up, however, to give Jackson and the offense another chance, and this time they delivered. Jackson found Brown for a 20-yard gain on the first play and Devonta Freeman rumbled for 19 yards.
More adversity popped up with back-to-back penalties that made it first-and-20, but Brown caught a pair of passes and Le'Veon Bell busted up the middle for 12 yards on a critical third-and-2 to put Justin Tucker well within range for the game-winning 36-yard field goal.
"We've been doing that for kind of a long time – since 'Harbs' has been here, for sure," Bynes said. "[Our] backs have been against the walls. For some reason, we just know how to find a way to win. We've got, obviously, one of the best kickers of all time on our team. That always adds tremendous value."