Ravens top Broncos in double OT 38-35
On many days, the two interceptions would have made him the star of the game. On this day — he was just another player making big plays for Baltimore. Even he was amazed at the Flacco-Jones touchdown.
‘‘It was one of those miraculous plays,’’ Graham said. ‘‘I don’t think it'll ever be forgotten.’’
The wind chill at kickoff was 2 degrees, and Manning, wearing an orange-and-gray glove to get more feel in the icy weather, fell to 0-4 lifetime in playoff games when the temperature is 40 or less. He finished 28 for 43 for 290 yards and accounted for all three Denver turnovers — the two picks and a lost fumble that set up the touchdown that tied the game at 28 late in the third quarter.
Combined, the mistakes nullified a record-setting day for returner Trindon Holliday, who returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 104 yards for another score. Both were playoff records for longest returns, as was the 248 total return yards he had.
This was, more or less, the unthinkable for the Broncos, who came in on an 11-game winning streak and the odds-on favorite, at 3-1, to win the Super Bowl — in Manning’s hometown of New Orleans, no less.
Instead, this loss goes down with the most devastating in Denver history. Right there with the 30-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Jan. 4, 1997 — another year when Denver looked very much like Super Bowl material.
‘‘Certainly we did a lot of good things this season, but as of right now, it’s hard to think about anything besides the loss tonight,’’ Manning said.
Baltimore, meanwhile, will get ready for its second straight trip to the AFC title game.
Last year, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal against New England that would have tied that game at the end of regulation.
This year, the Ravens had Tucker, and though the temperature was cold and the ball was hard, coach John Harbaugh showed zero desire to get the ball closer after Ray Rice ran for 11 yards to the Denver 34 near the end of the first overtime.
Tucker was making them from 67 yards in pre-game warmups and was practicing during the break between overtime periods.
‘‘I always feel good when I go out on the field,’’ he said. ‘‘Not many people get to do this. This is a heck of a lot of fun.’’
While he finished the day 1 for 1, Broncos kicker Matt Prater missed his only try, from 52 yards, when he hit the turf, then the ball, on an attempt at the end of the first half.
Broncos coach John Fox will be second-guessed about the decision to go for the long kick, especially considering the way Flacco responded: Throwing and completing three straight passes after the miss for a 58-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 21 going into halftime.
The touchdown was a 32-yard connection to Torrey Smith, marking the second time Smith beat Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. Smith also got behind the 12-time Pro Bowler for a 59-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
‘‘The first one — I lost it,’’ Bailey said. ‘‘The second one, he just made a great play. I was in position, he made a good play. That’s why he’s in the league.’’
All part of an uncharacteristic day for the Broncos, who routed Baltimore on its home field, 34-17, less than a month ago.
But on this day, the coldest playoff game in Broncos history, these were different teams playing for different stakes.
Flacco improved to 7-4 in playoff game. Rice finished with 131 yards and a score. With Lewis manning the middle of the field, the Broncos offense didn’t look like the well-oiled machine it had over a winning streak dating to a 35-24 comeback win over San Diego in October.
The Ravens, meanwhile, looked more like the team that began the season 9-2 instead of the one that finished it losing four of their last five. And boy did they and the Broncos put on a show.
‘‘Thanks for bearing witness to one of the greatest football games you’re ever going to see,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘That football game did football proud.’’
Notes: The Broncos fell to 13-4 at home lifetime in the playoffs. ... Manning tied Dan Marino for fourth most touchdowns in postseason history. He also matched Brett Favre for most career playoff losses, with 11. ... Lewis’ 17 tackles were a season high. ... Anquan Boldin, shut out in the first meeting between the teams, had six catches for 71 yards. ... Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno left early in the second half with an injured right knee.
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