Ravens hope good luck lasts one more game
NEW ORLEANS — The Ravens in Ray Lewis' final season are trying to become just like the Steelers in Jerome Bettis' last season.
And that's from a team that appeared to have little chance of winning the Super Bowl only a few weeks before the NFL playoffs began to lifting a Lombardi Trophy amid a confetti shower, with more than one-third of the country tuned in to watch.
There's only one difference: at least the Steelers exhibited signs of being dangerous and on the rise as they won their final four regular-season games in 2005 before finishing out an improbable Super Bowl run with four consecutive victories away from Heinz Field.
In December, when the Steelers beat the Ravens in Baltimore with No. 3 quarterback Charlie Batch in charge, Baltimore had the look of a team that might not last past New Year's week amid a late-season slide in which it lost four of five.
“There were a lot of things happening,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said Monday. “I was like, ‘Well, if this is a Super Bowl team, this is one hell of a team.' ”
As they arrived in New Orleans on Monday for the franchise's first Super Bowl in a dozen years, the Ravens identified two intangibles for their January surge that landed them in the NFL title game against the favored San Francisco 49ers.
Two intangibles that made them believe and, at the same time, made the country disbelieve.
Fourth-and-29. Seventy yards and 44 seconds to go.
The week before what might have been Batch's farewell performance, running back Ray Rice converted a short pass on a fourth-and-29 in San Diego into the NFL's most improbable first down of the season. The Ravens went on to salvage a win in a game that appeared to be lost.
Then, on Jan. 12 in Denver, they won a game that was lost.
Down, 35-28, to the top-seeded Broncos and facing a third-and-3 at their own 30 with no timeouts left and less than a minute to the play, the Ravens pulled out one of the biggest miracle comebacks this side of the Immaculate Reception when Jacoby Jones inexplicably got behind safety Rahim Morris to make a 70-yard touchdown catch that forced overtime. It was a play that absolutely could not happen, somehow happening.
The Ravens then rallied from a halftime deficit and beat the favored Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough, something they believed they had done last season until Billy Cundiff missed a seemingly easy, game-winning field-goal try.
“The last four or five years we've had a lot of close games, big games,” center Matt Birk. “This game's a funny game. We found ways to win games that were pretty remarkable. It gives everybody confidence, the feeling you're never out of it. We never seemed to go into a panic mode.”
Now, the Ravens will try to join those '05 Steelers, the 2006 Colts, the 2007 Giants, the 2010 Packers and the 2011 Giants by winning the Super Bowl as a lower-seeded team, one that didn't have the advantage of a No. 1 or No. 2 seed or a whole lot of time off between the end of the regular season and the playoffs.
The difference, of course, is all those teams were hot at the end of the season. The Ravens were not.
They weren't just a long shot, they were a they-have-no-shot team.
Yet they had a reason to believe.
Fourth-and-29. Seventy yards and 44 seconds to go.
“I don't know if we're fated but, when you come through in those situations, win close games, it gives everybody confidence,” Birk said. “You just feel it.”
Now, Lewis wants to experience something else.
“I want them to feel what that confetti feels like,” he said.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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