NFL.coms Elliott Harrison has finished his rundown of the top 20 games of the 2011 season, and as expected, the Ravens-Patriots game for the AFC championship ended up high on the list.
The AFC Championship game ranked No. 4, according to Harrison. That trailed only the Giants win over San Francisco in the NFC title game (No. 3), the Giants win over Dallas in Week 14, and the 49ers remarkable playoff win over the Saints, which was the top game of the season, according to Harrison.
Harrison of course revisits the two most memorable plays in that AFC title game the potential game-winning touchdown catch that Lee Evans failed to hang on to, and the missed field-goal try by Billy Cundiff but Harrison focuses on two other plays that had just as much effect on the outcome of the game, yet were barely mentioned in postgame stories and highlights.
Both involved the oft-maligned" Joe Flacco.
The first was a fake to Ray Rice, followed by a rollout by Flacco.
It was set up perfectly, Harrison writes. Pretty much everyone on the Patriots defense bit on the run fake and Torrey Smith blew past Devin McCourty
Flacco had Smith wide open 40 yards downfield, but instead of setting his feet off the rollout and making an accurate throw, he decided to heave the ball on the run. Not good. The pass was woefully underthrown. Smith, who was so open he couldve caught the ball, pulled a sharpie out of his sock to sign it and moonwalked into the end zone, instead had to come back to the ball and make a sliding catch at the 30. The play went for 42 yards, but in reality, should have been a touchdown.
Baltimore would settle for a Cundiff field goal. So, it was Ravens 3, Patriots 3 when it easily couldve been 7-3. Theres four points gone for a Baltimore team that would ultimately lose 23-20.
Then in the second quarter, Flacco had Smith again WIDE open down the right side, Harrison writes. Seeing his receiver running free, all Flacco had to do was put some air under the ball. Give your receiver some room to adjust to the ball. Flacco didnt, missing Smith altogether. Baltimore would punt.
Harrison, though, doesnt throw the book at Flacco entirely, saying Dont blame Flacco. Dont blame Cundiff, either. The outcome was on both teams, and many players, despite what everyone says.
Torrey Smith, interviewed about the game in a video that can be seen on the page, says of Cundiffs last-second kick, I feel like if we had made a few more plays earlier, it would have never got down to that.