Nothing comes easy for these flawed, 2016 Ravens, so of course they turned a 10-point lead against a struggling Eagles team into a white-knuckle finish.
Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz scored on a 4-yard scramble with four seconds left to cut the Ravens lead to 27-26, and then rather than force overtime with an extra-point kick, the nothing-to-lose Eagles kept the offense on the field and went for the win with a two-point conversion try.
With the Ravens season hanging in the balance – the Ravens could ill afford to fall two games behind the Steelers with two to play – linebacker C.J. Mosley tipped Wentz’s two-point attempt at the line of scrimmage, and the quick slant intended for Jordan Matthews was also broken up by cornerback Jerraud Powers at the goal line.
“It was a gutsy call by the Eagles, a tribute to them,” Powers said. “We knew it was win or go home. We are playing playoff football now.”
The win keeps the Ravens (8-6) one game behind the Steelers (9-5) entering the Christmas Day showdown at Heinz Field.
Mosley said the Ravens came with an all-out blitz on the two-point play. “Even if I didn’t get a hand on the ball, J.P. did a great job covering,” he said. “He probably would have got his hand on the ball. So, I mean, we just executed.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he had already made up his mind that if the Eagles scored in the closing seconds, they were going for two.
“I wanted to win the football game, and even our chances in overtime were less than 50 percent winning this game,” Pederson said. “As an underdog, going into the game, we were going to win the game in regulation.”
“The play call, the play design, everything was built for that situation,” Pederson added. “Credit them, they got a hand up and tipped the ball.”
The Eagles had already successfully run one two-point conversion earlier in the game, with Ryan Mathews diving over on a run. Mathews finished with 128 yards rushing, but he was not on the field on the final two-point play.
“Your chances with Carson throwing are a little better in that situation,” Pederson said.
The Ravens only found themselves in this predicament after doing their best to blow a 10-point lead thanks, in part, to what coach John Harbaugh called “an all-time worst” play call – a first-down pass by Flacco from the Eagles 11-yard line with the Ravens ahead 27-17 in the fourth quarter.
It was intercepted and returned 34 yards, which began an Eagles field goal drive. After the Ravens went three-and-out on three running plays as they tried unsuccessfully to burn the clock, the Eagles took over at their 41-yard line with 1:39 left, and Wentz engineered the final scoring drive.
On the final two-point play, Powers found himself lined up in the slot opposite Matthews, his offseason training partner in Alabama.
“We were bringing the house. We knew the ball was going to have to come out quick,” Powers said. “The easier throw is a slant, so in my head in the slot, I’m thinking I gotta make sure I guard the slant. … Jordan Matthews is their No. 1 target, their No. 1 receiver, so in my head, I kinda knew the ball was coming my way. I’m just happy I made the play.”