The 2012 Ravens had been there before.
In 2010, it was blowing a two-touchdown lead in Pittsburgh. In 2011, it was a Lee Evans end zone drop coupled with a Billy Cundiff field goal miss in the final minute of the AFC Championship Game. Devastating finishes to 12-4 seasons.
Coming off the two most crushing postseason losses in franchise history, the 2012 Ravens knew they would be judged, and ultimately remembered, for what they did in January.
They would also be remembered for capping Ray Lewis’ Hall of Fame career. The longest-tenured Raven and last player remaining player from the 2000 Super Bowl team announced after the regular season he would retire after the playoffs.
The Ravens rallied behind their unquestioned leader, playing not just for a ring but to help Lewis go out on a high note. Almost immediately, it was clear this was a team of destiny.
Facing 3rd-and-3 from their own 30-yard line, down 35-28 with 41 seconds left in freezing Denver, the Ravens would not panic. Joe Flacco launched the Prayer in Thin Air, caught by a streaking Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown and overtime.
The play is forever immortalized in Baltimore’s memory, the defining moment of an all-time postseason run. They would go on to win the game in double overtime, and the back-and-forth thriller is considered one of the NFL’s 100 greatest games ever.
It wasn’t the only game from these playoffs in the top 40 of the NFL’s greatest games list. You know it’s a memorable run when the Mile High Miracle isn’t even the highest-ranked game, and a postseason win against Tom Brady in Foxborough is barely remembered.
The Ravens capped off their magical season in New Orleans with the Blackout Bowl - or if you prefer, the Harbaugh Bowl. The 34-31 Ravens victory nearly featured a 49ers comeback for the ages, sparked by a second-half blackout in the Superdome.
It also featured brothers John and Jim Harbaugh competing for football’s ultimate prize as rival head coaches, an unprecedented angle to the Super Bowl matchup.
As the Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco enjoyed arguably the most impressive postseason run in NFL history. He became the first quarterback to throw for at least 1,100 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in a postseason, in the process defeating both Brady and Peyton Manning, the two greatest quarterbacks of the era, in their own stadiums.
The Ravens entered the 2012 postseason having already experienced enough heartache for one lifetime. They left with elation that only comes with a legacy-defining performance, exorcised demons and the perfect retirement send-off for the greatest player in franchise history.