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How the Ravens nearly didn’t win the Super Bowl in 2013

How the Ravens nearly didn’t win the Super Bowl in 2013

The Mile High Miracle is a game that will live in the minds of Ravens fans forever. 

It's also a moment that nearly didn’t happen. 

The Ravens were in a back-and-forth affair in the 2013 divisional playoff round against the Broncos in a game that featured five ties, and one famed touchdown in the final minutes. 

The teams traded scores in the second half until the Ravens found themselves at their own 30-yard line down seven with a ticking clock on the game, the season and Ray Lewis’ career. 

Then quarterback Joe Flacco stepped up in the pocket and fired a deep pass down the right sideline to Jacoby Jones, who was covered by safety Rahim Moore over-the-top. 

Moore’s job was to not let anyone behind him, but he misplayed the coverage and wasn’t able to knock the ball away as it fell into Jones’ arms. As Jones sprinted into the end zone, he blew a kiss with his left hand as the Ravens tied the game with 31 seconds to play. The play, and the game, were aptly named the Mile High Miracle. 

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The game went to overtime, and later double overtime, as the Ravens found big plays from Dennis Pitta and Haloti Ngata to extend the game further in Denver. 

And as the first overtime period wound down, Corey Graham intercepted Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for the second time of the day. 

The Ravens, who held Manning to 290 yards passing and three touchdowns in five quarters, picked him off twice. 

Flacco, who had the playoffs of his life, took over inside Broncos territory. A delayed handoff to Ray Rice, aided by a monster contribution from right guard Marshal Yanda, the Ravens found themselves in field goal territory as the second overtime period began. 

Then Justin Tucker, as he’s done many times since, booted a 47-yard field goal for the win as the Ravens earned a 38-35 victory on the road. 

But the win almost never happened — on a number of levels. 

The Ravens failed to convert on a 4th down with 3:12 to play down seven points, where the Broncos could have run out the clock with their offense that averaged 30.1 points-per-game that season. 

The most glaring example of where the game could’ve turned, though, was Flacco’s heave to Jones with under 40 seconds to play, where properly played coverage would’ve certainly ended the Ravens’ season and erased one of the most famous plays in Ravens' history.

With a few more examples, including Tucker’s kick and Yanda’s run blocking, the Ravens nearly weren’t able to avenge their loss in New England from a year prior. 

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The loss would’ve had lasting effects on the franchise as well. 

Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed would have never won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, as the Ravens would still be looking for their first Super Bowl title during the John Harbaugh era. Lewis' last season wouldn't have ended in a Super Bowl victory, either. 

The game would’ve ended Flacco’s playoff run after just two games, which certainly would’ve had an impact on his contract negotiations after the season considering Flacco went on to win Super Bowl MVP. His deal was worth $120.6 million and $52 million guaranteed. 

It wasn’t apparent at the time, but the following years of the organization were shaped in the final minute of regulation in a game affectionately known as the Mile High Miracle. 

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh hasn’t been shy on his feelings about the NFL’s coronavirus protocols. He said in June, and repeated Friday, they’re impossible to follow to a T. 

But he’s also very confident in the ability of NFL teams to create a safe and productive environment during a global pandemic. 

Harbaugh said that compared to the rest of the country, most players are safer at facilities with their teams than at their homes.

“I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now, an NBA basketball bubble,” Harbaugh said. “We’re pretty darn safe. If you want to rank them, we’re all in the top five across the country. We’re right up there with anybody. We get tested every day and we are wearing masks everywhere.”

The Ravens, by all accounts, have done well making sure their facility in Owings Mills is not only following protocols for players and coaches, but also making sure it’s as easy a transition as possible. 

Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen said last week that players are constantly being reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands and keep distance from one another.

“All you can do is the best you can do and mitigate it to a great extent,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of that so far, there are no guarantees going forward. We’ve got to stay vigilant like we’ve done.”

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The Ravens have had just two players opt out of the upcoming season — wide receiver/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas and tackle Andre Smith — but it was certainly a conversation for a lot of players in the locker room. 

Most notably, defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

“I definitely considered (opting out). You have to,” Campbell said. “You can’t play football with this going on and not think about the risk you’re going to put on yourself and your family. Going through that process, I realized talking to the doctors and just setting up the protocols and other things we have to do to keep each other safe, I felt like the risks were mitigated the best we can.”

Campbell, who was acquired from the Jaguars in a trade in March, is set to turn 34-years-old on Sept. 1 and has asthma. 

The five-time Pro Bowl selection would have been one of the most notable names in the league to voluntarily opt out of the 2020 season. But with the protocols in place, he felt safer about his participation. 

One topic of discussion for the Ravens and their protocols, too, has been the option of quarantining a specific group of players to prevent a spread. 

Likely, those players would be at positions of extreme value — like quarterback — or players where backups aren’t readily available — like kicker. It just so happens that the Ravens have two of the league’s best players at those positions in Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker. 

But as Harbaugh said, each move comes with a consequence, and that includes the “safer” option of quarantining the entire league.

“For instance, if you were going to quarantine the NFL for six months, yeah, if you were a doctor, you’d say, ‘Yeah, we want the best chance to keep everyone safe and healthy,’” Harbaugh said. “That would be great, but I kind of want to see my wife at some point in time in the next six months, and she doesn’t have coronavirus. So you’ve got to live with a certain amount of risk in order to live your life. We don’t want to forfeit all these guys' lives and they’re not willing to do it.”

Which means, for now, the players at the facility have assumed a level of risk for the upcoming season.

With the Ravens’ protocols in place, however, it’s all about minimizing those risks as much as possible.

“I put a lot of thought into it on my own, too, with my own underlying issues,” Campbell said. “I’m pretty confident in my ability to follow the rules.”

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Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown was hardly himself in his rookie season.

Not only did he have a Lisfranc injury in his foot that hampered his health all season long, but he also played portions of the year at less than 160 pounds. 

On the surface, his numbers didn’t take a hit. He was second on the team in targets (71), receptions (46), yards (584) and touchdowns (seven), but he had more to offer than what he showed in 14 games last season. 

This offseason, he added 20 pounds of muscle and, as he said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters, is up to 180 pounds. His foot is feeling better. And Marquise Brown is himself once again.

“I feel I got bright days ahead,” Brown said. “I feel 100 times better than I did last year. So, all I got to do now is focus on the plays, focus on the stuff that I’m supposed to focus on, instead of focusing on my feet and trying to stay healthy.”

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Brown’s added weight was the product of a mindset he had about trying to allow himself to undergo the rigors of an NFL season easier than he had a year ago. 

Whenever Brown would catch a pass, he would scurry out of bounds or dive forward to could avoid a hit. While that was certainly a product of the weight he played at and his desire to protect himself, it also had to do with his injured foot, too. 

He wasn’t able to run as fast as he did at Oklahoma, and he still isn’t quite at that speed, either. 

“Sometimes, I would try to make a cut that my foot wasn’t able to make, and I would go down,” Brown said. “Or sometimes, I just know that I’m not going to be able to make that move, so I’ll go down. It was more about getting the yards that I could get, get down, get ready for a next play. It was better for me to be in the game than to be out the game.”

Brown feels better now, and not only that, his teammates have taken notice, too.

“I could tell he put on a lot of weight,” Willie Snead said. “He’s put on a good amount of weight, and you can tell he’s solid now. I know the first thing he said coming into the building is, ‘I’m trying to block somebody. I’m trying to set the tone in the run game, man.’ I could just tell by his build that he took that part seriously.”

The Ravens sent him a GPS tracker while he trained in the offseason, so that while he added the weight, he didn’t lose any of his patented speed. Brown said he’s been able to keep his speed, despite the increased weight now on his 5-foot-9 frame. 

As the team’s top wide receiver, Brown will have an increased workload in his second season not only due to his progression with quarterback Lamar Jackson, but also the Ravens’ desire to pass the football more than they did a year ago.

It's for that reason the Ravens will put a lot more weight on his shoulders this year, as expectations for the organization are sky-high entering the upcoming season.

In that regard, it’s probably a good thing Brown will be a bit bigger in 2020.

“What people fail to realize, when I was at ‘OU’, I was 173-170, so I honestly just gained about 10 pounds,” Brown said. “I actually lost weight last year. To me, I feel back to normal, sort of to say. I feel like myself.”

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