Should there be a Hollywood (with due respect to Marquise Brown) movie about Monday’s Ravens-Browns game, count head coach John Harbaugh out of the premiere. He wouldn’t believe it.
In a 47-42 win over the Browns, the Ravens somehow won after they blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, they lost their backup quarterback to what appeared to be a serious knee injury only to have the starter heroically return from the locker room after battling cramps, allowed a touchdown with just over a minute to play and had to trot their star kicker out for a 55-yard field goal in the wind, cold and bad field conditions.
If it all felt unrealistic, it’s because it was. But the Ravens are now 8-5 and, no matter if it felt real or not, they’re perhaps two wins in their final three games away from another playoff appearance.
“With all the things that went on with this game, the timing like you’re talking about right there, if you wrote a movie about this, people wouldn’t believe it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They would say it could never happen. ‘Reality is stranger than fiction,’ or whatever that saying is. That’s kind of what it is here -- it’s crazy.”
The Ravens led 34-20 entering the final quarter of play, but blew the lead, lost their quarterback (twice) and somehow came out ahead in a fourth quarter where they allowed 22 points.
“It’s a game that’s going to go down in history,” Harbaugh said. “All I can say is at the end, I was doing a little bit of praying. I will say what was said earlier, what ‘Tuck’ said: All praise and glory to God. Our guys had faith and trust and belief, and sometimes, that’s what it takes.”
Baltimore’s evening was relatively normal, sans for a few moments of the peculiar nature like when Cleveland had more sacks (four) than quarterback Lamar Jackson had completions (three). Or when Jackson couldn’t find his footing -- literally -- as the slippery field forced him to change cleats at halftime.
Then, all hell broke loose in the final 14 minutes culminating in the best finish of the NFL season and one of the best in Ravens’ history.
“My emotions are all over the place right now,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “I just feel, first of all, blessed to be able to play this game after two weeks of sitting out and watching this team play. So, it was tough for me to do that. It was just so much fun. All the guys competed. Everyone made plays. Everyone stepped up.”
The man who couldn’t afford to show emotion, though, was the one the Ravens needed in the final seconds.
Justin Tucker, the most accurate kicker in league history, trotted onto the field of the most emotional game of the 2020 season to attempt a game-winning 55-yard field goal. At that moment, he was the only player on the field that couldn’t show his feelings.
“I’m a pretty emotional type of person -- I kind of wear my emotions on my sleeve -- except for when there are like two minutes left in a football game,” he said. “I don’t have the time or the energy for that. I don’t think anybody really needs me to be emotional. They need me to be poised, stoic. My teammates and everybody in this organization just needs me to do my job in that moment.”
It’s ironic in that regard that, with emotions running high in a wild AFC North showdown, Monday’s game was decided by the kicker who was as calm as ever.