Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Bill Belichick You Don't Know, explores the lesser-known side of the New England Patriots head coach.
Bill Belichick and the Ravens have been attached at the hip for longer, and more deeply, than people might assume.
Perhaps the NFL’s best coach of all time, Belichick has had a great impact on Baltimore football, even when he’s not been actively on the team’s staff.
He was an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts and coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975, his first ever coaching job in the NFL. After a few stints as an assistant coach, he moved on to the Giants where he led one of the most successful defensive teams in NFL history to two Super Bowls.
There’s no shortage of memorable moments between the famed coach and the Ravens, and here are a few that stand out:
The 1996 NFL Draft
Belichick was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995 before the Browns’ move to Baltimore. Even with Art Modell’s assurances that he’d be the head coach in Baltimore too, where Belichick started his career, he was fired in early 1996.
But while the Ravens’ first draft in the NFL was one of the best drafts of any team in NFL history, it couldn’t have happened without Belichick.
He made a trade in the 1995 season, still as the coach of the Browns, with the 49ers that gave the Ravens two first round picks in 1996. The Ravens’ first pick ever, their own pick, went to the selection of Jonathan Ogden at fourth overall.
Later in the first round, with the pick Belichick had traded for, the Ravens selected linebacker Ray Lewis.
Belichick perhaps had no greater admiration for a Ravens player than Ed Reed. That manifested itself on one play against the Colts.
Reed had studied Peyton Manning’s tendencies and found out that a pump fake indicated where Manning wanted to throw the football. He intercepted a would-be touchdown in that week’s game.
Reed’s play still sticks out in his mind.
“Best play I’ve ever seen a free safety make,” Belichick said.
Tom Brady was understandably worried about Reed in his career, and both he and Belichick have marveled at Reed’s ability for years.
Brady once had “Find 20 on Every Play” written on his quarterback armband.
The Ravens nearly ended the perfection of Belichick’s best team of all time.
On Monday Night Football late in the 2007 season, Belichick took his unbeaten Patriots to M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens. There, one of the wildest finishes in the storied rivalry took place.
The Ravens thought they had the Patriots stopped on 4th down on three separate occasions as the Patriots drove for the game-winning touchdown, but each time had to replay the down.
Belichick’s Patriots escaped with the win as the end of the Brian Billick era in Baltimore was set in motion, which led to John Harbaugh’s hiring as coach.
2012 Justin Tucker winner
In one of the least proud moments of the rivalry, the Ravens knocked off the Patriots 31-30 on a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker early in the 2012 season.
Late in the game, Harbaugh was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after coming onto the field, while yelling, “I was trying to call timeout!” That led to a “manure” chant by Ravens fans that Al Michaels noted on the NBC broadcast.
The Ravens got the ball back and marched into Patriots territory, where Tucker’s game-winning kick sailed seemingly directly over top of the right upright. As Vince Wilfork ran screaming toward the officials, Belichick ran off the field and tried to grab the arm of an official who was running off the field.
At the time, the NFL’s referees were in the midst of a lockout and replacement referees were the biggest story of the season.
The Ravens were even linked to the Patriots infamous Deflategate scandal — but only tangentially. The team has consistently denied involvement since.
According to reports in August of 2015, the Ravens were the ones who let the Colts know about possible deflated footballs.
But according to the Ted Wells report on the incident, the Colts requested to use their own kicking balls for the AFC Championship Game on the basis that the Ravens had not been provided kicking balls prepared by themselves during the divisional round. It was the Ravens’ lone mention in the report.
Harbaugh denied on multiple occasions that the Ravens were involved, and that any call to the Colts took place.
In what was the future of the rivalry, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens handed the Patriots their first loss of the 2019 season.
Jackson threw for 163 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 61 yards as the Ravens won 37-20. It was the Ravens’ most notable win of the season to that point and the win that propelled them to a 14-2 finish.
And, as it turns out, it was Belichick’s last game against the Ravens with Brady at the helm and the turning of the page in the rivalry to the next chapter.
This story has been updated to clarify the "Deflategate" section.
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