Feb. 3 marks the fifth anniversary of the Baltimore Ravens’ win against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, the second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
The fifth anniversary of the Ravens’ win brings up a lot of thoughts. For some, it’s how remarkably different the Ravens’ roster looks today from just five years ago. For others, it’s the realization of how drastically different the landscape is in Baltimore regarding the team from five years ago. And with that in mind, for many fans the thought is more along the lines of “how did we get here?”
Of course, we know that answer. Inexplicably, after winning a Super Bowl with a fiery offense and rather average defense, the organization immediately decided it needed to de-emphasize the side of the ball that carried it to championship success and focus more on the other side of the ball. In five years, that thought process hasn’t changed. So here we are.
We’ve had plenty of time to debate how the Ravens have reached this point, and we’ll have plenty of time to debate it further.
But for me, the fifth anniversary of Super Bowl XLVII conjures thoughts and memories of my own. I remember not sleeping much all week while covering the game in New Orleans. I remember spending Super Bowl eve watching Stevie Wonder from the side of a stage at a corporate event and suddenly thinking, “Wow. I’m 10 feet away from Stevie Wonder. I don’t really care who wins this game.” I remember how hot it got inside the Superdome when the lights went out — at least in the auxiliary press box set up in the upper deck.
And more than anything, I remember the most under-appreciated play in Baltimore Ravens history. I remember third-and-1.
You remember third-and-1, right?
What was once a 28-6 advantage enjoyed by the Ravens had dwindled all the way to just a two-point lead with slightly more than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter at 31-29. The momentum was overwhelmingly on the side of the 49ers as the Ravens faced third-and-1 from their own 45.
(No, new Ravens fans, they didn’t call a pitch play.)
In one of the more breathtaking moments I can remember from watching and covering football, quarterback Joe Flacco reported to the line of scrimmage, identified single coverage on his beast of a wide receiver Anquan Boldin and decided there was only one possible direction the football could travel from there. He was given three options for the play but the choice was simple.
A spectacular back shoulder throw and catch (despite excellent coverage from 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers) and 15 yards later, the Ravens continued their final scoring drive of the game, the three additional points critical after the 49ers marched into field-goal range on their ensuing drive, the final possession of the game.
It remains to this day the gutsiest play in Ravens history.
The fifth anniversary of Jacoby Jones’ “Mile High Miracle” overtime game-winning touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round passed just two weeks ago. At the time, I acquiesced that if we were to debate “the greatest play in Ravens history,” it would have to either be that one or Ray Lewis’ strip of Eddie George and ensuing touchdown return in the Divisional Round during the Super Bowl XXXV title run. They’re the two most iconic plays in Ravens history and, frankly, the two greatest.
But after that there are no shortage of candidates to fill out the top five or top 10 plays in team history. And for me, none are greater than third-and-1.
Truth be told, I think more highly of this play than even Jones’ miracle because there was no luck involved. This throw was the culmination of the development of a quarterback alongside a truly great receiver who were given a few years to gel together. It was truly a championship-caliber play.
Thinking back on it five years later, it’s almost comical to think about this team attempting to replicate it. Could you imagine Flacco trying to make that type of throw to Breshad Perriman? Or Jeremy Maclin?
For those of you who are wondering how things have changed so drastically for the franchise during the course of five years, there’s your answer. The team invested $20 million a season in a quarterback but couldn’t give him anyone that he could trust to make plays when the stakes were the highest.
It’s absolutely my favorite play in franchise history (with Lewis’ a close second). While I’ll get back to my frustration about where the Ravens find themselves at some point soon, I’ll allow myself a minute to go back and enjoy it all over again.
And then I’ll try to avoid going into a fit of rage when I’m reminded that the Ravens decided to give up the guy who made the catch for next to nothing.
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox