Late in the first half of the Ravens’ 2000 divisional round game against the Tennessee Titans with the score tied at seven, Baltimore’s Keith Washington blocked an Al Del Greco field goal attempt, and Ravens safety Anthony Mitchell briefly chased after the ball before it settled in the end zone.
Mitchell wasn’t able to get his hands on the ball that time, but he knew his time was coming. That time came when the Titans were attempting to break a 10-10 tie early in the fourth quarter.
“On the sideline, like I always say, I was standing there with Robert Bailey when they were driving down,” Mitchell said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 8. “We were talking. I said, ‘Something big’s going to happen, Robert. Something big’s going to happen for me.’ And he was looking at me like, ‘Aight, let’s do it.’ And then they called the field goal block team out there.”
Mitchell’s time to shine came when Del Greco lined up for a 37-yard field goal with 12:25 remaining in regulation. Washington again got his hand on Del Greco’s field goal, though this time the ball popped up in the air — right to Mitchell — instead of carrying all the way to the end zone. Mitchell explained he was the designated “spy” on the play whose duty was to drop back after showing rush.
“Perfect timing,” Mitchell said. “Keith got his hand on it as soon as I dropped back. The ball was floating in the air and I just ran up under it and ran down the sideline, the whole time thinking, ‘Don’t get caught.'”
Mitchell ran 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown. He was untouched — or barely touched — as he ran down the field. After Washington’s field goal block in the first half, Mitchell said defensive stalwarts Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson told him to stay away from the ball after a field goal block out of fear for a turnover. Mitchell, though, had different ideas, and he executed.
“I’m like, ‘It’s all linemen on the field goal team and a kicker and a holder,'” Mitchell said. “I said, ‘If I get caught when I pick up the ball, I don’t need to be playing football.'”
Mitchell’s touchdown and kicker Matt Stover’s ensuing extra point gave the Ravens a 17-10 lead. With 6:55 remaining in regulation, the Ravens put the game away. On second-and-14 from the Titans’ 47-yard line, quarterback Steve McNair targeted running back Eddie George at midfield but threw it slightly behind him. George bobbled the ball and had it taken away by Lewis, who was covering George. Lewis returned the interception 50 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.
Mitchell, the Ravens’ dime safety, was on the field for the play. He joked that Lewis stole his thunder with the pick-six.
“At the time, we were in dime defense. So I’m on the field at safety, and I’m breaking when they throw it to Eddie George on the crosser and I see Ray Lewis take him,” Mitchell said. “I’m like, ‘Drop it, drop it!’ Because you’ve got to think, you’re talking about Ray Lewis making a play or Anthony Mitchell making a play. OK people, who’s the face of the Ravens back then? Ray Lewis. So I was like, ‘This is going to take away from everything I just did!’ But it was cool. I was happy for him and at the same time mad at him that he didn’t drop the ball.”
The Ravens went on to win the AFC championship game against the Oakland Raiders and Super Bowl XXXV against the New York Giants. As the Ravens look for the third Super Bowl championship in team history this year, the Titans again stand in their way. It’ll be the fourth time the two sides meet up in the playoffs, with the January 2001 game carrying the most renown, thanks in part to Mitchell’s touchdown.
Mitchell, 45, plans to be in attendance at M&T Bank Stadium Jan. 11. He’s now a Georgia high school football coach and a trainer with BluePrint Athletics in Stockbridge, Ga. Mitchell’s sons have followed in their father’s footsteps: Kobi is a defensive back at Division II Tuskegee — Mitchell’s alma mater — and got into one game as a freshman this fall, and Keaten is a running back who recently signed with East Carolina.
Mitchell, who was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 1999, played in 48 regular-season games and six playoff games for Baltimore from 2000-2002. Now, he’s a big fan of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“People doubted him. People are counting him out as a quarterback. … For him to be the top quarterback in the NFL right now, it’s big,” Mitchell said. “You’ve got to cheer for a guy like that that’s coming in [with] a chip on his shoulder. He’s got a point to prove. Doing what he’s doing and being able to hopefully take the team to the Super Bowl, it magnifies how great of an athlete and how great of a quarterback he is. You can’t overlook him.”
To hear more from Mitchell, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens