You could say this column comes “due to popular demand.” As our “Project Gameday” postgame show started after the Ravens’ Week 14 win against the Cleveland Browns, Ken Zalis and I pondered where Lamar Jackson’s dramatic fourth-down touchdown pass to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown might rank among the greatest regular-season plays in franchise history.
This conversation, of course, is a reminder of just how spoiled we’ve been in Baltimore over two and a half decades. If we were to just broadly consider the greatest plays in team history, there would be so many postseason moments that a top 10 might not include a single regular-season play.
The topic generated enough interest that I kinda had no choice. What are the 10 greatest regular-season plays in Ravens history? Let’s give this a shot.
Am I cheating by having No. 10 be a tie? Sure. But when the same guy had two thrilling, record-setting, game-sealing interception returns in his career, how exactly do we separate them?
9. Haloti Ngata breaks Ben Roethlisberger’s nose in 2010
That this play still gives us such joy certainly says something unflattering about who we are as fans. Particularly when you remember that the Ravens ended up blowing a fourth-quarter lead and Roethlisberger actually led a game-winning drive. But the image of Roethlisberger walking off the field with his mangled nose remains one of the more iconic in team history.
8. Frank Sanders tip drill converts fourth-and-28 to keep comeback hopes vs. Seattle alive in 2003
It’s one thing that the Ravens trailed Seattle by 17 points with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter that day. Somehow things were even more dire at the two-minute warning. The Ravens faced a fourth-and-28 from their own 35, trailing by two scores. They ultimately won, thanks to an insane heave from Anthony Wright on that fourth down. The ball was tipped up in the air by Marcus Robinson and caught by Frank Sanders.
That definitely has to be the most insane fourth-down conversion at the two-minute warning in franchise history, right?
7. “Hell yeah, Coach, let’s go for it” at Seattle in 2019
It was Lamar Jackson’s signature moment in his signature victory during his unanimous MVP season, and it just so happened to come along with an iconic quote. I found an excuse to use the same phrase no fewer than 20 times in conversation during the rest of calendar 2019.
6. Shannon Sharpe rewrites history vs. Jacksonville in 2000
As we prepare for Ravens-Jaguars in Week 15, we’re reminded that Baltimore lost their first EIGHT meetings with Jacksonville in franchise history. That all ended when Tony Banks found Shannon Sharpe for a 29-yard touchdown strike with 41 seconds left. The Ravens announced their arrival as a contender … even if they would have to change quarterbacks and styles before they would ultimately win their first Super Bowl.
5. Torrey Smith’s redemption at Pittsburgh in 2011
Just a few plays earlier, Smith dropped a would-be game winning touchdown in the end zone. But Joe Flacco went back to him on the other side of the field for the game-winner anyway with eight seconds remaining. It was the biggest drive of Flacco’s career at the time.
4. Ray Lewis emphatically finishes things in San Diego in 2009
It’s not just that he made the play to stop Darren Sproles in the backfield on fourth-and-2 with the game hanging in the balance. It’s that he so instinctually knew exactly what was coming that he was shot out of a friggin’ rocket and the game was over the moment the ball was snapped.
3. “The Immaculate Evacuation” at Cleveland in 2020
I’m not married to “The Immaculate Evacuation,” I just wanted to give it a shot. I realize there’s recency bias involved in this, but we are hard-pressed to soon forget just how dramatic this was. With two minutes left in the game and with the season potentially at stake, we genuinely believed the game was about to come down to Willie Snead going under center to attempt to convert a fourth-and-5. Just moments later, Lamar Jackson saved the season.
If this somehow leads to a deep Ravens run, this might end up moving up the list.
2. Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain shut down Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in 2008
I know. I’m cheating again. These were two plays. But again, I think it’s easy to understand why I might combine them here. This is the greatest regular-season win in franchise history, and the 77- and 82-yard touchdown runs in the closing minutes (respectively) were absolutely shocking.
1. Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle in San Diego in 2012
It’s so absurd. This was a mediocre Ravens team, honestly. The results would prove that during the next couple of weeks. But this ended up being a critical win. It’s borderline shameful that Joe Flacco ever checked the ball down. We’ll never REALLY know if Rice made it to the line to gain. And we don’t give nearly enough credit to Anquan Boldin for his block on future Raven Eric Weddle to get Rice there.
Others receiving consideration:
- Marlon Brown’s game-winning touchdown in the snow against the Vikings in 2013
- TJ Houshmandzadeh’s game-winner at Pittsburgh in 2010
- Chris McAlister’s then-record field goal return in 2002
- Will Hill’s game-winning field goal block return at Cleveland in 2015
- Lamar Jackson’s “He Is Houdini” touchdown run at Cincinnati in 2019
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox