Patriot safety Duron Harmon came across the end zone and made an over-the-top play on the pass to Torrey Smith—that was the difference.
The Ravens came within a touchdown of making it to the AFC Championship game. You can torture yourself with what the offense should have done on that final drive or you can tip your hat to a job well done and move on.
I’ll miss being in the swarm of purple on Russell Street, in the sports bar at the Philly airport during a flight delay watching them demolish the Dolphins in the second half or listening through the Pennsylvania mountains to Gerry Sandusky’s bone-chilling call of the Chargers game.
They had humbled and quieted me during the Patriots game—I was in awe as I watched this team push New England to the brink of defeat in one of the most tantalizing contests of the last ten years. I’ll have trouble watching the Patriots and the Blue Horseshoes—it will be difficult to pull for either team. You’ll find that story in the book.
But this Ravens team was special.
They were grinders. Justin Forsett was almost out of football before the Ravens and Gary Kubiak gave him another chance. Now he’s going to the Pro Bowl. Kamar Aiken battled his way into playing time from practice squads in 2013. Torrey Smith rose up in the 4th quarter against the Browns and caught a bomb and then a touchdown pass—and sealed the 6th playoff appearance of the last seven years. C. J. Mosley played with a ferocity rarely seen from rookies. Field general Joe Flacco led the offense and had the most productive season of his careers. Terrell Suggs cemented his position as leader of the defense. Steve Smith Sr. defined what it means to “Play like a Raven.”
When the season began, the NFL nation wanted the Ravens to disappear. Negativity swirled around the franchise. Ray Rice jerseys were turned in. The old and tired “thug” label was reattached by haters from other teams. A player who had once made a major contribution to the purple and black was gone.
Three days after Rice was let go, the Ravens beat the Steelers on national television. Harbaugh kept the team moving forward.
Each season is a progression towards something bigger. In the years ahead, we will look back on this team. The run to the next Super Bowl began in Week 19 of the 2014 season against the Steelers. They got better every week—with losses and with ugly wins—they kept fighting. It all came together against Pittsburgh and it carried through most of the New England game.
The bitter taste of this defeat will lead to future victories. In Foxborough, the 2014 Ravens learned just how good they are when they execute.
Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be. I’m proud and lucky to be a Ravens fan.