Despite making it to the AFC Championship Game months earlier, there were plenty of questions about the Baltimore Ravens coming into the 2012 NFL season. They had an aging defense, with veterans Ed Reed and Ray Lewis near the end of their careers. Another defensive star, Terrell Suggs, was lost for the first half of the season due to an Achilles injury. There was also uncertainty about how much impact quarterback Joe Flacco really had on the offense.
Opinions ranged about just how far this team could go. While most projections had them making the playoffs, they weren’t expected to make much noise. In fact, when the postseason started, Baltimore had the fourth-lowest odds to win the Super Bowl.
The Ravens went 10-6 in the regular season, but as the No. 4 seed, they did not earn a first-round playoff bye. While they certainly had a shot to make it to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, the numbers weren’t exactly in their favor. Before the Giants’ unexpected run the season prior, only two other four seeds had gone on to claim the Lombardi Trophy in the current playoff format: the St. Louis Rams in 1999 and the Denver Broncos in 1997.
But just like it had all season, Baltimore continued to battle. From field goal drama to epic fourth-down conversions to a double-overtime playoff thriller, let’s take a look back at the five craziest moments that defined the 2012 Ravens’ run to the Super Bowl.
Week 3: Field goal controversy against New England
Early on in the season, Baltimore faced a stiff primetime test against the New England Patriots in a rematch of the previous January’s AFC Championship Game. The Ravens had their hearts broken when Billy Cundiff’s potential game-tying kick with 15 seconds went wide left, sending the Patriots to Super Bowl 46.
Things would be different in this Week 3 matchup, though.
The Ravens rallied back from a 30-21 deficit in the final four minutes of the game. Flacco found Torrey Smith from five yards out to make it a one-score game. Baltimore then marched down the field and got a break when Devin McCourty was penalized for pass interference with 52 seconds left, putting the ball at the New England seven-yard line.
When Baltimore sent on its special teams unit, it wasn’t Cundiff who trotted out on the field. The Ravens had signed Justin Tucker as an undrafted free agent out of Texas in the offseason, and he won the starting job in training camp. Tucker was perfect so far that season, making all six of his field goal attempts along with 11 extra point tries. However, he would be facing his biggest test yet when he lined up for a 27-yard field goal.
His kick initially looked off as it traveled in a straight diagonal toward the right post. The ball went sailing over the upright and everyone waited for the officials to make their decision. The referees looked at each other for a moment and then raised their arms, ruling the field goal good. Baltimore breathed a huge sigh of relief while New England — especially Bill Belichick — was furious over the call.
The 31-30 win over New England was also historic. This was the first time the Ravens had ever beaten the Patriots in regular season, with their only previous victory coming in a playoff game in January 2010.
Week 12: Converting on fourth-and-29 against the Chargers
The Ravens received a spark after beating the Patriots. They won six of their next seven games heading into a matchup against the San Diego Chargers. Baltimore’s offense struggled early while Chargers jumped out to a 13-3 lead. Once again, the Ravens had to come back in the fourth quarter.
First, Dennis Pitta caught a four-yard touchdown to make it a three-point game. Then, San Diego quickly went three-and-out, giving Baltimore one more drive to tie the game. Things looked bleak when a holding penalty and sack set up what seemed like an insurmountable fourth-and-29 at the Baltimore 37-yard line.
With none of his initial reads open, Flacco chose to dump the ball off to Ray Rice, who had slipped out of the backfield. He somehow got all the way into Chargers territory, receiving a crunching block from Anquan Boldin while stumbling toward the first-down marker. Rice dove between two Chargers and landed around the 34.
The referee ran to the spot and marked the ball for a first down. Despite a review pushing the ball back a couple of inches, it was still far enough for Baltimore to convert and extend the drive. Six plays later, Tucker made a 38-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
Both teams punted the ball away to start the extra period, but the Ravens found success on their second possession. They drove from inside their own red zone to the Chargers’ 20-yard line, setting the stage for another game-winning field goal by Tucker. He delivered with his second 38-yard field goal of the game, handing Baltimore its ninth win of the season.
Divisional Round: The Mile High Miracle
After cruising to a 24-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round, the Ravens headed west to face the 13-3 Denver Broncos. The two teams traded scores through the first three quarters. The Broncos then took the lead in the fourth, and Baltimore tried to answer but was stopped on a fourth-and-5.
The Ravens were able to get the ball back, facing a third-and-3 from their own 30-yard line. But with only 41 seconds left, time was running out on their season — and that’s when their most memorable play of the season happened.
Flacco dropped back and launched a deep ball into Denver territory. Broncos safety Rahim Moore took the wrong angle and misjudged the flight of the football. It sailed over his head and into the arms of Jacoby Jones, who ran into the end zone untouched.
Denver’s crowd sat in stunned silence as Baltimore celebrated the 70-yard touchdown that was later named the “Mile High Miracle.”
The game headed to overtime and on the Broncos’ second drive, Manning tried to force a pass to Brandon Stokley and paid for it dearly. Corey Graham undercut the route and picked off the pass inside Denver territory. Baltimore took advantage of the great field position, running the ball on four straight plays to set up a winning kick. In the early moments of a rare second overtime, Tucker nailed the 47-yard field goal to send Baltimore back to the AFC title game in a rematch with the 12-4 Patriots.
AFC Championship Game: 21 straight points to exact revenge on the Patriots
The Ravens traveled to a familiar place for the AFC Championship Game: Gillette Stadium. It had been close to a year since they watched their Super Bowl hopes dashed against New England in the exact same stadium.
Throughout the first half of the rematch, Baltimore’s offense was plagued by horrible field position. The defense did its job, however, forcing the Patriots to settle for two field goals inside the red zone. New England was up only 13-7 as the two teams went into their locker rooms at halftime.
Baltimore had the momentum swing its way in the second half. After starting at their own 13, the Ravens moved up the field thanks to the Flacco-Pitta connection. The tight end caught three passes for 32 yards on the drive, including the five-yard touchdown that gave Baltimore the lead. This was the start of three straight Ravens possessions that resulted in touchdowns.
Next came an incredible three-yard touchdown from Boldin, who caught it in between two New England defenders. Then, the Baltimore defense forced a crucial turnover early in the fourth. Bernard Pollard flew in and delivered a vicious hit on running back Stevan Ridley, jarring the ball loose. Four plays later, Flacco found Boldin again, this time from 11 yards out. In the span of four minutes, the Ravens had scored twice and were up 28-13 on the defending AFC champions.
The Ravens’ defense held firm. They turned over New England on downs and then picked off Brady on back-to-back drives. The offense ran out the clock and Baltimore was headed to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 47: Goal-line stand against the 49ers
Super Bowl 47 was a wacky one. It featured a failed fake field goal, a mini brawl, and a power outage during the third quarter which delayed the game 34 minutes. Once again, Jones’ big-play ability came to the spotlight. He caught a 56-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and also returned a kickoff 108 yards to open the second half. Thanks to those two scores, Baltimore raced out to a 28-6 lead.
But the San Francisco 49ers stormed back, scoring 17 straight points. With 3:25 left, San Francisco had a chance to take the lead. Colin Kaepernick threw a strike to Michael Crabtree over the middle to move the Niners into Baltimore territory. Frank Gore then burst through the defense and rumbled all the way to the seven-yard line. Leading just 34-29, the Baltimore defense couldn’t allow a touchdown.
They stopped LaMichael James for only a two-yard gain on first down. Kaepernick rolled to his right and fired near the pylon on second down, but the pass was batted down by Graham. On third down, Kaepernick found Crabtree in the flat but Jimmy Smith came in with a hit and knocked the ball out of the wideout’s hands for an incompletion.
It all came down to one more play to decide a champion. The Ravens rushed six players and forced Kaepernick to get rid of the ball as soon as he dropped back. Crabtree got the best of Smith as the ball floated to the back right corner of the end zone. But he couldn’t get to the pass in time and it fell harmlessly out of bounds.
There was still work left to do, however. Baltimore shrewdly took an intentional safety, wasting time and preventing the Niners from acquiring great field position. They stopped Ted Ginn Jr. on the ensuing free kick to seal a Super Bowl victory.
This decade has featured memorable Super Bowl winners, like the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 underdog team and the 2016 Patriots delivering the greatest comeback in NFL history. Yet the 2012 Ravens have been largely overlooked.
Their journey to claiming Super Bowl 47 was far from smooth, filled with many nervy moments throughout their season. They deserve more praise than they’ve received — even if it’s just labeling them as the most under-appreciated Super Bowl-winning team in recent history.