The Super Bowl is happening in less than one week, and my favorite team of all-time, the Baltimore Ravens, will be playing in it! My god, the joy I feel. It can’t be put into words. In honor of this, and for your amusement and edification, I present a recap of each game the Ravens played this season. In GIF form, because why not and that’s fun!
(Lots of GIFS, so you should let ‘em load.)
WEEK 1: RAVENS 44, BENGALS 13
A repeat of our season-opening beatdown of the Steelers last year (Cam Cameron is a genius when you give him eight months to plan!), the Ravens pummeled the rising Bengals in all three phases. Most impressive was the offense: Rice and Flacco torched the Bengals for two touchdowns apiece, and that was before the dogs were called off with about eight minutes left. After years of searching, it seemed we had finally found a reliably explosive offense with the shotgun no-huddle!
WEEK 2: EAGLES 24, RAVENS 23
Of all our losses this year, I resent this one the most. One, the Ravens would have won had Jacoby Jones not been screwed out of a touchdown by the replacement officials. Two, this was the first time our defense showed its true potential for horribleness, allowing the slightly less horrible Michael Vick to drive the length of the field for the game-winning score. (And this was before star corner Lardarius Webb was lost for the season.) One-point losses are the WERST.
WEEK 3: RAVENS 31, PATRIOTS 30
In a prime time thriller against the Evil Empire, we not only notched our first regular season win over the Patriots, but we also showed the nation that if you piss off Baltimore, things will get LOUD AND OBSCENE very quickly. (You already know what that link’s going to take you to.) One-point wins are TEH BEHHHST, ERMAHGERRRD!
WEEK 4: RAVENS 23, BROWNS 16
Our ninth straight win over the perpetual basement dwellers of the AFC North featured a startlingly bad-looking Ravens defense that all but let rookie Brandon Weeden drive the whole field for the game-tying score at the last second. (A trend emerges!) No Ravens fan was particularly impressed with the effort. Just relieved. You don’t really “win” when you leave a game against the Browns feeling relieved.
WEEK 5: RAVENS 9, CHIEFS 6
Another monstrous display of ineptitude by the offense. Another life outlook-altering effort by the defense, which was gashed by Chiefs running backs. And the second straight win that did not so much engender the thrill of victory in a fan base as much as it did a collective sense of, “What the shit did I just witness?”
WEEK 6: RAVENS 31, COWBOYS 29
One more loss-turned-win by the fairy dust-sprinkled Ravens, who watched as the Cowboys’ last-second field goal sailed wide left. (I was at that game!) This was the point at which Baltimore embraced the 2012 Ravens, warts and all, ceasing to care how the team won and just embracing the wins, since, at 5-1, the Ravens were having the best start in franchise history.
(Bad news, though: Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb would be lost for the season due to injuries sustained in this game. Crap.)
WEEK 7: TEXANS 43, RAVENS 13
And then things got worse.
Just as everyone was climbing on the purple bandwagon, the Texans—who already hated the Ravens because we’d knocked them out of the playoffs a few months prior—CURBSTOMPED us on national television. Even though Baltimore fans weren’t all that surprised, given the Ravens’ injuries and Houston’s early-season dominance, this game was so gnarly that my brain is still suppressing memories from it. Google tells me Flacco completed less than half of his passes for 147 yards and two interceptions, while Rice barely touched the ball thanks to genius playcalling by Cam Cameron. Sounds about right.
(Lone bright spot: Suggs, channeling his inner super-healing man-beast Adrian Peterson, defied all odds and rejoined the team this game, way early on the timetable of return from a torn Achilles tendon.)
WEEK 8: RAVENS 25, BROWNS 15
Nothing to see here: just the 10th straight win of the Ravens over the hapless Browns, enabling Ravens fans to dream of catching the Texans (who had just eviscerated us) for the top seed in the AFC.
WEEK 10: RAVENS 55, RAIDERS 20
After the bye, the Ravens set a franchise record for points scored and momentarily wore the crown of Most Points Scored In A Game for the 2012 season. This was our swaggiest game of the year, discounting the first game against the Bengals. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen the Ravens say, “Screw it, let’s just annihilate these guys because we can.” That was the attitude this game, emphasized by our badass/juvenile decision to run in a fake field goal for a touchdown while up 24 points in the third quarter, just because the Raiders still had the gall to taunt and cheap-shot in the midst of defeat. … Heh.
WEEK 11: RAVENS 13, STEELERS 10
The Ravens beat the Steelers for the second straight year in Pittsburgh, but did so against Byron Leftwich, not Ben Roethlisberger. An un-emphatic victory against a hobbled opponent. We fans took the win with no illusions of grandeur.
WEEK 12: RAVENS 16, CHARGERS 13
4th & 29.
WEEK 13: STEELERS 23, RAVENS 20
This game was, again, not against Ben Roethlisberger; in fact, it wasn’t even against Byron Leftwich, whom the Ravens injured—it was against Charlie Batch, third-string quarterback and future car salesman. It was in Baltimore, where the Ravens were riding a 15-game winning streak. It was for a spot in the playoffs. … So, naturally, we came out with our thumbs up our butts and conservative-playcalled ourselves right out of a win—a win so improbable for Pittsburgh that Batch himself launched into hugs and man-tears after he pulled it off. God. This was just unacceptable on every single level. A gut-punch.
WEEK 14: REDSKINS 31, RAVENS 28
Then another gut-punch! I don’t know what’s worse: losing to a team named for an outrageous racial slur when your fans have audibly and visibly invaded half its stadium, or losing after you have literally CRIPPLED that team’s greatest weapon and replaced it with the equivalent of a pea-shooter. … But a silver lining in the wreckage: Cam Cameron was fired the next day. Dare we hope for the best????
WEEK 15: BRONCOS 34, RAVENS 17
But at least the Ravens’ third straight loss came at the hands of Peyton Manning and not some random unheralded back-up named Charlie Batch or Kirk Cousins, right? For a fan base that had not seen a losing streak like this in five years (i.e., EVER in the HarFlack Era), this was the low point. Even the GIF itself is Flaccoing! It was an inauspicious start to life without Cam Cameron: Flacco had two back-breaking turnovers that doomed his team more than anything Peyton Manning did. But, in the midst of soul-searching and uncomfortable questions, the Ravens backed into the playoffs. … Hooray?
WEEK 16: RAVENS 33, GIANTS 14
A three-game losing streak mercifully came to an end when Good Flacco FINALLY came out of hibernation, leading us all to wonder which no-Cam performance was the fluke: the choke job against Peyton, or the heroics against Eli. With Jim Caldwell at the helm as new offensive coordinator, the Ravens outgained the Giants by about 400 yards en route to a second consecutive AFC North title.
WEEK 17: BENGALS 23 RAVENS 17
This game was a big, fat, wet blanket. Having sewn up the division crown, the Ravens rested starters and kept everything vanilla on both defense and offense, wanting to show no wrinkles to playoff opponents. If the childlike wonder with which the Bengals celebrated after their starters barely scored on Ravens back-ups was any clue, the Bengals were trying hard to avenge their Week 1 humiliation. But this game was unwatchable, with the Ravens treating it like it was part of preseason. All we fans could do was hope this momentum-killing (though injury-saving) approach would not come back to bite the Ravens in the postseason.
PLAYOFF GAME 1: RAVENS 24, COLTS 9
And bite us it did not. In the last game for Ray Lewis at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens got their first postseason win over the Colts and Ray Lewis was sent off in style, playing in his first game back since the triceps tear he got about three months prior that everyone said would sideline him for the season. Baller. Andrew Luck and his running back impressed, but the Colts’ defense was no match for Flacco and Boldin.
PLAYOFF GAME 2: RAVENS 38, BRONCOS 35
In one of the greatest postseason games ever, the Ravens summoned the kind of belief and resolve that champions are made of. Given no shot by just about every sentient thing on earth, the Ravens survived Denver air, six days of rest, a hostile environment, countless lead changes and Peyton Manning’s offense (which had blown out the Ravens a month earlier) to win the longest NFL game in more than 20 years … in double overtime … on the leg of a rookie kicker … after Flacco had completed a 70-yard bomb with 30 seconds left in regulation.
This one deserves two.
I am not being hyperbolic when I say that this game will live in my heart forever.
PLAYOFF GAME 3: RAVENS 28, PATRIOTS 13
For the second week in a row, Joe “Possibly Elite???” Flacco outplayed a Hall of Fame quarterback. Specifically, for the second year in a row, he outplayed Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game in New England. And, finally, the ghosts of Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff could be exorcized from the Baltimore sports consciousness.
Believe it or not, as I had a hard time explaining to a Patriots-fan friend who couldn’t understand my calmness before the game (or who had a hard time believing I wasn’t quaking in my boots at the thought of the Pats), I went into this game thinking the Ravens had a decent shot of beating a good team in its own place. (And then the Ravens did it, of course.) I can only explain my self-assuredness, which a lot of Ravens-fan friends had too, with this: Once you have seen your team do what the Ravens did in Denver—that is, pull off 417 miracles en route to a win over a juggernaut with every condition in the world seeming to conspire against them—you know your team can do anything.