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Ravens' field goal sends them to AFC Championship Game

8:09 PM, Jan 12, 2013   |    comments
  • Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) kicks the game winning field goal in double overtime against the Denver Broncos during the AFC divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field. The Ravens defeated the Broncos 38-35 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith (82) celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the AFC divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
    
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(KSDK Sports) -- The Denver Broncos were one defensive stop and 41 seconds away from the AFC Championship Game.

Ray Lewis was 41 seconds away from retirement.

But one 70-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones doomed Denver's season and extended Lewis' career by at least one more game.

Jones' touchdown with 41 seconds remaining tied the game at 35, and the Ravens won the game with a 47-yard field goal from Justin Tucker about 90 seconds into the second overtime period after Peyton Manning's pass was intercepted by Corey Graham near midfield.

Baltimore will advance to the AFC Championship Game against the winner of Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans.

The sold-out likely frost-bitten crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High erupted following Manning's screen pass touchdown to Demaryius Thomas with 7:11 left in regulation, and barely stopped dancing after Denver's defense forced a punt with 3:16 remaining.

But a conservative stretch of play calling by Denver - five consecutive running plays for rookie Ronnie Hillman - gave Flacco and Baltimore one more shot.

Facing a third-down, and less than a minute on the clock, Flacco heaved a ball down field. Jones got behind a pair of Denver defensive backs, including safety Rahim Moore, who had an ill-timed play on the ball, and Jones was able to walk into the end zone.

Denver made its 34-17 win against Baltimore last month - one of 11 consecutive wins to close out the regular season - look easy. But, just as players from both teams predicted all week, Saturday's playoff rematch was far different.

The Broncos and Ravens quickly made football fans forget about a mostly ho-hum wild card weekend with a frenetic first quarter in which the teams combined for three touchdowns in the first 5:11, and four touchdowns in the first 11 minutes.

Kick returner Trindon Holliday tried to spot Manning a 7-0 point lead before the Broncos' offense took the field. His caught Sam Koch's line-drive punt at the 10-yard line and raced 90 yards along the Ravens sideline for a touchdown - the longest punt return touchdown in NFL playoff history. Holliday would later add a 104-yard kickoff return to start the second half.

The elation in Denver would only last a few moments. Wide receiver Torrey Smith burned past Denver's best cornerback, Champ Bailey for a 59-yard touchdown. Smith would beat Bailey again for a 32-yard score just before halftime in what was arguably Bailey's worst game in years.

The wildly entertaining game wasn't without controversy, thanks for an officiating crew that made several questionable calls. None was more confusing than a non-application of the infamous tuck rule when Manning pulled the ball down while under pressure in the third quarter.

The officials determined Manning fumbled, and the Ravens turned that fumble into a short touchdown drive to tie the game at 28 in the final minutes of the third quarter.

The crew also threw two questionable flags on defensive backs - a pass interference call on Denver's Tony Carter, who had inside position on Tandon Doss in the first quarter and a defensive holding call on Baltimore's Cary Williams in the fourth quarter. Both flags extended scoring drives for their teams.

Flacco, with three touchdowns and 331 passing yards, has led the Ravens to the AFC Championship game for the second consecutive year and third time in his career.

Manning, who threw for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, fell to 9-11 in his career in the postseason.

 

 

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