BALTIMORE — In a couple of minutes, an offensive struggle played in wintry conditions morphed into a high-speed offensive showcase. And it was the Baltimore Ravens who made the final big play.
Joe Flacco’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown with four seconds remaining gave the Ravens a wild 29-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in front of an announced 70,921. The score capped a final 2 minutes 5 seconds in which five touchdowns were scored, and the lead changed hands five times.
Brown barely got his feet inbounds to cap a five-play, 80-yard drive in 41 seconds that may have saved the Ravens’ season. With the victory — their third straight — the Ravens have a winning record for the first time since Week 5 and they maintain their hold on the sixth and final playoff spot.
The craziness started when Dennis Pitta, who was playing his first game of the season, caught a one-yard touchdown pass on fourth and goal with just more than two minutes to play. The catch, coupled with a two-point conversion to Torrey Smith, gave the Ravens a 15-12 lead.
Minnesota (3-9-1) needed just two plays to answer. Toby Gerhart, who played much of the game with star Adrian Peterson being knocked out in the second quarter because of an ankle injury, scored on a 41-yard run. At that point, the Ravens trailed, 19-15.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Jacoby Jones took a short kick by Blair Walsh and sprinted up the sideline for a 77-yard touchdown and a 22-19 lead with 1:16 to play.
Again, the Ravens needed just one stop and they had the game won. They did not get it.
Matt Cassel hit rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for a 79-yard touchdown with 45 seconds to play to give the Vikings a 26-22 lead.
When the Ravens took over at their own 20, they had two timeouts left and little more than 40 seconds remaining.
But Flacco hit Brown for a big completion past midfield and then found Pitta to get inside the 10. He then hit Brown for the winning play.
The snow started coming down hard about 21 / 2 hours before kickoff. By 11 a.m., when players from both teams started coming out for pregame warmups, the field was almost completely covered and the yard markers weren’t visible.
The snow probably reached its peak right around kickoff, setting the stage for a sloppy afternoon during which footing was problematic.
Despite the conditions, the Ravens took the ball and drove into Vikings territory. But Flacco was intercepted by linebacker Chad Greenway.
Flacco’s 15th interception this season was the result of a poor decision. He tried to throw it to running back Bernard Pierce despite Greenway having good positioning along the sideline.
The teams traded punts before Gerhart, who wound up playing a key role once Peterson went down, fumbled and rookie safety Matt Elam recovered, giving the Ravens the ball on the Minnesota 25. On the first play, Flacco scrambled for 22 yards, taking a hard hit from safety Jamarca Sanford who stopped the Ravens quarterback at the 3-yard line.
After two one-yard runs by Pierce, Flacco hit Dickson in the back of the end zone for a one-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.
It was Dickson’s first touchdown of the season.
In such conditions, the early lead was big for the Ravens, especially after they stopped moving the ball in the second quarter. The Ravens had just 32 total yards on 18 plays in the second quarter and Flacco was just 5 for 13.
At one point, the Ravens went three-and-out on four straight possessions.
Cassel, meanwhile, was 10 of 21 for 114 yards in the first half. He led an 11-play, 45-yard drive that ended with Walsh kicking a 39-yard field goal to cut the Ravens’ lead to 7-3 at the 4:33 mark of the second quarter.
The Vikings trailed, 7-3, at halftime, but took their first lead on Cassel’s eight-yard connection with Jerome Simpson on the second play from the fourth quarter.
That made it 12-7 in favor of the Vikings and set the stage for the dramatic finish.
— Baltimore Sun