The Ravens, meanwhile, relied on timely plays from Flacco and cornerback Corey Graham to stay in the game. Graham nabbed a tipped Manning pass in the opening minutes and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. His interception in overtime set up the Ravens’ game-winning drive.
And Flacco, perhaps the NFL’s most mercurial quarterback, lofted one of his best throws of the season in the first quarter, hitting Torrey Smith mid-stride for a 59-yard score. Then, as the Broncos’ were preparing their postgame celebration, Flacco hit Jacoby, shocking the Denver crowd and etching his name into postseason lore.
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“It was one of those miraculous plays,” Graham said. “I don’t think it’ll ever be forgotten.”
Flacco finished the game 18 of 34 for 331 yards, three touchdowns — including two to Smith — and no interceptions. With the Ravens just one win away from the Super Bowl, his strong postseason play has buoyed Baltimore’s hopes.
“He grew up today,” Lewis said of Flacco. “To look in this eyes, he had something different about him today.”
“He will lead us to the Super Bowl,” said Rice, who had 131 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. “Our offense, I always say, went through Joe. So when Joe plays at a high level like that, it makes everything a lot smoother.”
Though Baltimore players say they struggled breathing the thin Rocky Mountain air, they were reinvigorated following Flacco’s touchdown pass to Jones, a play that was as simple as it was exquisite. “It’s almost like backyard football,” Harbaugh said.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair, until Manning threw an interception to Graham. “I thought I had an opening,” Manning said, “and I didn’t get enough on it.”
With only 51 seconds remaining, the Ravens took over possession on the Denver 45-yard line. In inside hand-off to Rice moved Baltimore to the 34 and helped set up Tucker’s game-winning kick.
“We’re gonna have the best plane ride back,” Rice said. “I promise you, this is gonna be a party on the plane. But as soon as we land, we’re gonna be focused on the next team.”