Moments of Heartbreak: Baltimore Ravens – 2011 AFC Championship Game

The Baltimore Ravens are one of the newer teams in the NFL. They were an expansion team that was introduced in 1996. Despite being one of the younger teams in the NFL, they are one of the more successful teams with 10 appearances in the playoffs since 2000. Not to mention two Super Bowl victories. Things haven’t always been sunshine and daisies for this franchise though. The 2011 AFC Championship against the New England Patriots (who fucking else would it be) is one of the worst and most heartbreaking loss in franchise history.

Aided by the AP Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, the Baltimore Ravens were one of the top defensive teams in the 2011 season. This helped propel them to a 12-4 record and the #2 seed in the AFC, securing them a first round bye. After the Houston Texans were able to take down the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round, the Ravens Divisional Round matchup was set.

The Divisional Round

The Houston Texans had been hit with the injury bug throughout the season. Matt Schaub, their starting quarterback, went down for the season with a Lisfranc injury (whatever the hell that is) in his right foot. Matt Leinart, their second string quarterback was hurt and out for the season with a broken collarbone. Add to that list Mario Williams, the NFL sacks leader, Arian Foster, who was battling a hamstring injury (always battling a hamstring injury), and Danieal Manning, the teams starting safety. It was not a great time to be the Houston Texans. The Texans would be limping into this matchup with their 3rd string quarterback, a rookie drafted in the 5th round.

Though the Texans tried to rally towards the end of the game, all the injuries they had sustained were too much to overcome against one of the top defenses in the league. The often injured Arian Foster was still able to rack up 132 yards and on 1 touchdown on the ground. However, Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb were able to pick off the rookie TJ Yates 3 times to lead the Ravens to a 20-13 victory. The Ravens would move on to play the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

The AFC Championship Game

What do you know? The Patriots are in the AFC championship because of course they are.  Would the Ravens be able to take them down for a chance at Super Bowl XLVI? Would they be able to take down the evil overlords Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? Will they make Giselle cry and blame Tom Brady’s teammates? Is Joe Flacco elite? We will find out soon….

Much of the 1st quarter consisted of the Patriots and Ravens punting and swapping possessions. Towards the end of the 1st quarter, Bernard Pollard intercepted the ball as Brady was driving in Ravens territory. This was the break the Ravens needed as the Patriots were already in field goal range. However, there was a flag on the play! Illegal contact on Lardarius Webb. 5 yard penalty on the defense. The Patriots would end this drive with field goal. Would that illegal contact that gave up 3 points be a sign of things to come? With just under 4 minutes left in the half, Lardarius Webb would redeem himself and pick off Brady.  The quarter would come to a close with the Pats leading 3-0.

At the start of the 2nd quarter, Billy Cundiff was able to put the Ravens on the board, tying the game at 3 a piece. Tom Brady and his perfect fucking jaw line immediately answer as the Pats drive down the field and Benjarvus Green-Ellis punches it in from 7 yards out. 10-3 Patriots. On the Ravens next possession, Joe Flacco would should his eliteness (I made that word up) as he would drive down the field hitting Lee Evans for 20 yards, Anquan Boldin for 37 yards, and end the drive with a 6 yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta. The greatest part of this touchdown was Terrell Suggs Mic’d up and yelling “The great white tight end. American Express boy! Don’t leave him without him!” The Patriots would answer with a field goal and the 1st half would end with the Ravens trailing 13-10

The Patriots would receive the ball to start the 2nd half. Tom Brady and his beautiful head of hair would march down the field and add another 3 points to the scoreboard. 16-10 Patriots. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice would answer with a drive of their own though. Flacco would hit Torrey Smith for a 29 yard touchdown, giving the Ravens their first lead of the game. 17-16 Ravens. On the ensuing kickoff, Danny Woodhead would fumble the ball and the Ravens would recover the ball on the Pats 28 yard line. The momentum was shifting. After Flacco was sacked for a loss of 12 yard, the Ravens would have settle for a field goal, extending their lead to 20-16.

The very next drive, the Ravens would intercept Tom Brady again. Again, it would be called back. 5 yard penalty on the defense. Defensive offsides on Suggs. It was obvious that Brady was pissed that they were down. He drove them down the field, completing passes to Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, and ultimately taking it in himself from a yard out. Patriots lead 23-20.

On the Ravens next drive, Flacco would be intercepted at New England’s 31 yard line by Brandon Spikes with 7:32 left in the game. The Ravens defense would again pick off Brady, this time by Jimmy Smith. The Ravens would get another shot with 7:22 still left on the clock. Plenty of time. After driving all the way down to the Pat’s 33 yard line, the Ravens would decided to go for it on a 4th down. Flacco was unable to complete a pass to Dennis Pitta on a 4th and 6. Turnover on downs. With just 2:53 left in the AFC Championship Game, the Pats would get the ball back. The Ravens would only have 2 of their timeouts left and the 2 minute warning to try and stop the Patriots in order to have a shot to win this game.

The Patriots first play would be a 7 yard pass to Deion Branch. The Ravens would save their time outs and let the clock tick down towards the 2 minute warning. Green-Ellis would take the handoff on the 2nd play and get knocked back a yard by Suggs. The clock would tick down to the 2 minutes warning. On 3rd and 4, Brady would try to hit Hernandez but would come up short. The Patriots would have to punt the ball and the Ravens successfully held on to their 2 time outs.

With 1:44 left on the clock, 2 timeouts, and down by 3, this game was the Ravens to win. Flacco would hit Pitta for 5 yard, Boldin for 13 yards, and then Boldin again for another 9 yards before the Ravens would use their 2nd timeout. With 58 seconds left and a 3rd and 1, Flacco hit Boldin for 29 yards, taking the Ravens down to the Pats 23 yard line. Field goal range. The next play, Flacco would hit Boldin again who fumble it out of bounds to the Pats 14 yard line. 27 seconds left and still a time out left. The Ravens fans could feel this was their time. At the very least, they would force this game to overtime. This was it. On the next play, Flacco tosses the ball up to Lee Evans. Touchdown Ravens! But wait. No. He dropped the ball. No touchdown.

There was still 22 seconds left on the clock. This game was far from over. 3rd and 1 now. On the next play, Flacco would be unable to complete the pass to Dennis Pitta. 4th and 1. Bill Cundiff would come out onto the field to attempt the game tying field goal and force overtime. The ball is snapped, Cundiff would wind up for the 32 yard field goal attempt. Wide left! Cundiff shanked the game tying field goal. The Patriots would move on to the Super Bowl as Tom Brady kneels the ball to end the game.

Shout out to the Ravens fans over on reddit for their assistance on this article. Here are a few of their comments when I asked them about their own heartbreaking moments as Raven’s fans.

Reddit User madman19 – The obvious answer is the 2011 AFC Championship game against the Patriots. The game was within a single score the entire time. Ravens were down three late in the fourth and driving down the field. They get a first down at NE 23 with 51 seconds left. First down yields 9 yards. 2nd down Joe throws to the endzone Lee Evans catchs the ball but has it stripped immediately. 3rd down is another incomplete pass to Pitta this time. And now we get to 4th down. Cundiff goes out there (rushed apparently) and kicks the ball wide left. Complete heartbreak for the Ravens and fans.

Reddit User emaymayguy – Lee Evans drop, Cundiff miss, Housh drop the year before, Holding the GOAT to 5 FGs and losing in the playoffs with the best team in our franchise history in 06, Troy Daddying us in the playoff with a perfectly timed superman tackle on Flacco.

Reddit User GladThatIsOver – People have covered most of the crushing game moments that I can remember, so I’ll take a different direction.

Ray Rice knocking out Janay. Just everything about that was heartbreaking. The act, the coverage, seeing the second video and realizing Rice was simply done as a Raven (deservedly so, but still…). The butchered OTL article. I’d take losing a game tragically over that debacle any time.

Reddit User chemicalpoisons – Two thousand fucking fourteen.

While Cundiff’s miss boils my blood, half of the blame goes to Lee Evans for screwing up a game winning touchdown. But that brought Tucker to us, so it didn’t result to total breakdown in the end.

We should have had won that AFCDG in 2014. No one should be able to come back from two 14 point deficits, and Rashaan Melvin single handedly threw Flacco’s arguably best year of his career to a dumpster so deep, it made the Patriots win the Super Bowl, and gave us two years of hell.

I fucking hate that game, even more so because I watched it while chatting with my Patriots father, who’s still smug about it to this day. Fuck you, Melvin.

Reddit User TheCraiggles – 2014-2015 playoffs. Baltimore is in New England, having blown 2 14-point leads and down by 4 on the scoreboard. Baltimore’s final drive brings us to a moment with 1:37 left on the clock. We all know how well the Pats can do with very little time on the clock. We’re in a good spot though. Forsett is having a monster game, averaging over 5 yards per carry. Plenty of time to grind the clock down and trust our guy to bring us to the end zone and close the game out. This is not what we did. Flacco airs out a ball to Torrey Smith in double-coverage. In what is easily the most infurating example of not wanting it bad enough, Torrey barely makes an attempt at the ball and it is intercepted in the endzone. Poor decision making, poor game management, and poor effort. Keep in mind the Pats go on to stomp the Colts 45 to 7 (a very winnable game for us) and goes to play Seattle for the trophy. I still think that the 2014 Ravens vs 2014 Seahawks would have been one the greatest Super Bowls of all time. 2 Gritty, Defense minded teams duking it out.

Want to experience more heartbreak? Check out the past moments of heartbreak.

Atlanta Falcons – Super Bowl LI
Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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4 thoughts on “Moments of Heartbreak: Baltimore Ravens – 2011 AFC Championship Game

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