We saw it, we just can’t believe it
We see it. Believing is another matter.
The Denver Broncos have the game won, earning them home-field advantage Sunday in the AFC title game.
The clock is down to just more than 30 ticks and the Baltimore Ravens have 70 yards to negotiate, no timeouts and the Broncos leading by seven.
Let the Lo-Do celebration begin.
A Joe Flacco prayer on high results in a stumble by Bronco safety Rahim Moore and a catch by Raven wideout Jacoby Jones. The extra point provides overtime.
Several more mistakes in another quarter-plus of football and the offseason is upon the Broncos and the team’s burgeoning bandwagon full of fans.
So what happened?
Here’s what happened: The Broncos stunk it up at a very inopportune time — and the stinking took place for most of four hours.
Think about the individual players, specific units and coaching staffs. Think about the matchups.
I can think of one matchup the Broncos clearly won, that being at kick returner, where Smurfish Trindon Holliday was clearly better than the afore-mentioned Jones, who was just voted All-Pro as return man.
Holliday returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, the first player in NFL history ever to do so in a playoff game.
One for the Broncos. After that, it was all Ravens.
Flacco (331 passing yards, three TDs and no turnovers) clearly outplayed All-Pro Peyton Manning (290 passing yards, three TDs, but two interceptions and one lost fumble).
Champ Bailey was toasted for two long TDs by the Ravens’ second-best receiver, Torrey Smith. Both of Champ’s efforts reminded us more of Le-Lo Lang or Karl Paymah than one of the greatest corners ever to play the game.
Raven running back Ray Rice had 131 yards on the ground. Denver countered with 81 yards from rookie Ronnie Hillman.
Ray Lewis, the Raven middle linebacker playing on his last legs and in his last games, had 17 tackles. His Denver counterparts Keith Brooking, Wesley Woodyard and Von Miller, had 18 among them.
Miller and his sack buddy, Elvis Dumervil, shared one sack, Denver’s sole sack in more than five quarters.
The Ravens dominated both sides on the line of scrimmage, sacking Manning three times, forcing the one fumble and consistently hurrying him. Flacco repeatedly stood in the pocket waiting … and waiting … and waiting.
Denver also was penalized 10 times for 89 yards, compared to the Ravens being nailed eight times for 56 yards.
Let’s talk sidelines: Any of six or seven different decisions from Denver’s coaching staff ranging from head coach John Fox to offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio would have and should have prevented this loss.
Three Hillman runs for two yards near midfield with 3 minutes left in the game took the clock down to just more than one minute in regulation. A short Manning completion to anyone on second and/or third down — hello, play action! — and it would have been another Denver first down and Flacco never would have had a prayer.
Manning kneeling down at the Denver 20 after the Ravens tied it with 30 seconds left and three Bronco timeouts remaining? Was 40 yards out of the question? Pass interference? A screen to Demaryius Thomas?
Leaving one safety, Moore, by his lonesome with 30 seconds left in regulation when the Ravens have to go 70 yards with no timeouts? Even in junior football leagues there would be a gaggle of defensive backs near the goal line ready to pounce on the Hail Mary — even if it took a timeout to set it up.
Yes, lots of mistakes, across the board; too many to count.
There will be dissection by video, accusations galore that we will never be privy to, but there may be silver lining, hollow that it seems:
McCoy’s sideline work did him no favors as he now will complete interviews for a head coaching job. Even if he does exit, there is still a certain quarterback on hand.
Del Rio, whom many had fretted about losing, hasn’t been part of the coaching rumor mill, and now likely won’t be, at least in this offseason.
Fox, ever conservative, may have learned that you have to trust maybe the best quarterback ever to play to get you one more key first down — punting and defense be damned.
Let’s hope a healthier, stronger Manning, a bit of help from the draft and free agency and a wiser staff will make for a better team next season — and team that may be able to overcome even the power of prayer.