Rapid Reaction: Ravens 38, Broncos 35, OT

January, 12, 2013
1/12/13
8:48
PM ET


DENVER -- My thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 38-35 victory at the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The Ravens' improbable Super Bowl run continues. After losing four of their final five regular-season games, the Ravens advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the third time in five seasons with quarterback Joe Flacco and coach John Harbaugh. A nine-point underdog, the Ravens beat the AFC's top seed for the third time in their playoff history. Baltimore will play at the winner of Sunday's New England-Houston game.

Capitalizing on turnovers: The Ravens pulled off the upset on Justin Tucker's 47-yard field goal with 13 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the second overtime. The winning score was set up by Corey Graham's second interception of Peyton Manning. The Ravens converted 17 points off three Denver turnovers.

Fourth-quarter heroics: With 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Flacco stepped up in the pocket and heaved a 70-yard touchdown to Jacoby Jones, who got behind two defenders (Tony Carter and Rahim Moore) to tie the game at 35. Flacco's third-down pass traveled about 60 yards in the air. It was a game of big downfield passes for Flacco.

Red-zone defense struggles: The Ravens uncharacteristically allowed three touchdowns inside their 20-yard line. Baltimore had ranked second in the NFL this season in red zone defense and stopped the Colts on three trips inside the 20 in the wild-card game. The third one given up by the Ravens came with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter and put the Broncos ahead, 35-28. Ravens safety Ed Reed missed a tackle on Demaryius Thomas, who scored on a 17-yard catch.

Touchdown Torrey: Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith scored two touchdowns in the first half against 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, reaching the end zone on catches of 59 and 32 yards. This is the first time a Ravens receiver scored two touchdowns in one playoff game.

Not-so-special teams: It was a bad time for the Ravens to allow their first touchdowns on special teams this season. The Broncos' Trindon Holliday became the first player in NFL playoff history to score touchdowns off a punt and kickoff return in the same game. The Ravens allowed three special-teams touchdowns in 2011, but they ranked in the top half of the NFL in punt and kickoff coverage this season.

Unreal start: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first playoff game in NFL history with an offensive, defensive and special-teams touchdown in the first quarter. The Ravens and the Broncos combined to achieve this feat in the first 5 minutes, 11 seconds. Holliday returned the game's first punt 90 yards for a touchdown, Smith caught a 59-yard touchdown on the second drive and Graham brought back an interception 39 yards for a score on the third drive.

The big chill: The temperature at kickoff was 13 degrees, the second-coldest start to a home game in Broncos history. By halftime, it dropped to nine degrees with a minus-three windchill.

What's next: The Ravens know they will play the AFC championship game on the road next Sunday. Their opponent is to be determined. The Ravens will face the winner of Sunday's New England-Houston game. During the regular season, the Ravens beat the Patriots (31-30) and lost to the Texans (43-13).

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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