Two overtimes, three Peyton Manning turnovers and the Ray Lewis retirement tour continues.
Manning threw a pick in the waning moment of the first overtime to give the Ravens the ball in prime territory and kicker Justin Tucker booted a game-winning 47-yard field to move Baltimore onto a second straight AFC Championship Game.
Manning threw three touchdowns on the day, but also tossed two picks, including the costly one late in the game, and ended up falling to Joe Flacco, who also threw three touchdowns, in a tight game in Denver.
Now, the Ravens are moving on to either New England or Houston next weekend, and they can expect quite a game with the emotion of Ray Lewis’ looming retirement pushing them even more than usual.
End First Overtime, 35-35: Manning made a costly error, giving the Ravens the ball deep in the Broncos’ territory.
Now, the pressure is on Joe Flacco to keep the ball in their hands and get kicker Justin Tucker in good position to win the game.
Overtime, 3:41, 35-35: Joe Flacco’s stock is fluctuating more than Apple right now.
Apple has dropped more than 200 points on the stock market over the past two months, yet Flacco continues to make that look stable.
One play, Flacco throws a near game-clinching interception and then he’ll throw an unbelievable deep ball to get the Ravens in good position. Ozzie Newsome does not have an easy job deciding whether he should pay Flacco or not after this.
Overtime, 9:41, 35-35: Peyton Manning will get a shot after all.
Joe Flacco just let the Broncos’ pass rush get him riled up and the Ravens were forced to kick. Now, we’re into sudden death football.
Manning has made plenty of late-game comebacks and wins during his career, so he’s got the experience behind him to finish off the win.
The question is how the Ravens’ defense will respond to the pressure.
Overtime, 12:24, 35-35: When was the last time one unit let a team down so badly? The Broncos’ secondary might be going for the (dis)honor here.
It seems that anytime Flacco throws the ball deep, the Broncos’ defensive backs will either allow a huge play or just grab, hold and draw a penalty. They are literally giving this game away.
Overtime, 14:54, 35-35: Just a reminder of the overtime rules. Remember, both teams get a chance with the ball, unless the Ravens score a touchdown — since they have the ball first.
If the Ravens score a field goal on this drive, then Manning and the Broncos will have a chance to tie or win the game with their own drive.
But, if the Ravens score a touchdown then that’s all she wrote and they’ll be heading onto their second consecutive AFC Championship game.
As for a punt or turnover here, then anything is game. We’re talking sudden death overtime, winner takes all. Let’s do this.
Fourth Quarter, 0:32, 35-35: No secondary should ever get beat that bad, especially in that situation.
There are no words to describe how disappointing an effort the Broncos’ secondary just showed at the biggest time of the game.
As for Flacco, he deserves no credit for that pass at all. That ball was unbelievably under thrown and any defense with even a lick of football knowledge wouldn’t have let that happen.
Disgusting defense. That will not win you a Super Bowl, never mind an AFC title.
Fourth Quarter, 2:02, Broncos 35-28: There’s still a chance yet.
The Ravens all but fumbled away their shot at tying this game up with a couple of dropped passes and some ugly clock management. If the Broncos don’t convert on this third down, though, then Joe Flacco and company will have at least one more shot.
Flacco’s accuracy, and the ability of Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin to get open will be the key for the Ravens to even potentially force another quarter of football.
Fourth Quarter, 3:32, Broncos 35-28: Time management is key in the postseason, and Joe Flacco continues to let the play clock draw down to the final second.
Seriously, Flacco needs to keep on top of this stuff. Oh, and Jacoby Jones needs to catch that third-down pass. Brutal.
Fourth Quarter, 7:11, Broncos 35-28: The Ravens’ pass rush has made a significant difference in the second half, but a pair of costly penalties are costing them dearly.
Manning hasn’t found really any room to work during the last few drives, but the Ravens have bailed him out with some tough penalties.
Eventually Demaryius Thomas broke through the defense and found the end zone to reclaim the lead for the Broncos, and John Harbuagh has to be irate that his team continues to bail out Manning.
The Ravens are usually pretty sound defensively, and very disciplined not to make unforced errors, but they’ve been a little lackadaisical today.
End Third Quarter, 28-28: Tom Brady got the benefit of the tuck rule a little over a decade ago, but Manning wasn’t quite so lucky this time around.
Flacco’s fumble nearly gave the Broncos the game, but a solid defensive effort held Manning down and forced the ball out of his hands to give Baltimore the ball back.
Rice then scorched the Broncos’ defense to punch his way into the end zone to knot things up at 28-28.
Now, both sides will need to really lock it down defensively and play mistake-free football.
Third Quarter, 0:20, 28-28: We’ve got a game on our hands, now.
Manning dropped the ball on what looked like a sure “tuck rule” call, and Ray Rice just took advantage of the error to tie things up.
The refs seem to be having a significant impact on this game with a number of questionable calls on the day, but that one just switched the momentum back in the Ravens’ favor.
Third Quarter, 1:22, Broncos 28-21: Surprising call on that “fumble.” Manning definitely dropped the ball, but I was convinced that would be a “tuck rule” call.
The ruling just proved to be a huge momentum swing, too.
Manning had the Broncos driving down the field to potentially extend the lead to two scores, but instead now the Ravens are down inside the five-yard line and looking to tie this game up.
The referees have been inconsistent all afternoon, but that might be the most important call of the day — and they very well might’ve gotten it wrong.
Third Quarter, 6:12, Broncos 28-21: The Broncos’ front seven have made a much bigger impact against Flacco so far in the second half.
Von Miller and company have yet to record a sack, but Flacco was flushed out of the pocket on a few occasions during that drive.
The Broncos will need to keep the heat up on Flacco and make sure he can’t make anymore big passes downfield to Smith or Boldin.
Third Quarter, 11:28, Broncos 28-21: Joe Flacco just dropped the ball — literally — and he might’ve lost the game with it.
With the momentum already in the Broncos favor after that kickoff return to start the half, a turnover at this point could be the costly play that blows open the doors on what could be a blowout.
Flacco fumbled the snap and the ball got booted away from him, which gives Manning an opportunity to get a two-touchdown lead on the board. The Ravens’ defense will need to step up huge to counter this attack.
Third Quarter, 14:48, Broncos 28-21: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, just shame on me. That’s how that’s how the saying goes, and exactly how John Harbaugh must be feeling right now.
Holliday just did it again. After returning a punt for a 90-yard touchdown earlier, the speedster just returned a kick 104 yards to the house to kickoff the second half in style.
This has to be a joke. How badly can the Ravens’ special teams really be? Or how inept, at least?
The Broncos are now in commanding lead, and the momentum is firmly in their favor. This could turn ugly quickly, unless Flacco figures something out on this drive.
Halftime, 21-21: This Ray Lewis vs. Peyton Manning showdown has quickly turned into a wild shootout.
Manning threw a costly interception early on that saw the momentum go in the Ravens’ favor, but he responded to the error with two great touchdown drives to get the Broncos back in the game.
On the other side of the field, Joe Flacco was inconsistent throughout the half, but his connection with Torrey Smith on a pair of long touchdowns has helped Baltimore keep pace in Denver.
The elements outside in Denver, which is apparently freezing cold, are effecting the accuracy of both quarterbacks, at least slightly, and even saw Matt Prater botch a 52-yard field goal attempt.
The Ravens will need to beef up their secondary and the Broncos must get some pressure on Flacco in the second half if either team plans to lock down a win.
Second Quarter, 0:30, 21-21: Torrey Smith is just killing Champ Bailey on the outside.
Joe Flacco has struggled hitting Smith on a few big passes downfield, but Bailey just isn’t quick enough to contain the speedy receiver on the outside.
Smith just burned Bailey for a second time today, and tied things up for the Ravens with a 32-yard grab in the corner of the end zone.
The Broncos will need to adjust their defensive strategy in the second half, especially in the secondary, otherwise the Ravens will just continue to ravage them over the top.
Second Quarter, 3:20, Broncos 21-14: Ask and you shall receive.
I was just complaining about the lack of a running game on both sides, and suddenly the running backs are making an impact on this game — at least for Denver.
Moreno caught a touchdown pass to put the Broncos on top, and now he and Ronnie Hillman are blasting through the Ravens defense to alleviate even more pressure off of Manning.
Second Quarter, 7:30, Broncos 21-14: Well, apparently errors just further motivate Peyton Manning.
Since throwing a pick six during the first drive of the game, Manning has been almost unstoppable and now led two touchdown drives to put the Broncos up 21-14.
He’s lighting up the Raven’s secondary over and over, and he’s had what seems like all day to let his receivers get open.
If Manning continues to thread the needle on throws like this all afternoon, the Ravens might not have a chance to even get back into this game. That’s how good Peyton is right now.
Second Quarter, 12:40, 14-14: Manning’s looked go so far, even considering the pick six, but the Broncos will need to establish some semblance of a running game to counter this stingy Baltimore defense.
Knowshon Moreno (six carries, 17 yards) has stretched out a few solid runs, but he’ll need to be more consistent out of the backfield if Denver expects to lock down a nice lead at some point.
Speaking of, the Ravens could use a little boost from Ray Rice (five carries, 17 yards) right about now, too.
End First Quarter, 14-14: There’s no way to really explain the start of this game, but it’s been entertaining that’s for sure.
Holiday kicked things off with a blazing 90-yard punt return to give the Broncos an early lead, but Flacco responded quickly to tie things up.
Now, after two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning — one to either team — the game is still all knotted up, but there’s plenty of game left.
Flacco has had all day to throw, as the Broncos don’t seem to be generating any sort of pass rush. As for the Ravens, the secondary needs to step up and stop allowing Manning to hit his receivers in stride so often.
First Quarter, 4:05, 14-14: Manning doesn’t get fazed by mistakes, he just makes things right.
After throwing a pick six to the Ravens just minutes earlier, Manning just sliced and diced his way through the Baltimore defense to 15-yard score to tie things up.
Manning hasn’t been perfect, completing just five of nine so far, but he’s been razor sharp when needed and was again on that drive. His effectiveness in the passing game will be key for Denver today, as the Ravens are a bit more susceptible to the pass than on the ground. But quite the story this game has been so far.
First Quarter, 9:35, Ravens 14-7: We’re just over five minutes in and there’s already 21 points on the board.
Flacco led the Ravens to a big touchdown to tie things up, but the Baltimore defense did him one better.
Corey Graham picked of Manning and returned the 39 yards to the end zone to give the Ravens a 14-7 lead early in Denver.
If anyone seriously expected this start to the game, then I’d guess you’re a psychic because this is crazy. The craziest part about this game, though? Joe Flacco is outplaying Peyton Manning right now. Wow.
First Quarter, 10:30, 7-7: Apparently we’re in for a barn burner.
After Holliday blazed past the Ravens’ special teams for the 90-yard score, Torrey Smith just did the same as he soared right on through the Broncos’ secondary for a 59-yard touchdown catch.
Smith’s speed is impressive, but Joe Flacco threw an absolute money ball to set that one up. Flacco’s going to be extremely important for the Ravens if they expect to have any chance today, and plays like that just prove he’s ready for the challenge.
First Quarter, 12:10, Broncos 7-0: With so much attention being given to Lewis and Manning, you might have overlooked Trindon Holliday. Not that you wouldn’t normally.
The 5-foot-6 return specialist just blew the doors in Denver wide open, returning a punt 90 yards to the house to put the Broncos up 7-0.
Holliday may not be big, but his impact could be enormous on this game. He’s already showing the sort of impact he can have, and I’m sure that’s not the last we’ll hear from the special teams in this game.
4:35 p.m.: They’re all out on the field in Denver, and the first game on the slate for these intriguing divisional weekend playoffs is set to kick off.
Will this be Ray Lewis’ last time donning a Ravens jersey, or will his retirement tour continue?
There’s one man who stands in his way, and that’s one of the best quarterback’s this league has ever seen. Can Manning slow the rumbling Ravens? We shall see.
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8 a.m. ET: Ray Lewis strutted his stuff all over the field for his last hurrah in Baltimore last weekend, but he won’t receive the same warm reception in Denver.
The Ravens are coming off an easy 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts in wild card weekend, but they’ll have a much tougher test with Peyton Manning and the No. 1 seed Broncos awaiting them this weekend.
Manning feasted on the Ravens’ defense in the teams’ first meeting a little less than a month ago, completing 17 of 28 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in the 34-17 Broncos win. This time, though, Lewis is healthy. He and fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs will be looking to slow down Manning and a potent Broncos offense.
If the Ravens are going to make another trip to the AFC Championship Game, Joe Flacco will need to play better, though. Anquan Boldin bailed out Flacco numerous times last week, and the veteran quarterback will need a much better performance for the Ravens to be successful again this week.
There are plenty of storylines heading into this AFC divisional showdown, but Lewis and Manning are clearly the most dominating. It will be interesting to see which of these two future Hall of Famers is able to pull out the victory for his team.
Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m., but we’ll have all your information, news and analysis right here in the NESN.com live blog. So, keep it locked here before, during and after the game.