The NFL scouting combine has ended and free agency will soon be upon us. Joe Flacco’s contract talks are the big story in football. But memories of the Ravens’ improbable run to the Super Bowl remain fresh in our minds.
It has been more than six weeks since they stunned the Denver Broncos in the playoffs. Can you believe that?
Memories -- painful ones -- of that double-overtime thriller at Mile High aren’t fading out in Denver, either.
The Denver Post is still writing about that game today. Specifically one unforgettable play. Around these parts, it gets called "The Mile High Miracle,” “The Denver Dagger,” or “The F-bomb.” But in Denver, it has been dubbed, at least by one columnist, “The Stumble.”
With 31 seconds left in regulation on that frigid Saturday night in Denver, Jacoby Jones jogged into the end zone after catching a game-tying, 70-yard bomb from Flacco. The Ravens would win, 38-35, in double overtime. When it was time to assess blame after the game in Denver, fans and pundits pointed to that play.
Second-year safety Rahim Moore bore the brunt of the blame. He was the deep safety who let Jones get behind him on the play and he was the young man took full responsibility for the inexcusable gaffe after the game. Yet, despite that -- and the fact that Pro Football Focus gave the 2011 second-round pick a positive grade this season -- there was a columnist, Mark Kiszla, writing in The Denver Post today that Moore has to go.
But two days prior, there was a reasoned, interesting column from Kiszla's Denver Post colleague, Mike Klis, who broke down the play and explained that while Moore was the primary culprit, three other Broncos defenders also botched the play.
After asking around Broncos camp, Klis confirmed that the Broncos defense was supposed to be in a 3-5-3 formation, a standard call in late-game situations when the defense wants to keep the offense from getting out of bounds, on that pivotal third-and-3 play.
Moore and two other safeties were each supposed to take a deep third of the field and keep everything in front of them. Five defenders played underneath coverage. And Denver sent a three-man rush.
One of those rushers, linebacker Robert Ayers, lined up in the middle of the Broncos defensive line, and when he tried to spin around Ravens center Matt Birk and right guard Marshal Yanda, he gave Flacco a chance to step up into the pocket and launch a high-arcing pass down the field. Cornerback Tony Carter was supposed to bump Jones at the line of scrimmage or run with him down the field, but he did neither. And former Ravens safety Jim Leonard was supposed to cover the middle deep third and potentially give Moore a hand, but he has nowhere to be found.
Any of those guys could have bailed out the second-year player, but they didn’t. And he cost his team by losing track of the speedy Jones, who became wide-eyed as Moore stumbled while tracking the ball.
Six weeks later, we vividly remember what happened when that pass eventually fell down to Earth. Jones continued his playoff heroics in the Super Bowl and he will soon be “Dancing with the Stars” this offseason.
Meanwhile, Moore is trying to erase memories of that night -- and he might not before he is run out of town.
A previous version of this blog post misidentified the experience of Broncos safety Rahim Moore. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.