Two all-time legends facing off. Two-degree wind chill. Two overtimes.
The Baltimore Ravens outlasted the Denver Broncos38-35 on Saturday in one of the greatest playoff games in NFL history, shocking the No. 1 seed to reach the AFC Championship Game. Ray Lewis, in his 17th season, made 17 tackles in the game. His career isn't over quite yet.
With the temperature dropping by the minute, both offenses started to struggle in overtime. The game seemed destined to swing on a big mistake. We just didn't expect Peyton Manning to make the mistake.
Late in the first overtime, Manning threw a terrible pass across his body for Brandon Stokley. It was the type of improvised, ill-advised, backyard play that you never see out of Manning. The ball died and Corey Graham picked it off. Four Ray Rice runs later, Baltimore's Justin Tucker sent the Ravens to the doorstep of the Super Bowl with a 47-yard field goal.
There is so much to digest from a game that we'll be talking about for years. Denver's secondary gave up an inexcusable 70-yard touchdown with under a minute to go. Broncos coach John Fox played the end of regulation like Jake Delhomme or Tim Tebow was his quarterback. Manning spoiled an otherwise excellent day and season with one awful mistake. There were questionable calls that helped both sides.
Don't let all the subplots distract you from the reality that Baltimore outplayed Denver in Denver. The Broncos managed to lose despite getting two record-breaking return touchdowns. Manning was patient, but Joe Flacco hit all the big plays. For all the grief that Flacco takes, he never is afraid to make the big throw. And he made plenty on Saturday. Denver's defense, so dominant for most of the regular season, failed to get consistent pressure on Flacco.