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Top 5 Moments Of The Season

Fans can cherish these moments during the long offseason.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Sunday, February 5th, 2012 at 11:41 am | Categories: Ryan Mink

To commemorate the Ravens’ season, in which they won the AFC North and came within seconds of a Super Bowl bid, we’re going to highlight some of our “Top 5s” of the year.

We’ve already done the best defensive hits, top quotes and jaw-dropping plays. Now we’ll do the top five moments of the season, followed by season-altering plays.

There were plenty of moments to remember this season, but here’s our best of the best:

5. Torrey Smith’s rookie breakout

Dogged during training camp for drops, and already labeled by some fans and media pundits as a “bust,” Smith got the first start of his career in Week 3.

It turned out to be one of the biggest rookie breakouts in NFL history.

Smith’s first career reception went for a 74-yard touchdown as he blew by the Rams secondary. His next catch was a 41-yard touchdown. His next? An 18-yard touchdown.

The second-round pick’s first three NFL receptions all went the distance. He became the first rookie in NFL history to record three touchdowns catches in the first quarter, and finished with five catches for 152 yards and three scores.

“I never doubted myself for a minute,” Smith said. “I’ve been playing football forever, making plays for forever.”

4. Brothers meet for the first time

Perhaps no NFL regular-season game got more attention than the Harbowl on Thanksgiving night. For the first time in league history, head coaching brothers faced each other. John Harbaugh vs. Jim Harbaugh.

To make it even better, Baltimore and San Francisco were two of the strongest teams in the NFL. The game was gritty and hard-fought, just like the brothers themselves. Baltimore moved to 9-3 with a 16-6 victory while the 49ers slipped to 10-2.

The brothers met on the field with their parents for pregame photos, then shook hands afterwards, shared a private message and parted with mutual respect.

“There’s a saying that says, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another,’” Jim said. “And I have to say my brother John is the sharpest iron I’ve ever encountered in my life.”

3. Punishing the Steelers in Week 1

Baltimore had stewed all offseason after losing a 14-point lead in the divisional playoff game to the Steelers. The Ravens had their chance at revenge in Week 1 and they took full advantage.

Running back Ray Rice ran for 36 yards on the first play of the game. Two plays later Joe Flacco hit Anquan Boldin on a 27-yard touchdown pass. Baltimore never looked back from there.

The Ravens forced a team-record seven turnovers and buried Pittsburgh offensively and defensively. Capping it off, punter Sam Koch easily trotted into the end zone for a two-point conversion as the Ravens went on to a 35-7 whooping.

The game set the tone for the rest of the season: the Ravens were a force to be reckoned with.

2. Clinching the AFC North

The Ravens hadn’t won the division since 2006 and hadn’t hosted a home playoff game despite going to the playoffs the past three seasons. A critically important first-round playoff bye was also on the line for the banged-up Baltimore squad.

It came down to Week 17. The Ravens had to go to Cincinnati, a place where they had lost the past two seasons, and knock off the young, surging Bengals.

Baltimore did it on the legs of Rice, who had 24 carries for 191 yards and two touchdowns. He broke off a regular-season long 70-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game and essentially sealed it with a 51-yarder late in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens were ecstatic in the locker room afterwards, putting on their championship T-shirts and hats. They had also swept the AFC North.

“The plane ride home, I have to admit, was pretty cool,” Harbaugh said the next day. “The locker room was really cool. … Those are the moments that you really just never are going to forget.”

1. Shocking the Steelers in Pittsburgh

A familiar, gut-twisting loss in Pittsburgh seemed to be playing out yet again.

The Ravens saw a 10-point, third-quarter lead taken from them when Flacco fumbled, setting up an improbable, scrambling touchdown pass by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with five minutes left.

Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith had the game-winning touchdown pass go through his hands. Here we go again…

But this time, Baltimore flipped the script.

Flacco went back to Smith, who hauled in a 26-yard touchdown over the top of two Steelers defenders with eight seconds left, leaving Heinz Field totally stunned and silenced.

The Ravens went into Pittsburgh, the place where they had lost in the playoffs the previous season, and won, 23-20, to secure a regular-season sweep.

“This Steelers-Ravens game is a game for men,” Harbaugh said. “This is a game for big men. You’ve got to shine bright in this game if you want to win this game. And nobody shined brighter than Joe Flacco in this game.”

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