By Parmida Schahhosseini
Last year, the Baltimore Ravens lost a gut-wrenching match against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship after wide receiver Lee Evans dropped a sure touchdown and kicker Billy Cundiff missed a chip-shot field goal. Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis went on to give a passionate post game speech.
“God has never made a mistake,” Lewis said. “He never made one mistake. It ain’t about one play, it ain’t about nothing. This year we did what we were supposed to do. We fought as a team.”
Little did the world know, this “team of destiny” would set the stage for one of the most amazing stories in NFL history.
“The fact is that we have got to come back and go to work to make sure we finish it next time. That’s all we have got to do,” Lewis said.
During the following offseason, the Ravens lost many key players such as linebacker Jarret Johnson, defensive end Cory Redding and guard Ben Grubbs.
Linebacker and former defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs also tore his ACL. Many assumed Suggs would be out for the year, but he vowed to be back. He picked November as his goal to return to the field.
However, the Ravens did acquire wide receiver Jacoby Jones after he got run out of Houston, and Jim Caldwell was hired as the new quarterbacks coach after the disaster in Indianapolis.
This didn’t sit well with many fans, who then criticized the team for taking a step back, not forward. Despite general disagreement between fans and the front office, many Ravens faithful still trusted Ozzie Newsome, the general manager.
The Ravens suffered many injuries, including Ray Lewis’ tricep tear, an ACL tear to shutdown cornerback Lardarius Webb, and an abdominal injury and sports hernia to cornerback Jimmy Smith.
Haloti Ngata was playing injured most of the season, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe missed a couple of games as well.
The Ravens season was anything but great as they got blown out by the Houston Texans in week seven and lost three in a row starting with a loss at Pittsburgh in week 13.
However, the Ravens had faith. They continued to fight and believe in each other as John Harbaugh preached brotherhood and love. He shared the testament of God giving them strength. He shared Bible verses and created a locker room filled with brotherhood, after a potential revolt.
Leadership was the key and Harbaugh kept the team accountable and did one of the hardest things he had to do: fire his dear friend, former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
After losing to the Washington Redskins, recording their first back to back loss since 2009, Harbaugh fired Cameron and promoted Caldwell.
This move seemed bold to most, but it made sense. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers had their worst seasons under Cameron during his tenure in New Orleans and San Diego.
The Ravens’ offense was highly inconsistent considering the amount of talent on that roster. After a blowout home loss to Denver, Baltimore found its rhythm. The Ravens defeated the Giants 33-14 and clinched the AFC North division.
Everything was starting to look up as the ride began. The Ravens were destined to win this year.
In week 12, running back Ray Rice saved the Ravens’ season after running for 30 yards on a 4th and 29 play against the San Diego Chargers. They have been battle-tested this season dealing with the death of wide receiver Torrey Smith’s younger brother, injuries and heartaches.
The Ravens also have never won more than four games in a row. After a week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens were starting with no momentum to speak of, coming into the playoffs losing four out of the last five games.
However, with four games left, this streak seemed destined to happen.
On Jan 2, 2013, Ray Lewis told his team that this year’s playoff run would be his last. Emotions were high for the Ravens as they tried to send him off the right way.
After a decisive 24-9 victory against the Indianapolis Colts (a team the Ravens had never beaten in the postseason in franchise history) in the AFC Wild Card game, Lewis had a chance to keep moving on.
Rice called this team the “team of destiny.” A week later as nine point underdogs, the Ravens had the tough task of defeating Peyton Manning, a quarterback they had not beaten in franchise history. With an incredible 70-yard hookup between quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver Jacoby Jones, the Ravens sent the game into overtime.
With a 47-yard field goal by rookie kicker Justin Tucker, the Ravens defeated the top-seeded Denver Broncos.
In another divisional round playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons, the Seahawks came back after being down 20-points to take the lead 28-27. The announcer went on to call the Seahawks the “team of destiny,” but they lost after a Matt Bryant field goal.
The stage was set for a rematch between the Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots.
The Ravens were so close to the big game. The only team in their way was the team that they couldn’t get passed the year before.
Back where it all started, the Ravens were down 13-6 in the half. At the time, the Patriots were 67-0 in games where they took a lead into halftime.
However, the Ravens broke away in the second half and won 28-13, leaving the best offense in the NFL scoreless in the second half.
The Ravens were one game away to a happy ending.
Before the Super Bowl began, the Hall of Fame candidates took center stage with former Raven Jonathan Ogden being the first Raven player to make the Hall of Fame.
It was fitting that the first member of the Ravens entered the Hall of Fame on the same day the Ravens were to fulfill their destiny. The underdog Raven team played a dominant first half and led 21-6 at the half.
Baltimore started the second half with a Jones 108-yard kick return for a touchdown.
However, the lights went out, draining the Ravens of any momentum. The San Francisco 49ers came out of that break with a clear mind and momentum changed. San Francisco stormed back into the game, scoring 17 points in just over four minutes. It quickly turned from a blowout to a five-point game. Flacco led the offense on a long drive that resulted in a field goal putting the Ravens up 31-23. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick orchestrated another touchdown drive but missed a 2-point conversion.
Flacco and the offense went on another long drive trying to score and take as much time off the clock as possible but only got a field goal. Kaepernick drove the ball down to the 5-yard line. Baltimore stopped the 49ers on 4th down to get the ball back. Despite another adverse situation, it was fitting that the Ravens came out on top defeating the 49ers 34-31.
Ray Lewis and the other Ravens got the ending they wanted. No matter how many people counted them out, no matter what obstacle came their way, they had faith not just in themselves, but faith in God and faith in each other.
Lewis was right, God doesn’t make mistakes. This was the ultimate story filled with passion, faith and love.