Starting center Matt Birk shared his memories of the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, the road to Super Bowl 47, and the Mile High Miracle on The Game before the Money Podcast.
2012 Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens won the AFC North in 2012. The team finished with 10-6 record. The Ravens defeated the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 in the first round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Baltimore advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoffs to play the Broncos in Denver.
2012 Ravens Broncos AFC Playoff Game
2012 was Peyton Manning’s first year with the Broncos. Denver had an 11-game winning streak going into the divisional playoff game and finished the season with the best record in the AFC. The Broncos traditionally prove tough at home in the mile-high air of the Rocky Mountains.
The Ravens and their quarterback Joe Flacco faced a stiff challenge at Denver. Besides playing the AFC’s top seed on the road, the weather also played a factor. The thermometer read 13 degrees at game time, which set a record for the coldest playoff in Denver history.
The game was tight the entire way. The teams were tied at 14 at the end of the first quarter and tied at 21 at the end of the first half. At the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 28.
Peyton Manning hit Demaryius Thomas for a 17-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to put the Broncos ahead, 35-28. The score remained that way until the last minute of regulation.
Mile High Miracle Touchdown
The Ravens faced a third-and-3 from their own 30 with 43 seconds left. The Broncos rushed 3 linemen and had 8 men in coverage. Flacco stepped up in the pocket and launched a ball deep down the sideline to Jacoby Jones. The Broncos coverage broke down. Flacco hit Jones in stride for a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game at 35. The play earned its place in NFL history as “The Mile High Miracle”.
The Ravens eventually won the game in the second overtime.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis told reporters that he’d never seen the kind of look in Joe Flacco’s eyes as he did in that game. I asked Ravens center Matt Birk about what it was like in the Ravens huddle before the Mile High Miracle. His answer gave insight into that team’s mentality and the focus on the task at hand.
Joe Flacco Quarterback Leadership
“Joe’s the perfect example of a guy that never gets too excited or too down. I mean, even we went out there down by 7 and had a minute left and had to go the length of the field,” Birk said. “It was never like, ‘Oh, jeez, we got to do this or guys, we’re going to lose!” It was just like, ‘What’s the play?’ OK, that’s the play. Here’s my assignment. Let’s execute. Didn’t worry about the outcome at all. Just worried about the task at hand.”
Birk said he would love to say there was an eloquent Hollywood script or fireball speech in the huddle, but the truth is that the Ravens were simply in the moment, focused on their assignments.
“I’d love to tell you that I just knew by looking in Joe’s eyes that we were going to win. I didn’t. I never checked Joe’s eyes to see if we thought we were going to win. It didn’t matter. It was just about the moment and executing and doing your job. And then the results take care of themselves,” Birk said on The Game before the Money Podcast. “That play we tied it up as a great play. But I don’t know if it was a great offense or if it was bad defense. The bottom line is we executed and they didn’t.”
Keys to Winning in the NFL: Execution
Birk’s final point about execution is a topic that’s important to discuss. In the book The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL, several players spoke about the difference between winning and losing often comes down to proper execution of fundamentals. Rocky Bleier said that it was one of the big differences between the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers — often called the “Team of the 1970s” — and the other contenders in the NFL playoffs.
On the Mile High Miracle, Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones executed the play perfectly as the Broncos coverage lapsed. Don’t forget that Matt Birk and the rest of the Ravens offensive line pushed away the Broncos pass rush. Many great plays in NFL history are simply the result of doing the little things right on every play and reaping huge results when it matters most.Embed from Getty Images
PHOTOS: Matt Birk with the Baltimore Ravens