It was nice to forget about the Ravens’ big picture for one night in a thrilling 33-27 win over Cleveland.
No, I don’t think Brent Urban’s blocked field goal and Will Hill’s 64-yard return for the game-winning touchdown as time expired will sabotage Baltimore’s 2016 draft position. It was always going to difficult to secure the first overall pick when every game the Ravens play is decided by one possession, leaving too many chances for some breaks to go their way like they did on Monday.
In the same light, the exhilarating victory shouldn’t be viewed as “redemption” or a catalyst that will allow the Ravens to climb back into a mediocre AFC wild-card race. After all, the only thing the Ravens really proved on Monday is that they were better than the perennial doormat of the AFC North.
But that chaotic final play reminded us just how much fun sports can be. Nothing more, nothing less.
It hasn’t exactly been the greatest few months in local sports with the Orioles failing to return to the playoffs, Maryland football being dreadful, and the Ravens in the midst of the most disappointing season in franchise history. It’s easy to become jaded watching a team that’s already out of the race and looking toward next season, especially after losing your franchise quarterback to a season-ending knee injury last week.
In fact, I counted myself among those seeing no benefit to the Ravens winning any games down the stretch as they’d only be worsening their position in a draft in which general manager Ozzie Newsome needs to come away with high-impact talent. But a funny thing happened as I watched the injury-ravaged Ravens take on the hapless Browns in one of the worst matchups of the season.
I enjoyed myself.
Make no mistake, Baltimore and Cleveland did not play a great game, but it was entertaining with big plays, backbreaking mistakes, questionable coaching decisions, and one of the craziest finishes in the long history of Monday Night Football. And as the teams exchanged multiple possessions in the final two minutes and Matt Schaub threw his second interception of the night to set the Browns up in Baltimore territory, I still pondered the most absurd way in which the game could end and decided on the following:
I’m calling it now. #Ravens block the field goal and return it for the game-winning touchdown. No one wants to win.
— Luke Jones (@BaltimoreLuke) December 1, 2015
Of course, it was nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek prediction — I’ve been awful in forecasting Ravens games this season — but I couldn’t believe my eyes just a couple minutes later as Urban blocked Travis Coons’ 51-yard attempt and Hill scooped up the football to streak down the sideline for the score.
It was one of those moments that reminds fans — and even cranky reporters — why we watch sports in the first place. Of course, Baltimore’s joy was Cleveland’s agony as the Browns picked the worst time to, well, “Brown” away a game.
You couldn’t help but feel good for Hill, who had blown the deep middle coverage on Travis Benjamin’s game-tying touchdown catch with 1:47 remaining in the game. I felt even better for Urban, a 2014 fourth-round defensive end who was playing in his first NFL game after seeing his entire rookie year and most of his second season lost due to injuries.
Two players the Ravens hope will factor into their future making the game-winning play on Monday night.
It will be fine going back to feeling conflicted about the remaining five games of the season as the Ravens travel to Miami to take on the 4-7 Dolphins on Sunday. I can understand a fan never wanting to root against his or her team, no matter what it means for draft implications. At the same time, the Ravens only stand to benefit in the long run by losing more than winning the rest of the way.
But I hope we all could enjoy what transpired on the final play of Monday night’s game.
The wild win doesn’t make up for a losing season and doesn’t mean the Ravens will fail to come away with excellent players in next year’s draft. It’s also not a sign of an upcoming miraculous run to the postseason.
It was just a really fun moment that we hope to witness from time to time as sports fans.
One in which silly imagination suddenly sprung into fun reality for a team experiencing far too much of the cruel kind this season.