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Ravens giving everyone reason to believe

Comebacks like this don't happen every week

Mike Preston

10:30 PM EST, November 25, 2012

SAN DIEGO —

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When the game ended, Ravens offensive linemen Michael Oher and Jah Reid were chest bumping. Quarterback Joe Flacco was walking around with a clenched fist and Coach John Harbaugh was hugging anyone, almost everyone on the field.

And then he went behind the Ravens bench and started celebrating with the 10,000 or so Ravens fans who had taken over Qualcomm Stadium.

Special seasons have defining moments, and the Ravens may have had theirs Sunday when they pulled off a miraculous comeback and defeated the San Diego Chargers, 16-13, in overtime before a crowd of 57,882.

Mark down this date and game, because great moments like these don't happen often. Few teams gain 110 total yards in the first half and gain 333 in the second. Few teams are down by 10 points in the last eight minutes of the game, and then win in overtime.

There just aren't many teams in the history of the NFL that convert on a fourth-and-29 from their own 37 on a short pass in the right flat to a running back who breaks three tackles and gets a first down.

Moments like these take over a season. Everybody starts to believe.

"This was one of those types of games, like the one we won in Pittsburgh last year," Flacco said. "It's not a division game, but it's important for us to be 9-2. It's in the moment. I don't think if we had lost the game it would have been the biggest deal in the world, but this was a huge opportunity for us to keep that spread, and really take a leap forward in the division and conference. In fact, if we take care of our business the rest of the way, this will be a defining moment."

Rice said: "I've been around a lot of teams. This team has the will to win. We always believe."

When teams win games like this, people start believing in the impossible. The players start to think they are invincible and there is no lead large enough for them to overcome because they are a team of destiny.

A few weeks ago after the Ravens had beaten Kansas City and Dallas, I wrote that the football gods were smiling down on the Ravens.

Well, how else can you explain Rice's long run for a first down? Video replays seemed to show that Rice was a yard or two short of the first-down marker.

Somebody over at The Castle is living right.

"I thought he was short," Flacco said. "I think the officials forgot where they had the first-down markers originally and they moved them. Once they had to re-mark them again, I thought, 'Oh my God, we got a shot at this.'

"It's probably a once in a life time thing. You're never going to get that many yards in that situation again."

If you don't believe in destiny, fate or luck, then consider reality. The Ravens survived a gut check Sunday. Only a week ago, they had beaten their archrival Pittsburgh in a brutal Sunday night game.

On Friday, they left for the 3,000-mile flight to San Diego, where many a team has been ambushed on game day because of the numerous night life activities here.

The Ravens also had every reason to overlook the Chargers with another rugged game coming up against the Steelers next Sunday at M & T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens could have folded, especially the way the offense played in the first half. And they could have easily imploded with the stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties they suffered in the second half.

But you can't question the Ravens' heart or resiliency. You could see it in the eyes of Rice on that magnificent run in the fourth quarter.

You could see it in the mad dash by Torrey Smith after a short catch across the middle that he turned into a 54-yard reception. And the catch Smith made to set up the game winning 38-yard field goal by Justin Tucker — the one where he twirls in the air to snatch a 31-yard pass on a back shoulder throw from Flacco — was sensational.

"You have to make adjustments and that's what we needed," Smith said. "I'm not the one to say one win means more than another, but it was a tough win and we're happy about it."

The Ravens needed a win like this, especially on offense. They have played poorly on the road, where Flacco has struggled. After last week's game in Pittsburgh, it appeared after the game that he had lost some confidence and, like his teammates, couldn't explain the problems.

But this offense was superb in the latter part of the fourth period and in overtime. Flacco picked apart the Chargers. If he wasn't handing off to Rice, he was completing big passes to Smith, Jacoby Jones, Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta.

Take your choice. Yes, they were that good.

The defense has played well for the third straight game and they had the Chargers in check, especially in the second half. Reserve linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo stepped in and played well for the injured Dannell Ellerbe, and cornerbacks Cary Williams and Corey Graham came up big for the second straight week.

The Ravens could use this game to get on a big roll. They might be able to get some of their swagger back. A defining moment occurred Sunday.

"Listen, I don't know any stats. I don't know any injuries. I really don't," Harbaugh said. "I just know that we have football team that has the biggest hearts I've ever seen. I don't want to go overboard here, but how can you not?. Have you have been a part of a game like that?. Have you ever seen a game like that?

"There's something going on with this football team that is really special and miraculous. I just couldn't be more proud."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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