Moments after the Ravens' flailing defense suffered a series of late breakdowns that nearly cost them the football game on Sunday, the offense and special teams salvaged a dramatic victory.
After the defense allowed touchdowns to Minnesota Vikings backup running back Toby Gerhart and rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson within a 42-second span at the end of the fourth quarter, the Ravens managed to pull out a 29-26 win at snow-covered M&T Bank Stadium by answering each score through Jacoby Jones' kickoff return for a touchdown and Marlon Brown's game-winning touchdown catch.
"They scored on us so quick, I haven't seen anything like that since I've been here," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "In the end, defense, we got to put our foot down and end this game and we didn't do it. The offense and special teams bailed us out. Defense, we've got to learn how to finish. We played a good game, but we got to finish at the end."
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Defensive players felt relief, happiness, disappointment at their performance and an understanding that they nearly cost the Ravens the game after allowing two touchdowns in such a short amount of time.
"They bailed us out in the end," defensive lineman Arthur Jones said. "We got the last laugh because we got the win, thank God for that."
First, Gerhart bulled ahead for a 41-yard touchdown run with 1:27 remaining, breaking tackle attempts by safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam to put the Vikings ahead, 19-15.
"He busted a big one on us, and that put us in a bind," rush linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
After Jones answered with a 77-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to put the Ravens ahead again, Patterson came back with a 79-yard touchdown on a bubble screen to regain the lead for the Vikings, 26-22. The explosive first-round draft pick ran away from pursuit and dashed into the end zone untouched, cutting back to his left as Elam fell down while trying in vain to track him down.
"I saw him break through and I tried to take a straight angle toward him as he was heading to the sideline," Elam said. "He cut back on me and I tried to turn my feet around, but I slipped on the ice. Thankfully, the offense stepped up and got our back to win the game for us."
Added Suggs: "They throw a screen, all we have to do is get the guy down. With the conditions, you have to be very fundamentally sound in a game like this. We just didn't do a good job of wrapping the kid up. He made one hell of a play. I've never seen anything like that before in my life."
The Ravens allowed 379 yards of total offense and 15 first downs. They never sacked quarterback Matt Cassel as he threw two touchdowns and no interceptions and was hit only twice.
"It was a very [crappy] day, especially for pass rushers," said Suggs when asked about the slippery field conditions. "You can't really get off. Before you know it, you're down the middle with the tight end trying to make a tackle. It was very poor conditions."
With Adrian Peterson leaving the game and not returning due to a sprained foot, Gerhart rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries. Gerhart and Patterson both found an extra gear to break through and run away from the Ravens for clutch touchdowns.
"Man, just great effort plays by them," said Ihedigbo, who led the Ravens with a dozen tackles and forced a fumble on Gerhart in the first half that led to a touchdown. "It wasn't even so much the calls as it was those guys were determined to get into the end zone. You have to give them credit for that."
Despite the defensive issues, primarily missed tackles and a lack of proper spacing to protect the end zone, the Ravens still won the game and improved to 7-6 and maintained their edge for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot.
"It's football," Ihedigbo said. "When one is down, the other has to pick the other up. It's like a seesaw. We always pride ourselves on finishing.
"Last week, we finished. The week before that, we finished on defense. [Sunday], the offense, they finished the game. Special teams, they bailed us out."