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January 16, 2013

Direct Kick: Flacco’s miracle sinks Denver

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It’s a play that will live forever in football history. “The Flacco Fling”. “The Baltimore Bomb” “The Mile High Miracle.” Whatever you want to call it, Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 41 seconds left to tie the game between Denver and Baltimore with is now as well known as “The Immaculate Reception,” “The Hail Mary,” “Ghost to the Post” and “The Catch.”

While those other famous catches won games for their teams, this one only tied Saturday’s AFC playoff game and sends it into overtime, then another overtime, before the underdog Ravens upset the Broncos, 38-35. But it still had the impact as any of those other catches.

The Broncos and Peyton Manning were leading the Ravens, 35-28, with less than a minute left. The Ravens had the ball, but were without time outs. Victory was surely in the grasp of the Broncos.

Then the unthinkable happened. Flacco, on third-an-3 at the Ravens’ 30, did what everyone watching knew he was going to do: Drop back and throw a deep prayer. But for some reason, the Broncos’ secondary reacted like they weren’t expecting it.

Cornerback Tony Carter let Jones rush past him. All safety Rahim Moore had to do was play Jones like he normally would. Instead, he tried to leap in front of Jones for either an interception or to knock the ball away. Instead, his mistimed his leap, fell flat on his back, as Jones easily caught the pass and ran into the end zone for the tying score.

But let’s face it folks. That play wasn’t the only one that cost Denver the game.

Why did coach John Fox decide to play conservatively after that score and in the OT? Denver had the ball with 31 seconds on its own 20 with wo timeouts and Peyton Manning at quarterback. Plenty of time for Manning, one of the best in times like this, to try and drive the ball into field goal range. Instead, the Broncos opted to run out the clock.

They were just as conservative in the OT, using mostly short passes and short runs, which left one wondering if they had lost their killer instinct.

Losing running back Knowshon Moreno for most of the second half to an injury was a big blow. Manning throwing two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and losing a fumble was costly, though the lost fumble should have been called back due to the Tuck Rule, but the officials saw it otherwise. They also ruled a catch by Anquan Boldin good when it looked like it should have been overturned due to touching the ground as he came down with the ball. Both of those non-calls were huge plays in the game. Champ Bailey was burned for two touchdowns by Torrey Smith.

All that overshadowed a brilliant day from Trindon Holliday, who returned a punt 90 yards and a kickoff 104 yards for two Bronco touchdowns. But in the end, it was all for naught.

Was this, as some are labeling it, a “choke job” by the Broncos? In some aspects, yes. They were favored to win. It was one their home turf, with the temperature dropping into single digits. But let’s remember one thing. Manning, as good as he is, has never been a cold-weather quarterback. He is now 0-4 all time in playoff games less than 40 degrees.

But let’s also not forget the season that Manning had. He turned in what could easily be an MVP season. He led the Broncos to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Unfortunately in the end that didn’t happen.

Let’s also give credit to the Ravens. They battled the Broncos tooth-and-nail and hung around so that they were In a position to tie the game, and then win it in overtime. Flacco doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I think he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

Now the Ravens will face New England to decide the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, while over in the NFC, San Francisco meets Atlanta.

• When Adolph Rupp was coaching The Fabulous Five at Kentucky, the Wildcats once held a 38-4 lead over their opponent at the half. All four points were scored by the same player.

Rupp, who had a reputation as halftime hell-raiser, screamed at his team, “Somebody guard that man. Why, he’s running wild!”

Imagine how the Baron would have reacted this past Saturday when Texas A & M’s Elston Turner dropped 40 on the Wildcats, at Rupp Arena, no less, in the Aggies 83-71 win over UK.

Let’s face it folks. This UK team, especially the freshman class, really isn’t that good. At least not right now. That’s not to say come tournament time they won’t be. But changes need to be made.

I’ve heard several people say that the freshmen need to stop thinking about their draft position and start concentrating on improving. That could be one of their problems. Another is they need to start playing as a team and not as individuals.

That’s what you get with relying on freshmen year-in and year-out. Sometimes you hit the jackpot, sometimes you don’t.

• So Lance Armstrong will finally admit to using performance enhancing drugs while ruling the cycling world, sources say. And of all place, on Oprah Winfrey’s network. The show was taped Monday and will air on Thursday.

Does this come as a shock? Not really. Should he have admitted to this sooner? Of course. Do I can anymore? Not really.

• The NHL returns Saturday. While I hate that they took this long to reach an agreement, I must admit I am looking forward to watching the action on the ice again.

• Alabama wins yet another BCS title for the Southeastern Conference. While I wasn’t surprised that they did (even though I was rooting for Notre Dame), I was surprised at how easily they did it.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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