Protected well by an offensive line that played one of its best game of the season -- tackles Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher combined to allow one total sack -- Flacco completed 18-of-34 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
"Maybe people will stop underestimating Joe finally," McKinnie said. "This could be the turning point in his career. People need to stop underestimating Joe and give him a little more respect."
Flacco hit Smith for touchdowns of 59 and 32 yards, the latter one tying the game at 21 heading into the halftime. The two teams combined for 28 points in the game's first 11 minutes, a torrid pace that started with Holliday's 90-yard punt return touchdown and included Graham's 39-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Holliday started the second half with a 104-yard kickoff return that left the Ravens chasing a 28-21 deficit.
But Flacco, who shouldered a lot of blame for the Ravens' regular-season loss to the Broncos after his interception was returned 98 yards for a touchdown, was hardly the only Raven to gain some retribution. After fumbling twice in the Ravens' playoff-opening win over the Indianapolis Colts, Rice rushed 30 times for 131 yards and one touchdown. His 1-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the third quarter tied the game at 28.
Manning's third touchdown of the day -- a 17-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas -- with just over 7minutes to play capped a 10-play, 88-yard drive that broke a 28-all deadlock. Thomas broke tackles from Lewis and safety Ed Reed on the play.
Flacco drove them down to the Broncos' 31. However, back-to-back drops -- the first by Jacoby Jones on third down and the second by Dennis Pitta on fourth down -- turned the ball over on downs. The Ravens did force the Broncos to punt, but they still had their ball on their own 23 with no timeouts and just over a minute to play.
"I told myself that Joe might throw me the ball so I better haul but off the line," Jones said.
After it was over, Rice declared the Ravens "the team of destiny."
"Just think about it," he said. "You give up two special teams touchdowns and the way Peyton played, odds says we're going to lose, but I think we're the only group of people ? that believed that we could get it done, and we did it."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has now been to the AFC championship game in three of his five seasons and while he abhors comparisons, it's hard to imagine a more rewarding trip than this.
"That was one of the best football games you're ever going to see," Harbaugh said. "That football game did the game of football proud. I'm just proud and grateful to have an opportunity to be part of this game. ? Our guys did not crack."
As a result, the Ravens boarded a plane on Saturday evening for a long trip home, knowing that they still have more football left to play.
"It was amazing. All the crazy stuff that went on -- a punt return, a kick return -- nobody flinched, man," safety Bernard Pollard said. "Everybody stayed the path and that was good for us. We're excited not to be packing our locker room up and going home."
(c)2013 The Baltimore Sun
Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Most Popular Stories
- World Bank: Rich Countries Must Curb Emissions
- Airport Garners Social Media Award
- Social Media Campaign Increases Organ Donor Registrations
- What Will Happen When Quantitative Easing Ends?
- Immigration Reform Would Decrease U.S. Budget Deficit
- MillerCoors Taps New Hispanic Ad Agency
- Aetna Leaving California's Individual Health Insurance Market
- Conference Slated for Hispanic Tech Startups
- Tea Party Wants to 'Audit the IRS'
- Calories Count: Starbucks to Post the Numbers on Menu Boards