BALTIMORE (AP) — At first, it appeared the unrelenting snow would be the main topic of conversation. Then came an incredible flurry of touchdowns — five over the final 125 seconds — that truly made this a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable football game.
After Joe Flacco threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to rookie Marlon Brown with 4 seconds left to give the Baltimore Ravens a 29-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Ravens couldn’t contain their excitement.
“Do you believe in miracles?” cornerback Jimmy Smith shouted as he ran off the field.
“What just happened?” Ravens kicker Justin Tucker exclaimed.
The game featured six different lead changes in the fourth quarter. That is the most fourth-quarter lead changes in a single game in NFL history.
And Jacoby Jones, who took a kickoff back 77 yards for a touchdown during the back-and-forth excitement, said: “You couldn’t even get emotional. It was too confusing.”
Brown’s catch concluded a five-play, 80-yard drive that took only 41 seconds.
–Dennis Pitta, in his season debut following a hip injury, caught a 1-yard, fourth-down pass from Flacco for a 15-12 lead with 2:05 remaining.
–Toby Gerhart, subbing for an injured Adrian Peterson, ran 41 yards to put Minnesota up 19-15 with 1:27 to go.
— Jones went the distance with the ensuing kickoff to give Baltimore a 22-19 edge with 1:16 left.
— Matt Cassel threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson with 45 seconds to play.
Then the Ravens (7-6) answered with one final salvo.
“I’ve never seen a game like that before,” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “Besides the Super Bowl, that’s probably the most special win I’ve been a part of. Crazy game.”
Baltimore (7-6) has its first three-game winning streak of the season and the inside track for the second AFC wild card.
Minnesota (3-9-1) lost Peterson in the second quarter with an ankle injury, then dropped a game it appeared to have won. Twice. It also was officially eliminated from playoff contention.
“There were so many momentum shifts in the last couple of minutes, it seemed like the game would never end,” Cassel said.
Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher and 2012 MVP, hurt his right foot in the second quarter after catching a short pass and being tackled near the sideline by linebacker Arthur Brown.
“We did X-rays, and it came back pretty clear,” said Peterson, who finished with 13 yards on seven carries. “The next step is to get an MRI done (Monday) and find out more.”
Gerhart gained 89 yards on 15 attempts. Cassel went 17 for 28 yards for 265 yards.
Flacco completed 28 of 50 passes for 245 yards and three interceptions.
“It was unlikely that we win this game today,” he said, “but we did.”
The Vikings took their first lead, 12-7, when Cassel threw an 8-yard pass to Jerome Simpson after an interception by safety Andrew Sendejo. Baltimore then moved to the Minnesota 21 before Vonta Leach was stuffed on a fourth-and-1.
That appeared huge, but the teams had plenty of time left to run up and down the sloppy field.
“You think you’ve seen everything and then a game like this happens,” Tucker said. “To sum it up in one word, it was pandemonium.”
Minnesota went to overtime in each of its previous two games. And then this.
“These losses, you don’t practice this hard to come up short,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s tough for our guys, it’s tough for our staff, it’s very disappointing. You practice and work as hard as we do to get wins, and you’ve got to be able to make those plays to get those wins.”
Before the game and in the first quarter, small tractors with plows and workers with shovels tried to clear the snow, to no avail. After the snow let up, tractors moved it from between the hash marks and shovels cleared the yard lines.
The wet football and messy field had an immediate impact. Flacco underthrew his receiver and was intercepted by Chad Greenway to end the opening possession, and the Vikings’ second drive ended when Gerhart fumbled. The ball was recovered by safety Matt Elam at the Minnesota 25, and Flacco slipped and skidded for 22 yards before passing to Ed Dickson for a 1-yard touchdown.
It became apparent early that scoring would be difficult, and more so for the Vikings after Peterson left. So Frazier kept his offense on the field on a fourth-and-3 at the Baltimore 38.
The Vikings converted to set up a 39-yard field goal by Blair Walsh — a kick that followed a good deal of preparation by holder Jeff Locke, who used a towel to clear the placement spot.
Walsh added a 40-yarder in the third quarter after Cassel completed a 19-yard pass to Greg Jennings.
NOTES: Ravens LB Elvis Dumervil was inactive (ankle). … Vikings TE John Carlson left with a concussion. … Baltimore moved over .500 for the first time since being 3-2.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)