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Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium is seen before an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
NFL: Ravens top Broncos in double OT, 38-35

NFL playoffs » Broncos’ late miscues, Manning’s mistakes help Ravens escape with 2OT win.

By Mike Klis

The Denver Post

First Published Jan 12 2013 06:33 pm • Last Updated Jan 12 2013 11:47 pm

Denver • The pass seemingly went higher than it did far.

Not that the Joe Flacco pass didn’t go far enough. By the time it landed incredulously in Jacoby Jones’ arms with mere seconds left in regulation, the Baltimore Ravens were on their way to delivering the Broncos a crushing, 38-35 two-overtime defeat on a frigid Saturday afternoon turned bone-chilling evening at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

At a glance

Ravens-Broncos Stats

Baltimore 14 7 7 7 0 3 — 38

Denver 14 7 7 7 0 0 — 35

First Quarter

Den » Holliday 90 punt return (Prater kick), 12:14.

Bal » T.Smith 59 pass from Flacco (Tucker kick), 10:31.

Bal » Graham 39 interception return (Tucker kick), 9:49.

Den » Stokley 15 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 4:02.

Second Quarter

Den » Moreno 14 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 7:26.

Bal » T.Smith 32 pass from Flacco (Tucker kick), :36.

Third Quarter

Den » Holliday 104 kickoff return (Prater kick), 14:47.

Bal » Rice 1 run (Tucker kick), :20.

Fourth Quarter

Den » D.Thomas 17 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 7:11.

Bal » J.Jones 70 pass from Flacco (Tucker kick), :31.

Second Overtime

Bal » FG Tucker 47, 13:18.

Attendance » 76,732.

Bal Den

First downs 21 30

Total Net Yards 479 398

Rushes-yards 39-155 41-125

Passing 324 273

Punt Returns 3-22 3-90

Kickoff Returns 4-64 4-171

Interceptions Ret. 2-39 0-0

Comp-Att-Int 18-34-0 28-43-2

Sacked-Yards Lost 1-7 3-17

Punts 8-48.3 5-48.8

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1

Penalties-yards 8-58 10-87

Time of Possession 36:36 40:06

Individual Statistics

Rushing » Baltimore, Rice 30-131, Pierce 5-14, Flacco 2-7, Leach 1-3, T.Smith 1-0. Denver, Hillman 22-83, Moreno 10-32, Hester 8-11, Manning 1-(minus 1).

Passing » Baltimore, Flacco 18-34-0-331. Denver, Manning 28-43-2-290.

Receiving » Baltimore, Boldin 6-71, T.Smith 3-98, Pitta 3-55, Dickson 3-29, J.Jones 2-77, Leach 1-1. Denver, Decker 6-84, Dreessen 6-46, Tamme 3-44, D.Thomas 3-37, Stokley 3-27, Hillman 3-20, Moreno 2-21, Hester 1-7, Willis 1-4.

Missed Field Goals » Denver, Prater 52 (SH).

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How did the underdog Ravens hand the No. 1-seeded, heavily favored the Broncos the second-most devastating defeat in their history?

It started when Flacco, the always big-armed and now big-game Ravens’ quarterback, let the ball rip seemingly out of desperation. The Broncos were up 35-28 thanks to a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas midway through the fourth quarter.

There was a considerable 70 yards and less than 40 seconds remaining when Flacco threw. Broncos cornerback Tony Carter let the ball go past him. He was playing zone and when Jones ran past on the right sideline. Carter didn’t put up a fight.

No problem. Broncos safety Rahim Moore was back for the rescue. Well-positioned. Knock it down and it’s fourth down. Moore leaped, reached up and ...

Uh oh. He misjudged the ball. It sailed over his head, right into Jones’ arms. Touchdown. 35-35. A bundled and erstwhile uproarious crowd, which had braved more than 4 hours of football amid single-digit temperatures, was stunned into silence.

"The season ended on me," Moore said. "It’s my fault."

Said coach John Fox: "You can point to that play, but there were plenty of other [bad] plays."

The Broncos entered the postseason with an 11-game winning streak. They came in as the AFC’s No. 1 seed and a 9½-point favorite against the Ravens.

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The last time the Broncos played the Ravens, just a month earlier in Baltimore, they jumped to a 31-3 fourth quarter lead before coasting.

And yet, it’s the Ravens who are advancing to the AFC championship game next Sunday against either the New England Patriots or Houston Texans.

"The more you put in, the more it does hurt," Manning said. "It matters to a lot of guys in that lockeroom. … It certainly does sting."

This was easily the Broncos most heartbreaking loss since losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a second-round playoff game at Mile High following the 1996 season.

After the Flacco-to-Jones 70-yard touchdown tied it 35-35 with 31 seconds left in regulation, the teams battled through a scoreless first overtime. Ravens cornerback Corey Graham intercepted Manning for the second time near the end of the first overtime. The first pick he returned for a touchdown early in the game.

On the second one, Manning made the ill-advised decision to throw back across his body after rolling right. He didn’t have enough zip on the ball to get it to Brandon Stokley.

"I was about to throw it and realized I couldn’t throw it, the corner was gong to be there and kind of double clutched," Manning said.

After the Graham interception gave Baltimore the ball at the Broncos’ 45, the Ravens moved it just far enough for Justin Tucker to kick a 47-yard, game-winning field goal.

The loss was the first of the season for Trindon Holliday, who deserved better. The 5-foot-5 Holliday had two touchdown returns that should have been the difference in a 35-28 Broncos victory. He brought afterburners to a playoff game that was 13 degrees at game time, 9 degrees with a windchill of -4 at halftime.

Until the postseason, Holliday had a personal team record of 16-0 — 5-0 with the Houston Texans; 11-0 with the Broncos. Then in the Broncos’ first postseason game he had touchdown returns of 90 yards off a punt before his team’s first offensive possession and 104 yards on the second half opening kickoff.

Not since Rickey Henderson in his prime has there been so many leadoff home runs. Despite Holliday’s heroics, the Broncos struggled to put away the Ravens. The score was 21-21 at halftime as Baltimore got a pick six off a deflected pass and two long touchdown receptions by Torrey Smith, who beat star cornerback Champ Bailey on both.

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