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Four things we learned from Ravens-Broncos playoff classic

01.12.13 at 10:10 pm ET
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Ray Rice -- who ran for 131 yards -- celebrates with Ravens fans after the game. (AP)

Ray Rice — who ran for 131 yards — celebrates with Ravens fans after the game. (AP)

Four things we learned from Saturday’s wild divisional playoff contest between the Broncos and the Ravens, a double-overtime masterpiece football folks will be discussing for a long time.

1. Joe Flacco comes up big. No matter what you think of the Ravens’ signal caller, he came up big in a huge moment against the Broncos, finding Jacoby Jones on a ridiculous 70-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute to go in regulation to tie the game up. Denver safety Rahim Moore didn’t help things by blowing the coverage, but Flacco was still able to make the connection with the game of the line. (Of course, some clock mismanagement on Flacco’s part caused the Ravens to burn a timeout late in regulation, but we’ll give him a pass because of his late game heroics.) In the end, he finished 18-for-34 for 331 yards, with three touchdowns and no picks.

2. The entire Baltimore roster showed some terrific mental toughness. It wasn’t just Flacco making some big plays — the Ravens tenacity in this one was very impressive. Whether it was the fact that they didn’t necessarily want to lose this one for Ray Lewis, or the fact that they were able to bounce back time and again on the road in a historically difficult place to win, it was a really nice display of grit by the Ravens, who will be going back to the AFC title game for the second consecutive year.

3. The Broncos made some odd choices. Whether it was deciding to take a knee and play for overtime at the end of regulation, or Peyton Manning‘s decision to throw across his body at the end of the first regulation — a pass that led to an interception that led to the Ravens’ game-winning field goal — the Broncos made some questionable calls. Manning ended up going 28-for-43 for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two picks, but given the fact that Denver entered the postseason as the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC, some of the decisions they made in this playoff loss will haunt them this offseason.

4. Special teams were in the spotlight. It’s impossible not to notice the fact that the Ravens season ended last year on a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff in the AFC title game against the Patriots, and now, they’ll continue to play because of a made field goal by youngster Justin Tucker. Tucker connected on a 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the second overtime to send the Ravens back to Baltimore to prepare for the AFC title game. Because of Tucker’s game-winner, we’ll forgive the special-teams breakdowns that took place in regulation, when Trindon Holliday became the first player in NFL with punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns in the same playoff game. Holliday took a punt back 90 yards in the first half and opening the second half with a 104-yard kick return to help jumpstart the Broncos.

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