Sports Illustrated has put out a piece on the “Biggest gut-punch loss” for each and every franchise, the Ravens included.
The game that the author the piece, Doug Farrar, picked is a recent one – a game that stopped the Ravens from getting to the AFC Title game last season against the Colts.
Baltimore Ravens: Jan. 10, 2015, AFC divisional round—Patriots 35, Ravens 31
The Ravens had this one in hand—twice. They opened the game with a 14-point lead over the Patriots, who scratched back to tie the game before the half. Then, Baltimore extended its lead to 28–14 in the third quarter, and that’s when all hell broke loose. With 9:33 left in the third quarter, New England went with a weird formation: TE Michael Hoomanawanui at left tackle and RB Shane Vereen as an ineligible receiver in the right slot. At the snap, Hoomanawanui ran up the left seam, while Vereen backed off into the backfield. Baltimore’s defense was torn between wondering what Vereen was doing and covering Rob Gronkowski, who was on the right side of the formation, opposite Hoomanawanui. Tom Brady hit Hoomanawanui for a 16-yard gain, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh was not amused.
Harbaugh was even less amused five plays later, when Vereen was officially declared ineligible before the play, and Hoomanawanui was wide open for another big gain in a similar formation—14 yards this time. The Patriots got back in the game with a Tom Brady five-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, and then, receiver Julian Edelman tied it again with this 51-yard pass to Danny Amendola.
Harbaugh said after the game that the ineligible player strategies weren’t fair, because his defense should have the opportunity to ID the men they need to cover. But as Brady pointed out, this kind of trickery happens on special teams all the time. In any case, it set the Ravens on their heels, and with 5:13 left in the game, Brady hit Brandon LaFell with the winning touchdown pass.