DENVER – Baltimore’s Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the second overtime Saturday, ending the NFL’s longest game in 26 years and giving the Ravens a 38-35 win over the Denver Broncos in the AFC playoffs.
The Ravens (12-6) forced overtime on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation, after Jones slipped behind a pair of Broncos defenders along the sideline.
Late in the first overtime, Peyton Manning threw across his body on second down and Corey Graham picked off the ball to give the Ravens the ball on the Denver 45. Two plays later, the first overtime ended and the teams switched directions, and after three Ray Rice runs up the middle, Tucker sailed his game-winner through the uprights with room to spare.
Baltimore will travel to either New England or Houston for the AFC title game next Sunday, as linebacker Ray Lewis’ career extends at least one more game.
The last NFL game that went to two overtimes was on Jan. 10, 2004, when Carolina beat the Rams 29-23 in St. Louis on the first play of the second quarter.
Leading 35-28 with 1:15 left in regulation, the Broncos punted to Jones, the Pro Bowl returner who was overshadowed all day by Trindon Holliday. He made a fair catch at the 23 with 1:09 to go.
On third-and-3 from his own 30, Flacco wound up and found Jones down the right sideline for the stunning score. Tony Carter let Jones go and Rahim Moore tried to go up to bat it down, but mis-timed his jump.
The Broncos got the ball at their 20 with 30 seconds left, but Manning took a knee to send the game to OT. Denver also went into overtime in the playoffs last year, when Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard TD on the first play to beat Pittsburgh.
Manning atoned for a fumble that led to a score by Baltimore by driving Denver 88 yards in 10 plays and hitting Thomas from 17 yards out for the go-ahead score that broke a 28-all tie midway through the fourth quarter.
And Holliday became the first player in NFL playoff history to return both a punt and a kickoff for scores.
The Broncos (13-4) became the latest No. 1 seed to lose in the divisional round. Since 2005, nine top-seeded teams lost their first game in the playoffs.
In the regular season, Denver breezed past the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore on Dec. 16 after racing to a 31-3 lead but this one was close all the way before the Broncos saw their winning streak end at 11 games.
Holliday, the NFL’s shortest – and quite possibly fastest – player, followed an amazing block by Jacob Hester to return the second-half kickoff 104 yards to put Denver ahead 28-21. That was 2 yards longer than the record set in 2010 by Atlanta’s Eric Weems.
In the first half, Holliday got the scoring started when he fielded Sam Koch’s punt, broke one tackle and raced down the Ravens’ sideline for a 90-yard TD return, avoiding the punter as he zipped into the end zone. The previous longest TD on a punt return in a playoff game was Jermaine Lewis’ 88-yarder for Baltimore in 2001.
Manning, 0-4 in playoff games below 40 degrees, wore gloves on each hand in the cold. He was sacked and coughed up the ball at his 37 late in the third quarter, Paul Kruger recovering for Baltimore.
Rice carried five times for 37 yards, taking it in from a yard out with 20 seconds left in the quarter to tie it at 28.
The 13-degree temperature at kickoff made this the coldest playoff game ever played in Denver. The wind chill was 2. The only colder game played in Denver was against San Diego on Dec. 10, 1972, when the temperature was 9 degrees.
Holliday also returned a punt and a kickoff for scores in the regular season, and his big day came just an hour after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated his intention to consider this offseason the idea of abolishing kickoffs altogether for safety’s sake.