"It was looking very, very dim," said Wright, whose football team was trailing the Seattle Seahawks 41-24 with 14:16 remaining. "They just kept scoring and things looked bad for us. I kept walking and said, 'Guys, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in us as a team, we can pull this thing out.'"
Traditionally, these gridiron pleas for blind faith fall on deaf ears. Especially, in a conversation with a team that was mired in a two-game losing streak built by a multitude of penalties and turnovers by a usually-dormant offense. In this case, though, Wright engineered the greatest comeback in Ravens history as the AFC North co-leaders completed a 44-41 overtime victory over the Seahawks. Wright's wife, Nicole, was scheduled to deliver a baby girl named Trinity by the evening.
With the Ravens' trademark defense faltering, the offense scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime. The win was capped by kicker Matt Stover splitting the uprights on game-tying and game-winning field goals before and after regulation. Wright had a career-best performance with a 20-for-37 outing for 319 yards, a 119.1 quarterback rating and four touchdown passes to former college teammate Marcus Robinson. Wright was starting for the second week in a row in place of injured rookie Kyle Boller. Robinson, who played with Wright at South Carolina and hadn't scored this season until Sunday, set a team record with four touchdown catches. "I was very emotional," said Wright, a former Dallas Cowboys passer who was 1-5 in his previous starts. "I almost started crying in the locker room, but I had to keep my composure. This is something that you dream of. This is something that you write in books and stories. This is a thing that you think would never happen to you. It's one of the most beautiful days of my life. To come out and have a career day and for my wife to be having my baby, it's unbelievable." Yet, it happened.
For Stover to get to boot a 40-yarder with time expiring in regulation and to connect on a 42-yarder in overtime for his 15th field goal in a row, it took a combined effort of offense, defense and special teams. The Ravens overcame being scorched by Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's career-high five touchdown passes while surrendered 426 yards of total offense and 24 first downs. "I think this was a defining moment for our team," perennial All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I think we have a renewed confidence in each other. I truly believe in my heart that we grew as a family. I love this. It reminds me of old times."
First, safety Ed Reed adeptly slipped past fullback Mack Strong to block Tom Roeun's punt. From there, he secured the football, sprang to his feet and sprinted 16 yards into the end zone for the third touchdown of his career off of his four blocked punts. The score cut the Seahawks' lead to 41-31 with 6:41 left in the fourth quarter. "I just built up my energy on the way to the line of scrimmage," Reed said. "That's why they call it special teams." One possession later, Lewis ripped the football away from Strong on a fullback dive. Working out of the shotgun formation on 4th-and-28 from the Baltimore 35, a deflected pass sailed from Robinson's hands directly to receiver Frank Sanders for a 44-yard gain. Four plays later, Wright found Robinson in the corner of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown with 1:12 left in the game.
Baltimore was down 41-38, but within reach because of Robinson, a Pro Bowl selection in 1999 for the Chicago Bears whose career had slumped because of knee and back injuries. "I've known Anthony since college and people look at us as washed up and sometimes judge us that way," said Robinson, who caught seven passes for 131 yards . "He always told me when I get in there to be ready. He got in there and I was ready. "My wife kept praying for me. She would leave a message at every game: 'Marcus, you're the best receiver in the NFL.'"
An onsides kick attempt by Wade Richey failed, but defensive end Marques Douglas and 6-foot-7, 360-pound offensive tackle Orlando Brown came through on 4th-and-1. They tackled Hasselbeck short of the first down to give Baltimore possession at the Ravens' 33. Beneficiaries of a 44-yard pass interference call against rookie cornerback Marcus Trufant, the Ravens ran Jamal Lewis up the middle on the next play. Wright spiked the ball to stop the clock. Then, Baltimore was hit with an illegal formation call as tight end Terry Jones lined up parallel to the line of scrimmage. Because it was ruled that it wasn't an intentional attempt to stop the clock, the team wasn't hit with an automatic 10-second runoff just a five-yard penalty. Stover calmly converted a 40-yard kick for the Ravens' 10th point in the final 1:12 of regulation. "We let them back in the football game," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. "It was just a bizarre, bizarre ending.
Wright moved the Ravens 55 yards on 12 plays in overtime, locating Robinson for a 19-yard completion on 3rd-and-15 to set up the game-winning kick. "That's what I live for," Stover said. "That's what they pay me for." Baltimore allowed two touchdowns in 22 seconds in the final minute of the first half to trail 17-3. Down 10-3, running back Chester Taylor fumbled on linebacker Anthony Simmons' hit and Ken Lucas scampered 24 yards to the Ravens' 10. Hasselbeck found Bobby Engram for another aerial score, and Baltimore looked like it was on the verge of being blown out. When asked what he would say to the fans who left early, Ravens coach Brian Billick said: "You missed something. We dodged a bullet here."
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.