Time to stop doubting Flacco and Ravens

BALTIMORE -- After the Baltimore Ravens came from behind for a 29-26 win against the Minnesota Vikings, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith ran out of the field and shouted: "Do you believe in miracles?"

The more appropriate question is this: Do you finally believe in quarterback Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens? If you watched the final minutes of Sunday's unforgettable comeback, it's difficult to say no.

And, honestly, it doesn't matter what you or I think about the Ravens. What's important is this team is starting to believe. A teetering 4-6 team a month ago has turned into a confident 7-6 one.

This is what happens when the Ravens rip back the lead every time it seemed like the Vikings had pulled off the upset. The defending Super Bowl champions refused to fold, scoring three touchdowns on their final eight plays of the game.

It's officially time to stop counting out Flacco and the Ravens. How many "miracles" need to happen before you're convinced? There's no disputing this is a team with flaws. But this is also a team that plays its best when the odds are stacked against it. All you have to do is google "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle" and "Mile High Miracle."

Sure, a blowout victory over a last-place team that played without the NFL's leading rusher would've been more of a statement. But there is something to be said for a team to experience something like this -- again.

"It probably makes you tough. It probably makes you resilient," coach John Harbaugh said. "It probably puts a lot of callouses all over your psyche and your character. When you’ve got callouses on your character, that’s probably a good thing in the end.”

No one is anointing the Ravens as a Super Bowl contender, but for the first time, they're showing playoff mettle. The Ravens have won three straight games and are finding out how to pull out close games again.

There are still season-long problems like Flacco's interceptions and the defense's inability to get the other team off the field late in games. The Ravens are winning now because they're finding ways to overcome their mistakes.

After throwing three interceptions, Flacco completed 7 of his final 10 passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns. Down 26-22 with 45 seconds left, Flacco marched the Ravens 80 yards on five plays. Flacco's nine-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown with four seconds left marked his 18th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, and his third of this season.

If you didn't think Flacco and the Ravens had that final drive in them, you're not alone.

"[The Vikings] probably thought it was over, and I’m not going to lie, part of me thought it was over at that point, too," Jimmy Smith said. "For Joe Flacco and the offense to go back down and score the way they did, it just says a lot about them.”

What's confounding about Flacco is he can look so pedestrian for most of the game and so brilliant late in it. His second interception of the game, a low-lining pass that should've been thrown out of bounds, resulted in a touchdown for the Vikings. But, when the game was on the line, Flacco throws his best pass of the game, putting the ball only where Brown could leap up and get it.

"This game was crazy and we could’ve lost it, but we’re a confident football team," Flacco said. "We’re starting to get healthier. We’re starting to put it together as a team. We just need to start putting it together for a full 60 minutes and see where it takes us.”

Of all of the Ravens' comebacks, this one made you doubt them the most. In the final 125 seconds, the Ravens needed touchdowns from a fourth-and-goal pass to tight end Dennis Pitta, a 77-yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones and a last-second toss to Brown in the back of the end zone to keep control of their playoff fate. There were seven lead changes in the game, including five in the final 2 minutes, 5 seconds.

Was this game crazier than the Mile High Miracle? That was last season's AFC divisional playoff game in Denver when Flacco thew a high-arcing 70-yard pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.

“I think this is probably crazier," Flacco said. "That one was probably a little more exciting, just because of what was on the line. But when you look at this, similar things were on the line, just not at the same time of year. In the time period that Jacoby [Jones] scored that touchdown in the Denver game, I think we probably scored three touchdowns in this game.”

The Ravens finish out the season with three games against division leaders: the Detroit Lions (7-6), New England Patriots (10-3) and Cincinnati Bengals (9-4). It would be easy to doubt whether the Ravens can make the playoffs with such a brutal stretch. And, based on Sunday, that's probably how the Ravens would like it anyway.