John Harbaugh could not explain why — he just ran. He raced down the sideline as fast as 61-year-old legs could carry him, toward the euphoria exploding in Baltimore’s end zone around Tylan Wallace.

Imagine how powerful the emotional swell had to be to sweep up Harbaugh, a coach with a borderline militant adherence to decorum. It only occurred to him after a few moments in the dogpile celebration that he had to go to shake Sean McVay’s hand.

“I ran back and my legs – my lactic acid had built up,” Harbaugh said, shaking his head as he remembered the slow, crampy walk back to midfield, where the Rams coach waited patiently. “I had nothing left.”

Coming off the field, Harbaugh spotted a camera just below his eyeline, looked down and screamed “YEAH!” directly into millions of televisions across the country. His outpouring of emotion was consistent with the tone of his team. After getting out of the rain on the field at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Ravens created their own downpour in their locker room, walloping Wallace with a tidal wave of water bottles, sloshing in a 37-31 victory that felt unique.

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“That was the most epic ending to a game in my 12 years here,” said Justin Tucker, the longest-tenured Baltimore player. Likewise, Harbaugh admitted he couldn’t remember a regular-season game that made him simply lose himself like this one. “There’s probably no logic to it. It just was.”

What made it so poignant? “Hills and valleys,” interior defensive lineman Justin Madubuike said. And the Ravens dug many of those valleys on their own.

Redemption — that’s what made victory feel so good. Even when they make mistakes, even big ones, the Ravens have the power to save themselves.

As good as 10-3 Baltimore has been this season, there have been brutal defeats when the team simply collapsed on itself. The loss in Pittsburgh, for example, felt self-fulfilling. As mistakes piled up, the Ravens kept compounding the errors, until the weight was too great to bear. When they have imploded, as when they lost a two-score fourth-quarter lead against the Browns, the process felt plodding yet somehow impossible to stop.

Against the Rams, the Ravens broke that cycle. They found a way, as imperfect and indirect as that path was.

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If you believe in the Football Gods, you’ll be forced to acknowledge how many cardinal sins Baltimore committed against them against the Rams. They gave up 79 yards on penalties, including the offsides on Wallace in the second quarter that cost the Ravens a three-and-out and the Rams converted into a touchdown drive.

They lost key Rams in coverage, including Cooper Kupp in motion on an early scoring drive. They were forced to give up two points on a safety when Tyler Linderbaum snapped before Lamar Jackson was ready for the ball.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh in the second half of their game against the Rams at M&T Bank Stadium.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh saw his team make a number of mistakes before he joined Tylan Wallace in a dash to the end zone. (Kylie Cooper)

Through almost all of regulation, these were the mistake-prone Ravens we have come to dread and second-guess. How does a team at the top of the AFC make so many strange mistakes? How has it played so poorly in tight games, especially in the fourth quarter? Even though Baltimore has the statistical profile of a titan, there’s a large swath of fans who are waiting to see them deliver under fire.

It would be hard to construct a bigger gut-check moment than the Rams’ touchdown drive at the end of the fourth quarter, as Demarcus Robinson went by Brandon Stephens for a score. Harbaugh called a challenge that he said functioned as a de facto timeout, putting the Ravens in position to stop a 2-point conversion but still down five. Though Jackson had thrown two long touchdown passes, he was just 17-for-31 at that point, lacking the accuracy that has been at a career-high mark.

But, with the pressure on, Jackson delivered: a blistering 6-for-9 for 73 yards and a 9-yard scramble. His dart to Zay Flowers for a touchdown was his best throw of the day.

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Though Jackson has delivered several huge late drives in his career, fourth-quarter failures against Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland have been an albatross this season. His last drive of regulation was a good reminder that Jackson can be dazzling enough to make the hand wringing simply vanish.

Jackson admitted the offense wanted to prove something to itself, too.

“Just proving we can make it happen,” he said. “When we really need it, we’re down, trying to win the game, we don’t want to put them back out there on the field, but we just have to score.”

No one illustrated the redemption arc like Wallace, who made one of the most costly, most face-palming gaffes of the game. His second-quarter offside penalty could have been avoided simply by checking with the official that he was in the right position as he lined up.

Give the Ravens’ coaches credit for giving Wallace a huge role as punt returner after Devin Duvernay got injured. But give Wallace even more for taking advantage of the opportunity — including securing the punt on a wet day when Rams returner Austin Trammell muffed two returns — and running with it as far as he could. Even when he stumbled over a Rams player, he kept pushing himself down the sideline tightrope.

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His mistake earlier in the game only fueled him.

“Going in, I knew I was kind of having a rough game on special teams going early on,” Wallace said. “So to be able to come back and wipe that all away and come back and make a play like that, on special teams at that, it means the world to me to be able to do something like that.”

The Ravens will never be a team without mistakes, though they can certainly be better than they were Sunday. With upcoming games against the Jaguars, 49ers, Dolphins and Steelers to finish the season, they can’t dig as many valleys as they did against the Rams.

But the thrill, we remembered Sunday, is in the climb. Nothing this season has made the Ravens celebrate more wildly and loudly than the reminder: They are their own redemption. They’re good enough to lift themselves up from their own mistakes.

“It’s the National Football League in December against a very worthy opponent, and our guys just weathered all those storms – figuratively and literally – out there and found a way to make those plays to win the game at the end,” Harbaugh said with a twinkle in his eye. “As a coach, there’s nothing better than that.”

Giana Han contributed reporting to this story.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum. 

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