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After enduring a horrible loss last Monday in Las Vegas, and landing in Baltimore at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and adjusting to more devastating injuries, and having a short week of prep for the toughest team on the schedule, and taking a 36-35 lead late in the Sunday night game against mighty Kansas City, the Ravens began spitting out pieces of their broken luck with two minutes left in Baltimore. They could conquer a lot of things as one of football’s mentally toughest teams. Two things that’d be hard to conquer on this late evening:
1. The clock, with only one timeout left, and Kansas City with second-and-three at the Baltimore 32 with 92 seconds left. Plenty of time to get in golden position for the game-winning field goal and, with one more first down, to keep the Ravens from touching the ball again.
2. The inevitability of Patrick Mahomes. He’d beaten the Ravens in 2018, ’19 and ’20, and he was on the march to do it a fourth straight year.
In football, you almost always get what you deserve. But that doesn’t just mean in a game; it has to do with team construction too. Last spring, when Baltimore was scouting for the draft, GM Eric DeCosta liked a promising but unproductive player from Penn State, Jayson Oweh, more than many of his peers. No big plays, some scouts said. Zero sacks in his last year. He’s not a first-round pick. DeCosta thought he was; he liked how long (6-5 ½) and how limber the former basketball player was. DeCosta felt Oweh could be the next great player in the long line of great Ravens defensive players.
Oh, the irony of this draft. DeCosta picked receiver Rashod Bateman with the Ravens’ first-round pick. But when Baltimore traded tackle Orlando Brown to Kansas City, the package that came back included KC’s first-round pick, 31st overall. So DeCosta used that pick, Kansas City’s, to choose Oweh. On draft night, Oweh announced he would go by his given first name, Odafe (which means “Wealthy Man” in his native Nigeria) in the future.
With 1:32 left Sunday night, Odafe Oweh (pronounced “Uh-DAH-fay OH-way”) lined up the inside right of a five-man front for Baltimore, across from KC’s Pro Bowl guard, Joe Thuney. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire got the handoff from Mahomes and headed behind right guard. Oweh’s job was to read Thuney and find a way to slither into the backfield to hit Edwards-Helaire. Oweh leaked into a crease to Thuney’s right, and as Thuney lunged to try to get Oweh off-track, Oweh reached his black-gloved right hand out and violently pawed at the ball in Edwards-Helaire’s grasp.
The ball came out.
“When I saw it on the ground,” Oweh told me as the clock neared midnight, “I wasn’t so much surprised as, I don’t know, I just knew I had to get it.” Oweh leaped on the ball, coralled it with his right hand and pulled it in, as Travis Kelce got on top of him and tried to wrangle it free.
Baltimore ball. Oweh got up, sprinted to the end zone, posed with his new family and felt incredible when one of his teammates yelled at him, “YOU SAVED THE GAME!”
“So exhilarating!” Oweh told me.
More drama followed—I’ll get to that later—but you know the good part. And there’s this, from a man who just started playing football five years ago but knew exactly what this moment meant, a man who came to Baltimore from a draft choice Kansas City owned a week before the draft.
Odafe Oweh said from the Ravens’ locker room: “This moment will be burned into my brain for the rest of my life.”