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BALTIMORE – On their way to the Super Bowl last season, the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the top-seeded Denver Broncos by erasing a fourth-quarter deficit with a near-miraculous touchdown pass.
That was nothing compared to what the defending champions did Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings in a 29-26 victory that kept Baltimore in the hunt for another trip to the playoffs.
Three times the Ravens trailed in the fourth quarter. Three times they came back, the final time on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Marlon Brown with 4 seconds left.
This victory wasn't as significant as that overtime clash in Denver, when Jacoby Jones caught a 70-yard scoring pass with 31 seconds left in regulation. But it was every bit as memorable, especially after the teams traded the lead an NFL-record six times in the fourth quarter and combined for five touchdowns over the final 2:05.
"I think this is probably crazier," Flacco said. "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 scored that touchdown in the Denver game, I think we probably scored three touchdowns in this game."
Jones played a key role in helping Baltimore (7-6) notch its season-high third straight win. He ran back a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown to put the Ravens up 22-19 with 1:16 left. After the Vikings (3-9-1) answered with a 79-yard scoring pass from Matt Cassel to Cordarrelle Patterson, Flacco directed an 80-yard drive before flinging the game-winner to Brown.
The wacky finish overshadowed an icy first half in which workers with shovels and plows tried desperately to keep the field from being buried under a blanket of snow.
Five things to know about the Vikings-Ravens game:
PETERSON HURT AGAIN: NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson sprained his right foot in the second quarter and is expected to have an MRI on Monday to determine his status for next week.
Asked if he might be shut down for the season, Peterson replied, "Not at all. You should have seen me in here trying to get back out there. I kept my pads on, too, until the third quarter I finally was just like, 'I'm not ready to go.'"
Peterson spent the days leading up to the game trying to shake off a groin injury. He finished with 13 yards on seven carries.
PITTA RETURNS: In his first game of the season, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta caught six passes for 48 yards and a touchdown with 2:05 left.
"Joe did a good job of putting it on me for what I thought was the game-winning score at the time," Pitta said. "It was just one of many."
Speculation was that Pitta would be eased into action after returning from a dislocated and fractured hip, but he turned out to be a key contributor to Baltimore's attack.
"When I got injured I didn't know if I was even going to be able to play football again," Pitta said. "To be able to stand here and talk about a victory, be a part of that, is special to me."
SNOW TIME: Despite calling Minnesota home, the Vikings, who play in a domed stadium, have little experience playing in the snow. Despite the loss, defensive end Jared Allen enjoyed it.
"It was kind of fun out there. We don't get to play in these conditions often," he said. "Everybody was having a good time."
Everyone, perhaps, except the guys running with a wet football.
"Today was as bad as it has ever been," Cassel said. "In the first half, everyone was having trouble with their footing, and we were sliding all over the place."
Toby Gerhart, who replaced Peterson and rushed for 89 yards and a score, said, "Tough weather. Football weather I guess. It was an experience."
VIDEO FUN: The scoring in the final minutes was so fast and furious, it didn't seem like it was real life.
"I've never played in a game like that," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "I've never even played a video game like that. That's probably the craziest thing I've ever been a part of."
Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith said, "That was like playing Madden. Seriously, I've never seen anything like that."
THREE-GAME SWEEP: The Ravens completed a rare three-game homestand with a sweep that kept them in the top spot in the race for the second AFC wild card.
Baltimore defeated the Jets, Steelers and Vikings in succession to improve to 6-1 at home, but next up is a Monday night duel at Detroit.
"We're literally going into the lion's den, and we understand what that means," coach John Harbaugh said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org