The water was over the tops of my shoes. The rain was running down the horrible plastic rain poncho I’d bought at the last minute onto my jeans, which were now so sodden that they felt like they might not dry for days.
The other side of the stadium had already been evacuated. The players, coaches and officials had long since left the field to avoid the approaching tornado. I stood in the driving rain and freezing cold, watching the slow-moving line ahead of me.
This all started much earlier. In July, I realised that with a little tweaking, our family Thanksgiving trip could allow me to catch three Ravens home games in four weeks. And that other game, in Chicago, really wasn’t that far away. ‘What the hell,’ I thought. ‘I’ll go to all four.’
Chicago’s Soldier Field, home to the Bears since 1971, is one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL. It sits downtown, by the lake and close to a couple of museums. It’s a great site and one that let us – my friend Michael, who is a Bears fan, and me – stroll through the park on our way from the hotel to the game.
The stadium is one of the smallest in the NFL and was made smaller by a 2003 conversion into a multi-purpose venue. The overhaul gutted the inside of the stadium, plonking down a big, glass affair but leaving in place the original Doric columns of the outside. The resulting architectural fusion has not been terribly popular with locals.
The view was decent, though. We were high up, looking down on a game that the 4-5 Ravens got under control early. The team had ended a three-game losing streak a week earlier, with a 20-17 overtime win over the Bengals. This week, a 47-yard run by Ray Rice on the Ravens’ second play of the game put them in scoring position. Five plays later, Rice took the ball into the endzone. The Ravens added a field goal, putting them up 10-0 when that looming tornado – and the threat of lightning strikes – forced the stadium evacuation.
By then, the temperature had already dropped considerably and the wind had begun to swirl unpredictably around the field. The sky darkened and the rain began. Within minutes there were streams flowing down the steps as we slowly moved to shelter. Once under the concourse, it was clear why it had taken so long: there was virtually no space. We stood, squeezed under the small roof as if in a rush hour train, for almost two hours.
Coincidentally, this was the third Ravens game to be halted in just a few months. There was the last Super Bowl, of course, which was temporarily suspended when half the stadium lights went out. And then the first game of this season, in Denver, was delayed by a lightning storm. Now this. When the Ravens played these days, it seemed there was either too much electricity around or not enough.
Eventually the storm passed and we returned to our seats. The Ravens’ fortunes had turned. Both teams exchanged punts before the Bears got on the scoreboard with a field goal. Then, on the Ravens’ next drive, Flacco threw a pick six. He would throw another interception and then lose a fumble before the game was out.
The Ravens led 17-13 at the half and in the third quarter the weather worsened again and the game became a slog. The longest play of the third quarter? Eleven yards. Early in the fourth, the Bears took the lead with touchdown but, with seven seconds left, a Justin Tucker field goal sent us to overtime.
The Ravens received but punted after five plays. It looked like the Bears would do the same until McCown found Alshon Jeffery for 14 yards on third down, and then Martellus Bennett for 43 yards on the following play, taking them to the Baltimore 22. Three plays later Robbie Gould kicked the winning field goal and Baltimore, having won in overtime the week before, slipped to 4-6.
It was a disappointing end to my first Ravens road game but I have to admit that after a contest that lasted five hours and 16 minutes I wasn’t sorry that it was over.
November 17, 2013
Baltimore Ravens 17
Chicago Bears 20 (OT)
Game stats and report