Same Teams. Same Field. Different Result.
The Baltimore Ravens returned to Gillette Stadium for the AFC Championship Game for the second year in a row. This time they exercised their demons, collecting their second Lamar Hunt Trophy when they defeated the New England Patriots to advance to Super Bowl VLII in New Orleans with a 28-13 victory on the heels of Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and a stout defense led by Ray Lewis who will continue on his final journey.
The Super Bowl will match up be a special one for the Harbaugh family as Jack Harbaugh, who played one season in the AFL with the New York Titans will watch his two sons John Harbaugh (born in 1962) and Jim Harbaugh (born in 1963) compete for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It will be the second time two brothers have coached against each other, the first being on Thanksgiving night during the 2011 season when the Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6.
Ray Lewis, who is bring his glorious career to a close, is hoping to go out on top and earn one more Super Bowl Ring for the road.
With the Patriots leading 3-0 in the 2nd quarter, Joe Flacco marched the Ravens down the field, connecting on a 25-yard pass play on a 2nd & 6 to move into scoring territory. A few plays later, on 2nd and goal, Ravens running back Ray Rice punched it into the end zone from 2-yards out to give the Ravens a 7-3 lead.
Tom Brady and the Patriots would answer right back on the next drive, when Brady threw a wide receiver screen pass to Wes Welker who took it up the middle through traffic and scampered all the way to the 16-yard line. A few plays later, on 3rd and goal, Brady and Welker connected again on a quick out pattern on the right side of the end zone to take the lead back 10-7.
The Patriots looked to be in control of the game, but with 26 seconds left to go in the half on 1st & goal, Tom Brady took the snap not finding anyone, scrambles to his left and slides down at the six yard line with 20 seconds left on the clock. Instead of calling a timeout immediately to run a few more plays, in the heat of the moment, Brady and Belichick seemed confused and called a timeout with just four seconds remaining and kicked a 25-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to go into halftime 13-7, instead of going for the end zone to try to make it 17-7.
Big kudos to Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who took over the position and play caller with just a few weeks left in the season, made the right halftime adjustments to move the offense in the second half.
“They do a good job stopping the run and we knew we had to come out here in the second half and make some plays in the passing game with some of our guys.” said Flacco
In the third quarter, Flacco took the snap on 2nd & 10 and found Ray Rice while avoiding the rush, Rice would diddle diddle his way up the middle for a 15-yard gain. On 1st & goal, Flacco threw the ball to Dennis Pitta who got his world rocked by Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo on what looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit but was not called. But Pitta responded big time by coming back on the very next play to catch a 5-yard pass from Flacco for a touchdown to take the lead 14-13.
The Ravens would not surrender the lead or a point for that matter, for the rest of the game.
“We didn’t come all the way here to play it safe and hope to win.” said Flacco.
Those two plays swung the momentum towards the Ravens and the Ravens never took their foot off the gas pedal. The Ravens got the ball back and started to open up the passing game instead of staying conservative, with Flacco connecting with Torrey Smith for a 23-yard gain with just under four minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. The Ravens kept driving, switched sides of the field going into the fourth quarter. On 1st & goal Flacco hung a high but beautiful pass up for Anquan Boldin who reached up in the air and did his best Dwight Clark “The Catch” impression as he made his own catch for a touchdown from three yards out to extend the lead 21-13.
On 1st & 10 with just under 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Brady handed the ball off to Steven Ridley who took it up the right side and got absolutely drilled by Bernard Pollard who knocked the ball loose and the Ravens recovered.
Steve Ridley never re-entered the game after that hit and fumble.
“Obviously a disappointing end to an overall pretty positive season.” said Coach Belichick “Tonight we just didn’t do enough things well enough to win. Give the Ravens credit; they’re a good football team. They just out-played us and out-coached us tonight. They just made more plays than we did. That’s pretty much the story.”
With the Ravens smelling blood in the water, Flacco led his team in for the kill when on 2nd & 4, Flacco hit Boldin again for his second touchdown catch of the game, this one an 11-yard reception.
Joe Flacco has remained solid all throughout the playoffs was 21-of-36 for 240, three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Before the season, Joe Flacco said he thinks he’s the best Quarterback in the NFL. He was laughed at, yet in two weeks, he defeated arguably the two best quarterbacks in the game with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Looks like Joe Flacco channeled a little Joe Namath in him when he made that statement, because he clearly backed it up with his play on the field and now he’s the one doing the laughing.
Broadway Joe meet Unflappable Joe.
Brady tried to bring the Patriots back and started to move into the red zone but on 3rd & 4, Brady tried to connect with Wes Welker, but the ball seemed to zip right past him, bringing up fourth down. On fourth down, Brady couldn’t find anyone, flushed out of the pocket, moved to his left and threw into the end zone across his body but no one was even close to having a chance to catch it and the Ravens took over on downs.
“We got behind in the second half there and became one-dimensional.” said Tom Brady “We just couldn’t string enough good plays together to get the ball in the end zone.”
The Patriots forced the Ravens to punt the ball right back and on 1st & 10 Brady threw to a wide open Welker for a 36-yard gain and the Patriots looked to be back in business. But on the very next play the Brady’s ball was tipped up in the air at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Dannell Ellerbe.
Tom Brady and the Patriots had one final chance at mounting a miracle comeback, but with 1:08 remaining in the game, Brady’s pass was picked off in the end zone by Cary Williams to seal the 28-13 victory.
“They’re not going to give it to you.” Said Tom Brady “We didn’t earn it; they earned it”.
Brady was 29-of-54 for 320-yards with one touchdown and two costly interceptions. Brady loses his first AFC Championship game at home and the Patriots at home are 67-1 when Tom Brady starts and the Patriots have a halftime lead (regular season, postseason).
The Ravens who will now go on to advance to Super Bowl XLVII after making the playoffs for five straight seasons, winning at least one playoff game in each of those five postseason appearances and advanced to three AFC Championship games. Meanwhile, the Patriots have now lost at home in three out of the last four postseasons.
The New England Patriots have not won the Super Bowl since Spygate.
- Joe Flacco , in his 5th Season, became the NFL’s All-Time leader in road playoff wins with six.
- The New England Patriots are 7-2 all-time in AFC Championship Games. This was their first loss at home.
- The Ravens have nine playoff road wins all-time. Tying them with the Dallas Cowboys for second most and one behind the Green Bay Packers.
- In his first 10 career postseason starts, Tom Brady won 3 Super Bowls (10-0). Since then, he’s 7-7 (0-2 in Super Bowls).
- SB XLVII will be only 2nd time 17 seasons (1996-2012) that the Ravens will play a game in the Superdome (2006 Ravens won at Saints, 35-22).
- Tom Brady: 8 TD, 10 Int in 8 career starts vs Ravens, worst TD-Int differential vs any opponent)