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Ravens stun Patriots with defense, win 28-13

Monday, January 21, 2013

 

Either Tom Terrific goes after boyhood idol Joe Montana's four rings...or the brothers' Harbaugh will do some serious family feuding.

The story lines leading into the AFC Championship also included both teams' offenses knowing how to move the ball, based on their recent play. Instead, both sides got defensive in the big game...with Baltimore's defense rising to the occasion and giving Ray Lewis one more game to play before retiring as the Ravens stunned the Patriots 28-13 to earn the AFC title and a spot in Super Bowl XLVII.

The loss is the first-ever championship game defeat at home for the New England Patriots.

The Patriots struck first on their second drive of the game, with Stephen Gostkowski connecting from 31 yards after a 13-play drive stalled at the Baltimore 12 yard line. New England's defense followed by stopping the Ravens on three straight drives...with Aqib Talib coming up back on one 3rd down pass attempt intended for Anquan Boldin. But then, the Ravens also stopped the Patriots dead in their tracks on their next two drives - leaving the score 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Baltimore found its offense. QB Joe Flacco and RB Bernard Pierce softened the middle of the Patriot defense, and taking advantage of Talib's absence (he left the game after the tip away from Boldin in the first quarter) in the secondary, Flacco burned Kyle Arrington with a 25-yard strike to Torrey Smith. Four plays later, Ray Rice broke a couple of tackles to take it in from two yards out - and the Ravens grabbed a 7-3 lead with 9:28 to play in the period...capping a 90-yard drive in the process.

And then, the Patriots found a little "O" on their own. Brady orchestrated a snappy 79-yard drive after the Ravens' score, covering 11 plays. A 16 yard completion up the middle of the Baltimore defense to Wes Welker set up another Brady-to-Welker connection...five plays later from two yards out to put the Pats back up at 10-7, with 4:18 left before the half.

Following a three-and-out for the Ravens, Welker's 15 yard punt return set his offense up at the Ravens' 43, with 2:32 still to play. A lot of time left? That's an eternity for Brady. Facing a 3rd and 10 from the Ravens' 27, he found Aaron Hernandez for 17 yards to the 10 with :26 seconds left. But on the first down play, Brady was forced to run for a three-yard gain, with the clock rolling. Unable to get the offense to the line of scrimmage in time to snap the ball, instead, a timeout was called with :04 left. Gostkowski kicked a 25-yard field goal as NE settled for a 13-7 lead at the break.

On Baltimore's 2nd possession of the third quarter, Flacco tested the Pats secondary with deep strikes up the sideline, and over the middle. Connecting with Rice, Boldin and TE Dennis Pitta, Flacco found Pitta for the final five yards and a TD pass with 6:14 left in the third, wrapping up a 10-play, 87-yard drive to make it 14-13.

After stopping the Patriots cold, the Ravens borrowed a few plays from the Patriots' playbook...utilizing a no-huddle set and simply jabbing away at NE's mid-section. Finding Boldin, Pitta and Smith open underneath the coverage that might have been expecting the deep ball, Flacco methodically led his team downfield and had his offense with a first and goal at the three on the first play of the 4th quarter.

Finding Boldin open over the middle for the score capped another 10-play drive, covering 63 yards and put Baltimore in command at 21-13. Then, the break both teams were waiting for came Baltimore's way...as Stephan Ridley took a huge hit from Bernard Pollard and fumbled at the NE 47. It didn't take the Ravens long to capitalize...four plays, to be exact...as Flacco again found Boldin over the middle against a reeling Patriot secondary from 11 yards out for the score to make it 28-13, with 11:13 to play.

With the Patriots desperate to fight from behind, Brady quickly led the offense up the field, but had a pass dropped by Shane Vereen, and another thrown behind Welker. Facing fourth down from the Baltimore 19, Brady appeared to be able to pick up the first down by running, but instead threw the ball toward the end zone for Welker, where it fell several yards short of its mark.

Holding the Ravens without a first down, the Pats picked the ball back up with 7:25 left - still enough time remaining to get something done. However, following a 36-yard completion to Welker, Brady's next pass was tipped at the line and picked off by LB Dannell Ellerbe at the Ravens' 18.

"They (Ravens) make it tough on you," Brady said afterward. "They're a good team. They’re a good defense and they kept the pressure on and we just didn’t really stand up to the challenge." Vince Wilfork shared a similar sentiment. "When you work so hard to get to this point… somebody has to win and lose," Wilfork said. "We just didn't make enough plays. They made more plays than we made. I thought we had a good plan going into the game, but at the end of the day they just made a lot more plays than us."

From this point, there was no magic left in the Pats' playbook. Shut out - shockingly - 21-0 in the second half, it'll be the Harbaugh brothers battling for the Vince Lombardi trophy...while the Patriots try to figure out what went wrong. And the rivalry with Baltimore surely takes on new meaning...but for another day.

"It's very disappointing, but we have a hell of a team," Wilfork added. "We know what it takes to win. We’re going to fight our tails off in the offseason. We’re going to get back to playing the way we want to play. We’ll be back here."

Post Game Notes

The Patriots are now 7-2 in AFC Championship Games, including a 4-1 record at home and a 3-1 record at Gillette Stadium. Prior to this year, the Patriots’ only AFC Championship loss was in the 2006 playoffs at Indianapolis. This year marked the third time in team history that the Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship game in back-to-back seasons, having also done so in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007...Tom Brady had 320 yards and a touchdown pass against the Ravens, becoming the NFL’s all-time leading playoff passer with 5,949 passing yards. Brady extended his playoff touchdown pass total to 42 touchdown passes and is one of three NFL quarterbacks with 40 or more touchdown passes in the postseason. Brady is third all-time on the postseason touchdown list, behind Joe Montana (45) and Brett Favre (44). Brady leads all quarterbacks with 553 postseason completions...the Patriots running game totaled 108 yards on the ground tonight. Entering the game, the Patriots had not lost this season when rushing for 100 yards or more (12-0 regular season, 1-0 playoffs)...the Ravens did not turn the ball over during the game. In the 2012 regular season and playoffs, the Patriots had forced at least one turnover in all 17 games heading into the contest... 

 

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