The Baltimore Ravens headed north to New England to take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Ravens were coming off a huge 38-35 double overtime win over the Denver Broncos and the Patriots were coming off a 41-28 win over the Houston Texans. The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.
Neither team could do much on their first possessions until the Patriots started their second drive of the game from their 21. An eight-yard completion from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and a three-yard run by running back Stevan Ridley got them a first down at the 32. An eight-yard pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez and another one to Lloyd for 13 yards moved them to the Raven 47. Brady found Hernandez again for ten more yards and a first down at the 37. A short run by Ridley and another pass to Lloyd for 16 more yards made it first down at the 20. They would get as far as the 12 and the drive stopped there. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski came on and made his 30-yard attempt and the Patriots led 3-0 with 6:21 to go in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Ravens were flagged for an illegal block and started at their ten. Aside from a 17-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to fullback Vonta Leach, the Ravens didn’t do much. On third and 12 from the 25, Flacco looked for wide receiver Anquan Boldin and the pass was incomplete. Cornerback Aqib Talib was injured on this play and would not return. That was a big blow to the Patriot secondary.
As the game progressed, neither offense could get into a rhythm and the first quarter ended with the score still at 3-0. The Ravens found themselves back at their ten-yard line again and a three-yard run by running back Ray Rice, a five-yard pass to Leach and a 17-yard pass to tight end Daniel Pitta got them out to their 33-yard line. A couple of short runs and an 11-yard reception by Rice netted another first down at the 46. From the 46, running back Bernard Pierce made an appearance. On second and eight from the 48, Flacco found Pierce for eight yards and a first down at the Patriot 44. A four-yard run by Pierce and a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Torrey Smith moved the Ravens into the red zone. Rice finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 7-3 with 9:28 to go in the second quarter. The Patriots suffered another injury on this drive as cornerback Patrick Chung left the game.
The Patriots started at their 21 and Ridley ran for a gain of three yards. An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens got them 15 free yards and a first down at the 39. Brady found wide receiver Wes Welker for seven yards and Lloyd again for three more. Two more runs by Ridley and a 24-yard pass to Welker had them marching into Raven territory. On second and two from the eight, Brady connected with Hernandez at the one to make it first and goal. On third down, Brady looked to his right and found Welker for a touchdown. Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots were back on top, 10-7 with 4:18 to go in the first half.
Three plays got the Ravens zero yards and they brought Sam Koch into the game to punt again. A 15-yard return by Welker put the Patriots at the Raven 43 with 2:32 to go. Runs by Brady, Ridley and Woodhead made it fourth and one from the 34. Woodhead took the direct snap and ran up the left side for a gain of seven and a first down. On third and ten from the 27, Brady found Hernandez again for a gain of 17 and a first and goal from the ten. With 26 seconds left, the Patriots called their second timeout. On first down, Brady ran for a gain of three and instead of calling timeout, he tried to get the offense back to the line of scrimmage to run another play. Precious seconds ran off the clock as they tried to get organized. That forced Brady to take the third timeout with four seconds remaining. That wasn’t enough time to run a play and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and the Patriots took a 13-7 lead into the locker room.
The Ravens would get as far as the 50 on their first drive of the second half and would be forced to punt. The Patriots took over at their nine and a six-yard pass to Lloyd, a five yard run by Ridley, a five-yard pass to Hernandez and a 24-yard pass to Welker moved the ball to midfield. Add another unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens and the Patriots were looking good with a first down at the Raven 36-yard line. But, they would only get as far as the 34. With the swirling winds making field goal attempts difficult, the Patriots opted to punt. Zoltan Mesko punted the ball to the 13 where it was fair caught by safety Ed Reed.
With ten minutes to go in the third quarter, the Ravens took to the air and Flacco brought out the no huddle offense. A 15-yard pass interference penalty on the Patriots and a 22-yard pass to Pitta moved the Ravens to the 50. From the 50, Flacco hooked up with Rice for 15 yards. A five-yard pass to Smith and an eight yard run by Pierce netted a first down at the 22. From the 22, Flacco found Boldin for 12 and Pitta for five more. On second and goal from the five, Flacco tossed a short pass to his right and Pitta caught it for a touchdown. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-13 with 6:14 to go in the third quarter.
The Patriots went nowhere on their next drive and punted. Return man Jacoby Jones fielded the punt at the Raven 26 and returned it to the 37. On second and 14 from the 33, Flacco went deep for Smith and he hauled it in for a gain of 23 yards. An offside penalty and runs by Rice and Pierce got them a first down at the Patriot 25. A six-yard run by Pierce and a six-yard completion to Pitta made it first down at the 13. From the 13, Flacco completed an eight-yard pass to Boldin and Rice ran up the right side for a gain of two yards and that made it first and goal from the three. On first down, Flacco tossed a high pass into the middle of the end zone for Boldin. Despite the fact that there were two defenders in the area, Boldin came down with the ball for a touchdown. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 21-13 with an entire quarter remaining.
The Patriots started their next drive at their 16 and moved quickly to the 39 on the strength of three runs by Ridley and a 12-yard pass to Lloyd. From the 39, Ridley ran up the right side and after a gain of eight yards, he was hammered by safety Bernard Pollard. The ball came loose and there was a huge pileup. Defensive end Arthur Jones emerged from the pile with the ball and the Ravens took over at the Patriot 47. Ridley would leave the game and not return. The Ravens needed four plays to go 47 yards and on second and four from the 11, Flacco once again found Boldin in the end zone for a touchdown. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens went up 28-13 with 11:13 to go in the game.
Now it was time for Brady to break out the no huddle offense. From his own 29, he completed passes to Lloyd, running back Shane Vereen and Welker to move the ball to the Raven 25. On fourth and four from the 19, Brady ran to the left and looked like he may be able to get the first down. Instead of running for it, he tossed the ball to the end zone where it fell incomplete. That gave the Ravens the ball at the 19 with 8:27 to go. Instead of running the ball, Flacco tried three pass plays. That resulted in a grand total of minus one yard. They had the ball for a whole minute and two seconds and punted.
The Patriots took over at their 40 and Brady wasted no time finding Welker for a big gain of 36 yards. On first down from the 24, Brady looked for Hernandez and the ball was knocked up in the air by defensive end Pernell McPhee. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbee got under it and picked it off. That was a killer for the Patriots. This time, the Ravens ran the ball and took a little over four minutes off the clock and the Patriots used all their timeouts. With 2:05 to go, the Patriots moved from their 33 to the Raven 22. On second down from the 22, Brady threw for the end zone and his pass was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams. That sealed the deal and got the Ravens a ticket to the Super Bowl. Final score: Ravens 28 Patriots 13.
For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 21 of 36 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta tied for the lead in receptions with five and Torrey Smith had the most yards receiving with 69. Bernard Pierce led the ground game with 52 yards on nine carries and as a team, the Ravens rushed for 121 yards on 33 carries. Linebacker Ray Lewis led the team with six solo tackles.
For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 29 of 54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Aaron Hernandez had the most receptions with nine and Welker had the most yards receiving with 117 and a touchdown. Stevan Ridley had the bulk of the carries and led the team with 70 yards on 18 carries. All totaled, the Patriots rushed for 108 yards on 28 carries. Defensively, linebacker Brandon Spikes led the team with six solo tackles.
In two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers will meet the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. It’ll be the first brother versus brother coaching match-up in Super Bowl history as John Harbaugh will be matching wits with his younger brother Jim. The last time they met was in 2011 and the Ravens won that game by a score of 16-6. It will also be the last game for the great Ray Lewis. I would also imagine 49er wide receiver Randy Moss may call it quits after this game too. Honestly, all I’m hoping for is a good and entertaining game. I’ll be traveling on Super Bowl weekend and will not be back in town until Monday afternoon. I’ll have a recap of the game up no later than Monday night. Until then, take it easy and enjoy the game.