The first game of the divisional playoffs had the Baltimore Ravens heading north to Foxborough, Massachusetts to face the New England Patriots. The Ravens were coming off a 30-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Patriots were coming off a bye week. New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski sent the opening kickoff four yards deep into the end zone and it was returned to the 29 by return man Jacoby Jones. Quarterback Joe Flacco took to the air early and the first play of the game was a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Steve Smith. A completion to tight end Crockett Gillmore and a short run by running back Justin Forsett netted a first down at the New England 41-yard line. From the 41, Flacco found wide receiver Torrey Smith open for a gain of 22. The drive was capped off by a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken. Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the Ravens were up 7-0 with 12:18 to go in the first quarter.
The Patriots didn’t get very far on their opening drive. On third and five from their own 38, quarterback Tom Brady threw to his right where wide receiver Danny Amendola appeared to catch a pass for a first down at the 47. The play was challenged by the Ravens and reversed. Punter Ryan Allen’s punt was fielded at the Baltimore 14 and returned to the 21 by Jones. Two carries and an offside penalty on the Patriots quickly moved the Ravens to the 48. Another run by Forsett and a short run by running back Bernard Pierce moved the Ravens into New England territory. Flacco spread the ball around to three different receivers and the Ravens were knocking on the door once again. On third and seven from the nine, Flacco found S. Smith in the end zone for another Raven touchdown. Tucker made the point after and that made it 14-0 with 4:44 to go in the first quarter.
The Patriots took over at their 22 and on third and eight from the 24, Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski wide open for a gain of 16 yards. How in the world do you let a guy that big get that wide open? There wasn’t a defender anywhere near him. Brady tried his luck with Gronkowski again and he rumbled down the field for a gain of 46 yards. On third and goal from the four, Brady had time and the middle of the field was wide open, so he decided to run for the end zone. He made it easily. Gostkowski made the point after and that made the score 14-7 with 48 seconds to go in the first half.
The Patriots finally decided to play some defense and forced the Ravens to punt on their next possession. The Patriots took over at their 24. Passes to wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman put the ball at mid-field. Two completions to running back Shane Vereen moved them to the Baltimore 30. Vereen ran up the left side for six yards on first down, but Brady was sacked on the next two plays and that moved them out of field goal range. Allen punted and it looked like the Ravens would get the ball back at their ten-yard line. But a taunting penalty on the Patriots gave them the ball at their 25-yard line. They managed to get one first down before punting the ball back to the Patriots.
With 7:13 to go in the half, the Patriots started at their 33-yard line. On second and ten, Brady found Edelman across the middle for a gain of 11 yards. That was followed by another completion to Gronkowski who was pushed out of bounds at the Baltimore 31. Three plays later, Brady found LaFell for a gain of seven and a first down at the 15. From the 15, Brady threw for Amendola and he caught it for a touchdown. Gostkowski made the point after and the score was knotted at 14 with 3:37 to go in the first half.
The Ravens punted on their next possession. With time running out, the Patriots were looking to get a quick score before halftime. That didn’t happen. Brady looked for Gronkowski across the middle and his pass was picked off by linebacker Daryl Smith. The Ravens got the ball back at their 43-yard line with a minute to go in the half. Two completions to tight end Owen Daniels and a pass interference penalty on the Patriots gave the Ravens a first down at the New England 24-yard line. Three plays later, Flacco floated a pass to the end zone. Despite having several defenders in the area, Daniels was able to make the catch for another Raven touchdown. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 21-14 at halftime.
The Patriots got the ball to start the second half, but went nowhere. Allen punted and Jones fielded the punt at his 21-yard line. He returned it nine yards and the Ravens had the ball at their 30. Two completions to Michael Campanaro quickly moved the ball to the New England 40-yard line. Three plays netted four yards and the Ravens decided to go for it on fourth and six from the 36. Flacco went deep up the right side and T. Smith hauled it in. He was brought down at the one-yard line. Then Smith was flagged for taunting and that act of idiocy moved the Ravens back to the 16. From the 16, Flacco looked to his right and saw Forsett standing all by himself. Flacco decided to throw him the ball and Forsett cruised into the end zone untouched. Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 28-14 with 10:22 to go in the third quarter.
From this point on, the Patriots would pretty much abandon the running game and pass on just about every play. Starting at the 20, Brady completed passes to LaFell and fullback Michael Hoomanawanui. That gave them a first down at the 47. Next was a nine-yard pass to Gronkowski and a five-yard penalty on the Ravens moved them into Baltimore territory. Two more completions to Edelman and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Ravens’ bench made it first and goal from the five-yard line. From the five, Brady connected with Gronkowski again for a touchdown. Gostkowski made the point after and the Ravens led 28-21 with 6:48 to go in the third quarter.
The Ravens went nowhere on their next possession and punted. The Patriots took over at their 30. Passes to Edelman and Vereen netted 19 yards and on first down from the 49, Brady threw a lateral to Edelman. Edelman proceeded to put one up and the pass was caught by Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown. Gostkowski made the point after and the score was now tied at 28.
Things wouldn’t get much better for the Ravens. On second and eight from the 18, Flacco was picked off at the 37 by safety Devin McCourty. That gave the Patriots excellent field position and they had a great chance to take the lead. That didn’t happen. Three plays netted zero yards and instead of trying a long field goal, they opted to punt. The punt only went 17 yards and the Ravens took over at their 20. On third and two from the 28, Flacco was sacked for a loss of 15 yards. The ball came loose and was recovered by the Patriots at the four-yard line. But that play was wiped out by a defensive holding call on cornerback Darrelle Revis. That gave the Ravens a first down at the 33. The Ravens turned to their ground game and Forsett carried his team to the New England 45-yard line. Two completions to fullback Kyle Juszczyk netted a first down at the 25. The Ravens would get as far as the seven-yard line and the drive was brought to a halt there. Tucker came into the game to attempt a 25-yard field goal. The kick was good and the Ravens led 31-28 with 10:17 to go in the game.
The Patriots took over at their 26 and Brady continued to throw on every down. Completions to Edelman and LaFell moved the ball to the 41. From the 41, Brady completed a short pass to Vereen. As he was fighting for more yardage, the ball came loose and was recovered by the Ravens. However, replay showed his knee was down and the Patriots kept the ball. From the 50, Brady ran up the middle for a gain of two and a first down at the Baltimore 48-yard line. Completions to four different receivers moved the ball to the 23. From the 23, Brady threw to his left and the pass was hauled in by LaFell for a touchdown. Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 35-31 with 5:13 to go in the game.
A penalty on the kickoff moved the Ravens back to their 11-yard line. Flacco methodically moved his team down the field. With two minutes to go, the Ravens had a first down at the New England 41. An offside penalty on the Patriots gave the Ravens a first down at the 36. Instead of trying to get a few more first downs, Flacco went deep up the left side for T. Smith and the pass was picked off in the end zone by safety Duron Harmon. With 1:39 remaining, Brady took a knee three times. The Ravens called their final timeout and the Patriots punted the ball away with 14 seconds on the clock. Jones fielded the punt at the Baltimore 44 and ran out of bounds at the 48. With four seconds left, Flacco put up a Hail Mary that fell incomplete. That was it. The Patriots came away with a 35-31 win.
For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 28 of 45 for 292 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Wide receiver Marlon Brown led the team in receptions with five and Torrey Smith had the most receiving yards with 62. Justin Forsett had himself a very good game as he ran for 129 yards on 24 carries. He also caught one touchdown pass. As a team, the Ravens rushed for 136 yards on 28 carries. Defensively, defensive back Rashaan Melvin led the team in solo tackles with nine.
For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 33 of 50 for 367 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Julian Edelman led the team in receptions with eight and Rob Gronkowski led the team in receiving yards with 108. There’s hardly anything to talk about when it comes to the ground game. The Patriots ran the ball only 13 times and gained 14 yards. Defensively, linebacker Jamie Collins led the team in solo tackles with eight.
The Patriots will now face the visiting Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game on Sunday at 6:40 eastern time.