Rapid Reaction: Ravens 28, Patriots 13
January, 20, 2013
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- My thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game:
What it means: The Ravens' magical championship run continues as they head to their first Super Bowl in 12 years. One week after knocking off Peyton Manning, the Ravens beat Tom Brady as the AFC's No. 4 seed crashed the party in New Orleans and set up a family reunion in the Bayou. Welcome to the Harbaugh Bowl, where John Harbaugh's Ravens will play Jim Harbaugh's 49ers for the Lombardi Trophy. Just like the AFC divisional playoff game, quarterback Joe Flacco once again came through with a big game and the defense came up with three clutch turnovers to deliver another big upset. It's a fitting sendoff for linebacker Ray Lewis, whose final game will come in the Super Bowl.
Flacco not denied this time: Last year at Gillette Stadium, Flacco was one failed catch by Lee Evans from leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl. He wouldn't be stopped Sunday. After going 1-of-6 in the first quarter, Flacco completed 20 of his next 28 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns as the Ravens took a commanding 28-13 lead in the fourth quarter. It didn't hurt that the Patriots' top cornerback, Aqib Talib, injured his thigh with about five minutes left in the first quarter and didn't return.
Crushing blow: Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, who is known for injuring Patriots (Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski) in his career, hurt the Patriots in a different way Sunday. His hard fourth-quarter hit on running back Stevan Ridley forced a fumble at midfield. It was Pollard's first forced fumble of the season. The Ravens converted that into a Flacco-to-Anquan Boldin touchdown pass to put the Ravens up by 15 in the fourth quarter.
Big-play Boldin: After not getting one catch in the first half, Boldin was a red zone monster in the fourth quarter. He scored on touchdowns of 3 and 11 yards. He has scored five touchdowns in seven postseason games for the Ravens.
Tip of the day: Once again, the Ravens made Tom Brady not look like Tom Brady. That was apparent in the fourth quarter when the Patriots were in Ravens territory with less than seven minutes to go. Defensive end Pernell McPhee deflected Brady's pass at the line and it was intercepted by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, which essentially sealed the victory.
Tough tight end: Even though Gronkowski was out, there was still another tight end who made an impact. With the Ravens trailing 13-7 in the third quarter, Dennis Pitta held onto a pass in the red zone despite taking a vicious shot from Jerod Mayo. On the next play, Pitta caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Flacco.
Temper, temper: The Ravens took a 7-3 lead midway through the second quarter on Ray Rice's 2-yard touchdown run. But they couldn't hold on to the momentum because they couldn't control their temper. Two plays after the score, Ellerbe slapped a Patriots player in the head after getting shoved. That 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty jump-started New England's 79-yard touchdown drive.
Bad field position: All five of the Ravens' first-half drives started inside their 15-yard line, and their average drive start was been at their own 11-yard line. Baltimore’s average drive started at its own 28 during the regular season, the third best starting field position in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
What's next: After coming up short in their previous two AFC Championship Games, the Ravens got it done this time. They head to New Orleans next, where they will face the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
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