Friday, December 13, 2013
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) makes an 11-yard touchdown reception against Patriots free safety Devin McCourty in the second half of their AFC Championship game Sunday.
The Associated Press
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco celebrates after his third touchdown pass of the game – an 11-yarder to Anquan Boldin that clinched Baltimore’s 28-13 win Sunday over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game.
Photos by The Associated Press
Tom Brady and the Patriots couldn’t produce any points in the second half Sunday, and as a result, they won’t be making a return trip to the Super Bowl.
The ball -- and the rematch -- went to the Ravens.
A year after the New England Patriots took advantage of a dropped touchdown and a missed Baltimore field goal to advance to their fifth Super Bowl in 11 seasons, the Ravens held on for a 28-13 victory on Sunday in the AFC championship game.
"You have the opportunity to win the game and we came up short," Brady said. "There's frustration in that we wish we could have done better. But they're not going to give it to you. We didn't earn it; they earned it. They played a good game."
The Ravens and Patriots also met in the 2010 wild-card round, when Baltimore won 33-14. Last year, the Patriots won when Lee Evans dropped a potential winning touchdown in the end zone with 27 seconds left and then Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have forced overtime.
"It seems like every year it's us and them, always fighting at the end," New England defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "Two great organizations. And the best team won."
The Ravens reached their first Super Bowl in 12 years, thanks to three touchdown passes from Joe Flacco and a defense led by Ray Lewis that made Brady look downright ordinary.
Next up for Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens is younger brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers, who beat Atlanta 28-24 for the NFC title.
"I don't know if we had a dream this big," John Harbaugh said. "We had a few dreams, we had a few fights, we had a few arguments -- just like all brothers."
They'll meet in two weeks in New Orleans -- what a place for a party to celebrate the first brother-vs.-brother coaching matchup in Super Bowl history.
It also will be quite a last game for Lewis, the emotional linebacker who will retire after the matchup with the 49ers, who opened as a 5-point favorite.
"This is our time. This is our time," said Lewis, who made 14 tackles Sunday and has 44 in three postseason games after missing 10 weeks with a torn right triceps.
Driven by Lewis' pending departure, Baltimore's defense has stepped up in the playoffs. Brady was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime, but this was no contest in the second half.
As in the previous two playoff wins against Indianapolis and Denver, the Ravens were brilliant offensively in spots. This might be 17-year-veteran Lewis' team, but it's also Joe Flacco's, and the quarterback's six road wins are the most in playoff history.
"It was pretty awesome," said Flacco, who has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in the playoffs. "We were here last year and thought we had it, but came up a little short. Guys came out in the second half and made plays. ... We put pressure on them like that, and it worked pretty well."
Flacco, the only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, was dynamic with his arm and precise with his decision making. Looking much more the championship passer than Brady, his touchdown throws of 11 and 3 yards to Anquan Boldin and 5 yards to Dennis Pitta all were perfect.
New England had four injuries, the scariest when running back Stevan Ridley was knocked flat by Bernard Pollard in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble. Baltimore turned that into the final touchdown on its only short scoring drive -- 47 yards.
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Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo delivers a big hit after a catch by Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta in the third quarter. Pitta recovered quickly and caught the go-ahead touchdown pass on the next play.
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Joe Flacco helped make sure that linebacker Ray Lewis will play one more game before his retirement, directing the Ravens to their first AFC title since the 2000 season.