FOXBORO, Mass.–The script to one of the greatest careers in NFL history couldn’t have been written any better. All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, after 17 amazing seasons in Baltimore, will end his career in the Super Bowl as the Ravens shocked odds-makers by beating the New England Patriots, 28-13, in the AFC Championship game on Jan. 20 in Foxboro, Mass.
Baltimore now advances to face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 at the Superdome in New Orleans, La.
The Ravens came into this game as eight-point underdogs, but just as they did Jan. 6 against the No. 1 seed Denver Broncos, they pulled off the upset, reaching the world championship for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
Unlike their 38-35 double-overtime victory over the Broncos, though, the Ravens dominated the Patriots throughout most of the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters combined.
New England couldn’t get near the end zone in the second half and the Ravens cruised through the final period to secure their place in the title game.
Most Outstanding Player(s) of the Game:
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco once again outplayed New England quarterback Tom Brady, completing 21-of-36 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns and a 106.3 passer rating.
He outgunned the Patriot’s future Hall of Famer in last season’s AFC Championship game, but it was overshadowed by a missed field goal by former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff in the final seconds that resulted in a 23-20 escape win for the Patriots. This time around, Flacco and the Ravens were too good as they gained sweet revenge in Foxboro.
Flacco now owns the NFL record for most road playoff wins with six, breaking a tie with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. His career in playoffs is now 8-4, good for the second most playoff wins by a quarterback in his first five seasons. Brady is No. 1 with nine total playoff wins during his first five seasons from 2000-2004.
Most of Flacco’s passes were caught by veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, who had five receptions for 60 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Dennis Pitta caught the third touchdown pass from Flacco, finishing with five passes for 55 yards.
Unsung Hero of the Game:
As mentioned before, Brady was outplayed by Flacco, completing 29-of-52 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown, but also tossed two untimely interceptions. One of the Ravens’ players who picked Brady off was cornerback Cary Williams, who wrapped up his receiver for most of the game. His interception of Brady came during the final minute of the fourth quarter and was the nail in the coffin for the Ravens’ victory.
Cary has been considered by many pundits as the weakest link of the Ravens secondary, but you couldn’t say that about him on championship Sunday in Foxboro. The one touchdown scored by Brady was on the opposite side of the field of Cary and only came because of miscommunication between Ravens’ cornerbacks Corey Graham and Chykie Brown. Brady tried to attack Cary but he deflected a couple of passes and made three solid tackles when he did give up completions.
More Game Notes:
Ravens star running back Ray Rice ran the ball 19 times for 48 yards and a two-yard touchdown. Rookie running back Bernard Pierce added 52 yards on nine carries. Second-year receiver Torrey Smith caught four passes for 69 yards for the Ravens.
Patriots’ receiver Wes Welker had a productive game, catching eight passes for 117 yards in the slot. But he also dropped a key pass on third down that ended a Patriots’ drive when the score was still tight early in the third quarter. Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez did a decent job replacing star tight end Rob Gronkowski, catching nine passes for 83 yards.
Linebacking legend Ray Lewis led Baltimore in tackles with eight. Fellow Ravens inside linebacker Dannelle Ellerbe had three tackles and intercepted a tipped pass from Brady with seven minutes left in the game.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s 8-4 playoff record is tied for first place for the most playoff wins during the first five seasons coaching in NFL history. He will face his younger brother, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, in the Super Bowl. Already nicknamed the “Harb-Bowl,” it will be the first time in league history that two biological brothers coached against each other in a Super Bowl.
“No weapon formed against us shall prosper!” That’s what Ray Lewis has been shouting to anyone who will listen throughout the entire season. His statement sums up how this season has turned out for the Ravens. They’ve been through it all this year. They started out red hot and was every pundit’s favorites to win the Super Bowl, and then the team was hit with the injury bug midway through the season that forced the same pundits to doubt they could still get it done. But while outsiders doubted, everyone on the team still believed what Ray had been telling them: “No weapon formed against us shall prosper!” This team believes their destiny is to win a Super Bowl.
Not only will their appearance there put a great cap to Lewis’ brilliant career, but it may end up doing the same thing for future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. Reed hasn’t told the media whether he has decided to retire at the end of the season, but I have a feeling that after 10 great years in Baltimore, the Louisiana native will also call it quits after the postseason. And what better way to send off perhaps the greatest coverage safety in football than to win a Super Bowl hosted in your home state. What a magical year for the Ravens and their fans. You have no choice but to love it!
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