The New England Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl after escaping with a 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game Jan. 22 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. The Patriots will face the winner of the NFC Championship game (New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers).

The Patriots victory was sealed when…
Ravens’ kicker Billy Cundiff missed a short 32-yard field goal that would have tied the game at 23 with less than 10 seconds remaining. Instead, the kick sailed wide right and New England held on to the 3-point lead for the win. This last-second loss will be a reverberating sting for the Ravens for a long time.

Most Outstanding Player of the Game:
Despite the heart-breaking loss, it’s hard to say that anyone stood out more than Ravens fourth-year quarterback Joe Flacco. He passed for 304 yards and two touchdowns, outplaying future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who passed for just 239 yards and two interceptions. Flacco threw an interception in the fourth quarter, but he also hit receiver Lee Evans in the hands for what would have been a game-winning touchdown. But Evans dropped the pass, which set up the field goal attempt by Cundiff on the next play.

Unsung Hero of the Game:
While Brady struggled with Ravens’ defense throughout the game, it was Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis who produced for New England. Green-Ellis rushed for 68 yards and a key touchdown on 15 carries, outshining Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice who had just 67 yards on 21 carries.

More Game Notes:
Ravens’ veteran receiver Anquan Boldin caught six passes for 101 yards, a game-high for all receivers. Ravens rookie receiver Torrey Smith followed with three catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, safety Bernard Pollard led all Ravens players with seven tackles and was part of a circus-catch interception while fellow defensive back Lardarious Webb had six tackles and an interception. Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger had the only sack for Baltimore.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor