John Harbaugh with a message for the fans
Ravens 28, Patriots 13
at Gillette Stadium
Joe Flacco didn't blink when the Ravens fell down early in a hostile environment for the second time on the road in these playoffs.
He out-shined Patriots quarterback for the second time this season, but this time he finally has the Ravens back to the Super Bowl. Linebacker Ray Lewis, who is retiring after his 17th season, will have his last ride end in New Orleans at the Superdome vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
It'll make the first time that brothers, John Harbaugh of the Ravens and Jim of the 49ers, will be opposing head coaches in the biggest game of the season.
After falling behind 3-0, Flacco drove the Ravens 90 yards on 13 plays as Ray Rice punctuated the drive with a 2-yard TD run. But they entered halftime trailing 13-7 and badly losing the time-of-possession battle 18-12. They ended the game, however, with a 31-29 edge in ball possession.
But just like he did last week at the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, Flacco led his team back in the second half with a 10-play, 87-yard drive that resulted in a 5-yard TD pass to Dennis Pitta that put them ahead for good at 14-13. Anquan Boldin followed up with scoring catches from 2 and 11 yards for the final margin.
The Ravens converted 42% of third downs (5-for-12), were plus-3 in turnovers against the NFL's second-best team at forcing mistakes. The Ravens didn't commit any. Brady finished 29-for-54 for 320 yards, but he had only 1 TD and 2 INTs.
Player of the game: Flacco went 21-for-36 for 230 yards and 3 TDs and 0 INTs. In the pivotal third quarter, he went 11-for-18 for 123 yards and 1 TD for a 100.0 rating.
Turning point: Down 21-13, Stevan Ridley was knocked cold on an 8-yard run on a hit by Ravens S Bernard Pollard. DE Arthur Jones recovered on the Patriots’ 47 and four plays later, Flacco found Boldin from 11 yards to put them ahead by 2 TDs to put the game away.
Losing ground: The Ravens had terrible field position throughout the first half. In 5 possessions, they started at their own 13-, 10- (twice), 8- and 14-yard lines. The Patriots started with the ball at their own 20, 21, 33, 47, 21 and Baltimore’s 44. To only be down 13-7 was a small victory. Their second possession of the third quarter was at their own 13, but Flacco led them on a 10-play drive for a 5-yard TD strike to Dennis Pitta to take the lead for good at 14-13.
Penalty hits: The Ravens were the NFL’s most penalized team for personal fouls and the habit bit them in the first half. Lewis was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on TE Aaron Hernandez, but the Patriots’ drive stalled. LB Dannell Ellerbe was called for a post-snap blow to the head – though his slap in retaliation barely landed – that moved the Patriots to their own 39 en route to an 11-play, 79-yard TD drive. S Bernard Pollard was called for a blow to the head of WR Wes Welker on a catch at midfield in the third quarter but the Ravens defense held. However, it did cost them field position as they started their next drive at their own 13.
Clean sheet: Flacco hasn’t thrown an interception in the playoffs. He only attempted 12 passes in the first half as the Ravens were set on establishing the run. Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for 14 carries. When Flacco doesn’t throw an interception, the Ravens are 42-5, including the playoffs and Sunday's victory.
Grounding it out: Pierce, who had been dealing with a knee injury for a couple of weeks and had only had 5 carries for 14 last week, was instrumental in the first scoring drive. He was a factor early. He ran for 11 yards on his first carry with the Ravens buried at their own 8 to start their third drive of the game. Pierce finished with 9 carries for 52 yards to lead the Ravens. Rice had 19 carries for 48 yards and 1 TD.