The AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA was a series of peaks and valleys. In the end, there were more valleys and a disappointing 28-13 loss to end the season.
At times it would seem the Patriots offense would be peaking and they’d start moving the ball only to bottom out and have a drive stalled with incomplete passes or failed red zone opportunities.
Then it would seem as it the Patriots defense would peak and be playing aggressive only to turn around and start to get picked apart by Baltimore QB Joe Flacco.
For most of the afternoon the game could have gone either way but there was a huge momentum shift late in the third quarter and early in the 4th quarter that gave the Ravens a 21-13 lead after trailing 13-7 at the half.
In a period of 10:01 on the game clock the Ravens scored 21 unanswered points and pulled away from the Patriots while building a 28-13 lead on three Flacco TD passes. Two went to All-World WR Anquan Bolden, who size and strength just proved too much for the overmatched New England secondary. And the third went to TE Dennis Pitta who killed New England most of the afternoon with little shake routes over the middle. Flacco kept finding him and the Ravens kept chipping away at the Patriots defense.
The defense was severely hampered when CB Aqib Talib came up lame with a pulled hamstring about midway through the first quarter. It severely changed the way defense was able to cover the Baltimore receivers, especially Bolden. With Talib on the field he matches up very well with guys like Bolden but it doesn’t help when he can’t get on the field.
As for the offense they struggled mightily, especially in the red zone coming away with two field goals and a touchdown in three first half tries. There was also some sketchy clock management in the closing seconds of the half. If Tom Brady had called time out after he slide he had 17 seconds and at least two shots at points, maybe three. But he decided he wanted to try to save the time out and spike the ball and ended up running the clock to :04 seconds and forcing the field goal opportunity as a last ditch chance for points.
The end of the football season always leaves me a bit melancholy compared to other sports, it just seems to short. One day a week for four maybe five months if you’re lucky and then it’s gone, especially in a one and done playoff situation.
The team was good this year, not great. At times they played both above and below the expectations of the fans and themselves. While 2013 looks promising we also have to realize that next preseason Brady turns 36 and the window closes a little more not only on his career but possibly championship opportunities in Foxboro.
As they said in “Goodfellas” when they tell Jimmy they had to whack Tommy, “well that’s that, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.”
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Turning Point(s) of the Game
RB Stevan Ridley gets popped by Ravens S Bernard Pollard and fumbles the ball. The Ravens score on the ensuing drive and increase their lead to 28-13.
Offensive Player(s) of the Game
Ravens QB Joe Flacco was 21 of 36 for 240 yards, 3 TDs, O INTs and 2 sacks. His passer rating was 106.2.
Defensive Player(s) of the Game
Ravens S Bernard Pollard had 9 tackles (4 solo), 1 pass defensed and 1 forced fumble.
Starters for the Patriots were:
Inactives for the Game:
1. WR Kamar Aiken
2. CB Derrick Martin
3. DB Malcolm Williams
4. G Nick McDonald
5. G Markus Zusevics
6. DL Marcus Forston
7. DE Jake Bequette
1. CB Asa Jackson
2. S Omar Brown
3. LB Adrian Hamilton
4. G Ramon Harewood
5. WR Deonte Thompson
6. DE DeAngelo Tyson
7. DT Bryan Hall
The spread (Patriots minus 9) WAS NOT covered. The over/under (51.5) WAS NOT COVERED. I GAVE the points (Ravens) and took the UNDER. I finished the season 5-13 vs. the spread and 12 of 18 calling the under/over.
The Patriots lead the overall series vs. the Ravens 7-3 including playoffs.
The Ravens are 2-1 against the Patriots in the post season. All three playoff games have been at Gillette Stadium.
This is the Patriot 20th playoff season, it was the 31st playoff game of the Kraft Era (20-11) and the team is now 24-17 all-time in the post season.
This was the first AFC Conference Championship Game rematch since the 1986 and 1987 when the Browns faced the Broncos. It was the first Conference Championship rematch in either conference since 1992-94 when the 49ers and Cowboys met three times in a row.
They are now 7-2 in the AFC Championship Game.
This is the third time in team history that the Patriots have played in back-to-back Conference Championship Games (2003-04, 2006-07 and 2011-12).
The Patriots now are 10-3 at Gillette Stadium in the post season, 14-4 overall as the home team.
New England is 4-1 in Conference Championship Games played in Foxboro (3-1 in Gillette Stadium).
The Patriots 9 Conference Championship appearances are 5th most in the Super Bowl era. They trail only Oakland (11), San Francisco (14), Dallas (14) and Pittsburgh (15).
The Patriots are now 3-13 when they have a negative turnover ratio in a post season game. Sunday they were MINUS 3.
Bill Belichick is now 205-109 including post season.
Belichick’s 205 wins are good for a tie for 6th all-time with Marty Schottenheimer who coached the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers.
He is 18-8 in the playoffs, 17-7 as head coach of the Patriots in the post season.
His 18 playoff wins are the third most all-time behind only Don Shula (19) and Tom Landry (20).
Belichick coached teams are 6-3 vs. Baltimore (including playoffs 1-2) all with New England.
Tom Brady is 17-7 in the playoffs and has an overall record of 153-46.
His 17 playoff wins are the most all-time for any quarterback.
Brady is 11-3 at home in the post season.
Brady is 3rd all-time in postseason TD passes with 42. Brett Favre is 2nd with 44 and Joe Montana leads with 45.
Brady holds the NFL record with 553 postseason completions.
Brady holds the franchise lead for most playoff games as a Patriot (24). It is the most all-time in the NFL for a quarterback (tied with Brett Favre).
WR Wes Welker now has catches in 119 consecutive games including playoffs, 102 as a Patriot. The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.
Welker is the all-time franchise leader with 69 playoff receptions.
CB Aqib Talib pulled a hamstring in the first quarter and didn’t return.
DT Kyle Love hurt his ankle and in the first quarter and didn’t return.
RB Stevan Ridley suffered a concussion in the 4th quarter and didn’t return.
Baltimore is 13-7 all-time in the post season.
The Ravens are the two-time defending AFC North champions.
Ravens in AFC Championship Game (2-2)
at New England
at New England
Baltimore is 9-5 on the road in the playoffs.
Baltimore is the only team to make the post season the last 5 seasons.
Baltimore has the best post season winning percentage (.650) of any team with at least 15 games played.
This was the third AFC Championship game for the Ravens under head coach John Harbaugh.
He will face his brother Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVLII. It is the first time brothers have coached against each other in a Super Bowl.
Since 2008 Baltimore is 7-2 vs. the AFC East with both losses being to New England.
John Harbaugh is 8-4 in the playoffs for an overall record of 62-30.
He is 3-3 vs. New England in his career including 2-1 in the post season.
Like his head coach, Joe Flacco is 8-4 in the playoffs for an overall record of 62-30 in 5 seasons.
He is 3-3 vs. New England in his career including 2-1 in the playoffs.
RB Ray Rice came into the game averaging 100+ yards per game rushing vs. New England. In 5 career games he had 518 yards. On Sunday they held him to 48 yards on 19 carries.
Bill Leavy was the game referee. The temp at kickoff was 41 with wind chill of 32 it was clear and windy.
Attendance – 68,756 at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro MA. It was the 205th consecutive sell out at a Patriots home game.
Post Game Interviews
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Patriots QB Tom Brady post game press conferences via patriots.com
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photo credit: getty images