Patriots Advance to Super Bowl, Defeat Ravens 23-20

The New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in the AFC Championship game to advance to the Super Bowl.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be the first quarterback-head coach combination to make it to the Super Bowl five times.

The game was extremely close, and went nothing like what was expected.  Tom Brady threw no touchdown passes and had 2 interceptions and only 239 passing yards, giving him a passer rating below 60.  Ravens QB Joe Flacco outplayed Brady, throwing for 306 yards, with 2 TDs and 1 INT, and a passer rating of over 95.  The Patriots were forced to rely on their running game (ranked 20th in the league) and their defense (ranked 31st in the league) to pull out the victory.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

Brady and the Patriots precision passing game looked a bit off all day, but the other aspects picked up the slack.  Nose tackle Vince Wilfork was a monster, and seemed to be in the backfield disrupting the Ravens on every key play.  Wilfork finished with 6 tackles, 1 sack and 3 tackles for a loss.

The Patriots took the lead early, but the game see sawed back and forth.  After trading early field goals, the Patriots jumped out to a 10-3 lead on a 7-yard touchdown run by the Law Firm, Benjarvus Green-Ellis.  The Ravens answered back with a six yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta.

After a couple more Stephen Gostkowski field goals, the Patriots were leading 16-10 mid-way through the third quarter, when it looked like the momentum completely swung to the Ravens.  The Ravens scored 10 points in four minutes to take the lead.  Flacco completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.

The Ravens quickly got the ball back when Danny Woodhead fumbled the kickoff, giving the Ravens another possession starting at the New England 28.  They were able to score on a 39-yard field goal to take a 20-16 late in the third quarter.

The Patriots marched back on an 11 play, 64 yard TD drive that featured a heavy dose of the running game, along with key completions to Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker.  Tom Brady finished off the drive, on the second of two quarterback sneaks from inside the 2-yard line.

The Ravens drove down with a chance to tie (with a field goal) or win (with a touchdown).  In the final drive, in the last two minutes, Lee Evans had the ball in his hands in the touchdown but was stripped by cornerback Sterling Moore, who spent the early part of the season on the Raiders practice squad.  Moore wasn’t even a starter for the Raiders, but now has a chance for a Super Bowl ring for the Patriots.

The Ravens still had a chance to tie on a last second field goal with 0:11, but the kick was wide left.  As in so many of the Patriots previous Super Bowl appearances, the game down to the last second, with no shortage of drama.

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