Some wondered if Ray Lewis had played his last game during the regular season after he had torn his tricep against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Some wondered if he was going to play his last game when the Ravens took on the Colts in the Wild Card round. Many had just assumed that Lewis was playing his final game against the Broncos in the divisional round. Even after all of that, after returning to play and beat the Colts, and after upsetting the Broncos in Denver, few people thought that the Ravens would get past the New England Patriots and advance to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
You'd think that after 17 years and so many accolades, we would just stop doubting Ray Lewis.
Baltimore pulled off the unthinkable on Sunday, beating the Patriots 28- 13 in the AFC Championship game and advancing to Super Bowl XLVII to play the San Francisco 49ers. One year after a few close plays denied the world of Har-bowl 1, it seems as though, in the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, life has found a way. John Harbaugh will coach the Ravens against his brother Jim and the 49ers in the biggest game in professional football on February 3rd. It will also be the last game of Lewis's career, and maybe like Jerome Bettis back in Super Bowl XL, he can go out on top. After watching what happened on Sunday, we won't doubt him again, right?
New England struck first with a 1st quarter field goal, but the Ravens were the first to get in the end zone and led 7-3 after a Ray Rice touchdown with 9:28 left in the 2nd. However, the Patriots never stay quiet on offense for too long, and Brady hit Wes Welker for a 1-yard touchdown later in the quarter.
The Patriots led 13-7 at halftime after questionable time management by New England led to a 25-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski as time expired instead of a possible touchdown. Brady was 14-of-24 for 139 yards, one TD and zero INT's at half, while Flacco was just 6-of-12 for 81 yards going into intermission.
But it didn't take long for Flacco to make good on his "elite" status in the 3rd quarter when the Ravens drove 72 yards down the field, and he hit Dennis Pitta for a 5-yard touchdown to give Baltimore a 14-13 lead. Lewis and the defense forced another punt by Patriots and gave the ball right back to Flacco. Not a bad game plan.
The Ravens drove 63 yards and scored again: this time a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin that made it a 21-13 lead with 14:56 left in the game. That put just under a quarter between Lewis and the Super Bowl if they could just hold New England to less than eight points in that time. That margin got even steeper after Stevan Ridley had a carry for the Pats on the next drive, appeared to be knocked out for a moment, and fumbled the ball back over to Baltimore. Ridley walked into the locker room on his own accord, but the Ravens had the ball and drove down quickly to another touchdown. Flacco hit Boldin again, this time for 11 yards, and the Ravens led 28-13 with 11:13 left to go.
There was very little hope for a comeback after that, and even less after Brady threw an interception with 6:49 left at the Ravens 18 yard-line. Had New England managed to cut the lead to eight at that point, we could be talking about a much different outcome. But fittingly the Baltimore defense came up big against a powerful offense. The game ended when Brady threw his second interception on a desperation comeback bid, and the Ravens defense closed it out.
It wasn't something expected from a Ravens team that had many doubting that they were as "Super Bowl caliber" as many of the other Baltimore teams of the last decade. Terrell Suggs missed the first part of the season. Lewis was aging and missed most of the season. Their top cornerback, Lardarius Webb, hit IR the same week that Lewis was injured. Baltimore was basically average at best in any major statistical category. They had also lost four of their last five games upon stumbling into the playoffs. So much for "expectations" and stats.
There weren't many people that thought that Lewis and the Ravens would be headed to New Orleans this year, one win away from their second championship in franchise history. But Ray Lewis probably never doubted it, and we probably shouldn't have doubted him.
How about that "elite" Joe Flacco? Flacco is now 8-4 all-time in the postseason and is going to his first Super Bowl after having won at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons, the first quarterback to ever do that. Flacco was 21-of-36 for 240 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT, giving him an incredible 8 TD and 0 INT in three 2013 postseason games.
The game was less kind to Brady: 29-of-54, 320 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT.
Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib left the game with a thigh injury. Stevan Ridley left in the 4th quarter after a rough hit to the head.
Did they cover?
The Patriots were favored by 7.5 points, so, they did not cover.
The Ravens will meet the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on February 3rd, 2013. The most compelling storylines:
- Ray Lewis, Ray Lewis, Ray Lewis.
- I think that John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh might be related. They are also the head coaches of these respective teams.
- Colin Kaepernick vs the Ravens defense. It will be Kaepernick's 10th career start ever.
- Randy Moss is also old. Did anyone ever wonder if he's considering retirement after the game? Moss has one appearance in a Super Bowl, losing with the undefeated Patriots to the Giants in the 2007 season.