Most people expected a close game. Some even predicted the Ravens would win. However, very few expected such a lopsided score in Baltimore’s 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots.
The Ravens used an inspired defense, rejuvenated offense, and extremely hot Joe Flacco to completely manhandle the Patriots in the second half of the AFC Championship game. It wasn’t even close.
Despite being outperformed in almost every statistical category (first downs, yards, third down efficiency, etc), the Ravens managed to take a few pages out of the Patriots’ playbook and come away with the convincing win. All season long, the Patriots have given up lots of yardage to opposing teams, but were usually able to keep them out of the end zone and win the turnover battle.
Last night though, it was the other way around.
It felt as if the Patriots were the team that was moving the ball almost at will until they got to midfield/Ravens territory. At which point, the Ravens defense would stiffen up and the Pats offense would stall and be forced to punt. Not only that, but the Patriots—who had the best turnover margin in the league during the regular season—lost the turnover battle 3-0.
On the other side of the ball, after a slow start, Joe Flacco kept his hot hand going and began to move the ball willingly on the Pats depleted defense (the Patriots lost Aqib Talib and Patrick Chung in the 1st half). Flacco now has 8 TD’s this postseason with, more importantly, 0 turnovers. Even more impressive, Flacco has now outperformed Tom Brady 3 straight games in the postseason and is proving he has a big time clutch gene.
Now, for the Patriots, they will look back on this game and everyone will have their own share of the blame. Wes Welker and multiple big drops, Brady had a couple VERY questionable decisions (not tucking and running on 4th down and waiting too long to call time out at the end of the half), the defense got torched in the second half, and Bill Belichick made multiple questionable decisions to punt instead of going for it on 4th down on the Ravens side of the field.
In the end though, the Patriots can do nothing but tip their hats, because the Ravens may not have been the better team for the majority of the season, but they were on Sunday….in a big way.
Every big play in the game seemed to be made by Flacco and Ravens instead of Brady and the Pats. Watching the game on television, it almost didn’t even sound like a home game for the Patriots with how quiet the crowd was for the majority of the game.
Now, will the Ravens be able to overcome the 49ers in the Super Bowl despite being the underdogs once again? Time will tell.
However, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the way this team has flipped the switch in the playoffs. This is a different Ravens team than we saw the last 5 weeks of the regular season and that hasn’t been more obvious than it was in Foxboro last night.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson