New England Patriots advance to AFC Title Game after surviving Baltimore Ravens

The first-seeded Patriots managed a 35-31 win over Baltimore, becoming the first NFL team to overcome two 14-point deficits in a playoff game. Flacco was very much a reflection of his prior playoff success, amassing nearly 300 yards with 4 touchdowns marred by two interceptions. Tom Brady proved to be clutch at exactly the right moments, rushing for a touchdown along with 367 yards through the air and three touchdown passes. Julian Edelman completed his first career pass for a touchdown, executing a gadget play reminiscent of Oregon for a 51 yard Danny Amendola touchdown.

The Ravens got off to a hot start, with Steve Smith getting his sole touchdown catch of the game, putting the 35-year old receiver over the 1000 mark for postseason yards. Brady and Amendola combined for two scores to tie the game but the Pats couldn’t prevent Baltimore from retaking the lead less than a minute later to close out the half. After forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, Flacco hit Justin Forsett for a 16 yard touchdown to stretch the lead to 14 once again. The Ravens had the lead three times in the game, but failed to hold on at the crucial moment.

Brady, whose only interception of the game was turned into seven points, made up for his mistake with gusto in the second half. The future Hall of Famer moved his offense down the field at will to set up a beautifully orchestrated 51-yard wide receiver touchdown pass  from Julian Edelmen, who accounted for 125 yards all-purpose yards, to Amendola, who had two touchdown catches on the day.

The Ravens’ run game outshined the Patriots by far, but despite rushing for 129 yards on 24 attempts, Justin Forsett was the only non-quarterback player on the team to tally over a hundred yards on 24 rushing attempts. The Patriots relied heavily on the pass in play-calling but did have a short Brady touchdown run to help put the outcome to help put the game on ice.

Baltimore failed to capitalize on doubts kindled in light of Brady’s earlier struggles against the Ravens in the postseason. Flacco was certainly capable of beating the New England defense but costly turnovers will keep him out of a second Super Bowl appearance for the time being.

Tom Brady looks to have the offense well in hand en route to an AFC title match against the winner of the Colts-Broncos game, but flaws in the defense will need to be corrected, as a close match against a more talented playoff-proven contender may prove to be too much for the Patriots even with homefield advantage.

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