Taking Down The Patriots
January 22, 2012.
I was on StubHub, ready to book my Super Bowl XLVI ticket, as well as a flight to and a hotel room in Indianapolis.
On my birthday, I was watching it all happen. Joe Flacco was driving the Ravens down the field–the Patriots field. The Ravens were about to silence all the doubters on the biggest stage they’ve ever been on, against the best player/coach combination in NFL history. I was going to the Super Bowl.
Or so I thought.
Well, at least Billy Cundiff had a chip shot field goal attempt to extend the game.
He missed it?
I was silent. I didn’t know what to think. It was shocking, truly. Baltimore had just taken New England’s best shot, and was about to knock them out of the playoffs, on its way to the Super Bowl. Yet, Evans dropped the ball, Cundiff missed the kick, and the Ravens were done.
To this day, I still can’t believe that game ended the way it did.
The Patriots won, 23-20. However, a rematch 364 long days later would provide sweet redemption.
After an up-and-down season, which included a change at offensive coordinator, a re-shuffled offensive line, and a 1-4 December record, the 2012 Ravens were back in the playoffs. They’d just won the AFC North and were one step closer to avenging their heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in the most recent AFC Championship.
In the wild card round, Baltimore handled the Colts with relative ease, 24-9, in Ray Lewis‘ last home game. Then, in an epic divisional playoff game in Denver, the Ravens were victorious in double overtime, despite playing an excellent Broncos team for 4 hours and 11 minutes in 2-degree temperatures.
The Ravens and Broncos scored the same amount of points through the first five periods of the game. Jacoby Jones made the play of his life (to that point), as Flacco launched a desperation pass deep down the field as the seconds were ticking away. Finally, Justin Tucker finished the job as he converted a 47-yard field goal to win the game, 38-35 (2 OT).
The stage was set. Baltimore was back in the AFC Championship game.
Their opponent: the Patriots.
The venue: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Same teams, same place, same stakes.
Both games turned out to have some key similarities. In the 2011 AFC Championship and in the 2012 AFC Championship, the Patriots turned the ball over three times and the Ravens won the time of possession battle.
In the 2011 AFC Championship, both the Ravens and the Patriots rushed the ball 31 times and were 22-for-36 passing. In the 2012 AFC Championship, Baltimore allowed 428 total yards but only one touchdown.
Additionally, the 2012 AFC Championship was the fifth time in Brady’s playoff career that he was held to a negative TD/INT ratio (31 games). Also in that game, Brady was limited to a quarterback rating of 62.3–the fifth-worst rating in his playoff career.
In fact, Brady’s three worst quarterback ratings at home in the playoffs have all come against the Ravens (62.3, 1/20/13; 57.5, 1/22/12; 49.1, 1/10/10).
Baltimore fans had hoped that if the Ravens got back to New England in the playoffs, they wouldn’t suffer a similar fate to the heart-breaking loss on 1/22/12. Fortunately for them, the Ravens were on a mission and weren’t going to leave Massachusetts without a victory on 1/20/13.
After trailing 13-7 at halftime, the Ravens pulled ahead for good midway through the third quarter, courtesy of a Dennis Pitta 5-yard touchdown reception. That was followed by an Anquan Boldin 3-yard touchdown reception on Baltimore’s next drive.
Leading 21-13 early in the fourth quarter, Baltimore still had plenty of work to do. New England had the ball down by one score with 14:56 remaining. The Patriots ran three times for 11 yards, then completed a pass for 12 yards.
On 1st-and-10 from his own 39-yard line, Ridley rushed for eight yards before Pollard hit him so hard he fumbled the ball and looked to be out cold. It was as emphatic a hit as you’ll see.
Physically and emotionally, that was the stamp of victory for the Ravens.
As a result of that hit, the Ravens stopped the Patriots offense (which is no small task), got the ball back on New England’s 47-yard line, and released all of their frustration from the crushing loss they endured one year prior.
It took four plays for Flacco to connect with Boldin in the end zone once again; this time on an 11-yard strike.
The final score was Baltimore 28-13. Looking back on that game, it’s safe to say the Ravens didn’t just beat the Patriots, they dominated the Patriots.
Who does that to New England in New England in the playoffs?
The Ravens, that’s who.
Baltimore’s offense was led by Flacco (240 passing yards, three touchdowns), Bernard Pierce (52 rushing yards), and Anquan Boldin (60 receiving yards, two touchdowns). It was Boldin, though, who made the difference. No one on New England’s defense could cover him, or match his physicality.
In 10 games against the Ravens (playoffs included), Brady has completed 58.5 percent of his passes and has thrown 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In eight games against the Patriots (playoffs included), Flacco has completed 62.2 percent of his passes, and has thrown 16 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
This Monday night, almost four years later, Baltimore gets to go to New England once again for a big-time primetime clash. Just like last time, they’re returning to Foxborough after their previous game against the Patriots was another away playoff defeat, lost late in perplexing, depressing fashion.
Come on, Monday night!