FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Oh, brother! John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens set up a family reunion at the Super Bowl, shutting down the New England Patriots 28-13 yesterday in the AFC championship game.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Oh, brother!
John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens set up a family reunion at the Super Bowl, shutting down the New England Patriots 28-13 yesterday in the AFC championship game.
The Ravens reached their first Super Bowl in 12 years behind three touchdown passes from Joe Flacco and a defense led by Ray Lewis that made Tom Brady look downright ordinary.
Next up for Harbaugh and the Ravens is younger brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated Atlanta 28-24 for the NFC title.
They will meet in two weeks in New Orleans — what a place for a party to celebrate the first brother vs. brother coaching matchup in Super Bowl history.
It also will be quite a last game for Lewis, the emotional linebacker who will retire after the matchup with the 49ers, who opened as a five-point favorite.
Driven by Lewis’ pending departure from the NFL, Baltimore’s defense stepped up in the playoffs. Brady was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime, but this was no contest in the second half.
After they had avenged last year’s AFC title game loss at Gillette Stadium, many of the Ravens gathered on the field jumping, chest-bumping and whooping before several thousand fans wearing Ravens jerseys — mostly Lewis’ No. 52 — who remained in the stands.
As in the previous two playoff victories against Indianapolis and Denver, the Ravens (13-6) were brilliant offensively in spots. This might be 17-year-veteran Lewis’ team, but it also is Flacco’s, and his six road victories are the most in playoff history.
“It was pretty awesome,” Flacco said. “We were here last year and thought we had it, but came up a little short. Guys came out in the second half and made plays. … We put pressure on them like that, and it worked pretty well.”
Flacco, the only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons, was dynamic with his arm and precise with his decision-making. Looking much more the championship passer than Brady, his scoring throws of 11 and 3 yards to Anquan Boldin and 5 to Dennis Pitta were perfect.
New England (13-5) lost a home AFC title matchup for the first time in five games. The loss denied Brady and coach Bill Belichick a shot at their sixth Super Bowl. They’ve gone 3-2, losing their last two times in the big game.
Instead, it’s the AFC North-champion Ravens heading to the Big Easy, seeking their second NFL championship. San Francisco has won five.
“This is our time. This is our time,” Lewis said as he and a few teammates were receiving the AFC championship trophy. “All these men out there, there might just be only five of us up here, but every man out there sacrificed this year for each other, and man, we did it and we’re on our way to the Super Bowl. That’s awesome.”
The Ravens got there the hard way, with no postseason bye. Then again, five of the past seven Super Bowl champions took that route.
The Ravens also were pushed into a second overtime in frigid Denver last weekend before eliminating Peyton Manning and the top-seeded Broncos.
And now they have cast aside the league’s most successful franchise of the last dozen years.
The Ravens gained just 130 yards in the first half.
Brady guided a 13-play drive to Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Neither defense yielded a big play, and punters Zoltan Mesko and Sam Koch were the busiest players on the field.
That changed when the teams switched sides for the second quarter. Baltimore again was pinned deep, at its 10-yard line, but Flacco led a 13-play drive. Ray Rice ran left untouched for the touchdown.
The Patriots staged a long drive of their own, 79 yards, aided by a 15-yard personal foul by Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Wes Welker picked up 24 yards on a short pass, then got free in the right corner of the end zone, making it 10-7.
It was 13-7 by halftime as Gostkowski kicked a 25-yard field goal, with New England outsmarting Baltimore several times. Danny Woodhead ran for 7 yards on a direct snap on fourth-and-1 in the drive. Defensive end Paul Kruger, who’s good at sacks, not much in coverage — found himself downfield on Aaron Hernandez on what became a 17-yard reception.
But Brady didn’t call timeout quickly enough after a short scramble. So the Patriots didn’t get a shot at the end zone and Gostkowski made his second kick.
Shockingly for an offense that totaled 557 points this season, that was it for New England.
The touchdown by Pitta capped the Ravens’ best drive of the game, covering 87 yards in 10 plays and made it 14-13. It started with a 15-yard defensive pass-interference penalty.