Ravens upset Patriots in AFC title game
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Joe Flacco outdueled Tom Brady, throwing three touchdown passes in the second half and leading the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl in 12 years with a 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday for the AFC championship.
The win sets up the first Super Bowl coached by brothers, Baltimore's John Harbaugh and San Francisco's Jim. The 49ers won the NFC title earlier Sunday 28-24 at Atlanta.
The 49ers have been listed as 5-point favorites.
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis' final season will conclude in two weeks in New Orleans; he was the MVP of the 2001 game, the Ravens' only Super Bowl win.
Flacco had two touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin and one to Dennis Pitta as the Ravens outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the second half. Baltimore's defense made Brady look ordinary and stymied the league's top offense. Brady was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime.
Flacco's three touchdown passes came in just over 10 minutes in the second half. He connected with Bolden for two TDs in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter - a 3-yarder and an 11-yarder - after hitting Pitta with a 5-yard strike with 6:14 left in the third.
The Ravens (13-6) gained just 130 yards in the first half before Flacco guided them on scoring drives of 87 and 63 yards.
New England (13-5) suffered three injuries in the first half. Cornerback Aqib Talib hurt his thigh and defensive tackle Kyle Love injured his knee. The return of both starters was questionable. Backup safety Patrick Chung was helped off the field after one play.
The Patriots played without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke his left arm a week earlier in their 41-28 divisional win over the Houston Texans.
Stephen Gostkowski had given the Patriots a 3-0 lead with a 31-yard field goal with 6:21 left in the first quarter. But the Ravens went ahead on Ray Rice's 2-yard touchdown run with 9:28 to go in the second.
Wes Welker then scored with just over 4 minutes remaining in the half on a 1-yard pass from Brady and the Patriots increased their lead on Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal on the final play before intermission.
New England outgained Baltimore 214 yards to 130 in the half. Brady completed 14 of 24 passes for 139 yards, while Flacco went 6 for 12 for 81 yards. Neither team committed a turnover.
The scoring pass to Bolden ended a drive on which Flacco completed five of six passes, the longest a 23-yarder to Torrey Smith.
The touchdown by Pitta capped the Ravens' best drive of the game, covering 87 yards in 10 plays. It started with a 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty. Then, Flacco completed six of his other nine passes on the series. Three of them went for first downs - 22 yards to Pitta, 15 to Rice and 12 to Bolden that gave the Ravens a first-and-goal at the Patriots 10-yard line.
Flacco then connected with Pitta for a 5-yard pass and finished the drive with another 5-yarder to Pitta, who easily beat single coverage by safety Steve Gregory.
The Patriots began the scoring on Gostkowski's kick, ending a 13-play, 67-yard drive during which Brady completed five of seven passes for 55 yards.
Rice's touchdown ended a 13-play, 90-yard drive that lasted 5:51. Flacco threw completions for first downs of 17 yards to Pitta, 11 yards to Rice, 8 yards to Bernard Pierce and 25 yards to Smith. With a first down at the Patriots 15-yard line, Rice ran for 8 and 5 yards, giving the Ravens a first down at the 2.
After Flacco threw an incompletion out of bounds, Rice took a handoff, ran to the left and scored easily.
Welker's touchdown came 4:18 before intermission and capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive. He scored on a pass to the right as cornerbacks Corey Graham and Chykie Brown appeared to get crossed up on their assignments.
On the first play of the series, Baltimore's Dannell Ellerbe was penalized 15 yards for a blow to the head. Then a 24-yard completion from Brady to Welker gave the Patriots a first down at the Ravens 16-yard line.