The same teams met in the 2013 AFC Championship game as did in the 2012 one – the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots were moving the ball better early than were the road warrior, Joe Flacco-led Ravens offense was. Brady led his squad on a 13 play opening drive, ending in a field goal. On their second drive of the game, the Patriots were helped by a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ray Lewis on TE Aaron Hernandez for a first down inside the 40 yard line but couldn’t score on a windy evening in Foxboro. At least the officials caught it – more on that later.
The Ravens were operating out of a hole on their early drives, starting their first three well inside their own 20. Even with the struggles of the Patriots’ defense, it’s a tall order for anyone to put together 80+ yard scoring drives in the playoffs and those drives all ended in punts in the first quarter.
When the second quarter began with the Pats up 3-0, to this writer, the biggest story so far was the fact that CB Aqib Talib, recently acquired by the Pats from the Tampa Bay Bucs, came up lame after one play late in the first quarter holding his right thigh in an apparent hamstring issue. He was assigned to Anquan Boldin up until then, but came out of the game.
As difficult as it may be to do in the playoffs, the Ravens answered with their own 13 play 90-yard TD drive that was punctuated by a 2-yard TD run by Ray Rice as he bounced outside on a dive that was clogged up by Patriot defenders. As if that weren’t bad enough, safety Patrick Chung was seen on the sidelines shaken up as the PAT was attempted.
The Ravens were up 7-3 but the Patriots rapidly restored their lead to 3 points at 10-7 on their next possession. Baltimore had to punt from their own goal line, giving the Patriots outstanding field position with 2:30 left in the half.
They drove and on 3rd and 4, Brady was crushed to the turf by a vicious hit from the official’s rear end. Yes, there’s a reason Tom Brady is NOT a scrambler. At least he didn’t pull a Mark Sanchez and fumble in the process. He made the Ravens pay on third down, setting up a first and goal on a completion to Aaron Hernandez. After another Brady scramble, gaining 4 yards and taking 20 seconds off the clock, Gostkowski hit another field goal to end the half with the score New England 13, Baltimore 7….and the Patriots ran 45 offensive plays in the first half.
In the second half, Baltimore took a 14-13 lead on a 5-yard TD pass from Flacco to Dennis Pitta. What caught my notice, however, was the previous play…another 5 yard pass to Pitta. I noticed on the hard hit by Jerod Mayo that the side of Mayo’s helmet smacked Pitta’s face mask, but there was no roughing call made. Even the announcer, former Giants’ QB Phil Simms, claimed it was a “good hit, with his shoulder lower than Pitta’s neck.”
Excuse me, but every other play I’ve seen in the past two seasons where a defender’s helmet collides with the offensive player’s helmet, it’s a personal foul. Granted in this case since they scored on the next play anyway, it made no real difference, but it makes me wonder about the officiating. It would turn out to not be the only call I saw in this game that was NOT made.
Neither the officials nor the Patriots’ defense could stop the Ravens on the ensuing drive. On the first play of the 4th quarter, Anquan Boldin elevated to snag a high pass in the end zone from Joe Flacco and they added the PAT after a 10 play 63 yard drive to make it 21-13, Ravens.
On the Pats’ next possession, Stevan Ridley took a hit – another helmet-to-helmet shot that went uncalled – and fumbled with the Ravens recovering it. Ridley was taken into the locker room under his own power after lying on the field briefly unable to get up and go to the sideline himself.
With the “emphasis” on player safety by Roger Goodell and the NFL, it’s disconcerting as a fan to sit here and watch the AFC Championship game and see two different blatant head-clashing hits going uncalled.
You know, put a helmet on me, and *I* could have caused Ridley to fumble on that play. The old OLD term for it was “Spearing” – using the helmet as a weapon. The first no-call was incidental…the side of the defender’s helmet hit Pitta’s face mask.
This one was the blatant use of the head as a weapon, directly causing a fumble, recovered by the defensive team. That’s just not right especially in this day and age.
And yes, the Ravens repeated the result once they officially got the ball back – TD pass to Anquan Boldin.
Ravens up, 28-13.
Ridley did not return, and the Patriots could not mount a comeback. Flacco had 3 TD passes with no turnovers. Brady out-gained Flacco but had one TD and two INTs with the second one coming on their last, desperation drive in the end zone.
Before today’s game, the New England Patriots were 67-0 at home when leading at halftime under Tom Brady.