With the eyes of the football world cast upon the primetime matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots it was clear that the winner of this AFC Championship Game rematch from last season would have a great chance at the possibility of returning to the same position again following this season. Unfortunately football took a back seat in this contest as person tragedy struck the Ravens and their starting wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Less than 24 hours before the game Smith’s 19-year old, younger brother Tevin Jones died in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident. Smith left the Ravens to be with his family upon receiving the news and wasn’t sure if he would compete in the contest versus the Patriots, but his mother told him that his brother would have wanted him to play and play he did. Smith hauled in six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help Baltimore earn the 31-30 victory.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had yet another sensational game during primetime this season as he completed 28 of his 39 pass attempts for 382 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception. Ray Rice also had much to do with the Baltimore victory as he rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries along with five receptions for 49 yards. In total the Baltimore offense racked up 503 total yards on 65 plays while defensive stars Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata combined to record 28 tackles and a sack.
The Patriots also moved the ball well on offense versus a very good Ravens defense as Tom Brady passed for 335 yards and a touchdown while completing 28 of his 41 attempts. The Pats got a decent game out of their running attack as their backs rushed for 77 total yards and two scores on 34 carries. The Patriots offense recorded 396 total yards on 77 plays, but besides the offenses accumulating a ton of yardage so did penalties against both teams.
Once again the inefficiency replacement refs took center stage instead the exceptional play on the field by the combatants. The two teams combined for 24 penalties that forced 218 yards down field (14 penalties for 135 yards against Baltimore and 10 penalties for 83 yards against New England) that truly weren’t earned. Some of the penalties were warranted however there were several calls that were truly mind-boggling. This contest produced an NFL record 13 first downs via penalties but it wasn’t until the final play where the replacement refs received their hugest complaints of the evening.
On the final drive of the game Flacco led the Ravens down field (with the assistance of a huge penalty) and set Baltimore up for a 27-yard field goal made by Justin Tucker with no time remaining on the clock. The field goal appeared and was ruled by the refs to just barely pass through the left upright, however several New England players and head coach Bill Belichick thought it sailed wide. Following the controversial field goal Belchick grabbed the referee who made the final call in attempt to get an explanation but to no avail the official fled the field with the Patriots’ coach searching for answers. One thing is for certain Belchick will be searching for his checkbook because he will undoubtedly be fine for making contact with a game official.