NFL Playoffs: 5 Factors that Helped the Baltimore Ravens Beat the New England Patriots
Many believed they couldn’t do it, once again they’d been written off by the book makers and left for dead, but once again the Baltimore Ravens defied the odds and behind a shutout performance in the second half, sent the New England Patriots packing and moved onto the Super Bowl.
Ray Lewis’ retirement party has officially been postponed until after the Harbowl and for a player of Lewis’ calibre and legend this is the only way for him to turn his back on the game that he’s played professionally for 17 years. Will he follow in the footsteps of greats such as John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Michael Strahan and cap his illustrious career off by hoisting the Lombardi?
Answers to questions like this are going to be looked at every which way for the next twelves days in the famous Super Bowl preamble, but for now we’re going to turn our attention one last time back to the events of the AFC Championship game and look at a few big performances and moments that propelled the Ravens through to the next round.
According to television ratings, a massive 47.7 million people tuned into the battle for AFC supremacy, and I doubt that even 5% of those viewers would have ever predicted that the Ravens would keep the Patriots scoreless for two whole quarters whilst scoring 28 points for themselves.
So the question is, how did this happen? I will attempt to shed some light on the situation be revealing my own ‘Top 5 Factors that helped the Ravens beat the Patriots’. Enjoy!
1) Joe Flacco
How can I talk about this game without mentioning the stellar play of Joe Flacco? He epitomized the meaning of his nickname Joe Cool and put on perhaps his most assured performance of all time by throwing for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns. Despite having to compete with the wind and not being able to complete a pass over 26 yards, he did manage to show some amazing touch on both his touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin and funnily enough his most assured play, in my eyes, came late in the game when he kept a drive alive with his feet on a 14 yard keeper that turned out to be the Ravens longest rush of the day.
2) Aquib Talib Injury
There had been a lot of talk pre-game about how key the physical play of Aquib Talib was going to keep Anquan Boldin quiet for the day. I was very much in agreement with these thoughts, which was only confirmed by Talib's play in the opening quarter when he practically had Boldin in his hip pocket. Who knows how the second half would have gone if Talib had still been out there, would Boldin have had those two touchdown catches?
3) Dennis Pitta Playing Big Boy Football
For me, this was the biggest statement of the night for the Ravens and showed just how far they had come from the critical drops of previous years. Knocking on the door of the Patriots endzone on first and ten, Flacco found Dennis Pitta dragging across the middle for 5 yards, Pitta then gets laid out with the second biggest hit of the night but holds on to give the Ravens a second and 5. The very next play the tight end, who should have been very groggy, fakes out the linebacker on the goal line and hauls in another pass to tie up the game. It epitomised everything the Ravens were not in the last couple of years and sent the momentum swinging into Baltimore’s favour.
4) The Hands of McPhee
In the second half, Pernell McPhee did his best J.J. Watt impression by having huge hands (both metaphorically and I’m sure literally too) by knocking down a couple of Brady passes at key points in the game. The first noticeable tip came on a third down pass that was heading for Aaron Hernandez, only to land on the grass and kill a promising Patriot drive. The second tip was a much more prevalent and memorable play, with the score at 28-13, the Patriots were on the Ravens 24 yard line and looking for a score with seven minutes left to have a shot at getting the ball back and tying the game up. McPhee had other plans as he bullrushed his guard into the backfield before getting his mitt up to send the ball sky high and into the awating arms of Dannell Ellerbe to essentially kill the game.
5) Bernard Pollard Delivers the Knockout Blow
Shortly after the Ravens had extended their lead to 21-13, Steven Ridley took a hand off and bounced the run outside before running into the Patriots nemesis, Bernard Pollard. The collision that took place not only knocked Ridley out cold, but jarred the ball loose so that Arthur Jones could pounce on it and give the Ravens possession. Four plays later, the Ravens had taken the ball 52 yards and registered another touchdown leaving the score at 28-13 and the Patriots and metaphorical mountain to climb.