Fast start: Ravens second-year running back Ray Rice threw the first punch with an 83-yard sprint for a touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage--his fourth run of 50+ yards this season. It was the longest run of his NFL career and the second-longest in NFL playoff history behind Fred Taylor's 90-yard rush back in 2000. But the Patriots shouldn't have been surprised that the former Rutgers star would come out of the gate strong. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in the first quarter during the regular season compared to 5.3 yards in the second, 4.9 in the third and 4.7 in the fourth. Rice finished the day with 159 rushing yards and two scores.
First time that's happened: For the third time in his career, quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted three times during a postseason game. While the Patriots were able to overcome those miscues in the two previous games--both against the San Diego Chargers--they were definitely a factor in Sunday's loss. Chris Carr's first-quarter interception at the New England 28-yard line set up the Ravens' third touchdown. Ed Reed's pick during the Patriots' next possession set up a field goal. The Ravens then converted a third-quarter interception by Dawan Landry into three more points. Brady's final numbers also included 23 completions out of 42 attempts, two touchdowns, three sacks, a fumble and a passer rating of 49.1. In his first 12 playoff games, Brady had thrown a total of just five interceptions. He's tossed ten in his last six.
Julian Edelman scored twice during a spirited performance.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
A spunky performance: If you watched wide receiver Julian Edelman during the game, you would have thought that New England was trailing by a field goal or less throughout the contest. Filling in for the injured Wes Welker, Edelman scored both of the Patriot's touchdowns and tied for the team lead with six receptions out of eight passes thrown his direction. He also returned a punt for 28 yards to set up the Patriots offense at the Baltimore 44-yard line. But I was really impressed when he battled his way for a first down in the fourth quarter on a 4th-and-7, lost it due to a penalty, and then snared a pass on the very next play for a 24-yard gain to move the chains and keep his team's slim hopes alive. That play was New England's biggest gain of the day.
Biggest surprise: Seriously, with Brady leading the Patriots offense, would you have given the Ravens any chance of winning this game if you had been told in advance that quarterback Joe Flacco was only going to throw the ball ten times and complete four passes during the entire contest? While 25 other quarterbacks have logged ten pass attempts or less and completed four passes or less in a postseason game, Flacco is the only one who took all of the snaps for his team. All of the others split time with another quarterback. He finished the day with just 34 passing yards, an interception and a passer rating of 10.0.
Could have cost them: The Ravens coaching staff blew two decisions during the game that could have haunted them if their team hadn't been clicking on all cylinders. The first one came when they didn't challenge a fumble recovery call on a punt play. The ball hit Tom Zbikowski while he was blocking for a punt return and was then grabbed in midair by Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington. But as Arrington fell to the ground out of bounds, the ball came out. It's very likely that a replay would have nullified the ruling on the field of a fumble recovery, preventing the Patriots from converting the turnover into a touchdown. The second bad decision was made when Baltimore opted to use their final challenge of the day on a failed two-point conversion. With a 19-point lead and more than 10 minutes to play, they should have held onto that last challenge in case they needed it to remedy a bad call on a six-point play in the closing minutes.
He showed up: Veteran running back Kevin Faulk carried more than his fair share of the load for New England. He carried the ball 14 times for 52 yards--his second-best postseason total--and caught six passes for 37 yards.
Oh, the irony: During the season, it appeared that the Patriots' secondary would be the team's Achilles' heel that would prevent them from a deep run into the playoffs. But the Ravens gashed the New England defense for 234 rushing yards--the highest ground total surrendered during a playoff game by the Patriots since 1983 when they gave up 214 rushing yards to the Miami Dolphins.
Quick Hits: Ed Reed's interception was the his fourth postseason pick of his career...The Ravens converted 63 percent of their third-down opportunities versus just 25 percent by the Patriots...New England was held to just 64 rushing yards...Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski had nailed nine out of ten postseason kicks prior to his 44-yard miss on Sunday. Prior to that misfire, he had made all three of his field goal attempts of 40 yards or more...Middle linebacker Ray Lewis led the Ravens in tackles with 13, including four solo efforts and a sack...In addition to his seven tackles, two passes defensed and an interception, Dawan Landry made a pair of special teams tackles and assisted with a third for Baltimore...Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork led his team with nine solo tackles and thirteen total stops, including one for a loss...Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain's interception was his first postseason pick and just the second of his entire NFL career. He was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round of the 2003 NFL Draft...The Ravens defense has sacked the opposing quarterback at least three times in seven of their seventeen games this year.
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