For a big chunk of Sunday’s AFC championship game, the New England Patriots dominated the 60 yards between their 20-yard line and the 20-yard line of the Ravens.
The Patriots refused to let the Ravens flip field position in the first half and spent much of it entrenched in Ravens territory. But when the Patriots crossed that 20-yard line, the Ravens, as they have done all season, protected the red zone with a barricade of bodies.
The Patriots scored just one touchdown on three red-zone trips in the first half and took a 13-7 lead into halftime. The Ravens, on the other hand, were money inside the red zone, scoring touchdowns in all four of their trips, including three in the second half, to pull away from the Patriots and advance to the Super Bowl.
Flacco completed seven of his eight pass attempts inside the red zone, including a touchdown drive in the second quarter that was capped off by a 2-yard run by Ray Rice, for 44 yards and three touchdown passes.
Brady, meanwhile, was 2-for-6 inside the red zone for 2 yards after he threw three incompletions in the fourth quarter as the Patriots turned the ball over on downs. Later in the quarter, Brady moved the Patriots to the 22-yard line, just outside the red area, but he was picked off in the end zone by cornerback Cary Williams.
Sunday’s 28-13 victory was the latest and greatest example of the bend-but-don’t-break Ravens, who ranked second in the NFL in red-zone defense during the regular season. If they hadn’t held firm in the early going, who knows how the game would have turned out? But they frustrated and flustered Brady and the Patriots inside their 20-yard line, and that’s one of the major reasons why the Ravens are headed to the Super Bowl.
“For our team, our defense to come out and play the way we did, [in the] first half giving up field goals,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said after the victory. “And we knew red zone was going to be big going against this team. Because they’re big in the red zone and their fast-paced offense is everything, so we really had to settle ourselves down. Again, I tip my hat off to my defense, the way we came out and never wavered.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun