By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
9:33 PM EST, January 21, 2013
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco quickly came to a realization Sunday night while trailing the New England Patriots at halftime of the AFC championship game. It was a realization shared by coach John Harbaugh.
Flacco was adamant in his belief that the AFC North champions needed to become much more aggressive in the passing game.
During the second half of a 28-13 victory that propelled them to the Super Bowl, the Ravens attacked the Patriots' secondary as Flacco delivered three second-half touchdown passes.
"We came in at halftime and realized that we would probably have to [open it up] a little bit," said Flacco, who completed just 6 of 12 passes for 81 yards in the first half as the Ravens fell behind, 13-7. "John came over and said, 'Listen, we didn't come all of this way to play it safe and hope to win the football game.' We had nothing to lose and we went up there to win that game. That's what we did in the second half. Guys made plays, and it worked out really well."
In the second half, Flacco connected on touchdown passes of 3 and 11 yards to wide receiver Anquan Boldin, as well as a 5-yard scoring toss to tight end Dennis Pitta.
Flacco completed 15 of 24 passes for 159 yards in the second half, liberally targeting a Patriots secondary missing its top cover cornerback once Aqib Talib left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury.
The Ravens utilized more three wide receiver sets after halftime.
"I think we wanted to put that pressure on them, and that's a good personnel group for us," Flacco said. "We were able to get some matchups inside on some linebackers that helped us move the ball down the field at times. Anquan was able to come up with some big catches.
"We talked about it before the playoffs began. We don't have anything to lose. We have to go out there and lay it all out on the line. We may not win like that, but it's the only chance we're giving ourselves. I think we have put ourselves in a good position now."
Harbaugh indicated that Flacco has significant input into the offensive strategy.
"We had a pretty good idea of what Joe wanted to do," Harbaugh said. "So, I think it was music to his ears. Joe's involved in what we do. He had a lot of check-with-me's throughout the course of the game."
Pollard wants Brady punished
Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard has a strong opinion about Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady and his actions Sunday night.
He thinks Brady should be punished by the NFL for lifting his right leg and striking Ravens free safety Ed Reed in the leg while sliding as the veteran defensive back slowed down to avoid hitting Brady. Quarterbacks are protected from being hit under the NFL rule book when they go to the ground and slide.
"He knew what he was doing," Pollard said. "So, I'm the type of player it has to go both ways. It really does. It has to go both ways. Hopefully, the NFL will do something about it. If they don't, that's fine. If they do, that's fine.
"We all know emotions are on the field. We're going to say things. We're going to do things. If you want to keep the game clean, if you want to keep this thing going in the right direction, everybody needs to be penalized for their actions."
Harbaugh weighed in on the play, too.
"I saw the same thing everybody saw, so that would be in the league's hands," Harbaugh said. "It's pretty straightforward what happened. I'm going to leave it up to you guys to make those evaluations and to the league to make that evaluation."
Emerging unscathed with no serious injuries sustained Sunday, the Ravens appear to be relatively healthy heading into the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Ravens reported no new injuries.
Left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie was noticeably limping after the game, but didn't miss any time in the game and should be fine for the Ravens' matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"We got through very healthy, nothing major," Harbaugh said. "That should clear that up for the next two weeks."
Despite a bone bruise in his right knee, rookie running back Bernard Pierce averaged 5.8 yards per carry with 52 yards on nine runs.
"I think I played well," said Pierce, adding that he didn't aggravate the injury. "I had a couple nice runs, I had a couple nice blocks. I wanted to make sure I helped my team in any possible way I could. I was fine. I pushed through it, that's all that matters. And we're in the Super Bowl."
Big hit redux
An intimidating hitter who operates as an enforcer in the secondary for the AFC champions, Pollard knocked Patriots running back Stevan Ridley out of the game and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter that set up the Ravens' final touchdown.
Pollard unleashed a huge blow that separated Ridley from the football — and for several minutes — his senses while he stayed on the ground trying to regain his faculties.
"This is a violent sport," Pollard said. "We run fast. We hit hard. Guys are big, and they're getting bigger and quicker year in and year out. For me, I love to play this game. I love to tackle.
"That's what I do. When you got two guys running full speed at each other and you got helmets and shoulder pads on, somebody is going to go down. It's not something I'm proud of. I hope he's all right."
Defensive end Arthur Jones approved wholeheartedly of Pollard's display of intensity.
"Bernard's an animal," Jones said. "Bernard's a beast. I'm glad he's on my side of the ball."
It was an extremely rough season for defensive end Pernell McPhee, on and off the field.
He underwent a pair of arthroscopic surgeries on his right knee during minicamps and before training camp, dipping from six sacks as a rookie last season to just 1 1/2 during the regular season. And three members of his family have died over the past year.
McPhee has engineered a resurgent postseason, though.
He had a sack and forced fumble on Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in the AFC divisional round.
And it was McPhee's pass deflection that inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe intercepted in the fourth quarter Sunday night.
"He's had some personal tragedy, family tragedy," Harbaugh said. "He's had injuries that have just plagued him, and he continues to fight through them. This guy plays with a lot of injuries. He's one of the toughest people that I've ever been around in my life.
"Now, at the end of the year, he had these two huge plays in these two huge games that really made the difference. It's just so rewarding."
John Harbaugh downplayed the historic nature of an unprecedented Super Bowl clash with his younger brother, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
"I guess it's pretty neat," Harbaugh said. "It is really going to be written about? It's not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It's pretty cool, that's as far as it goes."
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun