AFC Championship Preview: Ravens Patriots
New England will once again host Baltimore this Sunday in the first AFC Championship game rematch in consecutive years since Denver and Cleveland met in back-to-back conference title games following the 1986 and 1987 seasons.
The Ravens return to Gillette Stadium for the first time since their heartbreaking defeat in last year’s AFC Championship Game. New England narrowly escaped with a 23-20 victory, after a potential go-ahead touchdown catch was knocked from the grasp of wide receiver LEE EVANS and BILLY CUNDIFF missed a field goal attempt in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
“We fought hard to get back to this point,” says Flacco. “We are definitely proud of being here. We are going to give it our all and we know what it felt like last year. We walked off that field without that win. We know what we’ve put in to get back to this point. It is going to be a great game.”
Last week, Baltimore defeated Denver 38-35 and improved its road playoff record to 8-5 (.615), the highest road winning percentage in postseason history (minimum 10 games). Flacco’s unforgettable 70-yard TD pass to Jones was the longest game-tying or game-winning scrimmage touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter of an NFL playoff game.
“I had my eye on the ball, I wasn’t even looking at the safety,” says Jones, whose 70-yard touchdown was his first catch of the game. “As soon as he missed and it hit my hand, I was like, ‘Touchdown.’”
The Patriots advanced to their 10th AFC Championship with a 41-28 win over Houston in the Divisional round. New England is 7-2 in AFC Championship Games, including 4-0 at home. With the victory, TOM BRADY recorded his 17th playoff victory as a starting quarterback, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA (16) for the most in NFL history.
“Tom is a great competitor,” says New England head coach BILL BELICHICK. “He’s our leader and we all follow him. There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady.”
Meanwhile, Belichick earned his 18th postseason win as a head coach, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE GIBBS (17) for the third-most in NFL history. He trails Pro Football Hall of Famers DON SHULA (19) and TOM LANDRY (20) for the most wins by a head coach in NFL playoff history.
Brady passed for 344 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ Divisional win, including two TD passes to running back SHANE VEREEN, who had only eight career receptions prior to Sunday’s game. Vereen also had a one-yard touchdown run against Houston, becoming the third player in NFL history with two TD catches and a touchdown run in a playoff game, joining ROGER CRAIG and RICKEY WATTERS.
“I think the two best teams are in the finals,” says Brady. “Baltimore certainly deserves to be here and so do we, so it’s very fitting. We played them early in the year. They got us. We’re going to have to play our best game this week.”
Source: NFL Media