Wes “Tiny Tim” Welker hobbled out to midfield with the captains for the coin toss.
Matt Slater stopped Jalen Parmele in his tracks at the Ravens’ 17 yard line on the opening kickoff.
Those two moments, both occurring prior to about 1:05 PM Eastern Time, would be the last semblance of good feelings for every chowdah-swilling Masshole in attendance at Gillette Stadium on this day.
On the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage, Ray Rice took the handoff on the “slow to, fast through” play, and raced 83 yards to the end zone. The longest play of Mighty Mouse’s young career, and the second longest rush in NFL postseason history, served to set the tone for what was to be a glorious day for the Ravens and B’More. Three plays into the ensuing New England possession, it was Week 4 all over again for Terrell Suggs and Tom Brady, as Sizzle AGAIN stripped the three-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, this time falling on the ball himself at the Pats’ 17 yard line.
Five plays later, it was Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain getting into the end zone, and the route was on. Less than five minutes into the game, with the Foxborough crowd still getting situated in their seats, the purple and black led 14-0.
For the swarming Ravens’ defense though, who would have their best game of the season, the turnover party was just getting started. After each squad went 3-and-out (New England’s highlighted by a ferocious Ray Lewis sack, the first of his career in the postseason), the Pats would reach only their own 25 yard line before turning it over once again, this time on a ridiculous “who in the world was he throwing that to?” ball by Tom Brady that was snatched up by Chris Carr.
The Ravens’ methodical ground game would come through once again, turning this Patriots mistake into seven points as well.
Twelve minutes into the game, with Joe Flacco having completed just one pass for 13 yards to that point, the Ravens already found themselves ahead 21-0. Ravens fans buckled down for what looked to likely be a long, LONG, 48 remaining minutes, as we were sure that Brady & Co. would not go quietly, and would muster a valiant comeback.
Such a situation did not even come close to materializing.
When all was said and done, the Ravens had intercepted Tom “Terrific,” who was Tom “Terrible” on this day, three times, and stripped him once. As mentioned, the Ravens’ defense came to play, having easily their most impressive performance of 2009. Brady was sacked three times, New England’s running plays fooled nobody, and the Pats’ go-to wide receiver screen game was completely ineffective thanks to outstanding tacking from the B’More secondary, especially Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr. Foxworth had his best day as a Raven, leading the team with 8 tackles, most of which were near the line of scrimmage, and holding Randy Moss to just five catches for 48 yards. Carr made several stops in the backfield, and seemingly continues to improve each week since being inserted as a starting cornerback. His only mistakes of the day really weren’t his fault – Tom Zbikowski got in the way of the punt that he muffed, and he simply lost his footing on Pats’ WR Julian Edelman’s second touchdown catch of the day.
Ed Reed and Dawan Landry both had interceptions, and each broke up another pass. It was so bad even FRANK FREAKING WALKER was making plays. No, really. Walker had a direct hand in Landry’s pick, blowing up Ben Watson just as the ball arrived causing it to pop up in the air, and made several strong tackles (of course, he dropped what should have been another interception, just to remind us that he’s still Frank Walker – but overall a very good day by #41.)
All told, New England managed just 196 total yards, went 3/12 on 3rd downs, and scored their fewest points since Week 2 against the Jets.
The Patriots’ defense, which we had been told all week was well equipped to hold down the Ravens’ running attack with defensive tackles Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork returning to the lineup, got pushed around handily by the purple and black offensive heavies. Ravens running backs totaled 46 carries, 229 yards (a 4.98 average), and four touchdowns. Even Joe Flacco got into the act on the ground, scrambling for a key first down in the fourth quarter that set up the Ravens’ final points of the day.
Flacco’s day passing was non-existent, but it didn’t need to be otherwise. His 4/10, 34 yard, 1 Int performance tied Bob Griese of the 1973 Miami Dolphins for fewest passing yards in a Playoff win in the Super Bowl era. The haters will be quick to jump on Joe for these numbers, but pay them no mind. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers may have thrown for 422 yards and 4 touchdowns in the late game Sunday, but all those pretty stats got him nothing more than a one-way ticket to the offseason. If Flacco does his best Trent Dilfer impersonation all the way to a Lombardi Trophy, not a soul in Charm City will complain, I promise you that.
At the end of the day, the Patriots’ dynasty of the 2000s was left in shambles. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who had never lost a Playoff game at home together, were embarrassed by John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco (ok, moreso Ray Rice, but you get the idea). Much to the chagrin of all the talking heads (none of whom were giving the Ravens a snowball’s chance in hell, all but booking the New York Jets’ tickets to Indianapolis) there will be no Brady-Manning rematch in the AFC Championship and no dimpled chin darling to fawn over in future rounds of the 2009 postseason. Nope, it’s unibrow time, baby!
- It was the first time an NFL Playoff game had been lost by the Patriots in New England since 1978 (The CBS broadcast decided to break this stat down into days, for some asinine reason – 11,000 or something like that).
- There is now nary an active quarterback in the NFL with more road Playoff victories than Baltimore’s own number Five. The Ravens also tied the 1970s Dallas Cowboys for most road Playoff wins in one decade (6).
- The Ravens’ committed only three penalties for a paltry 15 yards, both lows for this flag-filled season (big ups to referee Gene Steratore and his crew, by the way, for actually letting the players decide the game! Is there any way we can reserve him for all Ravens games from now on?)
Next up for our purple heroes is a rematch of the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff with the Indianapolis Colts. Hopefully the road team will emerge victorious this time around as well.