John Harbaugh and his Ravens set up a family reunion at the Super Bowl, shutting down the Patriots 28-13 Sunday in the AFC championship game.
The Baltimore Ravens reached their first Super Bowl in 12 years, thanks to 3 touchdown passes from Joe Flacco and a defense led by Ray Lewis that made Tom Brady look downright ordinary.
Next up for Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens is younger brother Jim and the Niners, who beat Atlanta 28-24 earlier during the day for the NFC title.
”I don’t know if we had a dream this big,” John Harbaugh announced. ”We had a few dreams, we had a few fights, and we had a few arguments – just like all brothers.”
They will meet in 2 weeks in New Orleans – what a place for a party to mark the first brother-vs.-brother coaching matchup in Super Bowl history.
It will also be quite a last game for Lewis, the emotional linebacker who will retire after the matchup with the 49ers, who opened as a 5-point favorite.
Driven by Lewis’ pending departure from the NFL, Baltimore’s defense stepped up in the playoffs. Brady was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime, but this was no contest in the 2nd half.
It also was a first for the New England Patriots, who hadn’t lost an AFC championship at home.
After they’d avenged last year’s AFC title game loss at Gillette Stadium, many of the Baltimore gathered on the field jumping, chest-bumping and whooping before several thousand fans wearing Ravens jerseys – generally Lewis’ No. 52 – who stayed in the stands.
As in the previous 2 playoff wins against Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, the Ravens (13-6) were brilliant offensively in spots. This might be 17-year-veteran Lewis’ team, but it is also Flacco’s, and the quarterback’s 6 road wins are the most in playoff history.
”It was pretty awesome,” said Flacco, who has 8 touchdown passes and no interceptions in the playoffs. ”We were here last year and thought we had it, but came up a small short. Guys came out in the 2nd half and made plays. … We put pressure onto them like that, and it worked pretty well.” Baseball odds
Flacco, whose contract ends after the Super Bowl, is the only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first 5 seasons. He was dynamic with his arm and precise with his decision making. Looking much more the championship passer than Brady did his throws of 11 and 3 yards to Anquan Boldin and 5 to Dennis Pitta all were perfect.
The touchdown by Pitta capped the Ravens’ best drive of the game, covering 87 yards in 10 plays and made it 14-13. It started with a 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty, and it was an indicator of things to come. New England (13-5) lost a home AFC title matchup for the 1st time in 5 games. The loss denied Brady and Coach Bill Belichick a shot at their 6th Super Bowl. They’ve gone 3-2, losing their last 2 times in the big game.
Instead, it is the AFC North champion Ravens heading to the Big easy, seeking their 2nd NFL championship. San Francisco has won 5.