The bleeding started when Aqib Talib left the game with a thigh injury and the Patriots simply couldn't stop it.
Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens came into Gillette Stadium and thrashed the New England Patriots with an impressive 28-13 victory as they'll now advance to Super Bowl XLVII to face the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.
The fault of this loss does not fall entirely on the defense, which seems to be the common scapegoat—but it does fall on Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriot offense.
New England's high-powered offense has struggled to win in the playoffs—take last year's Super Bowl for an example, and nearly every playoff appearance since their last Super Bowl title in the 2004 season.
Brady barely completed half of his passes, going 29-54 for 320 yards while throwing one touchdown but was picked off twice and finished with a 62.3 quarterback rating.
Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady.
Has Flacco now emerged into the elite class of the NFL? That question still remains to be answered, but his performance in the AFC Championship Game certainly gives him a good case. Flacco finished with three passing touchdowns and no turnovers while posting a 106.3 quarterback rating.
The fault of this loss should not fall entirely on the defense—New England's defense did their job, but the NFL's highest-scoring offense only scored 13 points.
13 points—that is not good enough to win many football games.
New England's struggle on third-downs ultimately was the death of them. The Patriots converted on just six of their 14 third-downs.
That is not going to win you playoff games.
The Patriots have become eerily reminiscent of the Colts in the early aughts: New England dominates each and every regular season, but have yet to win the "big one" in nearly 10 years.
New England failed to score a single point in the second half while the Ravens stormed with 21 unanswered points led by Joe Flacco.
The Patriots will now enter the offseason on the heels of yet another disappointing playoff exit.
All Patriots fans will surely look forward to next year, hoping that it's the year that their cherished team could finally regain the throne of the NFL. It just didn't happen this time.
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