In what will go down as one of the greatest games in New England Patriots' postseason history, the Patriots have defeated the Baltimore Ravens 35-31 in the Divisional Playoffs. They are moving onto the AFC Championship, where they will host either the Denver Broncos or the Indianapolis Colts.
There is just so much to recap here. This was an absolute thriller. The Patriots came out flat, especially on defense. The Patriots were punched in the face to begin the game as the Ravens moved the ball down the field with ease, scoring two touchdowns on their first two drives.
But then, the Patriots answered. Tom Brady had a vintage performance. Down 14, he led the Patriots on back-to-back touchdown drives. He ran for the first score, and found Danny Amendola for a second.
However, a late first half interception on a badly underthrown pass intended for Rob Gronkowski allowed the Ravens to score a momentum changing touchdown on a Joe Flacco to Owen Daniels throw.
The Patriots had a three and out to start the second half, and the Patriots pass defense surrendered a fourth Flacco touchdown.
Once again, the Patriots were facing a fourteen point deficit. And once again, they rallied all the way back. This time, they would take the lead.
Tom Brady overcame the interception and three and out by leading the Patriots straight down the field on a pivotal drive to bring the game within a score. The Patriots ran a beautifully designed play in which Shane Vereen lined up as an ineligible receiver and Brady found Michael Hoomanawanui down the seam for a big game. The drive was capped off with a Brady to Gronkowski five yard touchdown on a slant in one on one coverage.
After the Patriots forced a three and out, the Patriots went back to trickery. Tom Brady threw a backwards screen to Julian Edelman, who then launched the ball down the field to Danny Amendola for a long touchdown. Shades of Kent State for Edelman and David Patten to Troy Brown for Patriots fans.
Amendola's second touchdown tied the game at 28. The Patriots had the chance to take a lead after a Devin McCourty interception gave them great field position, but they failed to capitalize on three consecutive incompletions.
The Ravens would get the ball back and reclaim the lead. The drive spanned 16 plays and took nearly eight minutes off the game clock. However, safety Patrick Chung made perhaps the best play of his career on a third and goal, defending an endzone pass intended for Owen Daniels beautifully.
Once again trailing, this time by only three, Brady put together one of the most significant drives of his fifteen year NFL career. He led the Patriots 74 yards down the field in 10 plays, while completing eight of nine throws. The drive was capped on a beautiful long fade down the left sideline to Brandon LaFell for the go-ahead touchdown to put the Patriots up 35-31.
Joe Flacco and the Ravens were not done yet. With just over five minutes remaining, they had the opportunity to win the game with a touchdown. Despite a big fourth down completion to Owen Daniels earlier in the drive, Flacco would come up short after he threw an interception to Patriots safety Duron Harmon in the end zone. Flacco was looking deep for Torrey Smith, but Harmon played his deep half of the field perfectly.
The Ravens would get the ball back with one more shot at the end zone with three seconds left. However, Devin McCourty would break up the hail mary to finish off the thrilling Patriots victory, 35-31.
Tip of the cap to the Ravens. They are an incredibly tough, incredibly motivated bunch. I would not go as far to say they are the Patriots' kryptonite. After all, the Patriots have won 5 of the 8 games in the Flacco-Harbaugh era. But they sure as heck know how to play the Patriots. They have arguably become the Patriots' biggest rival, and there is a lot of bad blood (but respect) between these squads.
The Patriots are onto the AFC Championship, where they will host the Broncos or the Colts next Sunday. There are some major concerns to takeaway from this game and a lot of analysis to come. Watching the film of this one is going to be a lot of fun. Instant classic. Is your heart still racing?