BOSTON (CBS) – Last year, Billy Cundiff was a hero in New England after missing a routine chip shot through the uprights.
This year, the Ravens returned to Gillette and avenged that loss. Baltimore arrived here the hard way. There was no post season bye for them and the week before they played into a second overtime in beating the top-seeded Denver Broncos in frigid conditions. Five of the last seven Super Bowl champions have traveled a similar route.
The Patriots definitely missed some opportunities, and for the first time in a long time, Tom Brady looked like an average quarterback. There was the clock mismanagement at the end of the first half. Then late in the game, Brady had the chance to run for a first down but instead launched the ball through the end zone. And, like Peyton Manning all those years, TB 12’s season ended with a game-losing interception.
The Patriots are an excellent football team, and Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. By now, you’ve all seen or heard the stat that Brady was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime. 67-0. It was also the first AFC championship the Patriots have lost at home.
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Poor play, four detrimental injuries and dropped balls came at the wrong time, in the wrong game for the Patriots. This was a team effort, not one individual’s fault.
So now, the Ravens will travel to their first Super Bowl in 12 years. Say what you will, but Joe Flacco had a lot to do with getting them there. He’s thrown eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions in these playoffs, and is the only quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. He’s got an offense that’s clicking under Jim Caldwell and a defense led by the soon-to-be-retired Ray Lewis. Flacco’s also got that big game experience that San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Pats fan, but I’m also a lifelong Steelers fan having grown up in the ’Burgh, so to give the Ravens this much credit is painful for me. Really painful. Steelers fans don’t like the Ravens, but you have to give credit where credit is due. The Ravens were able to keep drives going and finish in the red zone. The Patriots didn’t do a good enough job on second and third down, and they didn’t string plays together when they needed to — which led to missed opportunities in the red zone. I think Bill Belichick summed it up best when he said, “certainly, the outcome (on Sunday) is not where we wanted to end up.” He also recognized, “the Ravens had opportunities that they did capitalize on and that’s why they’re still playing… They did a great job.”
I agree with Coach Bill, they did do a great job; they earned their spot in the NFL’s biggest game. So in two weeks, we’ll see the first brother vs. brother coaching match-up in Super Bowl history. You’ve all heard it, the BroBowl, HarBowl, Bout in the Bayou, whatever you want to call it; this game will take sibling rivalries to a new level. The 49ers are a perfect 5-0 in Super Bowls they’ve been in—only Pittsburgh has more total wins at 6-2 (sorry, had to throw that in there). Since the franchise moved to Baltimore, the Ravens have only been to the Super Bowl once, in January of 2001, where they routed the New York Giants 34-7.
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The Harbaughs are only separated in age by 15 months, but on February 3rd, they’ll only be separated by the width of the field. These are two fierce competitors, not afraid of making bold moves, so I look forward to watching an intense game. I know, it still stings Bill and Co. won’t be representing New England in the Big Easy, but there’s always next year. In Bill we trust, right? (Are Ravens fans currently adopting that same mantra, in ‘Cool Joe’ we trust?).
To quote Tom Brady, “It’s hard to get to a Super Bowl.” So this is Flacco’s chance to prove the AFC Championship wasn’t a fluke or the media will never let him live it down. Kaepernick has nothing to lose and everything to gain. As for the Harbaugh match up, we’ll all be sick of the human interest stories which will be the focal point of these next two weeks, until they meet for the post game hand shake.
Tracy Clements is a weekend producer on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow her on twitter at @clementine_12.