At First Glance: AFC Championship vs. Pats


John Eisenberg:  The Ravens' biggest win in a dozen years sends them to the Super Bowl for the second time. They earned it. They blew out Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win the AFC title, outscoring them and beating them up with a devastating second-half performance. Their offense languished through the first 35 minutes, but then suddenly there was a transformation. The line started giving Joe Flacco more time, his receivers were open, and Flacco got hot, really hot, producing three touchdowns in 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the Patriots were unable to keep pace because of a rash of mistakes – a penalty killed one drive, and turnovers killed two others. Bernard Pollard forced one with a blow that knocked out the Pats' Stevan Ridley, a play that summed up the game for the defense, which allowed just one touchdown. Somewhere, Billy Cundiff and Lee Evans were smiling as their former teammates exacted a measure of revenge. Next up: an historic matchup between the Harbaugh brothers, with Ray Lewis winding up his career at the Super Bowl. Is that enough good stuff for you?

*Ryan Mink: *This isn't the best team the Ravens have had over the five years, in my opinion. But this team is the most special by far. They've got resolve, they've got toughness, they've got heart. Maybe that stuff sounds hokey, but it's real for this team. The Ravens just went through Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks. Think about that. They came into Gillette Stadium and exorcised their demons. That took guts too. This team was a heavy underdog both of the past two weeks. Who cares? This team believes in itself, and that's all that matters. Joe Flacco took another step (of many this playoffs) today, establishing himself among the elites. The Ravens essentially handed him the keys in the second half and said, 'Here you go, lead us." That's exactly what Flacco did. Flacco led the Ravens to the Super Bowl. Nobody can ever deny that. Of course he didn't do it alone. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was a beast yet again. Tight end Dennis Pitta showed his grittiness. The defense played inspired all day long behind general Ray Lewis, who is headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2000. What a story. What a team. See you in New Orleans, Ravens fans.

Garrett Downing:Call it redemption.  Call it destiny. Whatever title you want to put on the Ravens and this season, John Harbaugh's team showed tremendous resilience in Sunday's AFC championship victory over the Patriots. With a huge second-half effort from quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens rallied to take down the Patriots and advance to the second Super Bowl in team history. Flacco deserves the game ball for his effort, where he put the team on his back and led the Ravens to victory. Hopefully this will silence all of the questions about whether Flacco is an "elite" quarterback. And you have to give tremendous credit to the defense. The group played inspired for their leader Ray Lewis, and the group limited a dynamic Patriots offense to just 13 points. The Ravens played a complete game in taking down the Patriots, and now Harbaugh and Flacco will get their first shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Enjoy this win Ravens fans. Then get ready for the Harbaugh Bowl.

Sarah Ellison: That was a big boy game from quarterback Joe Flacco, who took over in the second half after Jim Caldwell made some adjustments from a run-first attack in the first half to a hurry-up shotgun approach in the second. A spot-on, AFC title-winning touchdown pass from Flacco was dropped last year in New England, but the five-year veteran didn't allow the game to get to that point this time by leading three consecutive scoring drives  in the last two quarters. Flacco outplayed All-Pro Tom Brady – again – but won this time. Ravens got their revenge. The defense played lights out, keeping Brady to just 13 points. You couldn't have asked for more. Major props to Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams for forcing three turnovers to seal the win. The miraculous final ride continues for Ray Lewis, as the Ravens are set to battle Jim Harbaugh, John's brother, in what will be the an exciting Super Bowl.

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