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Flacco played one of his best games of the season, throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns. He found success on a day where the running game struggled to get established, as Ray Rice finished with 67 yards on 21 carries.
After facing a mountain of criticism from the media in the days leading up to Sunday's game, Flacco's memorable performance put the Ravens on the doorstep of a Super Bowl bid.
"I'm proud of our quarterback, I'm proud of the way he played and the way he stepped up in this kind of a setting," Harbaugh said. "The plays that he made down the stretch, I think that says a lot about him and a lot about his future."
But the memory from this game will be the failed comeback attempts.
The Ravens had three chances to lead fourth-quarter comebacks, but they fell short each time, and the Patriots ended the game in a victory formation in front of their home crowd.
The loss brings an end to a season that had several high points, with the Ravens winning the AFC North and a home playoff game for the first time under Harbaugh, but the crushing AFC championship defeat will stay with this team for a long time.
"It's definitely tough to be as close as we were, as close as we feel like we were to going to [Indianapolis], and not having it go our way," Flacco said. "We played a hell of a game, they played a hell of a game."
Defensively, the Ravens limited the potent Patriots attack. Tom Brady threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, and the Ravens held a team that averaged 37 points over their last nine games to just two touchdowns.
"When there were plays to make, defensively we made those plays," said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced after the game that he is planning to return next season. "As a team, we just got to keep moving. We just got to keep building, keep building, keep building and remember this taste."
The Ravens offense could not have started the game much worse. After their first three possessions, the Ravens had no first downs and -6 total yards.
Then the defense provided a spark.
Lardarius Webb picked off Tom Brady at the Ravens 30-yard line, and the play brought some life to the Ravens offense. From there, they got rolling and Baltimore scored on three of its next four possessions, and Flacco hit seven passes in a row for 123 yards and a touchdown.
It was Webb's third interception in two postseason games, but the cornerback wasn't celebrating.
"It wasn't good enough," he said after the game.
The Patriots got on the board first with a 29-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, giving them a 3-0 lead to cap off a 13-play, 50-yard drive. Baltimore almost stopped the drive, but a Bernard Pollard interception was negated because of an illegal contact penalty on Webb, giving the Patriots more opportunities and they capitalized with the field goal.
Baltimore then tied the game at 3-3 with a 20-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. Webb's interception set up the drive, and Flacco hit wide receiver Torrey Smith on a 42-yard pass on the first play of the drive. The Ravens moved the ball down to the Patriots' 3-yard line, but settled for a 20-yard field goal, opting not to go for it on fourth-and-inches.
After throwing the interception, Brady and the Patriots responded by marching 75 yards down the field and scoring on a 13-yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown to take a 10-3 lead.
Flacco and the Ravens then answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive of their own. Flacco threw passes of 20 and 37 yards to get the Ravens down into Patriots territory, and then he found tight end Dennis Pitta with a six-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 10-10.
New England added a 35-yard field goal with three minutes and three seconds left in the second quarter, giving them a 13-10 lead they would take into halftime.
The Patriots got the ball to open the second half and they drove 74 yards down the field in 14 plays before settling for a 24-yard field goal, making the score 16-10.
Baltimore then came right back, as Flacco drove the Ravens down the field and Smith scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass. Smith caught the pass about five yards off the line of scrimmage, then broke the first tackle and outran everybody to the end zone, making the score 17-16 for the Ravens' first lead of the game.
The Ravens converted three third downs on the 11-play drive, including the touchdown play to Smith.
The Ravens then got the ball right back, as Danny Woodhead fumbled the ensuing kickoff and special teams ace Emanuel Cook recovered it at the Patriots 28-yard line. Baltimore wasn't able to get back into the end zone, but put points on the board with a 39-yard field goal by Cundiff to extend their lead to 20-16.
When the Patriots got the ball back, they were once again able to find success. They drove 63 yards in 11 plays, and Brady scored a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge on fourth down. The Patriots had three chances to score from the 1, and the touchdown with 11:29 left made the score 23-20.
The Patriots would hold that lead for the victory, ending the Ravens' postseason run and hopes of bringing another championship to Baltimore.
"I'm proud of this team," Harbaugh said at the end of his postgame press conference. "I love our guys, I love the way they fight."