Bernard Pollard came charging in from the Ravens secondary looking to make a hit.
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley had picked up about eight yards on a carry and was looking to get into the second level to break a long run. That's when Pollard delivered a crushing hit to Ridley, which knocked the running back unconscious and forced a critical fourth quarter fumble.
"That was the turning point of the game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It was just a tremendous hit. It was football at its finest.
Ridley was knocked out before he even hit the turf and his fumble gave the Ravens the football in Patriots territory, setting up a touchdown drive and a 28-13 Ravens lead they would hold for the victory.
The play turned the tide of the game. It also sent a message.
The hit was a sign of the physical style of football the Ravens wanted to play, and that smash mouth kind of football carried the Ravens to the AFC championship.
"I don't know if they know it or not, but the Ravens are a physical team, that's just the way we play, like it or not, offensively and defensively," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "So if you think you're going to come in here and throw us around, you've got another thing coming."
The Ravens showed that physical style on both sides of the ball, especially in the second half where they outscored the Patriots 21-0.
New England's offense, which dominated the NFL throughout the regular season, was stifled. The Patriots struggled to string together long drives, and when they got close to the end zone the Ravens defense buckled down to force a field goal attempt.
The Ravens defense was opportunistic and flew around to the football, forcing three second-half turnovers that sealed the game in Baltimore's favor. By the time it was over the Ravens had worn down the Patriots on both sides of the football.
"Shut out in the second half! That's the Ravens defense," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs shouted in the locker room.
"When you're playing a heavyweight champion like they are, you have to be prepared to go the distance," he said. "And you can't go for the knockout. You got to just try to win the round and win on points. They won the first half of the fight, and then we came out strategically and we won the second half of the fight and we won on points. We had a few knockdowns in there – Bernard Pollard – but we just kept our composure until the clock read zero."
The hard-nosed style of football that the Ravens showed Sunday has defined the organization over the years. In a time where the NFL is led by high-flying offenses, the Ravens gritty style has been the backbone of the organization and was put on full display Sunday in Foxborough.
"These two teams are very opposite of each other," Suggs said. "They're a team known for their offense and we're a team known for our defense. They're a lot better looking than us, especially with that guy No. 12, good looking guy. But we're the opposite. But it's definitely that the two teams' style of football clash. It's definitely more than just football."
That aggressive mentality on both sides of the ball made the difference against the Patriots, and now has the Ravens back in the Super Bowl for the first time since their defense carried them to a championship back in 2000.