What can one really say after the AFC Championship game we saw today? It was a thriller that came down to a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff of the Baltimore Ravens, but the New England Patriots were able to advance to Super Bowl XLVI by playing together as a team. Tom Brady didn’t have one of his best games, even saying afterwards that he “sucked,” but the team was able to overcome Brady’s struggles by playing a bend-but-don’t-break defense that certainly bent but never fully broke. The final score, 23-20, indicates the type of game that played out on the field. It was close, points weren’t easy to come by, and both teams put in a Herculean effort to try and make it to the Super Bowl.
However, it was the Patriots that put in just a little more.
The beginning of the game saw the Patriots’ defense come out on fire, forcing three three-and-outs and applying heat to Joe Flacco. The Patriots offense were able to chip away, scoring first with a field goal. Brady seemed a little off, lofting passes and missing Rob Gronkowski going uncovered up the seam for a would-be touchdown. The Ravens would roar back, scoring 20 points between the second and third quarters to the Patriots’ 3. In the fourth quarter, the Patriots’ defense was able to hold the Ravens to no points (thanks in part to Cundiff’s miss) and the Patriot offense was able to score the go-ahead touchdown on a Brady QB sneak. The Patriots’ allowed the Ravens to get within field goal range at the end, thanks in part to an Anquan Boldin 29-yard catch and run. However, after getting to within field goal range and taking three shots at the end zone, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff pulled the kick wide left with 11 seconds left in the game, sending the Pats to Super Bowl XLVI.
Tom Brady went 22 of 36 for 239 yards, no passing touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He was protected pretty well, getting sacked only once. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a great day on the ground, running 15 times for 68 yards, a 4.5 yards per carry average, and a touchdown. One had to feel like he should have been fed the ball a little more, especially towards the end of the game. Aaron Hernandez led the receivers with 7 catches for 66 yards. Rob Gronkowski was injured in the third quarter, and apparent ankle injury, but did return to the game. His health will be an area to monitor leading up to the Super Bowl.
Vince Wilfork was a monster on the field, making plays in the Ravens backfield. He finished the game with 6 tackles and a sack, along with numerous pressures on Joe Flacco. Brandon Spikes led the team in tackles with 9 and had a big interception. Unfortunately, Brady gave it back to Baltimore on the ensuing offensive possession when a deep pass intended for Matthew Slater that was tipped and picked off by Jimmy Smith. Sterling Moore, after missing a tackle on Torrey Smith that led to a touchdown, had a couple of big breakups at the end that forced the Cundiff field goal.
Who will the Patriots be playing in Super Bowl XLVI? We’ll find out in a couple of hours.