Shaking off a sluggish start, the New England Patriots came back to beat the Baltimore Ravens in a great NFL playoff game and advance to the AFC Championship.
The Patriots fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and trailed 28-14 in the third quarter, but three second-half touchdown passes gave New England a 35-31 win, a dramatic victory in front of a frigid but faithful New England fan base.
Tom Brady shook off some early struggles and finished the game 33-for-50 for 367 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Joe Flacco, who has received so much praise for the way he plays in the postseason, threw four touchdown passes but threw the second of his two interceptions of the game late in the fourth quarter, sealing Baltimore’s fate.
The game ended on a Hail Mary attempt by the Ravens after Bill Belichick mismanaged the clock and had Tom Brady kneel on the ball even though the Patriots couldn’t run out the clock, but the Hail Mary fell incomplete.
For the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski had a big game, with 108 receiving yards, and Danny Amendola scored two touchdowns, including one on a well-designed trick play that had receiver Julian Edelman throwing the pass. The win gave Bill Belichick his 20th postseason victory, tying Tom Landry for the most in NFL history.
It was a back-and-forth battle and a great game, but a game in which the Patriots showed themselves to be the superior team. The AFC Championship Game will be in New England in eight days. The Patriots will be a tough team to beat. Even if they fall behind early.