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Lewis, Ravens dance past Pats into Super Bowl

The SportsXchange

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When it ended, Ray Rice sprinted over to the purple-clad Ravens fans and did a "Lambeau Leap" into the front row. Other players joined the fun.

Even coach John Harbaugh greeted the fans. There seemed to be purple everywhere, and this was a road game.

Harbaugh's team, with underappreciated quarterback Joe Flacco leading the way, stunned the heavily favored New England Patriots 28-13 to advance to the Super Bowl. Harbaugh will face his brother, Jim, and the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

The win, produced when the Ravens outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the second half, continues the Ray Lewis retirement tour. Baltimore won its third consecutive playoff game, the last two in Denver and New England, against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

The Ravens avenged last year's heartbreaking loss on the same field in the AFC title game. They handed the Patriots their first loss in five home AFC Championship Games, keeping New England from going to its sixth Super Bowl in the last 12 years.

"We came, we saw, we conquered," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs screamed in the hallway outside the locker room. "Shut them out in the second half. Tell them to have fun at the Pro Bowl. Arrogant (expletive)."

Seven Patriots are going to the Pro Bowl. All of the Ravens are going to the Super Bowl.

Flacco, whose 70-yard bomb tied the game in Denver last week and who clearly came into Sunday's game as the "other" quarterback, threw three second-half touchdown passes to rally the Ravens from a 13-7 halftime deficit.

With the Patriots suffering a series of defensive injuries, the biggest to cornerback Aqib Talib, Flacco picked the undermanned New England secondary apart. He was just 6-for-12 for 81 yards in the first half, but he went 15-for-22 with the three TDs after the break. Flacco finished 21-for-36 for 240 yards as he advanced to his first Super Bowl. He lost both of his previous AFC title games.

"It was pretty awesome," he said during the championship trophy presentation. "We were here last year and we thought we had won but came up a little short. The guys came out in the second half (Sunday) and made plays. We were able to go up and down the field a handful of consecutive times and score points, and that's what we needed to do against this football team.

"We needed to put pressure on them like that, and it worked pretty well."

Two of the touchdown passes were to Anquan Boldin, the other to tight end Dennis Pitta. Rice ran for a first-half score as the Ravens beat the Patriots for the second time this year.

"Last year, when we walked out of here, I told them, I said we'll be back," said Lewis, the legendary linebacker who is retiring after the season. "Don't hold your heads down because we've got something to finish."

Lewis, who did his trademark "squirrel dance" before the game, was in on 14 tackles. He got to celebrate on the field when the game ended, with the favored Patriots quietly walking away.

A postgame stat from the Elias Sports Bureau noted this was the first time Brady lost a home game his team led at halftime. He was 67-0 coming in, regular season and postseason. It was the second such defeat for Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"We didn't earn it. They earned it," Brady said. "Only two teams advanced, and those two teams deserved it."

Brady threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker in the second quarter, and New England's Stephen Gostkowski kicked two field goals. However, poor clock management at the end of the first half cost the Patriots, playing with injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, a chance at seven points. They settled for three.

No one knew they wouldn't score again this season.

"They kept the pressure on. and we didn't stand up to the challenge," said Brady, who finished 29-for-54 for 320 yards and two interceptions on a windy night. He overtook Brett Favre as the all-time leader in postseason passing yardage.

The Patriots came into the game leading the league with a plus-25 turnover ratio but failed to get a takeaway. New England also lost the ball three times, all in the second half.

Boldin finished with five receptions for 60 yards and the two scores.

Aaron Hernandez had nine catches for 83 yards and Welker eight for 117 yards and a touchdown for New England.

"I'd say we came up a little bit short in every area," Belichick said. "It wasn't as good as the Ravens tonight. That's why they're moving on and we aren't."

NOTES: Olympic swimming hero Michael Phelps, a huge Ravens fan, shook hands with Patriots owner Robert Kraft as Phelps waited to enter the Baltimore locker room. ... New England running back Stevan Ridley suffered a head injury in the second half on a hit by Bernard Pollard that caused him to fumble. ... Brady recorded his sixth 300-yard playoff game, tied for second on the all-time list (Peyton Manning has eight), but he fell to 3-5 in his last eight postseason games. ... Flacco, who holds the record for most postseason wins with no Super Bowl appearance (seven), won his record sixth road postseason start. ... New England rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was questionable with an ankle injury but played, while his brother, defensive end Arthur, played for the Ravens and recovered the Ridley fumble. ... The temperature was over 50 degrees during the daytime hours but had dropped to 41 by game time, 32 with the wind chill thanks to gusty winds. ... The Patriots' all-time home playoff record fell to 14-3. ... Flacco has 12 touchdowns and four interceptions while going 3-3 against New England. Brady has eight TD passes and 10 interceptions while going 5-3 against Baltimore. ... The Patriots will play at Baltimore during the 2013 regular season. ... Former Patriots Kevin Faulk and Matt Light were the honorary captains Sunday night. ... Baltimore is the only team to make the playoffs each of the past five years. The Ravens have played in six of the past seven postseasons. ... New England won three Super Bowls in a four-year span but hasn't won one since the 2004-05 season. ... The game ended the broadcasting career of Patriots play-by-play man Gil Santos, who is retiring after 36 years with the club. ... ... Former Ravens player O.J. Brignance, now a senior adviser to the team as he battles Lou Gehrig's disease, presented the Lamar Hunt trophy to owner Steve Bisciotti through words on his computer that read: "Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens. Your resiliency has outlasted your adversity. You are the AFC champions. You are mighty men. With God, all things are possible."
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