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AFC Championship Review: The Most Exciting AFC Championship in Recent Memory!

Updated on January 24, 2012
Mark Anderson sacks quarterback Joe Flacco and helps the Patriots defense who actually wins the AFC Championship for the Patriots.
Mark Anderson sacks quarterback Joe Flacco and helps the Patriots defense who actually wins the AFC Championship for the Patriots. | Source

The AFC champs are set...lets take a look back at one of the most exciting AFC Championship games in recent memory!

The New England Patriots secured their 5th AFC title since 2002.
The New England Patriots secured their 5th AFC title since 2002. | Source

Introduction

The AFC Champion New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens in a thriller in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon. The game was a back and forth contest that featured a defensive struggle, which eventually saw the Patriots win in thrilling fashion with under a minute remaining. Let's take a look back at the game and review how this amazing game unfolded.

Pregame

Teddy Bruschi, Drew Bledsoe, Troy Brown, and Ty Law were named honorary captains on the15th anniversary of the 1996 AFC Champion before the game Sunday, when the Patriots took home another AFC title.
Teddy Bruschi, Drew Bledsoe, Troy Brown, and Ty Law were named honorary captains on the15th anniversary of the 1996 AFC Champion before the game Sunday, when the Patriots took home another AFC title.

Before the game began, the Patriots had announced that there would be four honorary Captains to honor the 15th anniversary of the 1996 AFC Championship team. To pay tribute, the Patriots announced that former pro bowl and Patriots Place Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Bledsoe, linebacker and future Hall of Famer Teddy Bruschi, cornerback and future Hall of Famer Ty Law, and hybrid wide receiver stand out Troy Brown would be on the field. This got the crowd pumped up before the game even began.

Steven Tyler sports a Patriots scarf as he sings the National Anthem in front of a packed house at Gillette Stadium before Sunday's kick off.
Steven Tyler sports a Patriots scarf as he sings the National Anthem in front of a packed house at Gillette Stadium before Sunday's kick off.

Then, Aerosmith front man, Steven Tyler, performed the Star Spangled Banner. He wore a Pat the Patriots t-shirt during the pregame rehearsals. During the actual performance, he was sporting a Patriots scarf. The crowd roared.

The Game

The game began rather ingloriously with both teams punting. From that moment, one could tell this was going to be a defensive struggle. The Ravens then punted a second time, which gave the ball back to the Patriots.

When the Patriots got the ball back on the 48 yard line they drove down the field for a total of 50 yards. Then, the Patriots were stopped by the Baltimore defense. Stephen Gostkowski made a 29 yard field goal.

Patriots 3 Ravens 0

After the Ravens got the ball back, they eventually punted again after a 3 and out. Steve Koch punted 47 yards back to the Patriots.

Once the Patriots offense took the field, they again began driving down the field. However, only three plays later, Brady threw a pass that was intended for Julian Edelman. Yet, instead of Edelman catching the ball, defensive stand out for the Ravens, Ladarius Webb undercut the pass and intercepted it while falling to the ground.

On the ensuing drive the Ravens drove down the field to New England's 7 yard line as the first quarter ended. When the second quarter began, the Ravens were on 3rd down with 5 yards to go. The Patriots allowed a 4 yard game that brought up 4th down.

A few second later the field goal kicker for Baltimore, Billy Cundiff, kicked a 20 yard field goal. This tied the game. The Ravens had driven 67 yards for the score.

Patriots 3 Ravens 3

When the Patriots got the ball back, they again began driving down the field. But, instead of doing it on the arm of Brady, they called mostly running plays on the back of The Law Firm, Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis. They drove 75 yards when Green-Ellis punched it in on a 7 yard carry.

Patriots 10 Ravens 3

After the Ravens got the ball back, they began marching right down the field. The opening play of the drive saw Joe Flacco throw a bomb downfield to Lee Evans for a 20 yard gain. two plays later, Flacco hit Boldin for another big gain of 18 yards. Then, it was the Ray Rice show all the way to the New England 6 yard line. On the next play, Flacco hit tight end Dennis Pitta for a 6 yard touchdown. This drive went for 8 plays and 80 yards.

Ravens 10 Patriots 10

The Patriots got the ball back and drove the ball down the field for a 10 play 63 yard drive. However, the Ravens defense stalled the Patriots offense and the Patriots were forced to kick a 35 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

Patriots 13 Ravens 10

The Ravens got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Flacco and the Ravens took the ball for another 8 plays before they were forced to punt.

The Patriots got the ball back with just over a minute remaining with two timeouts. However, they were pinned on their 10 yard line. Therefore, they decided to run out the clock and take the ball to begin the second half.

HALFTIME Patriots 13 Ravens 10

Brady tosses the ball down field to engineer a drive to bring the Patriots up at half time.
Brady tosses the ball down field to engineer a drive to bring the Patriots up at half time. | Source

The Patriots had deferred the kick off after winning the toss in the first half. Therefore, they received the ball to open the third quarter.

When they got the ball, took the ball on a long 14 play drive that lasted 5 minutes and 54 seconds. However, they failed to score a touchdown and were forced to kick a field goal. Stephen Gostkowski made a 24 yard field goal to bring the Patriots up by 6 points.

Patriots 16 Ravens 10

The Ravens got the ball back on their 22 yard line. Flacco drove the Ravens down the field on 10 plays to the 29 yard line. Then on the next play, Flacco hit Torrey Smith on a short pass to the right. Smith shook off the defender and rumbled 23 more yards before he leaped into the end zone for the score. The Ravens had their first lead of the game.

Ravens 17 Patriots 16

Cundiff kicked the ball off to the Patriots. It landed in the arms of Danny Woodhead 4 yards deep in the end zone. Woodhead took it out to run and looked like he was making a great run all the way to the New England 31 before he got stripped from the side and fumbled giving the ball right back to the Ravens.

The Ravens then held the ball for another 4 plays. Then on the next play, Joe Flacco was sacked for a 12 yards loss. The Patriots defense had stopped them. Baltimore was forced to kick another field goal. This time, a 39 yarder.

Ravens 20 Patriots 16

When the Patriots got the ball back there was only 43 seconds left in the third quarter. They ran three plays before the third period ended.

When the fourth quarter began, the Patriots were on Baltimore's 26 yard line. After a couple of runs and few passes the Patriots found themselves on the Baltimore 1 yard line. After what seemed like a Tom Brady touchdown off of a quarterback sneak, the Patriots had the call reversed and had to run a few more plays before Tom Brady punched it in for the score.

Patriots 23 Ravens 20

The Ravens got the ball back and drove 6 plays. On the seventh play, Flacco threw a pass intended for tight end Ed Dickson over the middle. However, linebacker Brandon Spikes intercepted it and returned the ball to the 50 yard line for a 19 yard return.

At this point it seemed like the Patriots had the game in hand. They had the lead and the ball. Everything seemed to be in hand. But, it was not to be.

On the next offensive play, Brady threw his second interception of the afternoon to Jimmy Smith. This gave the ball right back to Baltimore.

When the Ravens got the ball back they drove the ball 7 plays before eventually missing a fourth down conversion, instead of going for a field goal, at the New England 33 yard line. This gave the Patriots the ball back.

New England could do nothing with the ball though, and after only a few plays they were forced to punt right back to the Ravens. The ball was punted to the Baltimore 17 yard line before Lardarius Webb returned it 4 yards to the Ravens 21 yard line. At this point there was only one minute and 44 seconds remaining in an extremely tight back and forth game.

The Ravens drove down the field, until they faced a third down conversion which they made on a 29 yard pass play to Anquan Boldin down to New England's 23 yard line. This gave them a fresh set of downs.

There were 51 seconds left on first down. Flacco took the ball all the way down to the New England 10 yard line on first down. Then he threw two consecutive incomplete passes, one of which looked like a sure touchdown, but was broken up in the end zone by defensive back Sterling Moore who began the year on the Oakland Raiders practice squad.

This left the game in the hands, or should I say the foot of Billy Cundiff who had been perfect on the afternoon. He only needed to chip in a 32 yard field goal to tie the game and most likely send it to overtime.

Patriots and Ravens fans both held their breath in anticipation. Cundiff's kick was snapped out of place and the holder did not get the laces around properly. Cundiff made contact and the kick sailed wide left.

Billy Cundiff misses a 32 yard field goal to tie the game with only seconds left, leaving Baltimore down by 3 and allowing the Patriots to win the AFC Championship.
Billy Cundiff misses a 32 yard field goal to tie the game with only seconds left, leaving Baltimore down by 3 and allowing the Patriots to win the AFC Championship.

The crowd exploded with elation. The Patriots were going to the Super Bowl for the 5th time under head coach Bill Belichick.

They had fulfilled three of their 4 goals on the season. The first was to win their division, which they did easily. The second was to win their first playoff game in their last three tries. Their third was to win the AFC Championship. Now, they will be striving to meet their fourth goal, to win the Super Bowl for the 4th time under Belichick's brilliant coaching and Tom Brady's Hall of Fame play!

FINAL SCORE Patriots 23 Ravens 20

Time to celebrate Patriots Nation. You are going to the SUPER BOWL!

Gronkowski celebrates after the Patriots secure the 2012 AFC championship and head to Indianapolis to Super Bowl XLVI.
Gronkowski celebrates after the Patriots secure the 2012 AFC championship and head to Indianapolis to Super Bowl XLVI. | Source

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    • looniestlove profile image

      looniestlove 5 years ago from Davao City, Philippines

      thanks for sharing...I find this hub very interesting...great review by the way...I'm really not into football but this hub informed me about football...now I know how this game is played in a detailed way...

    • MarkRFox profile image
      Author

      MarkRFox 5 years ago

      Thanks again. If you find time to watch the Super Bowl on February 5, I hope you enjoy it!

    • Miller2232 profile image

      Sinclair Miller III 4 years ago from Florida

      I'm a Patriots fan and I still (to this day) can't believe Billy Cundiff missed that field goal. Like watching that highlight on NFL Films of Jackie Smith (A great tight end who made the HOF in 1994) drop that pass in Super Bowl XIII, "Bless his heart, he has got to be the sickest man in America?"

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