New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) is tackled by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Albert McClellan (50) on a punt return during the first quarter of the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.— The Baltimore Ravens won their AFC title rematch against the New England Patriots with a commanding second-half performance for a 28-13 win on Sunday that put them into the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.
Baltimore outscored the Pats, 21-0, in the second half with a balance of short passes by Joe Flacco and hard running by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, and made big stops to halt New England drives into their territory.
The Ravens won sweet revenge for last year’s 23-20 loss to New England in the AFC title game.
Baltimore’s victory also set up the first Super Bowl meeting between sibling head coaches. John Harbaugh’s Ravens will face Jim Harbaugh’s NFC champion 49ers, who rallied for a 28-24 road win over the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’ll be a great football game, I can’t wait,” said John Harbaugh. “I can’t say enough about these players. We play for each other, we all love each other.”
The Ravens trailed 13-7 at halftime but punctured the Patriots’ aura of invincibility and took the lead with an 87-yard drive capped by a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dennis Pitta in the third quarter after forcing New England to punt when their drive stalled at the Baltimore 34.
An apparent first down for the Patriots was nullified by a holding penalty that led to another New England punt, and the Ravens marched on a long drive that culminated in a three-yard toucdown pass from Flacco to Anquan Boldin on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 21-13 Baltimore lead.
“I said to our players last year, don’t put your heads down, we’ll be back,” said Ray Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker who is retiring after the Super Bowl.
“To see us come back like this, after all the injuries and things we have been through ... our team is just awesome and this our time.”
The killer blow came on New England’s ensuing possession when Stevan Ridley fumbled after a hit by safety Bernard Pollard and defensive end Arthur Jones recovered the ball on the Patriots’ 47-yard line.
Four plays later, Boldin had another TD catch from 11 yards out to make it 28-13 and send the Ravens back to the Super Bowl for the first time since their triumph in 2001.