It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
The New England Patriots – and their nation of fans – were expecting a return trip to the Super Bowl but a porous second half in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium resulted in a 28-13 season-ending loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
“Obviously a disappointing end to an overall pretty positive season,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “We just didn’t do enough things well enough to win. Give the Ravens credit; they’re a good football team. They just out-played us and out-coached us. They just made more plays than we did. That’s pretty much the story.”
New England led 13-7 at halftime but was outscored – and outperformed – by the Ravens, 21-0 in the final 30 minutes behind three touchdown passes from Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.
“They did a good job,” Belichick said. “I wouldn’t say it was anything they didn’t do in the first half. They just did a better job than we did [in the second half]. … That’s why they’re moving on and we’re not. They were just better than we were in really everything.”
Flacco finished 21-of-36 passing for 240 yards and three touchdowns while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished 29-of-54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
“We obviously didn't play very well and if you don't play very well against a good team, it's not even very competitive,” Brady said. “It's unfortunate. We just couldn’t make any critical plays when we needed to. … We didn't execute very well. The name of the game is execution and if you don’t execute well against a good team, like I said, you're not going to come up on the winning end.”
It’s another Patriots season that ends abruptly in disappointment for the organization and its fans.
“[The season] always comes to a screeching halt,” Brady said. “That’s just the way it is. Only two teams advance and those two teams deserve it. We’ve lost before. It takes awhile to get over.”
Many throughout New England will wake up Monday morning thinking about another championship opportunity lost. So will Brady.
“I think being in the situation in the playoffs, it’s always an opportunity lost when you lose because we feel like we have a pretty good team,” Brady said. “We just didn't play well.”
The Patriots fall to 7-2 in AFC Championship Games and 4-1 in conference title games in Foxborough. New England also falls to 1-2 against the Ravens in the playoffs, suffering both losses at Gillette Stadium.
With the win, the Ravens advance to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers.
The following game notes were compiled by the New England Patriots Media Relations Department:
BRADY MOVES UP POSTSEASON LISTS
Tom Brady had 320 yards and a touchdown pass against the Ravens, becoming the NFL’s all-time leading playoff passer with 5,949 passing yards. Brady extended his playoff touchdown pass total to 42 touchdown passes and is one of three NFL quarterbacks with 40 or more touchdown passes in the postseason. Brady is third all-time on the postseason touchdown list, behind Joe Montana (45) and Brett Favre (44). Brady leads all quarterbacks with 553 postseason completions.
BRADY TIES FAVRE FOR MOST CAREER POSTSEASON STARTS
Tom Brady made his 24th start in the postseason and is now tied with Brett Favre (24) for the most starts by a quarterback in postseason play.
WELKER EXTENDS PATRIOTS RECORD FOR MOST POSTSEASON RECEPTIONS
Wes Welker finished with eight receptions and extended his team record for most postseason receptions (69).
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME QUICK HITS
- The Patriots running game totaled 108 yards on the ground tonight. Entering the game, the Patriots had not lost this season when rushing for 100 yards or more (12-0 regular season, 1-0 playoffs).
- The Ravens did not turn the ball over today. In the 2012 regular season and playoffs, the Patriots had forced at least one turnover in all 17 games heading into Sunday’s contest.
- Rob Ninkovich sacked Joe Flacco for a 4-yard loss on third-and-six in the second quarter, forcing a punt on the next play, following which the Patriots embarked on a half-ending field goal drive that resulted in a 13-7 halftime lead.
- Danny Woodhead took a direct snap on fourth-and-one with less than a minute left in the second quarter, keeping alive an end-of-the-half drive that ended in a field goal that boosted the Patriots’ halftime lead to 13-7.
- Rookie DL Justin Francis made his first career NFL start.