Monday, January 16, 2012

Defending Their Home Turf, Ravens Fly High to the AFC Championship

to the start of the season, the Ravens had one goal prior to making the Super Bowl, get a home playoff game. Going 6-0 in the division, the Ravens not only locked up the AFC North, but for the first time since 2006, they were able to secure a home playoff game. On this day, they would not disappoint the hometown crowd as the Ravens defeated Houston Texans 20-13 to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the second time in four years.

When coach Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice arrived in 2008, many viewed that season as a rebuilding year. Flaccos job was to simply go in and manage games until then starting quarterback Kyle Boller could return to the lineup. Flacco, in his rookie season managed the Ravens to an 11-5 season. The Ravens would fall short to the Pittsburg Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

For Flacco and the Ravens, this was the year for them to return to the AFC Championship Game. Finally obtaining a first round bye and receiving a home playoff game, the road was a lot easier than previous years. The Ravens are 8-0 at home for the first time in team history.

The road to the championship would not be a breeze. The Ravens were faced with a young high powered Houston Texan team that were looking to make a statement in the first trip to the playoffs in franchise history. The Texans arrived to Baltimore with a top ten defense. However, Joe Flacco going into Sunday's game has been an incredible 9-2 against teams with top ten defenses.

Flacco, highly criticized for his playoff performances had a passer rating of 97.1. He threw for only 176 yards, but he had two touchdowns. He was able to hook up with his favorite target, Anquan Boldin four times  for 78 yards and a touchdown. Lee Evans, who was signed during the second week of preseason also made a spectacular one handed catch for 30 yards. Unfortunately the run game was not what the Ravens and Ray Rice had hoped for. Rice was limited to only 60 yards on 21 carries. 

For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens allowed a 100 yard rusher in the playoffs. Arian Foster nearly reach this mark in the first half. At halftime with the score 17-13 Ravens, it seemed that he may have had the tools to help the Texans take the lead in the second half. However, it the Ravens defense led by Ray Lewis who would contain Foster and not allow Houston to score a single point in the second half. On a hail mary pass, it seemed that Texans quarterback TJ Yates would find one of his receivers to keep the Texans in the game, but it was Ed Reed doing what he does best with an interception that would possibly secure the game. 

The Ravens could not get the first down that would allow them to run the clock out. Therefore Yates had another chance. But after a few shots towards the end zone, it was the Ravens defense again that would knock the ball away and send the Ravens to their third AFC Championship Game in franchise history. 

The Ravens will travel to Foxboro to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The last time the Ravens were in Foxboro during the playoffs, the Ravens defeated the Patriots 33-14. 

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