Pats host Ravens for a berth in Super Bowl
FOXBORO, Massachusetts - Agence France Presse
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (R) celebrates with Brandon Lloyd (L) after a touchdown reception. EPA photoThe New England Patriots host Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens with a Super Bowl berth on the line on Jan. 20, a rematch of last year’s American Conference championship game.
It’s the first time since Denver and Cleveland faced off in AFC title games in 1986 and 1987 that the same two AFC teams will duel for a spot in the NFL’s championship spectacular.
The winner of the game will take on the winner of Sunday’s National Conference championship contest, in which the Atlanta Falcons host the San Francisco 49ers, in the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.
Baltimore haven’t been back to New England since they were edged 23-20 by the Patriots in last seasn’s AFC title game.
A potential go-ahead touchdown catch was knocked away from Lee Evans and in the waning seconds Billy Cundiff missed a field goal that would have tied the score and forced overtime.
Neither Evans nor Cundiff are on this Ravens team, which is seeking the club’s second Super Bowl appearance.
“We fought hard to get back to this point,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We know what it felt like last year. We walked off that field without that win. We know what we’ve put in to get back to this point.”
A victory for the Ravens would give veteran defensive star Lewis a Super Bowl swansong. Sidelined for 10 games this season with a torn triceps, he announced shortly before the playoffs began that this would be his last season. But the Ravens will have to stop perennial contenders New England, who are aiming at a sixth Super Bowl appearance in the era of superstar quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.
The Patriots’ 41-28 second-round win over Houston made Brady the winningest quarterback in NFL playoff history.
New England had the league’s top regular-season offense, producing 427.9 yards per game, and 34.8 points per game. “I think the two best teams are in the (conference) finals,” Brady said.
The 49ers are in their second straight NFC Championship game, largely thanks to successful second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
A victory for San Francisco would send them to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 campaign. They lost their NFC title tilt last year to the eventual champion New York Giants.