Three weeks ago, Indianapolis Colts fans were not only thrilled about making the playoffs, but excited about drawing the Baltimore Ravens in the first round. The Ravens, losers of four of their last five games, were thought to be the weak link among AFC playoff teams.
So much for that.
The Ravens ensured that the Ray Lewis Retirement Tour will end in New Orleans with a convincing 28-13 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxboro, MA.
Coming into yesterday’s game, Brady had never lost a home playoff game. At halftime the Patriots held a 13-7 lead. Brady had never lost a home game anytime he went into the locker room with the lead. The Ravens put an end to both of those streaks and in the process elevated the status of their own quarterback, the previously underrated Joe Flacco.
Some other trends were bucked in this weekend’s championship games:
Both road teams won. That’s only happened twice before in NFL history.
Colin Kaepernick guided the 49’ers to the Super Bowl despite having only 10 NFL starts under his belt. Technically, Kaepernick isn’t a rookie since he was drafted in 2011, but his makeover of the San Francisco offense has been nothing short of amazing.
Speaking of quarterbacks, neither Kaepernick nor Flacco were first round draft choices. Neither would have been described among the NFL’s “elite” going into yesterday’s games. So much for the short-lived myth that in today’s NFL you have to have an “elite” quarterback to win the Super Bowl. One of these two will be going to Disneyland in two weeks.
On the other hand, both Frank Gore and Ray Rice are “elite” NFL running backs. In a year when Adrian Peterson captured headlines for his attack on Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing mark, the tried and true way of winning through running the football effectively won the day in both conference championships yesterday. Yes, Flacco threw three touchdown passes, but the combination of Rice and Bernard Pierce for 100 yards on 28 carries kept the Patriots defense occupied enough in the box with stopping them that it opened up favorable matchups on the outside. And in the NFC game, while Matt Ryan was flinging the ball all over the Georgia Dome, Jim Harbaugh stuck with his running game to the tune of 149 yards on the ground. That similarly created favorable matchups, especially with tight end Vernon Davis.
And I understand two brothers will coach against each other in the Super Bowl for the first time. Don’t know if you heard about that.