Rice leads running attack that sends Ravens to next round with 33-14 win over PatriotsBy Howard Ulman, AP
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Rice leads Ravens run game to 33-14 win over Pats
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — From the very first play, Ray Rice and the running Ravens made the team of the last decade look old, overmatched and, oddly, inept.
Rice ran 83 yards for a touchdown with frigid fans still settling into their seats, Tom Brady had three of his four turnovers in the first quarter and Baltimore knocked off New England 33-14 on Sunday in the AFC playoffs.
“Their era is not over, they know how to win,” Rice said, “but for the Ravens, to beat the New England Patriots set a precedent. We’ll always remember this win.”
The Ravens (10-7) were only slight underdogs to the team that won three Super Bowls from 2002 through 2005. That myth faded as quickly as Baltimore charged to a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes.
“One thing we said as an offense is we want to start games fast,” Rice said. “I wanted to be the guy today to start fast, whether it was a 5-yard run or an 83-yard run. I wanted to be the guy to say this will be a fast-tempo game. We want the other team to play catch-up to us.”
Now, if they beat Indianapolis and Peyton Manning next Saturday night, they’ll reach the AFC championship game for the second straight year as a wild-card team.
“We’ll enjoy it,” safety Ed Reed said, “and I know what’s next. No. 18 is coming. I know it, and he knows we are coming.”
Not even Brady, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, could overcome his mistakes and the absence of the league’s leading receiver Wes Welker. Brady was 23 of 42 for 154 yards, two touchdowns passing and three interceptions.
But it was hardly a one-man collapse.
Randy Moss, covered tightly by Domonique Foxworth, caught only five passes for 48 yards. The Patriots’ defense was so porous, allowing 234 yards rushing, that Joe Flacco only had to throw 10 passes, completing four for 34 yards. Rice rushed 159 yards for a team that averaged 182.6 on the ground in its previous five games.
“All of us that participated in the game are accountable for our performance,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “and I don’t think anybody felt very good about it, players, coaches, anybody.”
The Patriots (10-7) tried to rev up the crowd by sending the injured Welker onto the field on crutches for the opening coin toss. It didn’t work. Six minutes into the game the crowd was booing the team that hadn’t lost at home all season.
“I’d have been booing us, too, the way we played,” Brady said. “Playing the way we played today, we weren’t going to beat anybody.”
By the end of the first quarter it was 24-0.
“Any time we get a lead, it’s hard to come back on our defense,” the third stingiest in the league, linebacker Ray Lewis said.
The Patriots received the second-half kickoff trailing 24-7. But Brady threw his third interception, matching his career playoff high, and Dawan Landry returned it 42 yards to set up Billy Cundiff’s 23-yard field goal.
Brady then threw his second touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, Welker’s replacement, covering 1 yard. But the Patriots’ defense struggled against the Ravens runners. Willis McGahee added a 3-yard score with 10:32 left to cap the scoring.
The Ravens, who lost the AFC title game to Pittsburgh last year, will try to make up for a 17-15 loss to the Colts in Baltimore on Nov. 22.
Since then, the Ravens are 5-2 after Rice, McGahee and Le’Ron McClain outran and overpowered the Patriots. Rice ran for two touchdowns and McGahee and McClain one each on the Gillette Stadium turf where the Patriots had been outstanding.
They were 8-0 this season, the only AFC team to go unbeaten at home. Brady was 7-0 in playoff games at Gillette. And they had won their last 11 home playoff games there and at Foxborough Stadium, since their last loss in 1978.
And the Patriots had never lost to the Ravens, home or away, in their other five matchups. Now they’ve lost two straight playoff games — starting with their 17-14 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants two years ago — for the first time since 1998-99.
The rout was nothing like the last big game between the teams when the Ravens nearly ruined the Patriots’ quest for the first 16-0 regular-season in NFL history. The Patriots won that in Baltimore 27-24 in the 12th game of 2007 on Brady’s touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left.
On Sunday, the Ravens’ dominance left little room for a Patriots rally.
The Ravens pressured Brady into mistake after mistake, and not one penalty was called against them for being too physical with the NFL’s 2007 MVP who missed all but the first quarter of last season’s opener with a left knee injury. After the Patriots’ 27-21 win over the Ravens in Foxborough on Oct. 4, Lewis complained about roughing the passer penalties that helped the Patriots on two touchdown drives.
Brady has played much of the time since then with injuries to his ribs and a right finger. That affected his accuracy, leading to an inconsistent season. Without Welker, the NFL leader with 123 catches, Brady was missing his most reliable receiver who bailed him out time and time again.
Welker wouldn’t have kept the Patriots from falling behind 14-0.
Rice scored on the first offensive play and Brady fumbled the ball on the fourth play when he was sacked by Terrell Suggs, who recovered it. Five plays later, all runs, McClain scored from 1 yard.
After the teams exchanged punts, Brady threw another interception when he was pressured by Jarret Johnson. Chris Carr caught it and the Ravens needed just six plays for Rice to score from 1 yard.
Notes: Shawn Springs and Sam Aiken of the Patriots did not return after suffering head injuries. … Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason, McGahee and McClain each caught one pass for Baltimore.
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