FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Joe Flacco threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Dennis Pitta with just over 6 minutes left in the third quarter and the Baltimore Ravens led the New England Patriots 14-13 in the AFC championship game Sunday.
The throw capped the Ravens’ best drive of the game, covering 87 yards in 10 plays. It started with a 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty. Then, Flacco completed six of his other nine passes on the series. Three of them went for first downs – 22 yards to Pitta, 15 to Ray Rice and 12 to Anquan Bolden that gave the Ravens a first-and-goal at the Patriots 10-yard line.
Flacco then connected with Pitta for a 5-yard pass and finished the drive with another 5-yarder to Pitta, who easily beat single coverage by safety Steve Gregory.
Stephen Gostkowski had given the Patriots a 3-0 lead with a 31-yard kick with 6:21 left in the first quarter. But the Ravens went ahead on Rice’s 2-yard touchdown run with 9:28 to go in the second.
Wes Welker then scored with just over 4 minutes remaining in the half on a 1-yard pass from Tom Brady and the Patriots increased their lead on Gostkowski’s 25-yard field goal on the final play before intermission.
But New England suffered three injuries in the first half. Cornerback Aqib Talib hurt his thigh and defensive tackle Kyle Love injured his knee. The return of both starters was questionable. Backup safety Patrick Chung was helped off the field after one play.
A win Sunday would send the Ravens (12-6) to the Super Bowl for the second time and extend the 17-year career of linebacker Ray Lewis, who has said he will retire after the season.
A victory would put the Patriots (13-4) in their eighth Super Bowl, tying the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all time, and Brady in his sixth.
The winner of the game plays the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
The Patriots played without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke his left arm a week earlier in their 41-28 divisional win over the Houston Texans.
New England outgained Baltimore 214 yards to 130 in the half. Brady completed 14 of 24 passes for 139 yards, while Flacco went 6 for 12 for 81 yards. Neither team committed a turnover.
The Patriots began the scoring on Gostkowski’s kick, ending a 13-play, 67-yard drive during which Brady completed five of seven passes for 55 yards.
Rice’s touchdown ended a 13-play, 90-yard drive that lasted 5:51. Flacco threw completions for first downs of 17 yards to Pitta, 11 yards to Rice, 8 yards to Bernard Pierce and 25 yards to Torrey Smith. With a first down at the Patriots 15-yard line, Rice ran for 8 and 5 yards, giving the Ravens a first down at the 2.
After Flacco threw an incompletion out of bounds, Rice took a handoff, ran to the left and scored easily.
Welker’s touchdown came 4:18 before intermission and capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive. He scored on a pass to the right as cornerbacks Corey Graham and Chykie Brown appeared to get crossed up on their assignments.
On the first play of the series, Baltimore’s Dannell Ellerbe was penalized 15 yards for a blow to the head. Then a 24-yard completion from Brady to Welker gave the Patriots a first down at the Ravens 16-yard line.
Both teams punted on their first possession before the Patriots began their scoring drive at their 21-yard line after a 50-yard punt by Sam Koch.
The Patriots began the series with Brady’s 8-yard completion to Brandon Lloyd. The pair teamed up for three completions, gaining 37 yards, on the drive.
The Ravens punted on their first three possessions in the first quarter. The Patriots punted on three of their four series, forcing Baltimore to start deep in its territory.