Minimal changes bring maximum results for Ravens' defense

SportsFootballTom BradyNew England PatriotsJoe FlaccoAnquan BoldinSuper Bowl

A long list of accolades is connected to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's career.

On Sunday, he became the all-time passing leader in the postseason with 5,949 yards, surpassing Brett Favre.

But it was 4 yards in the fourth quarter of Sunday's AFC championship game against the Ravens that the Patriots needed most and didn't get.

Facing fourth-and-4 at the Ravens' 19-yard line, Brady lofted a pass to the end zone that landed short of wide receiver Deion Branch's grasp. The Ravens rushed off the field celebrating as Brady sat on the turf with the Ravens holding a 28-13 lead with 8:35 left.

The Ravens went on to complete a second-half shutout of Brady and the Patriots for a 28-13 victory and their first Super Bowl trip since 2001.

"I felt like we had a pretty good rhythm throughout the game," Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger said. "They were doing the hurry-up offense. As soon as we started getting good stops on first and second down, that allowed us to get a decent pass rush. It was a pretty basic game. We ran a four-man rush every time. That's a really good offense we just played, so I couldn't be more proud of our guys."

Players insisted that nothing changed between the first and second half from a defensive perspective for the Ravens. But they were able to stump Brady and the Patriots' high-scoring offense, which finished the game 1-for-4 in the red zone.

The changes might have been minimal, but the Ravens' defense looked more confident in the final 30 minutes.

In the first half, Ravens cornerback Cary Williams found himself twisting and turning to keep pace with Patriots receivers. But in the fourth quarter, Williams intercepted Brady's last attempt to launch a comeback, snagging the pass in the end zone with 1:13 to go. Dannell Ellerbe had the other interception for the Ravens in the second half.

"I don't think there was a difference," Williams said. "We just continued to play our game and we wanted it more."

Added Kruger: "Defensively, there wasn't much of a change. Offensively, you guys saw what they did. Joe [Flacco] came up and played great and made the plays. Anquan [Boldin] played awesome. It was a lot of great individual efforts, but it was a total team effort, for sure."

Brady completed 29 of 54 passes for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. For the first time since Week 2 in 2009 (a 16-9 loss to the New York Jets), the Patriots' offense was held to fewer than 14 points.

"I'd have to see the film, but whatever we did, we didn't execute very well," Brady said. "The name of the game is execution, and if you don't execute well against a good team, like I said, you're not going to come up on the winning end."

While Brady answered questions about the loss, the Ravens celebrated a Super Bowl berth.

"They said, 'Be yourself,' " Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We played together, we stayed together. We have a lot of leaders in this locker room — Ed Reed, [Ray Lewis], Joe [Flacco], Anquan Boldin. We said, 'Believe in ourselves,' and we did that."

mnjones@baltsun.com

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