AFC Championship: Patriots Cling to 13-7 Lead at Halftime

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Ravens are up against a pretty tough task in getting past the New England Patriots on Sunday, but having already beat them this year they have a blueprint to make it possible. The Patriots struck first with a field goal but the Ravens marched down the field in the second quarter and did them one better, thanks to the powerful legs of Ray Rice.

That’s the kind of game it’s been so far in the AFC title game, but still the Patriots have the upper hand, as they so often do in postseason games.

It’s not as cold as it could be in Foxboro on Sunday, but it’s still cold enough for smash mouth football. One way to win games in January is to have a great running back you can hand the ball to and Ray Rice is one of the best in the game. It took 13 plays, but Ray Rice and Joe Flacco were able to bounce off one another and get the Ravens into the endzone on the Ravens fourth drive of the game.

But the Patriots are perhaps the best postseason team of the last decade and that has everything to do with Tom Brady.

Unlike the NFC title game, the scoring has come at a premium so far in the first half, with the Patriots pretty much controlling the trade. After the Ravens took a 7-3 lead in the second, Brady marched the Patriots down the field and hooked up with Wes Welker to get the lead back. However, the Patriots could have gotten more points right before halftime had it not been for a rare incident that saw Tom Brady poorly manage the clock.

New England had one timeout left and 0:18 left, but tried to rush to the line to preserve the timeout. The result was the clock ran down to four seconds and Bill Belichick called a timeout from the sidelines. Rather than getting three shots at the endzone, the Patriots were forced to kick a field goal leading into halftime.

It’s been the kind of game where such a series of events might come back to haunt the Patriots later in the second half.

If the Ravens want to win this game, they’ll need to keep feeding the ball to Ray Rice but they’ll also need to stunt the Patriots movement downfield. It’s not an impossible fight the Ravens are in, but as we’ve learned so many times over the past decade, if Tom Brady heats up, it’s really hard to shut him down.