The New England Patriots’ comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens was not about one play. And that was realized in the 35-31 outcome.
But before the Patriots turn to page to hosting the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, here is a closer look at what went into the divisional round there.
In 12 numbers.
Down 14 Points, Twice: The Patriots found themselves down by 14 with 4:44 remaining in the first quarter, then with 10:22 remaining in the third quarter. But on both occasions, New England was able battle back to even, and then some. According to Elias Sports Bureau, no team had erased a pair of 14-point deficits since the Kansas City Chiefs did so in a regular-season win against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 12, 2003.
Belichick Reaches 20 Postseason Victories: Saturday’s win over the Ravens marked playoff victory No. 20 for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, moving him out of a tie with Don Shula and into another with Tom Landry. With one more victory, Belichick would place himself atop the NFL’s all-time head-coaching ranks with 21 postseason wins.
Second 100-Yard Playoff Game for Gronkowski: New England tight end Rob Gronkowski reeled in seven of 13 targets for 108 yards and a touchdown versus Baltimore, notching the second 100-yard playoff game of his career. The three-time All-Pro had not played in a playoff game since re-injuring his broken forearm against the Houston Texans on Jan. 13, 2013.
Four Offensive Linemen: The Patriots’ offensive line was forced to move on without rookie center Bryan Stork on Saturday, after the fourth-round pick suffered a knee injury in the first half versus the Ravens. The attrition thrust right guard Ryan Wendell over to center, while second-year guard Josh Kline stepped into his place. But over the course of three plays in the third, there was no Kline on the field as New England went with four linemen. And that called upon tight end Michael Hoomanawanui opposite Baltimore’s base defense. Hoomanawanui would block and catch, though, collecting four passes for 43 yards in the divisional round. He collected just three passes for 44 yards in the regular season.
Seven Runs by Patriots Halfbacks: New England tallied only 13 against Baltimore’s defensive front, with six carries coming from quarterback Tom Brady. The running back assortment of Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen, meanwhile, combined for just seven carries and 13 yards, as Bolden led the trio with seven yards rushing. Yet in the second half, the Patriots did not hand the ball off once.
Forsett Rushes for 129: While the Patriots worked for 14 yards on the ground, Ravens halfback Justin Forsett made 129 yards look effortless. The league’s top rusher in both yards per carry and carries over 20 yards, Forsett was able to harness first downs on his first four attempts versus the Patriots. And he concluded his numbers with a 5.4-yard average over 24 attempts, recording a long of 19.
New England’s Defense Nets Zero Sacks: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco stood strong in the pocket Saturday, as the Patriots’ pass rush was held at bay and unable to bring him down for a single sack. And with undrafted rookie James Hurst and four-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda at the two tackle spots, that was an impressive feat. Incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe was active for the first time in two games but played in a reserve role, while right tackle Ricky Wagner was lost to injured reserve late in the regular season.
Total of 10 Ravens Catch Passes: As early as the opening drive, it was apparent that Flacco would distribute the football to the open man. Four different Ravens caught passes on the first offensive possession of the game. But by the end of the final possession, 10 different Ravens had done so. Wideout Marlon Brown caught five passes, while tight end Owen Daniels, rookie receiver Michael Campanaro and fullback Kyle Juszcyk all caught four. And starting receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith Sr. caught three, while Forsett caught two, and former Patriots practice-squad receiver Kamar Aiken, tight end Crockett Gillmore and Fitzgerald Toussaint each caught one. Flacco was able to go 28-of-45 passing for 292 yards and four touchdowns as a result.
Flacco’s Interception-Less Streak Ends at 197: Flacco would make two critical mistakes before Saturday was over. The Ravens quarterback entered the game having gone 166 consecutive playoff passes without an interception. Yet that streak ended on No. 197, when he floated an interception to Patriots safety Devin McCourty. Flacco would throw another interception to another Rutgers defensive back in Duron Harmon before it was all over, but he would finish the game having accrued the second-longest interception-less stretch in NFL playoff history, trailing only Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
Amendola Tallies 81 Receiving Yards: Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola snared 27 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown during the 2014 regular season. He snared five passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns during the Jan. 10 playoff game. Amendola hadn’t posted more than 81 yards since Week 15 of the 2013 regular season, and he hadn’t ever posted two touchdowns in an NFL game. He found the right time to do so, hauling in a 15-yard pass from Brady and a 51-yard pass from fellow receiver Julian Edelman.
Second-Half Touchdown Shutout Ends at Six Games: New England’s defense set a mark of its own over the final six weeks of the regular season, not allowing a second-half touchdown since Nov. 16 versus the Indianapolis Colts. But that mark came to a close after six games on Saturday, as Flacco linked up with Forsett on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Baltimore would score once more, on a 25-yard field goal by kicker Justin Tucker, with 10:17 to play in the fourth quarter.
First All-Time for Brady: Brady and the Patriots responded with points of their own in the second half. And with a go-ahead 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon LaFell late in the final frame, Brady responded to history. The 37-year-old quarterback passed childhood idol Joe Montana for the most career postseason touchdown passes of all-time with 46. That is a number he’ll hope to keep adding to as soon as the AFC Championship Game.