The Baltimore Ravens beat the Houston Texans 20-13 to advance to the American Football Conference championship game, where they’ll play the New England Patriots for a spot in the Super Bowl.
The third-round lineup of the National Football League playoffs will be completed today when the New York Giants visit the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. The winner of that game will face the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football Conference title game.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw touchdown passes to Kris Wilson and Anquan Boldin at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore as the Ravens opened a 17-3 first quarter lead and held on for the victory. Baltimore went on to win the Super Bowl 11 years ago after their only previous home victory in the playoffs.
“When we got up 17-3, the number one thing I said was, ‘They’re going to make a rally. Every great team makes a rally,’” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said in a televised interview. “This is what playoff football is about.”
Baltimore (13-4) has won 11 straight home games dating back to last season. It went unbeaten at home for the first time in franchise history in winning its only AFC North division title since 2006.
Houston’s Danieal Manning opened today’s game with a 60-yard kickoff return, which led to a 40-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.
Baltimore responded less than two minutes later as Flacco found tight end Wilson in the end zone for a 1-yard score. It was Wilson’s first reception of the season and his only touchdown since Nov. 8, 2009, when he played for the San Diego Chargers.
Baltimore extended its lead to 17-3 with a touchdown by Boldin and a 48-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff.
Both Baltimore touchdowns followed turnovers, the first after Jacoby Jones fumbled and the second following an interception of rookie Texans quarterback T.J. Yates.
Rackers kicked a 33-yard field goal and Arian Foster scored for Houston on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to cut the Ravens’ lead to 17-13.
Although they trailed by four points at halftime, the Texans outgained the Ravens 181-118 in total offensive yards. Houston ensured the third quarter ended scoreless when they stopped Ray Rice, the second-leading rusher in the NFL during the regular season, short of the goal line on a 4th-and-1 play.
Fifth Sack on Flacco
Baltimore punted on its opening drive of the fourth quarter and its next possession ended the same way after Houston’s fifth sack on Flacco.
The home team got the ball back four plays later when Lardarius Webb intercepted Yates for the second time. The drive ended with a 44-yard field goal by Cundiff to make it 20-13 with 2:56 to play.
Yates, in his seventh professional start, was again intercepted by Ed Reed with 1:51 remaining as he tried a long pass to Andre Johnson in the corner near the end zone.
Baltimore sealed the win when Yates’ deep pass on 4th-and-1 fell incomplete at the goal line with 11 seconds left. The Texans finish the season with an 11-7 record.
Baltimore, which is now 6-0 all-time against the Texans, won its opening playoff game for the fourth straight year. Since John Harbaugh became coach, the team has gone 5-3 in the postseason, with the seven previous games played on the road.
The Ravens last hosted a playoff game after the 2006 season, when they lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the second round. Their only postseason victory at home was a 21-3 wild-card win over the Denver Broncos on Dec. 31, 2000.
Brady Ties Record
Yesterday, Tom Brady threw a playoff record-tying six touchdown passes as the Patriots thrashed the Broncos 45-10. New England will host the Ravens at 3 p.m. eastern time on Jan. 22.
“It’s a big test next week. Tom is playing excellent,” Lewis said. “What they did to the Broncos last night, I think they sent a message to whoever was coming up there. So we’ve got our hands full.”
The 49ers take on the Giants or Packers later that day, with the winners of the two games playing for the NFL championship in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.
San Francisco trailed the New Orleans Saints 32-29 after Jimmy Graham caught a 66-yard touchdown pass with 1:37 to play yesterday. The 49ers then pulled out the 36-32 win as quarterback Alex Smith capped an 85-yard drive with a 14-yard scoring pass to Vernon Davis with 9 seconds remaining.
The lead changed four times in the final 4:02 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
The Giants are seeking to avenge a 38-35 loss in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Dec. 4 and send the Packers to their first home defeat in 14 games. It’s the first postseason matchup at Lambeau Field since the Giants won 23-20 in overtime in the NFC title game four years ago.
Green Bay’s preparations were overshadowed by the death of 21-year-old Michael T. Philbin, the son of Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. His body was retrieved from the Fox River in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on Jan. 9, the day after he went missing. Joe Philbin rejoined the team for today’s game.