Niners, Ravens Win to Advance to NFL Conference ChampionshipsNancy Kercheval
The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, coached by brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, advanced to their National Football League conference championship games.
Baltimore beat the Denver Broncos 38-35 in double overtime to advance to the American Football Conference championship game against the winner of today’s matchup between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots. The 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers 45-31 to reach the National Football Conference title game against the Seattle Seahawks or Atlanta Falcons, who play today.
Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal to give the Ravens their win over the 3-1 Super Bowl-favorite Broncos at Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High. The victory extended the 17-year career of linebacker Ray Lewis who told his teammates that he would retire when the playoffs ended.
“This was probably one of the greatest victories in Ravens’ history,” Lewis said during a news conference. “What if we do the impossible -- coming here as nine or 10-point underdogs. Today in Baltimore, I can promise you somebody’s life changed today because they believed that much in what happened.”
The Ravens and Broncos shared the lead for the fifth time when Jacoby Jones scored on a 70-yard pass from Joe Flacco with 31 seconds left in regulation that forced the overtime.
“I’m just proud and grateful to be associated with this game, humbled to stand on the sideline with a game like that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Flacco, who passed for 331 yards, connected twice with Torrey Smith on passes of 59 and 32 yards, and Corey Graham ran for a touchdown on a 39-yard interception, the first of two turnovers by Peyton Manning that were converted into scores by the Ravens. The game was tied 21-21 at halftime.
“We fought hard to get back to this point and we’re definitely proud of being here,” Flacco said. “We feel like it’s going to take a lot for somebody to come and kick us off that field come the AFC championship game.”
Manning was intercepted again during overtime, a turnover that set up the winning field goal for the Ravens.
“Yeah, bad throw,” he said. “Probably the decision (wasn’t) great either. I thought I had an opening, and I didn’t get enough on it, and I was trying to make a play and certainly a throw I’d like to have back.”
Trindon Holliday scored on a 90-yard punt return three minutes into the game and ran back a kickoff 104 yards in the third quarter.
Manning threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns, two in the first half to Brandon Stokley and Knowshon Moreno. His third was a 17-yard scoring pass to Demaryius Thomas for a 35-28 lead with seven minutes, 11 seconds left in the game.
At Candlestick Park, the 49ers’ 25-year-old quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns to Michael Crabtree and ran for two scores.
Kaepernick, in his second year in the NFL, set a record for quarterbacks by rushing 183 yards. The previous record was held by Michael Vick who rushed for 119 yards against St. Louis in 2005.
“It feels good,” Kaepernick said. “We’re one step closer to where we want to be. I feel like I had a lot to prove. A lot of people doubted my ability to lead this team.”
Aaron Rodgers passed for 257 yards and two touchdowns, including a three-yard throw to Greg Jennings in the final minute of the game.