Ravens Living On A Wing And A Prayer

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au
Joe Flacco threw three TD passes last start against New England. Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au
Kickers spend such little time on the field, but can make such a big difference to the end result in football games. Last season, then Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff missed a relatively easy 32-yarder which would have sent their AFC Championship game in to overtime. He’s no longer with the team, but his replacement, Justin Tucker became a hero to all Ravens fans last weekend when he nailed a 47-yard kick in the second overtime period to shock Denver 38-35.

It wasn’t the first time Tucker has split the sticks under pressure this season; he kicked the game-winner in Week 3 against this weekend’s opponent, New England . The Ravens’ 31-30 win was laced with controversy as Tucker’s kick went straight over an upright, and as a result, Patriots coach Bill Belicheck lost his cool after the game, grabbing one of the replacement officials that caused so much controversy at the start of the season.

Baltimore is trying to reach the Super Bowl for just the second time in its history after lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy back in 2000. Linebacker Ray Lewis remains from that team, but the inspirational defensive leader will be playing his last game of football if his side can’t stop the rampaging Pats.

New England cruised past Houston 41-28 last weekend, and the Patriots have won all four AFC Championship games played at Gillette Stadium. Quarterback Tom Brady nailed 25 of 40 passes last week for three scores, but he will be without one of his favourite targets, Rob Gronkowski, who re-fractured his forearm against the Texans. The tight end is tied for fourth in the league in TD receptions with 11, so Wes Welker and the rest of the receiving corps. will have to pick up the slack.

He has copped his fair share of criticism in the past, but Baltimore QB Joe Flacco is quietly building a reputation as a quality postseason field general. He has now won five playoff games on the road, and he comes in to this match after a stellar performance against the Pats earlier this season when he threw for 382 yards with three touchdowns.

This will be the fifth time these teams have met in the past three years. Traditionally these games are close affairs with five of the last six meetings decided by six points or less. Of those, New England has come out on top on four occasions and Baltimore twice, but the franchises have split their two postseason contests.

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