Ravens come away with redemption in Foxboro

986201.jpg

Ravens come away with redemption in Foxboro

FOXBORO -- The Baltimore Ravens came to Gillette Stadium for redemption on Sunday.

And they got it in a 28-13 win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship.

It was redemption for the AFC title game last year that ended with New England going to the Super Bowl. One year later, the tables have turned. And that redemption was something the Ravens prided themselves on following the game.

"Last year we ran our course," said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "And it wasnt one play. It wasnt no dropped pass, it wasnt no one field goal, it was about a team that came in. And we came back and we were faced with adversity early this season. The injuries, starting with Sizzle Terrell Suggs the first time me, Ed Reed and Sizzle actually played together was against the Colts. So the up-and-down roller coaster that went through was just an example or just everything that we had to go through. Starting with last years loss here and then rebuilding as a team and coming in and having one of the best training camps ever, I can say, just because everyone believed in each other.

"Its just so special, its special to be here right now. Honestly, I just said that God doesnt make mistakes, man," added Lewis. "There was no way that he was going to bring us back here twice to feel the same feeling. He had a real plan for us the whole year. And thats one thing that I really congratulate my team by, that we stuck to the course, no matter what happened throughout the year. It was always, Next man up. And our locker room, its contagious. Its contagious with a certain respect that we have for each other, coaches all the way down to trainers. Its a great environment to be around. Thats probably the biggest thing I got out of telling them is, were back, were back. But this time were on our way to the Super Bowl."

Last year, the Ravens had to walk off the field covered in Patriots-colored confetti. They didn't want to see that confetti this year. And they didn't.

The loss last year weighed on the Ravens' minds, said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught two touchdown passes on Sunday.

"We came here last year and left with a bitter taste in our mouth, we felt like this team the Patriots took something away from us," Boldin said. "And we wanted to come back and make that right. It wouldve been great to do it in front of our fans in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium, but we thought the proper way was to come back here and to win at Foxboro. And we were able to do that."

Said Ravens offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie: We didnt want to leave here the same way we did last year, seeing the confetti drop on them and their dancing, I mean, that hurt. There was no way we could go and repeat that same thing again. We knew it was in our hands, we just had to go out and execute the plays and make something happen.

Roethlisberger takes aim at young Steelers teammates after loss to Patriots

Roethlisberger takes aim at young Steelers teammates after loss to Patriots

FOXBORO – Ben Roethlisberger rolled some teammates under the bus Sunday night but it was hard to tell exactly which ones had the tire tracks to prove it.

“It just at times almost felt like it was almost too big for some of the young guys,” said Roethlisberger after the Steelers were sent home sucking on a 36-17 loss.

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

He could have been talking about young receivers Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton, each of whom had deep balls slide through or past their hands.

Or he could have been talking about Antonio Brown, who within a week, went from being the star of his own Facebook Live broadcast to being bottled up by the Patriots secondary (seven catches, 77 yards).

While Coates and Hamilton didn’t come up with “combat catches,” a Steelers term that both Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin employed, Brown launched the Steelers week of preparation by depantsing Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers veterans with his tone deaf self-promotion.  

Roethlisberger may have been talking about the on-field product when he said the following, but it just as easily could be applied to Brown.

“Hopefully this is a learning game for guys to understand that this isn’t promised to anybody,” said Roethlisberger. “Tomorrow’s not promised to any of us and just to make the playoffs isn’t enough to get to this championship game. A lot of guys have been in this league for a long time and haven’t been to any of these or have been to very few, so I hope that they understand the importance and relish the opportunity if it comes again.”

Asked if he thinks the younger players understood that, Roethlisberger said, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. That’s probably a question for other guys, but I know I did.”

Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

FOXBORO -- Someone told Chris Hogan before the AFC Championship that it would be a game he'd look back on 30 years from now and remember in perfect detail. 

That may be difficult for him given the sheer volume of plays he made in Sunday's 36-17 win over the Steelers. Hogan finished the game with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets, surpassing Deion Branch for the franchise record for receiving yards in a postseason game.

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

"It'll be something that definitely I'll remember for the rest of my career," he said, "and probably for the rest of my life . . . I'm happy for everyone in this locker room, all these guys in the locker room, the coaches. We've worked so hard to get here, and I was just happy that I was able to help this team get a win tonight."

Hogan did more than that. He was pivotal during New England's first touchdown drive of the night, catching passes on three consecutive plays for a total of 41 yards, and then reeling in an easy 16-yard touchdown when the Steelers defense lost track of him in the right half of the end zone. 

"I moved a little bit to the left because they were pressuring up the middle, and the pocket kind of collapsed," Brady said. "So I kind of slid to the left and I had good vision. They kind of bit down on Julian [Edelman] pretty hard, and then Hogs just was standing there in the back of the end zone."

Hogan's other catches were generally more contested than that one, but several were made without a Steelers defender harrassing him. And when they let him be, he made them pay. 

The flea-flicker pass that resulted in Hogan's second score of the day was a kick in the gut for the Steelers defense, putting the Patriots ahead, 17-6. Brady initially needed a reminder of how Hogan scored his second touchdown of the night, saying, "Oh, the flea-flicker. How could I forget that?"

"We ran one earlier in the year against, I think it was Baltimore, and it worked," Brady added. "I hit Hogan on that one too, on a crossing route. Those were well-executed plays. It's nice when you can take advantage of some of those plays, nice to gain some chunks that way when you kind of get some misdirection or double-pass, flea-flicker, something like that. It's a big spark for the team."

At that point Hogan already had racked up a career day. He had never scored multiple touchdowns in an NFL game coming in, and he set his own career-high for receiving in the postseason with 117 yards. In his first and only playoff game the week before, he had 95 yards on four catches. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury in that game that limited him in practice and made him questionable against the Steelers. But he played, and he gave his team an early boost, helping force the Steelers to play catch-up for the vast majority of the night.

And the injury didn't appear to slow him down all that much. Though there were times when he was slow to get to his feet after being tackled, he showed the kind of speed that allowed him to put himself near the top of the list in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-catch (18.7). Among  receivers with at least 20 catches, he trailed only Sammie Coates (20.7) of the Steelers. 

"He's been incredible," Brady said. "I mean, to lead the league in average yards per catch is spectacular. He's made big plays for us all season. He made big plays in the biggest game of the year for us."

It's one that he'll remember for a long time, but he's hoping to add to that happy memory in two weeks.

"We've grinded throughout this entire year, this is what we worked for, and this is what we wanted to get to," Hogan said. "It's a special moment for all of these guys in this locker room. We'll enjoy this and get back to work because we've got one more."