The touchdown by Pitta capped the Ravens’ best drive of the game, covering 87 yards in 10 plays and made it 14-13. It started with a 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty, and it was an indication of things to come.
The Ravens gained just 130 yards in the first half, yet trailed by only six points.
Brady guided a 13-play drive to Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Neither defense yielded a big play, and punters Zoltan Mesko and Sam Koch were the busiest guys on the field.
That changed when the teams switched sides for the second quarter. Baltimore again was pinned deep, at its 10, but Flacco led a 13-play drive. Ray Rice, whose 83-yard run on the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage in their wild-card round victory here three years ago, ran left untouched for the TD.
Awakened by Baltimore’s march, the Patriots staged a long one of their own, 79 yards, aided by a 15-yard personal foul by Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Wes Welker picked up 24 yards on a short pass, then got free in the right corner of the end zone after a mix-up in the Ravens’ secondary, making it 10-7.
It was 13-7 by halftime as Gostkowski connected from 25 yards, with New England outsmarting Baltimore several times. But Brady and Belichick made mental errors by not calling a timeout quickly enough after a short scramble by the 35-year-old quarterback. So the Patriots didn’t get a shot at the end zone and Gostkowski made his second kick.
Shockingly for an offense that scored 557 points this season, that was it for New England.
‘‘We are probably the only team in the AFC that matches up good with the boy, No. 12 over there and his coach,’’ linebacker Terrell Suggs said of Brady and Belichick.
Now comes another intriguing matchup — for everything.
NOTES: Brady has 5,949 yards passing, the most in NFL history for the postseason. He threw for 320 yards Sunday but was picked off twice in the fourth quarter. ... Patriots CB Aqib Talib hurt his thigh and DT Kyle Love injured his knee. Backup safety Patrick Chung was helped off the field after one play. ... Baltimore beat San Francisco 16-6 in the 2011 season.
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