FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — From the very first play, Ray Rice and the running Ravens made the team of the last decade look like the pushovers of the new one.
Rice burst up the middle for an 83-yard touchdown with frigid fans still settling into their seats, Tom Brady turned the ball over three times on the first four possessions and Baltimore knocked off New England 33-14 on Sunday in a stadium where the Patriots had never lost a playoff game.
The Ravens (10-7) were only slight underdogs to the team that won three Super Bowls from 2002 through 2005. Now, if they beat Indianapolis next Saturday night, they’ll reach the AFC championship game for the second straight year as a wild-card team.
The Patriots tried to rev up the crowd by sending Wes Welker onto the field on crutches with four teammates for the opening coin toss after he suffered a season-ending knee injury a week earlier at Houston.
But with just 6:02 gone in the game and the Ravens leading 14-0, that crowd booed the team that hadn’t lost at home all season.
By the end of the first quarter it was 24-0.
Brady, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, would have trouble overcoming that on his best day. Sunday was not one of them. Brady was 23 of 42 for 154 yards two touchdowns passing and three interceptions.
The Patriots (10-7) received the second-half kickoff trailing 24-7. But Brady threw his third interception, matching his career playoff high, and Dawan Landry returned it 42 yards to set up Billy Cundiff’s 23-yard field goal that made it 27-7.
Brady then threw his second touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, Welker’s replacement, covering 1 yard. But the Patriots’ defense kept parting in the path of the Ravens runners and Willis McGahee ran 3 yards with 10:32 left for a 33-14 lead.
The Ravens, who lost the AFC championship game to Pittsburgh last year, will try to make up for a 17-15 loss to the Colts in Baltimore on Nov. 22.
Since then, the Ravens are 5-2 after their three-man rushing attack of Rice, McGahee and Le’Ron McClain outran and overpowered the Patriots — gaining 236 yards on the ground with Rice leading the way with 159. Rice ran for two touchdowns and McGahee and McClain one each on the Gillette Stadium turf where the Patriots had been outstanding.
They were 8-0 this season, the only AFC team to go unbeaten at home. Brady was 7-0 in playoff games at Gillette. And they had won their last 11 home playoff games there and at Foxborough Stadium, since their last loss in 1978.
And the Patriots had never lost to the Ravens, home or away, in their other five matchups.
The rout was nothing like the last big game between the teams when the Ravens nearly ruined the Patriots’ quest for the first 16-0 regular-season in NFL history. The Patriots won that in Baltimore 27-24 in the 12th game of 2007 on Brady’s touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left.
On Sunday, the Ravens’ dominance on offense and defense left little room for a Patriots rally.
On defense, the Ravens pressured Brady into mistake after mistake, and not one penalty was called against the Ravens for being too physical with the NFL’s 2007 MVP who missed all but the first quarter of last season’s opener with a left knee injury. After the Patriots’ 27-21 win over the Ravens in Foxborough on Oct. 4, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis complained about roughing the passer penalties that helped the Patriots on two touchdown drives.
Brady has played much of the time since then with injuries to his ribs and a right finger. That affected his accuracy, leading to an inconsistent season. Without Welker, the NFL leader with 123 catches, Brady was missing his most reliable receiver who bailed him out time and time again.
Welker wouldn’t have kept the Patriots from falling behind 14-0.
Rice scored on the first offensive play and Brady fumbled the ball on the fourth play when he was sacked by Terrell Suggs, who recovered it. Five plays later, all runs, McClain scored from 1 yard.
After the teams exchanged punts, Brady threw another interception when he was pressured by Jarret Johnson. Chris Carr caught it and the Ravens needed just six plays for Rice to score from 1 yard.