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Top Boston Sports Stories of 2013, No. 5: Patriots lose to Ravens in AFC championship game

12.28.13 at 9:24 am ET

Over the final days of the year, will count down the top 13 stories of 2013 in Boston sports. This is No. 5: Patriots lose to Ravens in AFC championship game. To see the previous entries, click here.

The 2012-13 postseason looked like the Patriots’ opportunity for redemption.

One year after New England lost the Super Bowl to the Giants for the second time in five seasons, the path to Super Bowl XLVII looked relatively unobstructed. The Patriots blew away the competition in the regular season, as they finished 11-1 vs. the AFC (12-4 overall) and finished first in the AFC East for the fourth consecutive season.

After a first-round bye, the Pats began the postseason with a 41-28 trouncing of the Texans at Gillette Stadium.

More good news came when the Ravens stunned the top-seeded Broncos in overtime in Denver, meaning the Patriots would host the AFC championship game. The bad news? The game was against Baltimore, the one AFC team that beat the Patriots in the regular season.

The Ravens and Patriots faced off in the AFC championship game on Jan. 20 and Baltimore emerged victorious, 28-13, ending the Patriots’€™ hopes of their first NFL title since the 2004 season.

“They made more plays than we did,” wide receiver Wes Welker said after the game. “At the end, it just wasn’t enough for us. That’s the way it goes.”

“We’ve lost before. It takes a while to get over,” quarterback Tom Brady said.

Baltimore used a dominant second half to upset the Patriots. New England led 13-7 in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals of 25 and 31 yards, and Welker and Brady hooked up for a 1-yard touchdown pass. On the other side, Ray Rice scored a rushing touchdown from two yards out.

But the Ravens shut out the Patriots in the second half, while exploding for 21 points. Joe Flacco threw three touchdowns, the first to Dennis Pitta and the final two to Anquan Boldin, and the defense forced three fourth-quarter turnovers. Brady tossed a pair of interceptions and Stevan Ridley lost a fumble.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Flacco, who outplayed his counterpart, completing 21-of-36 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. “We were here last year and thought we had it, but came up a little short. Guys came out in the second half and made plays. … We put pressure on them like that, and it worked pretty well.”

“We’ve always believed in Joe,” Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And for Joe to come out and to have this kind of a game and this kind of a stage three weeks in a row.”

Perhaps the most memorable play, both because of the magnitude and the wow-factor of it, occurred at the start of the fourth quarter. New England trailed by eight points and had the ball following Flacco’€™s second touchdown pass of the half. On first-and-10 from the New England 39-yard line Ridley received a handoff from Flacco. The running back burst past the line of scrimmage, squeezed through a Brandon Lloyd block and collided head-on with Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard at about the 45-yard line. The brutal collision forced Ridley to drop the ball, as he lost consciousness and fell lifelessly to the ground.

The Ravens recovered Ridley’€™s fumble and proceeded to conduct a 47-yard touchdown drive that culminated in another Flacco touchdown pass to extend the lead to 28-13, a lead the Patriots were unable to surmount.

“They outplayed us and outcoached us,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “That’s pretty much the story.”

The Ray Lewis-led Ravens€™ defense perplexed Brady, forcing New England to pass much more than it was comfortable doing. Brady completed 29-of-54 passes for 320 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. The Patriots lost all three games that Brady threw at least 50 passes last season.

Adding insult to injury, outspoken Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs made comments directed toward Brady and Belichick after the game.

“We are probably the only team in the AFC that matches up good with the boy, No. 12, over there and his coach,” said Suggs, who had some other obnoxious things to say as well, calling the Patriots “the most arrogant [expletives] in the world, starting from Belichick on down.”

Flacco and the Ravens went on to defeat the 49ers, 34-31, in Super Bowl XLVII.

Read More: Anquan Boldin, Boston Sports Stories of the Year 2013, Dennis Pitta, Joe Flacco