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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
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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.”

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Read More: Anquan Boldin, Boston Sports Stories of the Year 2013, Dennis Pitta, Joe Flacco
Titans DB Bernard Pollard fined $42K for hit to head 09.18.13 at 11:03 am ET
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Titans safety and noted Patriots villian Bernard Pollard was fined $42,000 by the NFL for his hit Sunday that concussed Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. On the play, Pollard led with his shoulder but contacted the defenseless receiver’s head. He was not penalized by the on-field officials.

The eight-year pro tweeted his fine this morning, writing:

So @nfl said I did “everything right” but 42k later I still get fined. Wow! It’s called football but they want 2 hand touch. #TitanUp#

In Tennessee’€™s first two games, Pollard has 15 tackles and one interception.

He also was fined $10,000 for a late hit out of bounds in Tennessee’s first preseason game.

Pollard is infamous in New England for his role in a number of key injuries and plays.

As a member of the Chiefs, Pollard delivered the low hit that tore Tom Brady‘€™s ACL in 2008. The then-Texan was preparing to tackle wide receiver Wes Welker when Welker’€™s knee gave out, resulting in a torn ACL during the 2009 season. With the Ravens, his tackle on Rob Gronkowski in the 2012 AFC championship game led to a severe ankle sprain that hampered Gronkowski in New England’€™s Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants. And in last season’€™s AFC championship game, Pollard knocked Stevan Ridley out of the game with a brutal hit to the head that also forced a decisive turnover.

Fortunately for the Patriots, the Titans are not on the regular-season schedule this year.

Read More: Bernard Pollard, rob gronkowski, Stevan Ridley, Tom Brady
Ravens DB Bernard Pollard predicts demise of NFL 01.28.13 at 9:39 am ET
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Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, best known in New England for his injury-causing hits over the last five years to Patriots players Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Steven Ridley, said the league’s attempts to make the game safer are likely to lead to its end.

“Thirty years from now, I don’t think it will be in existence,” he told “I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it.

“Guys are getting fined, and they’re talking about, ‘Let’s take away the strike zone,’ and, ‘Take the pads off,’ or, ‘Take the helmets off.” It’s going to be a thing where fans aren’t going to want to watch it anymore.”

Added Pollard: “The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety], but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I’m waiting for … and, Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks.

“Like I said, I pray it never happens, but you’ve got guys who are 350 pounds running 4.5 and 4.4s, and these owners and coaches want scout-run blockers and linemen to move walls. At the same time, they tell you, ‘Don’t hit here, and don’t hit there, or we’ll take your money.’ Like I said, I hope I’m wrong, but I just believe one day there’s going to be a death that takes place on the field because of the direction we’re going.”

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Read More: Bernard Pollard, rob gronkowski, Rumor Mill, Stevan Ridley