New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won his 17th playoff game, breaking former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana’s record for the most postseason wins, as the Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 at New England on Sunday, setting up next Sunday’s showdown and rematch with Ray Lewis’s Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game.
The Patriots will host the Ravens — and linebacker Lewis — at Gillette Stadium in a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game in which the Patriots eked out a win when Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff missed a chip-shot 32-yard field goal in the game’s closing seconds that would have tied the game. The Ravens had chances to win the game outright (Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco appeared to find wide receiver Lee Evans in the endzone for a game-winning touchdown, which was ruled incomplete and not even reviewed) before falling 23-20. Baltimore now has a new kicker, rookie Justin Tucker, who booted a game-winning 47-yard field goal in the second overtime period on Saturday against the Denver Broncos at Denver.
On Sunday, Brady threw for 344 yards against the Texans and Shane Vereen, the standout speedster from Cal, scored three touchdowns, two of them on receptions, for New England. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, though, left the game when he re-injured his forearm and is out for the rest of the playoffs.
This will also be the second consecutive year in which both Harbaugh brothers will have opportunities to take their respective teams to the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers will play at Atlanta next Sunday while John Harbaugh’s Ravens will play New England.
Last year, both Harbaughs lost in their respective divisional championship games.
There will be a lot at stake — and high drama — next Sunday.
It could be Lewis’s last game, as the linebacker has said he will retire after this season.
And Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will look to go to their sixth Super Bowl together. They have won three titles, but have not won a Super Bowl title since 2004.