|01.20.13 at 6:26 pm ET|
The Falcons raced to an early 17-0 lead, as quarterback Matt Ryan tore apart San Francisco’s defense, beating the Niners deep on balls to wide receiver Julio Jones (who had 100 yards receiving in the first quarter en route to an 11-catch, 182-yard, two-touchdown day) and working with tight end Tony Gonzalez (eight catches, 78 yards, touchdown) in the middle of the field.
However, after the Falcons went up by three scores on the first play of the second quarter, the 49ers started to find an offensive rhythm with running back Frank Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick, scoring touchdowns on three straight drives in the second and third quarters to get back into the game, narrowing the deficit to 24-21 early in the second half. Meanwhile, the Falcons offense faltered, as Ryan got picked once and fumbled on another drive; Atlanta would not score in the second half.
San Francisco finally broke through with the game-winning touchdown with 8:23 left in the fourth quarter, when Gore — who finished the day with 21 carries for 90 yards with two touchdowns — reached the end zone from nine yards out.
Now, the Niners await the winner of the Patriots-Ravens game to see who they’ll oppose in their quest to win a sixth Super Bowl. The 49ers beat the Patriots, 41-34, in Week 15 of the regular season in Foxboro, a game that saw the Patriots fall behind by 28 points in the second half before zooming back to tie the game, only to permit two late game-deciding scores. The Niners have yet to face the Ravens this year.
For a complete recap of San Francisco’s win over the Falcons, click here. For Christopher Price‘s breakdown of how the 49ers and Patriots stack up (following San Francisco’s regular season victory), click here. For comprehensive Patriots coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.
|01.20.13 at 5:58 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There’s a reason for everything the Patriots do and when they chose Matt Light and Kevin Faulk to be honorary captains for the AFC championship there was a definite message from Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“I just pinched myself coming over here because I was thinking as a fan sitting in the stands we had the privilege of one home playoff game in ‘78 which we lost to Houston, and I thought about that,” Kraft said on Friday. “We’re sitting here on the eve ‘ our family has owned this team 19 years and this is our 17th home playoff game. We have a record of 14-2. I was thinking that last year we had our honorary captains, Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, [Tedy] Bruschi and Troy Brown representing the ‘96 and ‘01 [teams], which were our first two championship games. Our two captains this year have been here for five.
“How do you do this? It’s about having great coaches, but most of all, it’s having great players and we’ve been blessed to have some wonderful players here. I feel a special connection and attachment to both Matt Light and Kevin Faulk, who have been here for five championship games but also our three Super Bowl titles. It’s my great pleasure to introduce Matt Light and Kevin Faulk.”
Light and Faulk will be out for the coin toss moments before the Patriots look for their sixth AFC championship in the last 12 seasons.
What do Faulk and Light think?
“First and foremost I would like to say thank you to Mr. Kraft and the Patriot organization just for the opportunity and honor to be able to be the honorary captain for the AFC Championship game,” Faulk said. “It’s kind of different for me and I am pretty sure it’s the same for Matt because we are used to being on the other side of these in the locker room preparing for the game. But it’s one of those [things] right now where times have changed and we are on the other side of the fence preparing for it in a different way. To have the opportunity to do this and to know the guys that have done it in the past like Ty, Bruschi and Drew, it is an honor.
“You never think about what is going to happen at the end whenever you are done playing football. I never thought I was going to play 13 years in the NFL and to accomplish the accomplishments that we accomplished as a football team and to see this organization still on that same path after so many years, it just speaks volumes for the organization, the players, the coaches and just everybody around here. Once again I would just like say thank you for the opportunity to Mr. Kraft and the Patriots organization.
“So listen, as a fan, I have never seen anything but a win at Gillette Stadium,” Light added. “Besides what some of you know, as a guy that isn’t the biggest sports fan off the field, there is nobody that is going to be in this stadium that is going to be more fired up for this one than this guy right here. Secondly, the guy that is getting this honor alongside of me here, Kevin Faulk ‘ if there is one guy that I can walk out on a field one more time with, it would be the guy that did it on third down and every time he touched the field I felt better at my position. And even if I was getting smoked all game I felt better when he was out there because I knew that he would get rid of it quicker. It is just an awesome thing to be back here and be alongside Kevin Faulk.
“To have the Kraft family honor us in this way, to share in this special moment, at this time of the year, when everybody is amped up, it is truly a blessing. As Kevin said, the time that I have spent here, the time that Kevin has spent here, you look back on it and you say, as an organization, as a coaching staff and as the guys you play with, as all those things were combined to form what we experienced, it doesn’t get any better. We really appreciate it and we are really looking forward to it. I know we are. It is going to be good.”
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|01.20.13 at 5:15 pm ET|
There were no surprises on the Patriots’ inactive list for Sunday’s AFC championship against the Ravens. OL Markus Zusevics, DB, Malcolm Williams, CB Derrick Martin WR Kamar Aiken, DE Jake Bequette, DL Marcus Forston and offensive lineman Nick McDonald were all declared inactive for the game.
For the Ravens, inactives are CB Asa Jackson, OL Ramon Harewood, DL DeAngelo Tyson, DT Bryan Hall, S Omar Brown, LB Adrian Hamilton and WR Deonte Thompson.
Running back Bernard Pierce (knee), fullback Vonta Leach (knee/ankle) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back) were questionable on Friday but will play.
Be sure to visit the Patriots page at weei.com/patriots for all the latest on the AFC championship and tune into the game on WEEI-FM 93.7 at 6:30.
|01.20.13 at 3:57 pm ET|
|01.20.13 at 3:01 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There are several factors that figure to play a role in the outcome of tonight’s AFC championship. Rob Gronkowski is out for the playoffs with a broken forearm. Ray Lewis could be playing in his final game in the NFL. The weather will be bitterly cold and windy by the end of the night. The Patriots are motivated by the desire to get back to the Super Bowl and finally win their fourth Vince Lombardi trophy title after near misses to the Giants in their previous two trips. The Ravens are looking for revenge after losing in this game last year, 23-20, when Sterling Moore knocked the game-winning TD out of the hands of Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds.
|01.20.13 at 2:01 pm ET|
Game time temperatures are expected in the mid-30s and are expected to drop into the mid-20s throughout the game but the bigger factor will be winds between 15-20 miles an hour with gusts up to 35 MPH making it feel like 14 degrees in the second half.
The only significant injury for the Patriots is the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski to a broken left arm, suffered last Sunday in the win over the Texans.
Chandler Jones (ankle) and Danny Woodhead (left thumb) should both be available to play and both were listed as probable for the game after fully participating in practice on Friday.
As for the Ravens, the most notable injury could be running back Bernard Pierce (knee). He did not practice on Thursday and was limited on Friday, and was officially listed as questionable on Friday.
This is the fourth rematch in AFC championship history since 1975. The Steelers beat the Raiders in 1974 and 1975 before losing the 1976 game in Oakland as the Raiders finally broke through and won Super Bowl XI. In 1978 and 79, the Steelers hosted the Houston Oilers, and beat them both times on the way to winning Super Bowl XII and Super Bowl XIII.
It happened again in 1986 and ’87. In Jan. 1987, the Broncos beat the Browns on “The Drive” in Cleveland. The next year, Ernest Byner fumbled in the closing seconds and the Broncos held on to beat the Browns at Mile High Stadium.
The Raiders are the only the team to win an AFC championship rematch.
As for the season history, the Patriots will be looking for revenge after losing a 30-21 fourth-quarter lead and falling 31-30 on a controversial Justin Tucker field goal as time expired at M&T Bank Stadium. The field goal appeared to go over the right upright but replacement officials ruled it good.
Ray Rice had 101 yards rushing on just 20 carries in that game while Joe Flacco was 28-of-39 for 382 yards and three touchdowns. Brady, who last week set the all-time NFL playoff record for quarterback wins with 17, was 28-of-41 for 335 yards and a touchdown in the Sept. 23 game in Baltimore. The high winds at Gillette Stadium today figure to drastically impact the deep passing game.
The press box at Gillette Stadium will be a busy place today as over 600 credentials have been issued to local and national media.
Some other nuggets for today:
For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots. WEEI-FM 93.7 will broadcast the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Ravens at 6:30 p.m.
|01.19.13 at 4:37 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Saturday they have signed rookie defensive lineman Marcus Forston to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. Forston, 22, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 10, 2012 out of Miami. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder, made the 53-man roster rout of training camp and was inactive for the first two games of the 2012 season before making his NFL debut at Baltimore on Sept. 23. He was released on Sept. 26 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 28.