FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The assassin's eye is supposed to belong to Tom Brady. He is the quarterback who was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime. He puts other teams away, taking an inch of an opening and prying it wide.
But now, look at Joe Flacco. When Brady and the Patriots provided the Ravens a sliver of an opening Sunday, Flacco became the sniper, cool and precise.
He took a tight game and blew it open with three second-half touchdown passes that lifted Baltimore to a 28-13 victory in the AFC title game.
"It was pretty awesome," said Flacco, whose team lost last season's AFC title game 23-20 at New England when Billy Cundiff missed a last-minute field goal.
"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."
The victory means Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis' final season will conclude in two weeks in New Orleans. He was the MVP of the 2001 game, the Ravens' only Super Bowl win (and only other Super Bowl appearance).
"This is our time. This is our time," Lewis said as he and four teammates received the AFC championship trophy. "All these men out there, there might just be only five of us up here. But every man out there sacrificed this year for each other, and man, we did it and we're on our way to the Super Bowl. Awesome."
In the first half, the Patriots had the ball for six more minutes than the Ravens. They outgained the Ravens 214-130 and had 15 first downs to the Ravens' eight. Yet they led by just 13-7 after Stephen Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal on the final play.
In the first half, Flacco completed just 6-of-12 for 81 yards.
However, in the second, he went 15-of-24 for 159 yards. His touchdowns came in a span of 10:01. He connected with tight end Dennis Pitta for 5 yards with 6:14 left in the third to put the Ravens ahead 14-13. He hit Anquan Boldin for 3 yards four seconds into the fourth and for 11 yards 3:43 later.
"They outplayed us and outcoached us tonight," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "Nothing was good enough."
The turning point came during the third quarter. Leading 13-7, New England had the ball third and 8 at the Baltimore 34. An open Wes Welker dropped an easy Brady pass near the first down marker that would at the very least have put New England in better field goal position.
Instead, the Patriots punted. Taking over at the 13, Flacco went 6 of 9 for 64 yards capped by Pitta's touchdown.
After a three-and-out, Flacco went right back down the field. The 63-yard drive was highlighted by Torrey Smith's 23-yard catch and capped when Flacco lofted a pass to Boldin, who outleaped cornerback Devin McCourty for a 21-13 lead.
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley fumbled on the next possession. And four plays later, Flacco hit Boldin for a touchdown.
After the clock reached zero, many Ravens gathered on the field jumping, chest-bumping and whooping before several thousand fans wearing Ravens jerseys — mostly Lewis' No. 52 — who remained in the stands.