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Ravens race to Indianapolis

Running back Ray Rice takes off for an 83-yard score, giving the Ravens the lead for good 17 seconds into the game.

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Running back Ray Rice takes off for an 83-yard score, giving the Ravens the lead for good 17 seconds into the game.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Ravens needed only a few minutes to obliterate the team of the decade.

From the first offensive play — Ray Rice's sensational 83-yard sprint for a touchdown — Baltimore ambushed the Patriots with one of the best starts in NFL playoff history to run away with a 33-14 victory in an AFC wild-card game Sunday.

The sixth seed produced a nearly flawless start, a 24-0 first-quarter lead. Rice gained 94 yards and two touchdowns in the first 11 minutes.

Baltimore's defense rattled Tom Brady into three turnovers in the Patriots' first four series, making him look like a rookie instead of a clutch championship quarterback.

"The way it started and the way it played out was what we expected," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I'm not surprised by this football team with what they've been through this year and the challenges they've fought through. It was a tremendous victory against a great opponent."

Now, after beating the most successful franchise of the 2000s (the Patriots won three Super Bowls and went to a fourth), the Ravens face the team with the most wins in the decade — the top-seeded Colts — Saturday in Indianapolis.

"Look, we made too many mistakes in the game to win, and that's obvious," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We just didn't do very well as a team in any area. … Obviously we didn't play well."

The Ravens showed they weren't in awe of the Patriots' mystique — Belichick and Brady never had lost a home playoff game — from the time they stepped on the field.

Rice's long run put the Ravens ahead 7-0 17 seconds into the game. Then on the Patriots' third play, Terrell Suggs beat left tackle Matt Light and stripped Brady of the ball, also making the recovery. That set up the Ravens' offense at the New England 17-yard line, and Le'Ron McClain's 1-yard run staked the Ravens to a 14-0 advantage.

One minute later the crowd started booing Brady and his teammates.

"I'd have been booing us, too, the way we played," Brady said. "Playing the way we played (Sunday), we weren't going to beat anybody."

The 24 points by the Ravens tied the most by a team in the first quarter of a postseason game since 1991.

Their success on the ground — Rice gained 159 yards on 22 carries, and the Ravens rushed 52 times for 234 yards — negated a rough game for quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been hampered by a hip injury. Flacco finished 4-of-10 for 34 yards and one interception.

Still, the Ravens had more than enough big plays on both sides of the ball to finally beat the Patriots for the first time in six meetings.

"We'll always remember this one," Rice said. "It's hard to win on the road, especially here."

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Ravens race to Indianapolis 01/11/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 17, 2010 4:27pm]

    

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