Ravens-Dolphins: Birds Pick Off Pennington, Crush Dolphins' Dream Season

Vincent JacksonCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2009

It wasn't exactly the way Tony Sparano envisioned the season ending.

The Ravens (12-5) picked off Dolphins' quarterback Chad Pennington four times (twice by Ed Reed, who returned one for a touchdown) en route to a convincing 27-9 victory. 

The win ends a four-game winning streak for Miami (11-6), who had come off a magical divisional championship comeback season. 

Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan devised a great game plan to shut down the Wildcat formation for the second time this season, as Baltimore had beaten Miami earlier in the year, 27-13. 

Baltimore showed no mercy and hurried Pennington into uncharacteristic mistakes. After throwing only seven interceptions during the regular season, Pennington had four in today's game. 

The AP Comeback Player of the Year was under constant pressure by the vaunted defensive front and was sacked three times and fumbled once. 

Rookie head coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco won for the 10th time in 12 games.  Flacco did not have a great day throwing the football (9-of-23, 135 yards) but he did not turn the ball over which was critical.

Baltimore's running game was key to the Ravens victory, rushing for 152 total yards (75 yards for McClain, 62 for McGahee) and a touchdown.  Flacco even added a five-yard run of his own to seal the game with 3:53 left.

Playing in front of the largest crowd in Dolphin Stadium history, the Ravens did not blink an eye and took their time in torturing Miami.  Ed Reed, the NFL's leader in interceptions with nine, scored a touchdown off of an interception that had to be seen for you to believe.

After making an over-the-shoulder catch, Reed headed toward the left sideline, eluded a tackler, reversed his field and sprinted for the right corner of the end zone, scoring after Suggs leveled Pennington at the 5-yard line.

Reed picked off Pennington again late in the third quarter as Miami drove down to the Baltimore red zone.

The playoff win was Baltimore's first since 2002, and they will now face old rival Tennessee in a physical matchup for the right to play for the AFC Championship.

Pennington finished 25-of-38 for 252 yards, one touchdown and those four interceptions.