Ed Reed had an opportunity to turn the momentum of the game in the first half, but decided he would wait until crunch time to dash the Houston Texans' Super Bowl aspirations with what became a game-clinching interception.
Joe Flacco provided his second-highest quarterback rating in a playoff game Sunday in the Baltimore Ravens' huge win over the Houston Texans.
Flacco completed 14-of-27 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly, zero turnovers. The Ravens did an excellent job of mixing the run with the pass, confusing a stout Houston defense and allowing receiver Anquan Boldin to exploit their secondary.
Other than a 2009 playoff win over the New England Patriots, where Flacco threw only 10 passes, this was the fewest attempted passes in a playoff game for the quarterback out of Delaware.
The Ravens will need Flacco—and his big arm—to exploit the New England secondary next week if they expect to play in their first Super Bowl in over 10 years.
Safety Ed Reed was all over the field Sunday, making six tackles, deflecting four passes and catching a vital interception at the Baltimore four yard line with 1:51 left in the game.
Baltimore was not able to take advantage of Reed's timely interception, but it forced the Texans to use all of their timeouts, making a comeback next to impossible.
Houston was able to get the ball back with 45 seconds left in the game. On a desperation fourth-down pass attempt to the end zone, Reed leaped into the air to bat the ball down, and as he knocked it away, collapsed to the ground as his left knee buckled under him.
The Ravens will miss Reed's ball-hawking skills if he is unable to go next week against the Patriots.
While Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are the most infamous players on the Baltimore Ravens explosive defense, defensive back Lardarius Webb made a name for himself Sunday afternoon.
The third-year pro out of Nicholls State was arguably the most active member of the Ravens defense, registering four tackles, four pass deflections and two interceptions.
His two interceptions, almost half of his regular season total of five, proved vital for the Baltimore offense, leading to a touchdown and field goal.
If Ed Reed is injured, Baltimore will surely need Webb to step up as the playmaker he was in their huge win Sunday when they play New England's potent offense.
It was not for a lack of carries that Ray Rice struggled running the ball.
The Baltimore Ravens handed the ball off to the fourth-year back out of Rutgers 21 times for 60 yards. The blistering back only averaged 2.9 yards per carry, his third worst average on the season, only behind his 2.6 yard average against the New York Jets and 2.4 yard average against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rice will look to avenge a tough day running the ball when he matches up against the regular season No. 17 ranked New England run defense. In the last playoff matchup between these two teams, Rice had a career day, running for 159 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns, including an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
While the Ravens ranked No. 4 in pass defense to close out the season, they struggled early in the season defending the pass.
Ed Reed's ankle injury hurts the physical mentality of the Baltimore defense and a week after Tom Brady's electric performance at Gillette Stadium, the Ravens will have a long week preparing to defend one of the premiere passers in the NFL.
Baltimore will need to get healthy, quickly, and prepare for Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots strong group of receivers before they travel to New England with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.