FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady threw a 1-yard scoring pass to Wes Welker late in the second quarter and the New England Patriots led the Baltimore Ravens 10-7 in the AFC championship game Sunday.
The touchdown capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive and followed a 2-yard scoring run by Baltimore’s Ray Rice.
The Patriots began the scoring on a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 6:21 left in the opening quarter, ending a 13-play, 67-yard drive during which Brady completed five of seven passes for 55 yards.
But New England suffered three injuries in the first half. Cornerback Aqib Talib hurt his thigh and defensive tackle Kyle Love injured his knee. The return of both starters was questionable. Backup safety Patrick Chung was helped off the field after one play.
Welker’s touchdown 4:18 before intermission came on a pass to the right on which cornerbacks Corey Graham and Chykie Brown appeared to get crossed up on their assignments.
On the first play of the series, Baltimore’s Dannell Ellerbe was penalized 15 yards for a blow to the head. Then a 24-yard completion from Brady to Welker gave the Patriots a first down at the Ravens 16-yard line.
Rice’s touchdown ended a 13-play, 90-yard drive that lasted 5:51. Joe Flacco threw completions for first downs of 17 yards to Dennis Pitta, 11 yards to Rice, 8 yards to Bernard Pierce and 25 yards to Torrey Smith. With a first down at the Patriots 15-yard line, Rice ran for 8 and 5 yards, giving the Ravens a first down at the 2.
After Flacco threw an incompletion out of bounds, Rice took a handoff, ran to the left and scored easily.
Both teams punted on their first possession before the Patriots began their scoring drive at their 21-yard line after a 50-yard punt by Sam Koch.
The Patriots began the series with Brady’s 8-yard completion to Brandon Lloyd. The pair teamed up for three completions, gaining 37 yards, on the drive.
The Ravens punted on their first three possessions in the first quarter. The Patriots punted on three of their four series, forcing Baltimore to start deep in its territory.
On their first possession after Gostkowski’s field goal, the Patriots made it to the Ravens 35 before punting. And on their next series, they got to the Ravens 45 but punted again. That gave Baltimore the ball at its 10-yard line with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.
A win Sunday would send the Ravens (12-6) to the Super Bowl for the second time and extend the 17-year career of linebacker Ray Lewis, who has said he will retire after the season.
A victory would put the Patriots (13-4) in their eighth Super Bowl, tying the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all time, and Brady in his sixth.
It would be the Patriots’ second straight appearance in the NFL title game and third in six years.
The Patriots played without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke his left arm a week earlier in their 41-28 divisional win over the Houston Texans.
The winner of the game plays the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
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Official Wire and AP
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