Had the Patriots steam rolled the Ravens (as most people assumed they would) and advanced to the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning would have had a lot of egg on his face. The Manning VS Brady discussion would have tilted more heavily in favor of Brady. The label of "choker" would have been stuck to Peyton while Brady's legend grew.
Instead, the Ravens extended their tour of destruction. They went on the road for the second straight week, knocking off the two seed as they had knocked off the one. They went into Tom Brady's house, forced him into mistakes and earned themselves a trip to the Super Bowl the hard way, as a Wild Card team.
The Manning VS Brady debate in 2012 ended in a tie. Yes, Brady's team earned a second playoff game, but was beaten at home by the same team the Broncos lost to, only in grander fashion. The Ravens squeaked one out in double OT versus the Broncos. They thumped the Pats. It was never even a game after half time.
As Peyton Manning had the week before, Tom Brady looked completely human and totally beatable. Baltimore just happened to be this years team of destiny in the AFC. That they toppled both Manning and Brady should give Broncos fans some comfort. If "anyone but the Patriots" became the rallying cry once Denver was eliminated then we got what we wanted. The Broncos won't play in the Super Bowl ... but the Patriots won't either.