FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Baltimore Ravens trudged out of their locker room Sunday night to return home, overcome with emotions after a crushing AFC championship game loss to the top-seeded New England Patriots.
Why so sad?
It was a game that was nearly within their grasp, pushing legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to the brink of defeat at Gillette Stadium.
They didn’t make the crucial plays at the end of the game, though, triggering a 23-20 loss to the Patriots that ends their season one game shy of the Super Bowl.
Here’s how the Ravens lost the football game:
1. Former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff managed to miss a normally routine 32-yard chip shot of a field goal attempt, hooking it wide left with 15 seconds remaining in the game. A successful kick would have likely sent the game into overtime.
Two plays prior to the usually reliable Cundiff flubbing the huge kick, wide receiver Lee Evans was unable to secure an accurate Joe Flacco pass in the end zone that would have been the game-winning touchdown pass. Instead, Evans got the football knocked out of his hands by cornerback Sterling Moore. NFL officials decided not to conduct an instant-replay review likely because of the rule that a receiver has to secure the football definitively for the play to be declared a touchdown.
2. Flacco clearly outdueled Brady, completing 22 of 36 passes for 306 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was a strong game by Flacco that should earn him a lot of respect. However, it was Brady who managed to salvage the game despite having an off night where he passed for 239 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Brady jumped over the top of the Ravens’ defense for a one-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winner. Despite how well the Ravens defended Brady and, for the most part, contained tight ends Rob Gronkowski (five catches, 87 yards), Aaron Hernandez (seven catches, 66 yards) by preventing from making their trademark huge plays, the defense was never quite able to finish the Patriots off.
3. It was a far quieter game than what Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice usually does against New England. After rushing for 159 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown, during the Ravens’ 33-14 AFC wild-card victory over the Patriots two seasons ago, Rice was limited to 67 yards on 21 carries. He caught only one pass for 11 yards.