Patriots headed back to Super BowlTrip sealed when Ravens kicker misses game-tying field goal attempt(Getty Images)The Patriots celebrated after Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a field goal in the final seconds of the AFC Championship that could have tied the score.
FOXBOROUGH – The New England Patriots are headed to the seventh Super Bowl in franchise history after a hard-fought, edge-of-your-seat, 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game that was only sealed when Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff pulled a potentially game-tying 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds to play wide left.
RELATEDBox score[/*]Brady: 'I sucked pretty bad, but our defense saved us'[/*]PHOTOS Patriots-Ravens scenes[/*]SURVEY Who gets the game ball?[/*][/list]The miss was jaw-dropping for Baltimore players, who stood on the sideline in disbelief and set off a wild celebration at Gillette Stadium. Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who had a huge role in the game, took off his helmet, his arms outstretched, steam coming off his bald head and bare arms.
After being battered all season, the New England defense forced the Ravens’ field goal on the game's final possession. Rookie Sterling Moore, who earlier missed a tackle on Torrey Smith that led to a touchdown, bounced back mightily, breaking up two end zone pass attempts from Joe Flacco on the Ravens' final possession.
The snap and hold looked good for Cundiff’s kick, but he simply misfired from a manageable distance.
As the Patriots waited to receive the Lamar Hunt Trophy given to the AFC Champions, signs honoring team owner Robert Kraft’s wife Myra, who died on July 20, were everywhere, from the patches on players’ jerseys, to the signs in the stands from fans who waved giant “MHK” and “Win it for Myra” posters.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady plunged one yard over the goal line on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter to put New England on top, 23-20. Brady completed only 22 of 36 passes for 239 yards and no touchdowns, and harshly criticized his performance in a television interview afterward.
"I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us," Brady said.
Flacco had pulled the Ravens ahead, 20-16, when he hit Smith on a 29-yard pass play that Smith ended by diving for the pylon. Flacco was 22-for-36 for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
In the first half, the game was as tight as it was expected it would be, though New England may have squandered some early chances. The Patriots went into the locker room up 13-10 – they had the ball with just under a minute to play and with two timeouts in hand, but opted to take two knees rather than try to get more points.
The early opportunities came on the Pats’ first three possessions: New England started at their own 40, own 39 and own 40, but was only able to score three points despite the short fields.
In the opening minutes, the Patriots’ defense was the story, as it came out strong. Baltimore lost the coin toss but the Patriots, as is their custom, elected to defer, and forced a three-and-out, with Mark Anderson bringing Flacco down from behind when he tucked the ball on third down and tried to run for it.Continued...
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