The Aftermath: Patriots defeat Ravens

When I showed up for work this morning, a solid 12+ hours after the Patriots’ defeat of the Baltimore Ravens, my mind was still numb.  The Patriots have had some big wins over the past eleven years, but none were anything like last night’s.  In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots led for much of the game, blew that lead, and then raced back at the end.  There was a good chunk of that night, where as unbelievable as it seemed, I actually thought that the Patriots were going to win.  Same thing for Super Bowl XXXVIII – I really didn’t doubt the Pats for a second. The 2006 Divisional Round game at San Diego was a stunning come-from-behind win, but the stakes were no where near as high. 

Last night, with nearly as much on the line as you could imagine, the Patriots looked for all the world like they were heading for a gut-wrenching loss.  I liked how the Patriots looked in the first half, building up to a  13-10 lead, but the second half was like a horror movie where you were just waiting for the axe murder to pop out from behind the corner and lop your team’s head off.  New England scored on their opening drive of the half, but settled for their third field goal in four red zone trips.  We all knew heading into the game that laying down 3’s instead of 7’s was a recipe for keeping Baltimore in the game.  Then the Ravens turned the tables, scoring a touch down and putting New England behind 16-17.

But still, it was only one point, right?  Not so fast…  Here comes Danny Woodhead, making a great kickoff return, only to cough up the ball right back to the Ravens.  At this point, the Patriots are down 0-2 in the turnover batter.  Heading into the contest, it was widely known that ball control was another key to the game.  Like red zone efficiency, the Patriots were failing miserably in this area.  Thankfully, the defense came up huge again and held the Ravens to a field goal.  The Pats now trailed 16-20. 

In retrospect, the next Patriots drive was monumental.  At the time, it just seemed like a routine part of the game.  Nobody would have ever thought that Tom Brady’s “Super Man” leap would put the final points of the game on the scoreboard.  Backing up a bit, the Patriots had 1st and 5 at the goal line.  Woodhead ran for 4 yards, 1 foot, and 6 inches.  There was a mere half a yard between him and paydirt.  For some reason, the refs made a horrible spot and put him back at the 1 yard line.  Then Brady did his patented QB sneak and a touchdown was called, only to be reversed.  Another bad spot put the Patriots at the 1/2 yard line, when Brady was literally about two inches from the endzone when his knee hit the ground.  On third down, Benjarvus Green Ellis gets stuffed, setting up a crucial 4th down.  Again, there was no way of knowing how important those 7 points would eventually be, but I think every Patriots fan was rooting for Bill Belichick to make the gutsy call and have the team go for it.  The Patriots simply would not win this game by settling for field goals instead of touchdowns and they were too close to 7 points to give up now.  So Tom Brady made his patented QB sneak for the ages and lept up and over the Ravens defensive line for the deciding score. 

With 11:26 remaining, I half jokingly spoke to the Patriots defense as they lined up on my TV screen.  “If you guys can hold the Ravens scoreless for the next eleven and a half minutes, we’re going to the Super Bowl.”  I had no idea how true those words would eventually ring. 

From there, we had the Spikes interception…

…followed by the inexplicable Tom Brady interception one play later (a long bomb to Aiken, our 6th receiver, in triple coverage?  Really???)…

…followed by Vince Wilfork shoving the Ravens out of field goal range and forcing a failed 4th down conversion…

…followed by a inexplicable 3 and out when a 1st down would have sealed the game…

…followed by the Ravens marching into field goal territory…

…followed by the Ravens marching into legit touchdown territory…

…followed by vomit rising in the back of my throat, as I remembered how the defense let nearly the exact same thing happen against the Giants earlier this year…

…followed by Lee Evans catching the game-sealing touchdown in the end zone…

…followed by Sterling Moore’s immaculate deflection batting that ball out of his hands…

…followed by Billy Cundiff lining up for a gimme field goal to send the game into overtime…

…followed by…

 

Utter joy.

 

This had all the makings of another tragic playoff loss.  Missed opportunities like Brady overthrowing Gronkowski for an easy touchdown early in the game…   Field goals that were settled for… Turnovers, followed by turnovers…   But somehow, some way, these New England Patriots found within themselves the way to overcome it all and win a game of inches by a millimeter. 

I’ve heard a lot of talk that the Patriots “got lucky” and that the Ravens were “the better team”.  Every bit of it is pure and utter hogwash.  There was no botched call or controversy last night.  Defenders need to swat balls.  Kickers need to make kicks.  That’s football.  And even if Billy Cundiff made that field goal, who is to say that the Patriots wouldn’t have prevailed in overtime anyway?

Last night was a night of celebration.  It was the last game at home during the MHK season.  Drew, Tedy, Ty, and Troy were in the building.  And all the disapointment of the past three seasons were wiped away as the Patriots finally returned to the Super Bowl.  Improbable or not, it just couldn’t have ended any other way.  Robert Kraft summed it up best, when he used the word “family” during the Lamar Hunt Trophy presentation.  That’s what last night was all about.  The past met the present.  A hope for the future was forged.  And we all experienced it together, as one, as a family, whether we were on the field, in the stands, or watching on our sofa at home. 

And now, together, we head to Indianapolis.

Derek Hanson

About Derek Hanson

Doctor by day, blogger by night, Derek Hanson is the founder of the Bloguin Network and has been a Patriots fan for more than 20 years.

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