FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Yet again, the Ravens got agonizingly close to an AFC title.
And this time, no one better blame their quarterback.
Billy Cundiff missed a potential game-tying 32-yard field goal wide left with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter, giving the Patriots a thrilling 23-20 win and an AFC championship.
After Joe Flacco led the Ravens 65 yards down the field in the final minutes, Cundiff was given a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. Morgan Cox’s snap was decent, Sam Koch’s hold was good, but Cundiff missed the kick.
And the Ravens will have a long time to think about it.
In what was truly a spectacular game, no team led by more than one possession at any point, as both squads traded body blows on the scoreboard.
Flacco played an exceptional game, throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns, although he did throw a fourth-quarter interception which halted a Baltimore drive.
After an excellent defensive stand, the Ravens got the ball back, only to have their hearts broken.
The Patriots were first to reach the endzone when BenJarvus Green-Ellis scampered in from seven yards out, giving New England a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter. Flacco and the Ravens answered right back with an 80-yard scoring drive which was capped off by a 6-yard strike from Flacco to Pitta, which tied the game.
Two Stephen Gostkowski field goals - one late in the second quarter and one early in the third - gave the Pats a 16-10 lead, but the Ravens answered with 10 straight points.
Flacco hit rookie Torrey Smith for a fantastic 29-yard catch and run for a touchdown late in the third quarter, and on the ensuing kickoff, Danny Woodhead fumbled, giving the Ravens fantastic field position at the New England 28-yard line.
Cundiff’s 39-yard field goal briefly gave the Ravens a 20-16 lead, but the Pats jumped right back on top on the next drive when Tom Brady dove into the end zone from a yard out on a fourth down play from the 1-yard line.
The Ravens got a shot to tie the game or take the lead late in the fourth quarter when rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith made a spectacular diving interception in the endzone and returned it to the Baltimore 38. But the Ravens failed to turn the takeaway into points.
Instead of attempting a 50-yard field goal with just under three minutes to play in the fourth, John Harbaugh elected to go for it on 4th-and-6. Flacco was pressured and his pass for Pitta went incomplete, giving the Pats the ball and a chance to run out the clock.
Ed Reed batted down a Tom Brady pass, giving the Ravens one last shot. But they couldn’t come through.
Wide receiver Lee Evans had a potential game-winning touchdown pass batted out of his hands by Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore, and two plays later, Cundiff sent his kick wide left.
This one will sting for a while, that’s for sure.