Final

Ravens 20

(12-4, 4-4 away)

Patriots 23

(13-3, 7-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

3:00 PM ET, January 22, 2012

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA 

1 2 3 4 T
BAL 0 10 10 020
NE 3 10 3 723

Top Performers

Passing: J. Flacco (BAL) - 306 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: B. Green-Ellis (NE) - 15 CAR, 68 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: A. Boldin (BAL) - 6 REC, 101 YDS

Tom Brady, missed FG vault Patriots past stunned Ravens, into Super Bowl

ESPN.com news services

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady got all the help he needed to get the New England Patriots into the Super Bowl.

Thank you, Billy Cundiff.

The Baltimore Ravens kicker shanked a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left and the Patriots escaped with a 23-20 victory in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Usually, vintage Brady doesn't need much assistance in championship settings, but the Patriots' much-maligned defense came through, and Brady's 1-yard touchdown dive with 11:29 left proved to be the winning points.

"Well, I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us," Brady said after throwing for 239 yards, with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. "I'm going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple of weeks, but I'm proud of this team, my teammates."

Brady waited out the final tense minutes on the sideline, and then celebrated with the rest of his team when Cundiff's attempt went wide left. The Ravens looked on in stunned horror.

Cundiff had no excuse.

"It's a kick I've kicked probably a thousand times in my career," Cundiff said. "I went out there and didn't convert. That's the way things go."

Next up as the Patriots chase their fourth Super Bowl trophy in Brady and coach Bill Belichick's tenure in New England is the New York Giants, who beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in overtime Sunday night.

The Patriots were installed as 3-point favorites for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.

In their last trip to the big game, the Patriots had an 18-0 record when they were stunned by the Giants four years ago. They won the NFL championship for the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. This time, they head to the Super Bowl with a 10-game winning streak.

Before Cundiff missed, the Ravens had a chance to go ahead two plays earlier, but wide receiver Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone by backup cornerback Sterling Moore, who earlier was victimized for a touchdown that gave Baltimore (13-5) the lead 17-16.

On his touchdown, Brady took a huge hit from Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, then emphatically spiked the ball as he walked away. Earlier, Brady showed his fire by barking at Lewis following a hard tackle on a 4-yard run.

"It's a pretty mentally tough team," said Brady, whose fifth trip to the Super Bowl will equal John Elway's achievement with Denver. "There's really some resiliency. We've shown that all season. Even in the games we've lost, the three games we lost, we fought until the end. We're always going to fight to the end. It's great to be a part of a team like this."

Baltimore had the touted defense in this matchup, but New England's unit, ranked 31st overall, was just as powerful.

"We stepped up," Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "We all stepped up big time. Being in this situation is a great moment. You have to cherish this moment."

The Patriots shut down Ray Rice, the league's total yardage leader, who was limited to 78 yards. Brandon Spikes made a fourth-quarter interception of Joe Flacco, who played well before that and threw for two touchdowns. And when the Ravens were threatening to score a late touchdown to win their first conference title in 11 years, New England clamped down.

"It's two great football teams, two gladiators, I guess, just kind of going at each other at the end, and I'm proud of our guys," Harbaugh said. "You know, we've got 53 guys, mighty men, as we like to call them -- and they fought, and we came up a little bit short, as 53. You know, 53 win and 53 lose."

With Rice a nonfactor, Baltimore had to rely on Flacco, and he delivered one of his best performances. Flacco has led the Ravens into the playoffs in all four of his pro seasons, but not to the Super Bowl. He was 22 for 36 for 306 yards and touchdowns of 6 yards to Dennis Pitta and 29 to rookie Torrey Smith.

The loss hardly could be blamed on Flacco.

"I don't know if I ever will prove anything," he said. "I just play the same way. We lost; someone has to. But we laid it all out on the field."

Operating against a porous secondary missing its top cornerback, Kyle Arrington, who left in the second quarter with an eye injury before returning in the second half with a visor, Flacco gave Baltimore its first lead. His short pass on third down to explosive receiver Smith turned into a 29-yard scamper down the right sideline after Moore completely whiffed on the tackle.

Danny Woodhead's fumble on the ensuing kickoff set up Baltimore at the Patriots 28, but a third-down sack forced Cundiff to kick a 39-yard field goal, making it 20-16.

New England didn't flinch.

Brady took the Patriots 63 yards in 11 plays, and seemed to score on a 1-yard run. The call was overruled by replay, though, and on fourth down, he dived just high enough over the line for the winning points.

"Every inch counts in this game and every foot counts in this game," said 12-year veteran guard Brian Waters, who joined the Patriots this year and is headed to his first Super Bowl.

Defense was particularly dominant early on. The Patriots held Baltimore to minus-4 yards on its first three first-down runs and forced the Ravens to go three-and-out each time. Meanwhile, the Patriots put together a methodical 13-play, 50-yard drive helped greatly by an illegal contact penalty on Lardarius Webb that negated a tipped interception by Bernard Pollard.

But Brady was sacked for the first time by Paul Kruger and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal.

Late in the first quarter, the Ravens changed tactics after Webb picked off a pass intended for Julian Edelman at the Baltimore 30. Flacco rolled right on first down and threw deep down the sideline to a wide-open Smith. Had the pass not been short, Smith likely would have sprinted into the end zone. Instead, it was a 42-yard gain, not bad at all given Baltimore's previous ineptitude with the ball.

Cundiff's 20-yard field goal momentarily tied it.

Brady, perhaps peeved by his poor throw that Webb picked off, hit two passes for 29 yards on a 75-yard drive to make it 10-3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 36 yards on that series, and also drew a personal foul against Webb, who ripped off the running back's helmet on a short rush. Green-Ellis surged into the end zone from the 7, then pointed to the patch on his jersey honoring Myra Kraft, the late wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

In the locker room afterward, Kraft was asked about the motivation the team got from dedicating the season to his wife of 48 years. Kraft tapped an MHK pin on his left lapel and kissed his fingers before pointing upward.

"They're an amazing team, they're a great brotherhood, they're a family," Kraft said.

Going back to the pass, the Ravens tied it on a 6-yard throw to Pitta that concluded an 80-yard march. Flacco opened the drive with a 20-yard completion to Evans and then Anquan Boldin escaped Arrington's attempted tackle to gain 37 more yards on a reception. Flacco was finding holes in New England's coverage, particularly when he moved out of the pocket.

New England's All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski made an error at the end of a 63-yard drive, failing to keep two feet in bounds on a catch. Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal made it 13-10.

Gronkowski left for a while with a left leg problem, but soon returned.

"It doesn't even feel right, especially playing with the veterans here," Gronkowski said. "I watched them go to the Super Bowl as I was growing up and now I'm part of it? It is an unreal moment."

Game notes


Brady won his 16th career postseason game to tie Joe Montana for most in NFL history. ... New England's seventh Super Bowl appearance puts it one behind Pittsburgh and Dallas. ... The Patriots are 7-1 in AFC title games, 4-0 at home. ... Brady and Belichick are the first QB-coach combination to win five conference championships in the Super Bowl era. ... Baltimore was 7-0 against playoff teams this season before Sunday's loss. ... The Ravens finished 4-5 on the road. ... In three career games against the Patriots, Rice averaged 145.7 yards, nearly double what he managed Sunday.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
BAL
NE
1st Downs1925
Passing 1st downs
1315
Rushing 1st downs
68
1st downs from Penalties
02
3rd down efficiency
9-175-11
4th down efficiency
0-11-1
Total Plays7068
Total Yards398330
Yards per play5.74.9
Total Drives1111
Passing282234
Comp - Att
22-3622-36
Yards per pass
7.86.5
Interceptions thrown
12
Sacks - Yards Lost
3-241-5
Rushing11696
Rushing Attempts
3131
Yards per rush
3.73.1
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-42-5
Penalties6-331-5
Turnovers13
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
12
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession33:3326:27

Passing Leaders

BALC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Flacco22/363068.5213-24
NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady22/362396.6021-5

Rushing Leaders

BALCARYDSAVGTDLG
Rice21673.2012
Flacco4276.8014
NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Green-E...15684.5113
Woodhead6183.005

Receiving Leaders

BALRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Boldin610116.80378
Smith38227.31425
NERECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Gronkowski58717.40238
Hernandez7669.401711

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERBALNE
neFG05:49Stephen Gostkowski 29 Yd 03
SECOND QUARTERBALNE
balFG14:21Billy Cundiff 20 Yd 33
neTD10:35BenJarvus Green-Ellis 7 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 310
balTD06:03Dennis Pitta 6 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Billy Cundiff Kick) 1010
neFG03:00Stephen Gostkowski 35 Yd 1013
THIRD QUARTERBALNE
neFG09:06Stephen Gostkowski 24 Yd 1016
balTD03:38Torrey Smith 29 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Billy Cundiff Kick) 1716
balFG00:50Billy Cundiff 39 Yd 2016
FOURTH QUARTERBALNE
neTD11:29Tom Brady 1 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 2023

Research Notes

Tom Brady gets the win Sunday but has not played up to his standards against the Ravens in the postseason, passing for almost 50 fewer yards per game compared to other opponents and creating more turnovers than touchdowns.
  [+]
From Elias: Prior to missing the game-tying field goal in the AFC Championship game, Billy Cundiff was 68-71 in his career (95.8 pct) on field goals from 32 yards or shorter. Those numbers include a perfect 8-8 in the postseason before that missed kick. For some perspective, in the 2011 regular season, kickers were 368-384 on field goals of 32 yards and shorter (95.8 pct).
From Elias: There are a couple of different ways to look at the missed 32-yard field goal try by Billy Cundiff. * It was the third-shortest missed field goal in the final 30 seconds of regulation or at any point in overtime of a postseason game in which the kick could tie the game, or give his team the lead. The 2 shorter kicks were by Mark Moseley (1986 Browns, 23 yards vs Jets) and Rolf Benirschke (1981 Chargers, 27 yards at Dolphins). Both of those other kicks came in overtime of games that their team won anyway. * It was the shortest missed field goal in the final 30 seconds of regulation of a postseason game, in which the kick could have tied the game or given the team the lead AND the team lost the game. The previous shortest was a 34-yarder by Mike Michel of the Eagles at the Falcons, with 13 seconds left in a 14-13 loss in the 1978 NFC Wild Card Round.
The Patriots won despite an ineffective day from Tom Brady. Baltimore was effective when sending four or fewer pass rushers, holding Brady to season-low totals in completion percentage, yards per attempt, TD-Int differential, and NFL passer rating.
  [+]

RiceThe Patriots shut down Ravens star Ray Rice. Rice gained just 78 yards of total offense, his second-lowest number of the season.

  [+]
Tom Brady was not particularly effective using the no-huddle offense on Sunday, completing 13 of 22 attempts for 132 yards and an interception. However, the real beneficiary of the no-huddle strategy was the Patriots' running game, as it was last week against the Broncos.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: The Patriots pounded the ball between the tackles, as 22 of their 28 rushes went in that direction (not counting kneels). They accumulated 88 of their 96 rushing yards between the tackles with two touchdowns, including Brady's game-winner in the 4th quarter.
NEXT LEVEL: The Patriots ran 22 plays to their tight end duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, averaging 7.4 yards per play including 2.0 yards after contact per reception. During the regular season, the Patriots led the league with an average of 3.2 yards after contact while the Ravens ranked 30th in yards after contact allowed (2.4) on passes to a tight end.
NEXT LEVEL: Joe Flacco had success on throws that traveled less than 15 yards, completing 66.7 percent with two touchdowns. However, when he aired it out, he completed only 4 of 9 including an interception in the 4th quarter.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: The Ravens' defense effectively disrupted Tom Brady's ability to throw the ball downfield. Brady was just 3 for 11 on passes that traveled 11 or more yards downfield and threw two interceptions. Brady also had five incompletions that were overthrown on passes 11-plus yards, which tied his season high, regular or postseason.
Patriots are the 4th team to win two playoff games in a single season with a negative turnover differential. The others to do it were all Steelers teams, in 1975, 1979, 2005.
Entering today, teams with 3+ turnovers had lost their last 22 playoff games. Last team to win before today was the Patriots in 2007 AFC Champ game vs the Chargers.

BradyHe may not have thrown a touchdown pass Sunday, but Tom Brady continues to move through the postseason record books, including tieing Joe Montana for the most playoff wins with 16.

  [+]
Tom Brady records his 16th postseason win as a starter, moving into a tie with Joe Montana for most all-time. Brady also moved past Peyton Manning and Montana in career postseason completions and now only trails Brett Favre.
  [+]

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