The Patriots' record may remain unblemished at 12-0 following Monday night's 27-24 fourth-quarter comeback win over the Ravens, but the team's play of late has been anything but perfect. New England again avoided a loss with a handful of late plays, a few fortuitous flags and escaped Baltimore with the unexpectedly difficult victory that a few players even admitted was a bit lucky.
"Escape? If that's what you want to call it," running back Kevin Faulk said, still riding the high of the almost unbelievable ending to this one. "It's a win."
Defensively, after allowing Willis McGahee (30 rushes for 138 yards and a score) to pick up yards in chunks throughout the cold, windy night, the Patriots slowed the Baltimore attack. A James Sanders interception and 42-yard return set up a quick five-play scoring drive that pulled the visitors to within four with just under nine minutes to play.
A pair of Ravens punts sandwiched around one for New England did little to hint at the dramatic ending this primetime battle would showcase as the Patriots took over for their final possession with 3:30 on the clock. After moving into Baltimore territory, the Patriots' chances looked to come to a dismal close when Tom Brady was stopped dead in his tracks on the left side of the line on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak. It appeared the celebratory Ravens would take over on downs with an eye on running out the clock on the win despite their entering the game as near three-touchdown underdogs.
Unfortunately for the Ravens defense, coordinator Rex Ryan had signaled from the sideline for a timeout prior to the snap, thus nullifying the stop. Disappointment would grow for the high-flying hosts on the next snap as well, when the defenders wearing all black uniforms stuffed Heath Evans for a 1-yard loss only to hear the whistle blow the play dead thanks to a false start call on Patriots right guard Russ Hochstein. The play was technically a penalty against New England, costing the team five yards. But in reality it cost the Ravens the game. Tom Brady scrambled on the ensuing down, picking up 12 yards to move the chains and keep the seemingly dead drive very much alive.
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said he never heard a whistle and didn't know the referees had blown the play dead until he was running off the field in triumph.
"Was that a phantom call?" Suggs asked reporters. "Did anyone see a timeout called? You don't get many chances to get the NFL's poster boy in that position. The bottom line is that no one on the field heard a time out called until he was stopped."
The Ravens got another bad break on yet another fourth-down play on a defensive holding call on Jamain Winborne in the end zone that gave New England one more life, this time from the eight. Given more chances than the team probably deserved, Brady found Jabar Gaffney on the next snap for the 8-yard score on a close-call catch in the back left corner of the end zone. The play was reviewed and upheld as New England took the lead with 44 second on the clock.
|Baltimore Ravens player Terrell Suggs (55) talks with side judge Rick Patterson, left, and head linesman Phil McKinnely, right, after the New England Patriots scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, in Baltimore. The NFL is looking into a postgame comment by Baltimore cornerback Samari Rolle, who contends McKinnely called him "boy" during the Ravens' 27-24 loss to New England. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)|
After the game, the Ravens players were boisterous about what they viewed as shoddy officiating.
"The calls were great. They're all excellent refs and tomorrow they can go sell shoes," a frustrated Bart Scott said. "We have the best NBA refs, I means NFL refs, in the league."
"It is what it is. They already put the crown on top of them and they want them to win," cornerback Chris McAllister said. "They won so I hope everyone is happy now. I'm sure the NFL will send out their little report that says 'we made a mistake on this one', but it's too late. They need to get it right on the field or don't call it at all."
The timeout from the Ravens sideline was the difference, although it was just one of the key plays that went the Patriots way in the final minutes, and New England knew it.
"We got away with that one. But those things happen and we were able to take advantage of it," left tackle Matt Light said. "That was definitely one of the most unique last-minute, come-from-behind, two-minute situations we've had around here. We'll take it."