The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army echoed through Baltimore as the clock struck zero around midnight last night on the Ravens 12th straight home win streak against none-other than the New England Patriots. Who ended the best chance Baltimore had at a Super Bowl appearance in years with a missed kick courtesy of the now Redskins kicker Billy Cundiff in the AFC championship game last year. Seven months and a new kicker later, the Ravens geared up for a rematch under the lights on national television.
The day started off with heavy hearts for the Ravens as two-year wide receiver Torrey Smith had lost his younger Tevin Smith to a motorcycle accident earlier that morning. But through the heartbreak, Smith walked onto the field and warmed up. He even gave a young Ravens fan a high-five on his way back into the locker room.
The starting defense was introduced and the stadium went wild for the ritualistic dance of Ray Lewis better known as the “Squirrel”. Fireworks went off, the classic jets of fire rose from the tunnel and the crowd was pumped for some football.
The Patriots received the first possession and marched it down to the red zone with little effort with a 59-yard pass to Wes Welker. But once they entered the last 20 yards of their drive the Ravens defense kicked in gear and forced 3rd down. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lobbed a pass to Julian Edlemen in the end zone. Edlemen was then promptly welcomed to Baltimore with a monster hit by veteran safety Ed Reed, who sported one of the most physical games in his career, which knocked the ball lose for a in-completion and holding the Patriots to three points.
The first possession for the offense was not a pretty one, trying to find tight end Dennis Pitta, Flacco put the ball right into the arms of Patriots safety Steve Gregory. The pass-happy Brady had the ball back, and he capitalized on and scored a touchdown, putting the Ravens down by 10.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, the Ravens needed a long drive and a touchdown to get some momentum going, but instead they went three and out two more time, allowing another field goal and going into the second quarter down by 13.
Then: the offense changed gears. Flacco found his rhythm and found and emotional Torrey Smith for a 25-yard touchdown pass. With a pointed finger to the sky recognizing his brother and the entire stadium chanting his name, Smith had brought the Ravens back into the game.
The next drive brought even more success for the Ravens with a 41-yard completion to Jacoby Jones to advance the field and topped it off with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta. The Ravens now led the Patriots 14-13 with two minutes to go in the first half.
But in true Tom Brady fashion, he took a nine play, 81-yard drive ending in a touchdown pass to Edlemen to end the first half with the Patriots up by six once again.
The crowd bit its nails at half time. The dual between Flacco and Brady was intense. Brady had 214 yards and a touchdown (114.6 quarterback rating) and Flacco capped off the first half 12 for 16 with 136 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (113.5 quarterback rating). But only the second half would tell if Flacco was to outplay Brady like he did in last years match-up.
The second half was an offensive slug match with one-for-one scoring drives on each of the Patriots and Ravens next drives ending up with the Patriots on top 27-21 going into the Ravens next position.
After being forced to punt again, the Ravens gave Brady back the ball in the third quarter. They made short work of the tired Ravens defense and marched it down the field to get a field goal making it a two possession game, 30-21.
In desperate need of a touchdown, the Ravens end up in Patriots territory at 4th and one around the 35. The Ravens elect to forgo the field goal in favor of giving the ball to rookie running back Bernard Pierce to try and convert. They are stopped short, giving the Patriots the ball back.
A weary crowd, tired from cheering harder than any other game in the 17 years of the Ravens, looked up at the big screen to see the opening cinematic to EA Sports Madden 13 featuring Ray Lewis talking about leaving a legacy. As soon as the words “Leave. Your. Mark,” came over the speakers the crowd erupted into a frenzy of applause and chants, which was only enhanced by a shot of the injured Terrell Suggs jumping up and down to get the crowd back into the game.
The Ravens got the stop they needed. And even better, on the next possession, the Ravens cut the lead to two thanks to a five-yard laser to Torrey Smith. The “Torrey” chants echoed through the stadium again as the Patriots took the field for one last offensive drive in the last five minutes of the game.
After a few penalties: one unnecessary roughness on Lardarius Webb (which negated a interception in field goal range by veteran corner-back), and a unsportsmanlike conduct on John Harbaugh, the Ravens shut Brady down and got the ball back with 1:55 left in the game.
This was it. Eerily similar to the final drive in the dreaded AFC North game, the offense wasted no time in marching 65 yards into field goal range.
The stadium that was so loud before suddenly went quiet. All eyes were on Justin Tucker as he lined up to kick the 27-yard field goal to win it. Just before his attempt, Patriots coach Bill Belichick attempted to freeze the rookie by calling a time-out. The referees award the Patriots with the time out and after a few choice words from the crowd directed towards Belichick, Tucker lined up once again for the kick.
Tucker squeezed it in over the right upright to be met by the roar of the crowd that baltimoreravens.com correspondent Ryan Mink described as “unlike many had seen previously.” He not only won the game, but he made every Patriots player rush the referees asking for a review. Vincint Wilfork in particular tearing off his helmet yelling and Belichick grabbing a ref on the way out. But no dice for the team that got lucky last year, the Ravens go home the victors 31-30.