FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball against the New England Patriots during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The Baltimore Ravens not only came close to tying the game and sending it into certain overtime, but a step away from winning it on a Joe Flacco pass to Lee Evans with seconds left. However, a missed chip-shot 32-yard field goal that sailed wide left by Billy Cundiff ended the Ravens season, leaving players, coaches and fans shocked, disappointed and understandably angry.
The New England Patriots will now represent the AFC in the Super Bowl while the Ravens will go home and wonder what else they need to do to take that final step, seeming to find another way to lose these crucial games. This was without a doubt a very win-able game and despite the late interception, the Ravens still had every chance to drive the ball down the field for the game-tying or winning score.
QB Joe Flacco cannot and should not be targeted for anything to do with this loss, as he played his heart out and only one interception in such a high-pressure environment when even his counterpart, Tom Brady threw two for the New England Patriots. Flacco finished 22 of 36 for 306 yards and two TDs.
There is no reason whatsoever for an NFL placekicker to miss a field goal from that distance regardless of the pressure. This game should have gone into overtime and while the outcome would have been in doubt, to lose in this manner may haunt the team and its fans not only for the off season, which begins right now, but possibly for years.
At the same time, before any fans want to gang up, light torches and set themselves upon One Winning Drive to demand Cundiff's head on a platter, remember the ridiculous third down call that led to the incomplete pass on 4th down in the preceding series. Therefore, look as much at the coaches and the players for the entire sixty minutes before simply blaming a loss on one single play or player, as absolutely frustrating it obviously was.
Without a doubt, the Ravens were in this game from the beginning and matched the Patriots offensively and even out played them defensively, considering how potent the New England offense had been. Holding the Pats to only 23 points would normally been the recipe for a win, and looking back at the entire game, you can see quite a few plays that could have turned the outcome in the favor of the guys in purple.
There certainly will be much, much more on this throughout the rest of the week and into the off season, but for now, let's try to keep a positive attitude and while we will all wonder, "what-if?" we should be thankful fo the opportunity to be in this game in the first place.