How else can you explain it? I admittedly predicted the outcome to be New England by a score of 44-10, while over at Pats Pulpit, Tom had it 38-14. Even ESPN's Jaws said the Ravens had no chance. But then to rip my heart out at the end of the game, with two 4th down conversions, a couple of penalties and an ill-chosen timeout, just took the life out of most Ravens fans who have had little to cheer about all season long. Before the game, every Ravens fan would have said all they'd like to see is the Ravens to at least keep it close and not embarrass themselves by being the recipient of a blowout. After the game ended, all of a sudden that just wasn't good enough.
Before this season's first game, Both teams probably looked at last night's game as a defining moment in the race to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the only defining moment came in the last minute as New England continues their quest of a perfect season. Even though the Pats game last week against the Eagles was a close one, it didn't compare to the scare the Ravens put into the Pats and their fans for 59 minutes and 15 seconds.
As Ravens cornerback, Chris McAlister said:
"It's hard to go out there and play the Patriots and the refs at the same time," McAlister complained. "They put the crown on top of them, they want them to win. They won."
However, rather than complain about the bogus penalties called on that last drive, the poor call for a timeout by Ravens defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan (how would he know that his defense would stuff Brady on the fourth down conversion attempt?), or the inability of the Ravens to convert a critical third down (with a short pass that would have given them a fresh set of downs to work the clock that was already down to three minutes left), I will choose to celebrate the incredible effort that left all ravens fans to wonder "what if...?"
This was the way everyone expected the Ravens to play all season long. Had last night's effort been the norm for 2007 rather than the exception, Baltimore would be fighting for a playoff spot and the hype of this game might have equaled the game itself. Unfortunately, based on the Ravens poor performance this season, it was just looked at a an expected blowout by the Patriots on their way to a perfect season (which I still believe will happen. I'm sure the Pats' fans were looking ahead to the Steelers game in Foxboro next week as a tougher matchup. However, Pittsburgh has rarely played good football away from the cozy, yet horribly poor field conditions of Heinz Field (I expect a Patriots blowout as a response to their "fall" from grace!).
Despite the experts comments that Ravens All-World middle linebacker Ray Lewis was past his prime and slowing down, he was all ove the field last night, as he has been all season and throughout his glorious career. The return of Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle at the two cornerback positions certainly helped the depth of the secondary. The stunting by the front seven put enough pressure on Brady to sack him a season high three times, but he still had gobs of time to look for the open receiver, although he easily had his worst (?) game of this incredible MVP season.
At the same time, you have to take your hat off to the Patriots. Great teams always seem to find a way to win, and Brady is up there with the best of them, including the three best at leading their teams on game winning drives (in no order): Elway, Montana and Unitas.
Further accolades should go to the Ravens Kyle Boller, who other than the poor throw/wind blown interception, had a great game in a tough situation, and also to Willis McGahee, whose 138 yards rushing was the top performance from any opposing RB the Pats have faced. The offensive line constantly blew the Patriots off the ball and opened gaping holes for McGahee to run through. Finally, the Ravens defense played with the emotion and urgency that led them to the Super Bowl in 2001 and had them ranked #1 last season.
It just makes you wonder "what if...?"