Patriots top Ravens in overtime 23-20
FOXBOROUGH—Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 35-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining in overtime to give the Patriots a hard-fought 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens and run New Englands record to 4-1.
The victory gave the Pats some measure of redemption after being humiliated on their own field by the Ravens in the playoffs in January and marks the eighth straight win they have recorded coming off their bye week.
It was also quite the homecoming for Deion Branch the receiver was huge in the fourth quarter in overtime, recorded nine catches for 98 yards and a score.
The Patriots game plan seemed clear: slow Ray Rice, who had gashed the defense for 159 yards in that postseason game, and make quarterback Joe Flacco beat them with his arm.
The plan worked. Rice was held to a modest 88 yards on 28 carries, and his longest run was just eight yards. Flacco was an efficient 27-for-35 for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but seemed unable to make the big plays down the stretch.
Despite the extra week of preparation because of their bye, things got off to an inauspicious start for the New England defense: Baltimore won the coin toss, elected to receive and embarked on a 15-play drive that saw it convert two third-and-long opportunities.
The Patriots regained their footing when it mattered, however. Facing first down from the Pats 16, running back Ray Rice was stopped for a one-yard gain, then rookie Brandon Deaderick (who got his first career start) chased Flacco out of bounds for no gain on second bound.
Flacco hit Derrick Mason with a sideline pass near the first-down marker on third down, but he was pushed out of bounds by Devin McCourty after just a seven-yard gain. The Ravens were forced to bring out Bill Cundiff for a 26-yard field goal, which he converted.
New Englands opening drive did not go nearly so well, as it was a three-and-out. But the Patriots second possession netted them the games first touchdown, set up by a 35-yard pass from Brady to a wide open Aaron Hernandez on the first play. A bit of trickery a handoff to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who pitched the ball to Brandon Tate for a reverse picked up 22 yards and put the Pats in a goal-to-go situation.
Green-Ellis got the ball on first down and fell over the goal line for his third touchdown in as many games.
The defense allowed the Ravens to match the Patriots touchdown.
They were aided by an 18-yard pass-interference call on Devin McCourty, who made contact with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and never got his head around to spot the ball, and a successful challenge by John Harbaugh on a catch by Mason that had been initially waved off.
Two plays later, Flacco saw tight end Todd Heap lined up one-on-one with Patrick Chung; Heap beat the safety and got the 11-yard touchdown.
New England won a challenge on their ensuing possession, this on whether or not Aaron Hernandez was down for a seven-yard gain before being stripped of the ball by Chris Carr; the play was initially ruled a fumble. Belichick won the challenge and the Pats retained the ball but ended up having the punt the ball away.
Baltimore went into the locker room for halftime with a 10-7 lead.
The Patriots got the ball to start the second half, but once again were struggling to move the ball. On third-and-10 from their own 31, Brady looked deep for Welker but was hit hard as he let go of the ball (it appeared to be Dawan Landry) and was intercepted by Carr.
Starting at the Pats 36, Flacco found Rice for an 11-yard gain, and two plays later Anquan Boldin beat Kyle Arrington who was flagged for pass interference on the play, which was declined along the left side for a touchdown and 17-7 lead.
Yet again New England answered. Twenty-one yard passes to Welker and Hernandez, the latter of which got the Pats into the red zone, helped. But an 8-yard Terrell Suggs sack of Brady killed their momentum and Gostkowski converted from 38 yards out.
The Patriots troubles covering tight ends, which in this game meant Heap, came up again near the end of the third quarter. Flacco twisted to his left and his right before finding Heap over the middle for a 16-yard gain. Three plays later, it seemed as though McCourty and Jonathan Wilhite were supposed to switch off coverage on Mason and Boldin, but McCourty didnt pick up a receiver. Flacco found an open Mason for an 18-yard gain.
The drive kept going when Brandon Meriweather, who had already been flagged for a personal foul after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Heap, was penalized for a five-yard illegal contact penalty on third-and-four.
Given a new set of downs, Baltimore drove inside the 10 before a third-down pass for Mason near the goal line fell dead when Patrick Chung drilled Mason head-on. Cundiff hit a 25-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 10-point lead, 20-10.
The Patriots knotted the score over the next 10 minutes.
On their second touchdown drive, it was the home team that got some penalty flags in their favor, the first coming off Cundiffs kickoff. He put it out of bounds, giving New England the ball at the 40; a couple of snaps later, Lardarius Webb was called for pass interference on Rob Gronkowski, a 13-yard gain for the Pats.
Brady bought time and found Branch, who was huge in the second half and overtime, for a five-yard touchdown on third down to cut the score to 20-17. After forcing a punt, New England went on a 13-play drive that again stalled in the red zone, but Gostkowski nailed the 24-yard field goal and tie the game.
The defense forced three-and-out on what was the Ravens last possession of regulation.