So much went on during the final 15 minutes of the Ravens-Patriots game that both teams will probably need to see the tape at their respective facilities to see the opportunities taken advantage of by the Patriots and the chances ultimately lost by the Ravens in the final moments.
Fans of both teams will rewind and fast forward their video recorders to find the many clues that added up to the 27-24 Patriots victory in one of the most entertaining and emotionally draining games of the 2007 season to date.
Emotion plays such a huge part in every NFL game and Monday night was no exception. From the visible emotion on Ray Lewis’ face as the pregame tribute to Sean Taylor played on the video boards to the visible frustration of Bart Scott, who helped cost his team a chance to return the ensuing kickoff when he accounted for 30 of the unconscionable 35 penalty yards the Ravens took after the Pats scored their go-ahead touchdown.
Regardless of the situation, a player has to be smart enough to walk away, not pick up and throw the yellow penalty flag toward the stands as he did. You can’t go Milton Bradley without a price in the NFL. That type of tantrum costs you continued personal participation by ejection in baseball, but in football, the team suffers for losing your head.
Emotion, too, came from the 71,382 in attendance at M&T Bank Stadium who never let up their noise level from opening kick to the final play — as they braved 40 degree temperatures coupled with a a 27-mile per hour wind for just over three hours until the Ravens came up three yards shy of a miracle finish.
As the Ravens can attest to from their 13-3 regular season of a year ago, you get a lot of breaks when you are winning — the ones you make and the ones that seem to come out of nowhere. The Pats certainly understand that after they came to the line four times on fourth down. A timeout called by defensive coordinator Rex Ryan as New England seemed to have been stopped short on a quarterback keeper, a false start that negated the next play which would have been a one-yard loss, a 12-yard scamper by Tom Brady which was extended by five yards thanks to a illegal contact call on the Ravens and then a defensive holding call that took away an incomplete pass.
It’s one thing to win big every week as the Pats did early in the season, it’s quite another to get hit in the mouth for 60 minutes by a clearly motivated opponent who had the upper hand for most of the game. The Patriots then had the guts to go down the field and convert every opportunity and win when it seemed they were the most vulnerable. And a Ravens team which had lost five straight in some interesting ways, including a carom off a goal post upright, saw the bounces go the other way once again and made the postgame walk back to the locker room in utter shock and anger.
After scoring on four of their first seven possessions, the Ravens’ final four possessions went like this: interception (on third down), punt, punt and end of game. There was a total of one first down in those four chances — which came on the game’s final play. One first down during the next-to-last time the Ravens had the ball would probably been enough to hand the Pats their first loss.
You have to take care of your own business to win consistently in the NFL. The Ravens ultimately did not do that and the Pats, to their credit, found a way to win against everything Baltimore threw at them on the field and from the stands.
With the season now in its’ final quarter and Indianapolis coming to town this Sunday, there are plenty of questions to be answered. Do you value the positive events of the first three quarters that gave the Ravens a great chance to stop potential history in the making or does your mind stay with the gut-twisting fourth quarter? Do you think the way the game finished against the Pats will affect the Ravens in their preparations for Indianapolis and their effort against the Colts on Sunday or the other three games on the remaining schedule?
How do you — as a Ravens fan — process one of the most exciting and strangest games in club history?
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