Plenty Of Blame To Go Around In NE's Loss
The New England Patriots could have blasted the replacement officials, blaming them for some debatable calls at critical points in a see-saw game.
Instead, the Patriots mostly blamed themselves rather than a flurry of flags for a 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.
''They made plays and we didn't, and that's what it came down to,'' safety Steve Gregory said. ''In the end, we got to find a way to make a play to stop them and keep them from getting into field goal range to kick that ball. In the end, they just did a little bit better job than we did.''
Ravens rookie Justin Tucker kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired, creating a somber mood in the Patriots' locker room.
As the Ravens (2-1) rushed the field to celebrate Tucker's decisive kick, which barely squeezed inside the right upright, New England coach Bill Belichick ran to midfield and grabbed an official's arm as he tried to exit the field.
In his postgame meeting with reporters, Belichick deftly maneuvered around any questions that might lead to him criticizing the officiating crew, though it was clear he wasn't pleased.
''I'm not going to comment about that,'' he said when asked about his exchange at midfield. ''You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?''
Actually 24 - including 14 against the Ravens.
Time and again, Belichick implored reporters to direct questions about the officiating to the officials.
''It's our job to control what we can control,'' he said. ''Talk to the officials about the way they called the game. Talk to the league about the way they called it.''
Much of the blame for the loss could be heaped upon a defense that yielded 503 yards.
''We didn't do what we needed to do to help our offense tonight,'' defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. ''And it (stinks), because coming into the game, I think we had a pretty good idea of how we wanted to play it. First quarter, it showed. It seems after that, we really couldn't get off the field. Offense played their tails off and we just left them out to dry. We can't do that.''
The Patriots (1-2) led 13-0 after the first quarter and 30-21 with 14 minutes left before giving it away. Wilfork said the officials called a tight game, which made ii difficult for New England to employ its swarming defense.
''It's very frustrating,'' he said. ''But can you do when you're an aggressive defense? It takes away from your aggressiveness, the things that you try to do.''
Playing less than 24 hours after his younger brother died in a motorcycle accident, Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith scored two touchdowns and caught six passes for 127 yards. Only hours earlier, he wasn't even sure if he would suit up.
''It was tough. I didn't know until 4 o'clock if I was going to play,'' Smith said. ''I only had like an hour of sleep. Emotionally, I didn't know how I was going to hold up.''
A moment of silence was observed before the game for Smith's brother, 19-year-old Tevin Jones.
''It means a lot not just for us but for my family. ... That's for my little brother,''' Smith said.
When the teams met nine months earlier in the AFC championship game, the Patriots squeezed out a three-point win at home to advance to the Super Bowl. The stakes weren't nearly as high in this one, yet the game was eerily similar.
In the previous meeting, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds. In the encore, Tucker - who took the job away from Cundiff in training camp - drove his kick just inside the right upright.
The game-winning kick followed a pass interference call against Devin McCourty, who was covering Jacoby Jones.
Baltimore won its 12th straight at home behind Joe Flacco, who went 28 for 39 for 382 yards and three touchdowns.
Tom Brady completed 28 of 41 passes for 335 yards and a score for the Patriots (1-2), who fell below .500 for the first time since Week 1 of 2003.
Wes Welker had eight catches for 142 yards and Brandon Lloyd caught nine passes for 108 yards for the Patriots, who fell to 6-1 against the Ravens in the regular season - 7-2 including the playoffs.
Down 20-14, the Ravens opened the second half with an 80-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice. Brady matched that with an 80-yard march of his own, repeatedly picking on cornerback Cary Williams, before Danny Woodhead scored on a 3-yard run to put New England ahead.
After Stephen Gostkowski kicked his third field goal to make it 30-21, Smith caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:01 left to get the Ravens to 30-28. Flacco went 6 for 7 for 76 yards in the 92-yard drive.
Baltimore executed the game-winning drive in the final 2 minutes.
New England took a 13-0 lead before the Ravens got their initial first down. Then, after Baltimore went up 14-13, Brady engineered a frantic touchdown drive at the end of the first half to put the Patriots back in front at the break.
Welker, who came in with only eight catches in two games, played a key role for New England in The Opening minutes. He recovered a fumble by Brady on the Patriots' second play, and on New England's second series Welker broke loose on the left sideline for a 59-yard completion that set up a 37-yard field goal.
NOTES: The long pass to Welker pushed Brady into 12th place on the career yardage list, past Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana (40,551). ... Rice ran for 101 yards on 20 carries. ... Edelman left with a hand injury. ... Baltimore punted only three times.
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