Injured Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs empties two Gatorade… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
This time, the late game heartbreak belonged to the New England Patriots and wide left turned into just right.
Rookie kicker Justin Tucker barely kept a 27-yard field goal inside the right upright as time expired to give the Ravens a frantic 31-30 comeback victory Sunday night in front of an announced 71,269 at M&T Bank Stadium.
“What would be a better story than the one you saw?,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Trailing by nine points with seven minutes, 29 seconds to play, Joe Flacco threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith with 4:01 left, and the Ravens’ fifth-year quarterback then led another drive in the final two minutes to set up Tucker for the game winner.
Just eight months after Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal at Gillette Stadium that would have likely sent the AFC championship game against the Patriots into overtime, Tucker converted, giving the Ravens the victory. Twice they erased double-digit victories in the game.
The win left Smith, who learned earlier in the day that his younger brother, Tevin Jones, had died in a motorcycle crash, leaping up and down on the sideline and then clutching the game ball as he exited the field. Ravens coach John Harbaugh, meanwhile, stood on the bench exhorting the fans.
“Our team just fights. We just have a bunch of guys that will not quit,” Harbaugh said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the football team.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick ran onto the field and tried to grab the arm of an official after a game that featured several controversial calls and 24 total penalties for 218 total yards, 10 of them called on New England. Several Patriots also protested that Tucker’s field goal was called good, but the play was not reviewed.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” said Belichick when asked about the officiating. “You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?”
All that mattered to the Ravens (2-1) was that they extended their NFL-best home winning streak to 11 games and they beat the Patriots for the first time in a regular season game in seven tries. They will play host to the Cleveland Browns in four days on Thursday night.
“It just means were 2-1 and not 1-2, and we can move onto Cleveland a little bit quicker than if it would have went the other way,” Flacco said.
Flacco, who was on point for much of the night, got the ball back at his own 20 with 1:55 left after a rare stop by the Ravens’ defense against Tom Brady’s offense. A 24-yard pass to Jacoby Jones, a 17-yard completion to tight end Dennis Pitta, and a pass interference call on Devin McCourty on Jones got the ball down to the Patriots’ 7. Flacco knelt down and put the game on Tucker’s foot with two seconds to go.
“It kind of goes back to something I’ve been saying, something I’ve been trying to stick to: I try to treat every kick the same way,” said Tucker who is now 7-of-7 on field-goal attempts for the season. “In that regard, I’m happy with the end result. It was good and the Ravens win so just mission accomplished.”
Flacco was 28 of 39 yards for 382 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in one of the finest performances of his career. He spread the ball around as five Ravens had three catches or more, but he had the most success throwing to Smith.
The second-year receiver caught six balls for 127 yards and two touchdowns, ending an emotional day for him and his family. Smith, who left the team early Sunday morning after learning of his brother’s accident, didn’t decide that he was going to play until a couple of hours before kickoff.
“Emotionally, I didn’t know how I would hold up,” said Smith, who celebrated his first touchdown, a 25-yard catch in the second quarter, by getting down on one knee and then pointing to the sky. “I was telling my teammates a minute ago that this was new territory for me personally. I never had to deal with a death in my family. Obviously, you play with a heavy heart and you want to play for that person.”
Tom Brady finished 28 of 41 for 335 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, Wes Welker caught eight passes for 142 yards and Brandon Lloyd had nine catches for 108 yards. Frequently picking on the Ravens’ pass defense and specifically targeting cornerback Cary Williams, Brady led three straight scoring drives. His 7-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman just seconds before halftime allowed the Patriots to head into intermission with a 20-14 lead.
He then answered a 7-yard touchdown run from Ray Rice, who finished with 101 yards rushing and five catches for 49 yards, with a 12-play 80-yard drive that ended on Danny Woodhead’s 3-yard touchdown run.