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In Baltimore's final two drives, Patriots defense couldn't get off the field

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  September 24, 2012 02:00 AM

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BALTIMORE -- Things started off so well but quickly deteriorated toward the end of the Patriots-Ravens game Sunday.

Steve Gregory's interception and the Patriots' first quarter dominance over the Baltimore Ravens spurred the team to a 13-0 lead that looked insurmountable after 15 minutes. But as the lead was quickly squandered, with both teams going back and forth over the second and third quarters, the Patriots found themselves clinging to a 9-point lead with 7:29 to go after failing to get a first down and put the game out of reach.

That's when the Ravens kicked it up a notch and the Patriots' defense failed to get a critical stop.

The Ravens drove 92 yards on eight plays in the fourth quarter, finishing with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith, bringing the Patriots' lead down to two points. Just before the touchdown, linebacker Brandon Spikes was flagged for holding in the red zone. It was one of 10 Patriots penalties that cost them 83 yards, including two penalties on that drive. Cornerback Devin McCourty was flagged for holding on the same drive, giving the Ravens another first down. But Spikes' penalty also negated a sack by Kyle Love and Chandler Jones on the play, a potential 12-yard loss, and gave the Ravens a new set of downs.

"It sucks," said Vince Wilfork. "We really couldn't get off the field. Offense played their tails off and we just left them out to dry."

The Patriots offense was unable to respond, even after benefiting from two critical penalties on the Ravens, an illegal contact by cornerback Lardarius Webb and an unsportsmanlike conduct on the Ravens bench. Instead, the Ravens took over with 1:55 left in the game.

Flacco went 3 of 4 on the final drive, hitting Jacoby Jones for a gain of 24 yards and Dennis Pitta for gains of 3 and 17 yards before McCourty was flagged again, this time for pass interference, giving the Ravens the ball at the Patriots 7-yard line.

It was a disheartening call, allowing the Ravens to set up for basically a chip-shot field goal. But it was also disheartening because one play prior, Kyle Arrington was in position to pick off Flacco on the drive, but he slipped and fell before he had a chance to make a play. McCourty also dropped two possible interceptions.

"You have to make plays, plain and simple," McCourty said. "There were more plays, not just on the last drive, but all throughout the game that I can make and my team can make. And it's simple, I have to make those plays."

Two plays after McCourty's pass interference, Tucker booted the game-winner.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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