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New England Patriots edge Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in AFC title game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady got plenty of help in leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the fifth time.

Primarily from Billy Cundiff.

The Ravens kicker shanked a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left as the Patriots escaped with a 23-20 win in Sunday's AFC title game.

"Well, I (stunk) pretty bad, but our defense saved us," said Brady, who threw for 239 yards with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no touchdowns. "But I'm proud of this team, my teammates."

One teammate was cornerback, Sterling Moore, an undrafted rookie out of SMU who was cut once by the Patriots this season. He was playing because Kyle Arrington, whose seven interceptions tied for the league lead, left in the second quarter with an eye injury.

Brady's 1-yard touchdown dive on fourth down with 11:29 left put the Patriots up 23-20.

But Baltimore had it second and 1 at the New England 14 with 27 seconds left. Joe Flacco sent a pass to Lee Evans in the end zone. Evans had the ball in his hands before Moore knocked it out.

"I don't know how to put it into words," Evans said. "It's the most disappointing part of all of this that I feel personally that I let everybody down. It hit me right where you would want to be hit. It was a great pass by Joe and a play not completed by me. Nobody else can take the fault."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he believed the play should have been reviewed to determine if Evans had control of the ball long enough to be a touchdown. But because coaches can't ask for a review during the last two minutes of a half, he was powerless.

"I thought they would look at it," he said. "I have not talked to anybody, didn't get a chance to. So I don't know what the explanation is."

On the next play, Moore knocked away a pass intended for tight end Dennis Pitta.

So in came Cundiff, an All-Pro in 2010 who made field goals of 48 and 44 yards a week earlier and was 10-of-12 between 30 and 39 yards during the regular season. He sent the kick wide left.

"It's a kick I've kicked probably a thousand times in my career," Cundiff said. "The timing was just a little off. I'm disappointed. I let my teammates down."

His teammates didn't agree.

"Not one play won or lost this game," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "There's no 'Oh, Billy's the fault. Billy missed the (kick).' There's no freaking 'Billy missed the kick.' It happened. Move on."

Overall, the Patriots defense, ranked 31st during the regular season, shined. Ray Rice, the league's total yards leader, was limited to 78 (67 rushing).

"We stepped up," Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "Being in this situation is a great moment. You have to cherish this moment."

Brady will.

"It's a pretty mentally tough team," said Brady, whose fifth trip to the Super Bowl equals John Elway's achievement with Denver. "There's really some resiliency. We've shown that all season. Even in the … three games we lost, we fought until the end. We're always going to fight to the end. It's great to be a part of a team like this."

Patriots 23

Ravens 20

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New England Patriots edge Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in AFC title game 01/22/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 22, 2012 11:43pm]
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