In the AFC Championship game the Patriots took a step backwards. The balanced attack turned pass heavy and the linebackers performed a disappearing act in the second half. If you didn’t watch the game and looked at Joe Flacco’s stats, you might have thought the statistician got it mixed up. He finished the day 21/36 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Tom Brady on the other hand was 29/54 for 320 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His 53.7% completion percentage was his worst of the year.

The Patriots know they didn’t do enough to win. They were on a big stage and came up short and the common sentiment after the game was one of defeat. This loss didn’t come down to one play or one side of the ball, it was a lot of little things that added up. For Brady, he knows his team didn’t make the “critical” plays when they needed to.


Tom Brady and the Patriots didn’t do enough on either side of the ball to defeat the Ravens. (FILE:USPresswire)

“You have the opportunity to win the game and we came up short. There’s frustration in that we wish we could have done better. But they’re not going to give it to you. We didn’t earn it; they earned it. They played a good game.”

On defense the Patriots had some key losses with Kyle Love and Aqib Talib both going down. The Talib injury seemed to be the Patriots achilles heal because in the second half the Ravens changed their game plan and got mighty comfortable in the shotgun. One couldn’t help but wonder if he didn’t pull up on his hamstring, would things have been different? Vince Wilfork said he doesn’t know if things wouldn’t have been different but it was a big loss.

“Those two losses were big losses for us, but all year guys have stepped in and done a great job. I think even tonight, we stepped in and we had to change a few things. Who (knows) if it would have been different if it wouldn’t have happened? We don’t know that. I just think the Ravens played better and they made more plays than we did.”

Those plays came in the red zone. Saying the Patriots struggled in that area is an understatement. All of their scoring took place in the first half and when you’re playing in the Championship game, you can’t win like that. They were 1 for 4 in the red area whereas the Ravens were a perfect 4 for 4. The offense was forced to settle for field goals when they needed touchdowns.

“We had a 13-7 lead,” said Bill Belichick. “Look, we missed a lot of opportunities tonight. We were 1-for-3 in the red area; we couldn’t stop them in the red area. We gave up too many points and didn’t score enough.”

They didn’t score because the Ravens defense was armed and ready and their fearless leader Ray Lewis knows just as well as the Patriots how big the red zone was. He had some kind words for the Kraft family and Brady saying he is “one of the greatest warriors to ever play this game” but in the end it was his defense over Brady’s offense.

“And we knew red zone was going to be big going against this team. Because they’re big in the red zone and their fast-paced offense is everything, so we really had to settle ourselves down. Again, I tip my hat off to my defense, the way we came out and never wavered.”

So now it’s the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, or HarBowl, whichever you prefer. The Patriots didn’t play a game worth of a championship. They scored 13 points, a season low, and left a lot to be desired both offensively and defensively. This one will sting for a while but may it also serve as a reminder of how hard it is to make it to the top. Now it’s the offseason so let the rebuilding begin.