The Patriots' season came to its inglorious end in Gillette Stadium Sunday evening at the hands up an upstart Ravens team playing for veteran Ray Lewis, who announced two weeks ago that he would retire after the season. By the time it was over, Baltimore won, 28-13 and they're headed to the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years.
The Patriots, meanwhile, looked more like the team that stumbled to 1-2 earlier this season than the group that went 9-1 down the stretch. They made five trips inside the Ravens' 25 and came away with just one touchdown. New England, which dominated the turnover differential during the season, found themselves on the wrong side of the ledger Sunday. Running back Stevan Ridley fumbled in the second half and Tom Brady added an interception that all but sealed New England's fate. They were outscored 21-0 in the second half after building a 13-7 halftime lead.
For some perspective, consider this: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were 67-0 when leading at the half in home games. Now they're 67-1.
"Just couldn't string enough good plays together to get the ball in the end zone," Brady said. … "The name of the game is execution and if you don't execute well against a good team you're not going to come up on the winning end."
Vegas had New England as 9.5-point favorites, which seems silly even for the most ardent Pats supporter. Instead, the Ravens ended up winning by 15, and for the second straight week, Joe Flacco outplayed his future Hall of Fame counterpart. After making Peyton Manning look old and out out of sorts, Flacco had similar success against Brady. And now, a year after Flacco seemed destined for the Super Bowl until Lee Evans dropped that touchdown pass in the 2012 AFC Championship Game against the Pats, he'll finally get that chance.
Brady finished the night 29 of 54 for 320 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs, while Flacco was an efficient 21 of 36 for 240 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.
For the Pats, it's now been seven years since their last title. "That was a disappointing end to a overall pretty positive season," Belichick said after the game. "Tonight we just didn't do enough things to well enough to win. Give the Ravens credit, they're a good football team. They just outplayed us and outcoached us tonight. They just made more plays than we did and that's pretty much the story."
So the Pats, like the rest of us, will spend the next two weeks of the season on their couch. And for Brady, who'll be 36 when the 2013 season rolls around, you have to wonder how many years he has left.