A clever bit of trickery from New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels along with the strong arm of former college quarterback Julian Edelman both contributed to ending the Ravens' season Saturday night.
In the third quarter, Edelman motioned to his left before catching a lateral from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, stepping back and launching a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was open downfield.
Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin was caught in no-man's land on the play. Defensive back Anthony Levine gave chase, but it was in vain. There would be no catching Amendola as he sprinted to the end zone, untouched, to tie the score at 28 in the Patriots' eventual 35-31 AFC divisional-round playoff win at Gillette Stadium.
"You don't expect it, but you have to be aware of all trick plays at all times of the game," said Melvin, who was repeatedly targeted as he finished with 11 tackles and allowed a 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell in the fourth quarter. "At that time of the game, it was a great play call on their part. As defensive backs, you have to always make sure that your head is in the game and make sure you don't get beat.
"As a defense, if you get beat on trick plays, you've got to be doing something right. That was a good call by them. That was a huge play."
The play call from McDaniels, a former Denver Broncos head coach who's up for several head-coaching vacancies, was hailed widely by both teams as brilliant, having caught the Ravens completely by surprise.
The double pass came at exactly the right time, tying the score and restoring the Patriots' momentum after earlier 14-point deficits.
"It was as big as any other play that was out there," Ravens free safety Will Hill said. "We wish it didn't happen, but it happened and we've got to take it for what it was. We had them were we wanted them. If we were able to stop what we needed to stop, we could have won the game. We wasn't prepared for the trick play."
It was a well-thrown pass by Edelman, who played quarterback at Kent State before converting to wide receiver in the NFL. He set his feet and delivered a spiral to Amendola.
"It's a play we've been working on all year," Amendola said. "Testament to Julian; has a great arm and [is] a great athlete. He put it on the money, that's for sure. It was a good throw."
On the play, tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't run a route. He set up in front of Edelman and ran interference, so no one could run up and tackle the wide receiver as he aimed downfield.
"Edelman's pass was amazing. It was right on the money," Gronkowski said. "Couldn't ask for a better pass and a better route from Danny. You never know who's going to get their number called, and everyone stepped up and did a great job. It was awesome."
Edelman said he hasn't been lobbying for the play much, but was confident it would work based on its execution in practice.
"The coach dialed up the double pass," Edelman said. "We've had it in for a little bit and finally got it called. ... That coverage we wanted was going to be there, and we were able to execute the play. You've got to unload everything you've got to win against a team like that, the Baltimore Ravens. They played a tough game. Our coaches, they've got the aggressiveness to call that.
"We've hit it in practice a couple times. Practice execution becomes game reality. We saw it in practice, we did it right and we were able to do it again. I practice in the backyard with Danny all the time. We've been secretly practicing that for a while."
And it paid off for the top-seeded Patriots, who moved on to the AFC championship game partly because of it.
"They did a great job of running the tricks," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "They had to trick us to beat us. Hey, it worked. You have to do what you have to do to win. Hats off to them."