The Ravens took that 20-10 lead on the second play of the fourth quarter, when Billy Cundiff hit a 25-yard field goal. They had to settle for a field goal because Derrick Mason couldn't hold onto a third-down pass in the end zone (safety Patrick Chung popped him as soon as the ball arrived).

"If we scored a touchdown there," Flacco said, "it may have made a difference."

Less than four minutes later (and after Cundiff's kickoff out of bounds started the Patriots at their own 40), Brady made the Ravens pay, hitting Deion Branch on a

4-yard touchdown pass when the Ravens only rushed three players. Brady's first third-down completion inched New England back to 20-17.

The Ravens then faced their own third-down dilemma. With 1 yard to convert, Flacco was stopped for no gain on a quarterback sneak. Flacco said he didn't consider calling a timeout or an audible after seeing the Patriots stack the line, putting a player on either side of center Matt Birk.

"If we convert there, you never know," Flacco said. "Obviously, you see the ball that short, you might want to go for it on fourth down."

Harbaugh isn't second-guessing his decision to punt from his own 47-yard line.

"In hindsight, you could say you should have," Harbaugh said. "But right there the smart play was punting them right down in there and putting our defense out there to try to get a stop and get the ball back with good field position. I think that was a pretty solid decision."

Pinned back at their own 14, the Patriots moved the ball 80 yards by relying on Brady. He completed seven of eight passes for 79yards to set up Gostkowski's 24-yard, game-tying field goal with 1:51 left in the game.

"He is as good as anybody and better than most of all them," Harbaugh said of Brady.

It was a stalemate in overtime until Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko booted a 65-yard punt to put the Ravens at their own 19. A third-and-9 turned into third-and-19 when McClain was flagged for a personal foul. McClain said he pushed Cunningham because he was taunted.

"Retaliation always gets called," Harbaugh said. "That's the thing you've got to understand."

After the Ravens were forced to punt, Brady started the game-winning drive by hitting Branch for 23 yards. He then found Branch, who returned to New England after the Patriots traded Randy Moss, for 10yards to put New England in field-goal range.

Gostkowski's 35-yarder sliced inside the right upright to end the 3-hour, 41-minute marathon game.

Asked what would happen if the Ravens would see the Patriots again this season, linebacker Terrell Suggs said: "We already know that story. Do you really need me to answer that? We're a dangerous playoff team. We look forward to the rematch."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/jamisonhensley

  • Text FOOTBALL to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Ravens text alerts


  • Buy Ravens Gear


    Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by The Baltimore Sun. The Sun Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.