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Commentary: Win doesn't avenge, but means something

It doesn't make up for Jan. 22, 2012.

Not even close.

A win in Week 3, no matter how exciting, no matter the opponent, is worth no more than a win the previous week or the next week.

Still, it was a remarkable performance by Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense, with a little belated help from a defense that finally - finally - got some pressure on Tom Brady on New England's final drive, that resulted in the Ravens' improbable 31-30 comeback win over the Patriots on Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

How ironic that it came down to a field goal.

Rookie Justin Tucker handled the heat better than Billy Cundiff did eight months ago, just barely sneaking a 27-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to help the Ravens avenge the heart-wrenching loss to New England in last year's AFC Championship.

Except that it avenged nothing. They hand out no prizes for September victories.

As upsetting as it may have been to Tom Brady & Co. to fall to 1-2 in a game that will be remembered for its 800 yards of total offense and questionable officiating, they still went to the Super Bowl last year.

As uplifting as it may have been to the Ravens, they still went home after that crushing loss in last year's AFC title game.

It was Baltimore's best chance to get back since they won it all following the 2000 season. It would've been a first for Flacco, John Harbaugh, Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs. It might have been the last chance for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

The final seconds of that one remain seared into every fan's mind.

There was Lee Evans turning in the end zone just as Flacco's perfect pass arrived, with Evans catching the ball, pulling it in, taking a step, looking for all the world as if he had just caught a game-winning touchdown pass to send the Ravens into the Super Bowl ... and then having the ball knocked harmlessly away.

Shortly theafter there was Cundiff rushing onto the field, everything looking a bit chaotic but it wasn't a big deal because this was a mere chip shot of a field goal that surely would send the game into overtime ... until it hooked like an errant Tiger Woods drive left of the uprights as the cameras cut to the perplexed, anguished looks on the sideline.

If there was any lust for vengeance on Sunday night it was misplaced.

Still, getting a win over Brady and getting to 2-1 on the season counts for something. A lot actually.

Despite being close throughout and filled with offense, the nationally televised Sunday nighter seemed to drag thanks largely to the indecisive and flag-happy replacement officials who do further damage to the NFL each week. Some fans might've even turned the game off because when the Ravens fell behind by nine points late, it seemed over. After all, they couldn't stop Brady all night.

Until they finally did. When they absolutely needed a stop, after giving up chunks of yardage and committing stupid penalty after stupid penalty, the defense came through. Dannell Ellerbe and Haloti Ngata combined on a sack on second down and the Ravens got more pressure on Brady on third down, forcing an incompletion, a punt and setting up Flacco for a signature final drive.

After a rough first quarter, Flacco was great, connecting on 28 of 39 passes for 382 yards and three scores. He got plenty of help, of course.

Rice was effective running the ball, coming up with a 100-yard game and a touchdown a week after being largely forgotten in Philadelphia. And Torrey Smith was brilliant after spending the day with his family following the death of his brother, making six receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

But none of that seemed as if it would matter because the Ravens simply couldn't stop the Patriots enough.

Brady had his way the entire game, throwing for 335 yards, helped by the fact that their Baltimore's main pass rusher, Suggs, was on the sideline in sweats rather than in uniform, harassing the Patriots' passer.

But just when a Lardarius Webb illegal contact penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Ravens' bench seemed to seal it, the pass rush came alive on the Patriots final few offensive plays to give Flacco one last chance.

He took advantage. And then Tucker did what Cundiff couldn't.

It didn't erase Jan. 22. But as Week 3 wins go, it'll do.

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