FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was better than Christmas morning, better than New Year's Eve, even better than the Olympics in Boston.
In a game reminiscent of their glory days from more than a decade ago, the New England Patriots came back from two 14-point deficits to defeat the Ravens, 35-31, on the frozen tundra of Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. New England advances to the AFC championship game next Sunday against either the Denver Broncos or Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough. The Patriots and their fans are planning on a trip to the Super Bowl in Arizona on Feb. 1.
No matter where this season goes, it's unlikely anything will top what we saw in owner Bob Kraft's frozen mansion Saturday. This struggle for survival had everything except Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner chanting: "Let's Go, Patriots!''
No Tomato Cans this time. Patriots-Ravens had never-before-seen offensive formations, a zero-sum Patriots running game, even a trickeration touchdown pass by wide receiver Julien Edelman. Trailing 14-0 in the first half, and 28-14 after intermission, New England would not be killed. It did not take a lead until Tom Brady feathered a 23-yard game-winning touchdown pass into the arms of Brandon LaFell with 5:13 left on the clock.
After nearly four full quarters of uneven play, the Patriots defense finally stopped Joe Flacco when Duron Harmon picked off his pass in the end zone with 1:39 remaining. Even then, it wasn't over. The stubborn Ravens got the ball back for one final play, and Flacco's Hail Mary heave was batted down by a pack of Patriots (including Rob Gronkowski) in the end zone.
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