Defense Uncharacteristically Relinquished Lead


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With the type of defense Baltimore has enjoyed over the past decade, the Ravens aren't used to the feeling of having a win snatched out from under them after holding a late-game lead.

Entering Sunday's game, the Ravens had an 81-7 record since 2000 when leading after three quarters.

This time it wasn't just a measly lead. The Ravens had a 10-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.

But while Baltimore's defense played well for the majority of the game, it allowed the Patriots to tie the game in the fourth quarter and, after holding up twice in overtime, surrendered the game-winning drive.

"It's a bad feeling right now," safety Dawan Landry said. "I feel like we had this game. We let them back in this game, it kind of hurts."

The Ravens defense was critical late in three wins earlier this season.

It handcuffed the Jets on a final drive with a one-point lead. It stood tall on the goal line in Pittsburgh and Ray Lewis sealed a win with an interception. Baltimore held Cleveland to a three-and-out with a touchdown lead late in the fourth quarter at home.

This time, however, it faltered.

After putting the Ravens up 10 with a 25-yard field goal seven seconds into the fourth quarter, Billy Cundiff's kickoff out of bounds started the defense off in a hole.

Beginning at his own 40-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady hit Wes Welker for a gain of 11. Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was flagged for a 13-yard pass interference and 5-foot-9 running back Danny Woodhead got going from there, running for 26 yards combined on back-to-back plays, quickly putting the Patriots inside the Ravens' 10-yard line.

Deion Branch broke away from Webb in the back of the end zone resulting in a 5-yard touchdown on third down that cut Baltimore's lead to three points.

"It was the inability for us to play consistently," cornerback Chris Carr said. "We started off the game really well on defense, then towards the end of the second half, we couldn't stop them consistently."

New England started its next possession on its own 14 with 8:41 remaining. After quickly reaching the Baltimore 35-yard line in just five plays, it looked like the Ravens were going to get the one stop they needed. A holding call and delay of game put the Patriots in a 1st and 25 at the 50.

But Brady hit rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 24-yard gain despite getting leveled by Baltimore's pressure. Brady and linebacker Terrell Suggs jawed with each other all the way down the field following the play.

"That's a big play," Carr said. "You never know which one play is going to make the difference. Usually it's a culmination of a lot of plays, but definitely when you have first and 25, you can't give up a 25-yard pass."

The Patriots nibbled their way to the Ravens' 6-yard line from there. As was the problem late in the game, New England continually picked up successive short gains. They gained yardage on five straight plays with none going for more than seven yards.

The Ravens forced an incompletion on third down from the 6-yard line, but the damage was done when Stephen Gostkowski tied the game with a 24-yard field goal.

The Ravens defense held New England to two three-and-outs in overtime, giving the offense ample opportunities to win the game. It couldn't hold up one final time after being given poor field position, however.

New England started its game-winning drive on its 38-yard line. A 23-yard pass to Branch, who slipped in front of Washington in zone coverage, and a 10-yard pass again to Branch on third-and-2 set up Gostkowski's winner.

"We are a good enough defense that we should be able to stop [Brady]," Carr said. "We weren't today, obviously. It's one of those things, it doesn't matter who you play, if you aren't playing well, they are going to go out there and eat you up."

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