Sunday night's game was storybook good.
Eight months after what may be the most agonizing loss in franchise history, Baltimore was back in an uncanny similar position. It had much different stakes than January's AFC championship, but played out with similar high drama.
Baltimore's offense went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady and the Patriots. The defense got the stop just when it needed it. In the final two minutes, the Ravens needed one final drive to win. And in the end, a kicker would decide the fate.
Only this time there was a twist. This time the Ravens won.
Baltimore fought back for a 31-30 win at M&T Bank Stadium and sent the Patriots home on a 27-yard field goal by Justin Tucker as time expired.
The victory put the Ravens at 2-1 and atop the AFC North. It gives them their first regular-season triumph over the Patriots in franchise history and extends their league-best home winning streak to 12 games. It sends the Patriots to 1-2.
As much as the Ravens downplayed the "revenge" storyline throughout the week leading up to the game, they admitted afterwards that it at least eased the pain.
"This was the same team that stopped us – dropped pass, field goal, whatever, from pursuing our dream, which was a championship. To come back and get it the way we did, it has to go down as one of the greatest of all time."
The Ravens trailed by two points with one minute, 55 seconds remaining. They only needed a field goal to win this time, not tie.
They turned to quarterback Joe Flacco, who finished 28-of-39 for 382 yards, three touchdowns and one interception (117.7 quarterback rating). Flacco marched his unit 70 yards on their final game-winning drive.
He started with a 24-yard gain on the right sideline to wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Then Flacco connected with tight end Dennis Pitta on a 17-yarder. On third down, Flacco lofted a long pass to Jones, who had a step on the Patriots defense. He was interfered with, giving Tucker a chip shot.
Former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff hooked last year's 32-yard, game-tying attempt far left. Tucker pushed his right, but snuck it just inside the far post.
The Ravens came streaming onto the field, as if they were leaving their pain behind.
They came back from a 13-0 hole in the first quarter. They came back from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter. They came back from last year's loss.
"Our team just fights, period," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We just have a bunch of guys that will just not quit. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don't. Tonight, we won. I couldn't be more proud of a football team, and couldn't love a bunch of guys any more than we do right now."
Wide receiver Torrey Smith, playing on the same day he learned his brother died in a motorcycle accident, made six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Ray Rice had 20 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another five catches for 49 yards.
Baltimore's offense got off to a terrible start in the first quarter, but rallied to score touchdowns on three straight drives over the second and third quarters and finished with 10 straight.
The Ravens defense had trouble slowing Brady (28-of-41 for 335 yards and one touchdown) throughout the night, but came up with stops when they needed it most in the fourth.
The Patriots got on the board first after a 59-yard catch by Wes Welker when Brady quick-snapped the Ravens defense. Ed Reed laid a huge hit on Julian Edelman in the end zone to hold New England to just three points.
Flacco's night began ominously. After a three-and-out, he tried to feed a pass into heavy Patriots coverage to tight end Dennis Pitta, but was intercepted by safety Steve Gregory. Gregory returned it to the 6-yard line and running back Brandon Bolden punched it in from there to give the Pats a 10-0 lead.
Baltimore's offense went three-and-out for a second time – not including the interception – and the Patriots took advantage. They drove 60 yards down the field and settled for a 49-yard field goal after an offensive pass interference call on Edelman.
New England had a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and outgained the Ravens, 143 to 21, in total yardage. The 13 points were the most given up by the Ravens in the first quarter at home during Harbaugh's five seasons.
But after a disastrous first quarter, the Ravens found momentum.
Flacco lofted a 25-yard pass to Smith, who beat cornerback Kyle Arrington for his first touchdown of the season and cut New England's lead to 13-7. In an emotional moment for Smith, he pointed to the sky after making the catch as fans chanted "Torrey, Torrey!"
"I just said a quick prayer, took a knee," Smith said. "Obviously you play with a heavy heart. You want to play for that person."
The offense kept marching on the next drive. Flacco found Jones for a 41-yard completion over the middle. Pitta capped the drive by hurdling Gregory to complete a 20-yard touchdown and give the Ravens a 14-13 lead.
"I've got crazy ups," Pitta joked. "We kind of knew that was the type of game we were getting into. They're a potent offense. We wanted to be aggressive and keep attacking, and we just kept fighting back."
After a dreadful second half in Philadelphia and rough first quarter, the Ravens offense was back.
Just as soon as the Ravens took the lead, Brady went to work. Leading a two-minute offense, he marched 81 yards on nine plays, capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass to Edelman. The Patriots took a 20-14 lead into halftime.
It was a first-half quarterback duel as Brady threw for 214 yards and a touchdown by halftime (114.6 quarterback rating) and Flacco was 12-of-16 for 136 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (113.5 quarterback rating).
That duel continued in the second half, as did the see-saw battle. Flacco saw the way the Patriots offense was moving and knew they would have to match, and beat it.
"I would say there really wasn't any pressure, but there was definitely a sense of urgency to go down there and really be successful in each drive we had," Flacco said.
Flacco led the Ravens on an 80-yard drive ending with a 7-yard touchdown run by Rice to retake the lead, 21-20. It was the offense's third straight touchdown drive in as many possessions.
Smith did much of the damage on the drive, hauling in a first down on an 11-yard drag route, then picking up 32 more yards on a play reminiscent of his touchdown in New England in last year's AFC championship.
The Patriots came right back yet again. Picking on cornerback Cary Williams, the Patriots converted twice and retook the lead at 27-21 with a 3-yard touchdown run by Danny Woodhead.
The Patriots mounted a 13-play, 78-yard drive and grabbed a nine-point lead in the third quarter with a 20-yard field goal by Gostkowski on their next drive.
The Ravens offense quickly moved back into Pats territory and had the option to kick a field goal and cut the deficit to six points, but opted to go for it on fourth-and-1. Baltimore brought former starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie and power tailback Bernard Pierce into the game. McKinnie didn't block anyone and Pierce was stopped for no gain.
Baltimore's defense finally got a stop and the offense drove back down the field.
Aided by a couple of defensive holding penalties and after big gains by Jones and Rice in the passing game, Flacco threaded a laser to Smith in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown to cut the Patriots' lead to two points.
The Ravens needed one more stop.
They looked to have it when Brady was picked off by Webb, but officials immediately tossed the flag and called illegal contact. The Baltimore sideline was furious and a penalty was called on Head Coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens defense still ultimately got a stop, giving the offense the ball back with one minute, 55 seconds remaining.
Baltimore's offense didn't miss a beat, swiftly moving down the field 65 yards.
Tucker, who entered the game 6-for-6, stepped up for the 27-yarder. After a Pats timeout in an effort to freeze him, Tucker slipped the kick inside the right post, setting off a celebration at M&T Bank Stadium unlike many seen previously.
"Bottom line is it went in. That's all I care about," Tucker said. "It went in."