Ravens Shank Super Bowl Chance

New England survives 23-20 to punch ticket to the big dance.

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

One of the more classic debates in the NFL is whether or not a good defense trumps a good offense and after watching the nail-biting game that was the AFC Championship, this can be said for certain, neither matter if you have special teams issues.

The New England Patriots survived a tough 23-20 game against the Baltimore Ravens thanks in large part to the Ravens kicker, Billy Cundiff, missing a chip shot 32 yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime. With 11 seconds remaining, Cundiff lined up and sent the potential tying points wide left to leave both the Patriots and the Ravens gaping in disbelief, with only one team turning that disbelief into joy.

That final play was a godsend to a New England team that looked flustered and flummoxed offensively by a Ravens defense that may have some age on it, but can bring it when they need to. Baltimore came into the game looking to shut down one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game and they came away successful in that regard.

They held Brady, who tossed for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns this season, to just 239 yards through the air and no touchdowns. They even managed two interceptions off of the future Hall of Fame QB. Overall, if you were to show anyone Brady's ending stats before the game took place, then they would have told you Baltimore must have win.

Which they didn't, and credit to that goes to the much maligned New England defense, who bailed Brady and the O out of the fire again and again by keeping the Ravens out of the end zone when it mattered most.

"Well, I (stunk) pretty bad today, but our defense saved us," Brady said. "I'm going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple of weeks, but I'm proud of this team, my teammates."

For the Ravens, it was a game of what if's, and one where there is really no one place they can point there finger to and say, 'you're to blame'. (Well, outside of that Cundiff miss, that is.)

"It's two great football teams, two gladiators, I guess, just kind of going at each other at the end, and I'm proud of our guys," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You know, we've got 53 guys, mighty men, as we like to call them — and they fought, and we came up a little bit short, as 53. You know, 53 win and 53 lose."

Baltimore QB Joe Flacco, who was basically called out by teammates earlier this week, outplayed Brady in this game, tossing for over 300 yards and 2 td's with just 1 pick. Flacco should have had a third td, one that would have sealed the game, but Ravens wideout Lee Evans couldn't keep a hold of an easy touchdown pass 2 plays before the game ending missed field goal, a drop that is sure to haunt him and Baltimore for the entire off-season.

With the win, the New England Brady-Belichick combo become the first starting quarterback/head coach combination to advance to five Super Bowls. The win also gives Brady his 16th career postseason win as a starting quarterback, tying him with his boyhood idol, Joe Montana.