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The New England Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XLVI Sunday evening, edging the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 to win the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Billy Cundiff missed a chip shot, 32-yard attempt with just 11 seconds remaining to send the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl appearance in the Bill Belichick era.
Tom Brady was inconsistent all evening, tossing for just 239 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions on 22-36 passing. Brady’s one-yard plunge on fourth and goal gave the Patriots a 23-20 lead with 11:29 remaining. Brady’s top target was sophomore tightend Rob Gronkowski, who finished the contest with five receptions for 87 yards with a long of 23.
The defense was stoic in victory, limiting Ravens star rusher Ray Rice to just 67 yards on 21 carries, and only one catch for 11 yards.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco was admirable in defeat, passing for 306 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He almost notched the game winning touchdown pass with 22 seconds, but Patriots corner Sterling Moore knocked the ball loose from Lee Evans to force an incompletion.
After another Flacco incompletion, Cundiff enter the field of play with a chance to send the AFC Title to overtime. Instead, Cundiff hooked the kick to the left, sending New England to Indianapolis where they will look to hoist their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
Wilfork was a key instrument along the defensive line, helping to limit Ray Rice to just 78 yards of offense. The eight-year veteran ended the game with six tackles, three tackles-for-loss, and one sack in the victory.
Gostkowski’s trio of field goals ultimately provided the margin in New England’s victory. The Memphis-alum ended the evening 3-3 on fieldgoals, converting tries from 29, 35, and 24 yards, had five touchbacks, and nailed a pair of extra points.
New England surprisingly established their ground game early against a stout Ravens defense. Green-Ellis was a vital cog in that equation, rushing for 68 yards on 15 carries, including a seven-yard, second quarter touchdown to give New England a 10-3 lead.
Brady seemed to never establish a rhythm against Baltimore, often dissecting them at times or struggling to gain traction at other occasions. In his defense, he led five scoring drives, but his two picks and only two touchdowns in five red zone attempts needs to be improved upon.
Flacco seemed to move the ball successfully against New England en route to 306 passing yards. Baltimore’s wideouts also had success against the Patriots’ secondary, with Anquan Boldin having six receptions for 101 yards and Torrey Smith registering 82 yards on three catches.
Cundiff’s botched 32-yard may go down as one of the most notable misses in NFL history. With a chance to go to overtime, his attempt sailed directly left, sending the New England faithful crazy.
The Patriots will face the New York Giants on February 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. The game will be a rematch of New York’s 24-20 regular season triumph, and also a Super Bowl XLII rematch in which New York won 17-14.