|Patriots getting some breaks, making others in their quest for a perfect season|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 04 December 2007 10:59|
On Monday night, the New England Patriots survived three apparent fourth-down stops by Baltimore on their final scoring drive. The Patriots went on to score the winning touchdown and edge the Ravens, 27-24. In the end, a coaching mistake and penalty against the Ravens, the Patriots' own penalty and a lucky bounce combined to keep New England (12-0) unbeaten.
``You need luck sometimes,'' said Patriots receiver Jabar Gaffney, who caught the decisive 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady.
The Ravens, who complained loudly about the officiating, also found some time to blame fate.
``We got bad luck,'' defensive lineman Kelly Gregg said. ``If we didn't have bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all. We need to see a gypsy or something.''
Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas conceded, ``I felt like in crucial situations, things did go our way.
``I'd rather have the 30-point blowout - give me that any time,'' Thomas added. ``But give me a win.''
The final drive wasn't the only time New England benefited from a quick change of fortune.
In the final minute of the first half Brady was intercepted by Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed. But Patriots running back Kevin Faulk stripped the ball from Reed after he'd returned it into field-goal range at the New England 27. The play allowed the Patriots to preserve a 10-10 tie at the half.
That was nothing compared to the swings in the final minutes.
First and most inexplicable was a timeout by the Ravens coaches on 4th-and-1 at the Baltimore 30 that erased a stop on a Brady sneak.
``Timeout - I don't where the timeout came from,'' Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister said.
Baltimore stopped fullback Heath Evans and the Patriots again, but a false start penalty on the Patriots killed the play, and New England kept the drive going on a Brady scramble.
On 2nd-and-5 from the 13, a Brady pass was batted straight up in the air, perfect for picking off. But the ball dropped between several defenders before they could react. On the ensuing fourth-down play, Brady threw incomplete to the end zone, but a holding penalty gave the Patriots a first down.
Brady ended the agony by hitting Gaffney in the corner of the end zone on a catch that instant replay upheld, though the Ravens said he juggled it.
After the game, McAlister was in no mood to give the Patriots credit.
``It's hard to go out there and play the Patriots and the refs at the same time,'' he said. ``They put the crown on top of them, they want them to win. They won.''
But Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said the Patriots made plays when they needed to. He said it reflected the character the team's showed in the last month in close wins over Indianapolis and Philadelphia.
``We fight through adversity,'' Wilfork said. ``We're a team and a unit. Everybody's seen it for three straight weeks. Whatever you throw at us, we bounce back from it.''
New England wouldn't have been in position to take advantage of the breaks if it hadn't made several key defensive stops in the fourth quarter.
Safety James Sanders intercepted a poor throw by Baltimore quarterback Kyle Boller after a 33-yard punt return by Yamon Figurs put Baltimore in field-goal range. After that, Baltimore didn't manage a first down in their next two possessions before the Patriots' final drive.
``People are getting spoiled seeing us blow out people, but it's not going to happen like that every time and you've got to understand that,'' Wilfork said.
The Patriots have a tough matchup Sunday against Pittsburgh (9-3), then face the struggling New York Jets and winless Miami Dolphins before finishing against the 8-4 New York Giants.
Wilfork said it's time for the Patriots to step it up, though they still haven't lost.
``We might not have been playing our best football, but we've been winning,'' he said. ``That's all that matters - winning.''